Leslie's Latest News

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Here I am in sunny San Jose, snatching a few minutes in the internet lounge to write about my trip so far. The flight out went fine, except for having to leave the house at something like 5 am in order to make the 8 am flight. But the flight was nonstop, on time, and fairly empty, so we had a lot of room to stretch out and relax. We were able to take public transportation most of the way to and from the airports, so saved a lot of money that we otherwise would have spent on taxis. We're staying in the Hyatt Sainte Claire, and older luxury hotel that was recently renovated and restored. I have never before had a hotel bathroom with recessed lighting and a mural on the ceiling!

We arrived quite early on Tuesday, we we had time for a little sightseeing - we took a bus out to the Winchester Mystery House. This is a huge Victorian mansion that was built by the widow of the Winchester of Winchester Rifles fame. The story goes that she was told by a Boston psychic that the secret to a long life was never to stop building, and she took that literally. She started with an 8-room farmhouse, and just kept adding rooms. When she died the house had 160 rooms and all sort of architectural oddities, like a door that exits 12 feet about the ground, and a stairway that goes up to a ceiling (with no trap door). It was fun taking the tour because everything seemed to connect to everything else in all sorts of odd ways and it was hard to keep track of where you where.

Wednesday was mostly a convention setup day. Alex worked in Treasury and I mostly hung out. We took a walk around the neighborhood and found a section of nice cheap Vietnamese restuarants not too far from the hotel. For dinner, I met with some old college friends who had gotten back in contact with me a few months ago by running across my web site. It was really fun to get together with people who I hadn't seen for 30-some years and to find out that we were all pretty much the same as we were when we were kids in college. Leona even got a membership in the convention, although she won't be able to show up here until she finishes with work for the week. (Pesky things, jobs.)

Today the convention is actually starting to get underway. I toured the dealer's room and ran into George R. R. Martin, to whom I gushed about his recent series, which I have been reading. He was very gracious and we talked a bit - I guess authors never get tired of hearing from people who likes their books. I worked for a while at the Noreascon 4 table, selling memberships to the 2004 Worldcon, which will be in Boston, and now I'm on my way over to the official opening ceremonies. The convention has a nice Internet lounge so I hope to be able to make entries now and then through the weekend. Gotta let someone else on the machine right now though. More later.
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Monday, August 26, 2002

Alex and I met some friends for dim sum on Sunday morning, and then we all strolled over to the Big Dig tunnel walk. The news media say that 600,000 people showed up, but they were a bit better with crowd control this time, so it only took about 45 minutes to thread our way through the entrance lines. And the weather was gorgeous, and they had water available at reasonable prices, and we got through the line before the band started playing, so it wasn't too bad. Of course, the tunnel was just a tunnel and not all that exciting, but it's nice to see how close it is to being completed. (Those of us who have lived in Boston since this project started over ten years ago were beginning to think that we wouldn't live to see it completed.) It's also interesting to see how deep the tunnel goes. At the deepest point it's 120 feet below the surface and 60 feet below the Red Line tunnel. And from the dip it comes up again pretty fast so it can cross the Zakim bridge. So when you drive through it at 60 mph, it will probably feel like you are swooping under the city. We were touring the northbound lanes which will open later this year. They will start working on the southbound lanes once they can divert the northbound traffic from the existing expressway.
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Time Magazine has a cover story this week about recent weight-loss research, with balanced coverage of the low-fat vs. low-carbs controversy.
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Saturday, August 24, 2002

It's been a busy week, and I was feeling a little worried about all the stuff I want to try to get done before I leave for the Worldcon on Tuesday. But yesterday, just as I was leaving work, I ran into my new manager in the hallway, and she told me not to bother coming into work on Monday. Yeah! That extra day off will make all the difference in letting me get ready for the trip without feeling rushed and stressed. (It makes sense from a work standpoint also, since I can't do much more test planning until the developers get a bit further along with their work. So even if I went in on Monday, there wouldn't be a whole lot useful I could do.)

I watched the Patriot's pre-season game last night with Alex. He had spent the day taking his mother shopping, so he had all sorts of fruits and vegetables from Russo's in Watertown. We started with fresh-picked native corn on the cob, then cooked a yummy healthy stew with lentils, cabbage, onions, and carrots, and had watermelon for dessert. As far as the game goes, the Patriot's offense was a little slow in the first half, but picked up nicely in the 3rd quarter and ended up winning decisively. We had to watch the game in real time because Alex's TiVo was otherwise occupied, and it took so LONG! It's so much nicer watching on TiVo where we can skip the commercials and replay when we choose.

I'll be eating a lot more vegetables this weekend because I have a lot of ripe tomatoes, and possibly a little corn from my own garden. Tomorrow we're going to a dim sum brunch in Chinatown and then plan to go on the Big Dig tunnel walk (hoping that the lines won't be as bad as they were at the bridge walk earlier this year.)
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Tuesday, August 20, 2002

When I went out to get the paper this morning, it was actually raining. Gosh, it felt good! Especially after over a week of 90-plus temperatures.

There's a nice article on blogging in Newsweek this week.
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Monday, August 19, 2002

What to do with a ripe tomato: Cut it up into chunks. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and balsamic vinegar. (You could add a bit of sliced red onion, but that's not really necessary.) Enjoy.
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Sunday, August 18, 2002

I tried to do some yard work this morning, but it's just so hot that I can't stay out for long. Everything is looking baked and dried out, except for the big shrubs and vines that are growing rampant and really need pruning. At some point I need to get up on a ladder and cut back the vines on the house, but I just can't do that when it's so hot, so it probably won't happen until after vacation. The tomatoes are holding out (I have watered the veggie garden a bit, although probably not enough) and I picked my first ripe tomato today. It looks like they'll all be getting ripe just when I'll be out of town. It's days like these that make me wonder if I might be better off in a condominium.

Yesterday I escaped the heat by going into my office and playing Magic all day. I made the top 8 in a 100-plus-person tournament, but then had really bad luck and got knocked out in the quarterfinals. Still, I won a few packs. Then I finished second in an 8-person draft and won a few more packs. So it was an enjoyable (and cool) day. And while waiting for each round to start, I was able to do a little work on my test plans that need to be completed before I can go on vacation.
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Friday, August 16, 2002

The latest word from slovensko.com is that the Danube has crested at 990 cm with no damage to the Bratislava's old town or the residential districts downstream. The flow rate of 10,500 cubic meters/second is the highest volume seen in over a century. They've posted another set of photos.

In other news, local player Dave Humphreys has reached the final 8 of the Magic World Championships in Singapore. Dave recently earned a PhD in molecular biology at MIT and is taking an 80-day trip around the world to celebrate (his thesis was on cloning). I have played him a few times but never beaten him - his playing is awesome. The finals will be on Sunday and I'll be rooting for him.
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Thursday, August 15, 2002

I've been getting up-to-the-minute news of the floods in Bratislava from www.slovensko.com. Here's an amazing picture of the flooding near Devin Castle. (For comparison, here's a picture I took when I visited there last year.) They also have a picture of the crowd of "flood tourists" out on the Bratislava bridge.
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www.slovensko.com reports on the flooding in Slovakia:

Today at 6:00 the level of Danube reached 922cm in Devin and 961cm in Bratislava with over 10,000 m3/sec. On the right bank, the water already isolated the foot of the well-known UFO-like cafeteria on the top of the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising and needs only a few dozens centimeters to reach the "Vienna Road" (Viedenska cesta). The left bank seems to be safer. Since a few days, the soldiers are preparing sandbags to protect the inner city. Today morning also the President Rudolf Schuster came to see the big water. He wanted to visit Devin too, but the only way to transport the head of the state to the partly-flooded town district was a helicopter. He offered 50,000 SKK (over 1100 Euro) to those whose houses have been damaged by water in Devin, SITA news agency reported.
The photo of the left bank shows the hotel where I once stayed in the background, and the right bank photo also above also shows a place that I visited. Here's another photo of the right bank flooding showing Bratislava castle in the background. The Danube is expected to peak at Bratislava on Friday morning.

In Boston, it hit 101 degrees yesterday, breaking the record for the day.
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Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Today is, I believe, the 21st day of over 90-degree temperatures in Boston this year, and no break is seen until maybe the weekend. (In a normal year, we have about 12 over-90-degree days.) Yesterday the air was murky and in the late afternoon the sun was a dim red ball in the sky. I can't bring myself to go walking in the sticky air, so I've been going stir-crazy at work. I've been working on very detailed test plans, which is hard to do all day without a break.

At the same time, I hear from my Slovak friend Paula that there have been unrelenting heavy rains in that part of the world. And today the flooding in Prague (my friend Pavel's home town) has been in the news on CNN.

And the latest bad news: my friend Alexis lost out on the job he was interviewing for. What a disappointment!

I could really use some good news right about now.
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Saturday, August 10, 2002

Oh, I am so behind on writing to this weblog. It's been a very busy week, both at work and in my personal life. On Monday, Alex and I went to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which was very sweet and funny. On Tuesday the weather cooled off so I walked over to Prospect Hill and discovered more depredations - they'd cut down about an acre of trees at the overlook! I have no idea why, but it's very disappointing.

Tuesday night I had a nice dinner with an old friend from out of town. Before dinner, we walked over to the overlook and sat and talked for a while, enjoying the great view. Wednesday was the usual gathering at the NESFA clubhouse, where I socialized and played Magic. On Thursday, I had an early morning appointment for my 6-month follow-up mammogram, always a nervous time. So when it turned out all clear, I was pretty cheerful for the rest of the day, and went out with a group from work to have drinks after work.

On Friday, I discovered that my previous manager, who had been transferred in the recent reorganization, was resigning. I also heard that my father's cousin, Mary Turek, who had been suffering from cancer for some time, had passed away, and decided on the spur of the moment to go to the funeral in Connecticut. So I drove down to stay with my father on Friday night, and went to the funeral on Saturday morning. After the funeral, we stopped by a nearby mall to say hello to Pavel Kotrady, a distant relative and correspondent from the Czech Republic who is working there this summer.

Then I drove back to Dunstable to attend a lady friend's afternoon luncheon (arriving just a little bit late), and then drove on to Middletown, to attend a dinner and meeting of the Noreascon 4 organizing committee. And now I am finally back home and ready to sleep for a really long time.

(During all this driving I tried out my iPod FM adapter, a little device that plugs into the iPod and broadcasts FM that you can pick up and play on your car radio. It worked really nice, so I had great music all the way down and back.)
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Thursday, August 08, 2002

You are 21% geek
OK, so maybe you ain't a geek. You do, at least, show a bit of interest in the world around you. Either that, or you have enough of a sense of humor to pick some of the sillier answers on the test. Regardless, you're probably a pretty nifty, well-rounded person who gets along fine with people and can chat with just about anyone without fear of looking stupid or foolish or overly concerned with minutiae. God, I hate you.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at Thudfactor.com

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Monday, August 05, 2002

Thought your investment in an index stock fund was a conservative investment? The Poor Standard of Standard & Poor's - How the S&P 500's bad bubble-stock picks have cost investors billions. By Daniel Gross explains why it wasn't.
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Thursday, August 01, 2002

My friend Alexis, who is a really good programmer/system architect but has been out of work for over a year due to the stagnant job market in the Boston area, had a good job interview on Tuesday and has been called back for a second round! Okay everyone, think good thoughts!
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