Leslie's Latest News

Tuesday, July 30, 2002


Here's a Bookbrowser interview with Nancy Atherton, my writer friend who brought about my recent trip to England.
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Sunday, July 28, 2002


I got my glucose test results from the diabetes prevention study yesterday. My fasting glucose was at 94, which was fine, but the 2-hour glucose level was 163, which was up from two years ago (when it was 133), although still not as high as it was when I first entered the study (when it measured 186). When the 2-hour number is consistently over 140, you are considered to have "Impaired Glucose Tolerance", and if it is over 199, you are considered to have diabetes. I don't know why it went up so much, since I'm only a few pounds heavier than I was two years ago, but this gives me added incentive to get back down to where I was before.
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Saturday, July 27, 2002


Here's a very clear explanation of the roots of the recent corporate scandals: Blame Iacocca - How the former Chrysler CEO caused the corporate scandals. By James Surowiecki
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Suffering from Bear Market Depressive Syndrome? You're not alone.
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The sparseness of my weblog entries for the past few days should have hinted that it was a pretty exciting week. A lot of the week was spent at various company meetings explaining the layoffs and the change of management structure. The layoffs were largely aimed at reducing the management overhead. My QA group of five people was merged with the other QA groups at our location, resulting in a large QA group of fifteen people under a single manager. The good part of this is that our group always had a very low ratio of QA to developers, resulting in a very stressed-out group, while the other groups had a much higher ratio of QA. So this will help equalize the load. The downside is that we have a very complicated product, so there's going to be a big learning curve for both the new manager and the new people in the group. The good side for me, personally, is that the new manager seems amenable to exploring whether I can go back to working on a part-time basis (I'm asking for 4 days/week). This is what I've always wanted, but was unable to arrange under my previous manager due to the high load of work that we had.

As far as the new company management, it's hard to say. The new guy seems a bit more straightforward than the old guy, and certainly made a good impression in his first speech to the troops. One major difference that I approve of is that he is not so single-mindedly focussed on becoming profitable in the short term as much as what he calls "building shareholder value". I had always been confused by the previous CEO's total reluctance to tap into the very large cash reserves that the company has. It seemed to me that people had invested in the company to see the company develop a good product, and it wasn't doing much good to keep their money sitting in cash reserves at the same time that you were laying people off. Our new CEO seems to realize that you can't cut back much more without totally jeopardizing our ability to compete in the marketplace.

But what do I know about running a company? If I can just arrange to switch to a 4-day-a-week schedule, that will make me supremely happy. The rest will take care of itself. Or not.

In other news, Alex encouraged me to go down to the Apple store in the Galleria Mall to take a look at the new 17-inch iMacs, and I'm already picturing one of them sitting on my desk. I still need to work out in my mind some of the migration issues. What I really want to do this time is get a new computer with OS X while my old one is still working. Then if there are any problems with any of my applications on the new OS, at least I'll have a backup for a while. Also, I have two SCSI devices (a scanner and a Zip drive) that I know won't work with the new machine. Both are probably pretty cheap to replace, but I think I'll retire the Zip drive.

While at the mall, we checked out the Borders bookstore which is in part of the old Lechmere space. I was pretty appalled by the current price of ordinary paperbacks - they're up to $7.99! I used to go into a bookstore and buy a half-dozen paperbacks without really thinking about it, but I really hesitate now. (I guess it would really date me if I said that I remember when paperbacks cost 50 cents....) I did spend a bundle on a wonderful coffee-table book called "Earth from Above". The product of a French photographer, it is a huge large-format book with amazing pictures taken in all parts of the world. The darn thing weighs over 10 pounds (I needed Alex to help me carry it), but was reasonably priced at $45 and is fascinating to browse through.

Friday afternoon we got let out early after the company meeting, but I hung around and played Magic for a while. I joined a new league and went 5-0 to start, which was encouraging. I offered to help out one of the people I beat (who turned out to be a woman living near Toronto). We talked over her deck and I made suggestions and essentially built her a new tighter deck. A few hours later, she messaged me as follows: "Oh my god, your deck is amazing! I've won 2 out of the last 3 games I've played!" That sure made me feel good. She's sending me another one of her decks for me to work on when I get a chance.
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Thursday, July 25, 2002


Now in Massachusetts: The Curse of the Giant Hogweed.
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Wednesday, July 24, 2002


It's gorgeous out today. Forty-five minutes out in the woods with my iPod has done wonders for my state of mind. I have a one-on-one scheduled with my new boss on Friday.
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Tuesday, July 23, 2002


More breaking news: Well, I'm still here, but apparently I will have a new boss. Still learning more about the reorganization, which is pretty extensive. (I hate change - especially sudden change that I have no control over.)
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Breaking news: I just heard that there is a layoff today, but have been told that I won't be affected. Whew.
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Monday, July 22, 2002


If anyone was having trouble accessing my trip photos, I just found that I'd inadvertantly created some of them so that they required a password to access. I think I've removed all the password requirements now, so you can try again.
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I just indulged in a guilty pleasure - rewatching the movie Eddie and the Cruisers. Definitely a B movie, but a lot of fun and filled with great old-fashioned rock and roll music.
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Saturday, July 20, 2002


Whew. I just finished the 7th and last photo album documenting my trip to England. This segment covers our walk over the hills to Snowshill Manor garden (one of the nicest gardens we visited) and some of the Golden Jubilee festivities I saw (before I had to leave in the middle of the 4-day celebration).

By the way, I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend ClubPhoto once again. They're really easy to use, and they've recently added a number of improvements and new options that make their service even better. If you want to try them out, you can set up free albums that will last for 90 days, or can pay a small yearly fee to have lots of space for permanent albums. And you can easily order prints, CDs, and other photo products for very reasonable fees.
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I'm finally getting around to watching some of the bonus material on the A Beautiful Mind DVD. (One of the great things about the web-based DVD services is that you can keep things as long as you want, which really helps when the bonus material is longer than the film itself!) One of the scenes that was cut from the final movie was a cute scene with Nash and Alicia at a party, when they are just getting acquainted. Nash walks up to Alicia, who is talking to some guy and is obviously bored. She says something like "Hank here was just refuting the existence of indivisible pairs of elementary particles." Nash pretends to be deeply affronted. "But surely sir, you must admit that certain pairs are asymptotically bound", and Alicia tosses in "They must never be divided or they vanish completely." Nice geeky banter, establishing the fact that Nash and Alicia were attracted to each other on an intellectual level as well as a physical level. I was sorry they cut it.
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I had dinner with Alex yesterday and he told me all about Steve Jobs' keynote speech at MacWorld, which he watched at the Apple store in the Galleria Mall in Cambridge. Lots of new goodies coming out, including a new iMac model with a 17-inch floating screen and expanded (and cheaper) iPods, including one that will work with IBM-compatible hardware. It also looks like it's about time to seriously consider switching to System X, now that 10.2 is coming out and seems to be pretty stable. Think I'll wait and see if I get laid off next week. If I find I still have a job, I'll seriously consider upgrading.
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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Symbolism: More Symbolism Than You Can Shake a Stick At


what movie symbolism are you? find out!
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I hadn't walked over to Prospect Hill for a while because of the heat, so when I went over earlier this week I was surprised to discover that they had completely ripped up the road up to the overlook parking area and the parking area itself. And today when I went over, it was even worse, as they had gouged out a path from the parking area to the overlook, cut down some trees, and leveled a circular area right at the overlook. I found it very depressing. I really enjoyed walking over there when it was in a more natural state, with just a footpath down to a grassy area and some big rocks. Now it looks like they're going to pave it and probably put up fences and just generally "improve" the heck out of it. Darn.

The overlook before the "improvements":


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Friday, July 19, 2002


I reinstated my subscription to The Atlantic Monthly to read American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center, a three-part in-depth series about the aftermath and recovery effort by William Langewiesche. (Read a sample except here). I got the first issue yesterday, and have only skimmed it so far, but it looks meaty and interesting. Here's a bit of potential disaster we escaped that day:

The Path tubes were century-old cast-iron structures, probably brittle in places, and now at immediate risk of failure. If either of them broke catastrophically, the Hudson River would flood into the foundation hole, filling it at high tide to a level just five feet below the street, and drowning unknown numbers of trapped survivors. Moreover, on the far side of the river a wall of water would flood the Jersey City station, and from there, via connecting rail links, would circle uncontrollably back into Manhattan, rush through the passages beneath Greenwich Village, and take out the West Side subways from the southern tip of the island nearly to Central Park.

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Thursday, July 18, 2002


A 4 1/2-foot tall Titan Arum is blooming in Encinitas, California. You don't smell that every day. There were blooms at UW Madison last year, and at the Huntington Library in 1999 and they've both posted some nice time-lapse photos and quicktime movies of the rare event.
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Wednesday, July 17, 2002


My company has postponed their quarterly earning announcement until next Tuesday so they can do some "restructuring" before the announcement. Can you say "layoffs"? We had already taken a "voluntary" 6-month pay cut that was supposed to protect us from layoffs through the second and third quarters of this year, but I guess all bets are off. Stay tuned to see if I have a job next week. This is rather ironic, actually, because the new release we got out at the end of June actually appears to be pretty good and is picking up a lot of sales. But our management is obsessed with trivial details like making a profit.
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Robert Campbell, the Boston Globe's architecture critic, has a good article today about why the new designs for the World Trade Center site are remarkably boring. (See Shell game comes up office ghetto every time it's played)
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Tuesday, July 16, 2002


Now the raspberries are really ripening, so it's time to make some raspberry vinegar. This is easy to make and keeps for years, getting mellower as it ages. I like it as a salad dressing, all by itself, without any oil. To make it, combine 1 1/2 cups of white wine vinegar with 1/2 cup of sugar. Heat it so the sugar dissolves, but don't let it boil. Stir in 1 cup of raspberries, put in a glass bowl, cover, and let stand for a week. At the end of the week, strain out the raspberries. Last year, I found some nice white wine vinegar at Trader Joe's that came in convenient little bottles with corks that I could reuse for the finished raspberry vinegar.
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Here's a picture of my new great-nephew Riley. Unfortunately, he developed a urinary tract infection shortly after coming home, so he is back in the hospital on antibiotics for a few days. Hopefully, he will be coming home for good later this week.


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Monday, July 15, 2002


Check out these Really Stupid Warning Labels
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You are Kusakabe Marron | Kaito Jeanne

You are generous and talented, though often widthdrawn. You tend to have just a few close friends, rather than many. You appear very cheerful and enthusiastic, but struggle to keep up with what others expect of you. In the end, your perseverance and sacrifices help you pull through.

Take the "What Magic Girl are you?" Quiz
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Sunday, July 14, 2002


I've finished setting up Album 6, which covers Warwick Castle, Cheltenham, and a hot air balloon. Only two more days left to go.
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I've finally figured out that one of the reasons I go nuts buying books when I'm overseas (in spite of the fact that books are heavy and a bitch to bring home in my luggage) is the fact that books are just plain cheaper over there. Not only are they cheaper over there, but in some cases they are even cheaper to buy there and have them shipped over here. Case in point. When I was flying back, the on-board airline magazine had a review of a new book, Samurai William, which is the true story of William Adams, the actual person James Clavell's Shogun is based on. Shogun is a favorite of mine, so I checked on Amazon and found that the book had not yet been published in the U.S. and the list price when it would be published would be $28.00. I then checked Amazon UK and found that it was available there for L10.49 ($16.00) plus a reasonable shipping fee. I ordered it and it came promptly. I just got my credit card bill and found that the total charge, including shipping, was only $22.73. So there you go. I think I'll be checking out Amazon UK for more of my future book orders.
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Thursday, July 11, 2002


I picked my first raspberries this morning. Just a half cup or so, but they were nice on top of raspberry yogurt for a mid-afternoon snack.
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I've been suffering from some sort of hay-fever-like allergy for the past two days. My head feels like cotton wool, and I've been sneezing a lot. I wonder what sort of pollen is in the air causing this? I hope it ends soon.
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There was an article in the New York Times Magazine this weekend (What if it's all been a big fat lie? - requires registration) saying that some nutrition researchers are starting to come around to the Atkins theory that low-fat diets are not the best for weight loss and that low-carbohydrate-diets are better for you. That comes as quite a surprise to me, as a person who actually did succeed in losing 60 pounds on a low-fat diet. In reading the forums, I found a pointer to this article interviewing some of the researchers in question. From this, it's clear that they don't at all endorse the Atkins low-carb high-fat diet. What they do say is that with both fats and carbs, there are some that you should eat and some that you should avoid. While avoiding the saturated fat in butter and red meat, it's okay to eat olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish in moderation. And while avoiding refined flour and sugars, it's okay to eat whole grains, beans, and fruit. Which is a much more balanced viewpoint than what came across in the NYT article.
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Wednesday, July 10, 2002


I just learned that I'm a great-aunt for the 4th time: Riley Alexander Henslee was born on Monday night, 8 lbs 1 oz, 20 1/2", son of my niece Lisa and her husband Jason.
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Hooray! Machinka turned up at 3am last night! What a relief.
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Tuesday, July 09, 2002


Machinka's been missing for two days. I hate it when she does this.
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Nancy sent me another thick pile of photos from our England trip. Here's one showing the three of us on the Musgrove's patio after an evening spent enjoying Jackie's gin and tonics. Shortly after this picture was taken, a hot air balloon floated overhead. (I'm not kidding!)

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Got up early today and fought with Boston traffic (ugh) to go in to Joslin for my annual Diabetes Prevention Program glucose tolerance test. This is where they measure your blood sugar level after 12 hours of fasting, then have you drink a sugar solution and measure again after 30 minutes and 2 hours. They also do a variety of other stuff including body measurements, ECG, and a whole bunch of questionaires. So it took pretty much all morning. This is the start of my 4th year in the program; this fall they're planning to gear up for another 5-year follow-on study.
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Monday, July 08, 2002


This op-ed piece in the New York Times describes how George W. Bush made his fortune using much the same sort of maneuvering that he is now deploring in others.
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I finally got to see some fireworks in person yesterday, as Alex and I visited friends in Natick who live within walking distance of Shopper's World in Framingham. A whole crew of us hiked over to sit on the roof of one of the parking garages to watch. They didn't have quite the style of the Esplanade fireworks, but they did have a few examples of some of the newer types of fireworks, and we were close enough to smell the powder and feel the reverberations. And getting there and home again was quite a lot easier than dealing with the Esplanade crowds.

After a few reasonable days, I'm told we're going to have another couple of very hot and humid days. And for the past few days we've had this weird pall in the sky, caused by smoke from forest fires in Quebec. Gives us a bit of a taste of what the folks in the west have been going through, without the sense of immediate danger.
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Sunday, July 07, 2002


Okay, here's a great example of why it's great to watch TV via Tivo. Wimbledon was in a rain delay, so I was writing the previous entry in a room away from the TV. But then I heard a loud cheering and hooting, which was very unlike the usual behavior of a staid Wimbledon crowd, so I ran into the living room and backed up the Tivo to see what had happened. They were replaying an incident that had occured when they were on commercial break, when a streaker jumped out on the court and pranced around for quite a while before they could trap him and wrap him in blankets. Very funny, and I would have missed it without Tivo.
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I saw the first of the Apple Why Switch? ads during Wimbledon this morning. This is a new ad campaign featuring real people talking about why they switched from the PC to the Mac. The one I saw said "Using my PC was like being stuck in a bad relationship". And they reference the web page linked above, which tells you exactly how to go about switching, what files to save and move over, etc. What a great idea! Hope it pays off.
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I played in an online Magic tournament today and finished second in a field of 45. I think I was pretty lucky to do that well, as my cards weren't that great, but I played reasonably well and had some luck go my way. At least, until I got to the finals and got matched against a guy who had an amazing deck. I had noticed that he'd been winning his earlier rounds in record time, so wasn't too surprised when he smashed me in short order. But I still got a nice prize for finishing second and my online rating has gotten quite a boost.

After the tournament I went over to Alex's and we watched the DVD of A Beautiful Mind. Wow, that movie just blew me away. For one thing, Russell Crowe is just an amazing actor. But the movie as a whole rose above all the cliches about mental illness and really drew you into the story of a man grappling with the betrayal of his mind, using logic and reason to overcome his delusions. Awesome.
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Friday, July 05, 2002


Spent a quiet 4th, mostly indoors to escape the heat. Went to visit my friends Matt and Amy and their daughter Samantha. I hadn't seen Samantha for several months, but at 5 months old, she already has quite a personality. When she first saw me, it seemed pretty clear that she recognized that I was a new person and she made it quite clear by her body language that she wanted to be picked up. She behaved really well while I was there and popped off to sleep much earlier than usual (which probably means that Matt and Amy were up with her in the middle of the night...) Also got to visit with Hamlet, Machinka's brother, who looks a lot like her (only bigger) and has many of the same mannerisms. (Talia, her sister, turned up later in the evening but wasn't as sociable as Hamlet was.) And played with Ella, the boxer dog, who it very sweet, but doesn't understand that not everyone likes to have their face licked.

We watched the Boston Pops concert and fireworks on TV. Of course watching fireworks on TV is not as cool as watching them in person, but it does have the advantage of not having to deal with crowds of people, and you do get to hear the music accompaniment, which gives them an added dimension. There were some very nice new effects this year, including a type we were calling "jellyfish" - colored blobs that sort of hung in place and then slowly floated down. And another type that were huge sheets of golden cascades. And a few others that I can't figure out how to describe.

And there were no major terrorist events (okay, the shooter in LA, but that may not have been a terrorist and it was fairly limited in scope). And today the stock market is going up in a burst of what can only be patriotic optimism. Now if only I didn't have to work today, now that the heat wave seems to have broken and we have what looks like a gorgeous day out there.
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My friend Laurie writes with more information about the Leslie of Leslie is Different:

Lemke is a real person, in his 50s, and is considered an "idiot savant" because he plays the piano so well. I've seen him play on TV a few times. If you ever saw Sling Blade, he looks quite a lot like Billy Bob's character.
Ah, the things you learn from surfing the web.
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Thursday, July 04, 2002


I found the lyrics for Leslie is Different. It's actually quite a sad song about a handicapped child with a gift for music.
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Ripe cherries are the best fruit. Actually, it's a tie in my mind between ripe cherries and ripe peaches, but it's impossible to get ripe peaches in New England, so the cherries win by default. Looks like today's garden omelet is going to feature tiny zucchini, basil, and the last of the spinach. I went out this morning to try to weed and neaten up, but the heat is brutal. I can't believe people are probably already sitting out on the esplanade saving their patch of grass for this evening's concert. I'm no fool, I'm going to watch it at home in air-conditioned comfort. And my garden is going to have to fend for itself until it cools off a bit.
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Wednesday, July 03, 2002


Okay, that latest blog fad is doing a google search on your name followed by "is" and seeing what you get. Here are my results:

  • Leslie is Different

  • Leslie is also a practicing Psychotherapist

  • Leslie captures WNBA MVP award

  • Leslie is also a regular contributor to several horse magazines in the US and Europe.

  • Leslie is an instrument rated commercial pilot with more than 900 hours in various aircraft.

  • Leslie is a full member of the Professional Photographers of America

  • Leslie is a spark that drives LA: Forward-center living her dream.

  • Leslie is a full time professional with over 25 years of real estate sales experience.

  • Leslie is a founding editor of the legendary Chicago 'zine Lumpen. Her first novel, Fat Bald Jeff (Grove Press), is a comedy that ...

  • Leslie is the kind of agent one dreams about.

  • Leslie is resourceful, a creative thinker who combines theory with practice.


  • This is fun - kind of like an exploration of alternate realities. The first entry ("Leslie is Different") is apparently a song title. I'll have to try to download it and see if I like it.
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    I haven't been posting much lately. It's just been so hot and humid that I haven't had much energy for anything. And the past two days at work, we've been having training on the new system we will be working on soon, so my head has been in a whirl. I'm looking forward to having July 4 off, but we don't have Friday as a vacation day, so I'll be back here at work.
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    Did you ever want to know exactly when the live mule train ride was discontinued at Disneyland (1973)? Or what a Deluxe 15 Ticket Book with 5 E-tickets cost in 1966 ($5.00)? Then you should check out Yesterland, the Discontinued Disneyland web site. Great Disneyland nostalgia!
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