NYE Open House and Freecycle Party

On New Year’s Eve we had a daytime open house and “freecycle” party. I thought I’d post the invite here, since people told us it was pretty amusing…

I wrote previously about our New Year’s Eve open house and “freecycle” party. I thought I’d post the invite here, since people told us it was pretty amusing…

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What’s Black, Weighs 650 Pounds, and Will Soon Be Crashing Through My Front Door?

You know that “oh shit” moment at the top of a roller coaster, when you’ve just finished the slow climb up, and haven’t really started the first drop. The point where you’d really like to take just a couple seconds to summon your courage, but it’s too late, out of your hands, and carrying you away whether you’re ready or not?

That’s what buying our new stove was like tonight.

You know that “oh shit” moment at the top of a roller coaster, when you’ve just finished the slow climb up, and haven’t really started the first drop. The point where you’d really like to take just a couple seconds to summon your courage, but it’s too late, out of your hands, and carrying you away whether you’re ready or not?

That’s what buying our new stove was like tonight.

Rochelle found a terrific deal on craigslist.org for a used Viking 48″ stove. Six burners and a griddle, two ovens, black finish. Huge is not the word. (Though, actually, it’s only 8″ wider than our existing stove.) It’s a $6,000 stove when new, and not something we even had dreamed of getting, it was so out of our budget range. We went and looked at it Wednesday night, and wrote a check on the spot. Gulp.

Rochelle’s going to see about finding someone to help us with transport and delivery to our house (hopefully it will fit through the front door!). And we’ve got a lot to do in the dining room and kitchen to get ready for it. But things are in motion now, and we’re too committed to stop until it’s done…

“Look out Michael, here comes the kitchen remodel!”

Out with the Old…

On New Year’s Eve, Rochelle and I had a “Freecycle party,” where we put all the things we were getting rid of in our dining room, invited people over, gave them plenty of alcohol, and then told them they could take anything in the pile that they wanted.

On New Year’s Eve, Rochelle and I had a “Freecycle party,” where we put all the things we were getting rid of in our dining room, invited people over, gave them plenty of alcohol, and told them they could take anything they wanted from the pile. The idea being, people would go home with new treasures, we would get rid of a bunch of crap, and whatever didn’t go, we would take to Goodwill the following Sunday.

Except, it was raining Sunday, and for a couple of weeks afterwards. We couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to drag bags and boxes to the car, multiple times, in the rain. So we skipped it.

This weekend we finally took the second car load of stuff to Goodwill, and can at last rearrange the dining room back to a semblance of its normal state. Still one more load to go, but that will definitely happen this week, and then our dining room will be back to normal.

For a couple of days, until we start dragging the entire kitchen in there, to start work on that project

The Abstinence Kitty

Luigi has this alternately amusing, endearing, and irritating desire to sleep in between Rochelle and I. He likes to be the meat in the sandwich. Given that he sleeps on top of the covers, and weighs 18 pounds, it means he essentially separates us into separate compartments of the bed. Almost like a chaperone.

Luigi has this alternately amusing, endearing, and irritating desire to sleep in between Rochelle and I. He likes to be the meat in the sandwich. Given that he sleeps on top of the covers, and weighs 18 pounds, it means he essentially separates us into separate compartments of the bed.

Almost like a chaperone. We’ve taken to calling him the abstinence kitty.

Like I said, alternately endearing, amusing…and irritating. ;-)

Must. Not. Remodel.

It started innocently enough. Rochelle’s mother very generously offered to buy us a new stove, after we complained about our current oven during Thanksgiving. And, if we could have just done that, it would have been a great kitchen improvement that would have cost us almost nothing.

It started innocently enough. Rochelle’s mother very generously offered to buy us a new range, after we complained about our current oven during Thanksgiving. And, if we could have just done that, it would have been a great kitchen improvement that would have cost us almost nothing.

But, we started looking into options, researching in Consumer Reports and in cooking and food resources. Rochelle eventually found this article, A Range of Options, by David Rosengarten, which blew away both the Consumer Reports mantra of low cost, high value appliances, and our gift budget.

But, once you commit to getting a centerpiece-style range, is it even possible to just do that? Not if you’re Rochelle or me.

The next obvious requirement is to get a new stove hood, because we currently have no ventilation in the kitchen, except opening the back door and window. And, well, looking at the wall it would be mounted on, it’s actually a fake wall, built (by the previous owner) to hide the brick chimney behind it. Let’s take that out!

And, when we measure the chimney in the basement, it’s clear we’ll be getting a lot of space back. And when you combine that with the need to conceal the ventilation pipe, you come to the inevitable conclusion that we need new floor-to-ceiling cabinets in that corner.

After doing all of this, is there any doubt that we’ll need to paint the entire room afterwards? Especially since we’ve been planning to take the over-sink cabinets off the wall for over a year? And that horrible fake tile siding that lines the lower half of most of the room?

And these are the plans we haven’t quashed. Because taking the cabinets off the wall is really the first of many things that should happen to that side of the room.

But, since we’re not really remodeling, those will have to wait. Hopefully…

2004 in Review

2004 was a decent year for us, and as always (at least since I started this blog), I like to take a few moments to reflect on some of the important things that happened.

2004 was a decent year for us, and as always (at least since I started this weblog), I like to take a few moments to reflect on some of the important things that happened.

For me, the thing that dominated the year was my new “job” as a consultant. I’d done some consulting before, but in 2004 I managed to string together almost an entire year of work. Mostly half-time, so it wasn’t quite the income I would have liked, but I was able to pay the bills, and that’s pretty amazing. Really, all the credit goes to my primary client, Nicely Done Solutions, where the majority of my work comes from. They’ve kept me busy, and I hope to keep doing work through them for some time.

That dominated my day-to-day, but my biggest accomplishment in 2004 was my five year wedding anniversary with Rochelle. We have many more of those in our future, if we can both resist the temptation of butter.

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Sleep is Sacred

I enjoyed the (fairly long) article Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sleep (But Were Too Afraid To Ask). The author works in the Seven Deadly Sins, the 2004 presidential election, and Chernobyl, among other things, with current scientific research and understanding of sleep. There’s also some really good hints on how to optimize your sleeping patterns.

I enjoyed the (fairly long) article Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sleep (But Were Too Afraid To Ask). The author works in the Seven Deadly Sins, the 2004 presidential election, and Chernobyl, among other things, with current scientific research and understanding of sleep. There’s also some really good hints on how to optimize your sleeping patterns. (The guy is apparently a biologist working in sleep research.)

I especially enjoyed this quotation:

Waking a person unnecessarily should not be considered a capital crime. For a first offense, that is.

Possibly this will save my Saturday mornings from Rochelle’s depredations. (I am an owl, Rochelle is a lark.)

Anyway, it’s longish article, but some sections with considerable scientific detail are easily skipped, and overall pretty interesting.

Personal Survey of Anti-spam Tools

In the three or four years I’ve been fighting unwanted e-mail messages with better tools than the Delete key I’ve tried almost a dozen different tools. This is a quick survey of the ones I’ve used, and why I don’t (or do) still use them.

In the three or four years I’ve been fighting unwanted e-mail messages with better tools than the Delete key I’ve tried almost a dozen different tools. This is a quick (ha!) survey of the ones I’ve used, and why I don’t (or do) still use them.

My very first anti-spam tool was something called Mailfilter. I used it for my personal e-mail on Mac OS X, wrote about it here, and almost immediately afterwards lost a non-spam message to an aggressive keyword match. That was the end of Mailfilter. I can’t even remotely recommend it, as it’s just not intelligent enough (strict, single expression matching), and had zero safety net.

My next attempt at a solution was a utility called SpamFire. Like Mailfilter, it is a “pre-filter,” which means it would run before my e-mail client, download my mail, and skim out the spam. Unlike Mailfilter, it actually saved the trapped messages, so if it made a mistake, I could recover the message. It had plenty of other differences from Mailfilter, which I wrote about previously, and which made it so useful that it became the first anti-spam tool I paid for. But in the end I switched to a different tool because SpamFire was separate from my e-mail client, and that made it cumbersome to use.

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The Paris Spreadsheet

Mentioned in the lead paragraph of that NYTimes article is the spreadsheet which Rochelle put together prior to our trip to France in 2002. Since publication we’ve actually had people inquire about getting access to it, so I thought I’d put it online. Some background will help you make the most of it.

Mentioned in the lead paragraph of that NYTimes article is the spreadsheet which Rochelle put together prior to our trip to France in 2002. Since publication we’ve actually had people inquire about getting access to it, so I thought I’d put it online. If you’re impatient, you can find a download link toward the end of this story. But some background will help you make the most of it.

Rochelle created the spreadsheet in an attempt to duplicate the really amazing experience she had using Vindigo on her Palm handheld when visiting New York City in May 2002. She did a lot of pre-trip research, and entered addresses and venues of interest into Vindigo. Then, while in NYC, she was able to tell Vindigo where she was, and get a list of places within walking distance, along with step-by-step directions for getting there. It made her touring the city (while I was locked in business meetings) efficient and fun, while still allowing for serendipity to influence where she went.

However, there is no Vindigo for Paris, or for any city in France. So we set out to try to duplicate the most essential features, by tying every location of interest to the nearest Metro stop and its arrondissement. We thought that this would let us figure out where we were, and then find interesting places nearby. In the end, it was only partially successful for us.

We had the most fun when we used it at the beginning and middle of the day, during breakfast and lunch, to plan where we would spend the rest of the morning or afternoon. When we tried to use it to follow whim after whim, which Vindigo had done successfully, we ended up pretty frustrated.

The other thing that didn’t work out the way we envisioned was the Palm version of the spreadsheet. We managed to download the data into Rochelle’s Palm, and use a micro database called JFile to be able to search and sort it, etc. But without a lot of additional development, having just the table of data was simply too hard to use on a Palm screen, it’s just not wide enough. With a search engine, hand-crafted results and detail pages, cross references, etc., the electronic version could have been pretty good…but even if I had put 20 hours into it, it would still have been nowhere near as good as Vindigo.

In the end, the printout of the spreadsheet was a tremendously valuable tool for us, and we’d never have seen as many cool places without it. And even if Vindigo had covered Paris, we’d still have wanted to pore through all the guidebooks and websites that Rochelle found. We would never have depended on Vindigo’s content. But having Vindigo to organize our own content by precise location, instead of rough chunks, would have been pretty darn cool.

Anyway, the spreadsheet was put together prior to our trip to France in October 2002; some things are now surely out of date. We’ve made no attempt to clean up Rochelle’s unique annotations and categorizations (Rochelle is an information organization specialist), which will likely be meaningless to you. And you don’t get our copies of the guidebooks, where were marked up and bookmarked with color-coded flags, and cross-referenced in the spreadsheet; we used those constantly, too. But if you still think it might be useful to you, here’s the spreadsheet.

Last note: this only covers half our trip, the time we spent in Paris. We also spent a lot of time in the Champagne region. We didn’t make a spreadsheet for that part of the trip, which (except for our first hotel and one meal) was entirely unscripted. Instead some photos and some weblog entries may give you some useful information about that.

Enjoy France!

Quoted in the New York Times

Rochelle and I were quoted in the New York Times again, this time in the Sunday magazine, in a travel article about people who base their vacations around food, so-called “gastronauts.”

Rochelle and I were quoted in the New York Times again, this time in the travel section, an article about people who base their vacations around food, so-called “gastronauts.” It’s a fun article to read; better do so quickly, before the story disappears behind the for-pay firewall.

It looks like the story might have gotten chopped up a bit in editing, because I am a San Francisco-based software developer, not LA-based. And, while the Klausners may also have done so, I know we told the reporter about our trip to Chicago to eat at Charlie Trotter’s, which turned into a week-long eating binge though much of Chicago’s best-rated food establishments. (Our vacation eating focus is much less high-end these days.)

If I was going to offer once piece of advice to other food enthusiasts who were going to plan a vacation around that passion it would be this: walk everywhere you can. There’s no way you can put everything of interest in a spreadsheet before you get on the plane; walking will take you past things you could not possibly have planned for. And if nothing else, it’ll keep you from gaining too much weight while you’re eating your way through the local food scene.

I Might Be a Crank, But I’m Not Alone

I wrote before about “downgrading” to a slower hard disk, just because it made less noise than the fast disk it replaced. I also spent a lot of time researching parts and putting together two PCs from nearly silent components, just to replace my old server and Rochelle’s aging — and incredibly noisy — PC.

After doing all of that, the noisiest item in the office was once again my Mac, which lost the title when I took out the noisy hard disk, but had a couple of fans that were quite a bit louder than the now-very-quiet fans in the two PCs.

I wrote before about “downgrading” to a slower hard disk, just because it made less noise than the fast disk it replaced. I also spent a lot of time researching parts and putting together two PCs from nearly silent components, just to replace my old server and Rochelle’s aging — and incredibly noisy — PC.

After doing all of that, the noisiest item in the office was once again my Mac, which lost the title when I took out the noisy hard disk, but had a couple of fans that were quite a bit louder than the now-very-quiet fans in the two PCs.

When I got my new girlfriend, that noise went away. My PowerBook is normally completely silent, because laptops run cooler than desktops and the aluminum case dissipates heat extremely well. There is a fan, and it makes noise when it’s on, but that’s only when the CPU is really crunching. Now, although they are pretty quiet, the server and Rochelle’s PC are again the noisy items in the office.

It’s really not a lot of noise. A quiet radio or a conversation would cover it, as does the street noise most of the time. But, it’s still there, and since I’m most efficient at night, when everything else gets quiet, it’s starting to be annoying. Which is crazy, because 6 months ago the reduced noise level from those systems made me ecstatic.

I’ve realized that I’m becoming a crank, someone obsessed with something most people find trivial, and I’m sure I will ultimately go mad trying to squeeze that last decibel or two out of the office. My only consolation is that I am not alone, and it’s now possible to find plenty of components, and even whole systems, that make computing quiet.