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|Wednesday, January 8th, 2014|
1. I am attempting to bake bacon and coddle eggs for breakfast. Both are taking longer than they should, but if we can figure out the timing this is a really great way to do breakfast mostly unattended.
2. Dexter has been wearing the cone of shame for a couple of weeks. Poor little guy is having trouble with the stairs. He's just a little too short to walk up them, so he jumps, but if he lets his head drop the bottom of the cone catches on the next step and he goes flying backward. It is terrible and hilarious all at once. He goes back to the vet to see if we can take the thing off of him tomorrow.
3. Officially started up the wedding machine today, with the first round of digital notifications going out via facebook. We're still on the fence about digital vs. snail mail invites. So freaking expensive to print and mail everything, so we may just do email via paperless post and snail mail the confirmations and zoo tickets.
|Sunday, April 21st, 2013|
Still sick. The strep seems to have resolved itself, but I've definitely got something going on somewhere in my sinuses - I don't feel congested particularly but I get these random stabbing headaches (have done for a couple of months now) that go from right above my right canine tooth all the way through to the back of my head, and still low level crud in the back of my throat.
My theory is that I've got some really small infection why they hell up in there and it's loosening up just a smidge when I take a decongestant but not going away. The headache is not constant, but it definitely happens less when I take a decongestant. And when I do my nose runs more than usual, not less. The pattern has been 1) take sudafed 2) wait two hours 3) nose starts running and throat stuff gets thicker 4) blow my nose and get a fantastically disgusting chunk of green stuff and 4) wait for a few hours and do it again. Taking sudafed back to back doesn't seem to make a difference in terms of draining the green shit out, and I've been on it for a solid week now. Neti pot doesn't help either. No fever in the last couple of days. Nothing in the labs they did last week.
Back to urgent care tomorrow, I think.
|Sunday, April 14th, 2013|
I could really use another weekend. I spent all last week pushing through what I thought was bad allergies (sore throat, runny nose, but no major congestion), and assuming that Claritin was failing me. Bob was in worse shape, but hates taking meds of any kind. Finally on Friday he got so bad that he couldn't drink without wincing, so I gave him a vicodin and made him promise to go to urgent care on Saturday morning. Which he did. Strep throat. So I went later in the day and while I'm still sick as a dog, I don't have the antibodies, per the test. Dr. thinks I kicked it myself and my body is just mopping up the damage. She did a second culture and sent it to the lab just in case, since the in-office test they use is only 90% accurate. I should know tomorrow, and if I have it per the lab test, I'll start antibiotics tomorrow. If I've got something else the lab test will find it. In the mean time she told me to take Sudafed to make sure everything stays clear. I know I'm sick because even on the max dose I've slept almost all day yesterday and today.
I am too busy to be sick. I really can't be sick tomorrow, I've got a bunch of contracts to do for work, and I have to finish the paperwork for my taxes. It's done, I just haven't actually filed it with the accountant who does the e-file thing for me once I've paid her bill. Maybe I'll just sign everything and shove it under the office door in the morning.
In other news, my knee is falling apart. I'm pretty sure it's because I haven't been able to get any exercise beyond climbing stairs in the house in the last couple of weeks because Bob's folks were here and then I've been sick. Either way, it's in bad shape. I asked the doc for a referral to physical therapy when I was in yesterday and she said she'd start the paperwork tomorrow. So I'll add that to the pile of things I have to do (and want to do) but don't have time for.
|Monday, February 11th, 2013|
1. Simone requested a house update. It's coming along. We got some stuff hung on the walls - mom does these really great wallhangings. She sent us a few with purple and cool tones. We want to decorate mostly with fabric because there are so many hard surfaces now with all tile or hardwood floors. We can hear the difference in the rooms (even a simple conversation in our living room sounds warmer
, somehow. We also put the biggest rug I got in Morocco down on the living room floor, added some curtains that my mom made to the transom windows in the living room and to the door that goes out into the worlds smallest and ugliest balcony off my office. I've got another Morocco rug for my office but it can't go down yet. We put the rest in the master (well Bob did, while I was in Sweden). I think it's too much and may move one of them back downstairs this weekend. Either way, they look nice and don't smell like poop anymore, so that's a win. We still have a bunch of boxes to unpack in the garage, and really just need to buckle down and get it over with. We do need to purchase a rack of some kind for hanging coats in the garage (there is no coat closet in this house!), which is the way we come and go 99% of the time. We also need to pick up another bookcase or two because we have to make up for the built-ins we lost in the move. All my cookbooks and about half of my fiction and tech books are still boxed. It's a pretty small collection now, relative to what it used to be. I've dumped a lot of junk since acquiring the Kindle. Instead of registering for household stuff we decided to register for a buy-a-couch fund for the wedding. It seems ridiculous to ask people for anything, honestly, but if people want to help us out with the house, that's where it's going. I will not be 43 years old and still sitting on my futon from college to watch TV. I WILL NOT.
2. I have now gone four nights without medicating at all. Gonna go for five tonight, but feeling a little wobbly. I slept until 6 on Friday morning. 5 on Saturday morning. 3:45 or so yesterday and today. I took a nap yesterday and today, but it's not going to be possible later in the week. I have too much crap going on at the office that I need to drive in for. I worked out HARD for a solid hour at the gym this morning. We'll see if that means I can sleep a little longer tomorrow. If not, the question becomes, which kind of foggy person do I want to be? The well rested but maybe-slightly-foggy due to low level pot consumption (a piece of caramel made with butter before bed) person, or the totally foggy person who is rarely well rested? I tend to vote for the first. I don't like it, but it seems like a better life option.
3. My calendar scares me. I have so many meetings this week that I'm not going to be able to get any work done. I don't see that changing. It's a problem.
|Wednesday, January 9th, 2013|
Today I started learning how to walk again.
I have always enjoyed being an active person, but my ridiculous ankles have made that difficult or impossible for months or years at a time. I sprained them regularly through my teens and twenties. I took a really bad fall when I was about 25, massively sprained my left ankle, tore all the connective tissue in my foot, and had to wear an orthopedic boot for about a year. The bruise was still visible on my foot two years later. That boot fucked up my left knee and hip, since it was a different height than any of the shoes I was wearing on my right foot. I was young, stupid, and didn't think to match the height of my right heel to my left. That one simple thing would have saved me years of pain. I am convinced that the boot did more long term damage than the original injury did. Anyway, I've broken my right ankle twice in the last few years.
It wasn't until my last round of PT that somebody suggested that bad balance and weakness in my hips and abs could be contributing to my ankle problems. Pilates largely has resolved both of those things. In Morocco I felt stronger than I ever have as an adult. I got there after a year and a half of weight lifting, balance training, pilates on the reformer, and short hikes weekly. I walked for hours every day, and I was sore and tired, but recovered the next day easily. Then I got sick in Belgium. I lost a lot of muscle with that illness, felt weak to my bones all through November, and then hyper-extended my knee. I've been in a pretty massive amount of pain since then, unable to *not* walk with a limp even on the good days, and occasionally unable to do stairs. I started pilates again and finally got back to doing weights last week. Today I was talking with Stephan (my pilates trainer/retired ballet dancer) about it and started playing with the width I tend to keep my feet at on the foot bar, and he realized I always migrate my right foot in towards the middle as I'm working out. So then he had me walk. And then he had me walk, but try to keep about 8 inches width between my feet. I felt like a bowlegged cowboy. Three steps in I felt like a bowlegged cowboy who wasn't limping.
So we scrapped the rest of the session on the reformer, moved next door to the aerobics studio and I practiced walking back and forth in front of the mirror. It still feels awkward and slow. My legs are exhausted, fatigued like I've just hiked for miles. Every single muscle is tired. I can feel all of them. But no pain. No limp. In the mirror I can see that I don't look like I'm walking funny, in fact I think it does look better, even slow it's less of the fat-lady-waddle. I really have to think about every step. The minute I don't, my feet start moving back toward the middle.
I am a little horrified about how optimistic I feel about this. But I feel really good about this. Exhausted. Way more exhausted than half an hour walking in front of a mirror and a trip to IKEA should make me. But I'm still not limping.
|Sunday, December 16th, 2012|
I had a really weird week, capped off by a two day meeting where I spent every waking moment that I wasn't in the bathroom with the people I work with - 10 of us total New boss arranged it. We were all under orders to cancel all meetings, the team members who live in CO and OH flew in for it, and everybody stayed at a small hotel in Half Moon Bay (small town about an hour south of San Francisco, right on the beach. We had dinner together Wednesday, after our division all-hands meeting and holiday party, and then met up at 8am Thursday and worked and ate every meal together until I got home from dinner at 10pm. 8 to 5 again on Friday.
I will be eternally grateful that nobody made us do any stupid team-building exercises. We worked. We talked. We set a goal for the team to meet in the next year - identify and promote 150 new Aces. Recognizing that nobody reading this (except Todd, who is one, and Tonya, who's going to help get us there) has any clue what that means, it doesn't really matter.
What matters is that I felt really good about it when I got in my car to drive home Friday night, and then it hit me - other than the directive to get our site moved off of CollabNet a couple years ago (which was a worthy goal and one I'm proud to have accomplished) - since I started at Sun in 2005 no one has ever set a goal for me, or worked with me to set goals for myself. Nobody. In seven years. No goals. I've set plenty for myself, and achieved a lot of them. But for the last few years I've been feeling this nagging sense of drift. In the last couple of years it has really beaten me down. I didn't realize how much until the last couple of days. With no over-arching goal, there's no point to the site. I've had a lot of "why are we here" type conversations with people who have a presence on the site, and I've fumbled through answers that don't make a lot of sense. I've never been able to make a case for why we need more money because I can't tie it to anything more concrete than "to make the site better" - better for who? Better how? I've also not been able to say no to dumb ideas in some cases because there was no goal that dumb thing x would distract from.
The result of all that is a site that I still think has a lot of potential, but that I'm not particularly proud of at the moment. I am very proud of the relationships and community we've built. That's the vague reason for me to exist, and I think I've done that part well. But I've been a terrible leader. I don't think in any particular offensive way - more in a bland boring, yeahhhhhh whatever kind of way. That's been a huge frustration for me and this epiphany is really that I can't lead people when I don't know where I'm going myself. I've had a lot of fits and starts with trying to stay on top of things and then it all falls apart a few months later because....why? It's really hard to stay motivated when it's 10am and there's a new piece up on that website I wouldn't be reading if I had something better to do, and I have nothing better to do except try to not get fired. Even working with awesome people, earning an excellent salary, and all the travel really don't obscure that fact. I'm asshole if I complain about my job. I recognize that, and I don't think I'm complaining. I just haven't been engaged with it in a long long time.
So this is good. We have a goal. I can now ask for money to do things that directly contribute toward that goal, and I can start saying no to stuff that doesn't help us get there. We can start tracking some numbers that we weren't before and measure our progress. Goals. Who knew?
Here's what I really want to say to every single person who refuses to entertain the idea that we should regulate access to guns in this country - Next time, I hope it's your kid.
Truly, deeply, from the bottom of my soul. I hope it happens to your loved one.
Because it doesn't have to happen to anybody. It should never happen to anyone. But it will happen again if we don't take action as a society to stop it.
So, since it's going to happen, I hope it's your kid, your sister, your brother, your spouse. Your parents. Yours. Your kid who dies screaming, terrified, in pain, watching the carnage around them, without you to hold them. Your adult daughter shot in the face while trying to hide other innocents. I hope it happens to you, and that you live with that nightmare every fucking day for the rest of your freedom loving life.
I don't hate your kid. I don't hate you. I don't want anybody to die. You support this ridiculous hole in our safety regulations, I hope you pay the price, because somebody is going to pay it again.
|Monday, November 26th, 2012|
Sooooooo. For those following along on Facebook, you know I got sick in Antwerp. It was bad. I had the shits, I was afraid the tapwater might be contributing to the problem, and everything is closed on Sunday so I couldn't buy more bottled once I drank through what was in my room. I have never been so sick that Imodium didn't slow things down before. My pants fell off of me when I was getting dressed the last morning in Paris. (It's all back now.) I've been feeling up and down since then. I was home for 48 hours, which was long enough to do my laundry, repack my suitcase, and get caught up on the bills and random errands I needed to do before we left for Thanksgiving in LA. It's hard to separate the way I feel from being ill and being jetlagged. But now I've been back in my time zone for a week, and as of yesterday I'm back to my usual food, so I'm hoping that will help get me back together soon.
Thanksgiving was better than I expected. I love my extended family, but they do drive me insane sometimes. They really laid off some of the third rail topics this year and we had a good time. I think it's also easier now that there are four kids under 10 (cousin Brian has 3 and Kristin has 1) so the attention gets more focused on them, and they are well-behaved, smart, funny kids across the board. Stopped in for poker night at El Rancho Destructo on Friday night and got to see a bunch of folks and meet a couple of new ones. I didn't play any poker, I was too exhausted and brain dead to even pretend, but hanging out on the couch was just fine with me.
On the way home we stopped to see my sister's new house in Santa Barbara. She skipped the Morocco trip to close on it, and I can see why. It needs paint and a few other touchups, but it's a really nice place in the hills with fantastic views. We left there at about 11am, hit some bad traffic around Prunedale, but still got home by 7pm Saturday night. Yesterday we refilled the fridge and hung out at home.
I'm back to work today and starting a huge new project. I'm feeling weirdly ambivalent about the whole thing. I like what I do now, but I've basically been operating on autopilot for the last couple of years, so it's good to have something new to chew on. I'm still not quite sure what the scope of this is going to be. I suspect it's going to require a public title change, but I'm not sure to what. I'll be in charge of the infrastructure that supports all of O's English language developer communities worldwide - basically it's a HUGE super fancy Jive forum with a lot of bells and whistles, plus two or three other message boards/social entities that will be migrated and folded into the larger Jive presence over the next year. 3-4 million users, I think. Still trying to process that one. I had my first meeting (by phone) with the new boss and the technical guy to discuss the handoff last Tuesday, and I'm going to actually drive into the office (I know, I'm spoiled) every Thursday for the foreseeable future to get a handle on it.
|Thursday, November 8th, 2012|
Woke up to good news this morning (wednesday) - several of the people staying here walked up to say congratulations and ask what I thought of the vote. There is certainly no disappointment here from what I've seen.
Khalid came and picked me up at 10 again. This time we walked through a different part of the medina and souk, specifically to look at carpets. I need to stop doing that. My AmEx card really needs to stop doing that. $3500 later I am the proud owner of four handmade Berber/Touarag carpets. No regrets. No more carpets though. Between the two I picked up in India this year, and these I will have plenty to use on the floor and hang on my walls and, I don't know what else. They are gorgeous though. These aren't plush, they are lightweight, woven in tribal designs which are geometric and in some cases very similar to Navajo. I had them shipped home, they should be there by Christmas.
We also went through another museum of berber art and pottery, and then a drive out to the new city for lunch. We passed a McDonald's which I found a museum - it is Halal, which you certainly won't find in the states, has the french wording (Royale with Cheese!), and they have apple and pear milkshakes on their seasonal menu. I got a turkey panini at the cafe across the street. After lunch we drove around the suburban area a bit, and then toured another palace.
This morning (thursday) we took a drive out into the countryside - the Ourika valley. It was raining but still gorgeous. Lots of greenery, locally owned pottery shops and kilns, small towns. We stopped at a really nice place for lunch and then headed to the medina. He dropped me off at the riad around 4:00. I've been catching up on email since then and will go down for dinner in a bit.
I hadn't realized that the last few weeks were a major holiday break here for the hajj - it's like christmas break in the U.S. - all the kids went back to school yesterday and the riad emptied out as well. I think there are only two guests here tonight. So the wifi is much faster. :)
Tomorrow morning I catch the 11 am train back to Rabat, check back in at the Sofitel, and meet my friend Faissal for dinner. It'll be an early night - I have to be out the door by 5am Saturday morning to catch a 6:40 flight to Paris, and then I have to figure out the Paris subway system to meet my train at Gare du Nord. Two hours from there to Antwerp. At least now Antwerp is a little familiar and I know my hotel is on the first block from the train station.
|Wednesday, November 7th, 2012|
|Tuesday in Marrakech
I met the guide Simon's cousin sent this morning - he got to the riad a little early and we set out for a walk through the medina. His name is Khalid, he's about my age or a little older. Very friendly and excellent English, which I was greatful for. I had a little bit of a meltdown with homesickness last night. It's beautiful, but not having anyone who shares a language is lonely after a few days. I think if the wifi was better and I could connect with people more via email it would be easier, but the last LJ entry I posted took four tries and finally close to 40 minutes to load. It's been almost a week since I've had a conversation with Bob longer than 90 seconds. He's trying to get through on the riad landline, but the phone is ringing off the hook and he keeps getting a busy signal.
Anyway, Khalid is great. First stop was the public water fountain - most houses here have plumbing now but the few who don't still get their water from this fountain, that is still using the original roman, gravity fed plumbing from the Atlas Mountains. We toured a beautiful madrasa, and then he took me to the museum of Marrakech, which is small but has some fantastic paintings, pottery, and textiles. I was pretty impressed with myself - the descriptions of the pieces are all in Arabic or French, no English anywhere. I had to read through three times for most of them, but I understood about 90% of the French. Still can't speak for shit, but it's amazing how much has come back from college, and how much more I was able to pick up in context. It does help that a lot of the basic art terms that we use are already in French, but I was still very pleased.
At the museum I pointed out the embroidered textiles on display and told Khalid that I do this for a hobby and that I was impressed with the work. He got really excited and told me about an antique shop/museum in the new city (that is, the modern city outside the medina that's still a hundred years old, the medina was established ca. 1100) that he wants to take me to tomorrow. Then we headed for the big souk. I wasn't really sure what to expect. It was very different from the open air markets in India - the best description I can give is that the grand bazaar scenes in Argo could have been filmed there - tight crooked passages, it has a roof (for shade, not waterproof), and a huge mix of vendors and craftsman. I had a few sellers call out to me, but the harassment wasn't anything like in India, although I'm sure that if Khalid hadn't been with me it would have been a different experience.
We exited the souk at the great square, walked around the original mosque and a rose garden, and then went by car out to a modern cafe for lunch. After lunch he showed me some different neighborhoods in the suburbs and we stopped at the Jardin Majorelle. It's a garden originally owned and designed by the artist, which Yves St. Laurent purchased on Majorelle's death in the sixties. There's still a private home there, that YSL's partner still uses as a residence. The gardens are open to the public and are really amazing. They have the best collection of cacti I've ever seen. There's also a small but spectacular museum that holds his private collection of berber art and clothing. Then we took the long way home - Khalid drove us around the outside of the medina walls. Things I learned - the medina and most of the structures in it are adobe. You can really see how the Moorish influence on Spain in turn has influenced architecture in CA and Mexico.
At this point my feet and knee were killing me - cobblestones are death on bad knees. Khalid parked as close as he could get to the riad and walked me back, which took about 10 minutes.
Tomorrow he picks me up at 10, and we'll do another monument and some shopping. I'm looking forward to it.
|Monday, November 5th, 2012|
|Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakech
I cannot believe it's been a week since I left the U.S. My original flights were SFO -> Dulles -> Paris -> Rabat, scheduled to leave Monday morning. At 9am Sunday morning I tried to check in and discovered the first two were definitely cancelled because of the hurricane. I had my phone on hold with United for six hours and Bob's phone on hold with Oracle travel for about three, and it disconnected twice before I got through. The agent said she put a bunch of alternative itineraries on my ticket, but they had to be approved by United and she couldn't get through either so she told me my best shot was to go stand in line in the international terminal, since the best option was SFO -> Munich via Lufthansa and then I would have enough time to take the train to Paris to catch the flight to Rabat. I stood in line for about an hour, and then the agent absolutely refused to even look up my itinerary since my original flight was via Dulles, and sent me to domestic. After another 90 minutes or so (may be longer) I finally make it to domestic and they told me that my Lufthansa itinerary had been approved, but I was standing in line so long that I missed the plane. So off to Chicago I went. I think we left at 11pm and got in around 5am local time. I didn't sleep at all on the plane and decided that Larry Ellison could afford to pay the day rate for the Hilton at O'Hare. I got about six hours of sleep and then futzed around online. I got really lucky on the flight to Paris. I had paid for an economy plus upgrade on the original flight so they gave it to me for this one. Given all the cancellations from the hurricane I expected it to be packed, but I ended up with three seats in a row to myself. Four hour layover at CDG where I had to exit the airport and re-enter and do security again to catch the plane to Rabat. My hotel sent a car (thank Larry) to pick me up and it was another 30 minutes in the rain to get to the Sofitel. Very nice hotel.
I had nothing to do on Wednesday, which was nice. I like having a cushion day to help with the time change. Badr called and offered to take me to lunch with Faissal, and I happily accepted. Badr and Faissal run the Morocco Java User Group, and are the ones trying to get this new conference going, which is why I was here (google JMaghreb if you care to see what we're doing here). They are both in their late 20s, engineers, really really nice guys that I've known for a couple of years. Generally excellent hosts. We went to a locals-only place for lunch which was great. They dropped me back at the hotel and I was on my own for dinner. The price escalation for tourists is insane. Right now 100 dhiram is about $11. My lunch was a good chicken panini (they were out of tajine?) fries, and a coke for 42 dhiram. My dinner at the hotel was a lamb tajine and a chicken/almond pastry thing for 600 dhiram. It was very good to be sure, but the gouging here goes way beyond what it does even in India.
Thursday morning I was up at 5 to take a two hour taxi ride to Casablanca for Oracle Day. Oracle Days are boring as all fuck. A bunch of suits talking marketing-weasel speak (this time in French!) and me doing one Java presentation in English. There is this weird snobbery internally at O about O's database products vs. Java. The Java/Sun folks are basically second class citizens and I had to fight hard to come here at all. The suits think nobody is interested or serious here about Java. We proved them wrong. About a hundred people showed up for O-Day, my talk was the very last one, and started 90 minutes after it was supposed to end, and I still had 14 people in the room, which was more than I expected, honestly. This was a throwaway day to see what was happening. I met up with a woman I've been emailing work stuff back and forth with for ages - her name is Nina and she is Bosnian but lives in Holland. I had no idea what to expect. She is bad bad bad influence in the most fun way, most of the time. The talks were all in french so we snuck out to the old city and walked around the bazaar for a while, not intending to shop, just fending off vendors. We had a blast got lost, got found, had a nice lunch and then rejoined the show.
After my talk was done Badr came to pick us up and his phone rang as we were walking out of the hotel. Some asshole exec from Cairo decided 36 hours before the event that his keynote for JMaghreb wasn't worth doing (who cares about Java anyway?), and Badr and Nina both just looked at me. OH HOLY HELL. I was going to do my usual community session and then hang out at the booth and hand out swag for JMaghreb. Now I was the headline speaker from Oracle. I sent out an email to everyone I could think of back home begging for their JavaOne slide decks so I could put together a presentation. Within a few hours I had 9 decks to choose from, and I worked like crazy all day and late into the night to get the thing put together, practiced deliery and timings in front of the mirror, barely slept from nerves.
500 people who do care about Java showed up for the conference, which is an absolutely astounding turnout for a firstyear program. I am enjoying rubbing it in with the suits. :) After all the work I put into that slide deck, the projector didn't work when it was time to start. I ended up basically miming the thing - talking from my script on the laptop and pointing to the empty screen saying "imagine a java logo here.." Fortunately the audience had a sense of humor about the whole thing. I went straight from there to my other session which went really well. I was ready to just hang out in the booth the rest of the day but a group asked me to come sit on a panel for another session so I did that too. This is by far the most time I've ever spent on stage at one of these things.
It all went pretty well, considering. I went back to the hotel and took a nap before dinner. Badr took all the speakers out to dinner and then to a "cafe" - which is Morocco-speak for a bar/dance club. Morroccan long island iced teas are even more dangerous than american ones. I got back to my room after 2am and agreed to meet Badr for breakfast at 10 this morning, and he would drop me off at the train station for Marrakech at 11. That all went to plan, but then everything else derailed.
It has been a crazy crazy day. So I misunderstood Badr, or he was just plain wrong, and me having a bit of a hangover didn't help. I was sitting at the wrong track and missed my train. I finally got on the right one around 2:15. Got into Marrakech around 7:15. Something happened on the opposite side of the train from me about 10 minutes out from Marrakech - huge bang and the window shattered - it was safety glass and there were two impact points. I don't know if someone shot at the train (we were out in the countryside) or if the train kicked up a rock somehow. The window sagged in but didn't fall out of the frame. I'm pretty sure it was gunshots though - security came through and closed all the curtains on the train and they were pissed. I was sitting next to a young muslim woman and she was terrified. She didn't speak any english, but we had been friendly and had shared snacks from the vendor all afternoon. She grabbed my hand and didn't let go until we got off the train.
I was not in a good frame of mind when we got here. The station at Marrakech is completely modern and very very nice, and it was a total zoo of locals, tourists, guides, vendors selling chinese-made tourist crap. I totally bullshitted a cabbie by acting like I knew more French than I do, and lied and said it was my third time here and handed him a card with the name and address of the place I booked. I don't think I would have had the balls to pull that off if I didn't have the two India trips under my belt. Both the place I booked and the place I ended up are in the middle of the medina - the original walled city of Marrakech. There are no cars here - it's all narrow winding passageways 4-6 feet wide and sometimes as low as 5 feet in the arches, so the taxi dropped me off at the outer edge and a teenager came up to the car and asked me where I needed to go. It was full dark by then, and I'll admit I was more than a little freaked out. I made him show me the street signs where we were going - there is absolutely no way I could have done it by myself. 10 minute walk to the place I booked. When I got there they said Lonely Planet had no contact info for me and they had overbooked and were moving me to this place. I didn't know WTF was going on, so I asked for the name/address of the new place so I could tell "my local friend where to meet me in the morning". I'm getting good at travel BS. :) I figured it was safest to make a show of emailing Badr and cc'ing Bob and Dawn. It was a very nice looking place, and they were very apologetic. They sat me in a central patio and gave me a bottle of water while I was waiting.
The new place sent a guy over and it was about a twenty minute walk (he was moving FAST, I'm hurting a bit) to the new place through the medina. I sat in another patio for about an hour while they took my stuff to my room and did the paperwork. While I waited they brought me tea and little dishes of almonds, raisins, and biscotti. That's dinner for tonight. I don't have the energy for anything else. This new place is gorgeous. (google riad Al Jazira Marrakech for pics.) Bigger than the first one, and I have a nicer room with a double bed instead of a twin. The room is actually on three different levels - double doors to walk in and there's a bed in an alcove, and a daybed/couch thing with a bunch of cushions, then up a few stairs to the sink and a big open walk in shower, and then up another few steps to the toilet.
My friend Dawn's husband is Moroccan and he has a cousin who owns a travel agency here, and Simon has told them I'm coming, so I sent him a note and we'll see what happens next. I'm so tired I might just stay in the riad all day tomorrow. They have three beautiful open patios, one with a pool, one more like a living room with a TV (where I am now, and where the wifi seems best), and another one where all the ashtrays are.
Everything has worked out well and I feel very safe here - it's quiet, but there are a bunch of different people staying here and the host has been perfectly polite and friendly. I hope tomorrow is a lot less exciting.
|Friday, September 14th, 2012|
So we've been fighting about chores lately. We've tried various divisions of labor over the last couple of years and need to change things up a bit to suit the new house, but we've been fighting about for a month rather than sitting down and discussing it. Last night he told me that he "felt screwed" the last time we did this. So he proposed that we just swap. Everything I do now, he does, and vice versa.
OK by me!
We sat down and made a list of all the stuff we do around the house, and swapped it. Except I kept remembering more things in them middle of the night and this morning.
So, for a trial period of the next two weeks, I am responsible for:
1. One load of laundry per day if there's a load worth of dirty things to wash.
2. Cleaning up the kitchen after dinner.
He is in charge of:
1. Two cat boxes, daily scooping and bi-weekly litter change.
2. Trash - taking it out to the cans, and putting the cans out on the street on trashday, and bringing them back in the next day.
3. His dishes for any meal not jointly consumed with me.
4. Meal planning/shopping/cooking UNLESS it is mac and cheese from the blue box. Then I get to do it. ('Cause that's what he does now when it's his turn to cook.)
5, Unloading the dishwasher.
6. Bills/budget/handling the household cash supply/remembering to pay the housecleaner.
I know he's perfectly capable of doing all of these things. I also know he won't do all of these things and will be incredibly stressed out by it. I expect to eat a LOT of blue box mac and cheese in the near future.
|Saturday, September 1st, 2012|
The crapfest at work is slowly resolving itself. This one guy is still pissing me off. He means well, but he keeps going back to the IT guys who are trying to shut us down (yes, this is still ongoing) and asking them questions, but of course he's asking questions that lead them back to more issues.
So, the deadlines just got tighter, the scope of the project has grown, and if this giant fucking moron had listened to me and not poked the hive, we wouldn't be this badly stung. And the answers he got were all ones that fucked him over too. So at least he won't do it again. The abject apology email I got from him might just get a gilt frame.
The friend who scheduled the bike ride is back, and she hasn't spoken to me directly, which is unusual. I haven't said anything to her, but I suspect my boss did. I have no idea what was said.
Michelle told me to take Friday and Tuesday off to makeup for working last weekend, which I am doing. Yesterday I did nothing. So far today, I have read for hours (Bring up the Bodies, sequel to Wolf Hall - oh that Henry!) I took a shower this afternoon. Bob and I will leave for a few minutes for our evening outing - short walk in the hills (15 minutes out and back, to see how my knees do), then dinner at Spettro (I have this massive craving for their booberry ribs - blueberry BBQ sauce spiked with chinese peppers) and then we'll do our grocery shopping and spend a mellow evening in front of the TV.
Tomorrow, more nothing! Paul's coming for dinner and to pick up boxes. He is in escrow on a condo in Hayward now, and expects to move by the end of the month. I'm very happy for him, but now this starts the next major nightmare - duking it out with BofA on the condo. I've got a good lawyer. I've got a good real estate agent. I may need to get some sort of anti-anxiety meds from my doctor. This is scary.
I haven't made a final decision on how much I want to push for a deed in lieu. I asked for a short sale a couple of years ago and the bank told me I made too much money. In the last 2.5 years with Paul there, paying $100 more per month than average market rent, I've still lost several thousand dollars. Also, my adjustable rate is tied to Libor, so I've also been scammed out of several thousand dollars over the years that way. I have decided that they get no more money from me. If they will do a short sale without me making payments, I'll work with Anne and go that route. But I don't think they will. This is one of the main reasons I think banks take so long to sort out short sales - the owners are still paying the mortgage, why on earth would the bank be in a hurry? So. No more money to BofA. If they won't go for that, the next option is a deed in lieu, which both my lawyer and Anne thing is very possible. If it goes to foreclosure, it goes to foreclosure. I'm prepared for that, but it's going to hurt. Not only will it destroy my credit rating, but I'll have to pay federal income tax on the difference between what I owe and what it sells for. According to todays numbers, that's going to be about $115k. OUCH. But still better than trying to keep the thing and be a landlord and deal with the most horrible, irresponsible HOA ever.
|Sunday, August 26th, 2012|
Did what I could work wise. We'll see if the lights are on I try to log in tomorrow morning. We also spent a good chunk of the morning moving crap around in the garage - enough so we can fit one car in there now. Street parking here is really tight. If you're not home by 6:30 on a weeknight there's nothing, and we have to park on the big hill and hike home. Big PITA, especially if you're bringing home groceries or something. We keep saying we'll work on it, but then we don't, so this morning I suggested that if we got enough done to park a car in the garage, that we should splurge on a nice dinner. Apparently that was the right carrot. I spent about an hour down there, he spent close to three. Even better, a neighbor noticed all the moving boxes and asked if she could take them to a women's shelter that could use them. Even better than that, we had a ton of bedding - down comforters, feather pillow tops, pillows, in good condition but that goodwill won't take, but the shelter could. AWESOME. We had three big plastic trunks full of that stuff - between combining households and then upgrading from the queen to the cal king for our regular bed. There's no reason to have multiples of everything for a guest bed that might get used 2 weeks a year.
Not looking forward to work tomorrow. Last week turned me into Chicken Little.
|Friday, August 24th, 2012|
Bob's off at his first Friday night footbal game of the season. He'll be gone every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the next 6-8 weeks. Some Tuesdays too. I miss him, but it's kind of nice to have the house to myself too.
The house is coming along. The floor guys finished up a couple of weeks ago. The master bedroom, master bath, and kitchen are 95% done. Now it's just rearranging the little bits of things to be in the best spot for daily use.
My office is...usable as my office right now, but nowhere near where it needs to be. We've decided that it will be the official guest room, and want to get a simple murphy bed, that will house the queen size mattress that we recently retired (and was only a year old anyway - it will be a nice guest bed). But, at the moment there's nowhere else convenient to keep that mattress, so it's flipped up against the wall and my chair is backed up into it to hold it in place. I've got some boxes to work on here, but really once we get the murphy bed in it'll be less than a day to get everything else organized around it.
The living room is horrible, but it's horrible because we have horrible furniture in it. We will throw money at that problem later. There's one box of boardgames that we never use, and a bunch of boxes of books that we're waiting to unpack until we are absolutely sure where they will be.
The one big thing left to do is the garage. We still can't park a car in it, although we have managed to leave the door open for hours at a time twice now. Nothing has been stolen yet, but we've each done it once now and have to be a lot more careful about it. There's a bunch of stuff that we need to get rid of - I have a big corner cabinet that we don't have room for in the new place, and a 6 foot tall square glass display cabinet that we don't need any longer. Maybe some other stuff too. The hardest thing in the garage is all the odds and ends boxes - there's probably 15 of them down there - all the very last boxes that have that one thing we couldn't forget buried in a bunch of crap that should have been thrown away. Tomorrow I'll start going through those boxes, and I'm going to do it in the garage next to the trash can.
Work has been hell the last few days, and I'm going to have to work through the weekend. Yesterday, the annual one day meeting that I host before JavaOne had to be cancelled and moved. This isn't just an update in Outlook - it's an event with a budget and caterers and signage, and blah blah blah. It's for the people who have a leadership role in the website, usually half volunteers from the community and half O employees. The O employees have to be there. So we're really putting on the dog for the community volunteers. But somebody else (a friend who I have very stabby feelings toward at the moment) scheduled a "geek bike ride" and invited everybody who was invited to my meeting to go. So now, with a choice between a one day working meeting (that I do make an effort to make it an enjoyable day, with good food, etc) and a bike ride over the golden gate bridge, they all chose the bike ride. I'm not surprised, or even hurt that they made that choice. I'm pissed because the whole reason we have my thing on Saturday is because it was before the conference started and there was never any conflict. They literally didn't have anything better to do. So now it's rescheduled, a dinner with booze, half the time of the original meeting. I still have a bunch of stuff to work out with the catering, but overall it's coming back together. Still pissed though.
Then this morning I get random email from a couple of different people saying that they just realized that they haven't gotten any email from their mailing lists since April. And one of them is a guy who works for me! On the site! And he hasn't been getting email. WTF? Turns out some genus in IT turned off our old email alias. Just like you could send me an email to srb@livejournal and it would go into my gmail account, if you're a member of our site you get a email@example.com alias. Groovy. Except on the old site it was firstname.lastname@example.org. And email@example.com is how all of the mailing lists that were migrated from our old system are set up. (Tonya, are you hyperventilating yet?) So now I know that we've got this massive bug. We're talking over 600,000 accounts that we imported. But I can't reach them to tell them because they aren't getting their email! There are two easy fixes that will just take a few days to implement. But then I have to publish the massive public oh-shit-we're-sorry-you-didn't-get-any-e
mail-since-April-and-we-didn't-notice apology. That's going to be pleasant.
And then. This afternoon at 1:53 pm my phone rings. It's Chris, the guy who manages the engineering team that provides our forge services and he says "IT is turning off the DNS on all of the sites at 6am Monday morning." WTF? This is over 2 million people to be impacted between my site and the two sister sites. Many of those users literally do their jobs on our sites. Some of them are O employees, but most are open source developers who trust us to be up and running. SO. WTF?
IT has just this morning noticed (on a site that has been up since 2003) that the mailing list archives show the email addresses of some Oracle employees. And our bug tracker has email addresses of some Oracle employees, because people who write bugs (including me) often have a discussion about them via email before the bug is written, and then we just copy the whole thread in there to save some typing and give context.
The mailing list archive thing does actually bug me. There's no reason not to obfuscate those, but we haven't because the software package we have makes it a big PITA to do so, and we're replacing that entirely some time next year. It's not a security flaw, but it does open people up to spam and that sucks. The bug tracker thing is just effing ridiculous.
So, PANIC. OMG PANIC. If there is no website, there is no job, for me or for several of my favorite people. I called in every favor, tracked down people on vacation or who had already gone home for the weekend since they live on the east coast, sent scattershot all caps NO REALLY YOU NEED TO PANIC NOW TOO emails all over the place, and got it escalated to the exec VP level who told IT to accept a compromise.
So we have a stay of execution for Monday. Not Tuesday. Just Monday. And as part of the compromise I need to go through the bug tracker and manually change every single bug that has a mention of an Oracle email address in it private, so it can't be publicly searched. This of course makes those bugs utterly useless, because the point of bugs is for people to see them so they can fix them. While I'm doing this, Chris will be doing the exact same thing for the other sites. The mailing lists are going private, visible only to subscribers until we get a better solution in place.
Tonight, more self medication. I'm so tense that my shoulders are up around my ears and I'm twitchy.
FUCK IT. Fuck it. And Fuck O's IT department. Seriously.
|Saturday, June 2nd, 2012|
1. Our official close date is Friday 6/8, but we've already done half the signing and it's possible that everything will fund as early as Tuesday, even with all the crazy delays we've had.
2. Our next hurdle is the floor - we need to replace the carpet. It's disgusting. This is a foreclosed home that's been empty for over a year. There's a brown substance smeared in the carpet in the master bedroom that could be shit. The last occupant must have purposely squirted something all over the floor before they left - you can see drip marks going up and down all the stairs and across all the rooms in the house. We picked a floor, picked an installer, and then discovered that even though we don't have any units below ours, we still are supposed to get approval from the HOA "architecture committee" about the floor we want to put in. But the architecture committee doesn't meet again until July 11. We can't wait that long - it would involve either staying where we are and paying rent and the mortgage until at least mid-August, or it would involve moving, living with that disgusting carpet, and then paying someone to move all of our stuff back into the garage, finding someplace else to stay for several days while they do the work, and boarding the cats as well. Apparently there's now a CA state law in effect that states that condo boards cannot make decisions outside of public meetings unless it's an emergency. So our agent is trying to make this into an emergency on our behalf. What it comes down to is that we will order and install the floor when we want to (i.e. ASAP) but may have started a war with the HOA before we even move in, and have no idea what happens next. Joy.
3. We don't know when we're moving yet. We've started packing non-essentials, but until the floor thing is settled, we don't have a clue. Even if we order the wood today, it could take 2-4 weeks to get it delivered, and then it has to sit in the house and acclimate for a few days before installation. I'm really hoping they can get it in and we could move by the end of June, but pushing out into July is seeming more and more likely.
|Sunday, May 13th, 2012|
Siiiiiiiick. And whiny. I was fine in India, I was fine on the way home, I have not been fine since. Either I have a slow burn bug that I picked up there, or I got food poisoning. Either way, I've been not in good shape for the last few days.
Bob went on a short backpacking trip with Elise. They left this morning and he's supposed to be back in time to meet me and the inspectors at the new house tomorrow. We also need to make decisions on flooring tomorrow, because it's going to take up to five weeks to get it delivered and ready to install, and we'd really like to be moved out by the end of June.
Some final thoughts on India. I really enjoyed myself in Goa, but I'm not sure that I'd go back to where we stayed again. It was fabulous. But it was so fabulous that they basically charged US prices for everything (i.e. around $100 for a nice dinner for two, with no alcohol). That's not something I do regularly here, but it's ridiculously overpriced for there. Other than the accents of the employees, we could have been in any high end resort in Hawaii or the Florida panhandle. Actually, FL would probably be cheaper.
The other weird thing is that we were under surveillance all the time. After a while it felt like we were living in an episode of The Prisoner. Beautiful seaside villa, everybody drives around golf carts (they call them buggies), and any time they can possibly anticipate a need they jump out of the woodwork. Case in point - I was walking back to our room, which was about a six minute walk from the main hotel. I walked under the camera, and within a minute there was a nice man with a buggy basically begging me to get in and let him give me a ride the rest of the way. It took a lot of convincing of all the staff, that no, the crazy american ladies would really prefer to walk.
There's also this cultural thing where you have to let the staff do their jobs. Down to waiting for the waiter to place the napkin in your lap before a meal. I tried to push my own chair in and nearly caused a riot. I understand better now - I'm not helping, I'm removing their reason for existing. It's a hard habit to break when I'm there. I try to let them do their thing and tip them well when they do. The flip side of that is that a couple of people on staff said they were always thrilled when Americans come, because we are so easy to take care of. Maybe they were blowing smoke, but maybe they weren't. The thing about India is that the country is chock full of trash. Even the nicer homes in the cities are surrounded by open sewers and literal piles of trash 10-20-30 feet deep. Everywhere. Nobody cleans up anything, Also, it's not so weird for a westerner to be able to afford this kind of hotel, but for an Indian family to go they have to be off the charts wealthy - I overheard one woman telling her kid not to spend more than 60k on his car this time at breakfast. So they are used to having a huge household staff to clean up after them, and they just leave their shit everywhere. They drop things on the floor in restaurants and walk away, they use a separate plate for each individual item on the breakfast buffet., leave little piles of snack food wrappers to blow away in the wind by the pool. Stuff I wouldn't dream of doing.
The other funny thing about India is that even in the nicest places everything is always falling apart - badly made to start usually. The bathrooms at the Novotel (where the conference was in Hyderabad) are notoriously awful. The sides of the tub are too tall, and the glass door only covers half the tub (WTF? this is intentional) - I personally know of two people who have fallen and hurt themselves badly getting out of those showers, and I am terrified of them. You also can't keep anything on the left half of the sink because it gets water on it every time you shower, because there's no door there. And the floor floods, the tile gets slippery. It's a bad bad scene. At the Taj, different design, similar problems. The shower looked great, but flooded the entire bathroom every time we used it because the gasket on the bottom of the door was installed backward. Also, the toilet seat fell clean off the toilet once. They fixed that right away, but it's funny to me that even at the nicest places they are really going for looks but have left behind basic building standards.
So, great trip. Loved Goa but I'll probably stay somewhere cheaper if I go back. Next year, maybe Varanasi. I'm still a little scared of the big cities.
|Friday, May 11th, 2012|
I hate this part. I hate this part almost as much as I hate the last few hours on the plane coming home. This is the third time I've done the total body clock flip (12.5 hours in India twice, 11 hours in Russia once), and I think that's enough to form some opinions. Going isn't so bad. Usually I'm pretty well rested before the trip, and there's all kinds of exciting things to do when I get there. And I'm so confused by the new things that it's hard to tell what's sleep deprivation and what's genuine travel nonsense. Last week I tried to tip a driver in rubles instead of rupees. That was pretty funny. He should have taken the rubles. I had the rubles in my wallet so I could exchange them for $ at the airport, but they couldn't. Not in Hyderabad or in Singapore. Singapore surprised me.
Anyway. Hate this part. Coming home is worse because I've been discombobulated for about two weeks and my brain just does not know what to do with itself. Although I will never stop being amused by leaving Seoul at 5:30 pm and getting into SFO four hours earlier on the same day. Makes me feel like Doctor Who or something.
Need to get some minimal work stuff done. Feel like I just took 12 ambien and am about to keel over. It doesn't help that Bob doesn't grocery shop when I leave town. There is no milk, and I am a wuss and cannot drink coffee without it. Going to get milk would involve putting on pants, and I don't think I can handle that much at the moment. I just put some tilapia in the oven for whatever meal I'm going to eat right now. I hope the protein will help.
|Monday, May 7th, 2012|
It has been a week since I posted. Here's the scoop….
Monday - we stayed in at the hotel. Had a pretty mellow day, recovered from that horrendously long flight. Had dinner with a bunch of awesome people.
Tuesday - a group of seven of us went to Golkonda Fort (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golkonda). It is literally bout 35 flights of stairs to climb all the way to the top, and the steps are intentionally uneven, to prevent invading armies from making good time. I made it about 25% of the way and told everyone I was going to head down and meet them in a shady spot near the entrance.
I accidentally created a bit of a ruckus on the way back down. I was expecting people to want to take pictures with me. It happened all over the place last time, and I make an effort to be friendly and handle it with good grace. This time at least a hundred guys asked me on the way down. I tried to get them in groups, but after a bit I was about to faint from the heat so I told them so and headed back down as fast as I could. When I got there, more of the same, and a couple of them were getting a little handsy - standing too close, hand brushing my ass as they were positioning themselves, that sort of thing. To be clear, I don't think I was in any serious danger - it was mostly single guys bugging me, but there were families and small children having picnics all over the place. I found a shady spot where I could sit on some stairs, kind of diagonally with my back and left side against a wall, and then set my bag down on my right side. People could still approach but there was no way they could casually touch me or my stuff and pretend it was an accident. After a few minutes an older Hindi woman came and sat up one step and about two feet to my right. She smiled at me and apologized for not speaking English. I smiled back and said her sari was beautiful (it was, pink and gray silk) and then she sat with me. For two solid hours. Basically she volunteered to be my buffer against the crowd of photo seekers. And it worked - I was still approached, but mostly by families. I was able to people watch comfortably, and have nice conversations with strangers. Lots of people stare (I never saw another American the entire time I was there, and nobody as big as me either), but they all would respond with at least a genuine smile if I smiled and waved at them.
Eventually my group came back and I said thank you to the woman who sat with me. I wish I could have communicated more with her, it was an incredibly generous thing to do, and typical of why I love visiting India despite the hardships of being here.
From there we headed off to lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant - Aromas of China on the top floor of a modern shopping mall. "Crackling spinach" is the best thing ever, and I think we went through three orders of it, along with everything else. It is funny to be in one foreign place and see how that influences another culture's food. I like Chinese food in the U.S., but this place had dishes I've never seen and like even better.
Then it was back to the hotel, where I discovered the wi-fi works at the lounges around the pool and I worked from there until sunset. We had a great dinner of "Mexican" food at one of the hotel restaurants. Mexican it was definitely not, but still quite tasty.
Wednesday I stayed in at the hotel, spent some time working and then over at the convention center doing setup for the conference.
At midnight my real estate agent called. The bank responded to our last offer with a counter. We accepted and then I spent hours running around like a crazy person trying to get documents signed and faxed back. So. We're buying a house! If all goes well, we'll close June 8 and move in a week or two after that. CRAZY.
Thursday the conference started. It was so much better than last year. Still exhausting, but now we understand the venue, the culture, and the best way to engage with people. We had lots of great conversations and slow but steady traffic to our booth. It was all good.
Friday was pretty much the same. Exhausting but good. A group of us went out to Paradise for dinner (local Biryani chain - best biryani and naan I've ever had). We took a hotel car out, but the driver had to go back because too many people needed rides to the airport. We ended up having a bit of a tuktuk race back to the hotel 3 of us plus the driver in one of them, and I have no idea how, but five of the other guys plus the driver in the other. NO CLUE how they all fit. (Tuktuks are those little yellow and black open three wheel cars that run on kerosene.) The highlight of the evening was actually in the restaurant where Tori (my white travel buddy) and Shar (Our American-Indian work buddy) started doing Stevie Wonder imitations and singing Ebony and Ivory in the middle of the restaurant. The wait staff and patrons had no idea how to respond. Nobody was drinking, we were just so looped from exhaustion. I've seen a lot of funny Indian reactions to us, but this time they just stopped dead in their tracks. HILARIOUS. I don't believe anyone was offended by it. They just didn't know what to do with it.
Saturday we checked out at 9 in the morning. We had to be at the airport by 1:30 for our flight to Goa. We took a car to Charminar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charminar) - which is the Muslim center of the old city. This was actually my first trip out into the streets in Hyderabad without a guide or an Indian friend - but we did just fine. The shopping district around Charminar is where the locals buy supplies for weddings - costumes, jewelry, etc. I bought a double strand of black freshwater pearls and matching earrings. This isn't fine jewelry - but nice costume jewelry that I'll get a lot of mileage out of. Tori picked up some glass and steel bangles.
After that we had the ride of our lives through city traffic to get to the airport. We weren't in a hurry, had plenty of time. It's just crazy to drive in India.
We got to the airport and then to Goa without incident. A car was waiting for us from the hotel and we were checked in within an hour. Goa is definitely a different world from Hyderabad. Still hot, more humid, but a lot more greenery. The standard of living is higher than any state in India, as is the general literacy rate and the locals are healthier and have a greater life expectancy as well. That's not saying a lot, they are still incredibly poor by western standards, but you can see the difference immediately. Even the dogs look healthier here.
The hotel is insane. I have never stayed any place so nice (and I do like a nice hotel on occasion) and the service here is over the top. We had fresh grilled shrimp and red snapper for dinner on the beach under the "super moon". Not a bad way to start.
We spent Sunday being lazy at the pool. Reading, swimming, lather, rinse, repeat. The wind kicked up in the afternoon and we headed back to the room for a siesta. We had dinner at the chinese restaurant here at the resort, and it was pretty good.
Today was our day for adventure. We decided to hire a car and tour a local spice plantation and then do a little shopping. Theoretically I had two things in mind to buy as gifts, and a third thing to fill a request for a friend. Jules picked us up at 10 and we headed for the spice plantation. On the way he says "Would you like to ride an elephant? Wash an elephant?" I said no to both, but Tori said yes, and then I got talked into washing it.
Apparently people bring along a change of clothes for this sort of activity, but we weren't planning for it. This means there will shortly be pictures of me on the interwebs wearing my sports bra and jeans (I refused to strip all the way) washing an elephant. We walked into the river and she was laying on her side, about sixty percent submerged. We scrubbed her back with coconut halves. Then they told me to climb on. I was not particularly scared, but it is quite a big animal, and not the easiest thing to do in a running river while wearing wet denim. I did manage to get on, and she stood stood up and started washing me! Trunk-fulls of water, right on my head, and in between she reached back and played with my toes with her trunk. Of course her handlers were commanding her to do this. Tori took her turn, and then we showered off as best we could. I am terrified of all the crap I could have picked up from wading in a dirty river barefoot. But other than that, a fantastic experience. The elephants seemed to be happy. A couple of them did have a steel ankle cuff on, but they took that off for the rides and to get to the river, and I saw no evidence of damage to the animals from the cuffs. If we had seen any evidence that they weren't treated well, we wouldn't have participated.
After that, we went (still soaking wet) to tour the spice plantation, which was pretty neat. They grow coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, coriander, pepper, bananas, and cashews, but nothing is farmed the way you'd think of it in a western orchard - it just looks like disorganized forest and everything grows together. At the end they served us a buffet lunch and a shot of feni, a local liquor made from fermented cashew fruits. It was pretty strong, and pretty nasty tasting, although it might be good mixed with sprite or ginger ale.
Next were going to drive to the capital city to shop, but pulled over at a place where the driver admits he gets a "coupon" for bringing tourists. I appreciated his honesty about that, and they did have some pretty fabulous merchandise. I ended up buying two small hand knotted wool carpets (about 3 feet by 5 feet each) that I think will end up as wall hangings in the new house. The house is going to have all hardwood and tile floors throughout, so we'll need to hang a lot of fabric to control noise. I also picked up a couple of scarves as gifts and one for me. We decided not to continue on to the capital because it was already late afternoon and we were exhausted and mostly broke. We stopped at two more places on the way back. I picked up another scarf and a little marble mosaic box I had been eyeballing earlier and Tori got a few things as well. Next we stopped at a local grocery to see if Tori could find some unique beer bottles (she collects the labels on her travels). Now we're in for the night - decided on room service for dinner which is on it's way now.
Tomorrow will be another pool day, and we start the journey home around noon on Wednesday. I'm glad for the relaxation day tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to getting home, and impatient to start packing for the move. Lots of stuff to do, and almost no time to do it!
|Sunday, April 29th, 2012|
Greetings from the future. It's about 11 am Monday morning here in Hyderabad. HOT AS HECK and quite muggy. It was 31C when we landed at 10pm last night.
My flights were mostly OK. I ended up with a window in the exit row from SFO to HongKong (I paid extra for the seat). And I'm very glad I did that because when we got to Hong Kong there was a massive lightening storm. The runway there is very short, and the pilot tried to land twice - he cam down to within four feet of touchdown each time, but pulled up at the last second deciding it was too dangerous. So they rerouted us to Shenzhen China for refueling and to wait out the storm. No complaints from me on that decision. If it ain't safe to land, just don't do it. So we spent about 3 hours in Shenzhen waiting out the storm. We couldn't get off the plan and walk around because nobody had Chinese visas. So, the sun peeped out, we took off again, and went back to HK to refuel, switch crews, and clean the plane out. Then on to Singapore. From load to disembark, I was on that plane for 24.5 hours solid. For that I feel like I should be in Australia. Because of that massive delay we only had about two hours in Singapore. Most of the group hit the bars in the airport. Tori and I went and found a lounge. I paid $20 for a fresh towel and access to a shower, wifi, finger foods, and non-alcoholic beverages. The shower was the important thing.
Everything else went fine - 4.5 hours to Hyderabad. Customs and passport control went as smoothly as they possibly could, cute little Indian guy had a sign with my name and Tori's (all spelled correctly) and an Oracle logo was waiting for us just outside baggage claim. Then another 90 minutes or so in the car to get to the hotel. Hyderbad is HUGE.
I took some chemical assistance the minute I walked in to my room and was basically comatose by midnight. I know I called Bob in that window, but I have absolutely no idea what I said to him.
Just had breakfast with Tori and the rest of the Advanced team. A bunch of new faces this year, but everybody seems really really nice.
Now I'm back in my room. The one downer is that my bad ankle got really really swollen in flight yesteraday. I always wear compression stockings and usually if I keep them elevated it all resolves over night. Not this time. So today I've got nothing to do, so I just took a diuretic, have my feet up and will try to get caught up on email and maybe have a little nap. There is a rumored shopping excursion in the city afoot and then dinner, but I'm just going to hang here for now. If they remember to let me know when it's time to go, I will. I they don't, meh. There will be plenty of hanging out and bonding time this week. The two things I definitely want to do while I'm here are 1) Have dinner at Paradise and 2) see the fort. Paradise is this restaurant that specializes in biryani - think of it like a layered casserole, with rice and chicken and spices. That's the traditional dish, and then they do these amazing curries, and the best naan I've ever had. LOVE. Forts in india aren't quite the same as forts in North America. Yes, it is a giant fortification intended to house an army. But it's really a city-state - the royal palace is inside the walls and the grounds are often spectacular with histories that go back thousands of years. I missed the one in Hyderabad last time. So it's definitely my top priority this time.