I have been excited to see what might come of Yahoo! with Marissa Meyers at the helm. I am really glad to see that, after years of stagnation, Flickr has been improving. Free food and smartphones for employees? Sounds swell. But the buzz now is that there shall be no more remote work. The only way to be productive is to come to the office and feel the buzz and bounce ideas off coworkers.
I am happy to point out that, while we don’t get free smartphones or free food, my employer does issue remote employees with a hardware VPN device that provides corporate wifi, and a videophone. And we are hiring.
In my experience as a non-management technical professional, there is some virtue both to working from home, and to working at the office. The office presents great opportunities for collaboration: working through ideas and solving problems. Working from home, for some people, provides an excellent space to focus on getting some work done without interruption. You can get more hours of productive work when your commute is shortened to a walk across the dining room, and when there’s no pressure to quit at a certain time to appease the demands of the train schedule or traffic.
For some people, there’s no place like the office . . . some people can do better work from home, some people do not. Managers and executives, the bulk of whose work is meeting with others to make collaborative decisions . . . it seems that they may take several meetings from home and when they get to the office they feel uncomfortable that the busy hum of productive creative energy isn’t located there. I believe that managers who can structure the working and communication practices of their teams to effectively collaborate and track work progress without requiring a physical presence have an advantage over those who can not.
I live near the office and frequently collaborate with my manager, so most days I make the trip in. Sometimes when I need to focus on a project, or work with a remote time zone, I’ll commute to the home office. I have been with Cisco for over five years, now. I spent one of those years in New York, and my tenure here would have been much shorter without the flexibility to telecommute.
Leonard Kleinrock tells the story of the Internet’s birth. First word was LO:
And then, he shows us the world’s first router, which they were going to throw out:
My first experience of the Internet was a 1200 baud dialup connection to a USENET host that connected upstream twice a day at 2400 baud. That would have been around 1992 or 1993. (I was a broke highschool kid who couldn’t afford the $30/mo+ for a proper Internet connection.) My first email address was email@example.com, and I lost that address when my network uplink failed to pay his phone bill. Oh well!
When I started college in January, 1995, and had access to labs and labs and labs of computers directly connected via Ethernet, with Mosaic and Netscape installed, it was like I had found my Nerd Nirvana! It only got better when I took a C programming course on the Sun workstations in the basement of the DCL . . .
Dad gives a thumbs up from the driver's seat of a VW bus I rented on Oahu.
Some of my fondest memories of my Dad involve long expeditions in a VW bus. I rented a VW camper bus for a few days on Oahu, and had him pose. Given Dad’s health challenges these past years, to see him make it to Hawaii for the wedding and to enjoy the scenery in an old Volkswagen . . . that’s a good time.
Some folks are irritated with American reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden. Julie indicated that she had mixed feelings upon seeing our “own countrymen basically holding a frat party outside of the White House, hanging off of trees and singing ‘Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye!’” I have heard others moan that this doesn’t change anything, why are we celebrating?
So, I expressed my own feelings in a comment on Julie’s blog:
I was happy about the news yesterday, and I still am. We killed a bad guy who has devoted his life to killing us. That is a victory, and I am proud and glad.
When the crowd outside the White House gathered and sang the Star Spangled Banner, it brought a tear to my eye. Then, America the Beautiful. People gathered at Ground Zero for a candle light vigil. In both places, the crowd chanted “USA! USA! USA!” They spoke for me.
I think it is debatable who kills the most Muslims. Our military adheres to Rules of Engagement that put them at greater risk in order to protect Muslim civilians. On the other hand, extremists recruit the young and naive to walk into crowds of Muslims wearing explosive vests.
We are not perfect and we shouldn’t pretend to be. We make mistakes, we kill innocents, and we have failed to hold ourselves to our own standards of humane treatment of prisoners and jurisprudence.
We are drawing down forces in Iraq, which has changed from a brutal dictatorship built on terror to a messy, unstable, imperfect democracy vulnerable to sectarian violence. We now have one less reason to linger in Afghanistan, which may help motivate the government there to get its act together.
Last night was progress. America done good and a bit of pride is perfectly reasonable.
I mean, its no Moon Landing. No sincere attempt to curb global warming or end world poverty, hunger, disease . . . but it is progress and I’ll celebrate it just the same.
You never forget your first computer.
For Christmas of 1984, Grandpa gave us a
Commodore 64. A couple years later we
got a disk drive, and eventually we even
had a printer. Before the disk drive we
had to buy programs on cartridge, or
type them in to the basic interpreter
line by line. Mostly I just played
Eventually we got a modem, and I could
talk to BBSes at 300 baud in 40 glorious
columns. (Most BBSes assumed
80-columns.) I was happier when I got a
1200 baud modem for my Amiga, which
could display 80 columns of text.
In my second year of college I
discovered the joy of C programming on
Unix workstations, which led to my
present career as a Unix SysAdmin. I
spend my days juggling multiple windows
of text, generally at least 80x24. /djh
Fans in Mountain View Celebrate India's World Cup Victory
As I was walking home from the cafe I encountered a growing crowd of shouting, chanting, singing folks waving Indian flags. I googled “Indian Holidays” on my smart phone, then thought to google “India cricket” and it turns out India has just beaten Sri Lanka to win the World Cup.
In my Sophomore year of college I was paired with a roommate from India. Tarun was a very serious EE major who left the room for only three things: 1) classes, 2) meals and 3) the India-Pakistan cricket match. He was a nice guy but since he was always studying in the room he wasn’t an ideal roommate.
Indian ex-pats I meet tend to be really serious, smart, hard-working people, so it is nice to see a crowd of folks reveling in a collective emotional experience. This is a great moment for anyone who has moved so far from home to make their life.
I’m trying to get a better handle on my “spending cash” which is managed through my personal account and credit cards. Most “needs” type expenses are covered through our joint finances, so the personal account is mostly discretionary. The problem is I want to reduce my personal credit card debt, and these days the personal account doesn’t get much money to play with, which means I need to be smart and aware with my discretionary income.
About a decade ago I tried managing my spending by writing the date on a series of $20 bills. If I was breaking a bill with today’s date on it, things were going alright. If I was breaking yesterday’s date, I was doing well, and if I was spending a bill with a future date on it . . . well, time to cut back, eh?
This time around I’m thinking to allow myself $10/day. ATMs don’t give out tens, and these days I make some small purchases with the credit card, so I’ll try a different solution: a Google Spreadsheet!
I thought it might be neat to share the progress here, in case other folks are curious to see how this experiment works. You should be able to see the results tally up over the course of the month on the right.
This is by no means a comprehensive thing: I’m not tracking automatic withdrawals (charity, web hosting) or interest on the cards: I’m merely trying to keep my personal spending (the “burn rate”) in check by maintaining an awareness of what’s up. This is pretty much lunch money, small gifts, and entertaining the sweetheart. My rule is going to be that any personal spending I have to initiate I will track. So, I’ll count the $50 mobile phone bill, for the sake of a healthy challenge.
Technical note: I don’t know for spreadsheets, but the formula for setting up the balance column was to start at cell D3 with this formula:
This basically means that if the date (A3) on this row is filled in, add the amount (C3) to the previous total (D2). I was then able to “copy” that cell, multi-select all the cells below, and “paste” and the formula got updated each row, as my Excel Guru colleague expected.
My first experience of “Idaho” was hitching a ride to the Rainbow Family campground in Wyoming in a car with Idaho plates driven by a lady who took sips from the bottle of beer she kept pressed between her legs. At which point I concluded that Idaho must be Awesome.
Mind you I haven’t been fooled in to actually going to Idaho.
Some fantasies are best left untainted by reality.
Heck, let us jump upon the social media bandwagon. If you don’t “get” Twitter then I’d say that Twitter is pretty much what you make of it. And for me, that’s a distraction where I can pop in and see if anyone I follow has come up with anything entertaining to say, and I can share a thoughtlet of what is on my mind, and then as quick as it came, Twitter is gone and I’m back to the rest of my day.
The following are entertaining bits I have seen fit to “re-tweet” and share with others during 2010, and now I’ll share them with you.
I took Mei to Europe. We visited London, Paris, Lyon, Rome, and Venice. Then the volcano erupted in Iceland, so we visited Florence, and camped out at Lido, near Rome’s airport.
We also made it out to visited Dad and Gwen in Colorado, and Mom and Grandma visited us in Brooklyn.
Poland lost much of its executive branch in a plane crash, and BP began spilling oil into the gulf of Mexico.
Mei learned to ride a bicycle. I got to tour the New York’s abandoned “City Hall” subway station. We began fostering two older “rescue” kittens, Maxwell and Maggie, in an attempt to “socialize” them to living with people. Mei’s folks visited to attend her graduation from residency, and a week later I took her to Coney Island.
On May 19, a young man, Ronald Glover, was murdered around the corner from our apartment. BP continued spilling oil in to the Gulf of Mexico.
One weekend after brunching at Two Boots in Park Slope, Mei and I were walking through Prospect Park. I asked her to stop, got down on a knee and asked if she would marry me. With tears in her eyes, she accepted my proposal, and we kissed.
BP continued spilling oil in to the Gulf of Mexico, while we watched world football games on television.
Mei and I trekked to Hoboken, New Jersey, to watch the fireworks.
In Oakland, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle received a light sentence of manslaughter for his shooting death of Oscar Grant. Oakland, to its credit, failed to riot. Mid-way through the month, BP stopped spilling oil in to the Gulf of Mexico.
As Mei was finished with her residency, and I was still employed by a San Jose-based company, we prepared for our move back to Northern California.
ROAD TRIP! We drove all of our belongings in a Penske rent-a-truck from New York City to Mountain View, CA, stopping in Chicago and Pueblo, CO along the way.
So, how does working from home compare with working from the office? Working from home allows greater productivity, because you skip the commute and can just grind away for several hours with few interruptions. It can also get a bit lonely at times. At the office, I’m not as productive as I was at the home office, but I get more opportunities to collaborate with colleagues: sharing skills and refining ideas. I’d say that for technology, a 40-80% telecommute could be ideal, but I haven’t had the chance to experiment, as our first Mountain View apartment was a one-bedroom.
The landlord never answered my letter, but instead filed a civil suit of unlawful detainer against us. I talked to a bunch of people in Virginia to establish that they had made a billing error and undercharged our November rent, and they wanted me to pay the difference, plus a late fee, plus re-pay the December rent, plus their legal fees. I talked to some lawyers who indicated that we had a good case, so I compiled an answer, and am looking forward to the hearing.
However, the stress of worrying over an eviction proceeding over the holidays was a bit much, so we took the opportunity to seek out and move to a bigger apartment in a nicer complex. Since nobody wants to move the week before Christmas, they gave us the first month’s rent free.
Mei was notified that she had passed the medical Board Exam for which she had been studying since finishing her residency. To say that she was elated would be an understatement.
Congress repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and there was much rejoicing.
We made it home to Chicago for the holidays. There was much eating and visiting family and friends.
Potentially nifty: a text-to-speech utility that writes its output to an audio device, which you could set as your system’s sound input. This way you could have “conversations” in your headphones via VoIP or Skype without having to make disruptive noises or emitting sensitive information in a shared environment like an open office or a library.
sudo apt-get install epos
sudo /etc/init.d/epos start
say "this does not work"
sudo apt-get remove epos
sudo apt-get install espeak
espeak "hello there"
But it appears there is no good way on Linux, anyway, to tell a command to dump its audio output to the microphone. Bah.
Wednesday, November 3
I got my sutures out the other day. I’ve still got the band-aid on my chin, cleaning and re-dressing twice a day, until the skin is no longer broken. Doc said I’d be shaving regular next week.
Thursday, November 4
Nice: I got the WordPress for Android App working thanks to Dan at Automattic pointing out I had an SVN-corrupted xmlrpc.php file.
Annoying: No idea how I can possibly type < or > with this nice-but-crippled G2 keyboard.
I made it up to San Bruno today, aboard Caltrain. Today is the first time I took my bike on Caltrain and it really wasn’t as bad as a colleague made it sound. The yellow tags are impossible to find though, so I made a couple labels to stick on my bike indicating what stations I ride between. In San Bruno, I stopped at the curb where I face-planted last week. Nothing special about it. I got to the office way faster than I have by walking. Probably 20 minutes compressed to 5 or not more than 10. The only unpleasant part is crossing El Camino. The crossing I chose had a crosswalk on only one side, so I had to cross against traffic to get rolling across the street.
Friday, November 5
Well, I finally have a new watch band . . . my old one broke such that it would no longer attach to my wrist, but I could dangle it off my belt. Now I have to get used to looking at my wrist again.
Monday, November 8
Some days I just feel blue. Like a dark cloud is over my heart. Not unlike overcast weather. Fortunately I often have the self-awareness to understand that, whether or not I know its origin, this is likely just a passing cloud, and the best way to weather it is to just take life on as a normal day, perhaps with an added dash of industriousness to stave off the natural slothitude that a funk brings on.
I was just reading in The New Yorker about different ways that salaries are determined. I identified with having accepted the “authority ranking” or feudal model earlier in my career, when what I valued most was the opportunity to work, to serve and build and learn. Back when I still kind of hoped that wages were fair, that bosses valued the contribution of their employees. Back in 1999 this even seemed true: the startup I was working for noticed that I was kicking butt, and ramped my salary up by 20% after my first six months on the job, and again after a year . . . everything was noble and virtuous.
But nobility and virtue don’t often last. Recessions hit, money dries up, eager young employees burn themselves out and haven’t a clue what to do about it. Layoffs come . . . a decade later I have left for greener pastures as many times as I have been layed off. Welcome to the “market pricing” model of economic interaction.
I find some difficulty feeling passionate about being a market priced, employment-at-will agent. Just as sex feels better with someone you love than when you’re getting paid for it, so too does work. Fortunately, the current gig offers competetive compensation, likely stability, and the chance to relate to coworkers over several years. I guess that is as close to “married” one can get in our industry . . . and yet of course I keep my eye out for new opportunities.
And I frequently worry about getting too comfortable, getting a little flabby in the skill set because there is plenty of work I would have to do at a startup that is off-my-plate at a large company. Better attain depth where I needn’t worry over breadth, eh?
Thursday, November 11
I had a meeting today that I haven’t been looking forward to. Basically, I have spent most of my career at smaller companies, where I tend to have a lot more say over how we do things, and where the simple, obvious, light-weight solution will tend to carry the day. But at a large company, there are enough competing interests that the way we do things is often not up to me, and is far more complex and open to error (in my view) than how I would go about doing it.
Note an editorial bias, right? Of course I have a high opinion of my own way of solving a problem. Doesn’t mean my approach is the right one . . .
So, at the end of this meeting, I got McCoy in my head. “I’m just a simple country Doctor.” Well, I’m just a small-shop sysadmin, serving on a corporate flagship. I don’t really understand or approve of everything that is going on, but that isn’t my problem. I focus on getting my own job done and I am happy to give Captain Kirk a piece of my mind, but at the end of the day the Captain gets what the Captain asked for.
Wednesday, November 17
From today’s work log:
Scout around a bit as to the advantages of managing system configuration
files in git. Git’s strength appears to be strong branch and merge
capabilities, working offline from the central repository, and the
capacity for fine-grained commits. Disadvantage is a steeper learning
curve. Anyway, we could potentially allow staff to grab a local branch
make several changes, review changes and reject those that proved
infeasible, then submit changes back to the central repository. Later,
a change management team could review differences between the central
repository and the stage / production repositories, then selectively
merge changes to the more stable environments in an appropriate manner.
I had lunch with Mei today at a Chinese place on Castro St in Mountain View. At the next table I overheard some guys talking about the size of the Oort Cloud if Earth were the size of a grain of sand . . . hard-core nerdy lunch conversation. I recounted that when I got off the light rail the other day I heard one guy explaining to another guy the theory behind anti-matter reactions that power the warp propulsion system in Star Trek. When you live here you live in the pulsing underbelly heart of nerd-dom. I kind of like it.
Thursday, November 18
My bicycle lights came in from Amazon.com and I tried them out yesterday on the ride to the light rail. (Between the weather and a recent injury I’m usually reluctant to ride all the way to work.) The front light was somewhat occluded by the basket so last night I moved it to a helmet mount, which required some careful trimming of a cross-member atop the helmet so the thing would fit, but nothing likely to compromise structural integrity.
Yesterday I also received my replacement G2. I got it up and running and it went and updated itself. It made a big todo about “wifi calling” which . . . uses minutes? Really? REALLY?! So, I’ll provide the bandwidth and you’ll charge me . . . but it also quietly enabled Tethering, via USB and WiFi. I’m using it now. I heard a rumor that T-Mobile was fixing to charge an extra fee for tethering. Hopefully though at the moment they’re content to charge customers to make telephone calls via their home wifi networks.
(Oh yeah, and I’m on the light rail at the moment, though updating a blog is hardly much of a test of tethering.)
I wish I wish that carriers would simply figure out a monetary equivalence between bandwidth and minutes, then just let me pay a transparent rate for what I use. Eventually I guess someone will drop the shenanigans and attract customers like me. As it is I’m miffed that I pay more per month for a calling plan I rarely use than I do for the data surcharge, which as far as I am concerned is the primary point of carrying around a location-aware pocket computer.
Telephone calls? Not my thing.
Later, I was looking at Google’s announcement regarding improved navigation UI. The improved transit overview is nice, but then I happened to request the bike route between work and home, and now that Google has caught on that the Bay Trail North of Moffett is open, it suggests that at the first choice, despite it taking ten minutes longer than more direct options. Anyway, it is nice to know now that my bicycle commute is 11.6 miles in 56 minutes. (I think it takes me a bit longer as I usually take a little break along the way.)
Saturday, November 20
Learned some basic git, and used it for updating the web site.
Installation to more-current-version of git:
sudo yum install gettext-devel expat-devel curl-devel zlib-devel openssl-devel
git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/git/git.git
The big thing being it is trivial to create branches and switch among them in your working directory. So, you can start working on some feature, put it on the shelf, work on a different feature, and basically submit only the changes you feel are baked back to the main line.
Last night I dreamed that this pizza place I like to go to gave me an extremely awful experience, and wanted to charge me for an entire pie for a mediocre slice to boot, then said something about just because a slice had hit the floor that their floor was as clean as the average dinner plate. I threw down some cash and loudly declared how awful they were, and that although I had liked them before I was sorely disappointed and they had lost a customer. I was pleased with myself for stating my grievances so clearly, because I rarely complain to a restaurant. I stormed out of there. A part of me hoped that the manager might follow me to the street and apologize but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.
I figured I’d have the very last word by posting a negative review on Yelp, then realized that I was dreaming, and it would be unfair to post a negative review of a place based on a dream experience. But then, the place only exists in my dream, so . . .
I think the pizza place was actually a metaphor for the ex-wife, in which case running off to Yelp wasn’t quite the answer, either. My dreams have been somewhat anxious lately, and I’m not clear as to why.
And, yes, there were goats along my commute today, but on a side road gated off from the trail.
“So many people are thanking God, but I want to thank all the engineers, scientists, and workers who spent months and years developing and deploying the technology and resources necessary to make this possible. Thank you for giving these men their lives back and for providing all of us with an example of triumph over great adversity.”
Thursday, October 14
Most of our office is cubes. High, neutral-colored walls that evoke in my mind the cells of medieval monks. At the periphery are rooms with doors: conference rooms for meetings or private offices for managers, whose work lives are dominated by meetings. The individual contributors like me are the muscles, and the managers are the nervous system.
In my building, the naming scheme for conference rooms is famous comedians. Bill Cosby, Conan O’Brien, Carrol Burnett . . .
Any of these conference rooms / offices have a name plate outside the door, indicating either the occupant or which conference room is inside. My first confusion came when I was trying to find a quiet room for a phone call, and spotting a darkened room with a comedian whose name I didn’t recognize and sticking my head in to find someone’s unoccupied office . . .
The managers in my group know to keep their offices locked, while away.
This morning someone asked me if I knew where so-and-so was. Never heard of him. I asked, in all sincerity, “is he an employee or a comedian?”
In our monks cells, we’ll take what bland pasty humor we can get.
This morning I learned that my grand-uncle, Bill McConeghey, has passed. He had just entered hospice care following a stroke. This was his time to go and even though I never knew him so well I miss him. He was a good guy who looked after others, and had a decent sense of humor to boot. A good guy. A role model.
And as I wrote to a well-meaning Christian relative:
“This is a time for Atheists to do their thing according to their beliefs. This is a time to offer comfort to people where they are, and an opportunity for you to respect, observe and appreciate the different religious beliefs of a family who are grieving. Be quiet, listen, engage in the universal human relationship we can all share regardless of religion. In this way, if someone finds a need to learn more about your religious beliefs, your words will find a receptive audience.”
Thursday, October 21
Cisco ūmi. It is a HD webcam you hook up to your HDTV and you can talk to friends and family. Like Skype, but much better quality. Unlike Skype, which is free, you’ll need to spend $600 on the appliance, plus a $25 monthly fee. It is also Japanese for “sea urchin” and to spell this product-for-North-America properly you will need to render an unfamiliar glyph. (ū)
I’m not quite seeing how this even remotely competes with Google TV, which will do all sorts of stuff like stream Netflix, along with HD video chat. The Logitech Revue will sell for $450. ($300 for the Revue, $150 for the camera accessory.) No monthly fee, that I am aware of, at least not for video chat. No glyphs, either. Revue is French for “review.”
I might be missing something but to me it looks like my employer has missed the ball really really badly here.
Thursday, October 28
Yesterday after 4:45pm I was hustling toward San Bruno Caltrain to catch the 4:52. I hadn’t figured I would make it at first but as I got closer to the station I realized I could totally catch that train so I stepped up the pace. I hustled through an intersection, studying the cars to ensure it was safe. Then my mind went somewhere else for a moment, like I was dreaming, and I found myself on the sidewalk.
There was blood on my hand. Must have cut my hand.
“Are you okay?”
I fell down? Really? Okay. Must have tripped on that curb.
I was in a daze. I answered by swearing a little bit. I got up. I figured out the blood on my hand was coming from somewhere else. My face.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah. I think so. I guess. You tell me?”
“That’s a pretty nasty gash. You’ll need stitches.”
Stitches? I should do that instead of catching the train. “So, I should call an ambulance to take me to the ER?”
“Don’t do that. They’ll charge you a lot of money.”
“Oh. Uhm. I have Kaiser.”
“There’s a Kaiser in South City. I could give you a ride. Would you like a ride?”
I didn’t want to impose and I was apologetic over the possibility of bleeding in the lady’s white Camaro. The guy in the red pickup truck thanked her for offering me a ride.
“There’s a Kaiser in San Bruno on El Camino by the 380,” I offered.
“That one doesn’t have an ER. It is just Dermatology and stuff.”
She explained which bus I could take back to Caltrain. I said I’d call my sweetheart to pick me up. We made small talk: jobs, where we’re from, and that neither of was “missing” the World Series. She offered to stick around long enough to see if I would be admitted. Then she conceded that there was no doubt I would be admitted. I thanked her profusely.
The lady put a band on my arm right through her teller window. I was buzzed past the waiting area to the triage nurse, who handed me a clean gauze pad and took my blood pressure. I was sent to wait a little while, and I was pleased to find my cell phone undamaged. I messaged Mei the situation, as I wasn’t sure if cell phones were all that acceptable in the ER. A nice lady cleaned out my wound and Dr Han stitched me up.
“Did you lose consciousness?”
My answer evolved from “I don’t know . . . I don’t think so” to “I must have, because I don’t remember falling, just the getting up. I’m really dazed.”
The standard for a concussion would be a brain scan, but given my youth and health, this would likely be a waste of radiation. In the car Mei explained that if I had fallen due to a seizure or something, that would be a big concern. I explained that I must have tripped on the curb, looking out for cars instead of the sidewalk, and I had been walking too fast to correct a stumble, which I am otherwise darn good at.
I marveled at the speed with which they had looked after me, that I had gotten the “express treatment” and the ER staff explained that this was because I had come in injured. “I’ll remember that for next time.” They charged me $35. I paid cash. I was happy, and grateful that I wasn’t in for worse.
On the way home I remarked to Mei that when I’d see the drawers labelled “rape information” in the various languages I felt badly about the things that happen to people, and I recalled the sad stories that Mei has brought home with her. “That’s why I have to unload,” she said.
“My life is mostly free from terrible burdens, so I’m happy to listen. I really respect you for the work that you do.”
She put me to bed early. This confused the cat, who started giving me the “breakfast call” around midnight, until Mei fed her around 8am, finally silencing our defective alarm clock. “It is probably just as well,” Mei explained, that the-cat-who-loves-breakfast was performing “neuro checks” on me to ensure that I wasn’t the worse for wear after my bump-on-the-noggin.
Our cat Maggie had been to veterinary Urgent Care just the day before. It turns out she had an asthma attack. Poor girl.
“Thank you Nurse Maggie!”
Friday, October 29
Last night I held Maggie as Mei examined her with a stethoscope. Maggie isn’t big on being held, but I think after her latest trip to the vet maybe she has established causality between feeling bad, going to the vet, being examined, and feeling better. Mei thinks that she has learned “stethoscope and being scruffed means hold still good kitty.”
Anyway, Maggie was huffing a bit, as she runs through the course of her asthma treatment, but it wasn’t bad enough to head in to the veterinarian.
We watched Community and SNL from last Saturday. The Weekend Update was hilarious. The Rent is Too Damn High, then a Ferkle is a Fat Erkle. “After you’ve had one you ask yourself: ‘did I do that?!’” I also enjoyed the description of “a coked-up gay candyland.”
Obama on Jon Stewart . . . Stewart could have I don’t know, asked him a few questions maybe like “you want to go through Congress? Really? A court fulfils your campaign promise to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and you gotta file an appeal? Could you explain that?” I think Obama handled himself well, and maybe reminded some progressive youths to schlep down to the polls and vote.
Speaking of which, I haven’t received a registration card or voter information . . . well, I got a thing from New York City explaining the issues there. I’ll tell you what the issue is in New York City: The Rent is Too Damn High. As for California I’ll figure it out and provisional ballot if I have to.
This morning I skipped the bicycle ride to work, figuring that inhaling auto exhaust is less advisable on a “Spare the Air” day. Then I got double-whammied by the VTA at Evelyn station, where I arrived just-in-time to have caught a train on the platform, except I had to buy a ticket first. And of course, once the train was gone my $5 bill slid right in and required none of the usual massaging and unfolding-of-the-corners.
So, I caught another train one stop out to Mountain View: the end of the line. Since it is one track at Evelyn, any train waiting to start its run from Mountain View has to wait. And wait it did, until we pulled up to the platform. The train I wanted to be on slid back toward Evelyn before my train could even open its doors. So, I waited another several minutes to leave Mountain View, but I got to pass the time reading, which I can’t do on the bicycle, so I’m not going to complain much.
When I got back from lunch I learned that the market had rallied, and my limit order to sell TSLA at $20.45 had finally executed. It actually peaked ten cents higher and then closed at $20.45. This is the second time I had rode Tesla’s fluctuations successfully and now that I’m no longer on the East Coast and the market starts its day before I wake up, I figured I’d cash out of this fancy-pants chicanery and buy DIA. But I placed a limit buy at $100, which is where it has been lately. “Name your price!”
Thursday, September 2
“The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn’t, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end.”
The New Yorker
August 2, 2010
Friday, September 3
Biked to work today. Ordered a tape recorder for the99ers.net and pulled an old picture from the Tellme days for the theme’s header image. Dinner tomorrow with a friend who is moving back to Chicago. Sunday I’ll drop Mei off at the airport so she can fly to LA for the week for her boards review course.
Monday, September 6
Not much to say.
From the Catacombs, beneath Paris.
I don’t like Flickr’s new interface. It used to be that if you viewed “all sizes” you could get the HTML to link to a photo. Now you have to click on a FAQ, then navigate back to the photo, and go down a different route to grab the HTML. Would it be so wrong to support the navigation habits of users who have been using the site for over half a decade? All the buttons that used to be just a click away are buried under a menu, and I sometimes have to scroll down to beneath the photo to change the title. I also miss that tags used to each be on their own line. The new interface seems like its been labotomized so that we can be filled in with a bigger photo, and more white space.
Okay, just wanted to let that out.
The sweetheart is away. I am copying some episodes of The IT Crowd over to play.
Tuesday, September 7
I took a different route to work today, up Stevens Creek, over to Ellis and then tracing along 237 and 101, first on quiet frontage roads and ultimately on dedicated bike trail. It was nice and had very little traffic stress compared to my Evelyn-Wolfe-Arquez-San Thomas-Tasman route. On the other hand, I end up breathing in 8 lanes of highway exhaust much of the way. Do I prefer the quick death of a vehicle collision or the slow death of lung disease? Hopefully we can repair that stuff in a few decades.
It is not that children are just smaller adults, it is that adults are larger children.
Thursday, September 9
I have an orthodontic consult this afternoon. Consequently, I am working from home today. I took my hardware VPN back in since I don’t need it any more, and can free up some desk space and power drain. Alas, I had to jump through a few little hoops to get software VPN working this morning. I have been back at the office for just over a month now and my commutes to San Jose and San Bruno have all been via public transit or bicycle, with the occasional ride home from a co-worker. This little bit pleases me.
Sunday, September 12
“It occurred to him that life, which he’d treated as a pastime, and which he’d thought he could yet outdistance, had finally caught up with him. And he’d discovered, much as he’d suspected, that once life caught up with you, you could never quite shake it again. It endeavored to hobble you with greater and greater frequency. How you managed to remain upright became your style, who you were.”
“The Train of Their Departure”
The New Yorker
August 9, 2010
Mei comes back tonight. I pick her up at the airport around midnight. After too long, I have gotten my hair cut, at a Chinese place where speaking English is sufficiently awkward that the lady skipped the usual foreplay of asking what I wanted and just got down to the business of cutting my hair. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!
Compared to Brooklyn, Mountain View is a sleepy, slow town, where people spend their time waiting for turn-arrows and a trip to the convenience store invariably requires one to stand patiently in line, as the lady carefully counts out exact change and labors over the implications of whether it is worthwhile to sign customers up for the club card, while I quietly wait in line, nostalgic over all the times in the past year when I had ducked in to a store, exchanged quick cash with the proprietor, and was back on my way. Club cards be damned. They have no place at a convenience store.
“Listen. You’re going to be successful and rich. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a tech geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”
As someone surrounded by geeks, I’ve always known that if someone thinks I’m an asshole, it is because either I am an asshole, they are an asshole, or between us we’re just confused as to who the asshole is.
Tuesday, September 14
Advice sent to a loved one:
Aaaaanyway what I’d do, if anything, is thank the lady for her good intentions, and apologize that sorry, I can’t send her any money because of my discomfort over the quality of decision making made in the name of religion. It sounds like her mission is to overtly spread the idea that personal morality can not be guided by the innate human capacity to discern right from wrong, but by a confusing and contradictory corpus of Iron Age mythology mediated by a competing group of organizations which are at best patriarchal in nature and at worst openly practice terrorism and sexual violence. This approach to enriching humanity is a cause I could never support. I would explain that I would be strongly inclined to make contributions on the behalf of secular charities with morally clear missions like Habitat or MSF.
Its like, you can gently suggest that someone’s belief system is foolish and deadly without having to bring up the inquisition, the IRA, or 9/11. After all, she thinks you’re going to hell, so, whatever. If someone ever wants to throw down I’m sure you can get all Richard Dawkins on their ass.
Wednesday, September 15
San Bruno fire Captain Bill Forester’s Engine 51 was one of the first two teams on the scene; the other big truck got hot so quickly its windshield exploded. “This looks like Armageddon,” Forester recalled thinking Tuesday. “It was like they took a Saturn V rocket and tipped it upside down during blastoff.”
Terrified residents were fleeing down the hill with the fireball chasing them, firefighters recalled, many already badly burned and screaming for help. There were so few ambulance trying to keep up that paramedics began asking unhurt residents to drive people with smoldering burns to nearby hospitals. Police officers and firefighters kicked down doors to rescue anyone stranded in homes.
Even with the wail of sirens filling the background of one radio call asking dispatchers to issue a third alarm, it is the rising alarm in a firefighter’s voice that tells the truest story. “We’ve got multiple houses” on fire, he reports to the command center. “We’re trying to get close. We have extreme heat. We have possibly several blocks on fire at this time.”
There is silence on the radio for a moment. Grasping fully the nightmare that she can hear unfolding in an invisible chorus of voices, the dispatcher slowly replies, “Copy that.”
More than 15 minutes into the disaster, a dispatcher issues a fourth alarm, summoning fire companies from all across the Bay Area to respond to “a plane crash.” A firefighter asks whether it’s a “large aircraft or small aircraft,” but no one knows. This would affect the firefighters’ initial response to the blaze because the accepted method of dealing with a plane crash is to put it out at the source in order to save passengers’ lives.
Gas main fires are extinguished by shutting off a valve, and there have been reports that it took PG&E well over and hour to close this one.
“With a pipeline that big, even if you shut it off a mile away it could burn for another hour,” said Kevin Conant, a battalion chief with the San Jose Fire Department who was not involved in fighting the San Bruno blaze. “I think it was completely legitimate for them to consider that there was an airplane involved because of the amount of fire they had.”
First responders say the most frightening moment occurred when they tried to tap into the neighborhood fire hydrants and heard only a sucking sound . . .
Mike Rosenberg and Bruce Newman
“Tapes Reveal Frantic Scene”
San Jose Mercury News
September 15, 2010
“Like coffee, religion props people up and gets them through their day, and in this sense I believe that religious institutions are like Starbucks in that there are way too many of them and they sell a lot of crap–the only difference is that at least Starbucks pays taxes and offers WiFi.”
Once the speed limit hits 20MPH, then your chances of a fatal pedestrian accident become extremely unlikely. There is advocacy in Britain to expand 20 MPH zones:
If you keep light on the gas, it is entirely easy to drive slowly, and a pleasure to boot, because down in this speed range your mind can almost catch up with all that is going on around you: less stress! You just have to let go of the selfish idea that you have some God-given right to drive fast.
I just returned to the South bay from Brooklyn. I have to say, driving in Brooklyn at a constant 20-25 MPH, slaloming around double-parked cars, bicycles, and the rest, is a lot more relaxing than waiting two minutes at a left-turn light so you can tear down El Camino at 40 MPH.
Open your mind instead of the throttle. you might find you enjoy driving slow. Good luck!
Yeah, I know I’m a crackpot. And when I was younger I had a more leaden foot, but over the past decade or so my driving has mellowed a great deal, possibly because of the station wagon. When you’re driving a boat it is easy enough to relax and take it easy, and I maintain that style in smaller, more nimble cars.
Thursday, September 23
So, we decided to spend Thanksgiving with Mei’s folks in Hawaii and Christmas with my folks in Chicago, so I set up our Hawaii vacation for November. I have never been there myself but it should be easy to enjoy.
On Monday they opened up a long-closed bike trail up North of Moffett Field. This has been a long-awaited link in the Bay Trail project, and I am pleased because now instead of riding on streets and on a 237 frontage road I can ride up the Steven’s Creek trail, then around the North side of Moffett Field, then East along the Bay Trail and then along a canal to the office. That’s a bicycle commute that is over 90% off the street.
But . . . a lot of this new route is gravel. It takes more concentration to ride safely, and getting a flat on my road tires is more likely. The salt flats smell of salt, seaweed, and decay. But I’ll take the occasional flat tire and maybe a gravelly wipe-out or two over being killed by a distracted SUV driver, and the wetlands scenery is a greater pleasure for the eyes and the nose than riding through high-speed suburban street traffic and waiting for red turn signals. I feel lucky.
When I rode the trail home on Monday people would smile and greet each other as they passed, because hey, we had a new toy.
The other new toy I have this week is Civilization 5. I was able to play the first half of a game last night, and so far I really enjoy it. It is a pretty huge change in a lot of ways from Civ 4. Civ 4 is more of a simulation game with lots and lots of variables thrown in to keep a player challenged. I think the developers leaned back and said “Civ 4 is great, but it is pretty dang complicated. Let’s make it easier for new players.” So, Civ 5 has streamlined a lot of things. The graphics are really beautiful, and the tech trees and units are pared down. Diplomacy is re-worked and the whole religion-civics thing has been consolidated into a new set of “Social Policies” which you can enact as you amass more culture.
The interface has moved from the traditional sim-manager style to more of a “builder” paradigm. For example, happiness is now an aggregate for your entire Civ instead of something managed in each city.
Aaaaaaanyway . . . . . I want to understand the military and diplomatic interfaces better, and just get a few games done and out of my system.
Friday, September 24
“I think we are making a transition, the most important in the history of Homo sapiens — more important than our long walk out of Africa and across Europe and Asia. This is our moment. Anyone who died before 1930 never lived through a doubling of the human population. Anyone born after 2050 likely won’t either. We are in a 120-year transition that will require an emerging consciousness if we’re going to make it through.”
The Sun, October, 2010
Monday, September 27
We purchased a humming bird feeder this weekend. Within about ten minutes of installation, the first little bird flitted over. They catch on quicker than the larger birds, who we can occasionally hear at the other feeder, spilling a steady trickle of seed on to the balcony.
Thursday, September 30
It is nearly noon and I am relaxing with the ever-studying Mei at my favorite coffee shop. My work hours today are going to be around 1pm-9pm, due to afternoon and evening deployment windows for software on our production networks. That’s my day job. Well, today my day job is slacker, and my evening job is deployment engineer.
On the radio they are talking about the Census and taking calls from people on the topic: “What my name means to me.”
My surname is Howard, but if my grandfathers had followed convention my surname would be Holmgren. Back in the day the man who carried my Y chromosome married a woman whose surname was Howard, and he took her name for his own to avoid discrimination against dumb Swedes.
I have sometimes wondered about changing the name back to Holmgren, but it hardly seems worth the effort. There is no widespread anti-Swedish prejudice to stand up against in solidarity, and I have no special allegiance to patriarchy.
It seems that most Howards I meet are African American. I doubt they took that surname by marrying English. As best I can guess, their ancestors took their surname, as Howard University did, from Major General Oliver Howard, who fought in the Civil War, and later promoted the welfare of former slaves and war refugees as Commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau.
Perhaps there is even a little solidarity to be had in retaining a surname chosen by people who, to this very day, face discrimination.
I bought a bicycle. There’s a place not far away, Brooklyn Bike and Board, that fixes up old steel-framed bikes because they’re darn tough, then sells them for not a whole lot of money. I spent $250 on the bike, and some more on a front basket and a bike lock. I now have a white, steel, 1-speed bicycle made in France.
I had been avoiding the bicycle thing because Mei is not yet a rider, but on the Greyhound ride back, that college student had mentioned that he’d bought a “recycled” bike for fairly cheap, and rarely spent money on the subway. The prospect of riding around for my own pleasure and exercise pleases Mei. Come Spring we can find her some wheels and learn her how to ride.
Monday, December 7
A day that shall live in infamy or simply “Monday?” For “lunch” I rode up to drop off a bag at Goodwill, and I realized I had totally forgotten my helmet. Fortunately, I made it home safe, then stashed the helmet in the bike’s basket.
When I make coffee I dish the grounds into the filter, and then place the filter into the basket. This reduces the chance of accidentally slopping grounds down between the filter and the basket. Instead I have the occasional accident where I spill coffee grounds everywhere.
Every month or so my Grandmother forwards me another e-mail that has been forwarded to her via a chain of dozens of people who haven’t quite figured out how the Internet works, and these photos are from Miniatur Wunderland, in Hamburg, DE. That’s in the North of Germany, and may likely be on the itinerary of my next trip.
From an e-mail shared with my team at work:
While it is true that I wear dark-framed eyeglasses, post to my highly-customized blog, and Twitter, and uhm, have a 100% telecommute, and just yesterday I bought a “recycled” 1-speed bicycle, I don’t like to think of myself as a hipster, no. And the smart phone and the mini computer . . . gah! This is why I can’t own a Mac or an iPhone or grow a goatee . . .
Tuesday, December 8
Come on ride the snake! Ride it!
Come on ride the snake! Ride it!
Come on ride the snake! It’s a Python!
Wednesday, December 9
New York’s MTA is an excellent system for most parts of New York that existed in the 1920s, when the last major expansions were completed. That means airport service is sub-optimal: ride a local train as far as it will go, then catch a local bus that meanders to the airport.
Note that during peak hours they’ll run that bus line in pairs, but only one bus of each pair runs to the airport. The other goes somewhere else and if you’re lucky the driver will speak up and direct you to the correct bus. If you’re less lucky you can wait fifteen minutes for the next pair of buses.
Note also that if you’re running late and try to use the Virgin America self-service checkin kiosk, it will keep inviting you to try again after you swipe multiple credit cards at different kiosks. If you dig out and enter your confirmation code, it will invite you to try yet again. In this way you’ll not hear the lady announcing that if you want to catch your flight you should come over to the human being right now, because this is the last chance to make it on the flight.
Note also that if you wait behind a family with a newborn and plenty of luggage at security then stroll liesurely to the gate you’ll get to watch the plane you missed push back from the gate and taxi away. And yes, while Google is giving us all free in-flight wireless network access for the holidays, JFK expects you to pay several dollars for the privilege during your hopefully brief wait in the airport.
Thursday, December 10
I helped Todd find an appropriate box into which to pack the extra-large can of Sysco beans.
Friday, December 11
I needed change for Muni so I bought a to-go coffee at the cafe on the corner. I joined a little man at the bus stop as I waited for my cup to cool. He noted my coffee and explained that he was banned from that coffee shop. I offered him a sip, and he worked his way through the entire cup I had only bought for bus change anyway as he repeatedly introduced himself to me as a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Various neighbors passed, exchanging pleasantries with the Chiefs Fan, one saw him drinking from the cup, “that had better be Hot Chocolate.”
Apparently I delivered a cup of contraband to a guy who isn’t allowed to drink caffeine.
Saturday, December 12
Mei’s sick. Slept too much, and enjoyed riding my bike down to Roots in the 30 degrees.