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Playing Father Christmas

Tonight I had the rare privilege of keeping the dream alive for some 70 kids who came to our street to visit with Santa. Our street gets totally decked out in lights for the month (we even got covered in the SF Chronicle) and to cap things off, we have a little Santa’s workshop thing going on the median right in front of my house.

Santa duty is on a volunteer basis and, wanting to make a good impression with my neighbors, I jumped in with both feet and signed myself up for an evening. Izumi told the kids I had to step out for a few hours to take care of something and I ducked into the garage to change into the suit which the fellow from the night before brought over for me earlier in the day. The beard was kind of funky smelling so I spritzed it with some cologne, threw on an extra sweater for warmth and then threw open the garage door for my 6:30 appearance.

I had some quick explaining to do to the startled kids that wondered why Santa was coming out of a garage to which I said that it’s the best place for the sled b/c parking is tough in this town. I settled into the chair that had been set out for me and then realized that, (a) the cologne smell was going to make me woozy, (b) I couldn’t see a thing b/c of the spotlight on me and the condensation on my glasses, and (c) I was going to sweat up a storm with all this gear on because the wig and hat were actually quite warm.

No matter, my elves, which were older kids from the neighborhood, moved things along nicely and whispered each child’s name into my ear before they approached. It was great to see their eyes when I would say to them, “Jose! How good to see you again! Now, tell me young man, you have been good haven’t you?” In one glance I could tell if they were good or bad because they were either happy to see me or looked at their toes in guilt. A few words of advice later (“be sure to make your bed each morning, pick up after yourself, and eat all your veggies”) and then I would get an education on the state of the toy market.

Most popular request? Bikes followed by Gameboys.

Then there was the handwritten note slipped to me by one boy when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. It was a simple boy’s request for some things to make his life better:

  • Juice
  • Stuffed Cat & Dog
  • Clock
  • Garbage Can for Room
  • Telephone
  • Rescue Hero Hyper Jet
  • Green Long Hair for Daddy
  • 100 Quarters ($25)

Some things seem so mundane, like a shopping list, then there’s the Rescue Hero, an indulgence, and the “Green Long Hair for Daddy” – I would love to know the full story behind that one but alas I didn’t have that much time.

The other note slipped my way was from a father who had scrawled on the back of an envelope:

Santa,
Please mention to Jonathan to be sure to take the rubber snake off our garage roof so it doesn’t frighten Prancer.

When I discussed this with Jonathan, he almost lost his cap! He was just beside himself and solemnly promised to tell his father about Prancer’s ophiciophobia.

Good fun, it was totally worth it.

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Current Events

Thai Brunch in Berkeley

We finally made it to the Thai Brunch place in Berkeley that my sister has been wanting to take us since we arrived. Both Dav and my sister have blogged it and now it’s our turn. Nice to start off the day with a spice kick but be sure to arrive when they open at 10am. By 11:30 the place is teeming.

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Office

Office Party

dsc02512.jpgOn Friday, my company held its Christmas Party in its new offices in San Francisco which are getting spiffed up for us to move into next week. The place was decked out in holiday lights with screens for a DJ to play slow motion snowboarding movies as background to his mix. It looked smashing. I was too busy to take many pictures but my moblogging sister covered for me.

Julia couldn’t wait to wear the dress she picked out for the event ($10 at the local consignment store), sleeping with the dress by her side every evening of the week leading up to the party.

Towards the end, there was a secret Santa gift exchange. Tyler won a Moleskin notebook (which he gave to dad), some funky socks (which he gave to mom), and a $10 Starbucks gift card (which he kept for himself). Julia scored the game, Operation to the Ooohs & Ahhhs of the collective crowd. When was the last time you played this game?

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Office

MSN Desktop Search

I can barely keep up! On Monday, MSN announced the beta of their Desktop search toolbar. At first glance it appears to be the re-branded version of Lookout, the desktop search tool that was purchased back in July. MSN is calling it a “suite” which kind of goes against the popular thinking of these tools as a unified, all-in-one, search utility.

A couple of comments after playing around with it:

  • doesn’t support indexing of .pst files. Although there is a file tree in which you can specify folders you want included in the crawl, for some reason the default folder where the Outlook Archive files are stored is hidden.
  • doesn’t index the browser cache – a feature that freaked a lot of people out at first when Google Desktop Search launched but was later appreciated. Bonus points to the first Mircrosoft competitor¬† (Google or Yahoo) that adds Firefox cache to the index crawl.
  • doesn’t allow you to drill down to exclude specific Outlook folders from the crawl. This is a problem for anyone using add-ins such as SpamBayes to manage their junk mail. You certainly don’t want junk mail in a search index.

Reading through the comments on the MSN Search blog, Scoble mentions that that the Lookout code was completely re-written from scratch. I wonder what they changed?

My main nit is that now they’ve integrated search results under the Microsoft umbrella, it would be great to add drag and drop so that you can pull things out of the results window into specific folders either in Outlook or the File Manager.

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Current Events

FCC and Doraemon

fccdoraemon.JPGThis is old news but Terrie Lloyd, who’s always good a picking up tidbits for his excellent email newsletter “Terrie’s Take” highlights the striking resemblence of the new FCC mascot, “Broadband” to Doraemon, the cartoon every Japanese kid knows by sight. Turns out the publisher of Doaemon, Shougakkan, is going to take legal action but it’ll be interesting to see how a suit lodged by a private Japanese company works out against a US government organization.

It will be interesting to see if a Japanese copyright claim against a US government department will be received with as as much vigor as trade disputes in the opposite direction. Expect to see more about this on slow news days on NHK and other Japanese media…

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Office

Yahoo Desktop Search

Yahoo! throws down a card in the ever escalating search wars. Based on X1, the Yahoo engine will not only index content on your hard drive but, according to John Battelle’s information, will also  reach out and find relevant information in and among the Yahoo properties.

Look for release early next year.

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Home

Santa Mail

Izumi’s been feeling under the weather for the past few days with a stomach virus so I’ve been at home looking after the kids. I have a profound appreciation for what it takes to look after the little tykes full time – I’m absolutely knackered after only a few days of it and now, as we try and catch some shut eye, there’s a band playing Christmas music under our window.

One thing I tried to keep them occupied was to have both Julia and Tyler write their letters to Santa. The mailbox is literally across the street from our house with the neighborhood organizing to take the letters over to the local old folks homes where the Seniors there take the time to respond to each letter. Some of the older kids have caught on as I read in the paper one kids letter from this year (they publish the best ones in the paper) said something to the effect,

“Last year you sent me a letter that had an Oakland postmark on it. I know that the North Pole is nowhere near Oakland. Please explain.”

This ought to keep those old folks on their toes.

OhmyNews interviews Dan Gillmor

OhmyNews, one of the very first citizen journalist sites, interviews Dan Gillmor on his thinking behind why he’s leaving the San Jose Mercury News to start his own venture. In response to how he feels about the decision:

I’m both excited and terrified (laughter) and a little bit sad, because I’m leaving a wonderful, wonderful job, working with terrific people whom I trust and admire and respect.

And I’m stepping out of a business that I love. I love newspapers. But I hope that whatever we do is something that at some level newspapers can use, once newspapers decide to take the step that I think is necessary — which is to be part of this new world.

I’m hoping we will have created something that they can say "Well, we can do stuff like that too." That’s my goal, to do something that is useful not just for old media but for all of us.

Christmas Party

dsc02469.jpgWe had a gaggle of folks over for dinner on the weekend. Dav rolled up on his motorbike, fresh from a local Santarchy gathering in his St. Nick suit, and was joined by Mie. Here they are, pictured in t-shirts the kids made for them for Christmas. We also had over a bunch of old friends from our past that we knew from Japan or Guam and they joined us with some new friends that we’ve made here in Alameda.

Izumi cooked up a ton of food and we all gathered around to celebrate the kick off of the holidays. We all got so wrapped up in things that we missed the concert that was being held on our street. You know it’s a good party when the music gets drowned out by the conversation!

dsc02475.jpgDoug’s been making progress on getting friendly with Julia and, as you can see in the photo, she’s warmed up to him quite a bit as the Yarringtons become more of a regular visitor.

The kids had a great time – I remember the excitement of having guests when I was little – getting to stay up late, all the attention – I think we finally go them off to bed around 11pm.

Thank you all who made it! I hope that we can make this an annual event.