Friday, September 30, 2005

A Pig Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever.
No, it's not a phrase spied on a t-shirt in Tokyo, or something that emerged from babelfish. It is the sign introducing you to a Red River Hog at the San Diego Zoo. And it may have to become my .sig file.

The Red River Hog has hairy ears like my grandfather had. I suspect that when he's old and wrinkly, SNG will have them, too. But for now his ears are super-cute. And an SNG of beauty is a joy forever.

This week I went open water swimming with a colleague who's really into boating but had never tried kayaking before. So I let him use one of our 'yaks to shadow me and keep the powerboats from plowing over me. It was quite a symbiotic thing we had going-- I was slow enough that he was under no pressure to pick up Mad paddling skilz in a hurry, and I needed a human shield. I swam for 90 minutes, with about 15 of them hanging onto the bow of the boat watching the clear blue sky fade into a purple-and-orange sunset. Did I ever tell you how nice it is in NC in the fall?

No trips for a couple of weeks. Instead I'm supposed to be writing a course for a customer that is contingent on their signing some legal document, which was due last Monday, but is still not yet signed, so I can't start the work yet. And if they wait much longer, I will be on the road again and their course will have to wait until next year. So in the meantime, I'm catching up on all the nifty programming projects I had put off for the last few months.

OK, that was seriously boring to most of you so I'm going to exit stage left. Have a great weekend! It's a PERFECT 10 on the weather channel's Fitness Forecast for this afternoon, so by the time you read this, I'll be cavorting with the birds and the trees!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

It's been awhile since I've posted because of all this traveling. Last week I was in Rockville/DC where we shared the booger experience together. No need to thank me, I know you're grateful.

I am left pondering why it is that I get these booger harvesters and many of my coworkers don't. I am sure that it's just that other people don't notice. They have the same rate of nosepickers, but their detection system is insensititive to all but the most blatant of excavation activities. I recognize that my measurement device is quite sensitive, and like a good neural network with adaptive learning capability, becomes better attuned to subtle variations in methods for digging concealment. Perhaps I can get a job with some super-secret intelligence agency finding and rooting out terrorist booger-depostion activities. You know, track down where terrorists are wiping their boogers off in public places, like underneath seats at airports, on commuter handloops in subway trains, things like that. But it would be dirty work.

This week I flew out to San Jose, CA (as opposed to San Jose, Colombia-- where I nearly boarded) for a conference. I gave 3 presentations: a half-day course and 2 50-min paper presentations. But the most exciting work I did was over coffee and lunch with an old grad school friend of mine I make a point of visiting whenever I'm in the bay area. He's one of those rare clever types who appears to have an inexaustable supply of neat ideas. We spent some time talking about a paper idea (actually, 2 ideas) that we could collaborate on. I need friends like this, who come up with ideas for research papers that other people might be interested in reading. I can be a great workhorse when I have the time to devote, but my ideas usually entail finding the hard way to do something, such as coming up with a new test statistic that is less efficient than what's already implemented in the software, and by the way you have to program your own matrix language code to get it, but gee, isn't that neat?? I know you're itching to hear more, but I don't want to be scooped, so I'm keeping the details to myself. Because I know you were all just waiting to scoop me. Dianaverse is aways trying to steal my research paper ideas and publish them in some tier-2 journal where she can use the puppy-pornography data example. And kiltman does worse than that-- he takes my ideas and comes up with better titles than I can come up with and so everyone reads his version of the paper instead of mine.

This whole silly mood I'm in must be from jet lag or something. I'm currently in the kitchen at my BFF Lizard's house in San Diego. Thursday night I flew down here to spend the weekend, and SNG flew in from RDU. We've been having so much fun. The weather here really is a pretty as everyone says, but (I think I've posted about this before) the traffic here is really nuts. Not quite Chicago-traffic-crazy, but I think it's worse than Atlanta traffic. Which is also really bad. But the weather is the least of the reasons we're here. Lizard has been stationed and otherwise occupied all over the world in very hard-to-reach places most of the last 10 years, and until she and her SO moved to the mainland this year I had seen her a grand total of 1 time in 10 years. This is the person I used to smoke ciagarettes and eat big-grab chips and mini-muffins with in my car before school started every morning in high school. She was the other half of prom double-dates. She was the maid of honor at my wedding. And not even having a coffee with her for years at a stretch? It's just not right.

Anyway, so now I'm having a cuppa at her kitchen counter, and SNG is sitting here waiting for me to take him for a jog.

Better run. We're going to the zoo later! Yay! If I get any good pics I'll post them when we get back.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I'm teaching in Our Nation's Capitol this week and I just have to get this off my chest...


It's DATA mining. Not nosemining. And I'm not a TV.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Last weekend was the MS150, which, for those of you who might be wondering whether that is some sort of giant strawberry festival, is a 2-day bike ride to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis advocacy, programs, and research.

This year we decided 75 miles a day was for babies. The route is nice and flat, but since it's near the coast, there's usually some wind to contend withand this year was no exception. With hurricane Ophelia brewing just to the East, we had bands of 20-30mph winds that blew into or across our route most of the time. Luckily, there are so many people on the ride that we usually had someone in front of us to act as a windshield!

Day 1 we finished the 100-mile ride in a little over 5 hours, at an average speed of 18.7mph. Three stops: mile 38, mile 50, and mile 78. We both felt great pretty much the whole time. And we met some really fun people. Whose names I promptly forgot. And Boy, howdy was it ever windy. I felt my bike being swooshed all over the road at times, and really worried that I'd be blown right over.

Day 2 we had an announcement from the Local Weather Guy (LWG). LWG told us that because the hurricane was getting closer, the wind would be even worse than on Day 1, and there was a possibility of some really severe weather. As a result, they were going to need extra volunteers available to drive SAG wagons in case riders were being blown off their bikes and stuff. So they cancelled the century loop on Day 2. (!!!) There was nothing for it. We rode the 75 mile route instead. I think day 2 was much harder than day 1, and not just because of the 100 miles we'd already put on our legs. We felt really pretty strong in the morning, and skipped the first 2 rest stops. Which was a mistake, because almost everyone stops at the 1st or 2nd rest stop, even if it's just to use the portajon, so the only people on the road in front of us (or right behind us) were the Serious hammerheads going 25mph into the wind. So in spite of our best efforts to hang on with the big kids, we rode alone for the next 15 miles, until we reached stop #3, the lunch stop. There we grouped up with some of SNG's office buddies and got some protection from the (by now Howling) headwind. The group stopped briefly at mile 55, but SNG and I just wanted to KEEP GOING! The skies were getting darker and darker, and I really hate riding in the rain. We finally finished, averaged 18mph, in just over 4 hours. And no rain.

We made it to the finish in time to eat our weight in BBQ and fixins before heading back to the in-laws' to shower, eat some more, pick up the dog, drive back home, and eat some more.

The whole weekend we slept like rocks! Which is saying something, since I tend to get nervous insomnia before any kind of big event. I guess since this isn't competitive, there's less to worry about. And we ate! Oh did we eat. Friday evening SNG's folks made a birthday dinner and Blueberry-peach pie! Oh, yeah! And Saturday evening we had as many brownies as we had plates of pasta-chicken-vegetables-salad. And I mentioned the Sunday BBQ business...

Now that we've finished our longest rides of the year, SNG and I will need to get out of the habit of measuring our dinner portions with a shovel, and go back to using kitchen utensils like everyone else. And sweetheart, your daily ice cream ritual? needs to go on wintertime hiatus. *sigh*

A side note: I had a masssage on Saturday from a guy who claims to hold the world record on longest running chair massages-- 52 hours. Can you imagine? He gave me a table massage, and at the end did this funny thing where he grabbed my ankles and shake-a shake-a shake-a shook me all around until everything was all loosie-goosie. Try it with a friend- it's a pretty cool feeling. He didn't do as good a job on my shoulder as Lal, my regular massage dude, but the shake-a shake-a business was fun.

Friday, September 9, 2005

"Dites- Que fait ton ami?"

OK, it's time to talk about something else. The email blizzard burying my Inbox from the non-Gulf-Coast contigent of my family gets uglier by the day. It's turning into a darned flame-war! The problem is that you simply can't be a moderate in my family. If you have a view, it has to be FIRMLY and FIERCELY held, with no wiggle-room for any competing perspectives.

And if you ask me, exactly half of them are RIGHT and the other half are WRONG (I am still, after all, a member of said family and no exception to these attitudinal parameters). :-)

But that's beside the point. The point is that I don't want to talk about the GC right now.

So I'm changing the subject. In my Pimsleur Speak and Reach Essential French 3, they teach you how to quickly change the subject in conversation. They say that if you start a sentence with "Dites!" (which translates to "Say!") that this is a "polite way to change the subject." It's funny to formalize something like that in a language lesson, but a useful thing to know. Val will have to tell me whether this is the best way to politely change the subject or whether I should try something else (perhaps something equivalent to "Soooooo, anywaaaaaaay....").

Dites! Our cafeteria at work makes the only tuna salad that I can stand to eat anymore. I'm not sure when or why, but at some point I stopped liking tuna. Fresh or canned. But the SASeteria has a recipe that transcends tuna. I don't know what's in it. Maybe it's full-fat mayo? Yeah, that's probably it.

In other news, the MS150 is this weekend. Or, as we've taken to calling it, the MS200. Weather permitting, we're going to attempt the double-century (100 miles Sat and 100 miles Sun). Saturday is also my birthday. Since biking 100 miles is kind of a crappy way to spend your birthday, I get to have a rain-delay birthday. Also, since I'm giving up my real birthday to ride 100 miles, I get 2 rain-days to make up for it. SNG doesn't know that yet, but he will as soon as he reads this.

Last year we started a tradition with friends where birthday outings are celebrated with "fake-sport-and-food." Real food, not fake food. We've done bowling, billiards, lazer-tag, miniature golf, skee-ball, I can't remember what else. Food has mostly been pizza, with some BBQ, some gelatto, some other random stuff. This year I want Ice Dancing as my fake sport. I have to be careful calling this a fake sport- my mom used to be an ice dancer, but it's not as sporty as figure skating or speedskating. (Thank goodness she wasn't a synchronized swimmer- then I'd have all kinds of eggshells to tread) I think we should all dress in period outfits from a decade with great music and go to the ice rink and ice dance! Food will be sushi. It just seems appropriate for ice dancing somehow. Of course, not everyone eats sushi, so it's an "Ice Dancing and Sushi or something else from Whole Foods' deli case" party. Um, and since not everyone dances, it's OK to put on skates and slip-slide around on the rink as long as you wiggle your tooshie as if you're trying to dance. Or at least look cool hanging out by a pinball machine.

The best part is I have a whole mess of free passes to the ice rink. They might be the B.O.G.O. kind, but that's at least 1/2 price.

Consider yourself invited-- shoot me an email and I'll give you the details.

Friday, September 2, 2005

But On A Lighter Note:
(lifted from the St Petersburg Times Q&A)

Is there going to be a shortage of Tabasco sauce, too, since it comes from southern Louisiana?

Apparently not. The McIlhenny Co., makers of Tabasco, has its headquarters on Avery Island, La., west of New Orleans. The company reports that Hurricane Katrina took out its Web site but not its operations and there will be no interruption in the processing of the hot stuff.

Whew! There will be no interruption to my daily omelette-soaked-in-pepper-sauce ritual.
I know I just posted a plea for donations to relief agencies-- but it bears repeating. If you haven't done it yet, please consider donating to one of the relief agencies working to
- evacuate the city
- rescue pets and other animals
- clean the toxins and poisons that will likely disrupt the ecosystem in ways we can only begin to imagine
- search for the dead in homes, under debris, in the streets
- find places to relocate the million-or-so people who are suddenly homeless (think about that for a minute)
- bring food, water, clothes, schoolbooks, and other supplies to proud people who are now, by no fault of their own, begging for help and counting on the mercy of people who are geographically more fortunate
- (eventually) clear away the old destryed buildings and rebuild a city that will be more resistant to weather catastrophes in the future
- care for the sick and injured

Remember, everyone from New Orleans-- not just the people who stayed behind-- is homeless and facing an uncertain future. New Orleans is one of the poorest cities in the country, and most of the people who stayed did so because they had no way to leave, and if they could have left, had no place to go. The small number of idiots who are looting TVs and causing violence are FAR outnumbered by people who are scavenging for food, water, and dry clothes, for medicine and first aid supplies, for dry land. They may be poor but they are proud and small sacrifices on all of our parts will add up to a large helping hand for many people.

So please, if you haven't already done so, give what you can plus a little bit more. If you don't have money, donate some water. Donate tools or workgloves or blankets or clothes thatyou won't need.

You can find a list of charitable agencies here and here.