Saturday, December 31, 2005
Happy New Year, Conan
I've been out late in rural Wisconsin the last three nights. That's a story for another blog entry.

Today was my mom's 50th birthday surprise party at the Biron community hall. I had to get up early to get the house ready for relatives that would come over after.

The relatives left by six. By seven at night, I, Mr. Party Animal, was passed out and sleeping. I woke up around ten and am now, after watching the ball fall in New York, watching Hilary Duff sing poorly on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin Eve.

Of course, the real new year doesn't start for another hour. The Central Standard Time Zone (known colloquially as "God's Time Zone") has been long subject to the tyranny of the East-Coast media conspiracy. It's been a number of years since I've been at home for New Year's. When I am, Conan O'Brien will hold a CST countdown. Last time I saw it, big dancing CST states (Wisconsin, Illinois, etc.) would come out on the stage and dance around.

I was kind of hoping that Robbie Fulks would be in Madison again this New Year's, but that's not the case. So I'm not even in Madison (and thus, can't make Paulzy's party). There was a party in my hometown held by someone I knew from high school, but I skipped it. And so now I'm just blogging on the couch and watching TV.

Here's what really sucks: this year, New Year's Eve falls on a Saturday night, so Conan isn't even on.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Merry Christmas
As a kid, Christmas was more of a season. After Thanksgiving, you’d note the decorations up in the stores and the radio stations switched over to holiday programming. In my small Wisconsin town, pretty much everyone was Christian, and the taboos about religion in public schools were pretty lax. I think I remember playing a donkey or a wise man in my elementary school—had I been a bit better-read five-year old at the time, my rebellious little self would have sabotaged the program with an unscripted rant on constitutional violations.

Still, now, as a secularly minded soul, I enjoy Christmas. I like the songs, the decorations, and the gift giving. Each year, depending on where my family decides to go, I’ll attend a midnight mass with my Catholic grandparents or the Christmas Eve service at my childhood Lutheran church. Every year, my church pulls out the little candles with the cardboard circles on them (to catch the dripping wax) out of the storeroom. Silent Night is played and everyone sings along.

“Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright,” and the candles all get raised into the air. “Round yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild,” and the candles come down.

The candles are handed out at the beginning of the service and collected at the end. I, despite legally being an adult, spend the interim playing with the things. I would roll the candle in my fingers, warming and softening the wax with the friction, and then slowly work and bend the candle as far as I could. A year or two ago, my little brother, seeing my candle and trying to imitate, just forced it cold and it snapped in half.

My mother (my dad could be as bad as us at misbehaving during the service) glanced over disapprovingly at my brother’s snapped candle. I, ever the angel child, had already bent mine back straight.

Through college, I had always associated the ramp-up to the Christmas holiday with exam week. Some years were better than others, depending, primarily, on where Christmas fell. Sometimes there’d be a sizable gap between my last exam and Christmas Day. Sometimes there wouldn’t be.

In 2001, I had a calculus final from 7:45 to 9:45 on a Saturday night that I had spent the last three days studying for. I got home too stressed to even study. The next morning, Sunday, December 23rd, I had my honors accelerated economics final at 7:45 in the morning. I woke up at 6:30, read every page of my notes, and walked off to my final. I was a wreck at the end of that week, and I hardly noticed Christmas until it was practically over.

It’s weird to not have that rush of stress right before Christmas. I only got home at 2AM on Christmas Eve (the night before the night before Christmas). I’m actually not going to back in California until after the New Year. I feel like I’m on a Christmas break like I had in elementary school. On Monday I’ll have to write a paper about what I got from Santa.

Anyway, saw the Packers lose in person today. Meh.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Leaving San Francisco
I’m in a plane headed east, bound for Minneapolis. We’re over the real flyover states now. Out my window, it’s pitch black mountains with tiny pockets of orange streetlights (and, oddly, one light that seems to be a campfire). I’d guess I’m over Wyoming. Probably an hour ago, I saw lights that got gradually denser and stopped on a curved border. I figure that was Salt Lake City. I stood on that shore six months ago while driving to California.

The Bay Area has, actually, been depressing lately. It’s been cloudy, rainy, and muggy. After sitting down after dragging my luggage over to the cab this afternoon, I realized I was covered in sweat.

I had a big, medium, and small suitcase, plus a laptop bag. The big suitcase was filled with laundry. The small one had my winter coat and food. The medium one was absolutely empty. I plan to fill it with clothes and things to bring back. I'm slowly moving all of my stuff to California, one suitcase at a time.

Climbing out of the clouds and into the sunlight on the ascent was a pleasant break. We headed out over the Rockies, and the tops of the mountains occasionally poked through the blanket of clouds—like an aerial portrait of Caribbean islands with the ocean swapped for giant cotton swabs.

I think the weather has also helped fuel a bit of an antisocial funk for me. Of course, when I’m like that, people tend to think I need cheering up and they hound to come along places. Not a good idea. Inevitably, if I get dragged along somewhere, I’m grumpy and the experience ends up being bad for everyone.

I like to go do things by myself. In the last week, I’ve gone to three different theatres to see Narnia, Brokeback Mountain, and Good Night, and Good Luck, all alone. I’m thinking of taking a solo vacation somewhere next year.

Anyway, back to the weather. Unfortunately, what I was looking forward to in Wisconsin—bitter cold—has apparently subsided. It’s now 39 and freezing rain, ruining all the snowmobile trails. Ask a Wisconsinite—they’d much prefer the temperature be ten degrees below freezing than ten above. Below freezing, there’s snow. The landscape is snow covered and pretty. The ground is hard. Above freezing, things melt. There’s mud and puddles, and everything seems cold and wet.

About the trip—again, it’s December 23rd on a plane bound for Minneapolis. There’s a conspicuous number of Norwegian-looking flower children, with funky blond hairstyles and hip, fashionable clothing. I’m assuming they’re flying back home for Christmas. I picture them with their significantly less hip parents attending Lutheran church services tomorrow night.
Friday Morning, 2 AM
I had gone out to a restaurant and a bar for a coworker's birthday. I came back to work to pick up a few things before heading home, but, for some reason, I'm really in the mood to code. So that's what I'm doing. I've got to pack, stop by the DMV, and catch a plane at 4 tomorrow.

But for now, I'm running on gumdrops, caffeine-free Diet Coke (personal rule: no caffeine after 5 PM), and At San Quentin. The Document Object Model and I have just broken through to a new plane of transcendent interconnectedness.

Update: Friday Morning, 4 AM. Done. Sending off this changelist to a teammate.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
How to kick it with Doctor Awesome during the holiday season
To people I know outside the blogosphere:

I'll be in Madison and in Wisconsin Rapids between Christmas and New Year's. I'm going to go see the Packers at Lambeau on Christmas Day.

Drop me an e-mail if you'd like to get in touch while I'm home. E-mail address is on the left over there, below all the other menu stuff. To prevent spammers, I wrote it as a little puzzle. You'll have to be smart to figure it out.
Please don't cry...
I know I haven't posted anything substantial for a bit. This is due to my get-everything-done-before-I-fly-off-for-Christmas rush at work (I've been working myself to exhaustion and sickness. Seriously. I have a cold/respiratory infection).

But I promise you this, loyal readers:

There are a number of blog topics staring back at me from my to-do list. As I have a plane ride between myself and Christmas (not to mention some vacation time), I promise you a blog post on Christmas Day, and one for every day of Christmas after that, with a likely maximum of five.

Yes, there are twelve days of Christmas. But five is smaller than twelve.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
I bowled a 184 last night, my highest score ever.

That is all.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Starving in America
Note: I've been sitting on this one for a week, mulling over it. A chat with Justin tonight got me to finish it up for you all.

Friday night, I had attended the Google holiday party in San Francisco. It was held near SBC park on Pier 48. I had brought Justin along as my "date," as I figured he'd enjoy the experience. I wasn't in the best of moods before the party, but Justin was a good date to have--he similarly had no intention of partying heavily. We spent our time at the party wondering around discussing a variety of topics political and philosophical, stopping occasionally so that I could greet a friend or coworker. At one point, I saw my manager from across and told Justin that we should break into the conversation to say hello. Walking up, I held Justin back.

"We should hold off for a little bit," I said.

"Why?" Justin asked.

"He's talking to Sergey."

Anyway, a large number of Googlers were meeting at Club Q afterwards. Justin and I, still in discussion, decided to walk rather than flag a cab. While I've spent a lot of time in San Francisco, I don't know it intimately enough to have had it occur to my that walking to Market and Sixth at 12:30 in the morning isn't the best of ideas. Sixth and Mission is referred to as San Francisco's "Skid Row" or, mockingly, as "Wine Country" (and not because of its vast vineyards, I assure you).

And I was arrogantly walking through wearing a tuxedo. In a dozen blocks, I'd gone from bumping into Forbes' list members to San Francisco's poorest and most down and out.

We ended up not even finding Club Q (for the record, it's at 62 Golden Gate, not 42, Nick), so we hopped in a cab and went back to the hotel and got to bed at a decent hour.

San Francisco is known for having a homeless problem. A big homeless problem. The generally mild climate and the city's past generosity have both contributed.

And it bothers the hell out of me. The Bay Area is home to Silicon Valley, one of the most rabidly competitive and cut-throat bastions of capitalism. Million- and billion-dollar deals are cut regularly. Startups grow from obscurity to empires, and twenty-something billionaires are made. San Francisco is one of the priciest places to live in one of the richest countries on Earth.

And there are people living on the streets in the middle of all of it.

On one hand, the last century has seen accomplishments that dwarf anything previously ever even conceived by man. We've put a man on the moon. The Internet. All sorts of fun stuff.

But what happened to those grandiose ideas of the Great Society and the War on Poverty? Seriously.

I don't blame the haves for the have-nots (and it's not like the haves are sitting on their hands--see or the Gates Foundation). The market is the engine that has produced amazing levels of prosperity--it makes the pie bigger. But that doesn't mean that we can forget about making sure everybody gets a fair slice.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Matchmaker, matchmaker...
Last night at a holiday party, Eric was discussing his recently joining, "the leading Jewish singles network."

I'm surprised by how specific these dating services are getting. You can also choose to date only Democrats, Republicans, military members, Christians (Catholic or Protestant), atheists, vegetarians, geeks, goths, golfers, hippies, cowboys, smokers, and more.

After he said this, I quipped that I think there should be an agnostic dating site that, on the welcome page, reads, "Do you ever wonder if there exists a soulmate out there for you?"
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Shave and a Haircut
Okay, I apologize for the dull civilian topic, but I got a haircut today.

Onsite Haircuts is a company that drives an RV to different Silicon Valley companies. I've gotten a hair cut there once or twice before.

Last week, I was in need of a haircut and got one there. They pretty effectively botched it. The hair on one side of my head was visibly longer than the other, the sides were uneven, and one part seemed like it was missed entirely. I did what I could to fix it with a pair of scissors in the bathroom mirror, but it still looked bad. I had an urge to just stop by Target some night, buy a clippers, and buzz everything off.

Not that I haven't done that before. I cut most of my hair off, by myself, during the summers of 2000, 2003, and 2004.

So today, I shoved a wad of bills sitting next to my bed into my pocket and drove to University Avenue. I had seen the President Barbershop before, but had never stopped in. Today, I did.

I was probably the only in the place under 35. I waited my turn, sat in the seat. "Medium?" the barber asked? I thought about it. Something different, I decided. "Really short," I said.

I now have a slightly longer than military haircut, and I look such the conservative (if you ignore the untucked dress shirt, the blue jeans, and the worn running shoes).

I very much like going to a barbershop rather than a salon or a standard discount place, primarily because they specialize in men's hair. I think the President Barbershop will be my standard hair care destination. I really haven't had a go-to barbershop since the College Barbershop. The College Barbershop had walls plastered with Badger memorabilia. The President Barbershop, at least, has a TV with ESPN on.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Punny stuff
From CNN:

Elton to tie knot in Windsor

Man, how do I apply for that headline-writing job?

Nicely done, unattributed-to reporter.

(for the dense, see the Wikipedia entry for windsor knot)

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