Leslie's Latest News

Friday, May 24, 2002

Today I'm writing from Chipping Norton, where Nancy and Wendy are out shopping, and I decided to duck into an internet cafe to check on my e-mail. I have only been here for 1 1/2 days and already I know this is going to be a spectacular vacation. The cottage is lovely, and Jackie and Harold are treating us like members of the family. Yesterday, while I was trying to stay awake through my jet lag, we walked a hobbit trail from Lavington to the nearby village of Buckland - all back roads and walking paths behind people's gardens, through fields of sheep and cottages surrounded by flowers, and ending at the village church dating from the time of Richard |. Wow! With Jackie as a native guide, we have found some spectacular restaurants and my diet is in shreds. So far the winner was yesterday's egg custard with raspberry compote. Totally scrumptious. Luckily, I've been putting a lot of steps on my pedometer, so maybe I'll manage to walk some of it off. I have to run now to meet the girls, but hope to check back in soon.
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Wednesday, May 22, 2002

I did not get sick, and everything fit into my (borrowed) suitcase with room to spare, so I'm all set and ready to go. Just need to finish up a few hours at work, then I'll head home to meet a cab I've requested for 5:15. Check in for my flight, dinner at the airport, and then I am outta here!
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Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Okay, I totally underestimated Vecepia on Survivor. I said I didn't think she'd win immunity, but it turned out that she'd been secretly taking notes and studying up on the personal facts about the other contestants, so she was all prepared for the final immunity challenge. And people on the message boards are even giving her credit for earlier moves, like pointing out that Hunter was a leader just before he got voted out. I'm sure there was still a lot of luck involved, but I realize now that she was playing smarter than I gave her credit for because she was doing it all "under the radar".

Okay, enough goofing off, back to packing....
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See this interesting article about the nature of consciousness, based on the ideas in a new book by Harvard professor Daniel Wegner titled "The Illusion of Conscious Will".
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When Dilbert just isn't bleak enough, check out the demotivational posters at www.despair.com.
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Monday, May 20, 2002

This has been my last relaxed evening before my trip. I had been hoping to go see Attack of the Clones in digital format in Boston, but I was feeling a little sick over the weekend, and by the time I was sure I could go and we tried to reserve tickets, it was too late - it was all sold out. Oh well, I hope the digital version will still be playing when I get back.

Tomorrow evening I need to spend packing, and Wednesday night I have the fun of travelling to Logan airport during rush hour to get my flight to England. I hope the packing won't be too crazy. I have borrowed Alexis's large rolling suitcase, and I have been making a list of what I need to bring, so there shouldn't be too many decisions to make. I only have one more errand tomorrow morning - to pick up a few things that were being shortened by my seamstress. I am very relieved that whatever illness I had over the weekend seems to be abating.
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I try to bring a small bouquet of flowers from my garden to work every Monday to I'll have something nice to look at in my cubicle. This week's bouquet is purple and white: purple bachelor's buttons, wood hyacinths, and johnny-jump-ups, and white wood anemone and lily-of-the-valley. The lily-of-the-valley smells nice, too.
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Sunday, May 19, 2002

I'm running around today trying to get the yard and garden in shape before going off to England. Absolute priorities are to mow the lawn and plant the tomatoes, parsley, basil, and impatiens that are currently sitting on the back porch. Also rig up the pea fence and maybe plant zucchini. I don't think I'll have time for much more. I'd hoped to weed and mulch the perennial beds, but that now seems pretty unlikely. Oh well... In any case, I just picked the best radish crop I've ever managed to grow. Radishes really love cool wet weather like we've had this spring.

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Yesterday I played in the Magic Judgement pre-release tournament. It was run in a series of 32-person "flights"; as soon as you finished or dropped out of one flight you could enter the next one. Each flight went 5 rounds, and anyone with a 3-1-1 record or better won some sort of prize. It's a nice system, and was very well organized, although you still had to spend a lot of time waiting around - a lot more time waiting than playing. I played in two flights and won a few packs in the second one.

The first deck I got had one cool and powerful card, Crush of Wurms, which would put three 6/6 wurm tokens into play. The problem was that the deck was too slow, since Crush cost 6GGG to play, so the problem was to stay alive until then. I knew it wasn't really competitive, but I thought it might be fun. And, in fact, I did have one wonderful moment in the second game of the first match. Not only did I get out the Crush of Wurms, but I'd previously played a Roar of the Wurm with flashback, so I had five 6/6 wurm tokens in play. My opponent thought he was safe because he had a 15/10 (enchanted) Kamaal, Pit Fighter, and a bunch of chump blockers. What he'd forgotten was that I had a Brawn in my graveyard, which gave all my creatures trample. (He was playing with a Brawn, also, so I didn't have a lot of sympathy for his mistake.) I attacked with everything, he blocked what he could, thinking he would only take 6 damage and would come back at me for the win. "Roar of the Wurm - 5GG, Crush of Wurms - 6GGG, the look on your opponent's face when you point out the Brawn in your graveyard - priceless."

I lost the match though, so entered a second flight, where I got a more competitive deck. Nothing amazing, just solid fast green/white creatures with a splash of red for two Arcane Teachings (enchantments that give a creature +2/+2 plus pinging ability). First match was a no-show opponent (some people just enter to get the cards and then drop out immediately), which was annoying, but counted as a win. Second match was against an amazing deck (Irridescent Angel both games, once on turn 6 (!), and both the blue and white incarnations that gave all creatures flying and first strike when they're in the graveyard.) I couldn't possibly win, but put up a good fight. I won the next two matches easily, giving me a 3-1 record. A draw in the last round would give me 5 packs, a win would give me 9, and I was getting tired, so I decided to ask for an intentional draw. As it turned out, I got matched against a guy I knew, and he had just discovered his deck was missing, so we went ahead with the draw.

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Just to put it on the record, I was out in Boxborough yesterday, and in the early afternoon it actually snowed for a couple of hours. This was on May 18th (not March 18th). Weird. On my way out there, I passed the streams of people doing the Avon breast cancer 3-Day 50-mile walk, slogging through the pouring rain in all sorts of inventive raingear. What a bummer for them! At least today it's sunny and nice for their last leg.
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Friday, May 17, 2002

I've succumbed to the dark side of the web. Back when Napster was in its heyday, I never paid much attention to it because I didn't have an M3P player. But since I got my iPod, I've been waiting patiently for this promised deal they were trying to set up with the record companies to make downloading music legitimate. But the other day there was an article in the paper saying that the deal had fallen through. The same article listed some alternative file-sharing networks that were still operating, so I decided to investigate.

I went with Limewire, which uses the Gnutella network protocol, because it is written in Java and runs on the Macintosh. They have a free version, supported by ads, and a very inexpensive pro version also. Downloading is fast and easy, and the user interface is very straightforward. I was up and running in almost no time. This type of software is a little different from Napster because Napster used a central server, whereas the current systems operate using peer-to-peer file transfers. And they're not just limited to music - they will allow you to search for any type of files, including images, text, and video. It's amazingly cool.

At this point I have 42 hours of music on my iPod (690 songs), plus my entire contact list, and I've only used about 2/3 of the space available.
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Thursday, May 16, 2002

Watched the finale of Amazing Race and the penultimate episode of Survivor. Many good things happened. First, Tara and Will did not win the Amazing Race (although they only lost by a little bit). I wonder how well they might have done if they hadn't gone through the whole race sniping at each other. They were really obnoxious and unpleasant to watch. Second, Kathy is still in the running on Survivor. Okay, I admit it, I'm rooting for her. It's not just that I identify with the older woman; I think she's contributed the most and has won a lot of challenges and deserves to win. And Sean got voted out tonight, which was a big relief. Of all the people remaining, he's the one that I really did not want to win. Looking forward to the finale of Survivor on Sunday, here's my prediction. The alliance of Kathy, Paschel, and Neleh will hold out and V will get voted out next (very unlikely she would win immunity). Then Kathy will have to win immunity, so that she will get to vote out either Paschel or Neleh. Probably Paschel, since he's probably her strongest competitor. It's hard to say, but I think the jury might go for Kathy over Neleh. Kathy was a little abrasive at times, but I think she earned more respect in the long run. We'll see...
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I was talking to Alex about Star Wars and learned an interesting piece of information. He says that the first two people in line for the midnight show at the Fenway Theater, who did not know each other beforehand, discovered while waiting in line that they both knew me. (One was Alex's friend, and the other was someone I knew through playing Magic.) Am I connected, or what? I asked Alex what this did to my geek quotient, and he said it put it right out of sight.
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I finally got around to watching the last few hours of Frontier House. At the end of the 5 months, a team of historical experts assessed each family as to how well they had prepared to make it through the winter. They measured the amount of wood cut, hay harvested, food preserved, etc. According to them, most of the families were found wanting, but that's only to be expected. Even people who lived in the period had a hard time getting through the 6-month Wyoming winters.

But really the most interesting part was the families' reactions on leaving and returning to civilization. The Clunes moved into a new house, mansion really, on the edge of the ocean in Malibu, but they found themselves almost lonely, knocking around in that big house where they had rooms that were never even used. Nat and Kristen, the pair that got married on the show, were bumming around Mexico, sort of aimlessly, with no specific plans for the future. And the Glenns were separated - no surprise there.

For the most part, the men were sorry to leave. They looked back on the things they'd built with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Gordon Clune found that he'd enjoyed spending time with his children, something his modern job did not allow him to do as much of. In contrast, the women were eager to leave. They saw their days in 1883 as unending repetitive drudgery. Kristen pointed out that the reason you find the breakfast dishes still sitting out on the table in abandoned cabins is that the women just can't bear washing those dishes one more time before leaving.

But it was the children who were the most poignant in their transition from 1883 to 2001. They mostly hated 1883 at first, and complained a lot, but by the end of the experiment, they all felt that they had grown a lot and were sorry to leave. Without an exception they were uniformly bored when they got back. They hung around in hot tubs or played video games and complained about having nothing to do. Back in 1883, they were all treated as responsible members of the family, with specific jobs and days filled with activities where they regularly interacted with their parents. Seems like there's a lesson here somewhere...
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I finally got a chance to see American Beauty on DVD. I hadn't seen the movie when it first came out, and I was curious to see it because various people had told me such different things about it. One friend said that it was about finding yourself and seeing beauty in the most unlikely places. Another friend said that it was about very disturbing and dysfunctional people. Now that I've seen it, I'd say that they both were right. The theme of the movie was clearly intended to be about finding yourself and freeing yourself from others' expectations, but I think it was obscured for me because the people in the movie did not relate to each other in any meaningful way. There may have been beauty, but there was no love. And I really didn't like the fact that the ending was motivated by a very stupid misunderstanding. But technically, I thought the movie was quite special. The acting, directing, and cinematography were all beautifully done and almost poetic in places. I was not surprised to see that the whole movie was storyboarded before being filmed, and the director's commentary on the DVD was quite interesting.
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Alex is off tonight to see the midnight opening show of Attack of the Clones. I'm sorry to miss it, but I know that if I stayed up that late, I'd be brain-dead at work tomorrow. I'll probably not get to see it until I get back from England.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2002

I got a packet of hard-copy pictures today showing the places we will be staying in England. The cottage in the Cotswolds is a converted groom's cottage, made of Cotswold honey-colored stone, with a slate roof and a white climbing rose rambling all along the front wall. The view out the back looks over a stone wall to a grassy country lane with a friendly-looking brown horse looking over the gate. The pictures of Cornwall show huge waves crashing into a rocky shore and a small fishing village snuggled into a cove below rolling green fields and wooded slopes. Another view, looking out to sea, shows distant points, sailboats, and a lighthouse. Only 7 more days of work before I can be there...
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Monday, May 13, 2002

I heard from a correspondant in Slovakia that the Slovak team just won the Ice Hockey World Championship. Apparently the whole country is rejoicing. (Hockey is big in Slovakia, and it's not often that such a small country gets a chance to excel on the world stage.)
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Megnut.com has a good commentary about a recent regretable court decision concerning digital video monitors. I do not understand why the entertainment industry is suddenly concerned about people skipping commercials digitally when we've been skipping them using videotape for the past 10 years or so.
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Sunday, May 12, 2002

I sent a note to the owner of the cottage we will be renting in England introducing myself and telling her how much I was looking forward to a nice, relaxing, vacation. She replied, "We can certaintly guarantee peace and quiet in the village other than ducks quacking in the garden-the sound of horses hooves in the lane past the cottage-and church bell practice every monday evening." Oh wow, horses and change-ringing! Cool!

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Coming home from the bridge walk, I decided to take a picture of a grand old dogwood tree a few blocks away from my house that always takes my breath away when I pass it. Following that is a picture of some plants that are blooming on my driveway wall (moss phlox, vinca, and alyssum).

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Some pictures first, then the tale of how I got them.

A long time ago I learned that it's almost impossible to do anything in Boston that is free because it will always attract insane crowds. Today's Big Dig bridge walk was no exception. In spite of the rain, the place was mobbed, and crowd control except on the bridge itself was non-existent. When we arrived at around 12:10 and found a huge line that wrapped almost entirely around the Fleet Center and then doubled back on itself, we decided the whole thing was hopeless, especially since Alex had to be out of there by about 2:30 because he had a committment at 3:00.

In the process of leaving in disappointment, we walked through North Station to see if there were any convenient commuter rail trains to Porter Square. There weren't, it being a Sunday, so we walked out the other side of the building to head toward the Orange line station. Much to our surprise, there was a guard there directing people interested in the bridge walk to a line - a much shorter line that was actually moving and which merged with the other huge line just prior to the bridge entrance. This was a line I could deal with, so we got in it and got to the bridge in less than half an hour. (I'm really sorry about that, all you guys who waited in the huge line, but that's the breaks.)

The bridge walk itself was interesting, although it was too bad it was such a gloomy day and so very crowded. It didn't help that so many people had umbrellas which tended to block the views (and drip water on other people's heads and almost poke other people's eyes out). The American Legion band shown in the last photo was playing a lively rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever, which really cheered people up.

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Saturday, May 11, 2002

I was going to spend this gorgeous Saturday getting my garden into shape, but various things came up and I only did a few hours of outside work. One of the things that came up was a request to write some words about Bruce Pelz for a forthcoming Noreason 4 Progress Report. That sort of writing doesn't come easily to me, so once I committed to doing it, I knew I wouldn't rest easy until I at least had a draft down on paper. Once I got that done, I spent some time hammocking, but I was feeling rather melancholy and this Sondheim lyric kept running through my head....

Thanks for everything we did
Everything that's past
Everything that's over too fast
None of it was wasted
All of it will last
Everything that's here and now and us together

It was marvelous to know you
And it isn't really through
Crazy business this, this life we're livin'
Don't complain about the time we're given
With so little to be sure of in this world
We had a moment... a marvelous moment...
On another note, Alex called to tell me about an iPod free upgrade that was available on the Apple site. After downloading the iPod and iTunes upgrades, plus a free upgrade that was available for the Palm desktop, I was able to export my Palm contacts list onto the iPod. Can't update it there, but it will be handy to have it available.

Tomorrow Alex and I are planning to go to Chinatown for Dim Sum and then to the walking tour of the new Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge.
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Friday, May 10, 2002

Very interesting. I took the Super-Scientific, Remarkably Accurate Gender Test, answering each question as truthfully as I could, and I was told with 80% confidence that I am a man. Actually, on the graph they displayed, I came out smack dab in the middle between male and female. I wonder what that means?
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I was stunned this morning to hear of the death of Bruce Pelz. One of the elder gods of science fiction fandom ever since I got involved back in the 60's, Bruce was the obvious choice for fan Guest of Honor at Noreascon 2. Even back in 1980, Bruce had done everything there was to do in fandom, from chairing a Worldcon (LA in 1972), to pubbing his ish, to being a founding member of P.I.G.S. (The Prestigious International Gourmand Society - a group of fans who sought out excellent restaurants in any city that was holding a convention).

My favorite memory of Bruce was at Iguanacon where the Worldcon vote was being held. I was present at the vote-counting, but we had been told in the sternest terms by the person in charge of the business meeting that we were not to divulge the results until they were officially announced at the following morning's meeting. At some point during the evening, I was standing at the back of a crowded elevator when the doors opened and I saw Bruce standing outside. He looked at me, and I smiled at him, and although no words were spoken, it was pretty clear that we had won. He smiled and gave me a thumbs up, and the elevator doors closed again. I guess I'll always see him through that open elevator door.
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Thursday, May 09, 2002

In a segment set amid gorgeous New Zealand scenery, I was sorry to see Oswald and Danny bumped from The Amazing Race, leaving the dysfunctional ex-couple Tara and Will in the top three. You had to love Oswald and Danny. Gay guys who were "just friends", they had the best attitude of any of the couples. They pushed themselves to do things that were hard for them, but at the same time they never lost sight of just having fun. My favorite episode so far was the one where everyone else was madly rushing to the airport in Hong Kong, but they calmly strolled into the best hotel and found a high-class travel agent. While the agent was booking their tickets, they totally recharged their batteries with a 1-hour shopping expedition, then proceeded to win the leg by having better connections and arriving in Australia 1 hour earlier than everyone else. They sure had some style, and I'm sorry to see them go.
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I had to wait for a build to be ready for testing, so I took a quick work break and went out to the local nursery to buy some plants. For flowers, I decided to go for mostly bright colors and got cobalt blue lobelia, violet calibrachoa (a trailing plant with small flowers), 'Burgundy Dreams' petunia, yellow marguerite daisy, and 'Sweet Cream' marigold. These colors all go well with each other and can be set out in various combinations. I also got some deep pink impatiens for the shady areas, plus some Big Boy tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Looking forward to planting this weekend.
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David Gagne has posted a handy Weblog Dictionary. I was familiar with most of the terms, but a few were new to me, like this useful term:

a person who gives opinions beyond his scope of knowledge

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The "Out..." saga continues (see 5/7 entry). The men's room is now sporting a sign that says "House".
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Wednesday, May 08, 2002

This letter from a Peruvian Congressman rebutting Microsoft's attack on a proposed bill requiring the Peruvian government to use only open-source software is just great! Here's a sample paragraph:

It is necessary to stress that there is no position more anti-competitive than that of the big software producers, which frequently abuse their dominant position, since in innumerable cases they propose as a solution to problems raised by users: "update your software to the new version" (at the user's expense, naturally); furthermore, it is common to find arbitrary cessation of technical help for products, which, in the provider's judgement alone, are "old"; and so, to receive any kind of technical assistance, the user finds himself forced to migrate to new versions (with non-trivial costs, especially as changes in hardware platform are often involved). And as the whole infrastructure is based on proprietary data formats, the user stays "trapped" in the need to continue using products from the same supplier, or to make the huge effort to change to another environment (probably also proprietary).

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Tuesday, May 07, 2002

When I first came to work at Vignette, I noticed that the conference rooms had rather odd names. "Fox" and "Shine" weren't so strange, and "Landish" might have been someone's name, but "Bound" was slightly sinister, and "Rageous" didn't make any sense at all. Then there was "Cast" and "Spoken". Okay, have you figured it out? They all have names that could have begun with "Out...". Recently, however, related graffiti has been turning up on people's cubicle walls. The first one I noticed was "of my mind". This was quickly followed by the customer support engineer's, "of patience", and then "to lunch" and "of this world" turned up. My cubicle currently displays "of order".
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Yesterday, my friend Dennis introduced me to a friend of his who was a science fiction fan in his college days, so he thought we might get along. We did hit it off quite nicely, much to my surprise, as he's now a Jesuit working for the Vatican. Actually though, he's a Jesuit geek (I didn't realize such things were possible.) He's working as an astronomer at the Vatican observatory, and he goes around giving talks to the faithful trying to get them to reconcile religion and science. Interesting job. He's also friends with Cliff Stoll and might be appearing with him on the science program at the Worldcon in San Jose, so we might have a chance to link up there.
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October Sky. This is a well-done coming-of-age-film. Boy in West Virginia coal-mining town is inspired to become a rocket scientist by seeing Sputnik in the October sky in 1957. Starting by blowing up his mother's picket fence and strafing the mine complex with errant rockets, the hero recruits his friends and the school science nerd to help out, and together they progress to building rockets that soar into the sky, while at the same time dealing with the family and societal pressures to just go to work in the mine. While a little bit "formula", you gotta love a movie where the goal is to win the science fair rather than the big game. This movie is based on a true story told in a book called "The Rocket Boys", which my friend Dennis says is even better than the movie. The final credits show actual home movies of the boys and their rockets and give information on how each of them ended up.
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Sunday, May 05, 2002

Florida trip. Tuesday at The Magic Kingdom. We'd saved the best for last. We decided it would be best to save The Magic Kingdom for a non-weekend day when it would presumably be a bit less crowded. Tuesday turned out to be perfect. We did all the stuff we really wanted to do: Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain (just Alex and Nancy on that one), Pirates of the Carribean, the Jungle Cruise, and the Haunted Mansion. We even fit in the Peter Pan ride in Fantasyland, and I got a chance to ride on the Carousel. We had a snack on the outdoor deck at Aunt Polly's on Tom Sawyer Island, and a very nice lunch at the colonial-themed restaurant in Liberty Square. The weather was perfect - a little warm in mid-afternoon, but it was great to not have any rain. Nancy had a brief crisis when her Mickey Mouse watch fell off and broke, but she was able to pick up a replacement in one of the shops (And, as the sales person pointed out to her, how convenient that she was right there at Disney World when it broke.)

We were still pretty tired, though, so we decided to head home before the fireworks and the crowds. As we lined up for the monorail ride back to the parking lot, Alex led us up to the front, and I guess he had just the right sort of hungry-puppy look that we got invited to ride up in front in the engineer's cab. It's a little-known fact that there are about 4 seats up there, and if you're in the front of the line you can often get invited to sit there. And the view is fantastic - you're right in front with these big wrap-around windows. And then when you get off, they give you these little cards that say you are an assistant monorail driver or some such thing. It was a great way to end the day.

So that's the story of my Florida vacation. We packed up on Tuesday night, got up early on Wednesday, returned the rental car, and did the airline thing again. Got home and took the cab ride from hell. (See 4/17 entry.) Nancy had a later flight, so she hung around the Marriott, arranged to get a massage (what a great idea when all your muscles are aching from trekking around theme parks!), and had a lunch at their golf clubhouse restaurant, then took a limo to the airport for her flight home.
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Just got back from a quick weekend trip to visit my father in Connecticut. The drive was nice; the weather was perfect and the scenery was gorgeous - the foliage had those colors of pale greens and rusty reds that you only see for a few weeks in the spring and there were lots of flowering trees, especially dogwoods. I always enjoy visiting my Dad because we always have a lot to talk about. On Saturday we watched the Kentucky Derby (which I found a bit disappointing because it was won by a horse owned by a Saudi Arabian prince, and I just don't feel too charitable towards Saudi Arabia these days). We also viewed a tape that my father had received showing my Great-Aunt Anna's funeral in Slovakia last August. It was good to get a chance to see the family, even though it was a sad occasion. On Sunday, we went to visit our cousins in Newington, Connecticut (just south of Hartford), to celebrate Eastern Orthodox Easter. Irene cooked up a wonderful dinner, and I was happy to see that Mary was holding up well in her battle with pancreatic cancer. The weather was still great, so I was able to spend some time outdoors on their sunny patio enjoying their flower-filled backyard.
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Saturday, May 04, 2002


Celandine Poppies
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Hours 3 and 4 of Frontier House have gotten a bit better. They really get across how physically hard the life was and how close to the edge most settlers lived. These hours get into economic issues, like what kind of animals to raise, and how many. Cows are great for milk, but require that you harvest vast amounts of hay for winter feed. These episodes also get into the barter economy - where different families specialized in different things, and could trade with each other to share their strengths and fill in their weaknesses. There's still some whining going on. One of the men calls in a doctor because he's worried about all the weight he's lost. The doctor tells him that he's perfectly healthy, and it's normal to be thin like that when you're spending all day doing physical labor and eating just enough to get by. It just shows how what our society accepts as normal weight is really overweight by historic standards.

This show has brought back memories for me of visiting the Strickholm family in Vermont back in the 70's. I had gotten in touch with Ruth Strickholm because she advertised horseback riding vacations and I was madly into horseback riding at that time. I got a group of friends together, and we all went out and stayed with the family several times in different seasons over a period of years. We helped with the chores and took long rides on their Morgan horses through the hills and valleys of the Green Mountains. It was always hard to leave and go back to Boston.

George had worked as an engineer, but he and Ruth had dropped out of the rat race several years earlier and had moved to Lincoln Vermont to farm and raise their family. They had cows and chickens and a big vegetable garden and a hayfield. The old farmhouse had a big "mud room" filled with 3 chest freezers in which they kept all their produce, along with meat from the chickens and the occasional hunting trip. They had eggs from the chickens, milk from the cows, and churned their own butter. And traded with the neighbors for things they couldn't grow themselves. Working on the farm taught their children all sorts of skills and they were growing into very responsible adults. It was a hard life, but very satisfying. As George said to me one night at dinner, after asking me how much I made as a software engineer, "Well, our cash income is officially below the poverty line, but Ruth has 6 horses and you don't have any." It sure made me think.
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Friday, May 03, 2002

Here's a really creepy development: scientists have succeeded in guiding rats through tasks via electronic implants in their brains. You don't need much of an imagination to come up with a lot of scary scenarios for that invention.
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I am a New School Geek

On the cutting edge of geekdom, in a previous era I probably would have not chosen this geeky path. The 90s were good to me. I like to have the latest toys. I am the geek most likely to be a Mac user.

What sort of geek are YOU?

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On my way to work this morning, I made a quick stop at the Ben Franklin store in Cushing Square to pick up some household essentials (blank videotapes and twine for bundling newspapers for recycling). As I was leaving, I was struck by how cool these old-fashioned five-and-dime type stores were, and how they've become a vanishing breed, to be replaced by the huge megliths that only sell one type of thing. My local Ben Franklin store is fairly small, but has narrow aisles that are packed from floor to ceiling with small quantities of all sorts of basic household essentials: tools, picture frames, cards and gift wrap, socks, fabrics, sewing supplies, yarn, garden supplies, toys, pet supplies, housewares, stationery. It's so simple to park on the street and run in to get something without having to spend precious minutes wandering through cavernous spaces and then standing in line at overloaded checkout stations. I'm terribly afraid that this store will go out of business in the next year or so, and I'll have to go separately to Staples, and Home Depot, and Bed and Bath, and Toys R Us for an errand that I could have done in one stop at the Ben Franklin.
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