155 Pieces

The moving truck arrived today and whisked away all the material manifestations of my existence. Ok, not quite all of my worldly possessions... I still have my laptop, a suitcase of clothing, my net connection, a few tools, and my Calphalon pans... you know, the vital stuff.

I was stuck waiting for a few hours in the morning--their truck had some problems, according to the call I received from dispatch. When they arrived, the movers walked in, looked at the pile, and said, "Woo, boy..." However, the move went relatively smoothly and painlessly. I helped stage everything to the room right next to the stairs, as they moved things out to the truck. Also, there were only two movers (and the boss was doing paperwork half the time), so I helped haul some of the heavier items to the truck.

I know that a lot of folks would have the attitude, "Dude, you're paying them to move your stuff... why are you lugging crap around for them?" First, I have an immense amount of guilt in my persona--I find it difficult to idly watch others work while knowing that I could help. Second, I figure that making their lives easier is a Good Karma thing--I've had enough jobs lower down on the food chain (elementary school janitor, maintenance worker at an office park) that I know what it's like to be bossed around from up on high. Finally, these are people who will be in a good position to move your dishes to the truck via shot put techniques--it's probably a really good idea not to piss them off. Therefore the tip, and the promise of a case of Bud on the far end.

After these two moves in 2.5 years, I have decided that I need to make everything I own transportable by one person, including up & down stairs. Most of the furniture I own can be broken down into pieces. My dressers are an exception--I'm planning on switching to wire baskets on a rack, in a walk-in closet. Also, my 27" TV is a bit of a bear--probably worth switching to an LCD projector one of these days.

As for the title of this post, it turns out that I had 155 items/pieces--they tag them with numbered labels to track an order.

Damn. I'd guessed 75-100... I figure that having a good grasp on what you own, every once in a while, is a good idea.

If you're wondering, this is my trick for carrying several pipe wrenches with one hand--it's a U-bolt and a short length of garden hose as a handle. You need at least two pipe wrenches to fit iron pipe (to torque against each other); the fourth piece is a chunk of pipe used as a "cheater bar."


5... 4... 3... 2...

I'm pretty much packed up at this point, except for a few things I'm keeping out until the last minute (desktop machine, microwave oven, toaster oven). The movers are showing up tomorrow morning. I have a 15' x 10' x 6' tall pile of boxes and furniture in the living room.

Incidentally, I am entering the "fridge points bonus round" (like I did when I left Boston). So... with these ingredients...

I could make something like... um... veggie puck korma?

Hrm... not something I'd want to repeat. But at least it was better than unagi korma...

The plan, incidentally, is to drive from KW to Ithaca on Friday, and Ithaca to Boston on Saturday. I have a few random wrap-up items to keep me busy this week.


Have Tape Gun, Will Travel

Just to keep everyone updated: I'm currently in the throes of packing up for my move stateside. It's going relatively well--taking plenty of breaks and being somewhat inefficient, but I think I'll be ready for the moving truck arrival next Tuesday. I'd like to get a lot cleared out of the bedroom by Sunday, because R. will be moving in some of her furniture then.

A few notes on moving: tape guns rock; access to sheets of expanded polystyrene foam (the white beadboard coffee cup foam) and dumpsters full of cardboard is incredibly useful for packing; disposable styrofoam shipping coolers (like they use for sending frozen steaks packed in dry ice) are incredibly useful for packaging glassware; rolls of mover's stretch wrap is great stuff for wrapping furniture, and keeping all the packing material from from my September 2004 move was incredibly important (the box below is on its way back to the US, as well as "Up, up, up with people!")


Chicago Trip, and A Rant on Sprawl

My trip to Chicago this week was to remove my data logging equipment from the basement that is one of my thesis research sites. Incidentally, the trip went well: I got everything done, didn't have to work insane hours, and got to soak in a hot tub at the end of the day. Also, I gained a good chunk of knowledge-- disassembling my walls provided several, "Ok, now that result makes sense!" moments.

But this feels a bit like the end of an era—not just that am I finishing up my thesis soon, but I’ve been coming to this site roughly every six months since mid 2003 (8 times, total). I’ve gotten pretty familiar with the area—the Home Depot, the FedEx shipping center, the local brewpub. As a result, I’ve seen this area develop over time—it’s classic insta-town sprawl, with farmers’ fields getting plowed under for new subdivisions in every direction, interspersed with strip malls and big box power centers. There’s nowhere to walk to from my test house—for instance, I’d have to drive for 5 minutes or more just to get to the corner Seven-Eleven.

While taking a break, I stood back from the house, and thought to myself, “This is exactly the life that I would never want to have… getting in your car every day, a fifty-minutes-from-the-city-without-traffic location, mowing your lawn, spending your evenings in your oversized vinyl-sided nesting cocoon.” Admittedly, this development is primarily a retirement community… but personally I’d want to do that much more stuff in a city when I had time during retirement. I’d exclaim that I can’t understand why people want to live in places like this, but actually, I do understand. Good schools, the acceptance of car culture and crazy-long commutes as the natural way of life since the 1950’s, cheap oil, the need to have a lawn, risk of crime (and/or perception of risk), the inflation of the size of the American house, the disdain for apartment/condominium living, the profitability of greenfield building (i.e., plowing under farmland, as opposed to brownfield development)—all of these are factors.

Also, I understand why sprawl gets built—it just makes economic sense:

[a partner in a new urbanism consulting company] has thought a lot about how the industry works, and he has concluded that sprawl is extremely attractive to the industry, because the kind of development it involves is simple and standardized -- so standardized that it is sometimes hard to tell from the highway whether one is in Minneapolis or Dallas or Charlotte. These cookie-cutter projects are easy to finance, easy to build, and easy to manage. Builders like the predictability of sprawl. They know how much a big parking lot is worth, but they aren't sure how to value amenities in older communities, such as density, walkability, and an interesting streetscape.

From “Divided We Sprawl” The Atlantic Monthly, December 1999

I’m afraid that all that my reading on the subject (including James Howard Kunstler, Witold Rybczynski, The Field Guide to Sprawl) has done is heightened my annoyance and despair at everything I see when I drive around these new suburbs.

There were some classic sprawl moments. For instance, driving back to my hotel at rush hour, I saw traffic jammed up coming the other way, as folks were heading back to the residential side of town. This is what happens when two-lane country roads get traffic lights installed above them and pressed into service as the main access for multiple subdivisions’ worth of cars. As another example, I decided to walk from my hotel to the brewpub. It was one of the more inhospitable walks I have done—three quarters of a mile through the parking lots of Home Depot, a supermarket, and a defunct K-Mart. What amused me was that on my way back, I could recognize my footprints in the snow on the way in—because nobody else was crazy enough to do a walk like that.

Okay, so obviously, I don’t have to live in suburban sprawl, and plenty of people are happy with this life. As described by Rybczynski: Oscar Newman wrote in Community of Interest (1980) that "architects and architectural historians have been damning the suburban tract development since the 1930s, but social scientists and realtors will tell you that tract houses continue to be the most sought after and the most successful form of moderate-and middle-income housing ever built." The success of the tract house is one reason that cities have been losing people to suburbs. So what’s my problem?

First, there’s the central thesis of Kunstler’s work—the pattern of automobile-dependent development has occurred due to the availability of cheap oil/cheap transportation. As fuel becomes more expensive, this “non-negotiable American way of life,” might become untenable—he describes visions of suburban ghost towns in this future. Also, there are the environmental impacts for this type of development—transportation fuel, space conditioning of oversized houses, runoff from lawn fertilizer, etc. There are the health effects of sprawl--I know that I shed a bunch of pounds when I swapped my 45-minutes-each-direction drive (due to my employer having their office out on 495) with a daily 20-minute-each-direction walk. Finally, what really annoys me is that the tax system is set up to essentially favor greenfield development—so ultimately, my tax dollars are sustaining a system I think of as the wrong path:

What is less well known -- in fact, is just beginning to be understood -- is how federal, state, and local policies on spending, taxes, and regulation boost the allure of the suburbs and put the cities at a systematic, relentless disadvantage. People are not exactly duped into living in detached houses amid lush lawns, peaceful streets, and good schools. Still, it is undeniable that government policies make suburbs somewhat more attractive and affordable than they might otherwise be, and make cities less so.

From “Divided We Sprawl” The Atlantic Monthly, December 1999

In contrast, I drove in for dinner one evening in Edison Park, a neighborhood close to O’Hare. I believe it started out as an independent town/village that was annexed by Chicago, so it developed organically, with a downtown corridor. It is within Chicago commuter rail range. It has an urban flavor, but there are modest single-family or duplex houses with small lawns off of the main street with commercial development. You can actually walk somewhere useful, but the residential streets are pretty quiet. I had dinner at an Italian restaurant, and I had a general feeling of happiness and satisfaction. I don’t think the food was exceptional—I’ll admit I’ve had both worse and better Italian in assorted suburban restaurants. The décor was more authentic—for instance, the bare brick walls were actually made out of brick (and old brick, at that), as opposed to peel & stick tiles. The pressed tin ceiling was a nice touch, although it could be replicated in a sprawleteria.

I think part of what made me happy was realizing that I would walk out the door and see this neighborhood:

…as opposed to acres of parking, and a OfficeMax and a Best Buy off in the distance (but further than you’d want to walk, of course).

As a final note, I’ll bring up something I mentioned before—the fact that college degrees have been concentrating in the central downtowns at a higher rate since the 1970s:

U.S. downtowns—roughly, the central section of a city—started regaining inhabitants only fifteen years ago, but they’ve been getting younger and better educated for a generation, according to a Brookings Institution study of forty-four cities.

So basically, there are people like me who are thinking (and living) like I want to live, increasing the chances of economic success of the city cores: this gives me a measure of hope.

A Bit of Melancholy

On the way home from the airport, I stopped by the local farmer's market. I've been going there for most of my produce for over a year now--kind of a Saturday ritual, to break myself away from listening to WBUR in the morning, put on a backpack, and either walk, bus, or bike to the market and back.

I realized that this is probably the last time I'll be going there while I live here. There is one more Saturday before I leave, but at that point, I'll be trying to finish off what's left in my fridge and pantry.

Yeah, Arlington's farmer's market is just down the street from where I'll be living. But that's not the point--I guess it's more of a realization that this signals the end of my time here. I'm looking forward to being back in Boston, but I'm definitely going to miss some aspects of this town, and the circle of friends that I've developed here--chief grad student and his wife; my advisor; a few other colleagues; Dan and Daniel; R.--here's hoping I get to come back and visit on a pretty regular basis.

On Judging By Appearance

When I work in the field, I have to dress like I’m doing demolition in a house because, well, that’s pretty much what I’m doing (as well as downloading data to my laptop and looking at temperature gradients in the above- and below-grade environments). Also, since I’m likely to be outside for a chunk of the day, I definitely want to layer my clothing (long sleeve tee, overshirt, sweatshirt, jacket).

So this is how I was dressed, heading down to breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express. I’m wearing my cap because I had serious bed-head—I typically shower in the evening when I’m working, because I definitely don’t want to bed down covered with fiberglass insulation bits.

At my table, I noticed the contingent of the chinos-wearing roller bag brigade giving me some looks, as if I were out of place there. I don’t have any class insecurities here (considering that I’m in a similar strata), but I wondered just what they were thinking:
  • What’s he doing eating breakfast here? Shouldn’t he be changing light bulbs in the hallway or something?
  • Crap… have to remember to send in my payment to ADT Home Security
  • What the heck is in that pouch? Does this state have a concealed carry weapon law? Is that a grenade launcher or something?
  • Goddammit… are Mexican workers staying here now? Screw it… I’m switching to the Hampton on my next trip.

Go Bears!

I’ve been here in Chicago for the past several days, and most of the town is going nuts over the conference championship game on Sunday. Heck, they even reported on it on Chicago Public Radio (and well, yes, that's the main reason I know). But has anyone else noticed that The Chicago Bears has a pretty different tilt when you think about it in terms of gay slang? Driving down the road and seeing signs like:

Go Bears!

Chicago Loves the Bears!

…with a mental image of a large hairy guy in a leather vest or something definitely gave me a chuckle during this trip. Hey--it was a four-day trip by myself; I had to keep myself entertained somehow.

BTW--sorry if I’m ruining the playoffs for anyone here. (Hi Perlick!)


Food Geekery: Bananas Foster

In a fit of new food pique, I decided I needed to try out Alton Brown's bananas Foster recipe--bananas, booze, and fire--what could be better? I had the new grad student over for dinner, and made it for dessert--the recipe turned out quite well, and was pretty fun to make. (Incidentally, she found my blog here--not sure if she's still reading, but hi R.!)

Well, now that I have this bottle of dark rum, I had to find excuses to cook this dish again. So later on this weekend, I went over to a lovely dinner at Dan and Daniel's (including soy/ginger/honey glazed chicken wings, and mashed sweet potatoes with maple/scallion butter--very yummy); this was followed by a repeat performance of Bananas Foster. Photos here courtesy of Daniel's flickr posting.

Managed not to set their kitchen/house on fire, and I still have my eyebrows. And the finished product:


Anyway, whenever I flambé something in the kitchen, I chuckle and think of an appropriate anecdote from Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. (Incidentally, it's probably a passage that would explain why people either love him or find his gonzo food journalism really annoying. I find him vastly amusing, myself.)

When the restaurant opened, we'd begin every shift with a solemn invocation of the first moments of Apocalypse Now, our favorite movie. Emulating the title sequence, we'd play the soundtrack album, choppers coming in low and fast, the whirr of the blades getting louder and more unearthly, and just before Jim Morrison kicked in with the first few words, "This is the end, my brand new friend... the end..." we'd soak the entire range-top with brandy and ignite it, causing a huge, napalm-like fireball to rush up into the hoods--just like in the movie when the tree line goes up. If our boobish owners and newly hired floor staff weren't already thoroughly spooked by our antics, then they were by this act.

Uh oh... now I'm worried now that there might be some tEp undergrads reading my blog, and they might think that this might be a good idea...


Technology Fun

One of the neat features of the BlackBerry Pearl is that you can add additional flash memory, in the form of a MicroSD card. So I went out this afternoon to buy a 1 GB Kingmax card. It's tiny. It's really tiny. How tiny?

That tiny. I thought it was wacky enough to think about 1 GB storage in there that it was worth posting.

Also, it was a bit startling to realize just how beat-to-hell my Brass Rat is in a closeup photo.

So now I can listen to MP3s and take more photos on my Pearl... just in time for the cool iPhone kids to beat me up and take my lunch money. Oh well...

Incidentally, if anyone has accidentally surfed into this page because they're trying to install their card, it was helpful to look at this website, which had a very nice photo guide on how to do it.


Updates (Paper, Iron Ring)

The conference paper that I wrote about earlier is now done. Great way to spend a Friday night. I actually hit a huge writers block slog these past few days; finishing off the conclusions was bloody well painful. It's really frustrating to feel as inefficient as I do... it shouldn't have taken up this entire week to write this thing. Also my mental trick of it doesn't matter all that much started to get overwhelmed by thoughts of are the reviewers going to tear this sentence apart, and how can I defend against that?

Well, anyway, it's done... at least until my advisor reads it, and I need to address his markups. We're meeting on Sunday; the paper is officially due Monday, but I'm guessing that a day late submission won't be a big deal if I need it. Then on a plane on Wednesday for the Chicago trip.

On another topic, I won't be getting an Iron Ring this year, since I'm not getting my degree in time; the ceremony is in February. Oh well... I'll just apply in the next cycle, and shoot for February 2008. It's still very important to me--the vast majority of people in this field are Canadian engineers, so the rings are pretty ubiquitous--including the transplants to the U.S. Folks who wear them include my mentor, his academic advisor (Yoda to his Obi Wan), my advisor, chief grad student, most of my grad group, and one of my coworkers back in Boston. Yeah, it's all about da bling, yo.

Oh wait... obligatory photo. I've been experimenting with polenta baked in a 350 F oven, as per Alton Brown's method, and the one from the Atlantic Monthly (sorry, behind a subscriber page--let me know, and I'll email it to you). Most of this came from Dan's recommendation to try it out--thanks lots! I've been pretty happy with my experiments so far--no more stovetop stirring, or blub... blub... blub... AAAHOUCHYAGH scalding polenta burn. Very tasty when you saute up some onions in the pan first, and pregrease with butter--a yummy brown crust forms on the outside.


Have to Admit It's Getting Better...

I have been shocked to discover that writing this conference paper is--so far--not nearly as much of a painful slog as I was afraid it would be. I have finished the introduction, background, literature review, and experimental setup sections; it is due in a week. Writing the previous conference paper (my first time as first author) was an immense pain filled with many episodes of writer's block. I guess it helps that I have written the 87 goddamn page version of this material. Also, I'm using the mental trick of it doesn't matter all that much--it will be just yet another paper presented at a conference, with part of the audience falling asleep, and with everybody getting antsy for the coffee break.

I don't want to jinx myself though--I still have to write up the field monitoring results and the simulation work, and then conclusions. But still, it's a nice feeling that I'm not going to spend an entire week in a panic.


A Note to the Marketing Department

Although "Putzmeister" simply means "plaster master" in German, you might figure that they would do some research into what it means in other languages. Say, Yiddish or something. Particularly amusing to find this piece of equipment on the upper West Side of New York City.

Putzmeister America is the North American division of one of the world’s most well-recognized and respected heavy equipment manufacturers, Putzmeister AG.

I dunno... with that name, it seems like it should be used for expansion of certain appendages or something.

With Apologies to Dr. Seuss

Like I mentioned, I just finished the report that I should have gotten done before my trip to Boston/Minneapolis/New York, and worked on through the end of the year. It also is serving double duty as a thesis chapter--the grand total is now up to 220 pages. Good friggin' grief. This has got to stop. At least it's another chapter on the pile.

I did end up working on it whenever I had snippets of free time during my travels, including Christmas Eve, New Year's Day, etc. Don't get me wrong--I went out and had fun for a lot of the holidays, and I didn't work nearly as hard as I should have. It's embarassing that it's taken me until 2007 to finish it. But after noticing my work habits, I needed to create this photo essay:

Will you write it on a plane?
Will you write it on a train?

I will write it on a plane

I will write it on a train

I will write it at North Station

I will write ‘midst celebrations

I do not like this damn report
To work on it’s my last resort

Incidentally, the literary analysis of Green Eggs and Ham in its Wikipedia article is pretty impressive:

The tale is in the form of a so-called "cumulative" story, with a list of circumstances which gradually increases as the story progresses. Thus, one of Sam's friend's refusals goes:

I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Cumulative stories are a traditional genre of English folklore, for instance in the tale "This is the House that Jack Built" or the folk song "Green grow the rushes, O".


One at a Friggin' Time, Please

I finished off the goddamn report that I have been working on since... geez, I guess since late November. It's both a report for a client, as well as a thesis chapter, so it's good that I got another chunk of work in the can. I'll blog about it in a moment.

Now I have a conference paper to finish by the 15th. Not only that, but I got email from the folks who run the house which is my test site in the Chicago area:

We are converting this home from a model to an occupied home. I would like to have the experiment removed by 1/31/07. If I can provide any information or assistance please let me know.

Crap. I knew this was in the works sometime early this year. But that date puts it pretty squarely in the time I have earmarked to pack my apartment and deal with moving across the border.

I'll see if they have any flexibility in their schedules. If not, I was thinking I might be able to shoehorn in a Chicago trip right before I go to Ithaca late in the week of January 15th, flying in and out of Buffalo again. Ugh.

Wow. Google is impressive.

Like most of us, I pretty much take Google searches for granted nowadays. But this recent "Did you mean" result impressed me:

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did mean "airport." Type the word, with your left hand shifted on the keyboard one key to the left, so that A -> Caps Lock. That's kinda cool.

Incidentally, I was searching for further information on a CBC story I just heard--they arrested several Pearson airport baggage handlers for stealing cameras, camcorders, etc. out of luggage passing through the airport. Convenient for them that we no longer can lock our luggage due to security searches. Yeesh.


Another Year, More Blog

Like in 2005, I thought I’d once again inflict the equivalent to a Dear Everyone Christmas Letter—it was an interesting exercise to look at the entire year, in toto. More importantly, I’m on suburban Long Island, and I can’t motivate myself to do thesis writing right now. [Ed. note: this was mostly written during the days before Christmas; I am now back in Canada.]

School: In the winter semester, I took the final class I needed for my Master’s degree: my former boss/mentor’s academic advisor’s case studies class, at the University of Toronto. It went very well—the class was really great, and the professor lamented, “I have to grade you BEG guys on a separate curve, don’t I?”

At the same time, I was the teaching assistant for my advisor’s undergraduate building science course. It was mostly grading and administration; I only taught one tutorial. The grading was a bit of a grind, but doable. I definitely learned the course material in much more detail from this experience--very useful, given that it is the basic science for my field.

During the fall semester, I started writing my thesis, and it came to dominate my life. It turned into an utterly horrible siege-of-Stalingrad-like slog. Shit… it seems like all I did this fall was write thesis, try to find ways to avoid writing it, and bitch about the whole process. It ended up undergoing severe page creep, to the point that several people pointed out, "geez, this looks a lot like a PhD thesis." Originally I thought I would be done by December, but that didn’t happen. I was still working away on it over the holidays; it looks like it might be getting done around February, from Boston (see below).

Social Life: Over the summer, I blew off a whole lot and traveled all over the country, both for work and for fun (Boston, New York, Chicago, Denver, Boston again, San Francisco)--see Q3 below. It was wonderful to see folks in all of these places.

Half of the graduate group finished up at the end of the winter semester; they worked at the University over the summer and then left, which changed the social atmosphere a lot. Chief grad student and I started mostly worked from home in the fall, and my advisor was on sabbatical, so the place really emptied out. Three new students started this past semester; I haven’t worked much with two of them. I worked closely with the third one though; I’m handing off a bunch of projects to her, and we’ve hung out socially a lot.

As a result of going into Toronto once a week for class, I developed some familiarity with the city. I really enjoyed spending time there, during my wandering around town. I gained enough familiarity to be a tour guide for folks who came to visit.

I went out biking every so often, and built a bicycle trailer as a way to avoid thesing. I continued to download a remote experimental site by biking to collect data.

My social life (when not traveling) has mostly been hanging out with other members of grad group, and Dan and Daniel. I also caught plenty of movies at the local art house cinema.

Other: I continued to indulge my fascination with ISO shipping containers, both working with them, and reading about them on the web.

I engaged in food geekery of all sorts--just search for either “food” or “food geekery,” and you’ll get a pile of hits: everything from spatchcocked chicken to roast garlic to silkworm pupae.

Returning to Boston: The Plan: Here is my plan after the holidays: I’m back in Waterloo for January, and I need to write a conference paper (for the first two weeks), and then pack (for the second two weeks). My moving truck shows up on January 29th, and then I’m moving in with JMD (into her spare bedroom) and her four cats in Arlington. I have earmarked February for completing my thesis; I’ll be doing it long distance, sending drafts to my advisor. I’m hoping to be done (or done enough) by the end of that month, and then return to being gainfully employed in March, working for the company that I left. Better yet, they have moved their offices to Somerville (near Porter Square), so I’ll be trading in that stupid 45-minutes-in-a-car-each-way commute to taking the bus, biking, or walking. Woo hoo!

In the longer term, I’ve been thinking of buying a place in Somerville; I’ll keep looking around the neighborhood in my free time, as the market hopefully cools during 2007.

Incidentally, I’m debating whether I will be continuing my blog in this form after my return to Boston—after all, the title will no longer be correct or relevant. I’ll probably just switch to straight LiveJournal, assuming that their photo posting features are acceptable.

And now, the summary by quarter. I am not bothering to edit in any more goddamn hyperlinks; you can search for the post if you're interested.

2006 Q1

  • Went to the Body World Exhibition when it came to Toronto.
  • Jofish’s birthday/Robbie Burns party in Ithaca; did the road trip with Daniel and Rover.
  • I got to be a tour guide to a bunch of Japanese visitors to the University, and demonstrate my lack of Japanese speaking skills
  • Stressed out a lot about a conference paper that I was writing, but got it submitted, although revisions stressed me out as well.

2006 Q2

  • A presentation by Romeo Dallaire (Canadian General in charge of the UN Mission to Rwanda)
  • Group of Lantzes (and one DeRoo) came up to Toronto, and I got to hang out with them and play tour guide.
  • Shipping container job both in town, and the installation down in Florida.
  • A road trip to the east coast: the first leg was the Boston trip, including U5 and Rebecca’s wedding, and a variety of other social activities
  • Continued down to New York
  • Had some adventures on the way back from New York to Waterloo—feeling white and nerdy in Newark, NJ, and sleeping overnight in my car due to the flooding in Upstate NY.

2006 Q3

  • A four-day work trip to Chicago, including a stop in Buffalo NY on the way home.
  • A few days in Denver for work, and visiting Beemer and Julee
  • Boston, for my former company’s summer seminar (Summer Camp); also got to hang out in town for a few days
  • San Francisco, to give the presentation at a conference in Monterey, and see a bunch of folks
  • I hit the two-year mark of living in Canada

2006 Q4


New Year Update

Happy New Year everyone! Just a brief catch-up post before I leave for Canada tomorrow. Gah... dialup... hate... hate...

Hanging out in New York City was great; I got to see Air Force Guy (Doug) and his wife (‘Stina), on the day they were moving up to Boston. Went to lunch and MoMA with Perlick and Probe (but not ‘Becca and their baby Sophia). Picture below is the crowd hovering in front of Dali’s The Persistence of Memory--I figured it wasn’t worthwhile to fight my way through, so that was as close as I got.

And finally, I saw a bunch of folks at the Power Dinner at Hallo Berlin (German beer hall restaurant in The Neighborhood Formerly Known as Hell’s Kitchen, see note). Many thanks to all of you who made it out! (and great meeting many of you for the first time!)

Note: In case you’re curious, the neighborhood is sometimes called Clinton, post-gentrification. Wikipedia notes: The Clinton name originated in 1959 in an attempt to link the name to the DeWitt Clinton Park at 52nd and 11th Avenue.... Today, most residents of the area, and most New Yorkers in general, refer to the area as "Hell's Kitchen," with "Clinton" being the name favored by the municipality, "gentrifiers," and eager real estate agents. The park is named after Governor DeWitt Clinton, of Erie Canal fame.

Nope, the report’s still not done. Unfortunately, I am still finding things on Long Island to keep myself busy instead of writing: downloading and printing the manual for my dad’s new electric razor (“You can get manuals from the web?” “Um… yeah dad.”), blogging, moving the exercise bicycle up from the basement, installing a three-prong electrical outlet for the new fridge, buying/installing new windshield wipers for my parents’ car, and removing mineral buildup around the bathroom faucets with CLR and a toothbrush. Yeah, working hard at this punting thing.

I totally lamed out on any New Year’s plans; I had an invite to hang out with Perlick and his NYC crowd. So while they went and partied like rock stars (at least for sufficiently large values of ‘rock star’), I just stayed out on Long Island and recharged my batteries.

Okay, yeah, that was terrible. But basically, this is how I rang in the New Year:

“2007. Yay.”

Anyway, one last family anecdote: I informed my family that I am going to be staying with JMD when I return to Boston. My folks fail to remember most of my friends; she appears to be no exception. JMD met my sister while living at Tep over the summer: she was blasted out of bed by my sister coming to use my turntable to play some opera at 9 AM. My sister’s memory of the event: “Oh, you had a roommate with red hair, right?”

So the conversation with my parents was a bit interrogation-like:

“The apartment is in Arlington. It’s a duplex; the landlords live in the other half.”

“She has four cats. One of them is an antisocial feral that nobody ever touches.”

“Her brother is a Tep. He’s the one that I usually celebrate Thanksgiving with—him and his wife and family.”

“She lives by herself; she’s not married.”

At that, you could pretty much hear the cooling fans of my parents’ brains kick in:

So, do my readers have any good/creative ideas on How To Mess With My Folks along these lines?

Sister Stories, 2006 Holiday Edition

Another story in the continuing series about my sister being a space alien. Not quite as succinctly laugh-out-loud funny as previous stories, but still quite informative. Plus I just have to share the pain that I’ve been experiencing here.

At dinner, she was discussing a drug case she had recently worked on in her capacity as a clerk in the New York State Appeals system. I first inwardly chortled when she referred to the way that undercover detectives “put on a disheveled appearance” to go and buy drugs.

But then she talked about her surprise at the use of 13-14 year olds by drug dealers (i.e., how to minimize chance of prison/years served to their organizations), and said with amazement, “So when these young men want something, like a new pair of sneakers, they don’t go out and get a paper route or anything like that: they go and sell drugs.” My reaction: “Um, duh?” (Well, actually, my first reaction was snickering at her likely mental image of an inner city youth trading in a do-rag for a snap-brim cap a la 1920’s New York—“Extra, extra, read all about it...”). I pointed out to her that what these kids see as the pinnacles of success in their communities—the role models, the alpha males, the holders of status and resources (and occasionally community benefactors)—are often drug dealers, so it’s hardly any surprise that they are the models they want to emulate. I chastised her, wondering how she could think otherwise—doesn’t she have any clue what these neighborhoods are like? Either via brief contact going through less gentrified parts of town (Um, you live in New York City—have you ever been through Bed-Stuy?), or through the media, be it the newspaper, or (less likely) television or radio? She defensively and huffily responded, “Well, I live in a nice neighborhood, thank goodness, so I have no idea what those neighborhoods are like, nor do I have to.”

This was an example of why I was horrified when a few years ago, she was looking to get an appointment as a judge. I have no question whatsoever about her legal acumen and work ethic. But the idea of her making legal decisions about Real People, while having no clue about them or the world that they live in, was truly frightening. I’m hoping that it won’t happen anytime soon.