What's New? 2000-12-21

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What's New? 2000-12-21

 Sunday 31 December 2000
  NYC NYC Because the new year (and the new millennium) begins this evening there happen to be webcams running on the east coast. So I can see what's going on in Dad's neighborhood; I'd like to see how more than two feet of snow are gumming up the works. Schadenfreude. Here are two images of Manhattan's Times Square courtesy of CNN (reprinted without permission).

Still images are fine, but I wanted to see how the streaming video from the midnight ball drop would look. It didn't take a lot of time to find a web site serving the video, and soon I was watching several giddy talking heads. Then it all went blank. Repeated attempts only resulted in the following:

The server can not complete the invalid request. What? I thought it was a repeat of the pathetic video flame-out I experienced during Burning Man 1999. Things got better, so I guess they just got swamped (or someone fell over the power cord).


We had friends over, with a child with whom Isaac plays, so it was a fun and gentle evening. There was leftover turkey (from the first Thanksgiving-style feast I'd cooked, complete with creamy mashed potatoes, pecan stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce) and eggnog. Even Scrabble. The twentieth century went out with a whimper, not a bang, at our house. Just the way we like it.

I hated the 1900s; I can't tell you how much fun it's been since then. Perhaps it's all the science fiction I read as a child, or my dissapointment with the slow real-world progress in our space program. Maybe just leaving my childhood behind. Anyway, I'm happy as a clam to be in a year starting with 2.

The future's so bright we're all wearing shades.

 Friday 29 December 2000

While it's 54 degrees Farenheit here in San Francisco (late in the evening) it's 24 degrees at Dad's house in New Jersey. He's battening down the hatches, preparing for a severe snowstorm. It brings back fond memories of heavy snow, white landscapes, and staying home from school and enjoying snow days. The official forecast follows...

west   east

Winter Storm Warning For Saturday Into Saturday Night... Snow will begin between 5 and 7 am on Saturday; it should quickly become heavy at times. The snow will then continue through much of the day. A brisk northeast wind is also expected to develop resulting in blowing and drifting of snow. By the time the precipitation ends on Saturday evening the following snow totals are expected: 10 to 14 inches in the New Jersey counties of Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Salem with lesser amounts along the coast.

[Update: 12/31/2000 00:14 -- NewsCenter 4 gives a report of the weather, noting central New Jersey as the hardest-hit, with "over two feet of snowfall". Dad's neighbors plowed him out and then invited him over for dinner. Thanks.]

 Thursday 28 December 2000
  2001 Today I got my first New Years greetings for 2001. It's from Daniel, Shradda, Myra, and Djamal. My uncle and family are vacationing in Goa, India. (You may have met them while reading my travelogue about my 1995 Eivissa and Gran Canaria.) I love the graphics included in their email greeting card. Muchas gracias und vielen dank.
 Wednesday 27 December 2000
  Seventh night. Here's the story I'll be telling Isaac in years to come: Antiochus, a Syrian Greek King, ruled Judea. He forbade traditional Jewish worship, hoping to turn Jews to the gods of the Greeks. In 165 B.C.(E.) an elderly priest, Mattathias the Hasmoneam, led a revolt. He died, but his five sons carried on, led by son Judah the Maccabee (Hammer). Once the Greeks were driven out the Jews turned to relighting the flame in the Second Temple, in Jerusalem. They found one jug of oil which bore the seal of the Cohen Gadol (High Priest); rabbinically-certified pure oil. The jug held only enough to light the flame for one day; it would take eight days to make acquire more. [I've heard this was either due to travel time or time for manufacture.] The miracle of Chanukah is that the flame stayed lit for eight days. We celebrate annually by lighting candles, placed in a menorah (or chanukot), for eight consecutive days. TRIVIA: the letters on the four sides of a dreidel stand for "A Miracle Happened There"; in Israel the it stands for "A Miracle Happened Here".


Several months ago, when my top-of-the-line PowerBook was the 1999 (Bronze) I made backups with a SCSI CD burner. Then I purchased a digital video camera, which resulted in the purchase of a FireWire hard drive and a FireWire PCMCIA adapter card. This setup worked beautifully. (I rarely buy internal components; I'd prefer to move my investment from computer to computer.)


Recently I acquired a PowerBook 2000 (Pismo), which has built-in FireWire, but no SCSI. So I purchased a FireWire CD burner.

Today I hung the FireWire CD burner from the 1999. Wow! I'm burning at 8x instead of 1x. What took an hour before is now taking less than eight minutes. What a pleasure. Backups are easy once again.

 Tuesday 26 December 2000
  "Other leg no boo-boo, this leg big boo-boo", says Isaac of his vaccination experience today. I think it's his last shot for quite a while. Friends of ours have debated vaccinations, and at least one has opted not to include their child (although I'm not sure what they'll do at school age), but with all of our world travel we decided it was well worth the risks.
 Monday 25 December 2000
  This time last year we were in the Hotel Rey Carlos, Playa del Inglés, Gran Canaria. We were recovering from a very bad flu we'd gotten in Barcelona (which made itself known while we were in Casablanca). At check-in the concierge asked for Isaac's age (without telling us for what they wanted it); I was so exhausted by the tribulations of taking care of a very sick baby in an Arabic- and French-speaking country that I didn't even notice the request.

On Christmas day, shortly after noon, I took the elevator down to the lobby. The concierge called to me to say that I'd passed by Santa, heading up to our room in the other elevator. I missed seeing Isaac and Rose, still recovering from their bout with the flu, being surprized by a loud knock on the door and the appearance of a traditionally-clad Kris Kringle.

We'd seen notice of a sit-in-his-lap visit by Santa taking place in the main dining room, but we had no idea that the hotel had planned on presenting an age-appropriate gift to each child at the hotel (and to some of the local children too). We were later told it was to help children who were away from family and ritual while on the island, who would feel they were missing the goings-on usually enjoyed while they were at home.

We were very touched by their thoughtfulness. Unexpectedly getting a new toy made Isaac's life a bit happier, and ours a bit easier. He still plays with the toy car he got, the one on which I engraved "Gran Canaria 1999-2000" for him, the one I'll be telling him stories about someday.


Yule Log In my middle- and high-school years we spent many winter vacations in Woodstock and Fleishmans, New York. After a hard day of skiing at Camelback or Hunter Mountain we'd return to our rented ski cabin - a hunter's cabin in the summertime - and enjoy a dinner cooked by Mom. (One year, when she'd put a bit too much brandy into her tea, she told us to go to sleep at seven because she was tired.) On rare occasions we'd turn on the black-and-white television and watch the grainy image of burning wood. It was a perfect compliment to finding oneself deep in the woods, far away from conveniences, surrounded by birch trees and heavy snow. Today my thoughts returned to that televised yule log, and with a bit of searching, this is what I found:

Not so long ago, New Yorkers sat around the hearth of their television sets to bask in the glow of the WPIX Yule Log on Christmas Eve. It's a tradition as tied to Christmas in New York as the tree in Rockefeller Center and Santa Claus at Macy's.

In 1966 WPIX decided to offer a Christmas card to its viewers. Fireplaces, a symbol of warmth and home, are hard to come by in the metropolis. The station's general manager, at that time, Fred Thrower, thought of all the apartments that didn't have fireplaces, and decided a televised Yule Log might be an appropriate way for viewers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to hear Christmas carols and have a burning fireplace of their own.

A camera crew was dispatched to then Mayor John V. Lindsay's residence at Gracie Mansion, where a 17-second film loop of a blazing fireplace was recorded. Since that time, the Yule Log, which we like to think of as the world's first music video, has been re-shot three or four times. First on film, then on tape and now adapted for the World Wide Web.

As much as we at Channel 11 would like to take credit for creating the video Yule Log, the log itself has actually been a symbol of the holiday season for many centuries.

In medieval Scandinavia, the Yule season commenced with a fire festival where lighting the log from the remains of the previous year's log was a pagan celebration of the warmth and spirit of the season and was thought to protect the home from evil spirits.

The Saxons and Goths burned the Yule log at their festival of the winter solstice. Each year a brand was waved to rekindle the new fire. The remnants were believed to have magic powers, and the log symbolized protection from evil spirits. In Christian tradition the blaze of the fire was meant to symbolize Jesus as the Light of the World, in the belief that there was darkness in the world until the birth of Christ.

In British tradition, a large ash tree would be cut down at the beginning of the Yule season. On Christmas Eve the master of the house would place the log in the hearth while the mistress of the house would prepare a feast and libations.

By the 12th century the tradition of the Yule Log was known in most European countries, particularly, Italy and France. Ultimately the tradition followed the settlers to North America.

As fireplaces began to disappear from homes, so too did the tradition of the Yule Log until finally it made its reappearance in the American home as part of the holiday celebration in the form of a dessert or holiday decoration.

 Christmas Eve, Sunday 24 December 2000
  Aileen Aileen What a Christmas surprise: Aileen, the woman from whom we bought our home stopped by this evening while in the city; she now lives in Napa. Aileen lived here for 37 years; the woman from whom Aileen bought the house still lives up the hill from us. We chatted as she revisited the gardens, heard some stories from the old days. We've invited Aileen and her friend, Mary, to have a lunch under less chaotic holiday conditions. I want to hear more stories about a San Francisco before chain stores and cable television.
 Saturday 23 December 2000
Illy Segafredo One of the most aggravating results of our trip to Rome is my appreciation for the coffee I'm not enjoying here in San Francisco. What I mean to say is that the coffee at Tully's and Pete's seems burned beyond belief, and I still haven't figured out what the problem is at Starbucks. Well, it's with glee that I announce my discovery of two places where the coffee is really worth drinking. Visit either of these places and ask for a espresso [decaffèinato] machiatto caldo, add a teaspoon of sugar, and enjoy!

illy caffè Greco, 1414 Grant Avenue, (415) 397-6261
sega Segafredo Zanetti, 235 Powell Avenue, (415) 955-5101

 Friday 22 December 2000
  Chanukah We celebrate the second night of Chanukah. Rose leads us in song and story, and, as Isaac and I place candles in the menorah and light them, snaps a picture. Having just had a birthday last week, Isaac knows the difference between birthday candles (which one blows out as part of the ritual) and Chanukah or Shabbat candles (which one lets burn down). "dontblowthemout, dontblowthemout", he says. He's big on pronouns these days. Then we open a present from Dziadziu (for which Rose waited in line at the post office for one hour).


Isaac Two years ago this afternoon we took Isaac home from the hospital. We'd seen other couples leave the maternity ward, but as the elevator doors opened I realized that this time it was us. I kept on waiting for someone to stop us and challenge our readiness. Nobody did. I guess we were as ready as any first-time parents. San Francisco was in the middle of a cold snap, and it was all I could do to keep my family warm. I hung blankets over the bedroom's floor-to-ceiling windows and ran the ceramic heater at full blast all through the night. The next day I got another one and put in a call to a heating engineer to check our central heating, which started up with a terrible smell. (It turned out it was just dust being heated, but it seemed a grave fire hazard to those of us not familiar with heating systems.) I didn't enjoy the helplessness I felt that night.

 Thursday 21 December 2000
  3rd anniversary Today we celebrate both our third wedding anniversary and my 37th birthday. This time last year I woke up in Gran Canaria, sick as a dog, with a sick wife and a sick child, only to see a rainbow. (I'd wanted Isaac to have a very special first birthday in Casablanca, but we all caught a very bad cold in transit during a stopover in Barcelona. A week later all of Europe was enjoying the same malady, so many so that England was sending the sick to French clinics via the Chunnel.)

Two years ago we pondered the miracle of birth and the fragility of life while enjoying the first snowfall San Francisco has seen in twenty-five years. Three years ago, nuptials.

b'day card

Twelve years ago, in 1988, my Dad and I were flying from the east coast to Copenhavn (Copenhagen); our plane was diverted to Stockholm, where they kept us isolated on the tarmac, very far away from any buildings, until they sent us on our way after explaining that there had been a security threat, another American plane (Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland) had been blown from the sky, and airport security was therefore checking all other American aircraft.

 Wedesday 20 December 2000
  The text editor I use remembers "state"; it recalls the size and placement of the window of each document I edit. Today I revisited some documents I'd not touched for half a decade. As I watched the windows pop open to cover a small part of my screen I realized that was the size of my PowerBook 5300 screen. (I rendered the web page contained by the document; it was an advice column I'd written in June 1996 about on how to get the most from Mac OS 7. We were all looking forward to getting Mac OS 8.)

Wow. I appreciate the bigger screen. (Heck, while I'm strolling on memory lane I might as well mention that I eschewed color screens for at least a year after they came into common availability in favor of a greyscale 21-inch monitor.)

 Tuesday 19 December 2000
  My son Isaac turns two this day. He learned how to blow out candles. Pictures to follow.

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