November 7, 2001 (Wed)
Probably the most annoying and frustrating thing is that Mac OS X uses the command key as a command key. I automatically hit M-q at the end of a paragraph, to run the Emacs command fill-paragraph. Unfortunately, if you're sshed into a Linux box from a Mac OS X Terminal window, hitting Command-q quits Terminal. Very lame. At least there's an “Always prompt before quitting” option, although I suspect that will get annoying pretty quickly, too.
Anyway, it's been a while. Since my last writing, my mom has come and gone, and both of us spent a fair amount of her visit sick (me more than her, of course). We did manage to get some touristy stuff done on our better days, though. We did Hollywood, which is really, well, crap, frankly. I expected tackiness, and there was some of that, but I didn't expect that the Chinese Theater would be completely barricaded by construction, or that the Hollywood Walk of Fame would be dirty and surrounded by pawn shops and “adult” stores.
On the positive side, thanks to the Hollywood Entertainment Museum, I found out what those annoying little stickers that cover every imaginable surface on every item of Federation equipment in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager say: crazy stuff! The top line generally says something vaguely technical, such as “23|42 Optical Data Network Access Panel”, but below that you'll find stuff like “Access by authorized Star Fleet Engineering personnel only. No matter where you go, there you are.” or “Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip. That started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship.” or “30,000,000 miles a second: It's not just a good idea, it's the law.”
The schematic of the Enterprise from Next Generation in engineering also has some amusing details you can't see on TV occupying various compartments, such as an airplane, a Porsche, and a gerbil wheel (in engineering). It's nice to know those folks had a sense of humor.
On another day, we hit the San Gabriel Mission, which features the oldest cemetery in California and the oldest buildings in Los Angeles County. Then we had lunch at Soda Jerks, poked around in The Folk Tree (a Mexican folk art shop), and then did the Norton Simon Museum.
November 28, 2001 (Wed)
A bit depressed here, in the aftermath of September 11. Not because of the death and destruction, which, frankly, seems rather abstract since I didn't and don't know anyone affected by the tragedy, but rather because of the incredibly idiotic response of the American people, the American government, and, especially, the American media.
To my horror and disgust, an NPR poll (in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University) shows that the majority of those polled believe that foreigners arrested as “terrorists” should have fewer rights than people arrested for anything else, including monitoring any and all conversations they may have with attorneys; that trying them in secret military tribunals is just fine; that those tribunals can sentence people to death; and that there should be no possibility of appeal using the civilian court system.
In other recent news, I had been thinking about the whole issue of Xmas gifts (for me and others), and the iPod was a shiny new toy to consider. After thinking about it quite a bit (with considerable input from the discussions on Macintouch), I had come to the conclusion that I neither needed nor wanted an iPod. Realistically, it can only hold about a third of our joint music collection (which doesn't include a couple of dozen or so CDs we never got around to ripping, or any of my LPs), which makes some of its magic features (automatic syncing of your “entire music collection”) nonexistent. I'm also not thrilled by the lack of a case or its price, either—what is it with high-end electronic stuff not coming with decent cases? It seems like the more expensive a device is, the less likely it is to come with a case. A prime example is our digicam, a Canon PowerShot S300, which came with—you guessed it—no case. Not only that, but getting the official Canon case for the thing was a nightmare. It seemed like no one had it, even if they had dozens of the cameras, and most of the places we checked with didn't even know how to order it. We did actually get to see it in a camera shop in Seattle, but they wanted US$50 for it! We're talking about a fake leather case, here, mind you, whose retail price is US$15. After trying to find it online (lots of places listed it, but no one actually had any), I managed to find an online accessories shop off Canon's main site (not the site for the camera), and bought the thing for US$20 with postage. Given that the camera costs US$700 retail, you'd think they could afford to toss in a US$15 case, wouldn't you?
Anyway, the iPod. Same thing—no case. And no third-party alternatives, as yet, either. So I'd written it off, when M comes home and admits that she'd given into temptation, and allowed one of her colleagues to talk her into buying one. At least she let me open it.
And it's neat—it's a very nice little machine. It's actually a bit too big for my hands, which is something I haven't heard many people complain about. It doesn't weigh much at all, and it sounds quite good. But I still can't quite see the point, although I would have loved it when I was in college.
In other, other news, we're going to the UK for Xmas. We'd been leaning toward doing so for a while, and it just so happens that the geniuses in the INS have changed the rules so that we have to. M needs to change her visa, and prior to September 11, she would have had to go anywhere outside the country and have the new visa added to her passport at an embassy or consulate (or maybe even just a border crossing—it was never entirely clear). Our favorite option was to return to Vancouver, which would have meant that M would meet face-to-face with a real person. Now, under the new rules, she has to return to her home country. But in the UK, the embassy gets so many requests that they can't deal with them in person. Instead, she'll have to mail her passport with the associated paperwork to the embassy for processing. No one will see her. No one will ask her any questions not on the form. Don't you feel safer now?
I'm not sure what we'll actually be able to do other than Xmas/New Year's/M's birthday. We could rent a car, but I think I'd rather not. My understanding is that Scotland's weather is not conducive to casual visits at this time of year (although I'm not entirely convinced it's worse than what I grew up with, and the stories may well be more a manifestation of M's standard Southern disinterest in points north).
I was hoping to see Highgate Cemetery, but apparently there are no weekday tours of the Western Cemetery, which is, of course, the interesting half. (But there are weekend tours, which I hadn't been able to make out last night, so it's back on the list!) I have a mild thing about cemeteries, thanks to my grandmother, with whom I used to wander through various cool old cemeteries around the area I grew up. I've been interested in Highgate Cemetery since the early 1990s, when I obtained a copy of Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla from the Syracuse University Bookstore. If you're interested in cemeteries, I can also recommend James Stevens Curl's A Celebration of Death, which I picked up from Cody's Books at a particularly troubled time in my life.
Anyway, other obvious candidates are Stonehenge and the British Museum, along with the zillions of other museums in and around Oxford and London. Brighton Pier is a must, along with the Royal Pavilion (as we should be spending at least some time in Worthing).
As for the rest, well, we'll have to see. The problem with visiting Britain for a short period of time is that there's easily as much to do in Britain as I did in the first twenty years of my life on the east coast of the US.
Anyway, I'm excited, at least as much as I can be excited just now. Keep your fingers crossed that everything will go smoothly and we'll be able to get all the paperwork done while still being able to do a healthy dose of sightseeing and family time.
I'm working on getting an appointment to have my hair seen to. It's been quite a while, now, and it's at that annoying length where it creeps into my eyes and mouth and makes it impossible to wash my face without an Alice band. (It's too short, of course, to be tied back.) I'm not sure what I want to do with it—with luck I can get the hairdresser enthused about doing something interesting. In the distant past, I'd had it dyed/bleached about three or four different colors, and it looked great. So that's a possibility. But I could probably be talked into something else. But I need to have something done to it soon, for sure.