Bay Area Trip: Burning it at Both Ends

I managed to continue my pattern of being out to the Bay Area every even-numbered month of 2009, for that continuing house project in Oakland. It’s a nice feeling that we’re getting this project pretty close to buttoned up and ready to go.

Incidentally, this trip was a week ago--I've been slamming on a week-long trip to Vancouver, and haven't had time to post since then.

Infrastructure Disasters and Dorkery

First, I managed to time my visit right during the period when the Bay Bridge was dead closed for several days, due to a cracked eyebar—thus tying up Bay Area traffic into knots. Happily, I just stayed in East Bay for my weekday work. Perlick pointed me at this fantastic web page, which has loads of pictures and engineering explanations on the failure and the repair.

In retrospect, it is impressive to me that they managed to cook up this kludge (that what us engineers call an inelegant solution cooked up to solve a problem quickly) in short order, but it was a little underdesigned. It might have been a better idea to also try to replace the broken Eyebar soon after the band-aid was installed (it's been almost two months, but I guess they didn't want to close the bridge again to install a new Eyebar).

Kludge... excellent.

I was shocked by the picture of the cracked eyebar. I was expecting, “Oh, it’s some hairline thing they found with magnaflux, or some special detection technique.” Nope… it’s this huge, visible, ugly, rusty crack... holy crap. Nobody happened to notice that before?


Anyway, as usual, I was working everywhere in the house, from up on the roof…

…to down in the crawl space…

…doing everything from airflow measurements to equipment efficiency to checking photovoltaic output to installing a condensate drain to building my own Ethernet cables (data acquisition system network connection).

Some serious frustrations at work… for one, I FedEx’d my big case of tools to my client’s office, which arrived the day before I did. Unfortunately, nobody was in their office to take delivery. So the case went into FedEx limbo, despite multiple phone calls and offers to pick it up at their warehouse. And thus, I had to spend a day and a half trying to do my job with a Leatherman and my teeth (FYI, your teeth are a passable, albeit unpleasant, way to strip 24 gauge telco/network wire).

On Friday around lunchtime, my tools showed up. Man… this totally made me think of Jess’s turn of phrase describing her previous job--Waiting for FedEx:

Let’s go.

We can’t.

Why not?

We’re waiting for FedEx.



I managed to wrap up at a reasonable time on Friday, and have a lovely dinner with Bradley, Janie, Sabrina, and young Mr. Griffin. Also, a special guest appearance by Jill—yes, she lives in the Boston area, but she was out visiting randomly.

Griffin showed incredible competence at being extremely photogenic and cute for the camera.

Incidentally, email showed up at 11 AM on Friday morning from Quincy:

I am turning 36 on Friday. Do come celebrate with me. Pumpkin-carving and going 'AW' at kids' costumes starts at 6:22pm. There will be food. Bring something to share, or drink my booze. I'll have some beer and mixers too. Wear your costume. Even I am wearing a costume this year. Really! Merry Samhain!

Aw dude… Quincy, next time you’re throwing a party, give us more than 7 hours notice! That would have been an awesome way to wrap up the week, if I hadn’t already made plans.


After crashing chez Bug’s in Alameda, and having a filling brunch at Jim’s Coffee Shop, I actually went back to the jobsite, for a half day of wrapup. It was nice to have the flexibility, though, to go back and finish things off. However, this was followed by annoying logistics:

  • Drop off 118 lbs of gear at FedEx
  • Drive down East Bay, then across San Mateo Bridge
  • Drop rental car off at SFO
  • BART from SFO to Millbrae
  • CalTrain to Jen & Schmooz’s, to catch the tail end of Halloween

Unfortunately, this only got me down there by around 7 PM, so I missed most of Halloween with the kids. However, I did get to check out Schmooz’s most excellent mad scientist setup, for distributing candy! A Jacob’s ladder buzzing away, a Jello-O brain bubbling away inside a vat of green liquid, a variety of fake dead animals in jars, and wafts of dry ice smoke rolling down the whole thing. Awesome.

And did you know that quinine makes tonic water fluoresce? A neat touch. I knew it was a good sign that a few of the small kids were too scared to come up to get candy.


Sunday morning, I managed to shoehorn in lunch with Jofish and Perlick at Palo Alto's California Avenue Farmer’s Market. A huge variety of choices… mmm… crepe-licious.

Then back onto Caltrain, to BART, to the jobsite. Wait, what? Back to the jobsite? Well, it turns out that we were missing a line of code in our data acquisition system program, and changing the program made the system actually write the data to the file correctly. Argh…. thus a quick trip out to Fruitvale. By random coincidence, while walking from BART, a Prius pulled up and folks waved—turned out it was Bradley and Janie, heading over to the Dia De Los Muertos festival at Fruitvale.

This was followed by dinner in Berkeley at LaLime’s, with John and Judy, who were in the Bay Area in their bicoastal relationship. Neat to catch them while I was in town.


I had the oh-so-lovely experience of taking BART around 5:30 AM to catch my flight to Vancouver—my next work destination. Hey, at least it wasn’t crowded, and I got some nice view of sunrise over SFO.

On my flight out of SFO, we flew over some fantastic views of the city, East Bay, Marin County, and the eerily empty Bay Bridge. Man… all these trips out to the Bay Area, and I’d never gotten that view. Neat!

Anyway, this trip was completely exhausting and jam-packed, running all over East and South Bay. Apologies for those that I didn’t get to see on this trip, and here’s hoping I have an excuse to make it out there in December, just to make it every even-numbered month of 2009!


At 1:58 PM, Blogger Christy said...

We'll get you next time, Batman. Next time!
*shakes fist*
*fluffy white cat yowls in fury*

At 5:33 PM, Blogger j4 said...

I wish I were well-enough versed in Waiting for Godot to write a really good parody. Certainly I know the Fedex half.

You need to get MA to sign up for Feed In Tariffs so I can go install solar over there. At least ME, I guess.


Post a Comment

<< Home