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House-Hunting, a Play in 12 Acts. . .

. . . and if feels like we’re still in the First Act! Another weekend of driving around looking at open houses and hoping that the right place will fall in our laps. We’ve narrowed down where we want to live to such a small area that we pretty much know each house on the market there. We drive the streets one last time just to see if there’s some FSBO that slipped past without us knowing. We’ve got three internet filters running as well as a buyer’s agent scanning the MLS every morning. It’s pretty sad.

Tyler knows what each realtor’s signs look like and shouts out when he sees one. Either Izumi or I will say, “no, that’s the one that reeks of cats” or, “that the one with the psycho neighbors” or, “that one had that weird fishpond thing in the backyard.” We know this market!

Because there was nothing new to look at, we ventured up into the Berkeley hills just so I could show Izumi what it was like up there. After winding up and down some narrow hilltop roads with Izumi and Tyler both saying that the cliffside roads were scaring the bejezus out of them, Julia threw up. I guess we’re not going to live in the hills!

This evening, all tired out and a bit punch drunk after being cooped up in the car all weekend, we went to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner. The food was good and the service great but when the kids starting dancing in their seats to a version of My Favorite Things played on traditional Chinese instruments (trust me, it sounded odd) we all bust out laughing. We so very much want a place to call home!

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in his hands

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Urinal Cake

Tyler came up with another good one today. Why the heck do they call those things they toss in the urinal a “cakes” anyway. Ah the mysteries of life.

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“It’ll blow up”

Tyler is just full of questions and sometimes he just asks them to see if I’m listening. I have to admit, towards the end of a full day of this, I begin to wane and sometimes throw out random responses to see if he’s listening.

Tyler: What happens if we mix your toothpaste with my toothpaste in the sink?

Me (tired): It’ll blow up.

Tyler (incredulously): Really?? How come it’s not blowing up now?

Me: Ah, well we’re in Alameda, there’s something special about the water here. . .

I’m trying to teach him that when the answer is, “it’ll blow up” that is the code for, “Daddy is tired of answering your questions now, try again later with less urgency.

I now understand why my father once bought me volumes 1 & 2 of this huge book titled “Tell Me Why” which I now see has three volumes.

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New Category: Alameda

As we begin to put down roots (no, we don’t have a permanent home yet) I thought it only fair that I create a new category to bring together all anticipated observations about our new home. Here are some snippets:

– Alameda residents are pround of their city. “A small island off the coast of Oakland” is how one person describes it to outsiders. Most of the local publications (there are two local newspapers) refer to Alameda as “the Island” with a capital “I”

– We just got Izumi’s new cellphone (Verizon provides the best coverage on the Island) at a small local store on Park Street and looking at all the signed photos on the wall, I discoverd that this little mom & pop store has provided almost all the Oakland Raiders with their cell phones.

– I’ve become a big fan of Topix’s Alameda page. A great resource for local news and information about the area.

– The Island has a population of 58,000 and used to host a large naval base which was given over to the county in 1998. They are currently coverting the land to a mixture of housing, high-end shopping (someone mentioned a Nordstrom’s), and buisiness parks.

– Alameda is very convenient. A $5 ferry ride takes you over to the Ferry Terminal in downtown San Francisco. Oakland International Airport is only 10 minutes away and is a hub for Southwest and JetBlue, two of the leading discount domestic airlines, Aloha Air also flys out of Oakland to Hawaii. The Express “O” bus leaves from Alameda over the bus lane to downtown San Francisco. Drive 10 minutes East to the 880 and you can loop around North to the Bay Bridge to San Francisco or South to San Jose.

– Alameda has the feel of a small, semi-urban neighborhood in Los Angeles, circa – 1940. There are cute little 15 foot high lamps that line some of the streets. The houses all have really flimsy locks on them and when I asked, they said that the crime rate is extremely low. Put more simply by another gentleman we were talking to, “There are only three ways on and off the Island. If you have any trouble, call the police and there’s now way for the bad guys to get away.”

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Gold Medal

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They did it!

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Olympians

Big race coming up for two Olympians that I used to work with at Factiva. Pete Cipollone and Mike Wherley are racing in the Men’s Eight Finals on Sunday.

Wish them Godspeed!

Web as Platform

In the initial post that kicked off this blog, I said that I would focus on how the promise of the ASP/Web Services vision is being realized with the connection of various web-based APIs into a new type of platform which lives on the internet. One way to experience the power of this vision is using outputs of each of these services and embedding them into your weblog template. Once you learn how easy it is to pull together a page of contextually related information that updates every time it’s refreshed, you start to think how other things can be connected together.

Outputs of one service can act as inputs to other services to further process and refine information via relationships that we set up in advance. It’s basic programming but using web services instead of self-enclosed objects, classes and libraries.

Jason Kottke brings the meme up-to-date with some of the latest services out there and thinks how a bundle of them could make for a comprehensive personal information management system:

TypePad for weblogs
Flickr for photos
Upcoming for your public calendar
iCal for your private calendar
Gmail for email
Feedburner as an agent to look for updates to any of these services

Kottke goes on to say:

Think of it like Unix…small pieces loosely joined. Each specific service handles what it’s good at. Gmail for mail, iCal for calendars, TypePad for short bits of text, etc. Web client, desktop client, it doesn’t much matter…whatever the user is most comfortable with. Then you just (just! ha!) pipe all these together however you want with services (or desktop apps) handling any filtering/processing that you need, and output it to the file/device/service of your choice. New services can be inserted into the process as they become available. You don’t need to wait for Gmail to output RSS…just pipe your email to Feedburner and they’ll hook you up.

One other benefit that comes to mind as I move my identity from one PC to another and one ISP to the next as part of a job change and relocation – distributed data is ubiquitous and never needs to moved from client to client.

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Temporary Space

We left Pennington, our home of four years, in the early morning fog to catch our flight to California. The limo driver said that he’s been taking a lot of people out to the airport for their moves out of New Jersey. This echoed what our mover said in that they’ve been extremely busy because Sony just shut down their New Jersey campus and have moved a lot of people out West. It seem like those involved in the relocation business have a good sense of the economy and from talking with them, it seems like things are picking up. The tide rises and the boats start to drift around.

We’re now in a furnished apartment in Alameda, where we eventually want to live. More house-hunting this weekend but at least we’ve got a rental contract that we can take to the School District office so we can get Tyler enrolled in the local Kindergarten.

I’ll try and get the digital camera hooked up so I can post some pictures from our various goodbye parties. Lots of tears and I think it really hit Tyler pretty hard in ways that we will not fully appreciate until we see how things go at his new school. It’s always sad to leave friends behind.

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350 boxes on the wall. . .

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Just got through packing up 350 boxes of stuff that’s all going on a trailer truck tomorrow. When we moved here four years ago we had 150 boxes on half a container, my how we’ve grown.