February 2002

Jury duty today

by Michael Alderete on 2/27/2002

Over the weekend I finally got around to opening all the mail that accumulated for me while I was in Europe. Among them was a jury summons. Starting the next day.


Fortunately, I wasn’t required to report in on Monday, just phone in. And then the same for Tuesday. But my number came due last night, and I have to report in this afternoon.

I’m actually interested in serving on a jury. It’s a civic duty, and beyond that, if a “jury of peers” is to have any meaning, all citizens need to participate, not just those with nothing better to do.

God knows I have “better” things to do, with a product launch in two weeks. If only I had read my mail sooner, I could have requested a deferral…until the next horrible time to have jury duty.

I think it’s like a bandaid, you need to just do it, suffer a bit, and then get on track again.

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The last of the independents

by Michael Alderete on 2/25/2002

While in Europe, someone on the trip explained his strategy for coping with jet lag. Get back early, run errands all day, then go to bed at the right local time, exhausted, and be in sync by the next day. He had three events to go to the day of his return.

I had exactly the opposite waiting for me when I got back: a brand new bed.

We’d needed a new mattress for a while, because the ditch in the middle of our existing mattress was driving us nuts (never, ever, ever buy a pillowtop mattress). McRoskey Airflex is a local mattress factory that’s one of the last independents, with a great reputation, and happens to be only a few blocks from our house. We’d been meaning to check them out for nearly two years, and seeing them featured on Martha Stewart was the final straw. We went, we laid down, we bought.

Rochelle took delivery of our brand new mattress and box spring literally the day before I got back. Fortunately we stayed away from the new bed until late in the evening, because sleeping on a McRoskey is like sleeping on a buttered cloud (the only thing better than laying on a cloud is laying on a buttered cloud — everything’s better with butter). We’re having real difficulty doing anything in bed except passing out.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Get your minds out of the gutter!

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Burke and Wells

by Michael Alderete on 2/24/2002

Some new friends of ours have a great web site chronicling their lives. As a couple they go by their last names, Burke & Wells, and that’s how we think of them. To be honest, I don’t think I could come up with their first names at all!

They’ve done an especially good job on a chronology of their visit to France last year. In particular, their description of their dinner at Guy Savoy sent us into a fit of envy and lust.

Rochelle and I will be heading to Paris in September, to experience it for ourselves.

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Hold on, please

by Michael Alderete on 2/24/2002

Steve Rubenstein, of the SF Chronicle, has a great suggestion for making the world a little less pleasant for telemarketers, the kind who call you during dinner.

The basic premise is that telemarketing is cost-effective because most people who are going to say no say it in the first 10 seconds of the call. This lets telemarketers dial as many as a couple hundred numbers an hour. If the “Nos” start slowing them down, by taking a couple minutes, the economics of telemarketing stop working.

How do you do this? When you get a telephone solicitation, say “Hold on, please” (or some variation), set the phone down…and let them wait to figure out you’re not coming back.

You’ll find it personally satisfying if you start doing this yourself, but the key to this technique really working, achieving the global aim of cutting down on telemarketing, is for lots of people to do it.

So, pass it on.

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Cities in Europe

by Michael Alderete on 2/22/2002

While in Europe for two weeks for Persistence, I visited London, Brussels, Paris, and Stockholm. Sounds great, right?

Well, in Brussels I saw the airport, the hotel, the inside of a cab, and the train station (in that order). In Paris I saw the train station, the inside of a cab, a customer site, another cab, and the airport. I ate two meals, breakfast in the hotel in Brussels (horrible), and dinner at the airport in Paris (pretty good, if you can believe it). So I don’t think you could say I had any quality time in those cities.

I did get to spend quite a bit of time in London, and two days in Stockholm. Of course, I was working, not site seeing, so my view of things was limited, but there were things I liked, disliked, or just noticed.

London’s old buildings are dirty, grimy. When Rochelle and I were in Rome they were cleaning the whole city for Jubilee 2000, and so the buildings were all in scaffolding. Which sucked at the time, but I wish London had been doing the same thing, so the place would be sparkly clean today.

In contrast, Stockholm was truly beautiful. Very, very cold, but bright, clean, and wonderful. The old buildings in the city center, in particular, were breathtaking. I would go back to Stockholm, for pleasure.

I will say this about London, the Underground is by far the best public transportation system I’ve ever used. It goes everywhere you want (unlike Muni in SF), it runs well, it’s clean and safe enough. It’s rationally designed, the routes are straightforward and understandable. And all the instructions are in English (I am an ugly, uneducated American, after all).

I ate very good food in both London and Stockholm. It helped in Stockholm that we were taking customers out to dinner so, uh, we had to go somewhere nice. ;-)

Well, that’s all for my morning update. Not much insight, but what do you expect when I’m only half awake?

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Where’s Michael?

by Michael Alderete on 2/22/2002

So, I haven’t been posting because I’ve been bouncing around Europe on a business trip, and I never got around to setting up remote posting on this weblog.

A two-week all expenses paid trip to Europe sounds like a lot of fun, but it wasn’t. “Grueling” is a much more appropriate word. I hope I never take another trip that long; I don’t like being away from my wife, cats, and house at all.

Anyway, I’m back, and mostly recovered from the brainburn, so I expect I’ll be posting regularly once again.

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Looking back at 2001

by Michael Alderete on 2/21/2002

Rochelle and I are both glad that 2001 is over with. It’s not as though a calendar can mark the boundaries of luck or experience, but as much as the date shouldn’t matter, you can’t help summing a year up into a theme. And 2001 sucked for lots of people.

But it wasn’t all bad. Rochelle and I were fortunate to be able to spend almost two months together, 24/7, and come out on the other side having more fun with each other than ever. It’s good to be married to a good partner.

Both Rochelle and I experienced job changes we hadn’t intended, mine because my company died, and Rochelle because her boss wasn’t right for her. Now we’re both in jobs we like better than what we started with last year, and which are overall more financially rewarding to boot.

We replaced the nasty carpets in much of our house with wonderful hardwood floors. The floors bring joy to us every day, and may go down as the best investment we made in 2001 (not that the others were hard to beat).

Inspired by the success of the floors, we got serious about lighting, and replaced five existing lights with 4 “new” (to us) period fixtures (this was the source of my Fun With Electricity postings). The one that gives me the greatest pleasure is in the office, which replaced a ceiling light and a 500-watt halogen lamp, lighting the office about 20% better using half as much electricity.

We also started in on our water closet renovation, but have stalled on that, because we decided that getting all of the excess crap out of our parlor and office was more important. Both of these jobs will be with us through most of 2002, I predict.

We threw or attended some really good parties, the best of which was Rochelle’s birthday, and the most impressive was David’s birthday. (One of these days we’ll get the food photos from that up on our site.)

We took some nice trips, including Mexico, Texas, and LA. We ate a whole lot of good food on those trips, most of which we photographed, and most of which we’re behind on publishing. A resolution for 2002, surely.

I bought a new Mac and transitioned entirely to Mac OS X. This is something which gives me pleasure daily, for a whole lot of reasons, one of which is that it enabled me to start this weblog.

I said goodbye to Tex, whom I miss dearly, but who is certainly living a better, happier life in her new household, where she’s the top kitten, with cat companions she likes, neither of which was true in our house.

Rochelle and I both made tremendous progress on our crap reduction and abatement programs, though we clearly have more to accomplish in 2002 (another resolution).

I’m sure we accomplished many other things we’re happy with in 2001, and my feeble mind can’t remember them. That’s why one of my resolutions for this year is to regularly update this weblog. I’m a little behind at this point…

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“Microsoft security” oxymoron

by Michael Alderete on 2/2/2002

Bruce Schneier is recognized worldwide as an expert in the area of computer security. He puts out a regular newsletter covering current issues, and in the current issue had this to say about Microsoft’s latest “initiative” to improve the security of their products:

Honestly, security experts don’t pick on Microsoft because we have some fundamental dislike for the company. Indeed, Microsoft’s poor products are one of the reasons we’re in business. We pick on them because they’ve done more to harm Internet security than anyone else, because they repeatedly lie to the public about their products’ security, and because they do everything they can to convince people that the problems lie anywhere but inside Microsoft.

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