American Thanksgiving

November 23rd, 2007, 7:59 pm PDT by Kat

So I haven’t blogged in months. I haven’t really done a lot that’s exciting. Too much work, too little time to do fun things. Oh, there was the Halloween party at Brian’s. Yummy pizza (Brian makes REALLY good pizza) and a misting pumpkin. It was also Mukta’s first time carving a pumpkin. 🙂 So yeah, Halloween was definitely fun. But between Halloween and Thanksgiving, nothing much has happened.

But, this weekend is American Thanksgiving (not to be confused with Canadian Thanksgiving, which is in October). This year I was going to spend Thanksgiving with Mukta, Buddy and Jenny over at Buddy and Jenny’s place. We were going to order Chinese food on Wednesday and reheat it for dinner on Thursday. Unfortunately, there was a family emergency, and Jenny flew home to be with her family early Thursday morning.

So instead, I volunteered to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve always wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner, so this was going to be the test of whether I could do it or not. I already had a frozen turkey breast in my freezer which I thawed and brined before roasting. I also made maple-glazed acorn squash, wild rice, barley and mushroom pilaf casserole, orange-glazed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and trifle made with chocolate cake. Mukta and Buddy came over, and we had a good time eating, drinking and hanging out. After they left (with leftovers!) I quickly went to sleep in preparation for Black Friday.

Black Friday is THE shopping day. It’s the official start of the Christmas shopping season. The name Black Friday comes from companies being “in the black” as opposed to “in the red” on this crazy shopping day. It’s comparable to Boxing Day in Canada. Stores open early, people wait outside in the cold, and inevitably people get trampled as they rush into stores for bargains.

So, the shopper that I am, I woke up at 3:30 am and went to Kohl’s for their 4 am opening. There I purchased wind-up flashlights for Greg’s parents. When I left the store at 4:20, I happened to look back at the checkout line. There must have been 80 people lined up to pay already and the store had only been open for 20 minutes! Good thing I knew exactly what I wanted, made a bee line to it, and got in line right away. It still took me a while to get through the line!

Next stop was Circuit City, which opened at 5:00. I got there at 4:30 and OMG! There must have been 200 people in line. So, I looked over my spreadsheet (yes, spreadsheet! this is serious shopping here people!) to check on the door-busters I wanted to buy and whether they were also available for the same price at the other stores. I made the strategic decision to forgo Circuit City since I probably wouldn’t get the items I wanted, and instead headed over to Staples, which had all of the things I wanted from Circuit City for the same price, and opened an hour later at 6 am. I got there just before 5 am, and was ~25th in line. On a side note, yesterday when I was inside cooking all day, it was nice and warm outside, which made my place fairly hot. However, last night a cold front rolled in, and we got sub-freezing temperatures overnight. So, this morning I waited in the cold for an hour outside of Staples. It wasn’t as bad as Boxing Day in Vancouver (which is generally warmer but wetter), but it was still pretty cold. The stores in Seattle that open freakishly early on Black Friday provide coffee and donuts. Here, not so much. My strategic planning paid off though. When the doors opened I, and everyone else, ran in and started grabbing at everything. It was pretty much “grab everything you can get your hands on and then after everything is gone, you can sort out what it was you grabbed – you can always put it back later”. I ended up buying everything on my list: a $130 webcam for $20, 4 GB jump drive for $18 and 4 GB SDHC card for $29! Needless to say the shopper in me was thrilled, and I didn’t feel too bad because none of it was for me! 🙂 Afterwards I grabbed some coffee (yup, I did all of that without having had any coffee!) and headed home to have some breakfast.

After fueling up on eggs and tater tots and then feeding the birds I decided to brave Southpoint Mall. This is the same mall that Mukta, Ryan and I went to last weekend to see the lighting of the 50′ Christmas tree. I wasn’t really expecting to buy anything at the mall. I just wanted to see what it was like (last year I didn’t go to the mall until the Saturday after Thanksgiving). After circling the parking lot about 20 times, I saw a couple holding a Build-a-Bear box. They waved me down and signaled to their parking spot. Bear people are always so nice. I must have had good shopping karma because the spot was the second space from the building, so I didn’t have to trek through the parking lot. I ended up with a shirt, a sweater and a pair of boots – all for me! 🙂

Then it was off to Target. This year there really wasn’t anything in the Target flyer that seemed like an exceptional deal, so going to Target late in the day seemed to make sense. There really wasn’t anything great there, so I ended up just getting some groceries.

And now I’m resting on the couch, attempting to recover from Thanksgiving Thursday and Black Friday. All in all, a very good holiday this year! 🙂

My Stroke

November 22nd, 2007, 3:43 pm PDT by Greg

Do you remember Estelle Getty’s character in Golden Girls? The premise was that she had a stroke and lost the ability to filter what she said, thus always said what was on her mind, no matter how abrasive.

I think I had that stroke.

I have sent no less than seven potentially inflammatory emails in the last 24 hours. Tones have ranged from “has the potential to cause problems in the future” to “please increase your stress level right now”.

And it feels good.

Several things seem to have recently come to a point where they need to be dealt with. The options are pretty much “ignore”, “placate”, or “try to fix”. I am basically just opting for the third… and doing it directly.

I think this all started when I went on a co-op site visit with Harriet in the summer. One of the students we visited was a little awkward and kept playing with his pen and the desk chair beside him during the meeting. About 5 minutes after it started bugging me, Harriet said “Put the pen down and stop playing with the chair. It makes people think you’re not listening.” My internal reaction was “OMG, you can say that out loud?”

For example, I was talking to Amanda earlier today (who is, of course, in favour of this behaviour). We were, as always, discussing the functioning of the School. My argument in favour of giving myself a potentially horrible future task was “people’s lives get ruined all the time; why not mine?”

This cannot be healthy behaviour.

OMG, toys!

November 12th, 2007, 3:30 pm PDT by Greg

Pay attention to this sentence, because it’s not one you have probably heard before: This week, I bought three new laptops for $800.

This morning, the One Laptop Per Child project opened up their give one, get one program, and I was there. For US$400, I bought two OLPC XO laptops. One goes to me, one to some kid in a developing country.

So, I suppose that’s a halfway decent thing to do. But, I mostly wanted to get my hands on one of these things that we have all heard so much about.

Second, I ordered an ASUS Eee. For $400, it’s a more-or-less fully functional Linux laptop and about the size of a small hardcover book. I’m hoping this one has a little more real utility.

The specs sound a little thin for a modern laptop: 900MHz, 512 MB RAM, 4GB storage (flash, not hard drive), 800×480 display. But, that would have been a pretty snappy laptop 4 or 5 years ago. How much has my workflow really changed in the last 4 years? [A laptop isn’t a primary PC for me. It’s a thing to use when not in my office or at home.]

I know low-end mainstream laptops are bumping down in the $500–600 range, but there’s that part about weighing less than a kilogram and fitting in my man-purse. How could this not be ideal for travelling?

I’m also hoping it can ride on a iRobot Create and run Player for a sweet little autonomous robotics platform. If they come out with the $200 model, that would give us a full setup for <$500 that high school kids could play with.

BTW, thanks all for the interest in my CMPT 120 assignment. I went with controlling the ghosts in a pacman-like game. That should keep ’em busy.