The State of Al

My lapses in writing here are getting to be damn near monumental. I'll do a brief recap here in case you don't know anything about my life at the moment. Given my infrequency here, that's not entirely out of the question.

I have been working out of the San Francisco office of G-town for over a year now. I love it, I love the people, I love the city, I love the weather, I love everything about it here.

I also love my wife.

Initially when she was accepted to Columbia, we figured I'd just apply for a transfer to the NYC office, and things would move along as normal. But then the situation changed making it impossible for me to transfer to tne NYC office. This past August she moved to NYC to go to grad school at Columbia University. (To get her MFA in Theatre.) I opted to stay in SF rather than give up my job and look for a new one in NYC. As you might imagine, that's thrown a bit of a wrench in the whole "being together" aspect of our marriage.  We gave up our SF apartment, and I've been in a rented room situation for the past few months.  It's been tough being without bunnyslope for such long stretches of time... we've managed to see each other about every month since she's moved, but a weekend here or there is no real substitute for living together.  I pretty much gave up hope on moving to NYC anytime soon and we started discussing how to deal with Sarah's summer break. (Would she come to SF? would she stay in NYC? where would she work? should we sublet the NYC apartment? etc.)

This past Thursday I got a call from my boss, JR.  I immediately assumed something bad was coming, cuz I don't really get calls from the boss that often.  Was I fired? Was I going to get moved back down to Mountain View? Did I violate some company policy? Was I still interested in moving to New York?

Wait, WHAT?

As of March I will be starting a new position at G-town NYC.  I'll be doing a whole new job in a whole new city. I'm going to be a manager (eek!) I'm a bit freaked out about it, but I will be reunited with Sarah!(!!!!) which makes all obstacles seem tiny and unimportant. :)

Al's Guide to cleaning up your Windows computer

I was asked recently by a friend to help her clean up / speed up her computer. (Actually, I'm asked to do this by about half a dozen people daily at work, but that's besides the point.)

Rather than writing it out in an email, I thought perhaps a publicly accessible LJ post would be more useful.

Before You Start
You will need some little software tools and utilities to make your PC cleanup easier.
Download these free utilities:
CCleaner installs itself like a typical application.
Autoruns is a zip file containing a couple .exe files and a help file or two. Extract the autoruns.exe file and put it in the c:\windows\system32 folder.

Part 1: Programs on Startup

Windows programs like to install themselves to run on startup. Most of these items don't need to be running as soon as you turn your computer on, and quite frequently they don't need to be running at all, ever. They're what's known as memory resident
processes, and the less of them you have, the speedier and more responsive your computer will be. The autoruns application you just downloaded and copied into your system32 folder is perfect for hunting down extraneous applications set to run on startup.
  • Start > Run > autoruns > OK
If this is the first time you're using autoruns, it will probably prompt you with an OK button or two. You will then get a multi-tabbed window and it'll scan through your computer slowly populating a big list of technical looking stuff. Do not panic.
  • When the scanning is done, you should be able to click the "Options" menu item and select "Hide Microsoft and Windows Entries".
  • Hit the F5 key to refresh the list (it'll rescan).
This will (theoretically) prevent you from accidentally turning off something vital to making Windows work properly. It also makes it much easier to spot the extraneous stuff.
  • Select the Logon tab
The "Everything" tab is overwhelming and not really within the focus of this article. For our purposes we'll stick with the Logon tab.

There's really no right or wrong answer when it comes to what you should run on startup. It's entirely a personal preference thing. If you have antivirus software (you should) it's best to leave that running on startup, but you can probably do without things like skype, google talk, AIM, quicktime, itunes, winamp, and those sorts of things.
  • Uncheck the box next to any programs you would like to disable from running on startup.
  • You do not need to click save in autoruns. Just uncheck what you don't want, and close the window.
Part 2: CCleaning your registry and temp files
CCleaner (Crap Cleaner) is a great program which saves us both a lot of time and explaining.
  • Close all web browsers you have running. (Yes, even this browser window. Copy this into a word document or bookmark this page or something.)
  • Open CCleaner, it should default to the "Cleaner" tab.
  • In the "Windows" sub-tab, I like to select all checkboxes except for "Wipe Free Space".
  • In the "Applications" sub-tab, I check everything except my Firefox and Chrome cookies. (This just saves me from having to redo my preferences on various websites.)
  • Click "Run Cleaner" (The cleaning process can several minutes, depending on how much stuff it finds on your system.)
When the Cleaner finishes, it should give you a spiffy report saying how much hard drive space it freed up.
  • Change to the Registry tab in CCleaner.
  • All checkboxes should be checked.
  • Click "Scan for Issues"
  • When the scan completes, click "Fix selected issues"
  • I typically choose to fix all issues and say "no" when prompted if I want to save changes to a file. If you're feeling cautious, feel free to save the changes to a .reg file so you can undo them later.
Your machine should now be booting and running a bit smoother. Close out of CCleaner and reboot to let the changes take effect.

Part 3: Further cleanup - remove crap applications

There's no way for me to detail here all the applications which may have somehow found their way onto your Windows machine. Hopefully you have some idea of what software you use frequently and what software you find irritating. Chances are there might be some annoying toolbar(s) installed on your system you didn't intend to install, but piggybacked their way onto your machine when you installed some other program. Revo Uninstaller is like the regular Windows Add/Remove Programs on steroids. When you uninstall an application through Revo, it'll run the applications built-in uninstaller, and then after that's done, it'll scan to make sure every last remnant of the application is really truly gone. I use it in "moderate" mode, but if you're feeling cautious, go ahead n' use "safe" mode.

Part 4: Defragment!

So, defragmenting is not quite the panacea it's been trumped up to be, but it's still handy to do every now and then. Over time, your computer writes your data in various physical spots on your hard drive. When it can't find a big enough spot to write a full file contiguously in one location, it'll break it up into smaller bits to fit it wherever's available. This is known as fragmentation. The reason this is undesirable is that it means your hard drive's little needle has to jump all over the place to read that file back when you want to access that data. That slows things down for you. Defragmenting forces your computer to reorganize your data physically to avoid fragmentation. It's slow and typically takes many hours to do it, hence I recommend running it overnight while you sleep.
  • Start > Run > dfrg.msc > OK
  • Disk Defragmenter should open up. Click the "Defragment" button. Go to bed.

Part 5: Notes and Stuff
  • Ideally you should have at least 15% of your drive free for optimal system performance. This gives your computer enough space to shuffle things around for defragmentation.
  • You may also want to head over to the Microsoft Updates site to make sure your system is running all the latest fixes from Microsoft. They release security fixes on a pretty regular basis.
  • Run one antivirus software program. More is not better, in this instance. Antivirus programs running at the same time will compete with one another. I recommend Microsoft Security Essentials because it's free and doesn't slow my system down.
  • Don't use Internet Explorer if you can help it. IE 8 is better than previous editions, but IE is still the #1 entry point for viruses and malware to get on your system. Firefox and Chrome are much less vulnerable.
  • Be aware of what you have running in your system tray (that's the little area where the clock lives). Each of those little icons is a program which is running in the background. If you have more than half a dozen things running in there then it's probably time to examine what you're running on startup.

Just popping back in...

Time for my tri-annual post! (I can recall a time when I posted something almost daily.  Tri-Annual? This is just sad...)

I have talked to a few of you more recently than others, but I'm going to go with the lowest-common-denominator here, and assume you all haven't heard from me in a damn long time.

I'm still happy, employed and living in San Francisco... for the moment.  It kinda feels like any of those things might change with very little notice these days though, which bears some explanation.

Sarah, the amazingly talented woman that she is, has been accepted to Columbia for their MFA program in theatre.  It's a ridiculously exclusive thing to get into, being that they only accept 18 students per year, and that's out of several hundred that audition.  I'm very excited for her. :)

However, this basically means that I'm facing the rather difficult position of moving to NYC or living in SF without Sarah for at least the next 3 years.  It doesn't take long for me to decide that the former is definitely better than the latter.  I don't want to leave SF.  I love my job, I love my apartment, I love my bay area friends... I'm comfortable here.  I still feel like there's so much of life in CA that I haven't even begun to take advantage of it all.  And yet I'm leaving.

I'm hoping to be able to keep my job and simply get a transfer to the NYC office.  I give it about a 50% likelihood of happening.  It almost certainly won't happen at the same time that Sarah needs to be in NY for school, which will mean some sort of staged migration... her probably going to NY first, and me following along whenever I can.  Hopefully not too long thereafter. [hope hope]

I have jokingly commanded gut that he will move to NYC with us and be our roommate.  He agreed, so uh... assuming he's not lying, that's at least a bit of a bonus for my NYC move.  It'll also be nice to see the rest of my NYC peeps.  Perhaps give me a chance to re-forge some neglected friendships.

I'm definitely not looking forward to having real winters again.  I thought I'd escaped snow once and for all.  [sigh]

I've made some amazing friendships here. It'll be very hard to see those dwindle with the whole time/distance thing.  Despite my percieved ability to make friends quickly, it still feels like it takes a long time to build up a list of friends to the point where I feel comfortable.

That's an odd thought.  I require a rather lengthy list of friends in my vicinity before I feel comfortable.  I wonder what the critical number is?  Weird.

It's late, I should get to bed. Perhaps I'll post more soon, since there is, in fact, more to post...

Today, a recap

It's been a ridiculously long time since I've so much as glanced at LJ, let alone posted anything. I always have some grandiose plans to rejoin the ranks of LJ and spill all manner of interesting things about my life onto the intarwebs, but then life sidetracks me and I end up with... no LJ post. Today I will shrug off the curse of no time for LJ... if only just for today.

My wife Sarah and I spent the whole day together. (Still getting used to the concept of having a wife, but it's a good getting-used-to.) It was an absolutely gorgeous day today. We rode our bikes down the mountain we call home and to a great breakfast place in The Mission called Boogaloo's. Typically there's a line out the door and down the block to get a seat there... today, no waiting at all, just rode right up, locked our bikes, and sat down at one of the sidewalk tables outside. Damn good coffee cake... not quite as good as Hobee's (for those of you bay area peeps who're familiar with them) but still darn good.

We overhear some people talking about heading down to the Civic Center (that's SF city hall) to protest the passing of CA Proposition 8 (repealing gay marriage). Boogaloo's is about 2 miles away from Civic Center and even that far away there's an obvious presence of people heading towards CC to go to the protest. People carrying signs and wearing Tshirts, etc. We finished up our breakfast and headed off to join the protest.

It was a huge throng of people. We stayed for about 45 minutes, meandering our way through the crowd, trying to hear the people shouting stuff into the PA system, but it was difficult at best. The crowd just kept growing too... by the time we left it had nearly doubled and showed no signs of letting up anytime soon. It made me happy to know that while greater California may be full of homophobic religious zealotry, my town is about as polar opposite of that as one can get.

I have a game I like to play, in which I try to spot at least 5 people I know from work every weekend. This is just my best guesstimate as to how many people I bump into on average, but I lately I've come to think of it as a quota. I only saw 2 at the protest. I'm sure there were probably many more, but spotting them would've been harder than finding Waldo in a pile of fake Waldos.

Sarah pointed out that we were being rather cavalier about the gay marriage issue. Which, admittedly, we were. We were mostly just there people watching. I mean, I'm glad to have been there and shown my support, but when it came right down to it, I felt like a spectator more than a participant. I don't agree with Prop 8, I didn't vote for it, I'll gladly sign petitions to have it repealed, but when it comes right down to it, it doesn't affect me directly, and thus I'm less compelled to take significant action about it. Which I realize is total B.S. -- human rights / equality issues are about me, they're about everyone. Sure, maybe this time I'm not the oppressed one, but what about the next time some dumbass proposition gets put on the ballot? In retrospect, I'm ashamed I didn't get more involved while I was there. :\

We rode our way west away from the protest and over to Golden Gate Park. We stopped to look at the bison. They weren't doin' much... just sitting around in the sun. Y'know, as bison tend to do.

We rode further west. We came across some guys racing model speed boats in one of the ponds. Those things are freakin' fast. I'd estimate they were going at least 40mph... which, in a smallish pond, is quite impressive. There was a guy using a fishing rod trying to hook and reel in one of the other boats which had apparently run out of fuel in the middle of the pond. I think he succeeded in rescuing it right about the time we left.

We continued all the way west to Ocean Beach. Ocean Beach was pretty busy, it being a beautiful day n' all. Lots of surfers. Sarah n' I went barefoot and played some frisbee. I sometimes forget I live near the ocean, because I rarely see it. Yes, sadly I live like 4 miles away from the ocean and I almost never see it. It's not exactly on the way to anywhere I go frequently, and it's generally obscured from my view by a mountain. I've adapted to living near mountains, but the ocean still feels weird.

We left the beach and headed back through GG park. We stopped for some Jamba Juice. We headed back to SoMa (neighborhood South of Market Street) to check out the GreenFestival which was pretty awesome.  Lots of neo-hippies hocking their wares.  Sarah shopped for some pants.  We had a knish.  (You'd be amazed how hard it is to find a damn knish in this town.)

We biked back to The Mission to catch the bus up the hill home.  (Sarah doesn't like biking up the hill. I've mostly come to terms with having to bike up it.)  We sat on the bus bench and waited... suddenly surrounded by 3 obnoxious teenage girls and an even more obnoxious teenage boy.  Seriously, they were standing around us like we were a damn coffee table.  Gotta love urban youth. :\

We got on the bus... made it about 8 blocks, and then the guy across from us starts puking all over himself.  Not once, not twice, not even three times... FOUR TIMES IN A ROW.   He was barely conscious as it was... presumably drunk as hell.  He looked a bit like Terrence Howard but older, shorter, and covered in puke.  I alerted the bus driver, who promptly stopped the bus, and confronted Not-Terrence.  Not-Terrence had no idea where he was or where he was going.  I think the bus driver managed to determine that Not-Terrence was, in fact, trying to get somewhere in The Mission, which is exactly where the bus had just left (we were in Noe Valley now).  Upon ejecting Not-Terrence from the bus, the bus driver told everyone to get off the bus because it was no longer in service.  MUNI policy dictates that biohazards must be cleaned up before a bus can be in use again.  We all got off the bus.  Some woman started bitching about not-Terrence
being so inconsiderate and now an entire busload of people have to wait 20 minutes for the next bus.  Sarah ranted a bit (to me, not the woman... we left her behind) that it's better to have sickly drunk people on the bus than to have them trying to drive themselves home.  I would have to agree.

We stopped by at the market on the way home to get groceries for dinner. I was impatient for the next bus so I biked up the hill to get the car to drive back down to pick Sarah and the groceries up.  Stir fry.  We watched some Buffy as we ate it.  Yes, you read that right. I'm finally watching Buffy.  Which has the unfortunate side-effect of denying me the title of being the world's foremost authority on a show I've never watched.  I kinda liked being an expert on something I know nothing about.  Ah well.

Which brings me to ... posting this LJ!

* * *

As most of you know, I've been working for The Chocolate Factory down in Mountain View for the past year.  They treat me amazingly well, which includes a chartered bus to drive me to and from work every day. Which is tough to beat, but Mountain View is about an hour away... and an hour on a bus is still an hour on a bus, no matter how nice the bus is.  The commute means I wake up at 6:30am every day, work a 9am to 6pm shift, have a bit of dinner, catch a shuttle bus home, and on an average day, get back 8pm.  I then go to bed around 10pm.  Rinse, repeat... Monday thru Friday.  If they didn't treat me so well I'd never have stuck with this job.  I love my coworkers, I love what I do, and well... the benefits are really nice, so yeah, I put up with the fact that I have very little life outside of work.  As part of my job, I and my fellow TechStop Administrators are  theoretically cogs in a big machine, able to be moved to any building in a time of need.  They rearrange what buildings we work in with little or no warning.  When I first started, I moved from buildings CL4 to 1501 to 1945 and then back to CL4... all within about 3 months.  It made it difficult to get to know the people in any given building, being moved that frequently.  Also, different buildings house different departments, and with each new department comes a bevy of specialized software and hardware issues.  To be really effective one needs to be familiar with the needs of the people in any given building... which is hard to do when they keep moving you.

Back in February of this year they finally stopped moving me around and let me settle in building CL4.  I've gotten to know the majority of the people in the building, and I've made some good friends there.  It's nice to feel at home when at work -- after all, I spend a large portion of my life there.

This past Friday my team lead calls me in for a quickie meeting at 4:55pm.  There's an opening in the SF office -- do I want it?!

I love CL4.  I love The Chocolate Factory campus. I love my friends in Mountain View...  but working out of the SF office means regaining ~3 hours per day of my life.  I can bike to work in less than 30 minutes.  No more bus.  No more waking up at dawn.

No more CL4.

As of Monday I'm a full time city dweller once again.  It's been a long time.  I'm kinda annoyed they gave me so little warning... I didn't even have a chance to say some proper goodbyes to all my CL4 peeps. :(  I think I may request a special "one last day" at CL4 sometime soon.  I know several of my fellow TechStop guys would love an excuse to work in SF for a day.  We'll see.  Meanwhile, I'm excited to start my "new" old job. :)

Beefhoven has a lot in common with Aretha Franklin

First, a little background.

gut recently purchased the amazing gem of audio that is The Songs of West Side Story as done by various artists. If you bother to click that link and read the track listing, you'll know that the various artists in question are pretty much nothing I normally listen to. So, as Sarah and I are sitting and listening to the disc as best we can (we did cave in and skip through most of the Kenny Loggins & Wynnona song) along came Somewhere as done by Aretha Franklin. And as I listened to (and immitated ) her vocal stylings Sarah made the comment that the melody was totally lost and unrecognizable. I tended to agree.

Aretha has reached that point in her diva career where she no longer has to rehearse.

She may not have even listened to or known the original song.

I'm not even sure she had a copy of the lyrics sheet.

I imagine the recording session went something like this:


ARETHA: What song am I doing?

LOWLY STUDIO PEON: It's called "Somewhere". It's from West Side Story.

ARETHA: West Side wha?

LOWLY STUDIO PEON: West Side Story, it's a musica-

ARETHA: I'M ARETHA FRANKLIN, BITCH. Get back in that booth. Record me.

[ARETHA proceeds to sing the word "somewhere" repeatedly flailing her vocal range with reckless abandon, while some poor backup singers attempt to hold together some semblance of a tune.]

ARETHA: SooooOOOOooooOOOOOoooommmmmeewheeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeerrrreeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEE

[ARETHA snaps her fingers. LOWLY WATER PEON appears as if by magic with a silver platter with a solitary bottle of water on it. ARETHA swipes the bottle from the platter without even glancing at it. She gulps a few gulps, then drops the half-drank bottle on the ground.]

[ARETHA exits.]

* * * *

What's funny is that there's a remarkable similarity between what I will now refer to as the Aretha Method, and the Beefhoven Method of coming up with a song. There is no rehearsal, there's no preparation, there's no lyrics sheet... you just play something, sing/scream something, and record whatever happens. It's as though they're flipsides of the same coin... Beefhoven is unfamous (why is that not infamous?) because we don't require discernable tune, and Aretha is so famous that she doesn't require one either.

I now fully expect Beefhoven to win a Grammy someday.

For a special treat, compare and contrast!

Aretha's Somewhere

To, well... let's just randomly go with Truck Truck by Beefhoven.

Things I've been up to

I realize it's been a very long time since I've said anything here, and some of you are potentially wondering what the hell I'm up to these days.  Here's a very brief (because I really ought to get to bed) synopsis, in no particular order! hoorj~ for unordered lists.

  • I got a new bike, which I use every chance I get. (it's a very pretty Surly Cross Check) pictures!
  • I walked approximately 5 miles of the 7 miles that is Bay to Breakers (along with bunnyslope, davedash, ketiya, Craig and overbo) pictures!
  • I saw The Cure play at HP Pavilion in San Jose with bunnyslope and rannyrooster (no pictures yet)
  • I fought (and lost) in the first San Francisco Cardboard Tube Fighting League Tournament of the 2008 season. pictures!
  • I got a root canal and an ensuing crown put on my tooth! (no pictures, but also no pain!)
  • I have a horribly irritating cough. Hopefully it will go away soon. (no pictures of that either)
  • internetsdave and attickah are in town visiting this weekend! yay! (no pictures yet)

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the intarwebs for providing things like Which, while rather mean and in poor taste, amuses me nonetheless.  I'm eagerly awaiting saigonprincess' forthcoming "Keira Knightley Looks Like A Giraffe" site.

New toys

I found a couple new software toys this week, so I figured I'd share 'em.

1) K-Meleon -- it's a really slimmed down superfast version of Firefox.  I'm a little annoyed that it doesn't really allow for extensions without a lot of hackerish effort, but it's damn fast and it's not IE, so... worth keeping an eye on anyway.

2) A rather recently developed tool that enables a 2 finger scrolling feature (similar to on a mac) in windows.  Probably still qualifies as being in it's alpha stages, you can play with it here --