the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Video and Slides from my PyCon 2011 Talks

I've been hoping that the PyCon folks would have uploaded presentation slides by now, since they did such a good and thorough job of collecting them from all the speakers, but it's been a couple of weeks now with no sign of them, so I've given up and finally created an account on SlideShare. I'm really pleased, though, by the speed at which the A/V crew got all of the conference videos uploaded to pycon.blip.tv.

While I'd originally only planned a single talk for PyCon, I ended up giving three.

Exhibition of Atrocity

My main talk, a confessional of my sins against Python and suggestions for avoiding them. It seemed to be well-received; I'm glad that I put as much work into the final polishing as I did, working pretty much right up to the very last minutes before I had to go onstage.

I wasn't able to dig up the URL for the highly inspirational rage comic in time to get it into the video or slides, but I did manage to eventually find it--I first encountered it on imgur.

Video

Slides

Win at Parenting with Python

I whipped this up on the plane trip from Cleveland on the off-chance I could get into a round of lightning talks. Basically I thought it would be fun to formally announce a personal project in front of 1400 people, an experience that I am only just beginning to comprehend.

Video

My bit starts about 30 minutes in...

Slides

Mock in Production Code

Subtitled "It's Better Than Fixing Your Busted Old Shit", this talk for the Testing BoF came together at the last minute. Despite mortally offending Titus Brown with the awfulness of the code--it's like "the Aristocrats" but in Python--I had a lot of fun with this one. I'm choosing not to share the slides, though, for a variety of reasons--the language is fairly blue, the code samples really need more context than what's provided in the slides, and it's full of inappropriately appropriated pictures of goats. (It's a TiP BoF thing.) In short... You kind of had to be there.

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On My Way to a Better Mii

Back in the summer of 2007, I was doing an okay job of getting back into a decent exercise habit, motivated largely by the impending arrival of our first child--knowing that once she arrived, I was going to have to massively reprioritize my time. Between the day-to-day parenting existence and my wildly see-sawing work schedule, I pretty much haven't worked out at all in almost two years. The effects are written all over my body, and to my chagrin I have to confront them every day. I could really stand to lose 20 (okay, fine, 25) pounds, if only I could figure out how to get off my lazy ass and get moving.

I thought I might break out of my "need to work out/don't want to work out" spiral with the arrival of Wii Fit in our house. Hooray, I thought, this will give us a fun way to get some physical activity throughout the long, dark Cleveland winter! While that was a nice idea, it quickly fizzled out (for reasons I'll rant about in a moment), and the Fit board mostly gathered dust.

What might actually do the trick for me is the new EA Sports Active, which I bought for Liz as a belated Mother's Day present once I realized that enough hints had been dropped about it. After watching her go through her first workout with it, I figured I would give it a try; I'm now three workouts in and am overall much more optimistic about it than I ever was about Wii Fit.

Wii Fit, Wii Fit... Where to begin? It had such noble intentions, but was a dismal failure in our house. Maybe it was the vast array of tedious mini-games that I got worse at the more I tried them (oh boy, I get to pick between so many things I hate to do!). Maybe it's the mini-game structure, where minor slip-ups terminate the game and cut short your physical activity. Maybe it was the physical discomfort of many of the "exercise" mini-games; really, I am a lot happier doing push-ups when my hands aren't pressed into the pointy, textured surface of the Fit board. Maybe it's the unhealthy obsession with BMI, which is surely not a one-size-fits-all metric of health.

More than anything else, though, I think it's Wii Fit's attitude, its saccharine-coated condescension. After inviting you to step on, it emits a gasp of shock and dismay, a cutesy little "oh!" that is silently followed by "my gosh you're uncomfortably heavy." If you play in the evening it'll scold you about your sleep habits. If you don't play for a while, it mockingly chides you for your inattention--or worse, asks other, more regular players if you're still there. And if you do try to get back into the habit after a period of being away, Wii Fit will ask with sneering faux-innocence if maybe you shouldn't "set a goal that's easier to achieve." Fuck you, Wii Fit, I don't need that shit.

EA Sports Active, by stark contrast, is all about blowing sunshine up your ass. It's hard to go more than five seconds without it spouting compliments like "you're showing me great dedication today," "you're grace in motion," and "work it!" I'm trying the 30-day challenge, in which the game crafts workouts of escalating intensity and challenge for me, and during each workout there's already a fixed set of exercises you'll be doing, so there's no wasting time figuring out which mini-game to do next--your virtual trainer is going to give you what it's going to give you, and you'd better learn to like it. (This may also be why the iTunes Genius feature is so appealing to me--I have too many choices in life, so it's nice for something else to make the trivial ones for me.) It's smart about working different parts of your body, so you'll come away from each workout feeling like you've done something. The leg strap for the nunchuck, though not perfect, is a welcome relief from having to just "put the controllers in your pockets" as Wii Fit suggests for many of its exercises. I really like that you can work out with a buddy--an impossibility with Wii Fit. And in the trophy system, EA's done a great job mimicking the Xbox 360's achievements; they're strangely motivating in a way that getting high scores or star ratings on Wii Fit never was.

But EA Sports Active isn't without frustration. The resistance band that comes with the game doesn't offer nearly enough tension for an effective workout, and using a real resistance band (ours have their own rubber handles to grip) means that you'll have a hard time holding on to it and the Wii controllers at the same time. And that effusive praise is quickly replaced with polite but annoying reminders to "slow down and watch how I do it" or concerns that "you don't seem to be doing it right" whenever one of the controllers isn't held exactly right. Tonight it stopped me in mid-curl for two minutes while it lost track of the controllers and kept insisting that I needed to hold the nunchuck perfectly still. Timing in general seems to be a problem--it won't recognize a move until the trainer avatar starts to do it, and then your personal onscreen avatar lags noticeably behind your own motions, never quite exactly matching up with what you're doing. It's like watching yourself on tape delay. These minor timing problems add up too, as the start of your next rep is delayed by your onscreen persona's laggy completion (plus some fudge factor while the game decides if you've actually completed the rep correctly); I got pretty steamed at my virtual trainer when she scolded me for not keeping the correct rhythm, when the game itself was altering that rhythm by taking too long to realize I'd finished a rep. I think most of the blame can be laid on the Wii hardware itself, which for me has always had some severe weakness when it comes to figuring out the controller position and orientation; I think EA Sports Active pushes the envelope a little too far and exposes how imperfect the Wii controls really are. If Microsoft is able to really deliver on the promise of the (admittedly horribly-named, OMG what were they thinking?!) Project Natal, they'll be poised to annihilate the Wii in this space. (Honestly, I'm not sure how much longer I can tolerate that pesky nunchuck cord.)

With only three workouts down, I've got quite a ways to go before I know if this will really get me over my motivation problems and help shrink my "computer science tummy," but so far I'm a lot more optimistic about EA Sports Active than I ever was with Wii Fit. Given my similar lack of blogging motivation over the past 24 months or so, it's probably a good sign that it's prompted over a thousand words here. If only typing burned more calories...

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The Diaper Pattern Stinks

I mentioned the "Diaper Pattern" in a recent post and got some comments asking what the term meant. I had hoped to just link to an explanation, thinking it was a well-known antipattern, but several minutes of frustrated Googling have left me convinced that there's actually a tiny knowledge gap to be filled here.

"Diaper Pattern" is a term that I picked up from working with Matt Wilson and David Stanek. It's an anti-pattern about naively over-broad exception catching. A very basic example in Python might be:

try:
    do_something_that_might_throw_various_exceptions()
except Exception:
    pass

If anything at all goes wrong in do_something, the except will catch and silence it--but we know that errors should never pass silently (unless explicitly silenced). It's called a Diaper because it catches all the shit.

In practice, unless you have a good reason to catch everything, it's a lot better to only catch the specific exceptions that need special handling, so that you'll know right away about any runtime surprises and where they came from:

try:
    do_something_that_might_throw_various_exceptions()
except IOError, e:
    # handle just IOErrors; let everything else make noise

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but I've heard the term used more by developers who have young children than by those without kids.

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Hotmail Can Kiss My Lily-White Ass

I pretty much never check my Hotmail account any more; it's become my default spam bucket ever since Hotmail gleefully deleted a bunch of mail on me after I failed to log in often enough during a very busy period a few years back. (That and it seems to currently enjoy sending Safari into an infinite redirect loop, which is just super-awesome--thanks, guys!)

My inattention to my Hotmail account has caused me to just have a series of domain transfers fail because I have my domain contact info pointed to it (again, since I figure spammers will just harvest it from the whois info). But missing the domain transfer emails... well, that's a pain in the ass, so, fine, it's time to set up auto forwarding as I have with other accounts that don't filter the spam so well.

Hotmail's forwarding page says:

Forwarding

You can forward your mail to one other e-mail address that ends in hotmail.com, msn.com, live.com, or custom domains. You'll receive an e-mail at that address asking you to verify your account. [Emphasis mine.]

Note the "or custom domains"...

So I punched in my gmail address, and it tells me:

Warning

You're only able to forward mail to a custom domain or an e-mail address that ends in hotmail.com, msn.com, or live.com. Please try again.

Now wait just a goddamn minute there--where'd the "custom domains" go?

So I can only forward my shitty Hotmail email to some other waste-of-bytes piece of garbage email account that Microsoft owns? What kind of bullshit is that?

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Back in DSL Hell

I am learning to hate my phone company all over again.

We haven't had voice service for two weeks. Sometimes calls in would ring forever, sometimes the line would show as permanently busy. Outgoing calls, forget it. Liz has been going back and forth with them trying to get it fixed. AT&T; keeps promising to take care of it. Nothing happened.

Eventually, I decided it was time to start getting involved, which was apparently a good thing because the tech they sent out went to the wrong address, said "no access," and closed the repair ticket.

Tuesday night: AT&T; says they'll have a tech out between eight AM and noon Wednesday, with instructions to call Liz's mobile on approach to receive proper directions.

Wednesday: No tech. I call AT&T;, AT&T; says, "oh, we meant to say Thursday," and promises a tech for the same bat-time, same bat-instructions as before.

Thursday: No tech, but a van was spotted down the street. Late in the afternoon, we suddenly have voice service again, but with a terrible buzzing sound on the line. Oh, yeah, and my DSL won't sync up any more.

I call AT&T;'s repair line and wade through the automated bullshit again. I very politely explain the situation to the tech, who apologizes and refers me to AT&T;'s DSL service line, which he assures me can help out with some line tests even though I don't have my DSL through AT&T; (because AT&T; refuses to consider offering it to me without first discontinuing my existing service).

I call AT&T;'s DSL service line, get some chick named "Lily" who is obviously not in my hemisphere (or, based on her ability to rub a few brain cells together and have a conversation, not from my planet), and spend a frustrating amount of time explaining the situation repeatedly, all while still trying to be polite. Five minutes on hold. Ten. Fifteen. Finally, she comes back, apologizes for the delay, and says that they can't do a line test on me because I don't have an account with them. Refers me to my ISP.

Luckily, I have some very old email with Speakeasy's support number on it, or else I'd be really fucked at this point (since I can't exactly hop online and find the number at the moment). I call Speakeasy, and can barely hear the tech because of the noise on my line. Explain the situation. He reports that he can see my DSL modem trying desperately to sync up, but failing. He runs a line test... And just like that, my solid 10000-foot loop that's had rock-solid 3M/768k service for the past six years has suddenly become a 24800-foot loop and any DSL whatsoever is technically impossible.

Fuck!

Speakeasy opens a ticket, but advises me that all AT&T; will do when they speak corporation-e-corporation is laugh at Speakeasy and say it's not possible. That my only hope is to dive back into the hell of AT&T;'s repair line and open a new complaint with them and hopefully get myself escalated to a manager or foreman or whatever the slightly-higher service line life-form is called over there.

So I call AT&T; repair. Wade through the automated bullshit. Deftly avoid getting all the menus in Spanish. Then I hold for a few minutes... Explain the situation all over again. Suggest that since I've been here before and know what I'm talking about that it's probably most expedient for him to just escalate me to a foreman or a supervisor or a what-have-you. Tech says no, he has to evaluate it first, even if that ends up being what happens. Fine. So I wait on hold a while longer. AT&T; dude says he is going to have to escalate it (no shit, Sherlock!) and asks for a number that I can be called at tomorrow, because apparently they might have phone monkeys on staff all night long, but at this hour of the night, the supervisors have gone and the inmates are running the asylum. By this point, I have just about given in, so I can only manage brief resistance to the idea of having to wait until "sometime" tomorrow to get a call back before I give up my callback numbers.

And that's when the phone monkey tells me that I can log on to AT&T;'s website to check the status of my ticket.

*headsmack*

And with that, I think I am officially giving up all hope for the future of humanity.

...

Update: someone must have done something overnight, because my DSL modem seems a lot happier now and is able to sync up. Am cautiously optimistic that a fix for my internet addiction is now possible.

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The Week That Would Not Stop

Bleah. Totally run down. Stressed out, burned out, and all-around fried. But still clinging desperately to life in the hopes that it might all settle down at some point. (It has to settle down, right?)

Thanks to a bumper crop of ragweed, I have spent the last two weeks wanting to claw my eyes out. Puffy. Sore. Goopy. Crusted over when I wake up. I feel like someone has scraped sandpaper over my corneas. I feel like I haven't slept since the allergies really kicked in.

Work is a super giant happy fun ball of stress as I attempt to coordinate a lot of last-minute things, deal with incomprehensible bug reports, and generally attempt to save the world. So far... meh... I think the world's still in trouble. It's taken me until today to start working on the things I was supposed to be doing on Monday. I guess it would help if I could get more than five minutes of uninterrupted time, but apparently that's out of the question at this point. *sigh*

I'm way behind on dealing with some vaguely important email for Clepy. I have had a tiff with DirecTV over their habit of failing to send me a bill and then charging me lots of late fees. (Surprisingly, not the first time they've done that to me...)

And it doesn't help that I've had things to do every night this week: Clepy (and post-Clepy festivities) on Monday, wine group Tuesday, German class Wednesday, and an appointment tonight. Tomorrow, I expect I'll probably just stay late at work, except that the parts for the new closet organizer system thing have arrived and I want to get started on that too.

Good lord, it's Thursday, and I still haven't picked up the new Star Wars DVD's, with the Han-shoots-first-thank-you-very-much original cut. For those that know me, that should give you an indication of what a general shitstorm it's been lately.

On the plus side, I finished The Confusion over Labor Day weekend. On the minus side, I still have about a thousand pages (hardback!) of The System of the World still to go... by which point I suspect that I will need to re-read Cryptonomicon since it has enough bits that tie in with the other books. It'd be easier if my eyes didn't feel like they were about to explode out of my head (see above).

...And I think I might have finally hit the point where Gentoo in particular, and Linux in general, is dead to me, the way someone who crosses Tony Soprano ends up in the deli slicer, or taken out to the Pine Barrens and disappeared. Midway through my third (fourth?) day of trying to get the emerge -eav world step of the upgrade to gcc-4.1, I am just about at the end of my geek rope. I fell in love with Gentoo because its packaging and update system "just worked", freeing me up to waste my time configuring and tweaking everything else to be just so. But this update is just insultingly murderous, as all kinds of supposedly stable things just won't fucking build right--because, y'know, that would be too easy. So, even if I have to turn in my geek badge and live life as a lesser mortal, beholden to the software update whims of Apple, I think that'd be okay with me, because this kind of time-waste is something I simply cannot allow in my life any longer.

Grr. Argh!

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Falling Apart

Okay, I surrender. Life has officially kicked my ass, culminating in a spectacular, week-long coup de gras involving crazy cat Julia, Liz's Powerbook, and my now thoroughly bandaged right arm.

In general, I've been feeling pretty crappy, too crappy to even whine about things on LiveJournal. Work has been extraordinarily stressful--it's been "crunch time" since early March, and I've lost count of the nights, weekends, and extra hours I've put in. To make things even better, I've had an especially difficult cycle of depression, much, much worse than the occasional gloomy day or down week that I get every six months or so. Nosiree, I've been having a soul-crushing feeling of complete emptiness, which, let me tell you, is a huge productivity boost. Liz has been a saint in putting up with me, but I've finally gotten it through my head that a patient wife alone won't fix my issues, so I think it's time for me to find some form of professional help to get my metaphorical shit together. Of course, that means I have to figure out when I will be able to do that, but at least it's a start.

Back to this week... Last Friday I started getting a sore throat. It was worse on Saturday, but I still went into the office for our scheduled "I need you to come in this weekend, mm'kay" day. I spent most of Sunday in bed, my head spinning and full of goo, so that I could be rested enough to go to work on Monday... where my Monday to-do's kept getting interrupted by more pressing matters. I was still feeling dead enough Monday night that I decided to ditch Clepy and come home to rest more; and it's a good thing I did, because I was able to be home to play every home owner's favorite game, "Why Is My Kitchen Ceiling Dripping?" I managed to find and shut off the source of the leak, but now we've got more unexpected action items on the "fix the stupid house" list. On Tuesday my cold started to shift out of my head and into my chest, and my still-unfulfilled Monday tasks lost out to again more immediate issues. When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I was coughing in great, uncontrollable fits, and I'd managed to wrench my neck and upper back such that normal motion wasn't going to happen. Still, I had spillover work from Tuesday's schedule-derailments, which I then spent most of the day fighting with from home. Yesterday I felt decent enough to go to work, where unplanned spillover from Tuesday and Wednesday's unplanned work occupied most of the day.

Today, I am mostly recovered from the cold, though still a bit phlegmy, but my neck and back are worse than ever. Liz procured heat wraps and I downed a bunch of Advil; the plan was that I'd spend the day sprawled on my back on the couch, working from home with her laptop. It was a great plan until the cats decided that it was Thunderdome time, and Julia came rocketing onto me at top speed, leaving my arm torn and bleeding and exploding keys off of Liz's Powerbook.

Liz got me bandaged up, and I managed to get everything reattached except for the "J" key, whose little grabby teeth had been snapped off by the force of the feline impact. She's off to the Apple Store to see if they stock spare J's at the Genius Bar, and I'm here waving the white flag at life.

You hear me life? You can let up now. Uncle. UNCLE!!!

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Weekend, Surprises, Verbosity

After far too much not-blogging, I think I'm hitting the point where the withdrawal is really starting to bug me, so I guess I'd better take care of that.

Work is fairly unmentionable; I pulled a few 12-hour days last week, which I should probably stop doing if I'm going to be the only one (as usual) trying to put in the extra effort to keep the project on schedule. Hah. I am Jack's insane work ethic.

Far more mentionable is the weekend that just whooshed by in a bizarre combination of gosh-that-went-too-fast and cheerful, languid laziness.

Friday started out with one of the few rare instances in which I am proven right, but I was unfortunately too right. I don't know crap about cars, but I've listened to enough "Car Talk" to recognize the clicking sound that Liz's car was making every time she turned left as her CV boot. I felt somewhat vindicated when the issue turned out, indeed, to be her driver's-side CV boot, but as it happens I am karma's bitch--she needed to get both of them replaced. Somehow the old "why buy one when you can have two for twice the price" philosophy doesn't really feel so great in practice. Not the most auspicious start to the day, and it'd come at the end of a week far too long.

Liz quickly turned the tables on my week, though, starting with dinner at Nemo. We sat in the tiny little "Lover's Lane" nook, an odd little space barely large enough for a two-top table, and strangely, delightfully echoey. We had a great conversation, luxuriated in the sensations of food and wine (my Sangiovese was utterly fabulous with rack of lamb and mushroom risotto), and enjoyed the tumult of rain, thunder, and lightning outside.

We spent Friday night, Saturday night, and half of Sunday parked in front of the TV, breezing efficiently through the final season of "Six Feet Under" on DVD, a sudden arrival on seven-day loan from the library. The season had some weak spots, but overall it was a fitting conclusion to a great show, and a nice farewell to characters that have managed to become like family. It's definitely worth your time if you haven't seen it; if you can put up with the ever-present background morbidity, it's quite interesting, often hilarious, and surprisingly uplifting.

Much of Saturday managed to be simultaneously relaxing and off-kilter. Now, Liz and I had laid out a moderately elaborate plan for Saturday, consisting of all of our necessary and desired weekend errands in the proper order of timing and fuel economy, but the cats managed to completely throw it into disarray by nine o'clock in the morning as Julia came bounding up onto the bathroom counter, leaving a path of bloody pawprints in her wake. Realizing what was going on came in little quanta of sudden understanding: there is a cat here; there is something on the counter; the something on the counter is blood; the blood is from the cat; the cat is bleeding; oh crap oh crap the cat is bleeding all over; what has the cat done now? Liz was a shower and full set of clothes ahead of me, so after we corralled Julia in the bathroom to assess the damage and clean up her wounded paw, Liz and Julia zoomed off to the vet while I stayed behind to get dressed, look for more blood, and be someone for Valentine, the likely culprit, to howl confusedly at. Luckily, the bleeding--caused by a puncture wound to one of the pads on her left hind paw, either claw or fang--had stopped fairly quickly, and no stitches were required. The patient returned home promptly, along with a prescription for a week's worth of liquid antibiotics. The details of administering liquid meds--specifically pink liquid--to a fussy cat are best left to the imagination, but suffice it to say that Liz is now down one white shirt, and we had to add a trip to the dry cleaner to our Saturday agenda.

But! Our bloody cat had the good taste to get hurt, get better, and get home in time to let us get to our 10:30 appointment to peruse tile flooring options for the laundry room (a moderately long story in its own right that I won't get into here). From there, though, all of our errands seemed to start getting out of order, and the flow wasn't working, which unfortunately makes me a tiny bit fussy, even though I got a bunch of CD's from the library, got a haircut, and spent some nice time wandering around shops in Rocky River with Liz.

What really got to me was Liz's suddenly-announced, last-minute need to be on a conference call at two PM, right in the middle of when we were supposed to be tasting wine and getting groceries. Which then got rescheduled to three, allowing us to stop by Grady's to taste wine and nosh on little wine-friendly nibbles. But the vital trip to the grocery store had to be deferred. I sat upstairs and listened to music while Liz waited for her call. The cats hung out with me in the open window, relishing the fresh spring air and staring greedily at passing birds. When three o'clock came and went, I went downstairs to harass Liz about this call--shouldn't she call in or something?--and, rebuffed, I retreated back to the office to sulk and ponder whether we'd ever attend to the rest of our errands while I listened to Jethro Tull and Peter Gabriel. Slowly, there came a deep rumble, as the biggest semi I've ever seen trundled cautiously around the corner. Great, I thought, who's the asshole driving a giant truck through our neighborhood and ruining this perfect spring day? The truck pulled a little further around the corner, and I was able to see the Room and Board logo on the trailer. Liz and I had spent a day in downtown Chicago last winter trying to find a leather chair for me that was up to Baby Bear's "just right" standards, and had after several hours succeeded in filing an excellent candidate away in my permanent wish list. Swell. Somebody's getting awesome furniture and it's not me. I'm never going to get my chair.

Right about then, a lot of things happened at once. First, the truck whuffed and sighed to a stop directly across from our driveway. Valentine and I shared a dumbstruck moment of incomprehension; according to Liz, the look on my face was priceless. Liz closed the office door to keep the cat contained. And then, to my complete and utter astonishment, the delivery guys started unloading my chair, while, by complete coincidence, the Peter Gabriel CD I'd picked up at the library blasted out "Shock the Monkey."

After assessing that all was well and functional in the land of new things that recline, we did a quick furniture rearrangement in the living room, and since then I've been taking every opportunity available to test out my new manly man chair. I've covered one of the really long chapters of Head First Design Patterns; I've chilled with the iPod; I've enjoyed sitting by the open window with the cats; I've sipped wine and listened to Pink Floyd; I've passed out and drooled on myself; I've (now) blogged. So far, it has passed all of the important tests with flying colors. Well, almost all--the cats are still a bit scared of it, but I expect that with time they'll show it the same indifference that they usually show me.

So, yes, Liz's "conference call" was a lie, a ruse, a deception, a clever means to have me home so that she could see my reaction, and I completely, totally, thoroughly fell for it. In a way, that makes it all the sweeter. (Right?) In case I haven't correctly sung the praises of Liz lately, let me declare here that I totally love my wife, that she knows exactly how to spoil me, and that she is damn good at being awesome. My silly manly man chair is beyond excellent, unneeded, and unexpected. Thanks, hon!

Other than that, life is quiet here; lots of work, lots of studying, and as much slacking and irresponsibility as we can get away with. Gotta keep things in perspective, after all.

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Things Bad and Good

Crappy day at work, due largely to the inability of others to do simple things like notice that they need to do something, or read the painstakingly simple and clear instructions that I prepared for them, despite the use of several meetings, emails, tickets, face-to-face conversations, and the use of many asterisks and all-caps typing on the subject. What does it take, fucking smoke signals?

But, the bane of my professional existence is now nearly cast off for good, so I guess there's always an up side...

Liz made me food, poured me a nice glass of wine, and took me to see Kung Fu Hustle, so life is now a lot, lot better. Interestingly enough, I am now in physical possession of my 12:01 tickets for Episode 3, as the machine at the box office automatically prints all pending tickets for your credit card. So, now I just have to defend them from all harm for 21 days, one hour, and 35 minutes, and the circle will be complete!

I am sure that there was something else I wanted to write about, but I'll be damned if I can remember what it was. Hmm.

I am uploading Philly photos as we speak and will hopefully start posting a few of them over the next couple of days for your enjoyment. In the mean time, you might enjoy this...

Morimoto autograph
"With a strong foundation, you can achieve your dreams!"

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This Week In Misc. Goodness

After working eleven days straight, the weekend--a weekend, any weekend--is almost in sight. Hip-hip-fucking-huzzah!!

In brief: Valentine's Day. We. Owned. It. Oh, baby, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh! After a year's worth of fear, worry, and despair, it turned out that two or three weeks of frantic last-minute preparation paid off, and we sailed through our biggest day of the year, while all major competition--including Hallmark, who had paid presumably incomparable bills to IBM to pimp out their website--were crushed and left in little flaming piles by the side of the road. By mid-morning, when we started to see that we were going to hold up just fine, the shouts arose among the geeky rabble, testing the patience of the Fates--BRING! IT! ON! For the rest of the week, we of Technology were hailed as kings among men, celebrated with passing cheers and mass-emailed barbaric YAWPS from our senior management. For once, it is a very good week to be me.

Thus, I have been able to really enjoy this week's belated Valentine's dinner at Parallax, which is truly a culinary delight. Polite company might term it "Asian food in French style meets French food in Asian style." Trendy company might simply refer to it as "fusion." After a parade of wines, sushi, appetizers, salads, and entrees, I cannot describe it as anything other than this: FUCKING AMAZING. I apologize if the strong language burns your eyes or makes the Baby Jesus cry, but, honestly, this is the kind of place that can't be expressed without HBO-level warning labels.

Some would call the sushi menu limited, but it is simply focused, and what is offered is without flaw; I haven't tasted its equal since our trips to Vancouver or San Francisco. The spicy tuna was especially marvelous. Also consumed were massive appetizer plates of calamari (yum!) and smoked salmon (double-yum!); a salad of seared scallops, bacon, baby greens, and tomatoes, with a light cream sauce; Alaskan black cod with a miso glace; and, one of the evening's specials, a crispy half-duck in a Szechuan glaze, served with a bed of perfect sushi rice.

On the alcohol front, we sampled a tasty non-vintage bubbly (to celebrate), an Austrian Gruner Veltliner (round and delicious, like the best parts of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc), a German Gewüztraminer, a French Chenin Blanc, a lovely and very well-balanced New Zealand Pinot Noir, and--star of the show--cold, unfiltered sake!! Ever since our first encounter with this marvelous creature at a Berkeley sushi joint last summer, finding cold, unfiltered sake has been like a Grail quest for us. Most places have never heard of such a thing, and those that have are afraid to serve it because it is so unlike what most people consider sake to be. Thankfully, Parallax serves a bottle of the stuff that is damn near perfect, and a real blessing to behold in conjunction with the well-executed menu.

The service was very good throughout our meal; our waiter (a Champagne transplant) very quickly figured out our relaxed, try a bit of everything approach to dinner, and we never felt rushed--even after we closed out the main dining area, he was still puckishly tempting us with dessert.

So, to sum up... If you enjoy food, if you enjoy wine, if you enjoy the two together, Parallax should go immediately to the top of your to-do list.

Tomorrow, after an endless stream of pseudo-Thursdays, it is finally Friday, and the celebration continues with early-birthday treats: a trip to Chicago for One Man Lord of the Rings and the tasting menu at Topolobampo.

It's good to be the [info]exilejedi.... :-)


PS: Valentine says hello from her perch on my lap. Meow!

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