August 1 So my brilliant idea for vacation has to be planned out. Spent most of the morning on the phone with hotels. This was after a failed expedition to get maps of our proposed itinerary. The Swiss Alps are apparently of no interest to the French. Quite unlike the Spanish Pyrenees, of which I have 2 good maps, purchased from IGN. So anyhow, managed to book hotels for every night, based on the rough itinerary I discovered on the web, for a hike from Chamonix to Zermatt in 13 days. We've only got 10 days, so a few things had to be fudged. But anyways... This solves transportation problems too, since we have no need for a car. In the afternoon, continued my readings of Action Française, who seem to have completely lost interest in the revolt in Palestine after early 1937.
August 2 Not much to say about today. At the library, looking for other useful materials. Came home tired, and a bit grumpy. Why must people try and be helpful at the wrong time? Now is hardly the time to start questioning my plans for next week, after they've been finalized (and after I've discussed them for almost a week).
August 3 Starting reorganizing my main disk, as a means of relaxation. The photographs section has grown into the 10GB range. Wow! Otherwise was out most of the day at BNF. Began tidying up my room in preparation for packing.
August 4 I'm not sure which was more useful: my 4 hours at the library, or my 20 minutes getting a reservation to go to Chamonix next Tuesday. The latter was quicker, cheaper, and almost guaranteed to be useful.
August 5 Actually spent a good chunk of the day packing. Trying to figure out how to get everything into my 2 main suitcases is a bit of a challenge. I paid my last respects to the national library, at least for the time being. In the afternoon, I tried to find an English language bookstore to pick up some light reading for the upcoming trip.
Given Shakespeare & Co's longstanding reputation, I tried to pay them a visit. This proved complicated because their facade is under renovation and the place is something of a hole in the wall to begin with. Still, after going up the street, and back (and seeing a huge pool of water fly off the roof onto the patron of a Lebanese restaurant), I found the store, and went in. It's a very cozy little bookstore, making it a bit hard to get around. They were apparently out of the book I was looking for, but I found two others, as well as just enough change to be able to pay (tried initially with Swiss francs, which they didn't accept).
Made rather a long walk back to the house, via the Ile de la Cité, and a promenade on the right bank of the Seine. Saw a lot of homeless folks under the bridges. Also dropped by a bakery once I got back near Passy. A one hour walk on Paris streets is enough to kill my knees. Dinner was late, and somewhat peculiar, given the somewhat empty state of the refrigerator. Something to be remedied soon, I hope.
August 6 Everything's ready for my father's arrival. Dropped by the local market to pick up food for the next few days. Amazing how much you can pick up for 20 euros (ie enough to overfill two large bags). My father's flight arrived at CDG more or less on time, and without incident. We had only been waiting about half an hour when he appeared from the customs gate, with 2 impressively undersized suitcases. After the initial question of what language discussions should be held in, we proceeded smoothly home.
We got home around 2ish, and after some preliminary unpacking plus a quick lunch, set off for the Montparnasse cemetery by car (despite my protests that metro was much preferable). We had a nice tour of the area, despite a rather time-consuming search for parking. They were holding a memorial for Shapour Bakhtiar (last prime minister under the shah in Iran), but we preferred to examine the cemetery at large, and take photos. Looks like my dad brought the medium format camera along too. We did not manage to find the tomb of Alfred Dreyfus, but when my uncle called to insist we meet one of his friends after the memorial, we wound up meeting in front of the grave of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, as notable a spot as one could wish for. When we went for a quick look at the grave of Bakhtiar, we found directly next to him the tomb of Alexander Alekhine, one of the world's greatest chess players. Small world indeed.
From there we went to the Luxembourg gardens, in which we wandered around for quite a bit, before meeting another of my uncle's friends by a photo exposition, that included some memorable shots of the 1968 student rebels in Paris. Eventually, we decided dinner would be a good idea, and walked through a very crowded Latin Quarter to arrive at a Persian restaurant near where I'd found Shakespeare & Co. the day before. Dinner was quite good, although I was certainly beginning to get sleepy.
The walk back to the car took us by the Pantheon, my first night view of the place. The car drive home in turn allowed my uncle to point out many of the well-known sights of central Paris. Amazingly, I still haven't visited most of them (what did I do with the last 4 months?). When we finally got home, it was certainly late enough that none of us had trouble falling alseep, jet-lag or no.
August 7 Today could best be described as the tourist's tour of Paris. We didn't get up all that early, especially because of the previous late night. After breakfast we drove down to near the Ile de la Cité where we parked. On the Ile, we started by going into the Sainte Chappelle, a chapel from the early middle ages with a truly monumental collection of stained glass windows (most of the upper floor was stained glass). We followed an interesting tour given by a very animated guide.
From Sainte Chappelle, we continued on to Notre Dame. There we found throngs of tourists parading through the cathedral, even as a priest attempted to conduct mass, despite the noise and camera flashes. I'm hardly religious, but I do think that priest had a raw deal. At any rate, after making a circuit of Notre Dame, we drifted off toward the Ile St. Louis, where we picked up a quiche at a bakery and ate lunch sitting on a bench just next to the right branch of the Seine. We had an excellent view of the Paris plage (artificial beach) and innumerable caterpillars, who seemed intent on climbing up the bench and us.
Lunch completed, we crossed to the right bank again, making our way through the Marais and eventually to the Place des Vosges. On our return we published the, as always, garish and off-color Centre Pompidou.
Going to Sacre Coeur proved more difficult, not only because of the enormous crowds thronging outside the front, but because the ticketing system for going up to the top had broken down, and a nun had to be called to take care of it. Not sure why it had to be a nun, but we waited a good 20 minutes before we could go up. The view from the top, once we recovered from the climb, was very impressive, and my dad's medium format camera received much use.
After a brief pause in the square full of artists (at least 200), we made our way to Opera, where we met a former schoolmaster of my uncle and father's in the lobby of the Grand Hotel. They had their conversation while I attempted to figure out how to take low-light pictures with my camera.
Our return to the house was delayed by a pause at the Pont Alexander, where we saw a magnificent sunset over gold tinted buildings and deeply reddened clouds. Still, we got home around 8PM, and had a good-sized dinner, even as I attempted to upload nearly 3GB of pictures to my server at home. No, I didn't take all of them myself.
August 8 Today we planned to visit more famous sights, sadly without my uncle, who was compelled to return to work. For starters, we went by Trocadero around 9AM, taking all manner of photographs, and admiring the Eiffel Tower across the river. Once we actually reached the Eiffel Tower itself, the line looked quite imposing. But, fortunately, the line for climbing stairs (and not taking the elevator) was nearly nonexistent. So up we went, circling the giant southwest foot of the Eiffel tower. It took about 300 steps to make it to the first level, and another 300 to the second. We duly admired the construction (now over 100 years old) and the view.
The last stretch up the tower was more difficult, since one had to take the elevator (no stairs). This meant a long wait in line, and being told we needed to buy a new set of tickets. Fortunately, once we did, we didn't have to wait all over again. The elevator let us out on a sort lower-level, and after a short flight of stairs, we were at the top. Views were very impressive, including virtually every major landmark in Paris, plus a number that I didn't. All told, we spent almost two hours taking pictures, before we finally took an even more-crowded elevator back to the second level, and walked to the bottom.
Looking for lunch, we passed a peace memorial near the Ecole Militaire (slight irony there) which included a reminder of the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We wound up in a streetside cafe not far from the American Library eating slightly exotic salads.
Almost by accident, we walked to Les Invalides, although we didn't go inside. Rather, we took the metro all the way to the other side of the river and city to Bastille. There we took the street some site on the web claimed was a sort of 'photoboulevard.' It certainly did have enough photo stores, almost all neatly shut with a note indicating 'fermé jusqu'a 20 aout.' At the first open one we found, we got a considerable quantity of 120mm film (for the Mamiya camera). Soon we found others, and got even more film, not fully trusting what we gotten from the first place, a somewhat peculiar hole in the wall.
The next thing we tried to find were gloves (for our hiking). Somehow, we asked our way over to a largish hardware store and got what were intended as woodworking gloves. Hope they'll do. We made a lengthy tour through the Marais (from the other side than yesterday), before taking the metro back home. We made a stop at the nearest Monoprix too, for bread and other edibles, although we had a hard time carrying everything home.
At home, we began the packing process (for the next day's hiking trip), and had something of a late and delayed lunch. Despite a 7AM train the next morning, we did not go to sleep early.
August 9-19 See my trip log.
August 20 Zermatt to La Punt by train.
The weather had not improved overnight. Clouds and drizzle doesn't bode too well for the view of our train ride. Oh well. Breakfast was not quite as large as lunch last night, but it was still respectable enough to make thoughts of lunch vanish for the foreseeable future. Did I mention that this place (Mischabel) was one of the most inexpensive we've stayed at in Switzerland? Packing was a quick affair, and we were soon on our way to the train station.
Our train was a rather typical looking Matterhorn-St. Gotthard bahn- red, narrow-gage and with wide windows. So this was the fabled Glacier Express. As it was, one couldn't see anything much above Zermatt, so I had my doubts about seeing any glaciers, but I kept them to myself. Most of the people on the train were clearly not natives, and a sizable proportion were even speaking English.
I had a rather jocular Swiss fellow sitting next to me. He was up in Zermatt on vacation, but owing to the lousy weather he was going down to Visp, in search of sun. The ride down to Visp was interesting mostly for the fact that one could see all the little towns that clung so desperately to the exceedingly steep hillsides.
It took over an hour to get to Visp, and the weather changed little. The train effectively reversed direction at Visp, so from being on the mountain side of the car, our seats now had an excellent view of the Rhone valley. Getting to Brig was a pretty short affair. From Brig onward, things slowed down, as the train began to climb, traversing from one side of the valley to the other, vanishing into occasional tunnels, and pausing at small stations to allow trains going the opposite direction to pass by unhindered.
We passed through numerous little towns, including one labeled 'the prettiest town in Valais' by the guide. If there'd been fewer tourist chalets, I might have been inclined to agree. The clouds remained, but stayed enough above that we had a limited view. At least we did until we vanished into a tunnel, somewhere below the Furka pass around 11AM at 1600 meters.
At the other side of the tunnel we descended on the always picturesque town of Andermatt in Uri. The long ascent then began, to the Oberalp Pass, high point of the ride. We went through at least a dozen tunnels in the process, as the train twisted and strained to gain elevation. On numerous occasions we could see both the front and the back of the train from our window. The Oberalp Pass itself was almost a disappointment, given a somewhat restricted view, and then a rapid descent.
At Disentis (Munster), the train stopped for a good 20 minutes, so we could stretch our legs, and watch the other ones go by. It was another hour or so to get to Chur, and in fact we arrived slightly late. Western Graubunden was as tidy, green and well-laid-out as always though, making the long ride somewhat more bearable.
In Chur, our train ended, and so we changed to the train for St. Moritz. Ironically, though this was not officially the Glacier Express (or at least we didn't pay for it as such), the views here were by far the most interesting. From Chur, we went back up the Rhine valley to Thusis, going parallel to an extremely clogged highway. At Thusis we turned east, sticking to the edge of an extremely steep valley with plenty of tunnels and bridges and arriving in Tiefencastel, not far from Lenzerheide where we've spent so many past summers.
From Tiefencastel we ascended much more steeply, and combined with a mostly clear sky, and some fresh snow high above, the views were remarkable. The train itself began a series of maneuvers whereby we would go into a tunnel with the valley to our left, and come out with the same valley to our right. We did this 4 times in a row, rising to almost 1900 meters, before disappearing into a tunnel.
The other side of the tunnel opened up onto a peaceful and seemingly unpopulated little valley that led eventually down to Samedan. At Samedan we switched trains, and with barely a 2 minute pause got on our last train of the day. We got off 2 stations later at La Punt-Chamues-ch, following a brief argument. It was 5PM.
We were about to start worrying about where to go when we saw my cousin, her husband and their son waving to us from the balcony of a building just on the other side of the tracks. Apparently they are very near indeed to the train station. We quickly made our way over, and were treated immediately to an afternoon tea, which proved a more than adequate dinner substitute.
Our discussions in the evening centered on the son, now a bit more than 2 years old, who had grown enormously since my father last saw him in September 2003 or even when I'd seen him this April. It was a very nice evening, especially after spending all day on the train. They'd even arranged lodging for us (as had I, but oh well...) and we visited a nicely appointed appartment before returning for what turned out to be dinner. Too much food for me. Oh well. By the time we called it a night, I was certainly ready. Their son had had the right idea, insisting on bed (quite vociferously) around 9PM.
August 21 Resting in La Punt.
It was nice to be able to get up after 7AM. Actually, 9AM to be precise. We could see a good part of Chamues-ch from our window, along with the clouds and the accompanying rain. On the way over to my cousin's studio, we stopped at the post office and the bakery.
We arrived at the house just as some very recognizable people were getting into their car. I guess they took 11AM a little too literally, and were just about to come and find us. My uncle from Zurich was now with them too, having just gotten there.
Breakfast was in the best Swiss style, which was to say it included plenty of good bread, good cheese, and good milk. We're definitely getting spoiled here. After breakfast (it was really more like lunch) and allowing the youngster to show us some more of his toys (lots of 'zuch or whatever the German translation of choo-choo train is), we bundled up for a walk outside, since the rain had died down. My uncle picked a trail near St. Moritz, so we had a small drive too, up the incredibly green En river valley.
Our walk took us in a loop around a small lake and through some very substantial woods. We didn't see many other people, although once, a number of bikers did their level best to crash into us (fortunately failing). My cousin's son enthusiastically ran ahead of us for nearly an hour, keeping a very good pace, until reaching the lake, where he abruptly decided it was time for a nap, which he commenced only seconds after being lowered into his backpack.
Walking in the rain, so long as you do not get too wet, is great fun. We caught up on the news from Switzerland, and the greater or lesser happenings of La Punt, all while staying snugly warm in our assortments of raincoats and jackets. Squirrels were plentiful, as were brightly colored mushrooms.
We arrived back at their place around 4PM, and relaxed for a bit, before making a side-trip to Zuoz. There we saw even more the famous large stone houses of the Engadine with their delicately decorated walls and imposing wooden doors. Upon our return we paused by a grand hotel (Castello) so my cousin's husband could photograph their bannisters. Their house is currently under construction so they are very careful about noting potentially usable elements.
For dinner we went out to a rather grand restaurant whose name now escapes me. The decor was quite formal, although when my cousin's son joined us, and began running around to explore, nobody seemed to mind in the least. Ordering was complicated by the all German menu, but we had enough translators present to make it possible. The meal was extensive, in my case centering around eggplant and veal (several other people got exactly the same thing).
When we finally finished around 11PM, we did a group picture, which took quite a while to arrange. So by the time we'd said our goodbyes and walked back to our sleeping quarters (it was quite dark), I was very glad that we only had a few odds and ends to pack before I could call it a night and go to sleep.
August 22 La Punt to Paris by train.
Getting up at 7:15AM was slightly unpleasant. I had the usual stomach ache that comes of not enough sleep, followed by an empty stomach. We put the last items into the backpacks, and after a brief farewell to my uncle, made a brisk walk to the train station. The weather looked slightly promising, but was rather cool.
The train, a bright red Rhaetische-Bahn one, arrived pretty much on time. As a non-express train, it (and we) stopped at pretty much every town as we went north up the Engadine valley, following the course of the En. At Sagliains, we changed, continuing on a different train that went under the mountain, via a very long tunnel, to Davos, and then eventually down to Landquart, not far from Chur. The scenery on the other side of the mountain was not too different, but it was clear that plenty of rain had fallen here too, and thus the floods, reported the day before around Lucerne, were quite believable.
In Landquart, we changed again, this time to a double-decker SBB train. The ride to Zurich took about 2 hours, most of which it rained during. Along the way, we saw fields that had become ponds, and rivers whose color was brown and not the usual gray.
The Zurich train station is quite large, and since we arrived slightly late, we had to run to make the express train to Geneva. Not only that, but once we were on, we had an incredibly hard time finding two adjacent unoccupied seats. We wound up in the final car, near the children's play-area. Although it stopped only 3 times, something happened, probably on account of flooding elsewhere, and the train was sufficiently delayed that its final stop, the Geneva Airport, was never reached. We made it to Geneva train station about half past 2.
My uncle from Geneva met us there, which was a pleasant surprise. However, I needed to pick up tickets for the TGV, and because of flooding and cancellations, the line to get tickets was incredibly long. I spent almost an hour waiting, and listening to unhappy travelers try and rescue their itineraries. Fortunately, ours was not impacted. We had a snack at a nearby café, and chatted, even fitting in a little walk around the area that took us past a primary school. Like in the U.S., schools start next week.
Getting to the TGV gate at the station required going through passport control, and thus another lengthy line. Whoever was manning the gate seemed mostly interested in getting people through though, so we were through in very little time. Just before 6PM, the train arrived, we boarded, and the last leg of the day's trip began. From Geneva to Paris took the usual 3 1/2 hours, but we had a clear view of a lot of the French countryside, a fact especially appreciated when the sun began to set. Having no book to read, I dozed, wrote and stared out the window. I was happy to arrive in Paris at half past 9PM.
At the Gare de Lyon, my uncle from Paris (yes that's 3 uncles in one day) picked us up. He took us on another scenic night tour of Paris by way of the route home, not quite appreciated as it should have been because we were both starting to fall asleep. At home, dinner was good, although small and diminished by the fact that my father didn't participate (an upset stomach). Went to bed at the usual late hour.
August 23 Exploring Paris and finishing up.
Being back in Paris meant a good opportunity to sleep in, especially given how late we'd gotten home the night before. My cousin was about, so we had a nice chat, and I attempted to get wireless working on his laptop. Of course I didn't succeed, but that seemed mainly the fault of the card, which worked fine when the router was in unsecured mode, but failed if either WEP or WPA were enabled.
We didn't really have any definite plan of action for the day, so we walked out to Trocadero and took the metro in the direction of the Boulevard St. Michel and Saint Germain des Près. There, we passed an old church of some renown, and took refuge under some trees when the cloud's potential for rain was realized. On a whim, we explored the Rue St. Jacques, discovering, purely by chance the hotel where my father had stayed 30 years before. The street had changed, but the hotel not nearly so much.
Next we went along the Boulevard St. Michel itself, passing the Institut du Monde Arabe, with its mechanically managed windows that didn't quite work, to the Jardin des Plants, which included the local botanical gardens and zoo. I was looking for a functional wireless card, so we walked across the river and east, toward where I thought Surcouf was. The whole thing was quite a bit longer than expected, and we discovered the viaduct, formerly a raised railroad (2 stories high), currently a garden and footpath. At the computer store I found a wireless card for a bit less than I'd feared (40 euro) and then we headed back.
We actually wound up at the Gare de Lyon, precisely where we'd been the night before, and did some exploration of the area. We took a brief metro ride, but in our search for small crafts shops wound up on the Rue de Rivoli in the galleries across from the Louvre. We were disappointed in that objective, but we certainly saw enough of Paris's overpriced boutiques.
Back at the house, dinner proved a slow and late affair, sandwiched between conversation, packing, and a plethora of phone calls. Despite my flight the next day, I didn't get to bed before midnight, actively engaged in a battle to the last to find things in my luggage that I could avoid taking with me.
August 24 Paris to San Francisco by plane.
A long long day. Began at half past 6. I hadn't finished packing, so I had a very exciting couple of hours trying to squeeze things in to my two suitcases and backpack. Miraculously, pretty much everything fit (even though there was a lot more stuff than when I'd come, especially books).
Going to the airport was relatively quick, but as I'd no idea how long the lines would be, I was worried about being late. I needn't have been. Got to the airport almost 2 hours before my flight was due to depart. Immigration proved easy, though slightly irritating. "What have you been doing in France?" "Where did you stay?" Etc. etc. The one potentially relevant question, why was I in Paris on a long-since expired student visa, did not come up. I was subject to one of those 'random' bag searches, but only my carry on (the others would have been a nightmare to repack).
The security checkpoint was even more straightforward. No questions, and no searches. Sat in the secured area for almost an hour, trying to keep from getting bored. Not good if you're already bored, before the 10 hours flight has even begun.
Around 11:30AM, they let us into the plane, which was fine, except that by 11:50, we were neither departed, nor noticeably on our way. I had started a desultory examination of the rarely stimulating flight magazine, when we received the announcement that the flight was delayed, because the main radar system in London had gone down. "We're currently rescheduled to depart at 2PM, although we're looking into alternatives." Gre-eat. 10 hours is bad. 12 is a lot worse.
When, 20 minutes later, we were told that we'd be departing within a few minutes (apparently one of those alternatives panned out), everybody cheered.
After liftoff, I began slowly and distractedly to make my way through Eric Hobsbawm's "Interesting times". Having lived through some of the 20th century's pivotal moments remarkably close to the action itself, Hobsbawm's work deserves the title, appropriated from that famous Chinese curse ('may you live in interesting times'). And, since Marxists are scarce these days, and self-avowed ones scarcer still, it's nice getting insight from an old leftist, unrepentant in his denunciation of liberalism and all its shortcomings.
Somehow, I managed to spend the almost 12 hours of my flight reading slightly more than 400 pages, a record of sorts for me. The food was surprisingly good (real ice cream for dessert, and Swiss chocolate as part of the snack). The views from my aisle seat barely existed. If I did not actually enjoy the trip, I certainly survived.
Nonetheless, when we touched down in San Francisco, I was awfully anxious to get off the plane, and home. Baggage claim and customs were painless and quick (as was immigration). Once I got out however, my expected ride was not there. Eventually, I managed to change some bills into callable currency, so I could give the folks a call, and learn that they were on their way. So I waited some more, under an uncharacteristically blue sky (welcome home indeed).
Getting home was cinch, and it was very pleasant to be able to chat of Stanford and old times. There was a slight wrinkle at my house, since I didn't have the key, and the door was locked, but a little ingenuity got me into the house, and that was that.
For the rest of the afternoon, I attempted to get a grip on the changes at home, and get the main computer there up and running. I even unpacked a bit, before going to sleep around 10PM local time, after a 23 hour day.
August 25 First day back home.
Its cold in my room, which is hardly news. Made a decent start at unpacking before heading up to Stanford. Saw my cousin and aunt for an excellent (though overlarge) lunch. Discussed our respective trips (my aunt came in from Tehran) and admired my cousin's black and white photos.
In the evening met up with a bunch of friends for dinner. Went to a Mediterranean restaurant (ironically, was a lot closer to the Mediterranean not so long back). Food was good, and too much. Went home reasonably late, having mysteriously acquired a great many boxes in the process.
August 26 Reacclimating to HMB.
My plan for the day was to clean out the computer room. I hadn't gotten too far along in this task, when a friend suggested going over the hill and dropping by Fry's. Good by me. Had about 5 months worth of catching up to do, but fortunately not too much has changed.
Along with the San Carlos airport and Fry's, we stopped at a Mexican restaurant in Los Altos and met up with another friend. More catching up. He's managed to completely fill a 1U rack with machines. I'm impressed. I'll probably be even more impressed with his phone bill. Back at his place, we played a little GTA3: San Andreas. Despite the infamous 'hot coffee' episode, I like the game, if for no other reason than it completely disrespects conventional wisdom. A little anarchy is good. Was falling asleep by 9PM, so went home, after seeing a Mac Mini in action with wireless keyboard and mouse. Coolness.
August 27 My father returns from Paris.
Got up pretty early. Went over early to Stanford, hoping to pick up the mail I'd missed on Thursday. Of course they don't open until 10AM, so it didn't do me much good. Waited a good bit for the folks I was taking to the airport to get ready. Driving to the airport was pretty easy, but they didn't know which terminal, so we ended up having to do the loop twice. Saw them off (along with their extremely excessively heavy baggage).
Next made a detour to Oakland to pick a Linksys NSLU2 (yes the device I was dreaming about a month or so back) that I saw on Craigslist. Coming back was a bit of a pain, especially actually finding 880. Wanted to stop in a park for a snack, but the place I finally found was teeming with people (well it was a nice day), not to mention lacking in parking. Getting back to the airport wasn't all that easy, and a wrong turn landed me in long-term parking. Still, not long after I arrived at the gate, my father appeared. Success, despite no prior planning.
Went home over a suitably crowded highway 92. After lunch, made my first attempt to get the NSLU2 working, which was handicapped by the fact that the docs were wrong (web server was on port 8080 on the thing) and my hub was flaking out (plug anything into the last port, and traffic suddenly wouldn't go through). Charming. Eventually managed to telnet in. Partial success. Also finished transferring several gigs of photos to my machine. Definitely not looking forward to organizing them.
August 28 A hike, a visit and a movie.
We wanted to go hiking on Montara mountain. But once we got there, we didn't want to. Reason why: poison oak. The trail is both overgrown, and overrun with the stuff. Decided we'd try Purrisima instead. This wasn't bad, except that the weather was a lot hotter and sunnier a few miles inland. We took the Whittemore Gulch trail up to Skyline, and managed to get back in under 3 hours. Slightly sore, but otherwise feeling good.
Had a relaxed lunch at home. I did a lot of fiddling with the Linksys NSLU2, but haven't quite gotten into the bootloader successfully. Amazing how temperamental telnet can be, especially when you've only got a 2 second window to get in. Thanks, redboot. Did manage to get my cell-phone service restored (was suspended apparently because of a wrong billing address).
In the afternoon, we went over the hill to see my cousin and his mother, not to mention the Palo Alto crafts fair. There were some truly amazing sculptures created out of junk, and some nice street murals too. Otherwise not too impressive. Dinner was in Su Hong, although nobody seemed quite prepared to finish the large portions that were served.
Got together with Stanford friends afterwards, and headed off to see the movie 'Red-Eye.' Not exactly Oscar material I'm afraid. For once though, with 5 people in a car and me not driving, I didn't get stuck in the middle seat. Need to figure out how to repeat that. Coming home was made more difficult by the suitcase and box I picked up from one friend, and my inability to find gas stations still open after midnight. Once I did find a Chevron, I also found my tank wasn't as empty as I thought. Doh!
August 29 Clean up and organization.
Began a massive reorganization of my room. Just have too much stuff right now, so attempted to figure out what could be disposed of. Quite a bit, when you get right down to it. The unfortunate part is that the process is making things more of a mess than they were before.
Wanted to dispose of some of our old hardware on Craigslist, but the AC adapter to the old laptop has gone AWOL. This is something of a problem, since the battery doesn't hold any charge. Have an essentially dead laptop for the meantime.
As for the NSLU2, I fiddled around just enough that by evening the darned thing was finally using a flash card for its root partition. Helpful, since it frees up some RAM, but I'm starting to have second thoughts on whether the flash card's large enough to serve my photos. 2GB doesn't go nearly as far as it used to (and I have a _lot_ of photos).
Read some interesting articles online. NY Review of Books has one on the Neolibs and Thomas "flat world" Friedman. Accuses him of falling into the same trap as Marx. For a neolib, that's gotta hurt. Also figured out classes for next year. Our Middle East studies section in history is reduced now to 4 classes according to Axess. I've already taken 1 of them, and 2 aren't even offered next year. Our new Islamic Studies department hasn't even gotten off the ground yet. Nice work. Not.
August 30 End of reorg.
Figured out a nearly optimal layout for all my books, plus put about 50 in a box to give to charity. I even have enough space to set up my stereo again (not to mention sit down in a chair). Very nice.
Ran over the hill in the early afternoon to meet some friends for lunch. Unfortunately, we had a duel of cell phones without service, so we wound up missing each other. I did manage to pick up 2 week's mail accumulation, which proved surprisingly small. Only 1 medium sized packet was necessary. Hope nothing got lost. Also grabbed the new Stanford bulletin, and took a brief look for next year's classes. Nothing I hadn't seen in axess already.
Dropped by Fry's too, to grab an external hard drive enclosure. The one I found was rather expensive, but seems functional, and supports both Firewire and USB2. When I got home, did some experimenting with the random IDE hard drives lying around. Have a somewhat better grasp of how IDE works now. Unfortunately of the 3 drives I tried, only the incredibly loud Maxtor seems functional. Moreover, I can't get the NSLU2 to use it as a root filesystem. Flash card would have been quieter, but I can't fit all my photos there.
The reports coming from New Orleans are really disturbing. Maybe it's just me, but I think the destruction of a city of half a million inhabitants, not to mention surroundings areas with millions more, is of slightly more concern than the toppling of two towers by a few dozen nuts. Meanwhile, it's so nice to know president Bush is cutting his vacation short to help deal with the crisis. Too bad he's already taken more vacation in 5 years than the previous record holder, Ronald Reagan, did in 8. If the job's too much for him, why he'd run for a second term?
August 31 Helping a friend move.
To help one's former roommate move is a glorious task. In point of fact, I intended today mostly as a web-page update day, with a significant chunk set aside to packing and grad-school research. Was happily scanning maps and trying to outline our hiking route when my roommate from the previous 3 years leaves me a message asking if I can help him move to a new dorm for interim (period between end of the summer session and beginning of the new school year).
Went up to Stanford therefore, and met him for lunch. By chance, ran into my cousin, also in the process of getting lunch. Housing office was uncooperative and refused to give him his keys 'til 4PM, so we hung out and watched random film clips, like Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling, or a mini-drama trying to sell color-coordinated telephones in the 1950s. Very odd.
Actually moving was a pretty slow process. A BMW 3-series isn't the ideal vehicle for the task (too small), and he had plenty of boxes. Housing helpfully assigned him to the 3rd floor of another building, which had no elevators. Oh the joy... Even getting the car close enough to unload stuff took a bit of gymnastics. Did I mention it was hot too? Still, the jokes were cheap and plentiful, and the conversation was nice after more than 5 months.
Picked up my camera (left in a friend's car) and a roll of film that had been developed on the way home. Talk about blast from the past! That was from when my hair went down to my shoulders, and my favorite toys were stuffed owls, not Linksys networking devices. How times do change. Thanks to the hike in the Alps, packing didn't result in 40kg of luggage. I guess there is such a thing as progress.