Jim's Polka

The life of a former software engineer, now a law student

Sunday, May 30, 2004

More Hello Kitty stuff for my lovely wife: a Hello Kitty laptop from NEC, a Hello Kitty PS2 memory card and a Hello Kitty-themed Dreamcast. We now return to less cute topics.
Oh, good. The sunburn is way better today. D thinks that at this stage in my life (28 years old, married, mortgage) I should take a more mature outlook toward sunburn prevention than my aforementioned hope method. I'm still not convinced about this whole grownup thing, though...

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Like Sherry Fowler, I went sailing today. And got sunburned, despite my attempts to be responsible and use SPF 30 sunscreen. Ah, well, at least I tried to prevent it (as opposed to my usual strategy of "geez, I hope I don't burn too badly").

Actually, we seem to have had better luck than she did. The weather was excellent for us.

I drove over to the Eastern Shore (of the Chesapeake Bay) to where my dad and stepmother have a second home, on Tilghman Island. We took my dad's boat out sailing in the mouth of the Choptank River. If you've read James Michener's Chesapeake, we were sailing in the area of Devon Island. This was my first time sailing, so they were teaching me some of the basics. I spent some time at the tiller and some time at the winch. Guess which one I liked better? :-) We spent some time becalmed, but in general we had good winds.

I'm hoping that I have more chances to go sailing, because it really was fun. My dad only started 2 years ago, but he loves it. He's spent all the time since he started telling his kids (children and step-children) how great it is and how much we'd all love it. In fact, we're planning a couple day cruise around the Bay in a couple weeks. One reason I'm looking forward to moving to Seattle is the possibility of really learning to sail there.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Boy, I was on a role today. I'm finally laying off the slacking about some essential law school tasks. I think I've been in denial a little bit about moving. This is understandable, since I'm pretty comfortable with things as they are now, but I've made a decision that it's time to move on so I'd better be ready to follow through.

So, with that in mind, I finally took care of sending my transcript to the admissions office. Apparently they needed an official one directly from the school. I hadn't gotten around to it because I didn't want to do it from my work computer. Our IT guy has too much free time on his hands and he like to read our e-mail and track our web use. Anyway, one of the many things I love about my undergraduate school is how easy they make it to take care of this. A couple clicks, enter the address and they'll take care of the rest.

But, there is the slightly bigger problem. I have to prove I've had a measles vaccine. Unfortunately, it's been 11 years since I last had to do this. My mom has moved 4 times during that period, including to England and back. My dad has moved twice. And my pediatrician has retired. *sigh* So, I called the office of the practice he was in. They're going to need me to request my file from long-term storage and I'm not even confident that it has the information in it. So, I've scheduled an appointment with a doctor for next week, just to be on the safe side. I hope I don't have to get the vaccine again. That would make the third time, which would just be silly.

Oh, and I finally talked to a realtor about selling our place here. I feel good about the buying part, having done it once before, but this is our first go at selling a place. She's coming Sunday to check the place out.
I wish Japanese for the Western Brain had been around when I started studying Japanese. It took me years to learn to reorient my mind to the point where it could handle the different way of thinking required to speak the language even moderately well.
One of the hazards of living in DC (well, inside the Beltway) is that you tend to get a little bit blase about the impressive sights that you see. For instance, when I pick up D from work, I drive across Arlington Memorial Bridge past the Lincoln Memorial. When I go visit my family in Baltimore, I drive by the Jefferson Memorial. They're pretty, aren't they? Inspiring, too. And I drive right on by while complaining about stupid DC drivers. (Well, they do suck...)

On very rare occasions, I look up from dodging cars and notice these amazing things and feel the awe that I used to feel. Most of the time, though, it takes an annoying disruption to break through. Like the millions of motorcycles from Rolling Thunder that will be driving by my bedroom window at all hours of the night for the next few days. (As I said before I live by a certain funny-shaped office building. I also live near Arlington Cemetary.)

That's one of the many reasons I need to leave this town. It's made me cynical and killed the magic of seeing the center of American democracy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Ever since I got accepted to UW back in January, I'd been wanting to take a visit to Seattle. I'd only been there once before for a few days and I didn't even see the university. Also, it was in August, so the weather wasn't the typical Seattle. (I like to tease D about that. "I've been to Seattle before. The weather was spectacular." Then she rolls her eyes. I get a lot of that.)

So, I was happy when among the many nice e-mails and letters I've been getting from UW I got an invitation to an open house for admitted students last Friday. I thought it would be good to see the school and, almost as important, get a feel for the city. Also, I made plans to have lunch with a current 1L. He's a former biotech guy, so we're fellow geeks. The student bar association matched us.

Anyway, that was pretty much my first Seattle experience of the trip (except for getting caught in traffic on I-5). We didn't eat anywhere exciting, but the conversation was good. He had a lot of useful advice to offer. The only minor problem was that after lunch I had a few hours to kill before the open house started. So, I walked the length of campus (twice). And went to Barnes & Noble. Bought a book. Had a coffee (how cliche).

The open house was also pretty cool. First, they gave us a tour of the building, which is nice and shiny and new. Then we had a little meet-and-greet with our fellow students-to-be. As it turns out, there's at least 2 other people moving out there from DC. Of course, there's a number of people who went to UW for undergrad, as well as a bunch more from other parts of the state, including one woman from D's hometown on the desert side of the state. Then, we went to the finals of the 1L moot court competition. I was very impressed with the competitors. I'm somewhat interested in moot court, so it was a nice (and intimidating) first look. It was all a ton of fun, although I do wish they'd had a little more food at the event, cuz I was definitely hungry when I got back to my uncle's place that night.

On Saturday, I dealt with the other item at the top of my to-do list. I got together with a realtor and saw almost every neighborhood in the north half of the city, and a little of the suburbs. We're not going decide where to live until D has a job, but there's no harm in getting an early start. It's not going to be easy to find the perfect place that's affordable, walking distance to restaurants like D's old place in Foggy Bottom, and an easy bus ride to school. So, wish us luck...

After the tour with the realtor, I had dinner with a friend and got the tour part two. We saw more neighborhoods, saw the new public library and ended up at a coffee shop in Redmond. And, I got to see both bridges over Lake Washington. Who could ask for anything more?

Now, I'm back in DC. I think the cicadas got significantly louder. There's not so many around our home, but the golf course across from my office is overrun. You can actually hear them through the window at my cubicle. Most impressive.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

I'm just back in town from a long weekend checking out my soon-to-be-home and my soon-to-be new school. I have lots to say about that, but I'm a little sleepy now, so it'll have to wait till tomorrow.

The one thing that can't wait is for me to say congratulations to Evan and his on the new addition to their family. I hope the new baby doesn't leave him too tired to blog.

I also notice from that post that Evan is part Greek. I knew there was something I liked about him. :-)

Monday, May 17, 2004

I was awarded a patent a couple months ago. Well, me and my 16 co-inventors. It hasn't really changed my life much, aside from giving me something cool to compare with with my friends who get quoted in the New York Times and stuff. I have to say, though, it is kinda cool to get letters from the European Patent Office telling me that I now have a patent in 25 more countries.
Also, congratulations to everyone else who will have this date as the anniversary of their wedding, too. I hope you find the staid, placid married life as enjoyable and happy as I do.
Eight years ago, in February, I met a girl in a Wendy's on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We were both on our way to a dance competition in Cleveland.
In the following months, I danced with her occasionally.
In October, I asked her out.
On November 15, we had our zeroth date. (Watching Strictly Ballroom and Dirty Dancing with the ballroom club.)
The following day, we had our first date. (Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center.)
Three years ago, in April, I asked that girl a question and (after a long pause while she considered her options) gave her a ring.
Two years ago, on this date, we exchanged rings and crowns (for explanation, see here and here), danced the Greek wedding dance and danced a first foxtrot (way better than a first waltz, I think).
Since then, we've had two wonderful years together. So, happy anniversary, sweetie! I'm lucky to have married you. Let's make it years and years more.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

I just had a spectacular meal at this place. It ranks in the top 10 best meals I've ever had, after Galileo, Vidalia and possibly one of the places in Paris that we went to on our honeymoon.

I'd like to blog more, but I'm so full.... So...... Sleepy........

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Thursday, my company had the product release party I mentioned previously. In a triumph of planning, we had a huge meal (including appetizer, salad, dessert) and immediately went rock-climbing. Nothing like scaling 40-foot walls on a full stomach, right?

Anyway, it was a ton of fun. This was my first time rock-climbing and I think I at least managed to avoid embarassing myself. I did slip off the wall the last time I climbed, but that happens. And, it was a nice chance to rest as I spun in the air.

But, I sure have the sore muscles to show for it. I even had trouble opening the jar of spaghetti sauce when I was making dinner. This is a problem because jar-opening is the main reason that D keeps me around. (Well, she says I'm good for getting stuff off high shelves, too, so at least I have the to fall back on.)

Friday, May 14, 2004

Warning: the following post will mean nothing to anyone except people from Baltimore. Which means probably one of my readers (hi, bro).

I just found out from this article that Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, is the daughter of Tommy D'Alesandro Jr., who was mayor of Baltimore from 1947 to 1959. "Young Tommy" is a sort of Baltimore legend, as was his father "Old Tommy", who was also mayor of Baltimore. In fact, I think my brother may have interviewed him for a school project, but I'm not sure.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of Baltimore, so it's nice to see one of our own getting ahead.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

By way of BoingBoing, here the Hello Kitty bento box. This is posted primarily for the benefit of my wife, who like to point out she "was into Hello Kitty long before it got trendy."
I probably shouldn't be proud of this, but I got a perfect score of this 80s cartoon quiz.

Link courtesy of Mr. Poon.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

When D. and I moved in together 3 years ago, we had to solve a not-insignificant problem: where to put all the books. This was actually two problems. The first was that we didn't have enough bookcases. That was pretty easy to deal with. The second problem was one of hierarchy. Which books are worthy of being put in the living room? Which books go in the spare bedroom. Which ones go into our bedroom? I'm sure if it had been left to me, I would have put them on shelves in the order that they came out of the boxes, because that's the kind of person I am. D. prefers things a bit more organized. In the end, the living room shelves got the books that make us look smart (largely her books from undergrad and some of my nonfiction) and the rest went into the other two rooms. I like to tease her that we were hiding our fundamentally lowbrow tastes from the world this way.

I'm wondering if I just did the same thing with my list of favorite books. Don't get me wrong, I liked every book on the list (with the special exception of One Hundred Years of Solitude, of course). Some of them moved me. All of them fascinated me. But, the books that I really love are the ones that suck me in, take me to a different world and then let me go at the end. So, I've read most of James Clavell's books. When I go to the library, I love to pick up 3 or 4 science fiction books that I can finish in a day or two. I even liked The DaVinci Code, which took me less than 24 hours to read. In nonfiction, I loved The Tipping Point and Double Helix. And, of course, the top light reading books, the Harry Potter books. They cost me a lot of sleep when I started reading them.

Postscript: I think I've rubbed off on D. a little bit. She doesn't seem to mind my science fiction in the living room anymore.
Post-postscript: And we are not as lowbrow as I'm selling it. Just eclectic. We also like the theater, the symphony and the ballet. D.'s job hasn't allowed much time to go out for things like that, but we did see the Kirov ballet when they were in town a few months ago.
Lists of favorite books seem to be the in thing to do these days (see for example Evan's list of lists), so I guess I'll add my contribution to the fray.

The Jim's Polka List of Favorite Books (fiction and nonfiction)
1. Roots by Alex Haley
2. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
4. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
5. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
6. Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
7. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
8. The Ringworld books by Terry Pratchett
9. Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
10. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
11. Glory Season by David Brin
12. The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes

Honorable Mention: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Notes: This is what happens when an engineer makes a list like this. The engineering curriculum doesn't leave much space for literature. In fact, only 2 of the books on the list were read for school (4 in high school, 2 in college). Three of them made the list thanks to my undergrad English major wife (5, 7 and 10) and one thanks to my English major sister (the honorable mention). One Hundred Years of Solitude is only honorable mention because I still haven't decided whether I liked it, even though it's been almost a year since I read it. I know I thought it was a good book, but I don't think that "like" would describe my feelings about it. I can at least say that I'm happy I read it. Maybe it'll be promoted someday when I understand it better.
Evan says more nice things about me today. I'm pretty sure I'm not so much cool as a geek with pretensions, but I certainly appreciate the thought.

Actually, I consider myself two types of geek, techie and ballroom. Both types tend to be characterized strange obsessions that are hard for outsiders to understand. And both speak languages that resemble English in structure, but seems to be using the words in a strange way. ("I need the MAC address on your PCMCIA card before you can use the WLAN." "So, this step starts facing diagonal center. Do a fallaway reverse slip-pivot followed by a double reverse spin.") In fact, I'm very much looking forward to adding a new type of geek (law) to my collection.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Transmogriflaw is channeling Bridget Jones today. v.v. funny.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

After 3 months of bug-fixing and QA, which followed almost 4 months of development (including working on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day) the latest version of our software has finally gone GA (General Availability). That means that work is done and we're ready to ship. This is a great day. There were times when I felt like we were never going to have things good enough to release, but we finally managed to bring it all together.

So, next week, we celebrate!! I think we're going out for lunch and rock-climbing. There's some speculation that this is to weed out the weakest amongst us....... :-)
Well, I watched the last episode of Friends. I've been watching since the first season, so I figured I had to see it through to the end. Of course, it was well past its prime the last few years, but there were still good times. But, I did enjoy tonight's episode. It was pretty sappy, but less than I expected. And, I did laugh, so it wasn't a waste of time.

Anyway, it was way better than the (extremely lame) finale of Seinfeld.

D. actually fell asleep about 2 minutes in. That wasn't really a surprise, since 9 is pretty close to her bedtime (and falling asleep anywhere, anytime is her superpower), so I had already started taping. Of course, she managed to wake up just long enough to see the "surprise" ending. Ah, well...

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

It appears that Jeremy had a conversation with an android in a Sprint PCS uniform today. I'm fairly certain that this person wouldn't pass the Turing test.

Monday, May 03, 2004

D. and I have a rule about teen movies. We'll only go to the ones that are based on works of great literature.* This opens up She's All That, Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You, while theoretically saving us from some of the more ridiculous movies of the type. Actually, it applies a thin layer of pretension to our sketchy taste in movies, but we try not to dwell on that. I haven't figured out whether Mean Girls meets the requirement since it's apparently based on a recent popular sociology book. I have a feeling it's going to happen whether I want it or not....

* This isn't entirely true. We also have a special exception for dancing movies. So far, we've only used that to see Save the Last Dance.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Speaking of lamb... D and I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival yesterday. Although it sounds slightly odd to a city boy like me, it was very cool. It's the largest festival of it's kind in the US (according to the sign at the entrance). D likes to knit, so she was particularly interested in the yarn vendors. I was mostly along for the ride. In addition to the vendors, we got to see prize-winning sheep and rams. The best part was the sheepdog demonstrations. We got to watch a demonstration of several highly-trained working dogs (border collies) herding sheep. This led me to conclude two things:
1. Those dogs are amazing. They have complete focus on their task. They respond instantly to their handlers. And they seem to love doing it.
2. Sheep are really weird.

I was also outside long enough to pick up a nice red sunburn on the back of my neck. This is very annoying to me. I mean, what's the point of being half-Greek if I'm not even going to get a decent tan out of it?
Continuing the Japanese theme from my previous post.... From my wife, I got a link to this article about the broadening use of miso in American cooking. It's made me pretty hungry. I can't decide whether I'd rather have the miso barbecue sauce, the miso vinaigrette or the miso-glazed rack of lamb.

Actually, I take that back. I want the rack of lamb.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Evan at Notes from the (Legal) Underground noted today that he had been linked to by a Japanese blog. I don't get a whole lot of opportunities to practice Japanese these days, so I thought I'd give it a try translating. If nothing else, I've learned a few Japanese legal terms in the process.

So, here goes:

"I found a blog yesterday called Notes from the Legal Underground that is apparently written by a lawyer from Illinois. As you can see here and here , he makes quite good use of irony and is fun to read.

According to a post today, an idea has been introduced that doctors and hospitals frankly apologizing and explaining their mistakes rather than fearing litigation and denying them out of self defense can get better understanding from patients and bereaved family, make lawsuits less frequent and reduce the total cost of medical mistakes.

Based on my limited observation, I've come to believe that in not a few cases of medical malpractice inappropriate contact by the doctor or hospital after the accident increases trouble and I'm not sure this positively supports the above proposition."

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy that was. I had to look up many words, but the grammar was not too much for me. (Although I'm still not positive about the last sentence.)