Burke and Wells

Friends of ours, with a great journal of their journey to France.

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.

Cities in Europe

On my two week tour of duty, I saw four of Europe’s great cities. I have some thoughts.

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?

Where’s Michael?

Why there haven’t been any posts in more than two weeks.

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.

Looking Back at 2001

God knows we’re glad 2001 is over but, in retrospect, it wasn’t all bad.

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…

RTFM

Contrary to popular opinion, reading the manual for a complex device like a digital camera is not hazardous to your health.

In the nearly three years since Rochelle and I got our first digital camera (for our wedding present to each other) the technology has gotten amazingly better. Between that and upgrading to a new Mac that doesn’t have a floppy drive (our Sony Mavica uses a floppy to store and transfer photos), we’ve been wanting to get a new one that would work better with how we take and share photos.

So, last week, after a couple weeks of trying to buy one, we finally managed to find a store with a Canon PowerShot S110 in stock, and bought it. We promptly went out to dinner and tested it out on our meal.

And then I couldn’t get the photos off the damn camera.

Theoretically it was supposed to be easy. Just plug it into my USB port, and iPhoto would open up and import them automatically. This is what we bought the new camera for! Except, after trying a whole lot of different ways to connect the camera, it just didn’t work.

Out of complete desperation, I actually resorted to reading the camera’s manual. And discovered that I needed to put the camera in Playback mode to have the computer see it as a camera.

Doh!

Um, follow the link to see our photos from Bloo

NYE2001: The End – 3

So we got home from the after dinner party fairly early, about 2am, because Rochelle has having some digestive problems, probably from all the rich food we’d been eating. And we pretty much went straight to sleep, only to be woken up around 6am by the rest of our traveling circus returning from the same party.

Rochelle — a morning person — got up and joined the group, still highly-energetic and talky. I never really woke up, and slept a few more hours before being ready to face the day.

With so little time left before Dave and Joyce’s party, no one wanted to go to bed, except Damon, who’d not only been partying with the best of them, but had been cooking for 100 while the rest of us were part of the 100, sitting, drinking, and eating.

Then we went to Dave and Joyce’s, and you know the rest.

What I Bought

What I bought at the Be liquidation auction

So I went to the Be liquidation auction last week, and was the high bidder on a lot of “BeBox chassis.” It was a giant pile of BeBox carcasses, piled high up outside Baron’s old cube.

When I went back the next day to pick up my winnings, in that pile there were 20 computer boxes, 19 BeBoxes and one random PC (a dual-Pentium II system, gutted), plus three miscellaneous 17″ monitors, and some keyboards, and some other junk.

I managed to squeeze 15 BeBoxes and the PC into my Integra hatchback, which was a lot more than I’d expected. I wish I’d managed to fit the other four, though, because when I returned to pick up the rest of the lot, the 4 remaining BeBox carcasses had been swiped. Oh, well, the auctioneers refunded me $55, and 15 carcasses is more than my wife wants in our living room anyway.

Tonight I processed three of the 15. I got two working, and set one aside as probably dead. Of the rest, at least three look like they might be salvageable. My biggest problem is going to be finding RAM for the machines, which use totally obsolete SIMMs.

The individual BeBoxes went for $175 at the auction, and I heard that not all of them worked. After the refund my lot cost $400 + sales tax + auction fees, or around $475. So if I get one more working, I’m ahead.

Not that that makes Rochelle any happier to have them on the floor of the living room.

Falling Into Holes

You would think, after more than three years together, I would know how to avoid the traps Rochelle sets for me. I don’t…

Here’s how it goes. Rochelle digs a hole. She gets on the other side of it from me. Then she says “Come here, honey!”

You would think, after nearly four years together, I would know enough to walk around or step over. But no, she’s smarter than I am, and I keep falling into the holes.

Q: “Honey, what time today should we work on X?”

Right Answer: “Why are we working on X today?”

Right Answer: “Did I commit to X?”

Right Answer: “I don’t want to do X today.”

Right Answer: “I’m working on Y today.”

Right Answer: “Maybe you could do X without me?”

Michael’s Answer: “Uh…2pm?”

NYE 2001: The End – 2

A terrific sushi party hosted by a retired sushi chef, a family tradition for New Year’s Day.

Edith and Damon’s neighbors, Dave and Joyce, are a retired Japanese couple who host an annual New Year’s Day party with their friends and relatives. Dave is a former sushi chef, and wonderful Japanese food is the cuisine (we will put the photos up soon, promise).

We managed to make it across the street around 1pm, with the goal of hanging out before we headed to get the airport to fly home. But the real tradition for this party is for Dave to push sake on the guests. “Kampi!” means “to the bottom,” and is the traditional toast. We heard it a lot at this party, so our plans to be mellow were for naught.

Even more fun, the hosts delighted in giving the women larger Japanese tea cups, while the men got the traditional smaller sake cups — all of which were continuously kept filled. So by the end, in spite of eating a large amount of sashimi and other delights, we were both, uh, very happy, but Rochelle was waaaaay more drunk than I was.

Somehow Damon managed to drive us to the airport (did I mention that Damon is superhuman?), where we were on to our next adventure.

Liquidation of History

Today’s auction of Be Incorporated’s assets is the opportunity to purchase computing history. Unfortunately, the market said they were mostly evolutionary dead-ends.

This morning I’m headed down to Menlo Park, where I worked for three years at Be Incorporated.

It’s been over two years since I left Be, and in the time that’s passed, so has Be. Today they’re just another victim of the economic downturn, and their assets are being auctioned off.

I was at Be during some of the most exciting times, including the first public release of the BeOS, being invested in by Intel, and the public offering.

Be was a special place to work, and BeOS is still unmatched by any other operating system in some areas of functionality and technology. Be, the BeBox, and BeOS have a place in computing history, and it’s a tragedy that it will be as curiosities, evolutionary dead ends, rather than as an important turning point in the computer industry.

I’m headed down to Menlo Park to collect my piece of that history. Some momento of what it was like to work there, what it meant to me, what the company accomplished.

I’m taking the credit card. Don’t tell my wife.

NYE2001: Part 3

Damon, one of our hosts in LA, is superhuman. He cooks us brunch.

Damon, one of our hosts in LA, is superhuman.

After partying until 4:30am, having slept only four hours, he and Edith pick us up at the airport at 9:00am in the morning. We are headed to brunch!

Except, unlike a normal person who would simply be unable to do more than find the nearest Sunday buffet, he drives us to his restaurant, Cinnabar, and he cooks us brunch.

Not any old quick bacon-and-eggs thing, either. A poached egg, on top of seared filets, on top of crostini, with a lobster hollendaise sauce. Two of them. Each. Bacon and really fabulous breakfast potatos on the side.

This was one of the two meals where Rochelle and I simply lost our heads and forgot to take pictures. Which is a tragedy, because these were beautiful plates of food.

Rochelle and Damon cleaned their plates. I ate all of mine, and the rest of Edith’s. I’m a pig.