Well, I'm back. It was good to see my folks and to visit with Lisa, but, as a whole, the holiday was sort of boring. I may write more about that later, but probably not.
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A few days ago I decided to try out Spamnix, a well-regarded spam filter for Eudora. It seemed to catch about 80% of my spam, which is good, but also caught about 90% of my legitimate email, which is bad. (A few days before Thanksgiving my dad sent me an email written in capital lettersthat's typical for himwith "CHICKEN BREASTS" in the subject line. In retrospect, that email really had no chance.) I spent a lot of time unblocking legitimate email addresses, and that helped somewhat, but I still have to trudge through the spam box at least once every day to make sure I haven't missed anything. In the end, I'm not really saving any time, and hence am not really sold on Spamnix yet. I'd really like to try Spamnet, but that's only available for Outlook.
Whatever the case, I'm sick of the spam. I've get over 150 junk emails a day, and it's really becoming a drag on my time, especially at work. I've considered abandoning my personal email addresses and just getting new ones, but I'm probably too stubborn to ever do that.
I paused. "What did you do?"
"I got soap in my eyes."
We were at work. "You were washing your face?"
"No, it squirted out of my hands."
"They should put warning labels on the soap dispensers."
"I must have been lathering too vigorously."
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Well, I'm off for Thanksgiving. Two days of driving, one day visiting with family and friends, and, strangely enough, no turkey.
Well, the New York photos from last year are done. All 155 of them. I obviously still have some trimming to do, but I should be able to post them before December.
In other news, you can probably guess how I spent my Sunday.
If you haven't seen Bowling For Columbine yet, go out and see it. Now. What an absolutely fantastic piece of work by Michael Moore. Sure, he pulls many of his punches, but the documentary was still very thought-provoking. While many probably go in expecting a screed against guns, Moore instead focuses on racism, the media, and, more than anything else, the pervasive culture of fear that often surrounds American society. Is gun violence a symptom or a cause? And if it is just the symptom, what exactly is the cause and where does it come from? Moore doesn't offer any concrete answers, but he does leave his audience with plenty of questions.
It's been quite a while since I've seen people applaud for a movie, but that's exactly what happened tonight. I'm glad to report that Bowling For Columbine completely deserved it.
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One thing I've found myself pondering this evening is Biker Ben's plan to get a large plot of land to build his house on just so he can have a 100-yard kill zone around is home. But anyway...
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So, I'm sitting at the computer typing away when the radiators start rumbling. It goes on for a few minutes, louder than usual, prompting me to pause and listen for a moment. It quickly becomes clear that's not just the pipes rattling... It's fucking. Agressive fucking. 15 minutes fucking? No, now 20.
I have no idea what apartment the noise is coming from, but as I know most of my neighbors, I really don't want to.
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25 minutes. Fucking over. Pipes still rattling.
The general plan for this weekend, aside from catching up on sleep missed during the rest of the month, is to pull the album out of its nearly three-month slumber. If all goes well, I should be able to post the photos from the trip to New York before the weekend is over. Unfortunately, I'm not talking about the trip to New York a few weeks ago, but the trip to New York, uh, last year.
And now Robin is getting married, too. "I guess another one is falling," she said, launching into the news while referencing discussions on how everyone is getting hitched. The announcement was a surprise, but in reality I knew what was up as soon as she told me she really had to talk to me.
Robin and Andy, congratulations.
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So now that there are two weddings on the horizon, the obvious question is who'll fall next. Frankly, there aren't many people I know who are left, but of those who're still standing, the suspects are obvious. Of course, it would be bad practice to go into forecasting (not to mention more than a little rude), so I won't.
In other news, if humans were companies, I'd say Mark Danielson Incorporated's unaffiliated position gives it the distinct advantage of being flexible, adaptable and nimble in an economy increasingly dominated by large, complex corporations resulting from mergers and acquisitions. It can safely be said that reports of lack of synergy or lower-than-average employee satisfaction and productivity have been exaggerated.
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"I mean, this country is a democracy, dammit."
"Technically, we're a republic."
"I think we're more of a kakistocracy."
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I had another long day at work, partially because things were busy, but also because I didn't sleep well last night. Today must have been longer than most, though, as a coworker felt obligated to stop me on my way out: "Are you good to drive home?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine."
"You sure? You don't look too good."
"Oh, I've gone home in much worse condition than this."
He paused. "Oh, great."
In retrospect, that was along the lines of drunk-driver logic, wasn't it?
This evening I find myself tired, bored, and maybe a bit depressed. There's no single big reason for this, but more like a hundred little reasons.
Well, I'd been hoping to celebrate the Packers clinching the division this evening, but even though Detroit held up their part of the deal by falling to the Jets, the Packers were again humbled by the Metrodome. All the more reason for the Twins to get their own Stadium and the Vikings to, uh, move somewhere else.
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Along with the help of the adoptive neighbors, I was finally able to get the old hide-a-bed out of the apartment this afternoon. While that wasn't the easiest thing in the worldthe couch was just a few pounds shy of the average weight of an adult beluga whalethe cat caused more problems than the couch did. Everyone thought Putter had run into the bedroom to hide, not an unexpected behavior for a cat suddenly surrounded by strange people while one of his favorite hang-outs is being noisily disassembled. In reality, though, he'd bolted out the front door and down four flights of stairs to the first floor. (This was surprising to me, as while he often runs out the door when I come home each evening, he almost always turns around and runs right back in.) He quickly decided this adventure wasn't for him, though, and quickly started meowing loudly and clawing at the front door. Unfortunately, he was still on the first floor, and hence was requesting entrance to the wrong apartment. He stopped making noise when heard saw me coming up behind him, and what followed was somewhat comical: He looked at me, looked at the door and looked at me again, and then made what only could be described as a curiosity meow.
I picked him up, paused with surprise at how fast and hard his heart was beating, and carried him back upstairs. Along the way I ran across two neighbors who'd heard the frantic cat and had come out to see if it was okay. I assured them he was, continued back to the apartment, dropped the cat on Heather and Rich (they were over to watch the Packers-Vikings game) and finished helping move the couch downstairs.
My kitchen has a lot of extra space now. It may be time for me to revisit the search for a dining table.
Just felt the need to note I got about seven hours of sleep last night. That's good, but I won't be able to really catch up until this weekend. Anticipation, anticipation.
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In other news, this site is experiencing technical difficulties. You may or may not be seeing my entries on the day I write them. Hopefully this will be resolved this weekend.
And, once again, I'm on my way home. As of this evening I should be able to regain my regular routine until, uh, Thanksgiving. (Or, I should say, my work life is dropping back to crazy, down a notch from the clinically-insane level its been operating at for the past month.)
It was a busy trip to the San Jose area, with Tuesday dominated by one of those occassionally-necessary marathon-style meetings regarding, uh, work stuff. On the bright side, a coworker and I did get to go up to San Francisco that evening so she could see with her sister and I could visit with Jason, an old friend from Minneapolis who moved out there about a year ago. The five of us (Jason brought his girlfriend) had a good dinner at Spoon, a nifty little restaurant on Polk Street. Conversation was interesting and varied, although it seemed just about every topic eventually turned into some kind of good-natured trolling expedition. I'm usually good at avoiding such bait, but being worn and maybe a little bit buzzed weakened my defenses, and so I fell prey on a number of occassions. Other than that, after dinner I got a super-quick tour of the immediate area, including a trip up to a darkened Coit Tower. A light fog had drifted in, but the view was still spectacular. I'll have to visit San Francisco again, although next time it'll definitely have to be on a trip completely unrelated to work.
Oh, hey, beverage service. More later.
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Sleep has been a significant problem over the past few weeks. I was working a lot of late nights before all this travel started a week ago, but things started getting really bad last Tuesday. As noted before, the beds in the hotel in New York were soft and moderately disformed, making sleep short and difficult. Back in Minneapolis, my first night at home was okay until Putter started singing early Saturday morning. I didn't get much sleep Sunday, either, due to a party somewhere in the building that carried on until around 4:00 a.m. Early Monday morning the trend continued, with emergency sirens blaring from Franklin and Hennepin not once but twice. Despite my hopes, the situation didn't improve out in California either, as the beds at the hotel were incredibly soft; the first night there I actually gave up on both beds in my room and retreated to the floor sometime after 4:00. All in all, I'd gone an entire week getting only three to five hours of sleep a night, hardly enough for someone who usually sleeps seven hours on weekdays and sometimes stays in bed for ten or more hours on weekends. That said, despite the soft bed at the hotel, I held out hope for last night. I'd had a very long day and returned to my room thoroughly convinced I could crash and get a good eight hours of sleep before getting up to catch the plane back to Minneapolis. I crawled under the covers a little after 1:30 and, as expected, fell asleep quickly.
The fire alarm went off around 2:30. It was a false alarm, and a relatively short one at that, but it was enough to get me and a number of other visitors out into the hallways.
I'm still tired.
You know, I feel like I'm on a treadmill. I'm packed and ready for another business trip, this one to California, so, again, I'll be gone for a couple of days. My entries from the trip to New York have been added below, although I removed a few sections due to (probably overzealous) concerns about work confidentiality. They may or may not return in an edited form.
As expected, I spent almost the entire weekend working, the only breaks coming in the form of a two-hour visit from Heather and Rich earlier today and the 20 or so minutes I've spent going through and censoring my recent entries. Things should slow down after tomorrow's trip, though, so next weekend should be my own.
And with that, I'm going to get some sleep. More later.
I guess I have to partially retract my earlier attacks on Rick Kahn. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and believe him when he says his speech was just an honest emotional reaction on his part.
I'm still bitter about the election, though.
) ) )
And I'm on my way home. Passengers of Northwest flight 519 should be wandering through the cool, blue hallways of MSP within the hour. As always it'll be good to be back, although I'm not looking forward to tomorrow. The plan for the weekend looks something like this: Work, work, and probably more work. I have a lot of stuff I have to have done for Monday, so much that it'll be a challenge to get everything written, designed and coded before I collapse onto my bed Sunday night. (I've done a lot over the past few days, but there's only so much I can accomplish without an Internet connection.) Unfortunately, this weekend is more part of a trend than it is an anomaly: Out of the last three Saturdays and Sundays, there was only one day I could really consider a day off.
And we've started our descent. I can't wait to get some sleep.
Well, it's been a busy day. Today's session on Website accessibility was the one I was really looking forward to. I've been enthusiastic about the subject for some time and have been wishing others would be as well, so it was somewhat disappointing to see only 15 other attendees. That said, it was still a good session, although the subject has a tendency to be infuriating; just about every change that can be made to help someone with low vision or motor disabilities can have a negative effect on the usability of a site or product to a user without those problems. Ah well, at least I learned a lot. One of the side-effects of low attendance was that, for the most part, those who showed already had religion, and in the end discussion with other attendees was just as useful as the session itself.
But enough about that. There's not really much else to say about today, although I should note that last night's disaster of a dining experience was more than made up by this evening's dinner. My coworker and I stumbled across the Thalia Restaurant on 8th Avenue. Not only was it easily one of the best meals I've had in recent memory, it was relatively inexpensive, too (especially when considering the $20 I spent on that horrendous BLT yesterday).
You know, Minneapolis has more than its fair share of good restaurants, but I'm sure for every good one there, there are 10 in New York.
After dinner we walked around for a while, grazed by the park and headed back to the hotel. I worked for about an hour, went for another walk, then came back to the hotel and started writing. These have been long entries for me, but a hotel room, a computer and mind full of unrelated thoughts can lead to such things.
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I wonder how my cat is doing.
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It seems whenever I've gone around meeting people and networking over the past few days the conversation has turned to my home state. Strangely enough, I've never been the one to start off on that subject. Usually another attendee would notice my location from my name tag and start talking about Wellstone or the election, but in almost as many cases I had New Yorkers go off on how much they love Minneapolis. Although I usually wasn't as snarky or defensive, the following conversation was fairly typical:
"This your first time to New York?"
"No, I dropped by for a few days last year."
"You like it?"
"Oh, I love it.
"Yeah, it's a great town. Wouldn't live anywhere else... Ha, you wear black here on purpose?"
"No..." Pause. "I'm wearing black because I'm from Minneapolis."
"Minneapolis? Oh, I love that city. I remember back in 1997..." She then spent five minutes rambling about all the great things she did in my hometown, many of which were both dangerous and stupid. She seemed to have such fond memories of walking downtown from the Institute of Arts one night (with a backpack and without shoes!), that I didn't have the heart to tell her that hadn't been a very smart thing to do. Later on, in another conversation with another New Yorker about Minneapolis, we had this exchange:
"I can't remember the name of that great Swedish place we ate at..."
"Yeah! That's it. That was terrific."
"You know you have one of those here, right?"
While all of those conversations were gratifying, for every two or three good ones there was one like this:
"So Minnesota elected a Republican to the Senate?"
"Yup, Norm Coleman."
"Wow. I didn't know there were any Republicans in Minnesota."
"Oh, yeah, we have a lot of them."
"Hmmm. From listening to the radio I never would've thought that. I can't wait to hear Garrison is going to say this weekend."
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Of course, if there's any one thing New Yorkers seem to love talking about it's their city, especially if they're talking to visitors from out of town. While I usually had no problem with this, during lunch on Wednesday a number of us seemed to be getting annoyed with one resident's platitudes about his hometown. When he started calling New York "the biggest city in the World" I decided I had enough, and so turned to the woman from Brazil sitting next to me. "So, how many people does São Paulo have? 14 million?"
She smiled. "More like 15 million."
There was a moment of silence from across the table. "Wow, that's big even by New York standards."
And with that the conversation turned back to corporate intranets.
Well, from my perspective, just about everything that could go wrong with this election did. As far as Minnesota goes, I once again blame Rick Kahn. You were delusional, Rick, and the only thing you did was rally the wrong side.
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She was a New Jersey resident, but she considered Paul Wellstone her senator.
As a former Wisconsinite, I completely understood. "It was very tragic."
"Not just tragic for Minnesota, but for the whole nation."
"It's going to be a long two years."
"Tell me about it."
) ) )
So, New York. The conference has been better than I expected so far. Jakob and company have a tendency to come across as sort of pompous and falsely-omniscient on their sites and in their reports, but the session today was very impressive and has given me a new respect for Nielsen, his organization and its work. It'll be interesting to see if tomorrow's and Friday's sessions are equally useful. I hope so.
The flight in went well, although LaGuardia is an absolute pit, as dark as Bradley, as organized as Logan and with all the glamour of San Jose. (Besides, any airport that requires you to take a bus to go from one terminal to another is stupid.) The Delta Terminal seemed like a cross between parts of the American terminals in St. Louis and Chicago; unfortunately, it was a cross of the wrong parts. At least it had a quick exit to the baggage claim. In a fit of fiscal conservatism I took the bus to Grand Central instead of grabbing a cab. From there it was a short walk to the hotel. It was raining, but I had an umbrella and my luggage was on rollers, so no big deal. The hotel my company put me up in is pretty nice, although I cringe whenever I think how much I could've saved us had I booked the trip myself. (You know, I wonder how much corporate America loses to American Express every year. It would seem that they have quite a racket going there...)
I had a lot of work planned for the evening, but things started to go wrong the moment I stepped foot in my room. As said, the hotel was pretty spiffy, but my introduction to it sort of sucked. The check-in was swift, but when I got to my room, things seemed a bit off. To begin with, all the lights were on. I quickly dismissed this, figuring it was just something this particular hotel does, but there were other things askew as well. I dropped my bags on the somewhat messily made beds and noticed a spill on the nightstand. Now full of suspicion, I wandered to the bathroom to have my hypothesis confirmed. All the towels were on the floor, the glasses were in the sink and the tub was wet.
I called the front desk and told them my room hadn't been cleaned. They were apologetic and asked if I wanted someone to come up to clean my room, or if I just wanted to change rooms. Of course, I chose the latter. That turned out to be a good decision; the new room was about twice as large as the first one. Quite cool.
After settling in and ironing my clothes, I sat down to get to work work, but that came to a screeching halt the moment I tried dialing into my company's secure network. After about ten failed attempts I called the front desk to see if I had to put a credit card number down for Internet access or anything, and they said no, it was a standard dial-in system. They sent a technician up and, sure enough, the second line in my room was faulty. We got around this by disconnecting the phone and using the first line instead, but by then I was more interested in sleep than trying to do any work. I was able to dial in this evening, but much to my dismay found that I didn't have proper permissions set up to access the network offsite. So, in other words, I really didn't get anything done. This evening I called my company's help desk and, of course, found them closed for the evening.
Granted, in the help desk's defense, I did call in pretty late. Like 11:00 p.m. EST. My excuse for that little fact is I spent much of the evening traipsing around Midtown with my brother and two of his friends, Daryl and Rebecca. They took the train in from Connecticut later in the afternoon, and after allowing me time for a quick nap (soft beds resulted in me getting little sleep last night) we headed out to find dinner and just run around some. I voiced my goal of keeping clear of that Disneyfied tourist-trap known as Times Square, but after wandering for a while, that's exactly where we ended up. I'm not going to tell you where we ate (although it wasn't a chain), but I will say our dinner was one of the worst meals I've had in recent memory. My BLT was a waste of lettuce, Mike's corned beef was mediocre at best, and Daryl's salmon salad, well, let's just say the smell made the rest of us nauseous. He was determined to eat it, though, and at $20 for the plate I can understand why. All of us feeling a bit ill, we wandered out onto a very cold and blustery Times Square and decided to head over to the Virgin Megastore. Having struck out on three different albums when I visited last year I'd left fairly unimpressed, but this year I was able to get my hands on the release by 2 Many DJs, so I left happy. We wandered back to the hotel (via the Citibank building so I could show them the stilts) and talked and gossiped for a while. Soon it was time for them to catch the train back to Connecticut, though, so I walked with them to Grand Central, watched them depart, headed back here, and now here I sit.
Well, it's getting late. There's other stuff to write about, but I really need to get some sleep. I can't really talk about the conference today without babbling about how what I learned would apply to my company, and since that would be inappropriate, I won't. Suffice to say the conference is worthwhile, interesting and going well.
When I got up this morning, I found Putter had decided my open, mostly-packed duffel bag looked like a good place to burrow down to sleep. When I iron my shirts later tonight, I'm sure I'll have to put aside some extra time for cat hair removal.
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Today has been a day marked by standing in lines. This morning there was an hour and a half of standing in line to vote, early this afternoon there was 30 minutes of standing in line for a flu shot, and later this afternoon there was the always-boring process of checking in at the airport. We're cruising along at 33,000 feet as I write this. Darkness is falling and, well, we're running away from the little that's left. There's a beautiful sunset dropping over puffy clouds through the south window. Unfortunately, I'm on the wrong side of the plane to photograph it.
The line at my local poll this morning was astounding. I've become accustomed to leaving home a couple minutes early on election days and being able to take care of my voting in a matter of minutes. No such luck today. Expecting a heavy turnout, I scheduled a half hour to go and vote this morning, but when I arrived at the polling station, there were over 150 people waiting in line before me. (Believe me, I had plenty of time to count.) Making matters worse, the fact that I moved 20 yards earlier this year meant that I had to reregister, effectively doubling the amount of time I had to wait to vote.
That said, no one was really complaining. Instead, we all commented on what an amazing turnout there was, especially considering it's a non-presidential year. People talked politics, shared papers (my New York Times was perused by three people), and commented on the light snow we were getting. One person even went so far as to go and get cookies from Wuollet's Bakery and pass them out to those standing in line.
Later on at work, I was amazed at the number of red "I Voted" stickers proudly displayed on shirts and jackets. Even people who've generally come across as disinterested in politics had them on. (Whether that's actually a good thing or not I'm not going to debate today.) The high turnout actually gives me hope for the Penny campaign. If he wins, it'll completely surpass the surprise the Ventura election gave us four years ago.
I can't wait to get to the hotel this evening, and that's not because I'm excited about being in New York (although, of course, I am looking forward to that). For now, I just want to know what's going on back in Minnesota. Walter or Norman? Tim, Tim or Roger? Tomorrow could be a wonderful day or an incredible disappointment.
Oh, hey. Beverage service. More later.
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Before heading out from work today, a number of people wished me a good time in New York. I'm sure I will, especially tomorrow when I get to visit with my brother, but to some extent it'll be difficult. For whatever reason, I have trouble allowing myself to enjoy business travel. It's almost as if I feel that if I enjoy the trip, I'm cheating my employer. That's stupid, of course, as I often enjoy my job, not to mention the evenings will still technically belong to me regardless of who's paying for my room and board.
Or maybe I'm just grumpy about the fact I'll have to work all weekend to make up for lost time at the office.
Well, this is it for the election. Fritz did better than I expected in the debate this morning. He may actually be able to hold off Coleman. As far as the governor's race goes, though, things are looking pretty grim. There doesn't seem any new rush to support Penny, and Ventura's stupid little stunt this morningheld at the same time Penny was supposed to be having a rally on the steps of the state capitoldefinitely didn't help. That impending feeling of doom I have? It may be a Pawlenty governorship.
Anyway, I'm done thinking about the election. My cheat sheet is ready for tomorrow (it lists four DFLers, three Independence candidates, and a couple of folks from lesser parties), and after I slap on the little red sticker proclaiming "I Voted," I'm going to try not to think about it. Granted, that resolve will probably disappear the moment I turn on CNN at the hotel tomorrow night, but it's worth a shot.
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As previously noted, tomorrow I'm off to New York to attend a usability conference run by some guy who may occassionally mistake himself for Moses. It should be an interesting conference, and I may get to see my brother Wendesday night, too. I may try to do an update while I'm there, but probably not, so there probably won't be anything new here until the weekend.
) ) )
Quick side note: Over the course of the next two weeks I'll be flying to and from LaGuardia and San Jose International. I only mention this as a columnist with Microsoft bCentral recently put both of those airports in his list of the top five worst airports in the nation. Yay.
Lots to write about this weekend but little time to do so. I took yesterday off, but this morning was spent running around taking care of errands. Then there was my afternoon:
The middle of the Lake Street bridge is one hell of a cold place to hold a campaign rally. Who knows whether Tim will win or not. I sure hope so, but that stupid StarTribune poll last week suggesting he was out of contention has done a lot of damage. The general concern this afternoon was that voters who'd left their previous parties to support Penny may be defecting back to them now that they think Penny can't win. This is despite other well-respected polls suggesting the race for governor is still a statistical dead heat. Why the other polls haven't gotten the same amount of coverage as the Strib poll is beyond me.
But there's still a day left. A lot can happen. We just need Pawlenty to come out of the closet and for Moe to admit his deep hatred of his Norwegian ancestry. Or something.
) ) )
In other election news, what's the deal with mondale.org? It seems to be registered by democrats.com, but if they really wanted to support Mondale you'd think they'd at least link to Mondale's actual campaign site.