Back from Philadelphia

I spent the last week in Philadelphia, flying back today.

The last couple days, with Sara's conference finished, we saw the historical sites, had some unexpectedly good food in Afghan restaurants, and today got a free lunch thanks to a cheese steak competition.

I'm tired. My next vacation I may be tempted to spend on my couch.

California leftover

In Berkeley I went with Andy and his wife to a concert by the University Symphony Orchestra. They were very good. Anyway, the program was:

  • "Practice" for full orchestra and computer (2007), Edmund Campion
  • "An American in Paris", George Gershwin
  • "Practice" for full orchestra and computer (2007), Edmund Campion
  • Intermission
  • "Amériques" (1918-21; rev. 1928), Edgard Varèse
  • "La Valse" (1919-20), Maurice Ravel

When we first saw that, we said: so does "Practice" come in two parts, or are they playing it twice? As it turns out, they just played the whole thing through twice. Which was actually a fantastic idea: I think premieres should always work that way. You get a lot more out of it the second time through. (And it was sort of fun to hear the piece after the Gershwin and think: "hey, that sounded a little Gershwin-y".)

Great program, anyway.

California 2009, take 1

I did a half-day of work Wednesday, the 18th, and the airport shuttle picked me up from work at 1:30pm. A delay leaving Detroit caused me to miss my connection in Minneapolis, so I ended up getting to San Jose around midnight by way of two Frontier flights through Denver.

We've got a big pile of NFSv4.1 code to merge into the existing linux NFSv4.0 code, and looking through the patches I'm worried that existing problems in the code are being made worse. So I spent most of Connectathon trying to sort out those problems and write some code rather than testing. I got to talk to some useful people, though.

Connectathon over a week later, I got to San Francisco on one of my free Caltrain tickets (the fruit of a complaint letter from a year ago which finally, by coincidence, got a very nice personal response just before I left), and met my old college friend Andy.

The last time I'd seen him was after a sleepless night of packing. Sara and I had planned to meet him at the Portland train station to say goodbye, and he got more than he bargained for: most of the contents of our apartment, in boxes, for him to ship, while we ran for the train. We made our train, and thanks to Andy our luggage arrived a few days later. ("Well, I had nothing else to do that day...", he told me when I asked him about it this week.)

So it was good to have the chance to catch up with Andy for the first time in 15 years. And this time there was a proper goodbye involving pizza at a pub near the downtown Berkeley BART station, and I made my overnight flight back to Detroit with no running required.

I had parts for a new desktop waiting at home, and figured assembling and installing it would be a good job for a sleep-deprived post-travel day. Alas, I'd forgotten a critical part--my only keyboard at home uses PS/2, but the new computer has only USB ports, and refuses to boot without a keyboard attached.

rebuilding the world, cold

We recently realized that machines at work were hacked, and modified versions of the ssh client and server were installed on the hacked machines to collect passwords.

My home machines use different passwords from the one at work, but I knew that I'd logged in to home from machines at work that the attacker had the password for, and I didn't want to assume they hadn't gotten into my home computers.

So I've been reinstalling a lot of stuff from scratch. My personal blog wasn't a big priority, so I finally got around to that this afternoon. So, here it is.

There's nothing really difficult to it, it just means installing a bunch of software, trying to remember and/or relearn how to configure it, then figuring out how to restore data from backups.

I took much better notes on everything this time, so hopefully if (ugh) anything like this happens again, it'll all go a little faster.

I tried to take out the recycling today. One of the hazards of apartment living is that for some reason some weeks will be particularly popular recycling weeks, and the bins will start to overflow. So I tried to collapse some boxes. (Note to neighbors: if you've got an empty box to dump in a recycling bin, please consider flattening it first instead of letting it take up so much space.) I wasn't wearing any gloves, and it was in the teens--which, it turns out, is enough to make any work excruciating after just half a minute or so.

I could find some gloves and go back out, but I think I'll just wait till the garbage collectors come....

Slumdog Millionaire

Last night Sara and I saw "Slumdog Millionaire". Every review mentioned a big dance number at the end, so I was disappointed to find that it was actually just the credits. You can do *anything* in the credits--why did anyone even bother remarking on it? And that meant the song-and-dance was broken up by a credit screen every few seconds.

Oh well, maybe they can get an unedited version on the DVD. And I did like the movie, and the soundtrack.

My vague memory of the three musketeers has Athos, Porthos, and Aramis standing respectively for nobility, wealth, and love, so there was a nice correspondence, at least in the case of the third. Put that way the ending is almost Turandot's.

(I read the three musketeers just in the last year, and am in the middle of Vingt Ans Après right now--but I'm still sticking with the description of my memory as "rough". Maybe partly a consequence of the fact that I mainly read it to fall asleep. It would be a truly fantastic Bollywood movie that would have me making my fortune from my memories of anything.)

Howard Gobioff

Someone from my high school class died last March, and I only noticed today:

I think I'd only seen him one time since high school. He went out for dinner with me and a few others after a reunion event, and I enjoyed talking to him. He was a nice guy, and he seemed to have really taken off after high school. I regret not keeping up with him.

back from holiday

We flew down to Tempe Christmas Eve Eve, flew back to Ann Arbor New Years Eve. Both flights were non-stop and boring as all get-out. The ride to the airport on the way there took almost an hour (as opposed to the usual half-hour) thanks to snow and traffic, but we had nothing to check and still got to the gate about 80 minutes after the shuttle was scheduled to pick us up. The flight left late, but was otherwise normal.

It was a relatively cold winter in Arizona, unfortunately--only the last couple days were really comfortable, and we noticed one day that it was actually colder than Ann Arbor (I guess Michigan had a brief warm spell).

We saw a bunch of Sara's old friends, including Melissa, Shelly, Omo, Bill C., and Faye. Sara's dad brought us along to his band rehearsal one day. The bass player was playing 99% half-notes on open strings, and petting the household cat with her fretting hand much of the time.

Sara's parents have half-adopted some feral cats, which they had fixed, and now feed. Apparently they eat the roof-rats. It's cute to walk out the door at night and see them on the bench next to the front door, all in a heap and staring at you.

Tempe's light-rail system had its grand opening Saturday, the 27th, and we spent some time at the festivities at the Mill and 3rd station. The trains were stuffed with people trying them out (free through the 31st), so we waited till the 31st to try it out--when we used it to get to the airport. So that (or the bus system) may be how we end up getting back and forth from PHX in the future.

Wrapping up, Monsieur Jean

For a while I've been a fan of Dupuy and Berberian's series of comics following the life of a character named Monsieur Jean, but I always wondered whether it was a personal reaction that not everyone would share, especially if they were outside the character's 30-something male demographic. But I was surprised to find how much the other folks at my book group on Thursday liked it. So maybe everyone should give it a try; specifically:

  • Get a Life: english translations in the first three albums, and
  • Maybe Later: an odd sort of making-of story covering the time of the writing of the third album.

We're off to Tempe Tuesday, and trying to get shopping done and a lot of loose ends tied up.

austin, dc

It wasn't really a big decision, but I guess it must of struck me sometime last year that it'd be interesting to try using Amtrak for more of my travel. So I've ended up using it for most of my trips this year.

I took the texas flyer to sc08, spent a week in Austin, and then took the same train back. As usual, the routine is that you take a few hours trip to chicago, change there, then take an overnight train. Unlike the routes that, say, go over the rockies, the train down to Texas isn't especially interesting. Mainly, you see a lot of cattle. It's a trip up the food chain--watch the fields of feed in the midwest, then the cattle in Texas, then visit the barbeque places in Austin.

Then we took the Capitol Limited for a thanksgiving-weekend visit with my parents in Maryland.

I've had fun riding the trains, and I think there's some routes everyone should try once--in addition to the trips through the mountains, the Coast Starlight up the west coast is great. But I don't think they're going to survive as my default mode. It's not the delays (which I can account for), the time required (I can get work done on the train), or the occasional bizarre Amtrak employees (most of them are fine)--it's my inability to get reliable sleep in coach that dooms the whole effort. If there were some routine, drugs, or whatever, that could reliably get me at least 5 or 6 hours of sleep every night, I'd be happy. As it is, sometimes I sleep OK, sometimes (as on the DC trip), hardly at all, and when that happens I lose a day to the recovery.

So for now I'm calling it a fun experiment but I'm probably back to riding once every few years, and flying the rest of the time. Unless sleeping cars suddenly get a lot cheaper.

The DC trip was nice--we got to see some friends from high school and college that I hadn't seen in a while, in addition to the family.

When we came back to Ann Arbor, there was snow on the ground. Winter has come. I wish I could hibernate.

Best birthday present ever

I wasn't sure whether to stay up for the election results, so I consulted facebook, like any good nerd should in 2008, and my sister piped up to say of course I should; "Well, you should at least make it til midnight. What better birthday present?"

There's a brewpub downtown, by the way, the Arbor Brewing Company, which has fine beer (or so I'm told; no connoisseur myself, all I can say is that it tastes like beer), and which also sells its beer in bottles at local stores. A friend got a six-pack at the neighborhood convenience store. And something happened that's happened, oh, maybe half the time we've had bottled ABC beer--it was so impossibly fizzy that it would overflow and make a big mess if you didn't pour very carefully, and it foamed up in your mouth when you tried to drink it, in a way that made it more or less impossible to appreciate. Anyone know what sort of flaw in their process causes this?

Anyway, the solution, I have found, is to pour it out into a separate jar a few hours beforehand, store it in the fridge, and then drink it after the foam's subsided.

So last night I ate dinner, sat around a bit with the web and the radio and a little beer (carefully decanted the night before), heard McCain give a gracious concession speech, then right about midnight when the date flipped over to my birthday (the 5th), got to hear my choice give his victory speech. Just the birthday present I wanted.

Sara also gave me a couple excellent presents tonight, including a nifty cheap-o keychain digital camera with which I expect to take wonderfully bad pictures, my personal specialty.


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