Katrina prayers, Katrina charities

Two personal thoughts this morning for residents of the Gulf Coast: one family friend who’s visiting my parents right now who has no idea what has happened to his Mississippi house and whose wife is stranded (but safe) at a hotel with no power; one for Hooblogger Todd at Frolic, who has now updated after a scary silence (turns out he was just out of the country).

For those who unlike my friends were in the city, prayers, of course, but also support. Governor Howard Dean has joined other voices in my inbox asking for donations to the Red Cross (see details for making a donation at the DNC). It’s going to take a lot of help. As Dave pointed out, the city is under sea level, so the flood waters aren’t going to go down on their own without a lot of pumping.

Last word on the flat

Just to clarify: a friend asked over IM after my tale of woe with my flat tire: “Can’t you change a tire yourself?” Answer: Yes, and I have always found the Volkswagen jack and tire iron to be exceptionally intuitive to use (having had to change at least one tire in the line of fire on my old Golf).

However, the timing on Monday was the key part that I didn’t spell out. I got the flat at 7:40 am, about 3/4 of a mile from my office building, and I was supposed to be climbing aboard a shared ride to our sales and marketing meeting here in Stowe at 8 am. I can change a tire, but not in 20 minutes. In this case, the tow truck was definitely the better part of valor.

Do I sound defensive? I suppose I feel a little bad that I wasn’t able to resolve more of the problem myself. But I guess there comes a point where doing it yourself is less important than resolving it so you can move on to truly important things.

Godcasting: podcasting for churches

New York Times: Missed church? Download it to your iPod. A logical, and perhaps lower-cost, extension of the radio services long used to connect churches with their stay-at-home members, this description of various podcasting churches is ringing a few bells for me.

I have long bemoaned the lack of a strong principled moral opposition to conservative politics in the US, and have thought that the liberal church might provide some of the material to arm that opposition, if only it would speak up. Originally I thought the answer was religious bloggers, such as the Real Live Preacher, coming from a church dedicated to principles of equality before God. I am now imagining the church that I attend, syndicated to the blogosphere, serving a similar function for a similarly scattered flock that KEXP serves for the indie-rock faithful. I also had a discussion with my sister, who is entering her third year at Union PSCE, about technology education for theology students. Maybe this article will provide some inspiration…

(Technology note: Godcast.org, which is serving as an aggregator for a series of religion-themed podcasts, runs on Radio Userland.)

Rescue me

As it turns out, the resolution of my morning flat was relatively painless. I called a towing service, they took it to the dealership, the dealership managed the rest (doubly appropriate since I needed a scheduled service visit anyway). The kicker, unfortunately, was that the injury to the new tire wasn’t a manufacturing defect but a very long nail, and so the replacement wasn’t covered under warranty. Ah well.

In the meantime we’re eating well here at Stoweflake.

Perfect morning

I was on my way to the office to join a group of people heading to an offsite conference in Stowe, Vermont, and happily driving along when I took a left turn into a shopping center for some coffee and heard a pop. Oh no, I thought. I managed to get the car into a parking space. It was the tire that had been replaced two weeks ago, flat as a pancake.

Hopefully tonight I’ll be able to write the update of how the issue was resolved, but for now I have to catch a shuttle up to Stowe. More to come…

Dead Mac blues

It hasn’t been all hi-fi fun here, unfortunately. Esta’s PowerBook, which used to be my old faithful G3, has bitten the dust. It won’t boot any more. I made an appointment for her at the Cambridge Apple Store, and they indicated that (a) it needed some internal power circuitry replaced, which would set her back a few Franklins, and (b) they could have the fix done in seven business days. Oy.

They were pretty nice about suggesting some alternatives, though, including a recommendation for an alternative local repair shop and (most surprisingly) an Apple Store near Richmond that she didn’t know existed. (Who knew that Short Pump was Apple Store material?) She’ll end up going with the latter, based on the time factor.

In the meantime, we have discovered what Fast User Switching is made for—allowing guests to surf the web, check email, iChat, and upload digital photos without changing all their host’s settings.

Denon, de non psallibus

denon dp-45F, or rather the dp-47f which is essentially the same thing

Esta, who arrived on Wednesday evening for a few days of R and R, is helping me with a very important task: auditioning a new turntable. A coworker was looking to unload a circa 1983 Denon DP-45F that hadn’t been played in eleven years.

So far the results have been mixed. On the plus side, the full automatic action is smooth, and the sound can be quite good, even without the grounding strap connected. On the minus side, the unit is an inch or so too deep for our AV shelf, meaning I would need to do another cutout (if I could and still be able to lift the glass on the turntable). More damningly, the thing skips on brand new records. I’m not sure if that’s because it needs a new stylus, because it doesn’t like 180 gram vinyl, or what. I’ll play with it a little more this weekend and see if I can isolate the problem without shelling out the money for a new stylus or cartridge (which could be substantial, according to this thread).

It is a sweet looking turntable though.

Cool: Google Talk. Also cool: it’s Jabber

The Unofficial Apple Weblog is one of a bunch of sites talking about the leak of Google Talk, also known as Google’s implementation of Jabber. Nice to see Mac support (albeit apparently unofficial) in a new Google product before it ships.

Also nice to see Jabber getting some traction. With an open API and an open source client, it always surprised me that more people haven’t adopted Jabber as a messaging platform of choice, the way UserLand did. Including me. At the moment I can’t even remember my Jabber address.

Dining notes: Oola and Ino Sushi

I haven’t been writing as much the last few days, partly because the show floor has kept me busy, partly because the hotel wanted me to pay for WiFi even if I already bought a day of wired Internet use in my room. Memo to Starwood: for a luxury hotel, you’re sure making me feel nickeled and dimed to death.

I had good luck on this trip with restaurants, thanks to the eGullet Forums. Monday night we tried Oola on Folsom Street, just a block or so south and west of the Moscone Center. Fabulous. A salad of peppery arugula and heirloom tomatoes followed by a daube of lamb with root vegetables—which in the 50-degree San Francisco summer night was richly fulfilling rather than overwhelming as it might have been anywhere else in the continental US. Great wine list—though a little light on my favored Southern Italian wines, they did have a Greco di Tufo from a producer I had never heard of and a good selection of Cotes du Rhone wines, which made up for it. Good ambience too, even if it was a former elevator repair shop.

Tonight my coworker and I were looking for an early meal before we headed airportward, and he suggested sushi. I found recommendations for Ino and we went. I think it was some of the finest sushi and sashimi I’ve ever had. The nigiri, with a little wasabi paste between the fish and the rice, was super fresh and bracing; the sashimi was just brilliant. I have to put in a special word for the unagi, which is broiled to order and served with a suggestion to skip the soy sauce, and may be the most perfect serving of eel I’ve ever tasted. The restaurant itself is tiny, a small mom and pop shop in a Japanese-focused shopping mall next to the Radisson, and very clean—the finished nigiri is placed directly on the sushi bar in front of you. The service was great and personable too, with the wife giving my co-worker a hard time for ordering a Coke (he sheepishly changed to a glass of white wine) and both owners filling us in on the best place to catch a cab after dinner. Highly recommended.

Wonder and loss

white building on brackbill farm against the sky, lancaster

It was good to see my extended family over the last two days, but sad as well. My great-uncle Hershey Brackbill passed away on Saturday. What was originally going to be just another annual family reunion turned into a commemoration of Hershey.

To back up: My grandfather had eleven brothers and sisters, of whom all but two survived to adulthood. For many years the ten remaining siblings, even after the passing of my great grandfather Harry, have brought the family together summer after summer, and the part of the family that stayed in Lancaster County (virtually everyone in that generation and most of their children) formed a tight knit extended family.

But recently the family has been thinning. After the second church service this morning I walked with Esta down the hill to pay respects to my grandmother. On the way I passed the markers of Hershey’s brother Jake, who died earlier this year, and Florence, who passed away several years ago. I also passed Hershey’s tombstone, which he will share with his first wife Jane; his stone was awaiting his final date. So the family is coming together in a corner of the cemetery at Leacock Presbyterian.

Fortunately the living family was able to come together in a more substantial tribute this morning. My second cousin Don Brackbill got a chorus of eleven Brackbill men, whether by blood or marriage, to sing an anthem at both Sunday services—in the Old Leacock church, which dates back to 1750 and is as historic as it is sweltering on an August morning, and the “new” Leacock church, which is probably close to 100 years old and is the one that was a block and a half down Route 30 from my grandparents’ home when I was growing up. The music was nice, the theology—the wonder of God’s love—somewhat better.

After services we all headed to the picnic, where my mother decided it was time for a changing of the guard and had me lead the family in the singing of the doxology (something my father or my cousin Lee would have otherwise done) and my sister the seminarian, as the most ecclesiastical person there, lead the prayer. Given how rarely I can spend time with the family, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable leading the song, which may have been the point for all I know, but it felt like a passing of the torch anyway.

And who is grabbing it? My mother’s generation, with a few exceptions, stayed pretty close to Lancaster and the rest of the family. My generation? One of my cousins is close by but the other is in Puerto Rico; other cousins were getting married in Michigan this weekend while another, my cousin Chris, lives on the west coast. As we spread further apart, the capacity of the yearly gatherings in Lancaster to keep the family bonds together is likely to strain.

There are solutions, I think, but I’m too tired to chase them tonight. Instead, I’ll close with an assortment of photos from the day. They won’t win any awards, but at least the resolution is higher than my last batch of Lancaster County photos.

Notes from the train

Written Saturday afternoon as I rode south from Boston:

I’m on the Acela, a few minutes outside New Haven. The car is filling up, but I have no seat companion as yet. The sun was out as we traveled along the Atlantic coast in Rhode Island and the early part of Connecticut, and it was as though we skimmed just above the surface of the water as we crossed coastal inlets and rivers. We’re inland now, and the scenery is, in that peculiar Northeast way, uglier; where there is no trash along the tracks, there are industrial parking lots or brown bracken covered banks. But there are still plots of wetlands here and there among the parked tanker trucks and huddled subdivisions, their backs to the train.

Part of the feeling of coasting is the inexpensive pair of noise cancelling headphones I picked up on my last trip to San Francisco. I’m trying to keep up my policy of listening at least once to every new track I add to my iTunes library, so my iPod is full of enormous lossless copies of various classical and jazz tracks. At the moment it’s the Keller Quartet’s string version of The Art of the Fugue.

In fact, the only thing missing at present is an Internet connection. At the speed we’re moving, no open networks stay accessible long enough to permit a WiFi connection. It’s kind of fun seeing the names of some of the secured ones, though, such as the thoughfully named “Honeypot”. It’s also nice, frankly, just being able to use the laptop, something that becomes just about impossible with the less generously proportioned seats in coach on the airplane.