Christmas Music, Greek-style

Okay, so the elevators at our hotel in Athens have been playing Christmas music since we arrived Saturday.  This has been peculiar for a number of reasons.

  1. How do they know when to start playing Christmas music?  They don’t have Thanksgiving, so why was it already playing November 28?  Advent hadn’t started, nor had December.
  2. Why is it all in English?  Are there no Greek Christmas songs?
  3. Why is so much of it religious?  This is a fairly international hotel (at least half the entrees are vegetarian, for example and far fewer than half the guests are American), so you’d figure they’d be less likely to play religious music.  But no, lots of it is straight from the hymnal.
  4. And why is so much of it, well, peculiar?  It’s gotten so Charlie’s afraid to get in the elevator.  Of course, I love it.  A new personal favorite is “Never Do a Tango with an Eskimo.”

Yes, “Never do a Tango with an Eskimo.”  A fine piece of music, if you ask me.  (An abomination if you ask anyone else.)  If you haven’t heard it recently, or ever, take a listen at .

Besides the joy of the song with a title like that, be sure to notice:

  • Don’t you wish Rankin/Bass (of the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer tv special) had found this instead?  I’ve been meaning to try out animation software though.  Maybe I’ve found my muse.  Appropriate, given my location…
  • The end sure sounds more like a cha cha than a tango to me.  But I like this song, so that tells you about my musical knowledge/taste.
  • The site is for born-again Christians.  Umm, and what do Eskimos have to do with that?  Or maybe it’s the tango?
  • But check the lyrics…there’s nothing about Christmas at all in them.  This should get the creative among you writing new verses.  How about:
When Jesus does a tango, he'd prefer to have a mango
In the fruit bowl that he eats from at the break.
But mangoes in the snow just don't have a chance to grow,
So Eskimos have none for goodness sake.

I guess this means I shouldn’t complain about Christmas music when I get home.  But I still will.


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Lights, Cameras, Athens

One of the unexpected benefits of sabbatical is being able to travel at times other than summer and Christmas vacation. So we really took advantage of this by taking a cruise from Rome to Athens, via Turkey, Cyrus, and Egypt.

We’re in Athens now and have seen all the obligatory sites and taken the obligatory photos. But even though it’s been done before, standing in the shadow of the Parthenon is still pretty durn amazing.The Parthenon

Of course, we also get to see the unusual sites, traveling on our own.  At our local Metro station, there’s an archeological display, since apparently you can’t dig anywhere around here without hitting ruins.

Athens Metro Station

Still, it wouldn’t be travel without some fun and games.  The lights in our room in the Athens Hilton have been a source of amusement for me and annoyance for Charlie.  The closet has a light that comes on automatically when you open the closet and, well, stays on.  I can sleep through just about anything when I’m tired enough (and hiking up the Acropolis makes you tired enough), but Charlie was bound and determined to figure out how to turn out the light.

Athens Hilton

We finally discovered if you take the bulb out of the socket, the light goes off.  Then the next night, we got to learn how the night light in the bathroom was controlled.  (By the switch by the bed of course, you silly Americans!)

One of the strange things about traveling in November is going away when people stay and work. In the academic world, when one professor gets a vacation, they all do, so there’s no going back to an office three weeks ahead of you. Things will be interesting Thursday.

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Today’s geeky thought

So, as part of sabbatical, I’m maybe going to get involved in CMMI and trying to increase the process maturity here.  (Yes, I’m so old I still think of it as the Process Maturity Model.)  Now, what the heck do I really know of process maturity, me a denizen of the ivy covered tower?

And it struck me today.  I’m involved in the AP CS exam, both developing and grading the exam.  And, thanks to the work of a whole lot of people, AP CS really is at level 5.  Maybe not the development of the exam, but oh my, the grading of the free response sure strikes me as a well known, well documented system where measurements are taken and used for improvement.

Cool.  I really might be able to help.

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Sorry Thomas Wolfe…

You can go home again.

You just can’t bring the cat.

So, today we moved back to Gainesville, my home town.  I’ve moved away and back once before when I went to college, joined the army, and saw the world.  After seeing the world, I learned Gainesville wasn’t all that bad.

But I got my degree and left again.  Not really for good, since Charlie always had a job here.  But enough so I can say I’ve come home again.  We closed on a house last Thursday but today is our official move in day.  We’ll be spending our first night here tonight.  We moved the animals today too–Linus the nervous dog with Charlie and Ike the big old cat with me.  Linus made the trip surprisingly well, thanks to a quarter of a doggie tranquilizer, a cozy crate, and some preliminary training in the car with lots of treats.

At first, it looked like Ike did just as well.  He’s always been pretty unflappable.  With as much as Linus barks, Ike has learned to ignore commotion around him.  He was a bit skittish in his carrier at first, but mellow enough so I could open the door and pet him.  He finally decided to move to the back and get a nap for the rest of the drive.

But Ike may be too unflappable.  We got to the house, I set up a litter box and then brought the carrier in and opened its door.  And Ike stayed in the carrier.  I figured he’d come out when he was ready, so did some more unpacking.  While Ike stayed in the carrier.  We even brought his cat condo, so he’d have something familiar here.  And because he’s so good about scratching it instead of the furniture.  Still, Ike didn’t think that the condo was worth coming out of the carrier for.  So I removed the carrier door and let him have some time to figure it out.  Linus would go into the carrier to visit and Ike did come out a couple of times, looked around, realized he didn’t know the place, and went back in to sit down, stare out, and not be flapped.

I finally carried him to the condo, where he looked around for a bit, meandered to a corner to hide in, and, after a few minutes, went back to the carrier.  But he decided to stop in his litter box first.  That was 2 hours ago and he’s still in the litter box. I even sat and knit with him for a while and even yarn wasn’t enough to entice him.

I finally realized that he hasn’t lived any place but “his” house in Macon for the last 4 years.  He hasn’t even been out of there for more than a year.  So I guess we can give him a day or two to realize there can be other places in the world and he can live there.

After all, he’s not hte one coming home again.

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no service

(from an email I sent to Charlie yesterday, while traveling to buy our new home in Gainesville)

my phone can’t get a signal  it is pouring i am pissed

(he claims it’s pure poetry…I meant it to be a little bit bitchier than that)

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And so we begin

So, I’m on sabbatical for the 2009-2010 academic year.

I applied for it almost a year ago and had to describe what I was going to do.  Really?  Am I really supposed to know what I’m doing a year ahead of time?

Fortunately, I’ve reached the point where I figure you may as well be honest, so one of my goals was to live with my husband.  We’ve worked in different states since January 1990 and thought it might be fun to try being in the same town for a while.  So far, so good.  We made an offer on a house in Gainesville last week, had it accepted (okay, we’d done lots of verbal negotiation before going to G’ville to sign the official offer), got a mortgage preliminarily approved, and did the home inspection.  (Yeah, Charlie was busy.)

I also wanted to get some time to explore something in depth.  Teaching 6 different courses a year ranging from Excel for business students to Compiler Theory for computer science majors has kept me a generalist.  Even my extra-curricular work has kept me in a lot of different areas.  As program chair for CCSC:SE, I get to evaluate a broad range of papers (with the help of some wonderful reviewers), but as member of the APCS development committee, I get to do first year computer science education in lots of depth.  And then there’s the programming contest, where I get to think like a code hacker.  So, depth in one area would be fun.

So far though, I can’t shake my internal generalist.  I have spent some time doing more Rails, working through Head First Rails.  I have gone to Rails Conf a couple of times, but that’s usually right at the end of the academic year, so I can’t go back to school and start using what I learn (and the class that ties in best with Rails is taught at most once every other year).  And I’ve just downloaded the Mojo SDK to create apps for the Palm Pre.  That’s a whole blog post in and of itself.  It wasn’t quite ready for prime time, but there are lots of great hackers out there who are posting cool work arounds (I got to edit a msi file–what power!).  I’m getting ready for an APCS meeting in early August and am looking at getting certified in .Net (since I teach that almost every fall).  And, in my copious spare time, I’m getting back up to speed on CMMI to prepare for the main thrust of my sabbatical, working in an industrial environment.

And then there’s the knitting, but I’ve only finished one of the 5 things I really wanted to get done before our 25th anniversary trip.  Pictures soon of it (but it’s a wedding gift and I want it to be a surprise).  I may get 2 of the other 4 things done on the trip, but I’ll believe that when I see it.

But now we’re getting ready to go cruise around Alaska for two weeks (guess how sad I am that Sarah Palin won’t be governor for most of the trip, just try to guess!), so I can forget about sabbatical for 2 weeks.

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Shaken to the Core

So, there are some things that we just know to be true.  One of my favorite things to run across on radio is rebroadcasts and new broadcasts of the show This I Believe.  And it’s just heartbreaking when you learn that one of those things just isn’t so any more.

I had that happen last week.  My shoe size is 8 1/2 W.  Always has been.  It’s gotten so when I need new shoes, I just stop at the SAS store on the way to or from Atlanta, go in, take a box of 8 1/2W off the shelf, and buy them.  The clerk always makes sure the shoes inside match the size on the box, so I don’t even have to do that.

Well, I needed new shoes.  My first great disappointment is the SAS store between my home and Atlanta is closed.  So I had to wait until a longer trip to go to one north of Atlanta.  (You didn’t really expect me to change brands now, did you?)  The clerk was quite outgoing and wanted to be helpful and my current shoes felt really big (but hey, they were old), so I let her measure me.

And I’m not an 8 1/2W any more.  In fact, I even bought a pair of 8 regular.  (Seems when you lose over 100 pounds, some of it comes off your feet.)  Things have felt a little off kilter ever since.

Now, I’m almost happy to say that the new shoes are a bit too tight and need to be broken in.  So I could probably still get buy with buying 8 1/2 Ws.  But where’s the growth in that?

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Every Damn New Year’s Cliche

So, I tried to avoid posting on New Year’s Day, even though I really was going to take this semester break as an opportunity to get caught up on many things in life, this blog among them.

But it struck me as I was going to WalMart to get workout pants, batteries for our heart monitors, and hand weights that I was living the New Year’s cliches.  Now, since I’m great at justifying, I did manage to justify it all by saying I’ve been losing weight since September 2007 (I’m hovering at the 110 pounds lost right now, but hey, I have hand weights, it should get better!).  I’ve exercised on and off for that long too, but have been at it seriously since September 2008.  I even hit 7 straight weeks on Wiifit this morning.

To keep things fresh, I got “My Fitness Trainer” for the Wii yesterday (yeah, more cliche!), thus the heart monitor batteries and hand weights.  And then, after getting all of that and blowing up a stability ball, Maya, My Fitness Trainer (your fitness trainer, everyone’s fitness trainer!) didn’t even use the silly things.  Although pumping up a stability ball should count as exercise in and of itself!

So, I’ve got diet and exercise down.  And I’m doing some little things about organization and time management.  Little.  But so far, manageable and not too scary.  We’ll see what happens when the semester starts.

And I think I’m gonna try the “100 skeins challenge”–can I finish off 100 skeins of yarn this year?  Now, getting 100 skeins is not a challenge (or, if it is, I think I’ve already met it).  But actually using the yarn I have?  At any rate, what really inspired this post was to try to keep track of the skeins I finish and since I finished 2 today, lemme log ’em.  I finished a skein of blue Lions Brand Suede that I’m making a prayer shawl with and a skein of tan Eskimo that I’m making a sweater with.  I thought about adding pictures (of the work in progress?  of the end of the skein?  of the empty label?) but decided against that since it would just get in the way of blogging about it.  Maybe I’ll do photos of things as I finish them?  I have a box of scarves going off to the Special Olympics this week.  They look pretty cool, all blue and white.  Sadly, none of them has finished a skein.

So, the skein total as of today is 2.  Oh boy!

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Travel Fun and Games

So, I am in New York for the Advanced Placement Development Committee meeting. I suppose I should just shut up and be happy to be here after the travel day I had yesterday getting here, but why would I have a blog if I shut up when I was supposed to?

So, New York is a great place that I really haven’t had time to enjoy during the meetings because they’re packed. So I decided to come early Saturday (fly out at 10 AM) so I could get to the fashion district and Mood Fabrics from Project Runway.

Looking back, this was a good idea, or I’d still be traveling. I got to the airport, went to my gate, at the end of the B terminal and was informed my flight was moved to the middle of the B terminal. Yeah, I’d passed the gate and then gone much further.

No problem, exercise is good. So I go to the new gate, but the plane there is going to Philly, not Newark. But the gate agent announces the Newark plane will be there (numerous times…lots of people are surprised like I am), so I sit and knit.

And, let me just say, I could have been real bitchy yesterday if I hadn’t had my knitting in my purse. But I decided to make each delay an opportunity to knit another row. Yeah, I went Pollyana on the problem. Not at all like me.

So, sooner or later the Philly plane leaves and ours comes and unloads and we get back on in pretty good time and of course the plane is full, but that’s okay, the flight is under an hour and a half.

And then the pilot makes an announcement. Over the next 5 hours I’m gonna learn to hate the pilot making an announcement, but for now, it’s interesting. Seem’s there’s a stop at Newark, so we can’t take off. And that’s all he knows.

Hey, I had meant to finish reviewing the multiple choice questions during the flight, so I take them out (and oooooh, out my tray table down!) and get to work. To Delta’s credit, the crew does their damndest to make the wait tolerable. The pilot invites families to come to the cockpit and take pictures of their kids in the pilot’s seat (something I’d never seen before in a post-9/11 world). The flight attendants bring out trays of water. And the passengers don’t riot or demand to be let out (although there is some grumbling by the skinny girls around me that they’re hungry). And we wait.

And I finish all the multiple choice.

And for some reason (the pilot explains all the intricacies of the flight controller in DC and his handler in Atlanta, but really, I don’t care why–I just want to know when) we taxi out to the end of a runway. (Okay, the stop was lifted, but we still don’t have a landing slot in Newark.) And we wait some more. A lot more.

And I finish writing up all the free response solutions and call my father and talk to Charlie and Fran (who has already arrived in New York and who I was supposed to be shopping with). So I start knitting again, which is good because I can knit standing up and the guy in the seat next to my aisle seat keeps getting up to go pace.

And, we finally take off at about 1 PM (just 3 hours late) and fly via the Indianapolis flight controller instead of the DC one so the flight is a bit longer but who cares because we’re flying! Since the flight was due in around noon, we’re not eating anything more than peanuts, but hey, it’s better than sitting on the tarmac.

And we land and luggage takes forever as usual, but there’s a train and it’s good and fast so we’ll get to Manhattan soon, except…

To get to Amtrak, you have to take the airport train. Fine. So we go until we can see the Amtrak station and come to a stop. And sit there. And wait, and wait, and watch the Amtrak pull in, and watch it pull out, and then we move.

So, normally there’s no problem, but since it’s a Saturday, it’s 50 minutes until the next flight. So I get some of the free response solutions entered and running.

And the train finally shows up and it’s packed–mostly very skinny kids who seat 2 to a seat made for big adults so they can play cards. Fortunately, they get off in a few stops and 3 very tired adults get their places and the trip continues without incident until I get to the hotel and there are a million or so people in the lobby. But after another wait (and I am getting good at knitting while waiting), I get a room and it’s okay if you ignore the toilet that doesn’t stop and the fact the bed looks like it was made by my cat and dog and one of the is still under the bedspread.

But I’m here and I finally eat and we see a play (Altar Boyz–great fun and not more concentration than I can deal with) and I get some sleep and a good strong shower this morning and then the straw breaks the camel’s back.

In dealing with the leaky toilet, I completely miss the fact there are no bath towels in the room. In fact, I miss that little fact until I get out of the shower. Fortunately, I have two hand towels (and yeah, I’ll admit it, sheets) so I’m up and washed and dried and ready to face the day.

Let’s hope it’s better than yesterday. But if it’s not, I still have my knitting.

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My favorite OSCON quote (so far)

Question: “What version of the code are you using?”

Answer: “Monday.”

Yeah, that about sums up how things are working in the Open Source world.

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