February 2008 Archives

gone cruisin'

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We leave well before the crack of dawn tomorrow morning for NYC, where we'll board our cruise ship at lunchtime and set sail at 4pm.

I will not have internet or phone access while away. (w00t)

See you in a week...

wishing for ruby slippers


I want to go home. I really, really want to go home. But it's taking a whole lot longer than I'd like.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given how this trip has progressed thus far. But still, it's no fun to be sitting under a sign proclaiming JetBlue's superb customer service when I'm facing up to another five hours sitting in JFK.

I was supposed to be home last night, but when I woke up at Elizabeth's house on Saturday morning it was to a text message from Gerald telling me my noon flight from SFO to JFK was delayed. When I checked with JetBlue, they said it was going to get in too late for me to catch the last connecting flight to Rochester, so they offered to rebook me on Sunday. (Thank goodness I was staying with a close friend and didn't have to deal with paying for another night in a hotel...) Then they hung up on me. (Accidentally, but still...) I called back, and spent over 30 minutes on the phone with them while the agent tried to get a supervisor to override whatever was keeping her from getting me on the only non-redeye flight out of the SF area on Sunday with seats available--a 9am Oakland departure, arriving at JFK at 5:25. Too late to catch the 5:35 Rochester flight, but plenty of time for the 8:25. The only problem was the 8:25 was already full, and they don't do standby over the phone...only at the customer service desk (more on that in a minute). So they booked me on the 10:55pm flight, which meant a 5.5 hour layover in JFK (not as bad as the 10 hours on the way out, of course, but bad enough).

Amazingly, my flight out of Oakland left on time, and arrived early. Early enough, in fact, for me to make the 5:35 flight. So I called JetBlue from the plane, explained the situation, and they told me there were still plenty of seats on the flight, and to just run to the gate as soon as I arrived. I ran (and it was a long trip, including YET ANOTHER shuttle bus), and got to the gate before they closed. I was exultant! Until the gate agent said he had five seats and twelve people on standby and that if I wanted to get on the standby list I'd have to go BACK to the customer service center at the other end of the terminal and then come back. W. T. F. ?!

Since it was clear he wasn't going to help me at all, I went back to the service center, where they put me on the standby list for the 8:25 flight. I'm #4 on the standby list right now, so the odds seem good (though not guaranteed by any means). Given my luck thus far on this trip, I'm pretty much assuming that the best I can hope for is the 10:55 flight, which gets me in after midnight.

(Did I mention that I finally broke down in tears at the service center desk? Probably had something to do with not having had food in eight hours. Time to eat now, I think.)

I really, really, want to go home.

worst trip ever


I'm in San Francisco right now, wide awake because I itch all over. What I thought yesterday was an allergic reaction to something now appears to be bedbug bites, courtesy of the Stanford-recommended Hotel California in Palo Alto. I have bites on my scalp, my face, my arms, my legs, and even my back. Even taking an oatmeal bath and 3 benadryl last night wasn't enough to stop the insane itching.

On top of that, my head cold is turning into a chest cold.

And I left my computer power adapter at Stanford, so I'm typing this on the last of my battery power.

That means this morning will require going to the Apple store for a power adapter and finding an urgent care doctor to look at these welts and help me find a way to get rid of them.

My only hope at this point is that I'm getting every bit of bad travel karma out this week so that the cruise will go off without a hitch. :(

Update, 4:06pm PT

So I went to the urgent care doctor this morning (a place called Downtown Medical, aka "Fast Doc San Francisco"). After a very cursory exam, the doctor told me I had scabies, and gave me three prescriptions--the prednisone dose-pack I'd been hoping for, a stronger antihistamine, and a scabie-specific lotion. I did some quick research on scabies and was totally unconvinced that was what I had, so I filled the first two and not the third, and left a message for my wonderful primary care doctor in Rochester.

I started the prednisone and the antihistamine right away, and crashed in my hotel room with my newly-purchased MacBook Pro power adapter and my drugs.

A few minutes ago, my doctor called me back, and I gave her the full story. When I got to the part about the doctor here diagnosing scabies she actually shrieked in outrage. The symptoms I'd described to her didn't match scabies at all, and on top of that it takes 4-6 weeks to develop scabies, and scabies basically never occurs in places as cold as Rochester in the winter.

Her suspicion is that this is actually a reaction to the penicillin I took for my strep throat, not an insect issue at all. She's not ruling out the bedbug possibility, but given how many welts I have, she thinks it's extremely unlikely that's what caused the problem. Her advice was to stay the course with the prednisone and antihistamine, and come see her Monday if I haven't improved.

It doesn't make me itch any less to hear her assessment, of course, but it still makes me feel a whole helluva lot better. The psychological ickiness of either bedbugs or scabies was really awful on top of the overall miserable symptoms.

Tonight I'll treat myself to a room service dinner, and try to get caught up on the sleep I didn't get last night due to the itchiness. Tomorrow maybe things will return to some semblance of normalcy...

Many thanks to all the folks who sent encouraging wishes via email and private tweets. They were very much appreciated. It's hard to be sick when you're away from home, and having so many people offer assistance if needed really made me feel less alone.

xkcd rulez

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help me, internets, you're my only hope!

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I'm in desperate need of a decent haircut. Can anyone recommend a good and not ridiculously expensive place to get one near Union Square in SF?

a long long day at jfk

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Today's plan? Wake at 3:45am (ouch), fly from ROC to JFK at 6am, fly from JFK to SFO at 8am, be in the hotel in Palo Alto a little after lunch California time.

Today's reality? Flight sits on runway until 6:30am. Woman in exit row passes out, requiring return to gate and paramedics. Flight leaves ROC at 7:15, arrives at JFK gate at 8:20, flight to SFO long gone. Next flight to SFO? 6:25pm. What about SJC, I ask? 5:35pm. I took the SJC flight, which arrives at 9:25pm, and now have 8 more hours to kill at JFK.

On the plus side, there's free wifi and available outlets. On the downside? My head is already killing me from the boarding announcements, screaming kids, and squabbling spouses.

morgan update, week 2


Benefits of dog ownership thus far:

  • I'm playing a lot less WoW
  • I'm getting a lot more exercise
  • I'm spending more time outside

Morgan has been here for nearly three weeks now, and we're all learning a lot more about each other. We've had two sessions with the dog trainer (and a third scheduled today), which has helped enormously. She's very smart, and quick to learn. At this point she understands sit, down, stay, release, come, leave it, take it, and drop it. (Understanding does not mean 100% compliance, but it gets a little better every day.)

We've also figure out what kinds of toys she really likes, including soft-but-sturdy stuffed toys (the kids' old stuffed animals were too flimsy, so we've stuck with things made for dogs), sturdy tennis balls (also from the pet store), anything with a rope for tugging (which is a little risky because she likes to grab close to where our hands are). She's not a big fan of things too hard for her to sink her teeth into (like sterilized bones).

We've taken to putting her meals in toys that are intended to slowly dispense food, like Kongs. This allows us to feed her while we eat, since it takes her 15-20 minutes to get the food instead of the 30 seconds it takes to inhale the food from a bowl.

She's got an enormous amount of energy, and an insatiable desire for interactive play. The trainer thinks she's probably younger than the 2 years the shelter estimated, and says she's exhibiting very adolescent behavior. Lots of inappropriate acting out to get attention--jumping, barking, chewing on everything in the house. She has to be supervised all the time, because when she's not she'll grab papers, eyeglasses, books, or anything else on the tables and destroy them. I'm really, really hoping that she'll outgrow this, and that emphasizing the obedience training will help. Also, I find that all that negative behavior is greatly reduced if we take her for several walks a day and play with her in the backyard. I now understand why so many trainers use the mantra "A tired dog is a good dog."

On the plus side, she has no problem with sleeping in her crate, or in hanging out there during the day when we're around. (As I type this, I'm sitting in bed and she's sprawled on her back in the crate, fast asleep.) Happily, she is 100% housetrained. She's also learned very quickly how to walk with a loose leash--that only took a day or two of training to master. So, given that we're not even a full three weeks into dog ownership, I think we're doing pretty well.

I'm going out of town next week for GDC (Game Developer's Conference), but the boys are on spring break and will be responsible for her while I'm gone. Then I'm back for a week, after which the whole family will head out on a Bahamas cruise (to replace the Alaska cruise we had to cancel last summer). My mother has very generously offered to keep Morgan while we're away, so she won't have to be kenneled.

I apologize for the lack of "professional" content here since Morgan arrived. Between the dog and the strep throat, I haven't had much time for anything else. But I suspect that a week in San Francisco will change all that...

mccain video

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Well, it's not really McCain's video. It's a takeoff on the Obama will.i.am video, poking fun at McCain's "hundred years of war" comment. Priceless. via Weez, who found it here.

two theories

  1. The bacteria that causes strep throat is nastier than it was when I was a kid, and results in significantly more painful symptoms.
  2. As I get older, my pain threshold is lower.

i've decided

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Until today, I was wavering on my primary vote decision. There are strong reasons to support both of the Democratic candidates. I've waited a lifetime to have the opportunity to vote for a woman for president, and I really wanted to support Hillary. But after a lot of thinking (and reading, and talking), I've made the decision to vote for Barack Obama.

There are two factors that pushed me in that direction. The first is belief that it is bad for our country to have nobody in the white house except Bushes and Clintons for a quarter of a century. That's not fair to Hillary, I know, but it's still true. I think it sends the wrong message to young people about the rich getting richer in politics as well as business. The second, which is more important, is the decision to prioritize hope and optimism over pragmatism. That's something that's hard for me to do, and I'm not sure it's the right path. I fear that Obama runs a great risk of being eaten alive by the piranhas in the congressional pool, and I'm not sure he's ready for the hardball any democratic president is likely to face.

But today I watched the will.i.am video based on Obama's "Yes We Can" speech.

Then I went back and watched his speech from the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

If there were ever a time to believe in the "audacity of hope," I think this is the time. So I'm making a choice to vote for the person I believe has the best chance to bring us together rather than deepen our divides. I may be naive, but I'd like to think that I'm audaciously so.

morgan settles in


Morgan 4

After a few days of mild chaos, Morgan is definitely settling into the household. We had a couple of scares with her slipping her collars...the first time she got loose in the neighborhood, and it took 15 minutes to chase her down and lure her back to the car with treats. The third collar we tried was a Gentle Leader head collar, and that seems to be the winner. She hasn't figured out a way to get it off, but it works wonderfully at controlling pulling, lunging, and jumping.

She's sleeping beautifully through the night in the crate in our room, has had no problems with accidents in the house, and does really well when we let her just run in our fenced backyard. She's still got some separation anxiety...she really really doesn't like being left alone, even for a few minutes. But I no longer need to have her on a leash in the house, since she stays close to where we are.

We've arranged for the trainer I found online to come to the house tomorrow for one training session, and we'll see how that goes. It's starting to look as though she's not so much aggressive with other dogs as she is excited about them, and it's possible we may be able to try a group class.

All in all, it feels like she was really a good choice, and I'm already growing quite fond of her.


update, 2/3: A number of people have expressed concern about us "muzzling" her, or "strapping her mouth shut," so I thought I'd clarify. The nose strap on the Gentle Leader does not keep her muzzle closed. She can eat, bark, yawn, and fetch a ball with it on. It acts a bit like a halter on a horse, not like a muzzle. The gentle pressure it exerts on her muzzle when she lunges or jumps, however, is a lot like the pressure that a dog pack leader would use when grasping her muzzle in his in order to exert authority.

Also, we don't leave the nose strap on her all day. We put it on when she's going for a walk, when someone new is coming over to the house, and when we need to work with her on training. The rest of the time we take the strap off.

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