October 16th, 2012


Thereby Hangs a Nail

The reason I have my nails armor plated is they split, and never grow strong enough to grow much of a nail past the finger tip. Little shards of hangnail keep pushing out. Right now I am armor-less because the last two manicurists mangled what little nail tips I had when they removed the armor to make a new set. And then with the move most of the armor from the last go round came off, and I soaked the rest in acetone and eased them off too. So now I have 10 nakes nails and they look horrible and some of them hurt, some of the keep tearing, and I have no nails to open a foil-wrapped liqueur-filled dark chocolate bottle with. And 3 lbs of pistachios which I can't pry open.

I need to get something on them soon.

Team meeting at work had some fun moments. Can't go into detail, but I made boss' boss laugh out loud from the irony of some bureaucratic red tape which I have been fighting for months.

We got some long-awaited new equipment for one of the features I am working on, I had some fun setting up its configs.

Lunchtime was a trip to the car audio shop, to get the alarm re-programmed. It got set back to defaults when they disconnected the battery Saturday to install the audio unit. That took way too long. From there to the long Monday line at the PO, where I mailed a book to my sister, a broken GPS unit to China and my NatGeo DNA test kit to their labs.

After work I drove to Saratoga (opposite side of town from the theater) to Christa McAuliffe school for a presentation "The Science of Doctor Who", which was at a middle school level. Very entertaining, and even educational for me. (Ms) Alex Larkin, Research Associate at the Stanford Medical Center and Matthew Rowley, Stanford Graduate Student in Particle Physics at SLAC were the presenters. Alex is a natural, Matthew is not, but he managed well enough. I got there 20 minutes before the published 7 pm start time, and there were maybe 6 people there including a couple of BASFA members. At 7 there were maybe 20 people, then all of a sudden the place was flooded, and they hauled out all the chairs they had in the back room. I counted more than 100 people. Maybe one parent for every 5 kids.

They had easy to read slides, very well done, somewhat mitigated by Matthew's propensity to stand between the projector and the screen. There were a few clever demos, one which illustrated camouflage by refraction using a couple of liquid-filled glasses and glass stirrers. Everyone had a strip of white paper with a post-it tip which we used to make a 2-D circlet and then a Möbius strip. The Möbius strip was used to show how a wormhole might work. Someone in the audience asking a question confused a wormhole with a black hole, but instead of just pointing out the difference, Matthew described how a wormhole also might have a gravity-sucking event horizon. Both presenters were amazing with the kids, who had some pretty off the wall questions, all of which were taken seriously and answered seriously.

The biggest response came when Alex showed a slide of six of the alternate life forms of Doctor Who. Almost every kid in the place is a real fan, and they recognized them all. Alex described each one and had the kids help guess what kind of planets they came from. They all knew the story behind Daleks and Cybermen, but also the adipose adipose blobs. The biggest boo came when one of the girls up front, prefaced her question by saying she had never watched Doctor Who. She had a good question, though. Three actually.

Matthew gave a good explanation of how we live in a 4-dimensional world (time being the 4th) and how the Tardis "bigger on the inside" might be 5th dimensional.

Lots of questions at the end, and many kids and parents stayed after to ask more.

Very touched that Christa McAuliffe's memory is being honored so well.

Listening to the OBC recording of Brigadoon, and surprised at how many standards are in there. I may have to audition for this after all.

Plans for tomorrow:
Computer History Museum talk with Rick Rashid, who bailed from CMU when I was his support guy at HP to head the Microsoft NT team. That didn't last long, he soon became, and still is, head of research there. 
Maybe I'll get the nails done at lunch time. Or not. 

Weird Dream

Weird Dream Channel

very short dream as I was waking up:
A tall slender blonde woman (past shoulder length wavy very light blonde hair) in a black lace-trimmed dress is at my cubicle entrance, half of her is hidden behind the cube wall. She leans in and gestures for me to come with her. I say something like "it's goodbye, then?" knowing I am being laid off.

20+-year-old Misconceptions re-concepted

Around 1991-2 I was a tech support guy for an HP Labs group which promoted university research projects by donating equipment. One of the projects was at CMU, which was working on the Mach operating system (think Unix without an AT&T copyright). Rick Rashid was the head of that project. The HP person who was liaison with Rashid pronounced his name Rah-sheed, accent on the final syllable,  giving me the impression the man was from India. Just as I was getting familiar with his project & grad students, he quit to go to Microsoft. We were told he was taking over the Windows NT group.

Tonight I met him in person for the first time, at a Computer History Museum event in which he was interviewed by a NYT writer. Turns out his name is pronounced Rash-id, (rhymes with placid) accent on the first syllable, he's from Iowa, and he left CMU to create and head Microsoft Research, an organization which had not existed at that time. When I asked him after the interview about the NT rumor, he said "someone already had that job", as if that was an answer. At that time heads of departments at MSFT changed from time to time, and it would not have been out of character for Bill Gates to replace someone whose program was failing with someone from the outside. But anyway, three misconceptions blown right out of the water.

He's a very upbeat guy, articulate and enthusiastic about the future of tech. It was an entertaining interview, but I was distracted by my misconceptions.

Nothing to mention about work, except Automation Guy gave a demo of the GUI he has developed.

Lunchtime I drove to Santana Row, hoping to get my nails done, but the place I went to didn't have anyone available. They thought they did, but by the time it was clear they didn't, it was too late to go elsewhere.

Plans for tomorrow:
Try for a manicure again.
Maybe go to Foothill for the Kepler update.