Friday, June 25, 2004

A Long Week Before a Long Weekend

It's been a long week. O doesn't seem to have had any major problems, although we did discover that we left out a change from one of the data extractors. Took about a minute to fix and send Tiffany a new zip. A, on the other hand (the one I was having so much trouble getting done a couple of weeks ago) is not so lucky. We put them into a hosted staging environment and discovered a small bug in my code; fixed that, but now Rich is having tons of database problems. One of the DB guys in Engineering wants to blame my process, but I'm not really doing anything unusual, so I think it's something else. We finally got the work order signed for J; I've been working on it for more than a week anyway, but it's good to have it signed. And I even got LKB in Atlanta to get the codes in today so I can actually enter my time for it. I am hoping that they will even ask for more based on some conversations we had earlier this week. Or maybe that was last week. Oh, and N is having a devil of a time getting NT authentication to work. I think it's because they're giving it an Internet machine name for a load balancer instead of NT server names, but the only guy who can tell us the real server names instead of the load balancer won't be back until Monday. And he's a prick. Can't wait to get on the phone with HIM again.

In other news, for some reason I've gotten three contacts about new jobs this week. One of them expects 75% travel, and that's far more than I'm willing even to consider at this point. Another is with MacroMedia, and I actually have a phone interview with the hiring manager (she's in Massachusetts) on Monday. Should be interesting. The recruiter and I talked about salary and such and it sounds as if I might be pushing the limits of what they want to pay, but they may have enough. They're in downtown SF, so it won't be too hard to get there, but it is going to make it tough for me to be part of taking Rachel to school and picking her up, at least until I've been there a while. We'll see how the phone interview goes. They've seen my resume, which I don't think even mentions them or any of their products, but they're still interested in talking to me, so I take that as a good sign.

I'm really hoping to be able to start biking again soon. I haven't been able to in more than 2 weeks because of messing up my back. Had an interesting conversation with Chris when we were bringing the new grill to my house; there's a book called the Tipping Point in which the author discusses, among other things, how being in a hurry can have a significant impact on people's thought processes. When I took the NG grill out of my truck by myself the first time, I was in a hurry to catch up with Dawn and Rachel at a restaurant. I knew perfectly well it wasn't the greatest idea to take it out myself, but I did it anyway because I couldn't close the truck all the way and didn't want to leave it sitting there while I was gone. Rachel and I were talking about biking last night as she was going to bed. It'll be great to get back in that habit.

But now we are nearing the start of a weekend. Dawn and I are going to Sterling and Angel's wedding. Talk about anti-climactic. Sterling and Angel have probably been together longer than Dawn and I... it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that they were going to get married when I met Sterling when I started working here... in September of 2000. It should be fun... large Chinese wedding with a whole bunch of my co-workers and former co-workers. Oh, and I imagine there will be a lot of people we don't know too. I think I heard that they're expecting 350 people. Rachel will be with my parents, probably spending the night at their place for the first time since before the end of the Pabu-Era (Pabu was Rachel's word for pacifiers). I think that will go OK, actually, but the hard part is that she wants to go to the farmer's market with them, which is in the morning, so I'm not sure how her nap is going to go... whether she'll nap at their place or come home and then go back with them after nap. Guess we'll see.

Rachel's doing really well. She's really doing a lot of imaginative play, make-believe and that sort of thing. Apparently yesterday at my parents' place she pretended to take my father's thumb and eat it. He tucked it into his hand and moaned about how she'd eat his thumb. She looked at it, didn't see his thumb, and, apparently, looked absolutely horrified and took it out of her mouth and gave it back. This morning, she picked up the fireplace broom and started sweeping and looked at me and said "I'm Gladys" (our housecleaner). Very cute. She's also really starting to get good at expressing feelings. On Wednesday night, I took a customer to dinner and didn't get home until right before Rachel's bedtime. She was having a little trouble going to sleep and I asked her what was wrong; "I'm feeling sad". Evidently she didn't like it that I was gone during the evening. She actually was fine yesterday, though, I think because she was at my parents' place while Dawn and I were at the game (Giants swept the Dodgers in 4 games with a 9-3 win. GO GIANTS!), rather than being home without me. Sometimes she really does notice when one of us is out and she's not, even if she's with the other parent.

Anyway, A is having some trouble now and I'm stuck having to troubleshoot it. Better go. Only a couple hours to figure it out without having to worry about impacting Monday's testing start.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

It's Been a Long Time Since I...

It's been a while since I made an entry. I find myself thinking about doing it at times, but I've been busy at work and it doesn't wind up getting all that high a priority at night. I did my first "live" entry on 5/30; the first actual entry, though, is for 5/21... ah, the trip to Yosemite. I never did get around to putting in the entry for the last day of the trip, or my general wrap-up. Oh well, perhaps I will eventually... I have some notes from the day in the journal I took on the trip with me. I've never been one to keep lots of journals; my parents (my mother mostly) makes notes of the trips they take and my friend Daniel is actually entering, with editor's notes, journal entries he wrote for himself in college. College... for us, that ended in '92, so it was, at best, at the advent of "the Web". Back when the Internet was "the 'Net" and there were only a few of us who even knew about it much less used it regularly. Suddenly, I'm learning things about Daniel that I didn't know, or don't remember knowing. We were the best of friends for years in junior high and high school... drifted apart a bit in senior year, and then I went off to school back East and we really lost touch for a while.

We used to play various role playing games together, along with Chris K and John. "Villians & Vigilantes". Now there's a blast from the past. "Who's phase is it?" Jeez. And Trivial Pursuit when it was very new. I remember knowing that Eva Braun was Hitler's mistress/wife to the surprise of Daniel and some other friends who thought she was his daughter. When we were about 15, Daniel announced that the Victoria's Secret catalog was better than Playboy because it left more to the imagination. I'd never even seen a VS catalog before that day, and the only Playboys I'd seen then were my father's from the 60's.

And then there were the comic books. Daniel had tons of them. Spiderman. Superman. X-Men. The X-Men were my favorite. I actually remember some of those stories pretty well. All these comic-books turned movies lately, and I hardly remember the stories. Dan (not Daniel) keeps complaining, for instance, that Spiderman and Spiderman 2 aren't right because of this or that and I hardly remember. Don't remember anything about the Hulk's creation.

Thanks for the memories lately, Daniel! Not only from reading your journal entries, but also the BBQ in the park. I think it was because of seeing Matt there that I remembered this snippet when I was talking to someone about my bike: I went over to Matt's house one afternoon. It was drizzling, overcast, typical March or November weather in Berkeley. On the way home I think I needed to stop at John's, so I took the direct route. Directly down Marin, that is. On my bike. In the rain. I remember going about 2/3 of a block with the brake levers pulled all the way back against the handlebar... I was going slowly enough that I eventually decided it was not a good idea and got off the bike, but I'll never forget having the wheels still turning slowly in spite of having the brakes applied literally as hard as they could be.

Anyway, I told my cousin, Elisabeth, about livejournal yesterday. She likes to send out the occasional mass email to friends and family talking about what's going on and I think she's always kept journals at least some of the time. I'm interested to see if she starts her own weblog. I'll have to remind her about it occasionally! Not to say "pester".

So, where've I been the last two and some weeks? Lots of work for one thing. I'm just finishing up some work for large financial institution J that just bought another. They're integrating the new bank into our system and making some significant changes to the way it works. I think they'll be very happy with it, because it will make it much more efficient and provide better oversight. I'll still be spending some time on them to support their testing and roll-out of the changes I've given them, but it'll be intermittent.

Today, I'm starting on large finacial institution M. For some reason, all our LFIs want tons of customizations and highly convoluted workflows. The whole point of the exercise is to reduce complexity and improve business performance, but since they want it and are willing to pay for it they're going to get a highly customized, complex implementation that will be tough to maintain. Oh well. Plenty of work for me to do. The funny thing is that not all the customizations are unreasonable; for instance, M wants expense reports to be shown to reviewers only if they have sufficient signing authority to cover the cost. Not unreasonable. But it is custom, so I'd rather they didn't do it. They also want the 'escalation' rule takes exchange rates into account when determining whether the reviewer has sufficient authority. Also not reasonable. I think I can get engineering to put this one into base code after I write it so it won't be a customization in the future.

Just found out today that our ESPP is no where near as good as the ones I've had before... first of all, starting next month, we won't be able to change our contributions during the 6 month offering period, only at the beginning of a new period. This sucks because I'm still not sure how fast I'll be able to flip the stock. Not only that, but the discounted price is determined each offering period rather than only at the beginning of the 2 year plan... this sucks because it means we'll never see large gains over the short term unless the stock goes wild in a 6 month period. The only good change right now is that if I stop my contributions altogether I get the money refunded. I suppose it's all better than nothing, if only minimally. They really seem to want it to become a long-term investment rather than a perk for employees.

Oh well. We also got our new bonus plan last week. My boss' boss tried to tell us that we were going to make more for hours that we are able to bill over our annual target. He was wrong. I was a little annoyed that he got on the call with us without making sure he had our old plan in front of him so he could avoid saying something so blatantly wrong as that. There are things about the plan that are better. We start getting a bonus each quarter when we hit 60% billable (it was 70% last year), and we get something for every hour we bill during the quarter, as long as we hit that target (last year we got 364 hours worth regardless of how much we billed). But we get less per hour. And if we hit the annual we get less per hour. And here's the worst part: for the excess over annual, we don't get to count approved non-billable work, which means it's going to be much harder to get anything significant if we don't manage to reduce the amount of non-billable we're having to do. I guess they want to give us the incentive not to do any non-billable work, so that's what they're going to get. When I find something that looks like a product defect, I'm going to throw it over to engineering pretty quickly. I don't think Eng will like it much, but if they would do a better job of writing the thing in the first place we wouldn't have such problems. I think Eng should have to cover the portion of our bonus that results from product defects. And they should be taking it out of the bonuses of the people who caused and/or didn't catch the bug in the first place.

But that might make too much sense. I think Microsoft does something like that. QA people get bonuses based on how many defects they identify; fix engineers get bonuses based on how many defects they fix and lose bonus when they turn out not to have been fixed correctly; and the regular engineers and fix engineers don't work on the same code so they can't collude. Whatever. I have no loyalty left for this company what-so-ever. They pay me. They don't treat me well and they don't do much to make me want to be here. My only loyalty is to my friends and co-workers, and that really only means that I won't do something like leave them with no notice. My boss and I were talking about some of this stuff and I told her that it's not so much that I don't care as that I wish I didn't care.

Ah, but enough about work... I think I might have made some sort of anti-frustration breakthrough in the last few days and things have gotten a lot better with Rachel. We seem to have figured out that the most important thing is having the time to let her dawdle. She can still be contrary sometimes, but it's not so bad when we can just tell her that we'll meet her in her room or the bathroom or whatever... Another one that's working well is the "OK, well you let me know when you're ready" and then go do something else. She is usually ready pretty quickly at that point.

She's so amazingly cute and smart and quick. We were at an In-n-Out with Dan last weekend and Rachel needed to use the toilet and wanted me to come. I told her that she should go with Dawn because the men's room was probably really dirty and I didn't want her to use that one. I was expecting some whining and to have to go through the explanation several times, but she just thought about it and then turned and asked Dawn to go with her. It was amazing. Poor Dan, I don't think I shut up about that for about 5 minutes. I was just really surprised. She does that sometimes. She's also started throwing things that we say back at us. I was trying to get her to do something and she was doing anything but and found it very amusing. I said "I don't actually think that's funny." Not that it really meant much to her, but at some point a few days later she said to me "I don't think that's funny, Daddy!" I'm not sure the context was quite the same, but it wasn't completely out of place. I just about died laughing, which probably wasn't the reaction she was expecting, but oh well.

I've started doing Tai Chi again. Well... that is, I have managed to get up and do it two days running (after not managing to get up as planned on Monday or Tuesday). It feels really good and I really want to keep doing it every day. It also seems to work pretty well for me to be up that early and then back home by about 6:30. Mornings have always been much easier for us when we both get up reasonably early and don't have to rush too much. I've also been riding some. I think about half the work days, and occasionally on the weekends. I want to ride more often on the weekends, but it just hasn't been happening. I'm not sure Rachel is really that interested right now. We did wind up getting her a bike of her own, though. It's a pink/purple one from REI that's the right size. She seemed really excited about it, but hasn't tried again lately. I need to adjust the training wheels a little - they're too low, so when she pushes hard enough on the pedals she actually can spin the back wheel! Very cute either way. Speaking of Rachel... I suppose I should go get her now, as I don't really feel like doing much more work today.

Monday, June 21, 2004


Yesterday was Father's Day. A customer pointed that out to me on Thursday; I hadn't noticed. My family wasn't big on societal holidays when I was growing up, but Dawn loves them, and it's fun to celebrate them. Mother's Day is a big thing for Dawn, and Father's Day is getting that way for me.

It's been a while since I last made an entry here. The BBQ saga continued apace. I bought a grill, assembled, from Home Depot. Someone helped me load it in the truck, but when I got it home I was in a hurry to catch up with Dawn & Rachel, so I took it out myself. Later that evening I was showing it to Dawn and finally realized why it has a 12' hose. Now, mind you, I had wondered why you would need a 12' hose on a gas grill since the propane tank normally sits under the grill. Well, umm, it has a 12' hose so that you can connect it to a NATURAL GAS PIPE! Dork. Can't believe I didn't notice that the label says Natural Gas on it in at least 2 places. Got my neighbor to help me load it back to Home Despot. Took it out of the truck myself again. Returned it, searched for another of the same type with LP, but they didn't have one, even unassembled. Did notice something interesting.

I mentioned on the 7th that Rachel wanted a grill that had a color, not black or stainless, though I was just humoring her by telling her we'd see what they had. Lo, and behold, while I was looking for an LP version of the Weber Silver B, I discovered a BLUE GRILL! Did some more research that night... turns out the Vermont Castings 9030 is rated higher than the Weber, costs a little less, AND IS BLUE. So that's what I finally bought yesterday. This time, Chris helped me get it, unassembled, into the back of his pickup and then from there to our back yard, where I set it up yesterday afternoon. It seems very nice so far. We're going to grill on it for the first time tonight. And we're going to keep it covered when not in use and, at least during the winter, also keep it under our deck to protect it further.

We also went to the Giants game yesterday. Decided Saturday that we should take Rachel with us since it was Father's Day, and managed to get 2 tickets on the phone even though it was supposedly sold out a long time ago. Go figure. Turns out this was NOT a good idea. Rachel was too tired and is not really ready to skip naps most days. I've never left that early except for a rain-out. We were gone by the middle of the third, I think. Had some excitement at the lot where we'd left the car. One of the lot attendants tried to back another car into the space where the 4 of us were standing. I started yelling and was about to kick the hell out of the side of the car but realized it wasn't HIS car. And couldn't bang on the back of the car with my hand because I had Rachel in my arms. He jumped out and almost started in on us. I yelled "WE'RE STANDING HERE WHATTHEFUCKDOYOUTHINKYOU'REDOING???" I swear if I hadn't had Rachel in my arms I would have smacked him one. I am not sure if I've ever been quite that pissed or quite that close to going after someone.

Anyway, got Rachel home & into bed (she was out within 2 minutes once we started driving) and I watched the rest of the game from about the middle of the 6th. It was a pretty good game. One questionable call in favor of the Giants that resulted in their scoring 4 runs on Fonzie's HR, rather than only 3, but Schmidt pitched his second 1-hit complete game shutout in a month. Would have been fun to be there for the whole thing.

And now, I should get back to work. I've got a customer (O) going live with 500 users today and she's nervous because the login performance seems to be down a little. I told her to keep an eye on it, especially when the new users actually start using it this afternoon or tomorrow. And I've got tons of work for this other customer (J); probably 3 person weeks worth so far, and they may sign for some more. And M is supposedly signing their absolutely HUGE service order any day. I think that one's enough to keep all three of us customizers busy for at least 2 months. Just the one customer. Whew.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Hallelujah! It's Done!

OK, I finished off that beastly customization, at least far enough to turn it over to my counterparts who will actually put it into the customer's test system and do "real" testing. What a relief! I think I need to go buy a grill.

Destruction of Property

Took the old BBQ grill apart last night. It all fit into the garbage bin for collection this morning. Was probably almost as easy to take apart as to put together. One phillips screwdriver and a vise grip. I suppose it was a little harder because I got bored at the end and wound up ripping the legs apart. And I broke a couple of the wood pieces off. There's something strangely satisfying about it. I need to see if we can get our hands on a new grill soon, and we're going to get a cover for this one to help it last longer than it would on its own. Elisabeth bought the old one with our garage sale proceeds in May of '99, so it was right about 5 years old. I imagine that if we'd taken better care of it, particularly protecting it from the elements, and if I'd been able to find parts that actually fit, it could have lasted quite a bit longer. But, hey, it was about $150 and we got a LOT of use out of it.

Rachel is officially a pre-schooler now. Even though we've been talking about signing her in to the pre-school instead of the toddler class, she was a bit apprehensive about it this morning. I got her to introduce me to the teacher, pretending I hadn't met her yet, and then it was time to go outside to play, so we lined up with the other kids and went out. We decided to use a little retaining wall around the lawn as a replacement for the step stones. After a few passes, she and her friend Jesse pushed me to the front door to get my helmet and then over to my bike. By the time I left she was running off to do something else and barely said good-bye.

A co-worker was asking me about my allergy treatments with my accupuncturist the other day. I feel almost like a cultist talking about it, but by mid-February I was up to the 24-hour Claritins. I remember telling my friend Holly in early April that I hadn't taken any allergy medicine, even homeopathic, in at least two weeks.

So, here I sit at work. I'm trying to continue on the project from hell. I thought we were out of budget, so I stopped at the end of the day Friday and actually got to work on a couple of other things yesterday. My boss and the project manager agreed that I could take budget from other parts of the customer's overall project while they work on getting a new Service Order for the overage. But before I could get back to it, I had to jump in to fix something for our 800-pound gorilla customer, and now we can't seem to get the appserver to talk to the new database. So, the project from hell is still on hold. Not that I'm really looking forward to getting back to it, but it would be nice to get it done, once and for all. I guess I'll see if I can find anyone else who knows how to manage DB2 client config.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Persistently Vegetative Fruitiness?

I've now ridden my bike for at least a couple of miles every day but one (last Friday) since I got the bike seat for Rachel on 5/30. It feels good. Taking Friday off from riding may have been good because I felt a lot better when we went out on Saturday. Rode to Barney's again. Have to make that less frequent. In fact, I probably won't be back there for at least a month. I'm finished with the Candex diet, but now I'm doing another cleansing diet my accupuncturist wants me to do. Dan thinks she's a quack, but the changes in my health since I started seeing her in February have been significant and dramatic. This diet is fruit & vegetables only for 4 weeks. Along with some supplements. The idea is to continue to remove various toxins from my system so that it is easier to maintain a reasonable weight with reasonable, healthy eating habits after we're finished. Day One hasn't been bad so far. Had a couple of nectarines for breakfast and a salad from the build-your-own place in the next building over. Given that Dawn and I are both going to be home a little late, we'll probably wind up going to our favorite salad place for dinner tonight. Rachel likes it too, and it's cheap, so that's probably the plan.

And there's more to the grill saga. I was talking to Rachel in the few days before going to (attempt to) get the new grill about it, and she said she wanted a purple one. I don't think they make purple grills. Green! I don't think they make green grills either. Blue! At this point, I didn't really want to have her continue to rattle off every color she likes, so I said "well, we'll have to see what they have". Figured the options would be black and stainless. Any color you want as long as it's... black or stainless. No. The Vermont Castings grill that Consumer Reports lists as a best buy and rates better than the one I tried to get and is $50 CHEAPER than the Weber, well... it has a blue hood. Go figure. I guess we're getting a blue grill after all. Have to call around to see if there's a Home Depot that has one in the area.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Making Progress, but... TGIF

I just posted two more days' worth of notes on the Yosemite trip: 5/23 and 5/24. One more to go, and then I'll have a final recap of notes and thoughts. Actually, I never made notes in my journal for 5/25, so I'll be doing it from memory; all the more reason to do it soon.

At work, I made a bunch of progress on that infernal project of mine. But just when I thought the end was in sight, I discovered a new problem. Pesky test cases. Have to do them to make sure things come out right, but we didn't make them up in advance, so I'm kinda discovering them now. Not really the best way to design software, but we've gotten lax about a lot of things lately. I wonder if I'd be happier if I made a point of getting myself back on track? Probably in the long run it would be better to be back in those habits before I try to find another job, but as long as I'm in this one, I am just not sure I care enough.

Did not ride my bike this morning. It was just as well; I was up so late writing last night that I could barely manage to get up in time to get ready at a reasonable hour. Rachel did say that she wanted to go to the store to get a new BBQ grill with me tonight, though, so I got to pick her up as well as take her in the morning. But then I was running late, so Dawn met me there. Rachel looked tired. I think she was hungry. She spent a LOT of time at school this week, in spite of the holiday - four straight very long days. I think she also was ready to be home for a couple of days, so she went home with Dawn and I went to Home Despot. Looked at grills. Actually stopped at OSH on the way over there. Looked at grills there too. Decided on a $450 Weber. Very nice. Sturdy. Stable. Too bad I only noticed that it was for a natural gas line AFTER I got it home. Took it back. They didn't have the same model for propane, so I went back to OSH, just to see if they did.

They did. Almost got it. Except that the cashier in the tool corral says to me as I look at them, "are you going to buy one?" I'm thinking about it. "Well, think about it on no-tax weekend." Excuse me? I don't quite hear her, and think she's annoyed because it's almost closing and I'm standing there looking at grills. I suppose that could be very time consuming with some people. "You should really think about it on no-tax weekend." This time I hear AND understand what she's saying and realize that I heard her the first time, it just didn't register. When is no-tax weekend? "Not this weekend, I don't think; next weekend." Oh! Well, thank you very much for the warning! Have a good night.

It's a nice grill. I'm a little disappointed we won't have it tomorrow when John, Dan and Karolyn will all be over for our last BBQ before Dan's next test. He's going under for studying, really starting tonight, and after tomorrow night those of us who don't have him as a roommate probably aren't going to see much of him for the next two months. Dan lives with John, who has very generously offered to have him stay as long as he needs, rent free; I'm not surprised, as I think Dan is... that's John. Dawn and I had initially made more or less the same offer, though the plan was that he'd start paying rent once he was working... then he moved to John's to take the burden off us for a while, which we also appreciated. I assume he knows he's welcome here if he feels he's been at John's too long. But I digress. The grill. Yes, the grill is pretty nice. Looking forward to no-tax weekend.

And now... to bed.

The Yosemite 7, Recap

I finally started putting up the thing I started this blog to put up: my notes about my trip to Yosemite with 6 friends. We left the evening of 5/20 and came back the next Tuesday, 5/25. We had a great time. Did some hiking, drinking, laughing, etc. Oh, and we spent 4 nights in one of (perhaps the best of) Nature's Cathedrals, as Chris called it at some point. I've put up my notes from the first two days, so far: 5/21 and 5/22. I figure it'll probably take me another few days to get the rest of it transcribed. I'm editing a little bit as I do it, but not too much. Adding a little detail, but, again, not much. Mostly, it's faithful to what I wrote at the time.

Some background. In 1996, Dan and John and I went to Yosemite for a few days with some other friends (Kevin and Eddie are the two I can remember right now). We went the weekend after Memorial Day, which was still before non-college kids were out of school. It was pretty nice. I imagine that the campsites were pretty much full, as they were this time, but there were not all that many day visitors; same this time. It was wonderful.

That year, I was sick while we were camping, and we did the Mist Trail & Nevada Falls one day and Upper Yosemite Falls trail the next. I'd been getting better, finally, but then the Mist Trail kinda sent me backsliding and hiking up the highly exposed Yosemite Falls trail in 90 degree temps was really tough. Maybe borderline stupid. I went through a liter and a half of water (didn't have Camelbacks back then, much less the 3L I have now) on the way up. There was no one up there with a filter, and I was desperate for water. We'd decided already that night was going to be our evening of alcohol and pizza at Camp Curry, and most of my friends gave Dan (or John, I can't remember which now, nor even who told me I was wrong when I mentioned it this trip) and me basically all the water they all had and then they hightailed it down into the Valley. I think Dan (or John) and I took about 40 minutes more than they did, and there were daquiris and pizza waiting for us when we got there.

I went back later that summer with some other friends, from work, and stayed at the Housekeeping Camp. Housekeeping is awful. I don't know if I'd ever stay there again, even if it were the only way to get into the Valley. Well, maybe then. The sites are terrible - basically three walls forming an H with wall-mounted cots in the alcoves. The cots creaked at the slightest movement. The camp is very crowded, and there's electricity, so there are people in open air with hair dryers, boom boxes, blenders (OK, I might not mind that part so much as long as there's rum or tequila to go in them), etc. Ugh. It was also August or September, so very dusty, hot, and dry.

The next time I went back was early in 1999, maybe even in March. There was still some snow on the ground, even in the valley, though not much. The meadows were mostly still ponds or lakes. I remember getting some postcard quality pictures of reflections in the ponds. Will have to find them one day soon, I think. Went with my friend Amber; I don't remember particularly why Dawn didn't go with me. I'm pretty sure I invited her; I think we had JUST started dating (as opposed to seeing eachother with friends). Amber and I stayed in one of the cabins (not a tent) in Curry, for just one night. We played cards until late with the heater on making an incredible racket. We turned it off before going to bed. BIG mistake. Should never have chosen quiet over heat, because by 3 or so I had to get up and turn it on. No, wait... it was still too noisy, so I just put on some more clothes. Amber made some noise indicating she was awake, to which I said, as I got back in bed "are you cold". Yes. "Then come over here." We spent the next three or four hours shivering together, but were a little warmer.

This time, the group was Chris, Dan, Daniel, Dave, Frank, John, and me. I've known John and Daniel since, at least, 7th grade, and they've known eachother longer still. 5th grade, I think. John's mom still calls me his little friend, in spite of the fact that I'm 6'4" and there are doors and light fixtures in her house that I have to duck under. Daniel's mom doesn't call me his little friend as far as I know, but she was marvelling over meeting my daughter. She exaggerated slightly when she told Rachel that she's known me since I was Rachel's size.

Daniel is an aspiring film professor and screen writer. He's made one movie on a shoestring budget; haven't seen it, but I know some of the people in it, and I remember discussing with him ways one might plausibly attempt to get a cat from the East Bay to Alcatraz Island while swimming. Putting it in a plastic bag never seemed like a good way, unless you didn't care whether it was alive or dead at the end. Or whether it ripped you to shreds in its frantic, enraged efforts to escape from your lunacy.

John has a civil engineering degree and, I think, is one of the smartest people of my generation that I've ever met. I suppose that doesn't say all that much, but he's damned smart. He's working in IT for our friend Jim, whom I met & introduced him to when I was working for a large gas & electric company, which shall otherwise remain nameless. I often wonder why he doesn't go back to engineering or something more academic, but he seems to be happy with the work.

Dave is John's cousin, a police officer (I don't think he likes the term 'cop' although I certainly don't use it with any less respect than 'police officer') in Santa Monica. He's very nice, ultra-laid back. Didn't seem to tire of our endless questions about being a police officer.

Dan is an aspiring lawyer, who's having a little trouble with the bar. It's certainly not his knowledge or intelligence; seems to be the essays. We've been debating, Dan and I, the merits of the essay portion of the California bar exam. According to the Bar, the essays are, in fact, graded in part on the ability to convey the information, as well as the information itself. Based on Dan's description of the methods the graders use (gleaned I believe from his tutor who IS a grader), it sounds as if all they really have time to do is to skim the essay looking for key points. If there are enough of the key points, you get a good score. If not, not. My feeling is that the format is flawed; if they're just going for the key points, just have the examinees enter them in list form and have a computer do the grading based on the number of correct and incorrect entries; if, on the other hand, they want to grade on writing ability, then they need to DO that or else the essay is just getting in the way of finding the key points. Anyway, we're really bummed that Dan didn't pass this time, and hoping he will next time. I've known him since 10th grade.

Frank is Dan's college roommate, or one of, and is presently out of work. He was last doing some insurance work but wants to be in the foreign service. He and Dan have done a lot of traveling together, including several months in Africa. Cool guy. Would be nice if he lived up here, instead of LA; we'd see him more. Of course, he and his wife are talking about moving to Azerbaijan (I think), so we may see even less of him.

Last, but not least, Chris is currently working for a large gambling equipment manufacturer biding his time while doing some teaching and writing and paying off some debt and such. I've only known Chris for 4 or 5 years, but he's a great friend. Met him originally soon after he got married to Dawn's friend & co-worker Karolyn. They've since divorced and he lives in Reno now. We love them both & wish he lived closer so we could see him more often. It was great to see him in Yosemite; I don't think I'd seen him since last August.

Originally, this was supposed to be an annual trip, with Dan and John and me at the core. In fact, we're now calling it our 9th Annual Yosemite Camping Adventure. Just because the other 7 got cancelled (or were never set up) doesn't mean this isn't the 9th, does it?

You know, it's really late now, so I'm going to leave it at that. I'll have more commentary on the trip after I post some more of my notes from it.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Boredom at Work Sucks

My happy pill wore off. I took it about 6 or 7 months ago, now, and it finally deserted me yesterday. I'm doing a project for one of my customers that just doesn't make sense to me ($30k+ worth of work for something that affects fewer than 100 of their users). It's also boring. The combination is deadly.

The happy pill basically consisted of the realization that a lot of the stuff is just stuff; I work less than 3 miles from home; I come and go when I want, as long as the work is getting done; I'm paid reasonably well (limited raises and not getting a raise when I got promoted aside). When I'm ready and I can find something better, I will, but right now that's going to be tough and I'm in no hurry. I have it pretty good, so I should just shut the hell up about it.

As a result, I was rather grumpy last night, in spite of feeling great about riding (I figured out today that with going to Rachel's school on the way in but not on the way home, it's around 9.5 miles, round-trip). Dawn was trying so hard to chear me up, and it just wasn't working. I felt bad about that, even then. I ultimately went over to John's to hang with him, Jim, and Dan for a while, just to hang out and chat. Jim & Dan were playing some real-time strategy game when I got there, and we played a little Far Cry too. I'm not very good at video games, so I get bored or frustrated after a bit. All in all, hanging out with them helped enhance my mood somewhat.

Today's been better, although I'm still on the same project. I rode in to work again, dropping Rachel at school very quickly (5 minutes, tops) to make a 9am meeting at work. I "need" to get a new speedometer (aka computer) for my road bike, but I don't really feel like spending much time on it. I know there are a bajillion sites out there about biking and there are probably almost as many computers too. I am tempted just to ride by a bike store on the way home and get one. I don't need much... just current speed and total & trip distances would be enough, I think. I also want to get a bell for the bike and see if I can jury-rig one onto Rachel's bar as well, although that might not be a good idea - she'll probably spend the whole time ringing it! But it would be nice if she could use it to get my attention if she needs to.

I think the end is in site on this project, because I finally got to test the code on the server side. I'm now waiting for the document I'm testing to make it's interminable way through the workflow. Unfortunately, my testing environment is using someone else's DB2 database that's on a machine with SQL Server and running two database migrations. It's pretty much maxing out the CPU right now, so it's taking something like 4 minutes a document for one point in the workflow. It's the last of 28 documents in the queue, which means if it continues to take that long per doc it's going to be almost 2 hours before it gets to the next step. Sigh. Maybe I should just move it myself.

I spent almost 4 hours on another customer. They're going live with one of our products on Monday and needed some out-of-scope changes to something. It should have taken about 30 minutes, but I had to go do some cleanup. There's a REASON I recommended that they reimplement that particular part of the system completely if they decide to continue to use it long term (they're planning on replacing it within a few months, so it just needs to be good enough to work that long... doesn't need to be rebuilt). So, of course, my clean-up broke something. Luckily, Tiffany likes me. Don't know if we really had budget for it, but if this means they can actually go live on Monday then the (pretty low) risk of impacting my bonus is worth it.

Also had to spend 40 minutes on the phone with another customer even though Matt & I basically haven't done a thing on their project since last week's call. Or the week's before that, really. Matt's stuck in non-billable hell and may have another one coming even as he finishes this one off in a week or two, and I'm on this ugly, stupid, pointless project that I can't seem to finish.

At least we have TONS of more interesting work coming once I get out from under this one... Talked one customer up from 2 days of support (if they needed any) to something like 22 days of work that will make their system significantly better for them. Need to start talking to them about 6.5 soon before they commit to dropping us for Oracle. And another of our large financial services customers (the ones who always want the most customization) has something like 120 days of customization work that I'll be doing myself or coordinating with Duane & Dileep if they actually have free time. Given how much else we seem to have in our pipeline, they may not.

Kara just IMed me. She was going to go on our annual waterskiing trip with us, but that's been canceled, so she was asking about our plans for Hawaii, which we were thinking of as a replacement. But now we've decided not to do that either. I think we're going to schedule a couple of trips further out so that we can use our frequent flyer miles more efficiently. May spend a couple of days in a beach house on the coast somewhere, but I think I'll still take the same week we planned off and just do stuff around the house. Have LOTS of things to do, and Dawn and I just added a big one - we're going to convert the shed that's attached to the back of the garage into a playhouse for Rachel. It'll require a lot of new wood to begin with... but that means I've got to start sorting out some of the other stuff on the list first...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Ridin' With Rachel

Had another BBQ last night; impromptu this time. We were supposed to go to a friend's 9th annual Memorial Day BBQ with John, but thought it was in the late afternoon until evening... then we discovered at 4 that it was 1-5, so we just had John and Elisabeth come over. Much easier anyway. Until the part where the grill suddenly had flames shooting out the front. Hmm. That's interesting. Looks like a dragon. Wonder how we suddenly have grease spraying out the front. Open it. No, no grease, those flames are coming straight up from underneath. The grease can underneath? No. Oh SHIT! It's leaking from behind the nobs. We'll just close the propane tank. Honey!? We're getting a new grill after all!

I took Rachel to school on the bike this morning. It's about 2.5 miles from home to her school. We take Berkeley's very cool Bicycle Boulevards, side streets designated for bikes with speed bumps and other 'traffic calming' measures. After 15 minutes of telling her teachers about her new bike seat and 'hel-uh-met' and playing stepstones (we set up a bunch of IKEA step stools in various patterns & distances and she walks over them a few times, giving me a hug when she gets to my end before going around to go again), I headed for work via the new pedestrian overcrossing over I-80 near University. It's a little out of the way to go that way, but a lot safer than most of the alternatives, as I'm on the frontage road's bike path (not IN the road) for the majority of the trip. It's about another 3 miles and, presto, I've biked over 5 miles already today!