Jim's Polka

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

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Meeting a Blogger

I met my first blogger the other day. It turns out Energy Spatula works just around the corner from where I live. So, we had lunch, which was very cool. And, yes, she's not kidding about her Diet Coke addiction.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Slightly Too Phallic, Perhaps

Have you seen the new commercial for Ballpark Franks? It basically features a middle-American looking guy repeatedly using the word "girthy" to describe what men look for in a hotdog. (or maybe in a "hotdog"?) I'm glad to know I'm not the only person wondering exactly what message the Ballpark people are trying to convey. I mean, I don't think I make too many buying decisions based on my latent homoerotic urges, but they probably have very smart advertising people telling them otherwise.

(By the way, the dictionary for the Blogger spellchecker doesn't contain the words phallic or homoerotic. I don't really know what to make of that, but I thought it might be interesting to point out.)

Monkeys = Funny, Part 1

I'm not really sure what to make of this, except that I'll be a monkey riding a dog in a rodeo is even better in person than on the web. And that, according to the event schedule, the closest they'll be coming to DC is Cleveland, OH. This is tragic.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Two Geeky Suggestions

I don't expect people to pay attention to this advice, since even my mom doesn't remember to ask my opinion before buying stuff, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway.

Number one, if you're going to buy anything electronic or computer-related, do yourself a big favor and check out Techbargains. They collect information about all sorts of really good deals on stuff. Among other things, they always have a coupon or two for Dell products. It saved me several hundred dollars on my laptop.

Two, given the current problem with Internet Explorer, do yourself a favor and install Firefox. Not only is it unaffected by the vulnerabilities of Internet Explorer, but it's just plain better.

Information on Patent Law

Robert, over at the Daily Pequod, met with a patent attorney the other day and got some really interesting advice for anyone who's considering patent law. Now, I don't know for sure that I want to do patent law. It seems like a good fit with the engineering degree. On the other hand, I'm ready to be inspired by something new when I start school. And, I have the counter-example of my dad to think about. He stumbled into his specialty after about 2 years working at the Maryland State's Attorney's office and it's turned into an extremely successful career for him. So, I guess I'd say I'm going in with a plan, but ready for serendipity.

Showing Off for the President

My company demonstrated our product to the president the other day. Now, I don't support him or his policies in any way, but the fact is, something I helped to produce was shown to the President of the United States. The demo went well and he liked it, so I'm pretty proud of our work. One of the guys who went along to assist with the demo even got an actual Dubya nickname. (The nickname was "Big Doug", which is not too exciting, but even so...) Our CEO is very involved in the Republican Party, so he did the talking. We just had to simulate a terrorist attack. No big deal.

Even though I'm going to be leaving in two months, it's still great to see things going well. Maybe those stock options will pay off someday...

What Am I Supposed to Give for the 3rd Anniversary?

Heidi is aghast at the traditional gifts you're supposed to give for various wedding anniversaries. But, she's completely right about the alternative. ("Why would you give anything other than books, ever?") In our home, we've broadened that to include DVDs and CDs, but I think that's partially because we're moving in two months and books are a lot heavier than CDs. At this point, those are almost the only things I can buy for D. She has some jewelry that she really likes, but she doesn't want more. And I've long since proved myself incapable of buying the right size clothing for her, so I'm left with nice dinners and books/CDs/DVDs as the best options for gifts.


Ugh. The slight sore throat that I had last weekend turned into a fully-fledged illness by Wednesday or so. Fever, congestion, headache, everything. On Thursday evening, I felt too bad to read or use the computer, which was pretty hard on me. And D had to work that night, so I didn't even have anyone to listen to my whining. But, I'm mostly better now, so I'll be getting back to posting.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Top Movie Songs

I've spent the last 2 hours watching the AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs, which is a countdown of the top 100 songs from movies. I love musicals, so this was perfect for me. I was pretty happy with their choices. Number one, shockingly, was "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". I'm OK with that, but I was happier that two of my favorite movies of all time made it into the top 5. "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca was number 2, I think, and "Singing in the Rain" was number 4. Oh, and "Make Them Laugh" (also from Singing in the Rain) came in at number 50. It's amazing, but no matter how many times I see that movie, that part always leaves me giggling.

The Best Laid Plans

I had a simple plan today. I've been running low on hard drive space on my primary computer for quite a while. (I'm sure the 11 GB of music has nothing to do with it.) So, I asked one of our IT guys if he could give me an additional hard drive. He thought that sounded like a reasonable request, so he came by in the afternoon to put in the new drive. Unfortunately, in the process of putting in the new drive, he knocked off an important piece of the old drive. This happened to my co-worker a month ago and he lost all of his data, so I wasn't so happy. And, there went my day. I borrowed a company laptop to get me through the afternoon, but getting started up again took the rest of the day. Actually, there was a problem with the first laptop I borrowed, so I had to switch to another one. It was just one of those days, computer-wise.

Happily, the IT managed to get the drive working again through careful use of the soldering iron. And, I got a nice little reminder on the importance of backing up my data...

Monday, June 21, 2004

Weddings and Bitterness

As a side note, I hope Naked Drinking Coffee had a decent time at his friend's wedding this past weekend. He wasn't looking forward to it because he's still recovering from a bad breakup with a woman who clearly didn't treat him very well. I definitely understand where the bitterness comes from, but I hope for his sake that the passing of time dulls it.

I have to say, though, that I've been to more funerals that I'd prefer in the past few years and I would say that the worst, most unpleasant wedding I've been to was still better than any of the funerals.

Another Big Fat Greek Wedding

We went to a great wedding on Saturday. The bride, E, is an old friend of mine. I think we met in Sunday School when we were 6 or 7, but I really date our friendship from the church youth group in 9th or 10th grade. We (me, E, and my brother) all joined the church's Greek dance group when I was in 10th and the two of them were in 9th grade. We have a lot of great stories from that time, including winning two dance competitions and traveling to a number of places to perform. (Specifically, staying a weekend at Ocean City, MD so we could perform at a local church's festival.)

I knew that she had gotten Zephyros, one of the best Greek bands around, to do the music for the wedding. The reception was at Harbor Court, which is one of the nicest hotels in Baltimore. So, I had high hopes for the wedding. I wasn't disappointed.

E's husband isn't Orthodox, but he agreed to get married in the Orthodox church. In fact, it was the first wedding I've been to in that church since my own. This wedding was just as nice. Like I said to some people at the reception, "If there's not candles, crowns and chanting in multiple languages, how do you know you're married?" E's nieces and nephew did as well as you could hope as flower girls and ring-bearer. A small high point was the ring-bearer getting a (very loud) high-five from his father after successfully handing off his burden to the priest.

The reception was great. I think I got a little carried away with the appetizers, but there's something about roaming trays of food that I find impossible to resist. Dinner was the best food I've ever had at a wedding. And, as it turns out, yet again we were seated at that table. You know, the loud table. The table laughing the most. The one constantly clinking glasses to make the bride and groom kiss. That was us. The table was half E's family and half friends and the age range was from mid-20s to mid-60s, but that didn't stop us. That's the problem with inviting all those Greeks, I guess. :-) (D had a good time shaking her head at our antics.)

But what really brought it all together was the dancing. The band was high-energy and having a good time, so we were, too. Bride and groom were out on the floor for almost every dance. My family is famous for loving to Greek dance, as well, so we were out there, too. And D, who is the best non-Greek Greek dancer I've ever known, did us proud, too. My arm and leg muscles are still sore from the fun.

Friday, June 18, 2004

So, How Bad Is Nickelback, Really?

I guess someone was trying to answer that question. So, he/she mixed together "Someday" and "How You Remind Me" into a single mp3. One song plays on the right speaker and the other plays on the left speaker. I found that it worked well with headphones. I just sat back, closed my eyes and let it all wash over me. (I think I need a shower now.)

Unfortunately, it appears that the only thing more likely to get stuck in your head all day than one Nickelback song is two Nickelback songs.

Someone Else's Review of The Confusion

I just finished reading Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson. I quite enjoyed it and I plan to review it here at some point. In the meantime, here is a very good review of The Confusion, the second book in the trilogy.

My Future Career

Thanks to Andrew Raff, I now know what type of law I want to do. I've apparently been training for video-game law for years. My family will be so proud.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

On the Floor

Just wanted to note that I'm now using the computer on the floor because I've been displaced from my spot on the couch so D can stretch out while she's asleep.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Further Birthday News

Well, I've talked to the whole family now. (Well, I owe my grandmother a call, actually.) Even my brother called. We've had a rule over the years that we were still good as long as we called the other within a week or so of his birthday. Apparently, I screwed things up this year by calling him on his birthday, so he feels obligated to call me on time, too. He blames "that wife of yours" for making me into some sort of responsible adult. (He's joking. He's been friends with D as long as I have.)

D and I went out for barbecue tonight. Nothing like celebrating your birth with big piles of meat.

Blog Changes

I thought I'd try fiddling around with blogger settings a little bit. So, I just turned on commenting and post titles. Also, I've started a little side blog for my own amusement. At Jim's Songs, I'll be posting ballroom geek type stuff. In particular, I'm going to post popular songs that you can do ballroom dances to. So, if you're interested in seeing just how geeky I can actually get, go check it out.
Today's my 29th birthday! I don't have any big plans, except dinner with D tonight. (I haven't decided where to go, yet. Maybe something comfort-foody like barbeque or chili. We'll see.) We're going to Baltimore for a wedding on Saturday, so we'll be getting together with the family around that time, too. (At least those who will be in town: my mom, my dad, my stepmother, brother and stepbrother.) The high point of the day has been the call from my little sister. She lives in Italy, so I don't talk to her too much. (We e-mail fairly often, so it's not like we're out of touch or anything, but it's different with the phone call.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

One of the hardest things about my decision to go to law school has been the need to filter myself at work when I talk about my life. I didn't really want to spend 6 months as a short-timer in the office, so I'm not going to make my plans public knowledge until sometime in August. So far, only my current supervisor and my previous supervisor know. They're also my oldest friends in the company, so I trust their discretion. But, this has left me unable to talk about lots of stuff, like the real reason I went to Seattle a couple weeks ago. I told them I was going to visit family. I think when I go again, I'll probably tell everyone I'm going someplace else, like Abu Dhabi. (Actually, I think I'll pick somewhere I've already been. New York or something.) And then there's the whole home sale thing. It would be nice to be able to complain about all the cleaning or talk about how pretty my home looks when it's all clean, but I can't do either. As anyone who knows me could tell you, this quiet doesn't really comes naturally to me. I hope it doesn't become chronic...
Wow! It's like the universe knows my birthday's coming. First, while I was cooking dinner tonight, our realtor came by to show us an offer on our condo. Then, I log on to Blogger and I got an invitation to sign up for Gmail. Yay. However, I claimed it for my personal e-mail, so I'm not going to post it here. And all this the day before my birthday. Just imagine what tomorrow will be like.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Saturday night, we went to a nice little party for D's work. Strangely, after 3 years of going to these things, I only know the names of 6 or 7 people.

Anyway, they had a DJ playing dance music, so we got to show off a little bit. This is fun for me, because I love the attention but is a little strange for D, who isn't such a big fan of having an audience. He played one particularly fast swing that was a lot of fun. Everybody on the floor gathered around us in a circle and watched. They even applauded when the song ended. And I loved it. :-)

You're One Hundred Years of Solitude!

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Lonely and struggling, you've been around for a very long time.
Conflict has filled most of your life and torn apart nearly everyone you know. Yet there
is something majestic and even epic about your presence in the world. You love life all
the more for having seen its decimation. After all, it takes a village.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Found via Energy Spatula at Will Work for Favorable Dicta. I'm actually quite pleased that I got a book I've actually read. As I've previously mentioned, I'm not really that well read when it comes to great literature.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

A benefit of the lousy weather is that I had a good chance to hang out and talk with my dad. He's pretty excited about my new career path. I think he's looking forward to when I start calling to discuss cases with him. (I think I may have mentioned before that he's a lawyer in Baltimore. If not, well, now you know.)

We talked a bit about legal ethics, especially in the context of the Bush administration's torture memo (discussed by Michael Froomkin, among others). My dad's been thinking about ethics a lot in the last few months, so the discussion was very interesting. I think I'm going to put off posting about it for tonight, though. Hopefully, I'll get to it tomorrow.

I also learned that there is an actual family connection to Nancy Pelosi. I mentioned a while ago that she was related to former mayors of Baltimore. Well, I was slightly inaccurate. Her father and brother were both mayors. And, apparently her family used to stay about a block away from my dad's family when they went to the beach in the summer. My dad told me that Pelosi is friends with my aunt and that she may have babysat for him a few times. Even now, my family manages to surprise me with its connections.

I also learned that my dad and I get our information from all the same sources. We even read the same political blogs.
Unfortunately, the weather was pretty crappy Friday, so we didn't do as much sailing as we would have liked. On Friday morning, I drove up to meet my dad and we went together to the boat. My stepbrother, A, was there already. (Confusingly, my brother and stepbrother have the same name. The only thing that saves us is that my brother almost always uses the common nickname while my stepbrother uses the full name.) We decided that we would stick with day-sailing in the area, rather than try going across the Chesapeake Bay in the rain with thunderstorms predicted. It was a lot of fun for a while. The winds were blowing steadily and we were moving at a good clip. On the other hand, we were the only boat on the water, which is rarely a good sign. Even the working boats were already docked for the day. But, like I said we were having a good time. We decided to come in once the rain started coming down heavily. By the time we had the boat docked and secured, we were well and fully soaked. On the bright side, I didn't get sunburned this time. :-)

We spent the afternoon watching the broadcast of Reagan's funeral (mostly the procession). After 10 minutes of listening to the mindless babbling of the reporters on FoxNews and CNN we switched to CSPAN. I think that the other networks should have taken a lesson from the CSPAN way. Regardless of whether you hated him, worshipped him or anything in between, a funeral is not the time to be expressing that. A funeral should be about respect and contemplation. CSPAN allowed the space for that to happen.

I got home at about 10 PM to a rude shock. Actually, I knew it was coming, so it wasn't much of a shock, but it wasn't much fun either. We still had a significant amount of cleaning to do before our condo was ready for showing. So, Friday night saw me scrubbing the bathtub and sweeping off the balcony. I sure know how to have a good time, don't I?

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Our home is officially on the market today. All my grout-scrubbing has finally paid off! And tomorrow I'm going sailing with my dad again. We have an actual destination in mind this time. So, by the end of the day, I'll be tired and probably sunburned again. But relaxed, and that makes it all worthwhile. Also, this is an important part of proper care and feeding of your parents - reassuring them that you still like them.
DG had a conversation the other day just like one I've had a million times with D (see item 10). As a woman of the desert (well, raised there anyway) she finds it completely unacceptable to have 100% humidity at the same time the temperature is above 90 degrees. Actually, I don't think that's so great either, but since I've lived in the Baltimore-Washington area my whole life it is what I expect from summer. I wonder if I'll be nostalgic for stifling heat after a few months in Seattle...
I just added another law student to the blogroll. Daily Pequod is another former software engineer turned law student. Like the others (transmogriflaw and Biting Tongue, in particular), he's an inspiration to me as I get ready to make this big, somewhat scary career change.
Hmmm... Jimmy Fallon just did a short dance sequence on the MTV movie awards. I'm quite disturbed.
I was a little late to work this morning because I had to get the measles vaccine. I was wearing my usual summer work outfit, shorts and a T-shirt. (This becomes relevant later.) I hadn't been sitting for more than 5 minutes when G, one of our sales guys, showed up. "Jim," he says, "can you come to a meeting with me? It shouldn't be more than an hour. We're talking with some customers for a custom integration project and we need someone who knows about that stuff." The only other person who could do that, D, was having knee surgery today, so it had to be me. So, off we went, a sales guy and a sales engineer, dressed nice, and me, looking all sloppy. But, as I pointed out, I was earning all kinds of geek cred for showing up dressed that way. I'm sure no one would have believed me if I showed up in khakis and a polo. And, really, it could have been worse. At least there were no visible holes or stains. (Ah, the low standards I have to live up to.)

Anyway, it was all good, except for the fact that the hour-long meeting went 2 and a half hours and cut into my lunch time.

Monday, June 07, 2004

I learned a few things this week. The most important, I think, is that grout is a major pain in the butt to clean.

We're trying to get our condo ready to go on the market. We want to buy a place in Seattle, but we need to sell here first, so I'm feeling a little pressed to get things ready to go as soon as possible. On top of that, D's job has been particularly brutal the last week or two, so I've had to do most of the cleanup. This isn't a complaint, since that's the nature of D's job, but it has been somewhat tiring. I've made a number of trips to the self-storage place. I've vacuumed. And, the aforementioned grout-cleaning. So, every spare minute for the last week has been spent on my hands and knees scrubbing.

We're hoping to put the place on the market this week. If all goes well, we'll have an open house on Sunday. (So, if you're looking to buy a really nice place in Arlington, let me know. :-) )
Yay! I'm posting on my brand new laptop. It's so pretty..........

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Slashdot: Playing Games While Not Ruining Your Relationship?

The thread is alternately depressing and encouraging. There are too many people there saying things like "You should NEVER have to make a sacrifice in a relationship. If she's making you make any sacrifices then she must be some kind of crazy ice bitch." On the other hand, there are sensible grown-ups saying things like "In a healthy relationship, you and your SO will give each other time to pursue your own interests, and you'll both sacrifice some personal time for the other." And in the end, I feel a little better about the world.

Now, D and I don't really have too much trouble over the question of videogames. One thing that helps is that she falls asleep much earlier than I do. So, it's not so hard for me to just wait until then if I want to play. The other thing that helps is that she's been known to play a game or two on occasion as well. A few years ago, she complained that I never bought her any games. (I had just bought myself one, of course.) So, I got her The Sims. And she got sucked in. When my co-workers got us wedding presents, they went in together and bought me an XBox and her a Sims expansion pack. And then we were all happy.

The bigger challenge for us was how to have a relationship with one strong extrovert and one strong introvert. But, that's for another time....
Woo hoo! I ordered a new laptop yesterday. One of the great things about law school is that it makes it a lot easier to convince D that I need a new toy. Now, if only law school required one of these.....