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July 28, 2001

Last weekend we were in New York visiting Kim's family at her parents' house way out on Long Island. We booked the flight on Orbitz, which is a pretty cool service. There were two mega-brats on the plane behind us, and even though each of us politely but firmly told them to quit kicking the back of our seats, they kept doing it anyway... and shouting at each other, and making car crashing sound effects at the top of their lungs. Their mother was basically ignoring them, occasionally telling them to quiet down, but generally allowing them to be obnoxious. One of them said something like "I think we're the only kids on this flight" but in fact there were about 6 others of the same age. Of course the other kids weren't being TOTAL BRATS. Kim and I discussed various disciplinary techniques which were both humorous and morbid.

Back to the family get together. Everybody seems pretty healthy, which is fortunate, especially since some of them are now in their 80s or older and have had some fairly serious medical problems recently. This was the first trip out there since Kim went vegan, so we were curious as to how her parents would react. They took it quite well, possibly because Kim has educated herself about nutrition lately which prevents the usual questions along the lines of "but how will you get enough protein/calcium?".

Kim's dad has added a sun room (greenhouse style) with a Jacuzzi to the house, and has had the deck rebuilt. The Jacuzzi absolutely rocks. During the party on Saturday somebody broke one of the jets on the Jacuzzi, which reduced it to a hot tub, which I must say is pretty disappointing by comparison. Fortunately it was easily fixable; something just popped out. My favorite feature of the thing has to be the lights - very similar to Christmas lights - mounted in the sides of the tub. Turn the overhead lights out at night and turn on the colored lights, and it just looks coool.

On the way back I did a bit of brushing up on my C programming skills, because I was reading a bunch of stuff posted on Joel on Software and realized that I wouldn't pass the C programming part of his standard interview. My laptop (an IBM ThinkPad 600E) devoured the batteries pretty darn quickly, because it totally forgot that it knew how to do power management and sound. I have since updated the BIOS and reinstalled Windows 2000, and sound is working again, but power management is still FUBAR. Go figure. Hey Bill, is this one of those 65,000 bugs that shipped with Windows 2000?

Right after I went out to go running today, an off-leash dog ran right up and bit me on the arm, and ran off. He didn't break the skin and it didn't hurt much (super slobbery though), although it did leave some scratches on my arm (14KB JPEG image). I immediately yelled "OW!!!" right in the dog's face to let him know his love bite wasn't appreciated, but I didn't confront the owners who were half a block away. I just kept going without thinking much of it, and the dog ran off. A minute or so later I had become really pissed off about it but I just decided to let it go and channel the anger into my workout. At this point it's too late to do anything directly but I am definitely looking into dog bite law. I try to be an enlightened pet person, but poopy sidewalks and dogs that run up and bite me really make me angry at dog owners. I'm not a dog person anyway, what with the whole drool, stink, poop, jump-up, gnaw, bite motif they have, but I try and tolerate them. In light of the fatal dog mauling of Diane Whipple in SF, and the threat of stricter enforcement of leash laws in SF, one would think that dog owners would be on their best behavior these days. Apparently not.

Time for a quick game of "follow the segue": I studied Japanese during my first semester in college. The class was at about 7 AM, and I had nowhere near enough discipline to get up that early, so I dropped after a couple of weeks. Lately I've been thinking about trying to learn it again. I remember that "Flournoy" is really hard to pronounce using Japanese syllables... it comes out Fu-ru-no-i. Heck, it's hard to pronounce for English speakers as well; most people want to say "Florney" and I have to tell them "it doesn't rhyme with horny". I thought that maybe I could dig into my family history a bit to learn what the original French pronunciation was, so that maybe I could use that as a more Japanese-friendly name. I found some interesting stuff, some of which matches what my father told me was found in a geneological search which was done a few years ago.

In 1598, King Henry IV of France signed the Edict of Nantes, which recognized Protestant Christians as valid citizens rather than heretics, in order to quell religious warfare between Catholics and Protestants (a.k.a. Huguenots). In 1685, amid renewed persecution of Protestants, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, in an effort to bring Protestants back into line, and to unify France under his rule. Jacques Flournoy (named for the town Flornoy in France, outside of Wassy), an ordained minister, probably said something along the lines of "sacré merde!" and trundled off to Geneva, Switzerland with the Mrs. (Julia Flournoy). There they begat one Jean Jacques Flournoy in 1696 who apparently moved to Henrico County (outside of Richmond, VA) and bought some land as "John James Flournoy". This sounds a whole lot like the info my father told me about from the geneological search. His story involved an emigration via Amsterdam, so maybe there was another Flournoy who emigrated along with the rest to the Richmond area, from whom I am descended. At least I was able to find out a few new things: (1) The town's name is probably Flornoy Haute-Marne, no U; (2) they left due to religious persecution at the hands of the Catholics (I knew my ancestors were "Hugenots" before but I didn't know exactly what that meant nor about the revocation of the Edict of Nantes); (3) they almost certainly moved to Geneva, then maybe to Amsterdam, then to Richmond. This suggests that my ancestors have lived in the Richmond area for almost 280 years. Of course I live in San Francisco so I'm screwing it up for future generations, I guess. :)

So the answer is: Fo-ro-no-i. :)

Kim's home page is the #1 hit on Google if you search for Flournoy. You go girl!!!

July 12, 2001

Maybe you already noticed this, but RAM prices are really really low. Low, as in, "I just got another 256MB for my G4 for $40" low. Time to load up; why not just max out all your computers? Buy big fat modules and throw away the little ones you have or sell them on eBay. It's soooo cheap.

My stepsister just had another kid: a girl named Elizabeth Ella. Everybody's fine from what my Dad tells me. Congratulations! I wish I could get any of them on the phone... oh well, gotta try later.

July 8, 2001

FedEx Ground screwed up a bunch of my eBay shipments. I have to untangle this mess this week.

Kim and I were lucky enough to get free passes to see Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within at a sneak preview. I reviewed it on IMDB; here's a local copy of my review.

July 7, 2001

Have I mentioned how great the Digitech RP7 guitar effects unit sounds? I originally got it as a cheap and flexible bass effects unit, but lately since I've been learning electric guitar, I can't get over how bad-ass this thing sounds. It's hard to turn off the chorus and grunge distortion effects and practice for precision, because it's so much fun to just rock out with the thing.

After 10 years, I've started running again. I've been trying for a long time to get myself psyched up for exercising regularly again. After skiing a ton this past season and finding that my leg strengh and stamina was holding me back, I decided that I needed to join a gym. I checked out a few and the whole gym membership thing bothers me; I don't want to make a financial committment when I'm not committed to working out every day, and the whole gym membership scam is all about taking advantage of that. 24 Hour Fitness wanted a minimum of $356 to start ($199 enrollment, $44/month with first and last month due up front, $69 processing) or $796 for 12 months. Of course that doesn't include a personal trainer, workout clothes, and such. So, I decided to run, since it's cheap and easy and the only committment is a small investment in sporting goods - shoes, shorts, a few shirts, etc. On Monday, Kim and I went to the Sports Basement and met Peter who helped me pick out the right shoes, and helped Kim find some too (much harder since she has wide feet). I also got the requisite outfit. The folks at the store asked "so what are you training for?" and I didn't have an answer... nothing really, just getting in shape. I've only been running for 2 days so far but I think I can stick with it. In another couple of weeks I'll worry about setting goals like running in a 5K race; right now I'm just working on a 30/30 beginning runner's exercise plan and hoping I can stick with it. So far so good - no soreness from yesterday and I didn't have a headache after running today like I did yesterday. BTW, running uphill is hard.

On the 4th, Kim and I drove up to Farm Sanctuary West in Orland, CA, which is about 2 1/2 hours northeast of San Francisco, in the big, hot, dry Sacramento Valley. Farm Sanctuary basically rescues farm animals from the incredibly inhumane treatment they face as part of "standard agricultural practices", which is the phrase that legally allows farmers to do things which would otherwise land them in jail for animal cruelty. I'm not talking about the fact that farm animals are slaughtered; I'm talking about the horror movie, nightmare, serial killer kind of stuff that farmers get away with because humane laws don't apply to farm animals. So there are a lot of animals at Farm Sanctuary who are essentially resting after being rescued from really disturbing circumstances, and they seem pretty happy, if a bit scared of people. We met a nice turkey, some bunnies, some pigs who liked having their bellies rubbed, some goats (and very skittish sheep), and a cow that when standing all fours was at least two inches taller than me. In case you were wondering, Kim is vegan now and I'm mostly vegetarian with a large percentage of my diet being vegan now (I still eat sushi and cheese and jellybeans so I'm not really vegetarian or vegan).

Fast Food Nation is an excellent book and it has scared the shit out of me. I don't really eat fast food anymore anyway, except for Subway and In-N-Out Burger, which fortunately aren't that bad from a public health perspecfive. Still, I used to eat at McDonald's every now and then, and I never will again. No, it's not about teenagers spitting in burgers, it's about where the meat comes from, which is much more frightening.

PHP is pretty cool. I don't like the lack of exceptions, weak object orientation, difficult installation/integration process (gotta compile it *and* apache carefully or it Just Doesn't Work, particularly with additional modules such as the Oracle module I'm using), and crummy documentation. What I do like is that it's free, very simple (despite the crappy docs), and you can prototype in it really quickly without a compile cycle. I wouldn't want to be part of a 15-person team using PHP to build something mission critical, but I don't really think it's meant for that anyway. I will give the developers of PHP some extra props for doing a decent job hiding the implementation details from me of their runtime architecture and of the way the source code works. I don't understand the makefiles, the source tree, how it parses PHP pages, or how it plugs into Apache exactly, and that's great. All I had to do was dig up some documentation, follow the directions, try a couple of times, and it works.