Happy Winter Solstice! Here is my latest contact information: Robert . where-I-live my-Oakland-voicemail-number (voicemail) our-San-Jose-phone-number our-Oakland-cell-phone-number (cell) http://dummy.us.eu.org/robert http://dummy.us.eu.org/robert My solstice update is below. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ News Lifestyle * Careers * Evil Empire, Inc. My company was absorbed by Macrosoft earlier this year. I liked my job and was assured that our work would not change after the acquisition and so decided to stay. The jury is still out on whether things are staying the same. We'll see. * Family * Oh, brother. My brother, Chris, flew from New England to visit us at the end of March and I took a week off from work. The highlight of his visit was our bicycling to and across the Golden Gate bridge from the San Francisco Caltrain station. We also visited one of the few interesting sights in where-I-live, Mount Hamilton Observatory, and also Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel near Santa Cruz. See http://flickr.com/photos/noelle/sets/72157600467023373 for some exciting photos. * Parents visited. My parents flew from New England to visit us in July. Noelle took that week off and I took a few days off. The highlight was visiting Spirit Rock in Marin County. See http://flickr.com/photos/noelle/sets/72157600903215426 for some photos. Mostly, it was a relaxed visit, catching up on stuff. * Home * Bicycle * 'Tis but a scratch. After Noelle found my bicycle to scratch her car, we are now forbidden from using the bicycle rack on her car. So, an arduous process searching for a better rack ensued, only to end in failure. A hitch-based system turned out to be infeasible; a mounted system is still a possibility, but there is still the danger of scratching. The current resolution is to wait until either another system is tried or a new car is purchased. * Property * You've got lost mail. For the first time in my life, a package I had ordered was lost and/or stolen. Because UPS was unable to track it down, I decided to file a claim with my renter's insurance. The item wasn't worth much ($13 + shipping), but I'm sorta glad I did file a claim because I found out how unhelpful my renter's insurance company was. Because the claim was never followed up on, and because I later discovered (thanks to the Ca state insurance commissioner) that this company was rated as poor, I decided to change insurance companies. I went with State Farm, despite it having higher premiums, because it seems to be in the best shape to handle a real problem (e.g., a major earthquake) if it were to occur. * Travel * The great wet north. Noelle and I decided to fly to Vancouver, B.C., during the 2006 end-of-the-year holidays. We didn't rent a car while there, so all travel was by public transit or cab. The highlight was renting and riding bicycles there, around Stanley Park, soon after a destructive storm. (Sadly, those photos were lost during upload.) Noelle was having mouth pains and it got so bad, we decided to see a dentist. It turned out there was something wrong and she had to have an emergency root canal. Ouch. We also visited Museum of Anthropology at University of B.C. The Naam vegetarian restaurant was one of our staples while we were there since it was almost always open and conveniently located off the bus line that went by the hotel. It was fairly cold, but not the single-digit temperatures that would be experienced in Boston during the same time of the year, and it was mostly clear, 'tho there were bouts of rain. It was the first time I brought a laptop on a trip. (It was the old So_ny laptop that I bought for cheap when I got laid-off from So_ny. It has Debian installed and was surprised at well it worked out.) See http://flickr.com/photos/noelle/sets/72157600467021163 for some photos. * The naturally dry south. In the hopes of visiting everyone we know in Southern Ca, we hit the road mid-December. First, it was Santa Barbara to visit the parental units. Second, we visited Noelle's Boston friend and Noelle's childhood friend in Los Angeles. We indulged in vegetarian/vegan restaurants, rented a tandem bicycle (quite a challenge to ride!) on the beach in Santa Monica, and toured the Getty Museum. Finally, we climbed the mountain, into the cold, and hung out and relaxed with my cousin in Idyllwild. See http://flickr.com/photos/noelle/sets/72157603457420206 for some photos. * Money * No ties to Boston. This year, I finally managed to clear out the bank accounts I had in Boston. Free at last. * Food * The never-ending burrito quest. We're still going through http://burritophile.com . We've visited a lot of places, but there are still a few to try. * People * Missing persons. Last solstice message, some messages bounced. I no longer have email addresses for these people: Louis Dunne Clayton Glad Jin Young Dave Parker Louise Zivnuska Tracey Layman (Ingle) If you're in contact with any of these people, please tell them that I am missing their email addresses. * Health * Psyche * It's 4am; do you know where your kitty is? Our cat, Dolly, has started loudly meowing early in the morning, every morning. It was very annoying and bothersome. Eventually, I managed to block it out and continue sleeping, but it was harder for Noelle. She brought Dolly into the vet and discovered that she was suffering from a thyroid problem, causing her to be constantly hungry. She is now on a medication, but continues to meow early in the morning, 'though less so. Despite it being less persistent, she still occassionally gets larygitis due to her vocalizations. * Teeth * Solving the root problem. Earlier this year, I had my first root canal. I dislike most dental procedures, but this experience was particularly abhorrent. Things were going tolerably during the first hour. However, come the second hour, I started getting very sweaty. They asked if I was hot and I shook my head "no". The dentist couldn't understand it. About 15 minutes later, I felt weird and tried to wave them away, and I sat up and started dry-heaving. I felt horribly nauseous and the dentist suggested I come back to finish the procedure. I did. Unfortunately, they don't offer nitrous oxide. Instead, they gave me a prescription for valium. I took it an hour before the procedure was to begin, but it didn't seem to have any effect. (I had valium before and it had the same non-effect in the past, but they had thought that it might have just been a fluke and tried it anyway.). Despite the non-effect, the second visit was a little better, perhaps because the session was shorter. But, because the experience was so negative and awful, I decided that I needed to find a dentist that offers nitrous oxide. After a false start, I finally found a dentist that does, and he also seems to be knowledgeable and competent. * Clothing * Last of the really great Birkenstocks. Noelle finally cajoled me to throw away my old Birkenstocks (the same ones that I bought just before I drove out with Brian in 1987!). This forced me to repair my other pair of Birkenstocks. Of course, I needed a back-up pair to wear while waiting for the repair. It was then that I discovered that Birkenstock has seriously trimmed their vegetarian line of Birkenstocks. The remaining models are unacceptable to me. After much researching, I discovered some remaining old models and ordered those. I am going to try my best to keep these Birks for as long as possible because I'm not sure whether I'll be able to get good non-leather shoes again. Sad. Entertainment * Movies * Web, too, point oh. As with last year, movies not in MovieLens (http://movielens.umn.edu) are available via http://wikilens.org/wiki.php/robertb/MovieRatings?show_rated_by_active=0 And, my Movielens ratings of recent movies continue to be at http://tinyurl.com/3xxea . * DVDs by mail. If you'd like to be my Netflix friend, please click on http://www.netflix.com/BeMyFriend/PkvARh1w2ZXNcwhbyLjZ And my Netflix queue is always available from http://tinyurl.com/qu8lj or via RSS feed from http://rss.netflix.com/QueueRSS?id=P8598597045281752300300559819027949 * More Michael J Nelson. Noelle and I are continuing to do Rifftrax movies (http://rifftrax.com ). For those who don't know, Rifftrax is Mike Nelson and friends making snide comments during the viewing of a movie (like Mystery Science Theater 3000). My favorites so far have been Star Wars Episode II, Eragon, and Spider Man. * Books * No gods, no masters, lots of books. Noelle and I managed to make it to the anarchist book fair in San Francisco this year. Mostly, I purchased DVDs for gifts and just 1 book ("People or Personnel" by Paul Goodman). * Music * And the wall came down. After discovering that Tower Records was closing, Noelle and I went crazy to get good deals and build up our music collection. It was a good opportunity to try listening to some new stuff (Mr. Lif (which I didn't care for) and Paris (which has some good stuff)). * Outdoors * Big and stinky. Noelle and I joined my friend Dale, his s.o. Tracy, and Dale's other friends to see the elephant seals at Ano Nueva near Santa Cruz earlier this year. The seals were impressive, 'tho they didn't smell so good. The butterflies were scarce, unfortunately. See http://flickr.com/photos/noelle/sets/72157600467021681 for some photos. * Music * Summer Rush. In the middle of a giant, dusty field in Marysville, we again saw Rush in concert. It was a similar set-up to last year, although the songs were all different. (So were the appliances. Last year, there were washers and dryers; this year, it was rotisserie chicken.) Technology * Computers * Hardware * PC * Linux * Sudden death. This year, I had 2 computers die. It's amazing that they lasted this long. The first to go was my main Linux machine used for reading mail and downloading web sites and my main ssh server. I had bought this computer in 1997, so it got a good run. I replaced with a much faster machine (the exact specs were constrained by the computer accessories I already had on hand), a Dell Optiplex GX270 2.8Ghz. Then, my Windows 98 Dell laptop died; this machine was bought in 2000. Because I have been generally been happy with Dell, and because they recently started selling machines with Linux preinstalled, I decided to to buy a Dell Inspiron 1420N with Debian-based Ubuntu installed. I am pretty satisfied with it so far. All the Linuxes that I run are now Debian or Debian-based. And, with these changes, ironically, the only Macrosoft product that I still use at home is Internet Explorer (unfortunately). This bodes poorly for Macrosoft... * Not that DSL. I decided to change from running colinux under Windows to go to Damn Small Linux (DSL). I bought the USB flash drive with DSL preinstalled. Using QEMU, I can run Linux under Windows, and it's also portable and contains all my personal scripts and programs. Admittedly, it's a little slow and it's a bit tricky to set up, but I have been happy with it so far. At the very least, it works fine under both XP and Vista and is quite stable. * Windows * This is no apex. We were forced to upgrade our laptops to Vista. I suspect that we are being used as a large, glorified quality assurance (QA) pool. It was hell. There were all sorts of warnings about sharing the disk when I burned the ISO image onto the DVD, but I now realize that I wouldn't give this DVD to my worst enemy. In any case, it first started with my inability to access my EFS (encrypted) files.