june 2007

6.1.07
I worked from home yesterday, which I've been trying to do at least once a week recently. I try to pick a day when there won't be much going on so that I can focus on a project for 2-3 hours straight, something that rarely happens with the amount of people coming into our office to ask for things. Most of the time, I pick a good day, and I only get 10-15 emails, maybe one or two of which are issues that I need to deal with the same day (most aren't even issues at all, but merely automatic updates from the change control system).

Yesterday, however, was a deluge—I must have gotten 50-60 emails, many of which were issues that I had to tend to immediately, which means that I got almost no work done on the main project I had brought home with me (an RFP for a new document management system that we're hoping to implement by the fall). Oh well. It seems like a lot of the staff is out today, and I don't have any meetings on the calendar, so I'm hoping I can make up for it.

6.4.07
My boss is taking some well-deserved vacation this summer: he'll be out two weeks in June, three weeks in July, and another two weeks in August. I'm not saying he doesn't deserve it—you'd have to pay me at least five times as much as he gets paid to do his job—and I can also guarantee you that he'll be working during those vacations.

Ideally, that's how the summer should be in a workplace like ours that is tied to an academic cycle—those months should be used to step back away from the noise of the business cycle and review our process from a distance, and I think that's a lot more difficult to do when you still have to come into the office every day and keep getting pulled back into the details.

I think a mini-sabbatical of two or three weeks to clear your head and think about the big picture would help most of the management portion of our staff, because it's so hard to pull yourself away from the day-to-day. And I swear I'm not saying that just because that would include me (although it wouldn't kill me to be away from the office for a bit, either)—it's just that the cycle has slowly expanded each year, so that we're left with less and less time to regroup and re-analyze what we're doing because we're doing more and more with each new applicant pool.

6.5.07
For the record: I think the ending to the Lost season finale was pretty lame. And bringing back Walt for a brief appearance after he and Michael have been missing all season was a bit much, especially because in the few weeks that he's been gone according to island time he looks like he's aged more than the full year that he's been absent from the show in real time.

But I enjoyed seeing several of the Others being shot, stabbed, beaten, and otherwise blown to hell. I would have been happy if the season had simply ended with several of their deaths.

6.6.07
Well, I guess we should be happy that at least one person from the Bush administration is going to jail. But honestly, find me someone in the Bush White House that DOESN'T belong in prison. And of course the Democrats are too cowardly to pursue any criminal charges against them, up to and including impeaching the president, who has publicly admitted to violating at least one law. Hell, they can't even keep they're election promise to put an end to the Iraq war—they made a big show about sending a bill to the president with a timetable that he promptly vetoed (as he said he would), and then immediately caved and sent him the funding bill he wanted with no strings attached.

I don't really have much faith in politicians anywhere, but the Dems resounding victory last fall seemed to be a pretty clear mandate from the American people about reigning Bush and his warmongers in. But now they're all jockeying for position for the next presidential election, and no one wants to do anything that the attack dog Republicans will characterize as "not supporting the troops." The whole thing just disgusts me. As disastrous as another Republican regime would be (although I don't think anyone will be able to top the corruption, greed, deception, and ill intentions of the Bush administration), I'm going to have a hard time voting for a Democrat who lets Bush, Cheney, Rove, et al., conduct business as usual for the next year and a half.

6.7.07
It's our 11th wedding anniversary tomorrow, and to celebrate we're taking the day off and going back down to Charlottesville for a couple of days. I don't feel as connected to Charlottesville as I used to, or to other places I've lived, but it's a nice town, especially with the explosion of the arts scene downtown. It will be a quick trip, but it should be fun.

6.11.07
Charlottesville was a nice excursion—we were gone for just over 24 hours, so we didn't have to pay anyone to come take care of the cats (even our diabetic one can go for a couple of days without a shot if he has to), and we packed in a lot of activities in a short amount of time.

We got into town around two or three in the afternoon, and since we hadn't stopped for lunch on the way and dinner wasn't until eight, the first thing we did was hit the downtown mall to see if Christian's pizza was still around. We had heard a rumor that it had closed again (the proprietor used to own a place called Sylvia's, but he got tired of running it and sold it off, only to reopen a place with a virtually identical menu two years later), but whoever told us that had their facts wrong, because it was in the same place it's been for years. We split three slices for a late lunch and then spent a couple of hours wandering around the downtown mall in stifling heat before heading out to Prospect Hill, where we held our rehearsal dinner and where we were staying for the night.

Before we headed out of town, we stopped at the Yo Wear factory, which makes the boxer shorts I've worn for probably the last decade or so. They used to have a small retail area in their factory space, but they had moved to a new location and it wasn't really made for the public to wander around in. But the owner, Rick, was gracious enough to not only let us search through newly packaged merchandise and buy it at wholesale cost, but he also took us on a quick tour of the new space and chatted with us for a while.

Around 5:30, we left the Yo Wear factory to head out to Prospect Hill, where we had time to get settled in and get a quick nap before dinner.

More tomorrow.

6.12.07
We didn't decide for sure that we were going to stay at Prospect Hill until a few days before our trip—we knew that we wanted to go back to Charlottesville and have dinner at Prospect Hill, but we didn't know if we wanted to pay the extra money to actually stay there. So when we finally made our reservation, we knew that it wasn't likely to be very crowded (which is very unusual for them this time of year—it's a very popular spot for rehearsal dinners, weddings, and receptions) because there was only one room that was already booked up. That didn't necessarily mean that there wouldn't be a more crowded dining room, just that there wouldn't be many people hanging around after dinner was over.

But when we went to the pre-dinner wine reception, we only saw one other couple, and when we finally sat down in the dining room, we were joined only by that couple and the other couple who had taken out a room for the night (the older couple, who were coming only for dinner, were celebrating their 48th anniversary; the other couple were there in honor of the woman's birthday). So we had our choice of tables, and every need was immediately attended to because the staff weren't splitting their time between 15-20 tables like they would on a night with a full house.

The meal was, of course, fantastic: bruschetta with boursin cheese, a caesar salad with freshly made dressing, cream of leek soup, a beef tenderloin with a mushroom and red wine sauce, baked sweet potatoes, fresh green beans, and for dessert, a flourless chocolate cake with a raspberry coulis, which Julie had requested when we made our reservation. We also had a glass of the wine the chef had selected to go with the meal, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Barboursville Vineyards, a local winery run by an Italian family, and as returning guests celebrating a special occasion (in addition to holding our rehearsal dinner there, we also stayed there on our first anniversary and after Julie defended her Ph.D. thesis), the owner was nice enough to give us a bottle of the Barboursville wine to take with us.

Other than dinner, we mostly relaxed, napped, and walked around the grounds. There are no televisions in any of the rooms, and it's pretty far out in the country, so it's always very quiet there, and it was even moreso during our stay because of the lack of other guests. We had breakfast in bed the next morning—an omelet with cream cheese, red peppers, and chives, a blueberry muffin, sausages, tomatoes, fresh fruit, and coffee—and drowsed the morning away before heading back home.

6.13.07
Well, the Orioles finally lost a game we attended, which we knew would happen eventually (especially the way they've been playing recently).

It was a really slow game, despite a few homers on both sides, but there was a fight in the fifth inning for entertainment (the only other time I've seen a fight at Camden Yards was during a Yankees game, and it was actually between Yankees fans). The fight was one row down in the section to the left of us: three extremely drunk Baltimore fans (husband and wife, mid 40s, and son, mid 20s) got pissed off when the Nationals took the lead and started jawing at two Nats fans sitting behind them, and the also extremely drunk Nats fans started talking back. They snarled at each other on and off for an inning or two, and finally the Baltimore dad jumped up and started wailing on the closest Nats fan. Both of them got in some pretty good licks before security hauled off Baltimore dad, and then the Nats fans started to get into a yelling match with Baltimore mom and Baltimore son before they were hauled off, too. Then some other O's fans started swearing at the Nats fans and the Nats fans started swearing back, and finally they were taken away too.

It was really the Baltimore dad's fault—he clearly threw the first punch—but by the end of the extended altercation, all five of them (the three O's fans and the two Nats fans) needed to be removed because they were all completely trashed and wanting to pick fights. Like I said, though, if we had to watch the O's lose for the first time this season, at least there was something like this to spice it up.

6.14.07
New labbit arriving today! And his blue and green glow in the dark buddies will be here tomorrow. Time to clean off another shelf...

6.15.07
I will see my boss once between now and the third week of July. And that's only if 1) I show up on the one day he'll be in the office and 2) he's out of meetings for more than five minutes and I happen to pass him in the hallway.

Normally I wouldn't mind my boss being away for so long—I love working for him, but I think it's universal that you just feel a little more relaxed in the office when you know your boss isn't there—but we actually have several pretty important projects that need both his input and his influence or there's a real danger that they won't happen.

But there's nothing for it now. They'll either be approved and in the works by the time he returns, or we'll have to wait until next year.

6.18.07
Wow, Orioles. Eight straight losses, and thirteen losses out of the last fifteen games. At this point they'd have to win eleven straight just to get back to .500, which means, that, a little less than a month before the all star break, not only are the playoffs completely out of the question, so is any chance of them having a winning season.

They should institute a price policy where, for every year you've bought a season ticket package in the current string of losing seasons that stretches back to 1998, you get a discount on your tickets for the next year as encouragement to the fans to keep buying tickets, and to the team to get their asses in gear and start winning games. That way, you pay less and less for your tickets each year, not more and more. Either that, or get used to receiving no money at all for those tickets, because I bet there are lots of folks who used to be season ticket holders who aren't any more, and I don't see a ton of people lining up to take their place.

6.19.07
My new Mac came in at work last week, and every day since it arrived I've been telling myself, "Tomorrow is the day I will get it set up." But then I get into work, get tied up by a million little projects and meetings, and the next thing I know it's 4:30 and there's no time left to even take it out of the box, much less move over all my files and reinstall all my software.

And then I tell myself, "Tomorrow is the day I will get it set up."

6.20.07
Photos are back. I've been trying to find the time to get these organized and posted, but I didn't really have a chance until I was stuck on a two hour conference call while working from home yesterday. I should have enough to take me through the end of July even if I don't take any more between now and then, but I'm going to try to keep a steady flow in reserve so I don't hit a dry spell later.

6.21.07
Reduced fat string cheese is awesome. Reduced fat ice cream sandwiches are not.

6.22.07
I'm more than half done with the final class in my master's program, and I still have no clue what I'm going to write my paper on. I'm thinking Charles Ives, a man who made millions after founding an insurance company but who also wrote music as a hobby throughout his adult life and wrote some pretty wacky but insightful essays about music as well. I've always been attracted to the idea of people who lived normal lives but produced great art (although I guess being a millionaire businessman isn't that normal, even if you still work the 9-5 grind and you're mostly self-made), and he seems like a good American example of that.

The class is good though—we listening to music, the teacher gives us some historical and structural/compositional background, and then we listen to more music. This is the kind of class I can see myself auditing for fun once I finish the program.

6.25.07
The spider in today's picture really is that lime green color. I found him on the door handle of my car after filling up at a gas station in Virginia and took a few shots before driving over to the grass to let him go. But in those twenty feet, he had come off the handle and fallen somewhere in the parking lot.

He was really scary looking, especially because I have this thing about spiders anyway. When I zoomed in on the full sized photo, I could see that he was kind of translucent, which just added to the creep factor. Nature makes some really weird stuff. Some really weird, scary stuff. Some really weird, scary stuff that looks like its only purpose is to instill abject terror in whatever it encounters right before it kills them.

On the positive side, however, we have fireflies, which are finally starting to make their appearance early in the evening.

6.26.07
Working at home today. I always have such good intentions to make efficient use of the extra time I get during the day because I don't have to do the commute to and from the city, but I almost never end up doing anything beyond what I would get done during a normal day.

However, if I can just manage to get out and get a haircut today, I'll be happy. Way overdue for me at this point.

6.27.07
I upgraded my home copies of all the Adobe products to the latest versions yesterday, including Photoshop CS3 and GoLive 9, which has been dropped from the CS line in favor of Dreamweaver and which is only available to upgrade via download, sending a strong signal that the next iteration will not include a GoLive upgrade.

I haven't played around with Photoshop much yet, but so far, I'm not digging the new GoLive. It's sluggish, it handles text and table selection much differently than all previous versions, and the rendering is also different. I still like the interface better than Dreamweaver's, but I'm going to give Dreamweaver another serious try because I know I'm going to end up using it at some point in the next couple of years. Hopefully I'll either like this version, or they'll do a better job of integrating the Adobe interface into the product.

But for right now, I'm not happy. I'm seriously considering a return to GoLive CS2 (i.e., GoLive 8) until I either get a new computer or I come to accept Dreamweaver.

6.28.07
So while Paris Hilton was boring the fuck out of Larry King and anyone else who tuned into her "interview" for even a microsecond, what were the good folks at Comedy Central doing? That's right, running the South Park episode about Paris, "Stupid Spoiled Whore". Genius.

6.29.07
Curse Steve Jobs. Even though I forwent a Christmas present last year and a birthday present this year so I could leave open the option of buying an iPhone to replace my current aging iPod (it's the only one I've ever owned, and it's going on four years now) and my slowing dying cell phone (about 2 1/2 years old, with a battery life that gets shorter every day), I honestly thought that the monthly cost of service for the iPhone would be steep enough that I would be able to resist buying it, especially because I'm not a heavy-duty phone user.

But the cheapest plan is only $60 a month, and since I'm already an AT&T wireless customer, I could keep my existing number, voice plan, rollover minutes, etc., and just add the iPhone data plan (unlimited web and email) to my exsiting account for only $20 a month more. So now I've got to think about this some more.

As someone who works in technology, I should know better than to even consider buying the first generation of something, because in 6-9 months the second generation will be cheaper and have even more features, plus it won't include whatever bugs and design flaws they uncover with the first generation iPhone. On the other hand, Apple is meticulous about industrial and UI design, and unlike many tech companies, they don't often release a product into the market that isn't ready for prime time. Plus, I haven't bought a gadget in a very long while, and it would be cool to own something that's cutting edge again.

I don't know though. Maybe I'll wait a few days until the flood of reviews comes in (only a very few select tech writers were allowed to try out the iPhone before its public launch, but in the next week every publication in America will have its own review of the device) before I make a decision.

I am a little worried that this will turn into another Wii—I thought about getting one of those at Christmas, but decided to wait for the same reasons, and also because I assumed they'd be much easier to find by February or March. Of course, the Wii continues to sell out regularly, and it's turned into the surprise hit of the console industry.

This decision would have been a lot easier if the monthly plan had been a minimum of $100 or something ridiculous like that. I'm thinking about checking out the line at the closest AT&T store this afternoon, but I'm afraid if there was no line, my good sense would vanish and I'd buy one on the spot. Might be best to wait until Saturday so Julie can go with me.
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