Friday, July 29, 2005


Is it too soon to start talking football? Probably. I have done ZERO research into next season's fantasy football potential. I know next to nothing about off-season moves, etc.

But this morning on the radio they announced Ted (Big) Johnson's retirement.
And we already know Ted Bruschi is taking a season off.

It could be a tough year for the Pats' defense, folks. But goddamn if we haven't had a good run. I hope they can keep it up.

I admire Belichick's class:
Although his retirement is unexpected, we thoroughly respect his decision and support him as he moves on. Ted's signature was a work ethic and toughness that were second to none. He retires a champion.
Reading further into the article, I see that we're in a contract dispute with Richard Seymour, who more than once we heard referred to as the best player (period) on the Pats team last year. I imagine this is just a little more ammo in his arsenal....

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Out of touch

My usual morning routine involves reading a news page (I happen to use Yahoo, might change some time), skimming over headlines and reading anything interesting. One of the sections I browse is "Full Coverage" which sort of collects stories under categories. So, instead of a half-dozen different headlines on the bombings in London, you get "London Bombings." Same with "Iraq Conflict" and "Space Shuttle." This morning, the fifth topic down was "Niger."

And, you know what? As I read that, I realized I had no idea what events were unfolding in Niger.

And so, I clicked on the link to find out just how out of touch I am.


And, yes, I am a complete tool. People are starving to death due to massive drought, famine, and locusts.

I might not be the only one out of touch, though. The five news stories listed? All from non-US sources.

One story had this quote. "I had 50 cows. I sold 20 to feed my family and the rest are dead. Now I have two cows and two calves. I put my future in the hands of God." The countryside is littered with the corpses of cattle who have starved. It sounds hellish to me.

The Boston Globe asked almost a full week ago, "Does US care about Niger now?"

I'd have to say, from where I sit, it doesn't look good.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

People crack me up, technical edition

So I'm doing some work-related research, and it leads me to reading this magazine review of JBuilder 2005, the IDE I use at work.

The review is a pretty standard review, talking about IDE features (including code auditing, the feature I was interested in hearing about). In the middle of the review, the author included the following information about Crystal Reports support in JBuilder:
Enterprise supports a wide variety of Web frameworks and libraries, including Struts/Tiles, Java ServerFaces (JSF), Cocoon, and even taglibs for Crystal Reports Engine and JSR168 Portlets and, of course, the Java Standard Tag Library (JSTL).
Makes sense, sure. And then you get to the end of the review, and you find this gem of a comment from someone:
I want to know about crystal report
And then, 30 minutes later, because obviously nobody has answered his question, he follows up with much more information:
how create crystal report in the java program
Thanks, that cleared it right up. Sometimes it's nice to know my job is safe :).

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Nerdcore Hiphop

Wired magazine has a bit on nerdcore.

In honor of this moment, I am currently listening to all my Frontalot tracks. And realizing that I'm out of touch -- I gotta find some new nerdy shit to get down to.

Well, I don't really mean "get down to." I more mean "download."

Monday, July 25, 2005

I hate numbers

I actually love numbers, but I hate the way they scale, and I hate the way we use them today.

We constantly hear about how big the national debt is, how many people die per minute from different diseases, how much oil we're burning, and so on.

But the fact is, anything you tell us which scales with population is going to seem immense once you multiply it out. MSN in Australia tells me the average person passes a liter and a half of gas a day. There are almost 300 million people in the US, so each day America releases almost 120 million gallons of flatulance.

That's a lot of stink, by the way.

"US OIL DEMAND, 2004: Over 20 million barrels per day" - from this site. They further tell me that this is about 777 million gallons. The site tries to be helpful as it goes on telling me how deep that much oil would be covering a football field, how many times those barrels would circle the earth, etc. And trust me, that's cool to know. I love having the visual.

But it doesn't mean anything to me. Is it normal for a nation to consume 6 times as much oil as it outputs in ass-gas? What are the ass-gas to oil-consumption ratios for other nations? What do we get in exchange for our oil usage? How much of it is used in cars driven by one person and how much is used in transporting food from the rural areas into the cities? What are the facts behind the numbers?

I'm not saying we aren't being grossly irresponsible in our oil consumption. But tell me about that, don't just give me a number and hope I run away screaming. You have to give me some context.

This same fact applies to the people who try and tell me how many people starve to death each minute. I love this site which tells me that "One person every other second needlessly dies." Now that's a truly useless number, designed simply to scare me. How many people actually die every second? How many are "needful" deaths? How many people are needlessly born (not a very nice thought, I know)?

They further tell me that 578 species go extinct each day, which seems to contrast with Wikipedia's statement of 784 documented extinctions in the past 500 years. This further contrasts with Sierra Legal Defense's estimate of 50 to 75 species per day being eradicated, and SaveTheRainforest's "conservative" estimate of 25 per day. This site tells me (again, "conservatively") that 50 to 150 species are wiped out each day in the tropics alone.

This is even worse than "scare me with big numbers." It's "scare me with completely made up numbers." Do these assholes even know what "conservatively" means when estimating something?

I hate it. It's gotten to the point where I feel no emotional impact from numbers any more. With every statistic I hear, I first question whether they're even right, and then question what it's supposed to tell me. In the end I'm left with one impression: people are much more interested in making me terrified than they are in educating me, and I resent that.

Let me decide whether I should be scared shitless or not, ok?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Important People

Yesterday my wife and I ran into two people who were important to us, growing up.

I really need to rephrase that, because it doesn't make it clear what I'm trying to say. These people knew both of us, but never dealt with us when we were "together." And yet we both remember them separately as wonderful people who were important to us getting where we are today.

One was Ed Shaughnessy, who was The Man at our high school. I use the title The Man because whatever his actual title was (Dean of Students? Principal?), his real job as far as I knew was to walk the hallways and act as the father figure to a bunch of blue collar kids with attitude problems. This was the guy who handed out punishments, who told you to "take your goddamn hat off" inside the classroom, and who broke up fights. And this was the guy who got a standing ovation during graduation ceremonies.

Mr. S, as we called him (because that's what his wife called him; see below), was a real rarity. He knew how to talk to kids, how to get results, and how to earn respect. And he'd known it for decades: he was teaching at the school when Jess's parents were students there.

Jess and I weren't problem kids; Mr. S. didn't need to give us a lot of shit. But he still had to keep us in line, and both of us dealt with him on a couple occasions. I specifically remember getting caught typing an obscene poem in typing class (I remember how it started: "A jolly old elf that old saint nick, had a two-foot seven-inch motherfucking dick") while Jess and her friends all showed up late for school one day with permission slips from their parents, and still got in trouble ("I don't care if they're real or not, you can't just skip your first class and get breakfast at Abdow's. You know what'll happen if word gets out this stunt worked? You tell all your classmates you have detention!" [they didn't, of course, but they had to say they did...]).

Anyway. As far as I know, he retired shortly after Jess graduated. A quick web search shows him back at Smith school, though, as athletic director and baseball coach. I'm sure he's still keeping kids in line. Way to go, Mr. S.

The other person we met was Jane Nagle, who taught us English Literature in our Junior and Senior years. Miss Nagle was married to Mr. S., but kept her own last name. She had a talent for recognizing and nurturing independent thought, and rewarded creative expression of ideas, even unpopular ones. I still remember specific classroom discussions from that class, and it was 15 years ago! I still have my journals, my papers, my homework assignments with comments scribbled in the margins. Both Jess and I spoke at our respective high school graduations, and Miss Nagle helped us with our speeches like a nervous hen. She begged us not to embarass Mr S., and of course we ignored her advice and made sure we gave our peers ample opportunity to applaud him.

Miss Nagle didn't earn the same kind of respect Mr S. did, though. Jess and I both remember her very fondly, but I know some other students didn't. She never connected with the "collective consciousness" of the student body with the same ease her husband did. And there may have been some resentment of the way she seemed to play favorites ... it was hard to see that at the time. Still, I feel the environment she created in that Period 1 English Lit class really helped shape me and prepare my mind for higher education.

Miss Nagle didn't stay at Smith School. She had been working on her doctorate for some time, and after Jess graduated she moved on to a new calling -- instead of teaching kids, she's teaching new generations of teachers. A quick web search shows her at Westfield State now.

Seeing them, still happy and together all these years later, was a powerful moment. Mr S. recognized us right away, pointing at us across a crowded room. We shook hands, hugged, made small talk for a couple moments, and went our separate ways. I wish we had talked for a little while longer, but so it goes.

I think they know how important they were to us. And now you do to.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I, Robot

I'll start today with something light: a brief movie review of I, Robot.

I am probably best described as a casual fan of classic sci-fi. I've read the core Foundation novels, spits and spurts of Clarke and Heinlein, and dabbled in a half-dozen other classic authors in bits and pieces. I'm far from an expert, but I've accumulated some exposure over the years.

I went into I, Robot not knowing what to expect. I left it feeling much the same way. I'm not sure the folks making the movie knew what they wanted, or what they got.

First off, Will Smith fails in this role. I don't know how -- but he does. He nails half of his character's personality, but just isn't convincing enough at other times. I can't really blame him, because it seemed like they didn't know what they wanted his character to be.

This is the continuing problem with the movie. Is it an action movie or a deep sci-fi movie? Is it trying to be both (ala The Matrix) or neither? I can't tell, and I'm not sure they could either while making it. They wind up an interesting "hard sci-fi" sort of open-ended story, and then at the same time try to spoon-feed everything to you with a pretty bow and lots of explosions.

The movie basically makes promises it never delivers on, and leaves you wondering what you just watched. It was a solid disappointment, because instead of aiming low and succeeding, or aiming high and failing, it just sort of limps along with uncertain expectations and uncertain delivery.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Am I crazy (work-related)?

So I went to JavaOne a few weeks ago and enjoyed the hell out of San Francisco. Somewhere along the way I actually derived some satisfaction out of being at a conference full of people who shared my profession. This is not something I'm used to. If you know me, you know I'm pretty cynical about "work stuff" in general.

I wrote a 10+ page summary of my time at JavaOne, sent it to my team, and people actually read it and commented on it. I was blown away. But this didn't completely finish me off; I had these weird ideas about how we have this fragmented developer environment and we could be doing much more than we are.

In a moment of weakness, I described some of these ideas to my manager, who thought it would be good for me to put them in a more coherent form.

So I wrote a short little proposal explaining why I felt we needed to improve things, what we should be aiming for, and what specifically we can do to start getting there. I even included some critical comments on our corporate culture. I finished it off by explaining that I didn't really expect this first "system" to change the world overnight, but hoped that in its inevitable failure it might impart some minor changes in attitudes (well, not in those exact words, but you get the point).

Is this the kind of stupid stuff that gets people in hot water? Or is this the kind of focused stuff that gets people credit?

What does it say about me, about this industry, that I am questioning the difference between these two?

I'm putting off passing this in to my boss. I'm smart enough to at least suggest that I be allowed to count this proposal towards my quarterly objectives for Q3....

Why do I still read PvP?

First off, let me just say that if there's one thing that I find less amusing than a drawn-out PvP story arc, it's one done by a guest artist. I'm not sure why I check there anymore, except for force of habit. Just for kicks I went back through the last month's archives to find the last time I got a real chuckle out of it.

I mean, masturbating blaspheming cats is worth something, right? That's the only one. And I'm stretching here.

(Yes, this is a poor excuse for a post. I'm sorry, it's Monday morning.)

Friday, July 15, 2005

MLP: Environment

I meant to link these but forgot about it in my rush to post about my geeky adrenalin rush. Yesterday I read some interesting articles and discussions about "Peak Oil." Links:

K5 Story (Part 1)
Wikipedia (linked from K5)
Economist POV

I find the entire subject pretty fascinating from an academic standpoint. It's an interesting time we live in.

On a related note, I recently watched Penn & Teller's Bullshit! as they talked about the environmental movement (the episode was from season 1). They weren't arguing that environmentalism is bullshit, but more that the movement was being hijacked by political activists who were using the mental capital of environmental concern to support a whole variety of anti-corporate, anti-globalism causes. They also talked about how much of the movement uses sensationalism instead of science, and so forth. Nothing really new but still useful to see. The moral of the story was to do your research before you give your money, and spend your energy in the rigth places for the right causes. Solid advice.

Geek Out, Geek Star.

Now is the humid summer of my discontent made glorious season-neutral-indoors by all the cool nerdy shit coming my way this weekend.
On a side note, I am so glad Potter came out after I was "grown up" because as a teenager I probably would have been too full of myself to get so much enjoyment out of a "kids' book." Unlike, say, The Pope, who is obviously still too full of himself to enjoy them. I should invite Darth Benedict over to my place for the weekend. Let him see what a corrupt soul really does with its spare time.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Blogs increasing information scatter?

The other day I noticed something about the "blogosphere." It all started when I tried to search my blog, just as you'd search your gmail, for something I knew I had written. The search box at the top didn't show anything -- obviously at this point Google isn't indexing my blog. That's fine -- I've never submitted it to be indexed, and very rarely if ever linked to it from a place where google indexes.

But it made me think about something else. Obviously people who blog enjoy being read, or they'd just keep a diary, right? And part of the appeal of a blog is supposed to be its interactivity. I write here about the new Harry Potter book, and you post a followup telling me I'm a geek, and then some SA goon posts a slash image of Harry and Hagrid, and the collective concsiousness grows, or something. Anyway, I stumbled onto something the other day which relates to all this.

I've lost the links, but it's a trend you've probably seen if you read blogs at all -- Author A posts something, and Author B writes a reply ... in his own blog. Then he just replies in Author A's blog: "I replied -here-" with a link back to his own blog (probably in an effort to drive readers or search engines to his blog). The conversation probably ends here, but maybe not ... maybe people reply to one or the other, and maybe some of them use this self-promoting "I replied here" mechanism. You end up with this fragmented mess.

I wonder if this is common. I'm new to this whole blogging thing, as you can probably tell. But it seems like something which isn't rare, and isn't necessarily healthy....

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Firefox, Shuttles, and Childish Fascination

Just some random notes to fill space on a Wednesday morning:

Firefox 1.0.5 is out.

Of course, my browser hasn't figured this out yet, even though the download's been available all night. Mozilla delays auto-notification so the technocratic elite can get the patches first, evidently. I kid (sort of). It's an interesting topic, actually, which has been debated to death by people with far more energy than I have.

The space shuttle Discovery is set to launch this afternoon after repairs had to be done on the pad. Interesting to note that CNN calls it "emergency repairs" and Space.Com calls it "minor repairs." I guess they're both right. Enjoy your spin. I've set my desktop wallpaper to the beautiful glory shot of Columbia preparing for its first launch (STS-1), which I snagged off of APOD a while back.

Finally, on a more personal note, while eating lunch yesterday I watched a pair of street sweepers operate on Route 20 in Northboro. I got to watch them operate, empty the accumulated debris into a dump truck, which in turn covered the dirt with a sheet and turned around to drop it off somewhere. I felt like a little kid watching construction equipment at work; I had never really thought about the process of street sweeping. I thought I'd find more info on the process on HowStuffWorks, but no dice. Instead, I found this page, which talks about street sweeping from a municipal standpoint: how it improves your city to do it. This is why I love the Internet :).

Monday, July 11, 2005

Eager Feet keep moving

Well, these eager feet got back on the pavement yesterday, in the humid upper-80s sun. Let me tell you, after about a month off from running, this was an interesting way to remind my body what it "enjoys." The pain was relatively short-lived, afterwards, however.

In any case, "they" say that you generally will be sub-par for twice the period of your layoff so assuming I actually try and work this back into my schedule, I can expect it to take a couple months before I feel like my old self again. Well, my old "new" self.

In other eager feet news, these eager feet are headed for Las Vegas next month. A bunch of Amazon Basiners (not to be confused with, say, people killing monkeys with blowdarts in Brazil) are meeting up in Vegas for ABCon V. I was so focused on San Francisco that I haven't really started to get psyched up for Vegas yet. So, to remedy that, I'll try and focus my mental energies over the next few days on the sounds of slot machines, the sight of omnipresent neon, the taste of cheap booze, and the smell of cigarette smoke. Vegas, baby, Vegas!

Seriously, though, people are starting to get nutso about it on our forums, so that's cool. How will we meet, what will we do during off times, who wants to gamble vs. who wants to play Gamecube, who wants to hike, who wants to drink, etc. My wife has informed me that as long as I'm not leading a bunch of "internet nerds" over to the Bunny Ranch for a party I'm okay to go without her. Fine, be that way ;).

Saturday, July 09, 2005

San Francisco Part 4 (w/Pics) (Last one!)

(See previous posts: 1, 2, 3).


Last day in the city, and we were busy again. We slept in a little and then hoofed it over to Chinatown as they opened the place up. Jess and I both compared it to Cancun -- you're seeing the edges of a real "other" culture, but you're seeing it through this lens of tourist-friendliness. We walked into total tourist trap stores with tons of junk (neat, cool junk, but still junk), and we walked down alleys where various businesses with no english names operated. We saw a funeral procession go by, and we gawked at the vendors and their weird foods. We hit the district too early to catch the locals buying and selling things like live animals and such, but it was still plenty interesting.

We went to the Golden Dragon for Dim Sum, based on location and description in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was suitably Chinese -- not much English in their interactions, kind of confusing, but fun. Dim Sum deserves its own whole story -- the end of the story is that we ate until we were full for 15 dollars, including tip. Total. Amazing. The sad part of the story is that we left so many foods unsampled. Going with 4 is definitely the way to go -- either that or just leaving half the food uneaten. In any case, it wasn't long until we were passing on every dish they brought out, just because we were full.

We had a good laugh about Dim Sum, later. There were several Chinese families there, and a European family, who were obviously quite accomplished Dim Sum eaters :). We were a bit out of water, doing our best to get by. But there was a family there who made us look like we came from Hong Kong. The waittress comes by with the cart of food and says, "Dim Sum?". The guy responds by taking out this piece of paper, which turned out to be a flier from the restaurant promising "One free Dim Sum with Lunch Special." He points at the words "Dim Sum" and speaks with exaggerated volume: "DIM SUM?" It was hilarious. They ate their lunch special with their free plate of Dim Sum, though, and were evidently quite happy.

We know this because when the couple who looked like they were from Texas arrived, they sat down and the husband asked the guy at that table, "What's this Dim Sum stuff?" The guy answered, pointing at the small plate of Shumai he had, "It's these little dumpling thingies. We had some, they're good." Wow. So, yeah, evidently I'm like all cultured. Go me. As I mentioned to Jess later, though, it clearly takes a certain kind of courage to walk into a Dim Sum parlor having no idea what you're getting. I'm sure they were very proud of their adventurous spirit.

We ditched Chinatown and took the subway to Golden Gate Park, next. We spent the afternoon walking through the park, which is really beautiful. We had tea at the Japanese Tea Garden, ate Japanese cookies and snacks (including some Pocky ... honestly I don't understand its odd appeal to the anime fanboy set), and took some pictures of the pretty flowers and whatnot. Very relaxing, and a beautiful afternoon for it.

Then we got back on the subway and rode to Ocean Beach, where we stepped foot in the frozen Pacific. We strolled back to a corner bar right by the beach which turned out to be this cool neighborhood cafe with an awesome vibe. We relaxed, I had a beer, Jess had a soda, and we just took in the place. Very cool, and it was nice to be reminded that people -lived- here. It had a very college town feel to it, which was perfect.

On the way back, we got off the subway near the park and stopped at this Japanese place we had walked past before called Hotei, and ate noodle soup that was way too big for us. Still, delicious and again a perfect atmosphere, sitting in a window booth watching everybody walk by as the sun dipped down. The relaxing walk and subway ride back to the hotel really put the cap on our time in the city.

San Francisco Part 3 W/Pics

(See parts one and two)


The conference was done, and this was our guided tour day. We started the morning with breakfast at a nearby cafe, followed by a bus ride to Muir Woods where Jess and I were consistenly overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. These trees are amazing -- the entire atmosphere is great. Super tall trees reaching up into the fog, etc. It's awe-inspiring. One thing that I didn't remember from my previous visit was the rich healthy smell of the place. One thing I could have done without was the crowd of people ... but what can you do? It's not your planet, it's everyone's. Heh. It was humbling and beautiful, and the 75 minutes we spent there was not quite enough time. Still, compromises must be made.

Our tour returned to San Fran via Sausalito, where we had lunch at a famous hamburger place whose name escapes me. I don't even think the sign for the place had a name, it just said "Hamburgers." Excellent food, eaten outdoors by the Sausalito marina. Jess fed pigeons, I took pictures of boats, and we hopped back in the van for the ride back to the city.

That was back across the bridge to Pier 41 (and 39), where we poked around a bit (Jess bought some cool earrings) before catching the ferry to Alcatraz. Alcatraz itself was also cool, especially with the audio tour. The audio tour is narrated by actual convicts and correctional officiers from the prison, and has various subtle non-cheesy sound-effects scattered throughout. I can see why it's won awards. The island was also covered in cool plants and birds, including a healthy amount of baby sea gulls. On the other hand, it was cold and windy, and we were ready to leave soon after the audio tour concluded. We took the boat back and tried to decide how to conclude our day. We were tired, we had walked around quite a bit, and we weren't sure how much fuel we had left. I certainly wasn't up for going back to the hotel, dressing up, and hitting anywhere fancy.

We decided to just walk until something caught our eyes, and after poking at a couple little stores we ended up at (you're going to laugh) Hooters. I have never been in a Hooters, so it was fun in that way. I was amused by how many couples and families there were there; only a couple tables had all-guy groups. Anyway, pretty girls, hair metal on the radio, cold beer, decent chicken, basically fuel up and head on out.

We waited in a HUGE line for the cable car home, suffering through a very poor performance by a street entertainer. The real joke here is that the people behind us seemed to think they were in a comedy club, constantly critiquing the performer's "act." "Is this his whole schtick?" Yes, dude, that's his whole schtick. You didn't pay a cover charge, you aren't in a nightclub, and be happy he doesn't turn outright hostile when you don't put money in his hat, ok?

Friday, July 08, 2005

EMC JavaOne Pic

Think of this as "Part 2.5" -- a picture of the EMC crew.

I'll get the rest of the report up this weekend.

San Francisco Trip - Part 2 (w/Pics)

(See part one)


I was at the conference all morning and all afternoon, and had lunch with Jess at the Metreon food court in between. I won't bore you with conference-related stuff, but the opening day was special. The first general session, where they welcomed us all, was very cool in a "relax and geek out" kind of way.

Side note: It was very difficult to balance the two vibes this trip had for me. On the one hand, you spend all day with 15,000 other geeks doing geeky stuff. During off time, there is tons of geeky amusement to be had, which I almost completely skipped to maximize my time with Jess and in the city. It led to some minor feelings of time and energy conflict which took some getting used to.

Moving on: the conference went to 7:00 PM and by then I was pretty wiped out. I didn't feel like doing anything ambitious, so we went for a walk to a nearby Indian cafe that gets rave reviews: Chaat Cafe. The reviews were right: awesome affordable Indian food. Very fun, very relaxing, and my only complaint was that the service was awful. The story here is that they are very busy at lunch, where you give your order at the counter, fight for a table, and scarf down your food with no real service. At dinner they seat you and take your order, but they really don't "serve" you that much after your food arrives. Not much in terms of drink refills, and it took forever to get our check.


Probably my best day at the conference; lots of interesting sessions, with a convenient one hour break where nothing interested me too much. I grabbed lunch at a noodle place in the Metreon food court and got primo seats at the first session after that. Interesting content, kind of hit my tech groove.

This was the day Jess braved the subway and went to the zoo, which is her own story to tell. Still, way to go Jess!

After the sessions we hopped on the subway and made our way to the financial district, where we had awesome Greek food at Kokkari's. We were a little underdressed; most of the people there were still in their "I work in a bank or ad agency" uniforms. But our waiter was awesome. He made us feel totally at home, answered all our questions without a hint of condescension, and basically made us feel like the only customers in the place. Awesome from top to bottom. On the way back we walked through a neighborhood where wild parrots hang out in the trees, and poked around through various parks and such before heading back to the hotel.

Side note: obviously underlying all these little stories is the current of "city" experiences. Street musicians, pan-handlers, homeless people, insane crowds, busy traffic, stopping in random cafes for soda/coffee/tea, etc. I don't bother to add that in but it was part of the whole experience for us and one which we don't get that often.


A very busy conference day, with no real breaks at all. I created one, though, and spent a little time exploring the vendor booths on the floor, because otherwise I would have felt cheated.

Side story: I had an amusing encounter with a "booth babe." There were not many of them, and even these were not true "booth babes" but probably just "attractive sales/marketing people." Still, it was obvious what this girl's job was, and she did an okay job of it. Now, I was interested in hearing about the product, but really I could have just grabbed their flier and reviewed it later. But I got completely sucked in. I thought I was above this, but once she made eye contact and smiled her huge pretty smile, I was like a deer in headlights. Yes, tell me more! That's fascinating! No, I haven't heard of your product before. Ah....yes, I see how that would be useful. Anyway, the story has a happy ending: I snapped out of it was she tried to hand me off to an engineer for a more in-depth demo of the product. I made my escape and grazed the other booths for minor trinkets, handouts, and brief sales speeches.

All part of the fun.

I don't remember what, if anything, we did Wednesday after my sessions. But we had dinner at a place we had walked by a dozen times, Max's. Their tagline was something like "everything you ever wanted to eat," and it was always crowded. The food was well-executed middle-of-the-road fare, with a slightly quirky but very "safe" atmosphere. The drinks were not the best, though, and the portions were too big. I hesitate to count that as a negative but it's hard not to -- our soups could have been meals in their own right, and each of us left half our dinners uneaten. Still, they were decent dinners and it was a fun, laid back time. We were able to sit in a booth where our seats were kitty-corner from each other, with good views of the streets outside. So we could people-watch and chat about the day.

I think I was pretty beat at this point, but there was one more day of "work" left.


The vibe of the conference changed on the last day; the vendor booths closed up, the late-night sessions stopped, and I said goodbye to the various EMC folks I had met from across the country.

Side note: I met lots of interesting people at the conference, just random people you'd start a conversation with in line. Where are you from, go anywhere interesting yesterday, etc. Nice times. I am not really an extroverted person but it's interesting to see the contrast between me and truly shy people. I got involved in a 3-way conversation where one guy was really outgoing but the other was totally quiet. It was odd watching him just get quieter and quieter as the other guy and I kind of took over the conversation. Random humanity :).

The general session on the last day was the "here's the future" session, and it was pretty cool and inspiring in its own way. I hit all the sessions I could on the last day, again with no real break, but skipped the last session of the day so I could be out by 3:30. We made plans to meet at the movies at 6 with Ura and another EMC guy
named Steve, and that was that.

After checking and seeing the movie didn't start until almost 7, Jess and I grabbed dinner before the movies. We ended up at a Mexican place that was actually part of a chain, called Chevy's. Still, huge high quality ritas, fresh tortilla chips, spicy delicious food, and Mexican music added up to a great time. We hit War of the Worlds after that, and then wandered around the city with Ura and Steve, ending up back at our hotel bar for a couple drinks and some vague work-related discussion. A solid evening.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

San Francisco Trip - Part 1 (w/PICS)

Having recently returned home from 8 days in San Francisco for the JavaOne conference, I thought I'd inflict upon my faithful readers (ha) a little summary of my trip. We start with the first weekend in the city and I'll follow up with later days. Background info: this was my second time in SF and my wife's first. I know this will read backwards but such is the life of the blogger.


We got a ride to the airport in a "shared van" which cost us like 60 bucks each way. Considering the cost of parking for 8 days plus the convenience factor, it seemed worth it. There's a good chance the company will pay for this expense, making it even more worth it. They picked us up at 3 AM, and the only reason I even mention this is that when we left a skunk was chilling out by our back porch (as in, it ran away from me when I came out by running between my grill and my steps). After this little adrenalin rush subsided, the trip there was pretty uneventful.

We got to SF, exhausted, and were checked into our hotel by noon their time. We headed out for our first brief excursion by walking around the immediate area until we found a place that looked about our speed for lunch. We ended up at a place called the Daily Grill, which was quiet, casual (enough), and good. We ate sandwiches and returned to the hotel to nap for a few hours because, you know, getting up at 2:30 AM is tiring.

Late afternoon, we headed out for a little laid-back exploration. We walked to where my conference was held, and I picked up my registration materials. Along the way we got a little lost (Moscone West != Moscone, fyi), but it was no big deal. We poked around downtown a little, bought a weeklong public transit pass (great deal at 20 bucks per person), and settled in to dinner at some jazz bistro that was completely empty. The food was completely average -- I imagine the real appeal was the music, but we were too early for music. Remember, we were 3 hours off schedule and operating on weird sleep too.

Side story: a street musician, later in the week, responded to my friend Ura's question of where to go for some cool music by naming this same jazz bistro.


This was our real welcome to the city day. We started with breakfast at Sears Fine Foods, a short walk away and evidently a famous breakfast joint. Good food, but I'm not sure I understand how it got so famous. Maybe staying in business for decades and decades has something to do with it.

After breakfast, we headed downtown and walked pretty far down Market St (heading west). This was the Pride Parade day, and the street was blocked off and tons of cops were hanging around to set up. As such, we walked with confidence through some fairly sketchy areas :). We turned around as we got near the civic center, and walked all the way back to like 5th St or so, where we found a gap in the crowd and saddled up to the barriers to watch the parade.

The parade was MASSIVE. It opened with the 600-strong "Dykes on Bikes" and went from there. Jess was moved to tears at the start of it, which I wasn't expecting. She said it was sad to see these people who were so obviously happy with their lives and yet had to fight for the simplest recognition and respect. That gave me a little pause and cast the event in a slightly different light for me.

In any case, it was a freakshow. We saw a couple topless women and a couple bottomless guys, float after float representing various groups, companies, and causes, and just tons of people marching. Overall, though, it was much more tame than we were expecting. I guess growing up in Northampton, living in liberal Massachusetts, and traveling as much as we have, we've already seen a lot. Maybe the Internet has something to do with it too. But it wasn't the "OMG insane" freakshow we sort of were hoping for. It's like we secretly wanted to have our boundaries tested and pushed, and instead we just stood by and watched stuff we've seen before, and applauded with everyone else.

Side note: it was deeply moving to see the very strong anti-establishment crowd applaud as one when the (very few) gay veterans marched by, again when the gay police marched by (with partners), and finally again when the mayor marched by. You see so much stupid "I hate everybody" rebellion that it's nice to see properly directed "I can hate the war but still applaud the vets" energy.

Anyway, it was quite an experience. The crowds were huge, and friendly. We saw NO anti-parade protesters, which was another surprise. Plenty of anti-war, anti-Bush signs, of course. Heh. Eventually we grew tired of watching people march by, and it was clear the "big bang" stuff had already gone by, so we moved on. We walked east and ended up at the Ferry Building, Pier 1, Embarcadero. We had lunch at The Slanted Door, Vietnamese food, and just generally enjoyed the atmosphere of the building. Lots of little shops, small farmers' market, lots of people milling about, great views of the Bay Bridge (to Oakland), etc. Then we waited for the restored vintage subway car to take us to Pier 39.

At Pier 39 we just kind of walked around, went into a few shops, checked out the view, the seal lions, etc. We were really kind of wiped out, though, to get much out of this. We took the cable car back to our hotel and rested up a bit, meeting one of my Amazon Basin friends for dinner. It was supposed to be two friends but one never showed. In any case, she took us to the Cliff House, where we waited for an hour to get a table and chatted while admiring the killer views of the Pacific. If you haven't been up there, make a point of it next time you're in SF. It's downright surreal to see the ocean from that angle, and the sunset wasn't half-bad either.

So that was our first big city day; exhausting, long, but awesome.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Feeling Rejuvenated

My plane landed a couple hours ago, and I'm back home, safe, sound, and not quite tired enough to sleep. Three cheers for time zone changes!

I figured instead of wasting away my energy playing a video game, I'd pop in here and write up a short comment on how this trip has made me feel. The best word I can use is rejuvenated.

My wife and I this past week experienced things both wondrous and mundane, spectacular and tacky. We met new people, saw new places, and learned new things. We were pampered and humbled, awestruck and saddened. It was everything we travel for, and I couldn't ask for it to be more.

In addition, I spent four days with my industry peers and felt my excitement for my industry rekindled. I have no idea how long it will last, but I have realized how out of touch I have become with the state of the art, and how easy it would be to invest just a little more time into staying more in touch. I'm looking forward to sharing with my co-workers everything that I took away from the convention. Someone slap me, I'm losing touch with reality.

I'm thrilled to be home. But part of me is sad knowing that the energy I feel right now will fade over time. Maybe I can find a way to preserve and channel it. Only time will tell.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Connectivity in San Fran

My time in San Francisco is almost at an end. There's so much I could write about, but right now I'm thinking about connectivity.

My hotel room has an ethernet port, through which I am currently connected. To use it, I must activate a service for a period of up to 24 hours (actually it's from "now" until 3 PM the next day), at a cost of ten dollars. Compared to my home broadband fee, this is highway robbery. Compared to being offline, it's a bargain.

Like many of us, I have begun to take it for granted that "cyberspace" is an always-reachable extension of my own mind. I don't need it 24 hours a day, but day after day it really starts to add up. What was that movie, what was that trivial fact, what was that restaurant I read about, how far is it from point A to point B, and what's the buzz on that microbrewery/tapas joint by the Moscone center? I am so used to being able to answer questions like this within seconds, that being unable to answer them even after a whole day has gone by is painful.

Not to mention that I find myself completely unable to absorb news from my surroundings without it. I see something in a headline, see a piece of a news report, and my first thought isn't "turn on CNN" it's "I wonder if there's a thread about this on Ars or Slashdot." I need to know not just what is happening, but what "my peers" think about it.

Don't get me wrong. I am not sitting there consumed by my lack of connectivity while taking a slow walk through Muir Woods. And as I enjoy a great Greek beer and dip my grilled pita bread in an eggplant and garlic spread I am not thinking "I wonder what today's Penny Arcade was." There's a place for being disconnected, and certain states of mind which only seem to be reachable when you're out of touch. Not only that, but I recognize and value the experience of sitting down for a meal at a restaurant you've heard nothing about and being blown away by the surprise -- of reading a book nobody told you was going to be good and thrilling at making a secret discovery.

But the fact is, those times, places, and experiences are few and far between. I need my cybernetic brain add-on more than I need to be without it.

And apparently I am not the only one. Today I saw a street musician with his hotmail email address written down on a piece of paper in his guitar case, among the nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollar bills. It was surreal, but at the same time I kind of identified with him.