What's New? 2001-03-01

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What's New? 2001-03-01

 Friday 30 March 2001
  Wow, what a busy week! The job hunt has been absolutely horrible, and I've started looking outside of San Francisco, including one job in Honolulu and another in Köln, Germany. I can't believe how much things have changed in ninety days; what a different market.

I'm taking some of this down time to take care of tidying up the house and going through our store of things in boxes. I've even spent a tiny amount of time in the garden. And I'm upgrading my home computing environment - now that I have two more high-powered UNIX boxes on the home Ethernet - to mimic the development environment which I see at my clients.

Besides adding a lot of Java functionality to my "Mac OS X" installation, I've been trying to figure out which database to use, something which is waiting on my finding a good J2EE Enterprise Java Beans tool.

I've spent part of this week checking out the computing situation at my sister-in-law's office at the West Portal Center for After-School Care and Recreation, a non-profit which works in conjunction with the school boards in providing services to school children. It's a Microsoft Windows world, running on old machines; a far cry from the high-end computing to which I'm used. I've been debugging conflicting software, run 10-Base-T Ethernet cable around the office, am chatting with my ISP about providing DSL Internet access for them. We'll have to buy a hub which runs the Network Address Translation on a chip so that all their machines can hit the 'net and use their shared office resources (like printers).

 Wednesday 21 March 2001
  In addition to playing phone tag with a potential client (who I'm beginning to suspect went through the interview process to mine candidates for ideas) and having great fun with Rose and Isaac at playgroups, I'm now using Mac OS X two days early. Technical details at "Geek Times".
 Wednesday 21 March 2001
  In addition to playing phone tag with a potential client (who I'm beginning to suspect went through the interview process to mine candidates for ideas) and having great fun with Rose and Isaac at playgroups, I'm now using Mac OS X two days early. Technical details at "Geek Times".
 Monday 19 March 2001
  I would very much like to drop a few things from my "Add Me" folder in your way, today. There's neither rhyme nor reason for these selections...

Francis Ford Coppola Francis Ford Coppola

As we were travelling through Italy last autumn I was repeatedly approached (by Italians) and asked whether I was related to film-maker Francis Ford Coppola. Of course I had to say no, but I wonder what doors would have opened for a younger brother, especially as I've heard that Don Coppola is quite respected in his homeland.


PETA Strange goings-on taken straight from the wire. Italy, 25 January 2001 - A People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals (PETA) activist protests waving a heart shaped banner to demonstrate against the use of animal fur by fashion designers. The semi-naked men and women activists hurled insults at people arriving to watch fashion shows on the first day of Rome's high fashion week. (REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico; photo used without permission)


Wm. Macy One of the few actors who hold my attention is William H. Macy. Here you see him as The Shoveler in the movie Mystery Men (1999), where he said "we've got a blind date with Destiny -- and it looks like she's ordered the lobster". What a wonderful all-to-human superhero, who also said "we struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering." I wonder if this makes any sense to someone who didn't see, or appreciate, this bizarre movie about seven loser superheroes.


castro halloween We used to have two live webcams in our neighborhood, the Castro. (The yoghurt shop in which they were installed changed hands and I don't think the system survived the handover.) Last Halloween we strolled through the throngs but returned home rather early, unlike Halloween 1999, when my sister-in-law Pamela and I returned to the party and danced our way up and down the street. This year I kept tabs on the late-night festivities through these cameras. This is a picture of the intersection of Castro Street and Eighteenth Street, with Harvey's Restaurant in the background.

 Sunday 18 March 2001
  At least once each day, for each of the thirteen days that Dad was here, he'd mention the wonderful weather and claim that he'd brought it with him. True, the weather wasn't all that good before he arrived (in fact it was so bad that we escaped to Hawai'i) but I didn't really think that Dad had that sort of power...

So it was with great surprise that I awoke this morning to a complete covering of fog. I can't tell you how long it's been since we had heavy fog in the morning. Maybe Dad *did* have some influence with the weather. Who knew?

lots of fog less fog no fog

Well, maybe he's not that powerful. Within ten minutes the fog burned off and we had one of the hottest days this season. We went to Golden Gate Park to go rollerblading with my god-children. What a great day. We passed the rovers in the band shell near the Academy of Sciences. They were still dancing as the cold fog rolled in this evening; we passed by them hours later on the way back to the car.


"This park bench is like an outbound train," said Isaac, running on the bench, scooting off, sprinting to the other side, and repeating the process (with Natalie in tow). We're not really sure what he meant. Later he informed us that a silver mylar food wrapper was "like a clarinet". Uh, okay. Beginners mind.


Norooz Mohbarak!
Happy Iranian Persian New Year!

Norooz Mohbarak

Norooz 1380 (2560) begins at 05:30:40 PST next Tuesday (17:00:40 in Tehran). My favorite tradition? Sofreh Haft Sinn (the Table of Seven Dishes), with the name of each dish starting with the Farsi letter Sinn. My favorite dish? The sumac, which I sprinkle with reckless abandon on my chello kabab soltani. We celebrated with a Persian friend of ours and her family at Kasra, a Persian restaurant on Clement Street (at Fifth Avenue).

 Saturday 17 March 2001
  As a young child, spending his social time devouring the tomes at the library, I realized that the awesome power in naming an object or concept stems from the focus it brings, putting one a step closer to understanding. (That was decades before I realized that the abusive wielding of jargon to obscure meaning isn't the same thing.) Where is this rambling going? Well, today, while reading an article on the web entitled Japanese Aesthetics, Wabi-Sabi, and the Tea Ceremony I stumbled across a word which describes something essential to my very being: wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi, the "most conspicuous and characteristic feature of what we think of as traditional Japanese beauty" (Leonard Koren), is

  • the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete
  • the beauty of things modest and humble
  • the beauty of things unconventional

The concepts of wabi-sabi correlate with the concepts of Zen Buddhism, as the first Japanese involved with wabi-sabi were tea masters, priests, and monks who practiced Zen. Zen Buddhism originated in India, traveled to China in the 6th century, and was first introduced in Japan around the 12th century. Zen emphasizes "direct, intuitive insight into transcendental truth beyond all intellectual conception." At the core of wabi-sabi is the importance of transcending ways of looking and thinking about things/existence.

  • all things are impermanent
  • all things are imperfect
  • all things are incomplete

Physical objects which exude wabi-sabi share the following characteristics:

  • suggestion of natural process
  • irregular
  • intimate
  • unpretentious
  • earthy
  • simple

"Oh my goodness", as my son Isaac says. Wabi-sabi describes what we've been doing with our house. Heck, it describes our short list of non-negotiables when house-hunting. (Okay, okay, so I didn't get that fireplace I really wanted. A family friend, a master home-builder, told me he could put a wood-burning fireplace anywhere I wanted it...)


"Make a delicious bowl of tea, lay the charcoal so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in summer suggest coolness; in winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration." -- Soshitsu Sen


As a Manhattanite (hey, why bother being born anywhere else? :^) I'm respectful of the work New York Rudi Guliani has done in improving the city, but when I hear (again and again) about his thin-skinned knee-jerk response to art which he finds offensive (to his vision of Christianity) (as Renee Cox's Yo Mama's Last Supper, below)

Renee Cox Yo Mama's Last Supper

I have to mutter to myself "Rudi, I remember Hizzoner Mayor Edward I. Koch, and you're no Ed Koch". Why do seemingly intelligent folks seem to have such a hard time understanding the First Amendment? It's disappointing.

Well, at least there's a Ferrara caffè Italiano in Times Square now. Maybe that counts for something.

 Friday 16 March 2001
  We just returned from celebrating Dad's (and my littlest sister-in-law's) birthdays at the Old Krakow restaurant. It was very nice, and Isaac stayed in a high-chair for half of the meal. (Not anywhere close to his record, but adequate.) He tried a whole variety of things: cheese pirogi, mashed potatoes, cucumber and dill in yoghurt, beets, etc. Then we lit the shabbat candles in our kitchen.

3 generations

Dad's PowerBook is running well, what with an upgrade in the operating system, additional RAM, and the current suite of applications replacing his outdated ones. That ought to hold him for a while.

 Thursday 15 March 2001
  "I see a plane flying in my tummy. Now I see a train flying in my tummy. ONE TRAIN!", said Isaac, while we were driving around San Francisco in the "family car". Shortly thereafter he said "I see a fish climbing on my shirt" (on an aloha shirt). It's never a dull moment here, with our chatty little guy. He's been quite the singer and musician, strumming (and since Adam showed him how, picking) the strings of his half-sized guitar. Total count of stringed instruments: one zither, two ukulele, and the half-size guitar we purchased yesterday in Berkeley.
 Wednesday 14 March 2001
  Only ten days left until Apple Mac OS X 1.0 is released. It seems just like yesterday that the-CEO Gil Amelio assigned Ellen Hancock to evaluate Apple's Copland project. Her advice? Kill the project and buy a new operating system. It looked like Apple ex-bigwig Jean-Louis Gasse's BeOS would be the winner, but it turned out to be Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' NeXT that was selected. Over three years later we're ready to see the fruits of that decision: a truly preemptive multi-tasking operating system with a protected memory model our our Macs. I'm thrilled.
 Tuesday 13 March 2001
  Spent the morning with Rose and Isaac at a play-group. Delivered some references in the afternoon. It's really hard tracking down some people. They've moved, their home phone numbers have changed and the old numbers don't point to the new ones, they've changed jobs and their old email addresses don't forward to their personal emails (if they even have such a thing), and so on. Identity entropy hits hard on the 'net as it currently exists.
 Monday 12 March 2001
H a p p y  7 5 t h  B i r t h d a y,  D a d!

Sadly, I missed the birthday party I'd organized at Bocca Rotis, a restaurant in West Portal. A job interview which had started at 1630 ran until 2100. By the time I realized how long we'd been speaking it was too late. Rose, Isaac, the in-laws, and Dad were already eating. Since I was on the other side of the city, at Ghirardelli Square, it would have taken me an hour to get to them. Sigh. Hopefully we can do something significant later in the week.

 Sunday 11 March 2001
  Went to Berkeley with Felicia and Adam. Did a bit of sake tasting at the Sho Chiku Bai factory (just off the University / Fourth Street Exit from Hwy. 80). Then discovered the VIK Chaat Corner; really excellent Indian cuisine in a real "dive" atmosphere. Run, don't walk, to Vik.
 Saturday 10 March 2001
  A quiet day, all around. We had breakfast at May's Coffee Shop in Japantown. It's similar in fare and style to Ma's Family on Kaua'i. We met Devin, with whom we explored Roma last year. Dropped Dad off with sister Felicia (they're heading up to Napa) and made it to the birthday party of one of my two god-children. Had a great time. Returned home, all took a late afternoon nap, trimmed the hedges in front of the house, went out for Mediterranean food, strolled around the Castro for a while, and headed back home to sleep. Much ado about nothing, just the way I (sometimes) like it.
 Friday 9 March 2001
bianca is toast Bianca gets toasted :-(

It's with great personal and professional sadness that I report the gutting of my new employer, bianca.com, by its parent company, Nerve. My boss of one week, David Thau, was informed yesterday that the technical staff was to be let go today and the remaining employees are to be put on half-salary effective immediately. The company has one month to become profitable, or else, was the news from New York.

I'm most saddened by the demise of a wonderful working environment and the abrupt termination of such great possibility. We'd been planning (some might say architecting) an Java-centric XML personals tool as an upgrade to the rather sad one currently deployed. We had good people, good chemistry, and good ideas. I mourn what might have been possible with this great crew. Sigh.

Another holdout from the creeping corporate ennui on the 'net is gone. A sad day for all of us who hope for something more than e-commerce and corporate brochures on the web. The death of this working environment means our universe just got a bit smaller, a bit more homogenous, a wee bit colder.

 Wednesday 7 March 2001
  coffee cam The very first web came (which actually predated the creation of the world wide web) is to be permanently taken off-line in the near future. Another bit of cult web history to be winked out of existence, to become a strange memory and a stranger story for our grandchildren. According to the Times, the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory's Trojan Room coffee pot camera and its subject are being consigned to the history books because the university computer department is moving. Dan Gordon, 33, a research scientist, said: "It will be turned off simply because there is no more need for it." (The image you see at right was taken from the camera today.)

Quentin Stafford-Fraser, the man behind the pot website, said: "I first rigged it up because we were fed up of traipsing half-way around the building to find there was no coffee in the pot. At first, the image was only updated about three times a minute -- it is now one frame a second -- but that was fine because the pot filled rather slowly, and it was only greyscale, which was also fine, because so was the coffee. This system only took us a day or so to construct but was rather more useful than anything else I wrote while working on networks."

 Tuesday 6 March 2001
  More technical discussions, as well as the evaluation of running legacy software in a high-performance emulation environment on a modern UNIX system as a short-term stopgap measure. Fascinating. Updates to this site may lag a bit for the next few months, what with the stuff we're planning on doing in a short time, but the end result ought to be worth it. We're actually making sense: a platform-neutral (Java on UN*X), data-neutral (XML), location-neutral (remote database connectivity), network-neutral (vanilla TCP/IP with RMI and JDBC). All the right decisions (or at least brainstorms), from a technical point of view. This sucker will rock!
 Monday 5 March 2001
  Isaac on Kaua'i First day on the job at Bianca. And what a day it's been! We arrived from our Kaua'i vacation late last evening (that's Isaac playing the ukulele in Hawai'i), and ten hours later I was at my new desk, plugging my PowerBook into the corporate network. We, the tiny technical staff, has been discussing the new software we'll we doing. (Obviously I can't reveal competitive details about what we're doing until we deploy, but nothing like that follows.) It's only in the hand-waving stage right now, but it looks as though we're going to undertake a Java-centric database-driven project, perhaps with XML as the communications method, for deployment on a distributed (load-balanced) environment. Excellent!

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