mr_cellaneous: (Default)
So I was on this twelve-hour flight the other day, and I got bored and wrote some things...
  • Twelve and a half hours ago I stepped onto a shuttle bus in front of my house. Nine hours ago I walked down a jetway at the San Francisco airport. At this moment I'm about seven miles away, vertically, from Siberia. In another three hours I'll be on the ground in Beijing, China. Once in a while, at moments like this, I step back and remember how epically weird modern life is.

  • The project I've been working on part-time for the past year, and full-time since January, is called BIND 10; it's a total from-the-ground-up rewrite of BIND 9, and it's a pretty big deal for the company. The team I'm working with consists of a half dozen ISC people plus five engineers on loan from companies that are sponsoring the project: two from JPRS in Japan, three from CNNIC in China. Every six months we've gotten the whole team together at ISC's headquarters in Redwood City for a week of design meetings and coding. But this time, CNNIC invited us to hold the meeting at their offices in Beijing instead, and we said yes; oddly enough, it turned out it wasn't much more expensive to fly everyone to Beijing than to fly everyone to Redwood City.

    It's going to be my first time in Asia. (Hmm. Should I use the future tense, there? Am I "in Asia" already, seven miles above Siberia-or-maybe-it's-northeastern-China-by-now? Well, either way, the airplane cabin doesn't look any different, so I'll leave the philosophical question unanswered and the tense unchanged.)

  • I gotta remember this "having an airport shuttle pick me up at my house" trick. Least stressful trip to the airport evar.

  • I was seriously dreading the 12.5-hour flight in economy class, but I gotta say, so far it's been quite nice. Partly because of my friend and colleague [ profile] roshismomma, who's sitting next to me, making conversation possible when she isn't asleep. But also because the gate agent, bless her, offered us exit-row seats, which turn out to be THE place to be on a 747. The people in "economy plus" paid $200 extra bucks each for five more inches of legroom. Meanwhile, I can't reach the seats in front of me without getting up and walking over to them.

    I really have no idea why these seats weren't occupied already--nor why there's an empty seat between the two of us, on a flight that's nearlyfull. I'm sacrificing my next little-tiny-bag-of-pretzels as an offering of thanks to the airline gods.

    That said, getting to Beijing and landing would be very nice. Really, any time would be fine. Now's good.

  • Harking back to that philosophical question: I may not be "in Asia" yet, but I've looked out the window and seen Asia, which is kind of cool. A few hours ago I looked out at Alaska, bringing to 49 the number of states I've looked at.

  • Airplane food reviews: The Salisbury steak with ketchup was as good as it sounds, attractively plated on a recyclable black tray with accents of reconstituted mashed potatoes, followed by a brownie delightfully wrapped in two layers of plastic, and served with a fine Chardonnay, in the "enh, it's fine" sense of the word. I'm fairly sure the point of the latter was its tranquilizing effect, and it met this requirement admirably. The snack, a half sandwich of pressed turkey and American cheese on dry Wonder bread, left a little bit to be desired, so I sent it back and accepted a Cup o' Noodles instead. It was notable for being the first time a flight attendant has ever given me a pair of chopsticks to eat with.

  • Yep, definitely over China now. Hi, China.

  • Airplane movie reviews: We started with some Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker piece of crap about an couple of New York sophisticates in the process of getting a divorce from each other who witness a murder and are forced to enter the witness relocation program which requires them to live together in a hick town in the boondocks full of colorful people, where they complain about the quality of the bagels and pizza until the homespun values of the simple country folk blah blah blah I've seen this movie with different actors 96 other times and it was lame then too. We ended with a Robert De Niro/Drew Barrymore thing about a retired dad and his grown kids that's probably just fine but totally failed to grab me. In the middle were The Young Victoria and Fantastic Mr. Fox, both of which I liked a lot.

  • I don't believe I've ever succeeded in sleeping on an airplane. I'll probably have been up for over 24 hours before I sleep. I used to do that all the time in college, so this should be totally easy.

  • The odd thing, though, is that it doesn't feel at all like I've been up a full day. It's this weird kind of lost time. Maybe it's just because it's still daylight outside? (In fact, by the sun, it's only an hour or so later than it was when we left.) It's been a very long flight and I'm quite tired, but at the same time it's extraordinarily hard to get my mind around the idea that W and B have spent a full day together and B's bedtime was a couple of hours ago. I feel like I should be able to call them when I get off the plane and hear that they've just gotten home from the gym. Round planets are weird.

...and then they brought some more snacks and then the plane landed and then I rode in a taxi through Beijing for half an hour or so and then I went to dinner and then I slept, and then I spent several days going to business meetings and fancy dinners. I've scribbled a bunch of notes about it but will post them later.
mr_cellaneous: (Default)
You've been driving since you were 15. Your parents taught you the basic rules of the road and how to avoid driving into stuff, and since then you've figured out the rest of it yourself. You don't think of yourself as a great driver or anything, but you can get around town okay.

Then one day, on a lark, you decide it might be interesting to find out what a professional driving instructor could teach you. So you ask one, and he says, "Sure, hop in. But before we start, I'm kinda hungry for lunch. Want a join me? I know this great Ethiopian place downtown."

You're confused, and you tell him so. "There's no Ethiopian place downtown. This town only has Tex-Mex."

He looks at you funny. "Well, sure," he says with a laugh and a quizzical expression, "if you only use the pedals and the steering wheel. To get to the Ethiopian places, you have to drive in hinklezorbian mode." Then he cocks his head sideways, puts one hand on the power window control and the other on the radio tuner, and the car turns in a direction you didn't know was there and suddenly there are all these other streets you can drive on.

You watch him with something akin to alarm, thinking about how long it took you to get used to driving the car the regular way, and you ask him if this hinklezorbian mode is the main thing he was going to be teaching you. "Well, of course there's also grandoobian mode," he says, adjusting his seat elevation to shift gears. "You still use the pedals for that one, but you use them to steer. It takes a little while to get used to, but it's great if you like Dim Sum."

That's what guitar lessons are like.
mr_cellaneous: (Default)
Something I never ever imagined I would hear anyone say:

“Those protests on the U.C. campuses were the tipping point,” the governor’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, said in an interview after the speech. “Our university system is going to get the support it deserves."

Seriously. What? I mean, high fives all around and everything, but... what?!
mr_cellaneous: (Default)
Putting on the suit and tie and dressy shoes at the beginning of the wedding: uncomfortable, like always.

Drink eight or nine glasses of champagne at the reception, and it feels like a second skin.

I speculate this is why all those Mad Men guys drink so much.
mr_cellaneous: (cat)
Paul: I think of enthusiasm as the opposite of coolness, and adolescence is a turning point for this. Children are all enthusiastic, they're into what they're into, and it's great and they love it. But then something happens, and suddenly some of the kids start looking down on that enthusiasm and seeing it as immature or dorky. So they invent coolness as an alternative. I always gravitated away from that because I was interested in too many things.

Adam Savage: Yes, and enthusiasm also makes you vulnerable. When you like something, someone can take it away from you. I once gave a sculpture to some friends as a wedding present, and they turned it down. That was really upsetting to me. And that vulnerability itself is also embarrassing. The two emotions are deeply linked, which is why people try not to cry in public.
mr_cellaneous: (Default)
It's so cute when they ululate insanely beneath the cold, uncaring stars, driven into shrill and unholy madness by the knowledge of Things That Preschoolers Were Not Meant To Know. Ia! Rainbow-Brite! Sparkly Pony of the forest with a thousand young! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Thomas the Tank Engine wgah'nagl fhtagn! Dead Rl'yeh Lego Playset lies sleeping, its loathsomely non-Euclidian angles disassembled into hideous bumpy components, but when the stars are right it will be built anew and Cthulhu Finger Puppet will arise to feed upon the souls of the Fisher Price people!! Ia! Fhtagn! AAAAIIIII!!!
mr_cellaneous: (Default)
"Hey, where's my phone? I'd better call Willa and ask her to look for it... hey, where's my phone?"
mr_cellaneous: (me)
1) 16 hours of driving for 9 hours at Disneyland is actually not quite as good a trade as I remember thinking it was when I was 23.

2) The thing they do now of turning the Haunted Mansion into a Nightmare Before Christmas ride during the holiday months isn't exactly terrible, but... no, I take that back, yes it is, it's terrible. Guys, if you want a ride based on that movie, make one. Don't spray graffiti on the fucking Mona Lisa. Even if it's reasonably good graffiti--and it is--it is not okay.

3) However, I quite liked most of the changes to Pirates of the Caribbean, and Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters rocked.

4) A thousand thanks to Disney guest services for offering autistic kids the option of bypassing most of the lines. I feel a little guilty for taking advantage of it in a way, because lord knows you don't have to be autistic to be stressed out by crowds and noise and long boring waits... but oh, it was such a huge help.

5) The birthday button they gave Ben to wear, prompting every cast member (and quite a few random pasesers-by) to wish him a happy birthday and the New Orleans Square jazz band to sing to him: A very nice touch.

6) I was going to say here that eight years old turns out to be little too young to really appreciate Disneyland. And this shouldn't be surprising, as I remember my own first visit--at about the same age--being of mixed success, marked by whining and meltdowns. But I didn't remember this until later, and so it did take me by surprise when Ben thoroughly enjoyed the first few rides and then announced he'd had enough of Disneyland and would like to leave now... which is an idea that works fine when it's the Boardwalk and we only drove five minutes to get there and didn't pay $144 for tickets to get in, but doesn't work nearly so well when the parents have invested a lot in the trip, besides which they love the place and want to go ride the other 30 rides right now please. So there was some Conflict, and some Tiredness, and some Whining, and some more Conflict, and I was worried that he'd remember it mostly as a big overwhelming stressful experience. But then I asked him about it just now and was dreamily informed that "Disneyland was amaaaaaazing", so I guess the lesson is: Eight years old is enough to appreciate the place on an eight-year-old level. And hooray for that.
mr_cellaneous: (me)
So yesterday I went shopping with my friend A, who works at a big-box store (she'd offered to get me her employee discount for Ben's birthday present). It was awesome. Like having a high-powered Retail Attorney.

Cashier: "Okay, will that be all--"
A: "He also wants to apply for a store card."
C: "Oh, um, sure, the debit card or the--"
A: "The credit card. The one with the 10% discount."
C: "Right. Um, can I see your driver's license?" [scans it through a machine]
A: "You scanned that the wrong way. Enter this code first..."

Afterward, I gave her a lift to The Gap, because she had a $50 gift card and wanted to convert it to cash.

A: [approaching counter] "Hi! First of all, I want to apologize for what I'm about to do to you. What is your system's limit for cashing out gift cards?"
Gap cashier: "Up to $5, we can exchange a gift card for cash."
A: "Okay. California state law actually requires that to be $9.99 or less, but never mind." [produces gift card] "I'd like to buy ten gift cards, please."

I love watching competent people at work.
mr_cellaneous: (Default)
1) One dining table, solid oak, 50 years old, with leaves and six matching chairs, $150 at a garage sale down the street 'cause the finish was wrecked.
2) One can of of Restore-a-Finish and one bottle of orange-oil/wax, plus assorted rags and #0000 steel wool, ~$20.

Result, photographed halfway through the process:
mr_cellaneous: (me)
"So, Ben, I was curious about something. Last week at school, did they show you a speech from the president?"

"Yeah, they did."

"What did you think about that?"

"It was okay. Some parts were boring, but some parts were funny. Like, when he talked about 'not spending every waking hour in front of the TV and the Xbox,' that was funny. And the part about, 'Sometimes I'd fall asleep right there on the kitchen table,' that was really funny."

"Cool. So did it make you want to smash the state or turn the means of production over to the workers?"

". . . what?"
mr_cellaneous: (Default)
Yellowstone awesome. iPod hard to type on, so not going to be verbose.

Crowning moment of cool: Being at Old Faithful, calling Willa, and her looking at the Old Faithful webcam and seeing us.

Also: Mindblowing sunset photography along the Madison River.

More when I have a real keyboard again.
mr_cellaneous: (me)
Adventure #1: World's most incompetent server at the Noah's Bagels in Terminal C of the San Jose Airport. This was pretty minor as adventures go, roughly on par with Bilbo Baggins forgetting his pocket handkerchiefs, but it counts. Seriously: really incompetent. There were, like, eight cents in the tip jar. I'm guessing she put them there herself, and I kinda wish I'd taken them. (Side note: WTF is up with the Firefox spell-checker being fine with the word "Bilbo" but underlining "Baggins" in red? Doesn't knowing the one imply knowledge of the other? But, I digress.)

Adventure #2: Waiting on the tarmac in San Jose while they fixed a fuel gauge on the jet. Again, fairly minor, except for the whining 7yo I stoically endured.

Adventure #3: Arriving in Denver 45 minutes late due to Adventure #2, which was exactly long enough for our connecting flight to Billings to leave without us. Being told by a flight attendant that I would be automatically booked on the next flight to Billings, then finding no flight to Billings listed on the departure board at the airport.

Adventure #4: Contacting the airline and learning that there was one more flight out, leaving three hours later.

Adventure #5: Killing three hours at DIA. Ben's always adored riding escalators for fun, but now, now, he has discovered the seductive charms of moving sidewalks. Lots of typically overpriced airport concourse fast food was also consumed, and a couple of chapters of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince read aloud. (Another side note: WTF is up with airport concourses that look like shopping malls? I mean, I get the crappy newsstands with magazines and Grisham novels and overpriced bottled water and candy bars; people on the airplane need empty calories both literal and metaphorical, and it's not like you can bring in your own damn water anymore. And I get the McDonald's with the $8 Big Macs; you're in an airport, you get hungry, what are you gonna do--leave?--so you pay out the butt for garbage food. And I also get the touristy souvenir shops and jewelry shops, for weary travelers returning home and realizing at the last minute they forgot to buy presents for their spouses and offspring; I have made use of such facilities myself on occasion. But, seriously. Who goes to an airport and tries on evening gowns? Who shops for a Harley-Davidson while waiting for a connecting flight to Omaha?)

Adventure #6: After arriving safe and sound at my mom and sister's house in Laurel, Montana, and sleeping late this morning, a family picnic at Pompey's Pillar National Monument. It's a honkin' big rock that William Clark graffitied in 1806 on his way to Oregon with Lewis and Sacajawea and her baby son, whose nickname was "Pompey". You can climb to the top of the rock, a few hundred feet up, and get a magnificent view of the fields all around, the Yellowstone River flowing by, mountains off in the distance, and infinitely-receding waves of spectacular clouds in the sky. You share this experience with a couple of park rangers and about a dozen tourists. I love how unpretentious national monuments are, and yet how fine. Thankya to President Clinton for designating this place as one three days before the end of his term.

I climbed the rock twice, once with my 84-year-old mom, once with Ben. He climbed it three times, two of them all by himself, and he fell asleep in the car on the way home.

Tomorrow: Yellowstone.
mr_cellaneous: (Default)
Sitting at the SJC gate waiting to fly to Montana with my kid. Adventure time!
mr_cellaneous: (me)
While putting on his knee- and elbow-pads to go skateboarding: "I don't know if they used a lot of Velcro to make these, or if they just used a lot of whatever-it-is that Velcro is a brand name for."
mr_cellaneous: (Default)

Even though I know it must have been horribly traumatic for you when my seven-year-old boy had the sheer gall to burp while walking past you on the sidewalk, and even though he failed to show any remorse for committing this dread crime, it was perhaps just a tiny bit inappropriate for you to follow us into the bank and harass him while I was busy with the teller and unaware of what was going on. Furthermore, when you told him, and then repeated to me, that it was, quote, "the rudest thing any child has ever done in [your] presence," I can't help wondering if that might have have been an eensy little bit of an exaggeration. And your sarcastic remarks about my parenting, and your continued insistence that you were owed an apology after I had explained to you that he's autistic and has difficulty with social niceties when he's under stress--and after he'd started yelling incoherently--were, I can't help thinking, maybe just a little excessive as well.

To sum up: fuck the living fuck out of you, you insufferable cow. The rudest thing any child has ever done to you? I wish I'd given him some more ideas.

Die painfully,

mr_cellaneous: (Default)
"This is not complicated. For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it."
- George Will, 16 April 2009

Sartorial good taste
mr_cellaneous: (me)
Culmination of a couple of years' effort:

mr_cellaneous: (Default)
Willa read Ben his horoscope just now.

Ben: "Really?? The newspaper is true?"
mr_cellaneous: (me)
Last full day I'm at IETF; tomorrow I check out and go home. Up til 3 o'clock last night nerdgassing with co-workers about the fate of the internet. Up at 8 o'clock this morning for a breakfast meeting with some engineers about DNSSEC tools. Tired today.

  • After breakfast, having nothing on my schedule until 3PM and figuring a nap would just make me groggy, I invited my friend-and-colleague Michael to go for a walk with me, and a Muni ride later we were in Golden Gate Park. Strybing Arboretum, Stow Lake, Huntington Falls, Strawberry Hill, Music Concourse, Lloyd Lake, and then back downtown on the 5 Fulton. Gorgeous day. I'm glad to live in Santa Cruz now, but what a joy to be able to visit these places.

  • It's interesting to me that twenty-odd years after moving away from San Francisco I can still feel my way around the place on instinct. Strange, to know a place intimately without remembering anymore how I acquired the knowledge. I'd find it a little disorienting except that it's, you know, orienting.

  • Lengthy and productive meetings about future BIND development were followed by a group trip to Tommy's Joynt for buffalo stew. Kind of a dive (I saw the server reject two plates for being too dirty before finding one clean enough to serve my food), but it tasted good.

    If there's a difference between buffalo and beef, though, I can't tell what it is.

Really ought to sleep now. Home tomorrow!
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