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This morning I stopped by the deli to get a sandwich and chips for lunch.  I decided to check Safeway to see if they had Coke on sale.  Inside up front I did find a large display of Coca-Cola products in 12-packs.  The sign said:  "Sale on all Pepsi products.  Buy two, get two free."  Hmmm.  The display was right across from the customer service counter, so I waited a few minutes while a guy got his $2.68 refunded. Then I asked the woman behind the counter about the display and sign.  She sighed.  She doublechecked their sale flyer, and then walked over and removed the sign.  "Do you want Coke?  I can give you the sale price if you do," she said.  I said sure, and she said to bring them to her.  I went outside to get a shopping cart and  then loaded in three cartons of regular Coke, and one Diet Coke for the missus.

Did I need anything else?  I decided no, and rolled over to the customer service counter.  The clerk was helping someone else, a woman about 40-45.  I chilled, checking my email, etc.  I noticed that the woman was buying a bunch of gift cards, which the clerk was activating.  She looked over to me and said, "Sorry, this will just be a few minutes."  "No problem," and I continued to check my phone.

Shortly, the activations were done and the total rung up.  The customer proceeded to pull a pile of cash from her purse.  At first, I wasn't really paying attention, and then I was trying not to stare.  But the clerk was counting many 100-dollar bills.  They came with little paper bands around the stacks.  The clerk said something like, "You must have just come from the bank." Trying to be surreptitious, I counted along as the last stack was tallied:  20.  There had been one other full, banded stack, plus more.  I hadn't noticed if the first pile had a band.  But this customer had just shelled out between $4000 and $6000 cash at Safeway.

Granted, it was the Sharon Heights Safeway (in Menlo Park), but still...
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I've been digging through some of my older beach volleyball photos, and was looking for some background information on some of the events.  The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine was quite helpful.

But then I needed some older information, from 1993, when there wasn't much on the web that was relevant.  Google archive of to the rescue!  Actually found what I was looking for (though the 'filters' didn't work as expected, the 'search' function did).

And, of course, I stumbled upon one of my posts from 1996. 
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As [ profile] athenais mentioned, a couple of weeks ago we were shocked to hear that my cousin Dan had passed away. He was 55, two years younger than me. I still don't know the exact cause of death, except that he was swimming and apparently had some sort of seizure or heart attack.

Although I had only seen Dan occasionally as an adult, we spent a lot of time together when we were kids. We were relatively close in age and his only sibling was 9 years older than him. So after his brother went off to college in California, I sometimes vacationed with his family when they went to the family's lake cottage in central Wisconsin. Mornings were often spent doing chores around the place (raking leaves, clearing dead wood, etc.) and afternoons we we would usually go swimming. There was also a lot of miniature golf. In the evening we would sometimes play board games. I recall playing "Password" with Dan and his mother. Dan had a penchant for giving clues that were based on brand names (e.g., 'Dial' -- 'deodorant'). Some times the clues were based on brands that were local to Indiana that I had never heard of.

In 1974, after my brother got married in Florida, I accompanied Dan and his father on a road trip up the east coast to Washington, DC, and then back to Wisconsin. Dan kept using some phrase which his father was getting very tired of. I think it was "Kentucky Chucky", a nickname he had for Kentucky Fried Chicken. At one point my uncle promised Dan $20 if he would stop saying the phrase; every time he said it, he lost a dollar. This was tough for Dan, since he tended to use these phrases obsessively -- until he forgot about one and moved on to something else. At some point I got in on the action: occasionally my uncle didn't notice when Dan used the phrase. I cut a deal a deal with one of them, either to keep quiet about it, or to point it out to my uncle to get the dollar myself. I don't actually remember who I made the deal with.

Once I went off to college, I didn't see Dan that often. He got a job in Racine and got married. He also became the primary caretaker of the lake cottage. My brothers in Wisconsin saw him regularly, and we saw him when we visited Wisconsin. He will be missed.
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Frederica, the senior cat in our household, loves to chase the feather dangling from a pole. If she feels it is time to play, she emits a very annoying yowl. One of the standard ploys is to dangle the feather between the chair (by the front window) and the cat table. Since the feather is "cornered", Fred lunges at it. I whip the feather around the front of the chair to the other side. Fred dashes around the chair, and the I whip the feather toward the center of the room. Of course, Fred continues to chase. This particular sequence has become so standard that Fred sometimes anticipates the last move. She doesn't go all the way around the chair but cuts toward the center of the room.

Tonight, Fred did something different. When I whipped the feather around the front of the chair, Fred "snuck" around the back of the chair, surprising the feather (and me) on the other side. She did the same thing a few times. Funny that she suddenly learned something new about the local geography.

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I recently read The Land of Painted Caves by Jean Auel, the finale of the "Earth's Children" series. The series started with the bestseller, Clan of the Cave Bear, which I enjoyed very much. It got me thinking about the whole series, and how it began so promisingly, but ended so badly.spoilers and rants ahead )
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Of all the nonsense the American right wing has been spouting these days, the attacks by Gingrich, et al., on the judiciary seem to me to be the most dangerous. Besides the obvious pandering to the far right, the rhetoric appears designed to undermine the legitimacy of the court system. What power do the courts have, other than the respect we show them? They are largely dependent on the executive branch to enforce their rulings. Sure, I think the Supreme Court has made some boneheaded decisions. But to suggest that the executive branch should just ignore the decisions they disagree with, or worse, try to remove judges who don't rule the way they want, is an attempt to remove one of the pillars of the American Constitution.

And it's not like it couldn't really happen: cf. Andrew Jackson vs. the Cherokee Nation.

As former Republican operatives have described, part of the Republican agenda is to generally hinder the federal government from doing anything, thus making it seem inefficient and useless. This makes it easier for the Republicans to manipulate the public, and for their corporate sponsors to have their way (i.e.: the government controlling corporations is bad, but corporations controlling the government is good). So perhaps this is just a new tactic in their overall strategy. But I find it very scary.

Has the Republican race for the presidential nomination just become a contest to see who can out-crazy the rest?

Odd Friday

Oct. 14th, 2011 10:10 pm
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Hmm, I guess I remember how this works. It's been a while since I posted anything.

As I pulled away from the curb this morning, something beeped at me. I backed up, and looked around, and realized that my parking brake was still on. Yet another warning sound my car makes, I guess. So as I re-started to execute a 3-point or "Y" turn, a local police car came rolling down the street. He had to wait for me, and then, because of a parked car, I had to wait for him to pass me before I could proceed. He pulled up along side me and made the "roll down your window" sign. Which I did, of course. He said, "How do you like that car?"

"It's fine," I replied, a little surprised.

"Good mileage?"

"About 31."

"Low maintenance?"

"I've only had it a few months. I bought it used in May. No problems so far. They're supposed to be reliable."

"Yeah, that's what they say. I bought one for my son. I was just curious." And with that he continued on his way. And me on mine.
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The short version: I got new shoes in Gilroy.

The long version: I've been wearing Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars since the early 1990s. (Before that I was wearing Converse Jack Purcell's; I think they discontinued them for a while, which caused me to switch.) My normal shoe size is 12, but Converse shoes run a little large, so 11.5 is a good fit. Then three or four years ago, I suddenly couldn't find my size in the local stores. Size 11 is definitely too short for me, and with my narrow feet, 12s are too big.

So I hit eBay and stocked up on 11.5 Chuck Taylors in various colors, though mainly black (both the standard black canvas with white trim, and also the "monochrome" all black, for formal occasions). Later I discovered you can custom design Chuck Taylors on the Converse website, and you can still get my 11.5 size that way. I considered ordering a pair or two, but (A) I still have plenty of shoes, and (B) they cost about 50% more than usual.

Then the other night I was discussing Chuck Taylors with [ profile] koroshiya, and she asked if I had ever been to the Converse outlet in Gilroy. Well, no, I wasn't really aware of it. But [ profile] athenais and I were thinking of taking a little day-trip drive, so why not stop by the outlet mall? The bookstore there was a disappointment. And the Converse store wasn't looking all that great; they did have some of the sought-after size 11.5 Chuck Taylors, but apparently only in the common colors, and not very discounted. Good to know, but not what I was really looking for. Then I found the sale corner, and there they were: green plaid Chuck Taylors, size 11.5, and only $19.99. Score!

TV Trivia

Jul. 25th, 2010 09:21 pm
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I've watched the first couple of epsidoes of TNT's new crime drama Rizzoli & Isles. It stars Angie Harmon as homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and Sasha Alexander as medical examiner Maura Isles. Harmon's previous series was Women's Murder Club in which she played a homicide detective, and the other three protagonists were a medical examiner, an assistant district attorney and a newspaper reporter. So R&I is like half of WMC, though it is set in Boston instead of San Francisco. Which reminds me of Crossing Jordan, a show set in Boston about medical examiner "Jordan Cavanaugh", played by Jill Hennessy. Hennessy's previous series had been playing "ADA Claire Kincaid" on the original Law & Order. A couple of years after Hennessy left L&O, Angie Harmon joined the cast, playing "ADA Abbie Carmichael".

Got that?

Sasha Alexander's previous series was NCIS, which stars Mark Harmon (no relation to Angie). I read today that in Tess Gerritsen's novels, which are the source for R&I, the "Maura Isles" character has a Goth look; she doesn't on the show. However, NCIS's lab technician "Abby Sciuto" character does have a Goth look (though she is a very perky Goth). "Maura Isles" has encylcopedic scientific knowledge, but has limited social skills. That's rather reminiscent of the "Temperance Brennan" character on Bones.

Maybe I've been watching too many procedurals.

In addition, IMDb informs me that Paula Newsome, who played the medical examiner on WMC also appeared in two episodes of NCIS and one of Bones. And Aubrey Dollar, who played the reporter on WMC, previously appeared in 5 episodes of Dawson's Creek, which also featured Sasha Alexander for 20 episodes (it looks like they appeared together in one episode). [For the record, I've never seen Dawson's Creek.]

Your assignment, class, is to graph these relationships.
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birds and bird feeder, originally uploaded by John Bartelt.

Here's one of the pictures I took in Hawaii, before my camera broke.

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I took last Friday off so I would have a 4-day weekend (since we get MLKjr Day off). Then the thunderstorm hit early Tuesday morning and the power went out at SLAC. I haven't gotten most of the story yet, but for some reason, it took 30 hours to get power back on. So SLAC was closed for two days. But I was called in to help bring up various servers this afternoon. Thus it was 5.5 days off for me.


Jan. 10th, 2010 05:43 pm
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After being down 31-10 (after a 17-0 start), the Packers tied the Cardinals 38-38, and then 45-45. Arizona had a chance to win with a last-second field goal, but missed. Everything seemed to be going right for the Packers: they won the coin toss and got the ball first in overtime. But Arizona forced a fumble, ran it in for a touchdown, and it was sudden death for the Packers.

At least they made it an exciting game, after a depressing start.
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SLAC has been closed for two weeks, as usual, for year-end holidays. Back to work tomorrow. There are several projects I had in mind that I never got started on. However, I did watch season three of The Guild and season three of Veronica Mars. My DVR is now only 20% full, instead of 80%. And that includes recording a few more movies that I haven't watched yet. Progress!
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Stanford's womens volleyball team graduated an amazing group of seniors last year. In the pre-season coaches poll, they were predicted to finish third in the Pac-10. Nevertheless, going into their last match of the regular season last night, Stanford was tied for first place with Washington. Stanford was hosting Cal (who had beaten them in Berkeley early in the season), and the Oregon Ducks were at Washington. The expectation was that both Stanford and UW would win and be co-champions. The first set started well for Stanford, with the Cardinal up by 3 or 4 points much of the way. But Cal started closing the gap late, overtook Stanford and won the set 25-23. The second set was worse; Stanford looked completely out of sorts, and lost 25-18. Meanwhile, the Washington Huskies were up two sets to none in Seattle.

After the break, Stanford changed their line up. I'm not sure if this was a strategic move by the coach, or necessitated by an injury. In any case, things were looking grim for Stanford. Cal was up 22-17 (3 points from winning the match); Stanford scored 3 straight to narrow the difference, but Cal got a point to make it 23-20. Then Stanford scored 5 straight to take the set. The 4th set was back and forth. Stanford was finally playing very well, getting their hits in, and playing great defense. And they won the set 25-20.

The fifth set was all Stanford; they led from start to finish: 15-4. Wow!

And the Ducks had also managed their own come back: when Stanford's match ended, Oregon was ahead in the 5th set, and a few minutes later they finished off the Huskies. Yay! Stanford is the Pac-10 champion for the fourth straight year.


Nov. 18th, 2009 11:17 pm
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I continue to enjoy the writing, plot twists, and music of Glee.
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Stanford's women's volleyball team struggled somewhat at the beginning of this season. But they had two wins on the road last weekend at UCLA and USC. Still, I went to their match this evening expecting Washington to win; the Huskies hadn't lost a set this season. UW took the first set, but Stanford came back and took set 2. The Cardinal and Huskies traded sets 3 and 4. Stanford gradually pulled ahead in set 5 and won the match. Yay!
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I saw the movie District 9 on Sunday. I liked it a lot (maybe a trifle slow at points). It's a bit gory at times; it doesn't bother me, but it's enough to keep [ profile] athenais away.

Today I finished season 2 of the Veronica Mars DVDs, loaned to me by [ profile] koroshiya (Thanks!). I really like it, though season 2 has so many characters and plotlines, it is hard to keep everyone straight. And there is a continuing geek girl character nicknamed "Mac"; coincidence?

I took the day off, sort of as comp-time, after successfully coordinating a partial computing outage on Tuesday. Everything went well, the electricians completed their work ahead of schedule. Then on Wednesday, I smelled the odor of hot electrical equipment. Turns out it wasn't any of the circuits involved in Tuesday's work, but another big transformer. It has some connections that are heating up. Our electrical engineer says it's not an emergency, but it will probably need service within a month. That means another partial outage. Someone else's turn to coordinate an outage, as far as I am concerned.
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Ohhh...brain hurts....oww. So much bad science. Stupid philosophizing. Human interest cliches.

I watched the first 2-hour installment of the miniseries "Impact". No wonder ABC dumped this in the summer. A "brown dwarf" hits the Moon, and some pieces of brown dwarf matter land on the Earth. The Moon moves closer to the Earth (in steps, not continuously). Random electrical and gravitational anomalies come and go (sometimes people and trains just start floating up). And yes, the Moon is now in a narrow elliptical orbit around the Earth, but the Earth is at the center of the ellipse, not one of the foci. They can't even get the diameter of the Moon right. Yeesh.
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Sunday I strolled over to the inaugural San Bruno Farmers Market. They temporarily closed off one block of "The Avenue"; i.e., San Mateo Avenue, the old downtown main street. It's the block where Big Joe's is located, for those of you have been to our favorite diner. Anyway, there was an over-amplified R&B band and a couple dozen vendors. I bought cherry tomatoes, a green pepper, strawberries, a few apricots and a bouquet of flowers from five different vendors. The tomatoes were disappointing, but everything else was good. I'm sure I'll be back on future Sundays, though I could do without the band.
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As [ profile] athenais mentioned, we saw the new Star Trek movie. I certainly enjoyed it at the time, but the more I think about it, the more problems I see. I guess it's what you would call a character-driven story. I'd say more, but I'm avoiding spoilers.

I saw a promo on ABC for their new fall series based on Robert J. Sawyer's Flash Forward. I read the book some years ago, because much of it takes place at CERN. It's interesting conceptually, but the book had some significant physics errors right at the beginning that spoiled it a bit for me. ... I was going to describe these in more detail, but to be fair, I'd have to reread it, and I'm not sure where my copy is. Oh, well; maybe I'll get to it by the time of the fall premiere.
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