Counting down….

I made really good progress on the furnishing of the apartment over the weekend. I have somewhere to sleep, somewhere to put my socks and t-shirts, somewhere to shelve some(!) of my books, etcetera. There’s a TV, and WiFi, and a bottle of wine in the fridge.
Today I started transferring my clothes from the temporary place in Belltown to Uwajimaya. I’ll probably shift over there tomorrow, although I won’t be able to finish clearing the temporary place for a few more days.
Even though I’m close to moving in, I still have to cope with the huge pile of empty IKEA boxes. Apartment policy is that all boxes must be broken down to fit flat into the recycling bins, and I’ve been dutifully hacking away with a box cutter to meet these requirements. Of course I then find that many of the other residents simply ignore the rules. Maybe I should ask the ethicist?
Meanwhile, my personal rule is NEVER to leave the apartment without an armful of cardboard…..

Remembering 9/11

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of 9/11 that I won’t be able to visit the memorial at Sun (see picture) to my friend and colleague, Phil Rosenzweig. Phil's benchI hadn’t thought much about the fifth anniversary until I read this powerful essay by Martin Amis in today’s Observer. And that put me in the mood to watch the DVD of United 93. I saw the film back in May, and bought the DVD yesterday evening.
I didn’t have any good words back in May, and I’m not sure that I do now. I do think that the film does a brilliant job of capturing the chaotic confusion, the disbelief, the cognitive dissonance that we all felt that day.
I may not be able to express this without being misunderstood, but I’ll try anyway: In a strange and awful way, that bundle of emotions – confusion, loss, pain, anger, questioning – is precious. I know that I haven’t dealt with it, “processed it” (or whatever the psych term is) yet. I know that I want need to do so, that’s it’s important, and it will take time – perhaps my whole life. And I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way.
Don’t misunderstand me: this doesn’t mean waiting until I’ve sorted it all out in my mind. Part of that “processing” includes thinking about (and supporting) the urgent acts of justice and, yes, retribution against those responsible.
But having said that, I am deeply angry that Cheney and his gang have used and abused these emotions for their own bloodthirsty and inexcusably thoughtless warmongering. They cheapen and despoil our feelings by lying about them. Quite apart from my opinion of their policies, this cynical exploitation of our most precious emotions simply disgusts me. I’m not naive – I understand how politics works – but the visceral reaction to those scumbags won’t go away. Nor should it.

The end of an era

So Michael Schumacher has announced his retirement at the end of the season. During today’s Italian Grand Prix, the commentators seemed to spend more time speculating about this than they did actually describing the race….
I’ve never been to Monza, but some day…. When I think of Formula One, the first image that comes to mind is of a gaggle of cars, shimmering in the heat, streaming out of the Parabolica onto the start/finish straight. There have been more Grands Prix at Monza than at any other circuit, and even though I have a soft spot for Silverstone, Monza is the track.
Today’s race was more interesting than I expected. With Alonso banished to the 5th row of the grid, and with the Renault looking more and more underpowered compared with the competition, I expected the McLaren to falter and the Ferraris to run away with things. Instead, it was a close-fought competition throughout, even after Alonso’s spectacular departure. The star of the day was Robert Kubica, who followed his impressive debut in Hungary by taking third place today. Felipe Massa may have been the darling of the crowd two weeks ago, but today he seemed very tentative, and never looked likely to overtake Kubica or Heidfeld.
And after Michael had won, there was the post-race interview, and he ended the speculation. I thought he was unusually eloquent.
[When I got up to watch the race, it was still dark, but Elliott Bay was ablaze with lights as two huge cruise liners and a hulking great OCL container ship were all heading into port. Tugs fussed around them, while the ferries continued to criss-cross the bay as though they owned the place. By the time Michael Schumacher took the chequered flag, it was a soft-grey pearly pre-dawn, and now it’s a gorgeous, sunny Sunday morning. with a hazy Mount Ranier just visible. Time to get dressed and hunt down some breakfast!]

Tell me what I already believe… and make it funny

Scott Adams captures the zeitgeist:

All non-fiction best-selling opinion books are nothing more than your own opinions fed back to you with seasoning. Ann Coulter sells to conservatives who agree with her. Al Franken sells to liberals who agree with him. And they do it brilliantly, in my opinion.

And what happens if you violate the pattern?

I often have no opinion at all about how we should deal with a world issue because I rarely feel I have enough information to make a good call. What I do have is strong opinions on how we should be THINKING about a problem. I’m all about the process[…] Thinking about the best way to approach a problem is so rare and unexpected that it causes cognitive dissonance in many readers. They want me to have an opinion so they can agree with it or disagree. So they solve the dissonance by assigning me to an opinion they have heard before – “cheese-eating surrender monkey” for example. And then they attack the opinion they hallucinated me to have.

And of course the reason that I enjoyed this piece is because I agree with it…. Scott just served up one of my opinions, with seasoning. Which demonstrates that even his “process” bias represents an opinion that people can endorse or reject. (It’s turtles all the way down.)

The clash of cultures

In a piece entitled The Inanity of Dinesh D’Souza, Ed Brayton takes on the erstwhile right-wing wunderkind. Apparently D’Souza is now arguing that the real source of anti-western jihadism is not oil, or Saudi politics, or Iraq, or Palestinians: it’s all about the provocative nature of the Western liberal life-style. Brayton skewers this argument up beautifully: “they hate us for our freedom, so let’s get rid of our freedom.”
(I guess the Great War On Terrorism is just another skirmish in the The Great American Culture War. Are the neocons hoping to win Pat Buchanan back to their side? Sheesh!)

Progress report (fairly mundane stuff)

I’m coming up on the end of my fourth week at Amazon, and I’ve been in Seattle 30 days. So… how are things going?
On the work front, I’m enjoying myself immensely. The Amazon environment is dynamic and fast moving, which inevitably means confusing and surprising. One very useful thing is that everybody’s badge photo is displayed in their phone book entry.* (At Sun, this was a rarely-exercised option.) Things like coping with introduction overload, or figuring out who a particular email was from, or dealing with the frequent “Topic XYZ? Oh, you really need to talk to PQR!” all become much easier.
I got myself a Blackberry (8700c) on Tuesday, and planned to integrate it into the Amazon infrastructure yesterday. So far, no luck. I wonder if the fact that I chose to keep my old Massachusetts (617) phone number is complicating things. We’ll see. [UPDATE: New day, new server, new password: everything’s working OK now.] The device itself is neat, but the UI lacks the relentless focus on one-handed productivity that you see with PalmOS. If you’re going to give me a QWERTY keyboard, I want a dedicated key for “.”. “Alt+M” sucks, and the “Space+Space” hack only works for text.
I’m getting my office space sorted in a way that I never did at Sun. One touch: installing a small refrigerator. This allows me to enjoy (and offer to visitors) some of the dizzying range of American “energy drinks” and Japanese sodas and fruit drinks that are on sale in the Uwajimaya store. I tend to buy a random collection, without worrying about what I’m letting myself in for. It’s (usually) fun.** And when predictability is important, there’s a shelf full of iced tea.
The apartment progresses. I didn’t get much done over the long weekend, but last night I resumed my love affair with IKEA boxes and power tools. I’ve encountered three problems so far.

  • First, there was the box spring with a slash in the side from a fork-lift. IKEA replaced this.
  • Then it turns out that to attach the bedside tables to the bed frame*** I had to drill four pilot holes into the underside of the frame, and there isn’t room to fit my electric drill between the frame and the floor. It would have been easy to drill the holes before assembling the frame, but at this stage it’s quite hard. I’ve ordered myself a hand drill from (neither Lowes nor Home Depot were able to help), and this should do the trick.
  • Then last night I decided to assemble the coffee table. It’s a complicated and heavy piece, with two drawers. I finished the main structure and started on the drawers, only to find that the back wall of each drawer was the wrong part. It was dimensionally correct, but it wasn’t pre-drilled in the right places and had a non-functional slot cut at one end. I think I can salvage things with a handful of 1-1/2 inch wood screws, but it’s a bit frustrating.

So back to the time line. I’ve been here just a few weeks, and I’m quite pleased with how things are going. Bouncing back and forth between the temporary apartment and the one I’m furnishing is complicated****, but I’m going to resist the temptation to rush the completion and move-in. I’ll take another week or two to get things right.

* You can choose to substitute a different picture, but the original is just a click away.
** Right now I’m enjoying a Calpico Peach.
*** Necessary – they’re not free-standing.
**** Further complicated by the fact that half the time my RFID card won’t work for the Uwajimaya car park. They keep promising to fix it, copy down the numbers, type stuff into the computer… all to no avail.

Seattle Locks Cruise

We took the Seattle Locks Cruise this morning, starting from the southern end of Lake Union and finishing up at Seattle’s Pier 56. There are a bunch of photographs here in my gallery. Yes, I did snap the “Sleepless In Seattle” floating house, but I think the rest of the pictures more than make up for this momentary lapse.
Seattle cranes
All in all, a very pleasant way to spend 2 1/2 hours on a summer Sunday morning.

Time to switch?

For the last year and a half I’ve relied on my Treo 650 for mobile phone service, web browsing, corporate and personal email, ad hoc photography, and the occasional game. It’s served me well in the US, India, and Europe; I’ve even used it to blog.
But it looks as if I’m going to be switching.‘s collaboration infrastructure is based on MS Exchange, and VPN access is rigidly controlled. An IMAP client (even with SSL) doesn’t cut it. But they do support Blackberry‘s enterprise services, and so I think I’ll be getting a Blackberry – specifically, a Blackberry 8700c. It looks like a nice device: it’s a bit lighter and slimmer than the Treo, with a better keyboard. I have no idea how the web browser and email client compare with those on the Treo, nor how well they’re integrated with the phone client. Can I easily dial a phone number in a web page or email message? Is it possible to access both my corporate email and my personal IMAP server? I’ll find out.
The two obvious gaps are (1) fewer applications, and (2) no camera. The first probably doesn’t matter (quality is more important that quantity), but the second…? I seem to remember talk of BlueTooth-enabled digital cameras, but a quick web search suggests that only two came to market, and both have disappeared. Oh, well. So much for convergence.

Seattle Japanese Garden

Today I discovered one of the most beautiful places in Seattle: the Japanese Garden in the Arboretum. It’s “a 3 1/2 acre formal garden designed and constructed under the supervision of world-renowned Japanese garden designer Juki Iida in 1960.” Only one thing went wrong: I left my camera back at my office, so no pictures. But I’ll return soon. In fact I was toying with the idea of visiting it once a month, to record the seasonal changes. (Yes, I know: that sounds far too organized for me. We’ll see.)