I actually started to write something to post last week, but I lacked the enthusiasm to finish it. There's really not anything happening (or anything that has happened) that's all that newsworthy to blather on about, so...
One quick thing: the grades for my Java class came in quite a while ago. I got an A+. Sweet.
Merry Christmas to my two semi-loyal readers.
And now I return to my previous state of apathetic skulking.
Update: Nov, 12, 2007
I don't really have much to say, but here are a couple of scribblings I've done recently.
Sorry, Steve, no centaurs or explosions. Or unicorns. Maybe next time.
Okay, so things have actually calmed down a lot lately and I have had time to write. I've just been lacking the inclination.
But to avoid having the same phone/email conversations over and over again, I'm going to write about a thing or two whether I feel like it or not!!
The Great San Diego Fire of 2007
Okay, so I'm the only one calling it this. But here are the events of the recent fire from my perspective...
It began on Sunday afternoon (October 21st). The Santa Ana winds were blowing and it was a beautiful warm, sunny California day, so we opened up the windows to let the warm breeze blow through the house. But a few hours later, we started to notice that the fresh air we had been enjoying had become less fresh. The campfire odor became stronger and stronger with each passing minute, so we took a look outside (we hadn't turned the TV on yet or looked at the newspaper, so knew nothing of the wildfire that had started earlier that weekend). We saw a huge brownish yellow cloud of smoke in the air to the southeast of our home and quickly closed the windows.
We turned on the TV to see what was happening and quickly learned all about the wildfires that were raging because of the strong winds (which were up to 70 mph in my neighborhood). It had only been four years since the last huge wildfire in the area that threatened my office and the homes of several family members as well as filling the air with smoke and ash for weeks, so we watched the news unfold with concern. Later Sunday, we received a call from the Poway school district, informing us that all the local schools were closed on Monday due to concerns about air quality.
I woke early on Monday morning and immediately turned the TV on to see what had happened overnight (a night that was mostly sleepless). The fires were still raging, but they didn't seem to be an immediate threat to my home or family, so I prepared for work as usual and was on my way by about 7:30 AM.
On the way to work, I stayed tuned to the non-stop coverage of the fires on the radio...until the station suddenly stopped broadcasting. I switched to another of the stations I usually listen to. Nothing. Four of my favorite six radio stations were off the air. I was beginning to rethink my decision to go into work, so I called in to the office and told them I would be taking the day off. I quickly returned home and started collecting a few things (my computer was one of these) to evacuate with.
We left just before 8AM and headed south - with no real destination in mind. Around 8 AM, we received a reverse-911 call from the Sheriff's department informing us that were were in a "mandatory evacuation area" and had to get out (we didn't actually hear this message until later - we were already gone).
We drove around aimlessly on the empty roads (Interstate 15 was almost empty as we drove around - it was eerie) and finally decided to go see a movie. So we saw Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D (since it was the only kid-friendly film showing at the time). A word of warning about the Edward's Mira Mesa theater: if you go see a 3d IMAX film, be prepared to bay a few dollars extra per ticket. They charge for the 3D glasses you will be using in the theater now. So if you take the whole family, be prepared to pony up. It really adds up.
Afterward, we grabbed some lunch at Submarina and tried, in vain, to locate a hotel that wasn't already booked. We were really hoping to avoid the crowded "evacuation centers" around town. Mainly out of boredom, we made a few return trips to our evacuated neighborhood (deserted and showing many signs of the wind damage from the powerful overnight winds - including a tree that had crushed a car near my home) and picked up a few things that we had forgotten.
Finally, hours later, I called my uncle - who I was sure had also been evacuated - to see where they had gone. I was surprised to learn that they hadn't been evacuated and we were invited to come stay as long as we needed to.
For the next 24 hours, we stayed glued to my uncle's TV as we watched images of homes engulfed in flames and walls of fire tearing across the parched landscape. The same film clips and photos were shown over and over on channel after channel. I didn't return to work on Tuesday (we only only had one vehicle and there was still a possibility that we would have to evacuate from my Uncle's home, so it just wasn't a good idea), though both days were taken off without pay. Ouch.
Here are some images from the fire (these are not my photos, so I don't know where they were taken).
One of the news programs interviewed a local geologist about the local environment and the role that wildfires play in the ecosphere. According to the science-guy, fires of this nature aren't really out of the ordinary or the worst thing for the local environment and some plants even use fires like this to germinate. It was interesting. Granted, the causes of these fires weren't exactly "natural," but I'm sure there have been other fires started by more natural causes (lightning) that were more easily subdued by firefighters who weren't battling against the Santa Ana winds.
When the fires near my home seemed to be under control, we decided to return home (Tuesday evening). All the schools in San Diego were closed for the entire week - including the colleges, so I missed my final for the Java course I was taking. Fortunately, my neighborhood was at least 10 miles from the nearest charred neighborhood, so I lost nothing more than a computer that I somehow killed during the evacuation (which has been replaced with a better one from Costco). Our home was a odiferous from the thick, smoky air, but was otherwise undamaged. The fires were still raging though, so we kept a close eye on the TV and had our evacuation "supplies" close to the door (just clothes this time). Luckily, the Santa Ana winds had been gradually diminishing so the firefighters were able to gain the upper hand and things began to look less scary.
I returned to work on Wednesday (my office wasn't near any of the danger zones) and things have gradually returned to normal. The smell of the fires is still really evident in the mornings, but the air quality has retuend to near-normal.
Escape from Azeroth!
After my computer was killed during the evacuation, I decided to cancel my World of Warcraft account (since the power-packed PC I was using while I waited for my new PC from Costco to arrive has a whopping 256MB of RAM and really wasn't up to the task). And though I was sure the shakes and other symptoms of withdrawal would soon set in, I've made a clean break and find myself free of any desire to return.
I was talking to Dan about this yesterday and realized that the direction of WoW (multi-player cooperation in increasingly difficult dungeons/battle situations) isn't really why I play video games. I'm basically an anti-social troll. I don't go online to meet people or make friends. If I'm playing a video game, I want to escape into a world shaped by me. Dependent only on me. Having to seek out other "people" to play a game makes it a zillion times less appealing to me.
So long, Azeroth.
Call me Java-man
I'm kidding. After my single Java course at UCSD, I now know enough Java to get a job...nowhere. There were only nine three-hour sessions covering the first 10 chapters of the text book and of those nine classes, only a very few really dealt at all with concepts unique to Java. The others were all remedial programming (conditional statements, iterative statements, variable scope, etc) concepts that really didn't teach me a whole lot (though I did become very familiar with Java syntax - so that was good).
Oh, and the last class was canceled because of the fires, so I didn't get to take the final and haven't yet received a grade for the course. The final counted for 25% of the class, so I'm sure the instructor has been deciding how to fairly weigh the other 75% we were graded on.
But here's the worst part: I thought taking this class (which I paid for out of my own pockets - around $800) and doing well would guarantee me a spot with the company I work for (and get me out of this horrible contract position I've been suffering in for the past eight months). But, it appears that this is far from a sure thing. The position that I took this class to prove myself for has been posted to both internal and external candidates (many of whom have much more Java experience than me), so I see it as far from a sure thing. I suppose there's still some hope, but I'm feeling a little bitter...
On the bright side, the final homework project was an Infocom-like text based game that I had a lot of fun with. I've begun porting my game over to PHP (making it work as a JSP page just seemed like too much work) so I may share DorkQuest here soon.
I've actually read a couple of books recently. I finished Terry Pratchett's latest, Making Money, in just a couple of days. And now I have to wait another year for the next one. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (by David Sedaris) took a little longer, but man did it having me laughing out loud. That guy kills me. I really need to share some of the stuff he writes about because it's so hilarious. Maybe I'll feel inspired to put some actual effort into this thing again one of these days.
Other than Nightmare Before Christmas, I haven't really seen any movies worth mentioning. I did finally see Transformers on DVD. That was pretty good (though kinda silly as only a movie based on a children's cartoon can be). There have been a lot of great new shows on TV this season, but the Writers' Guild strike is putting an untimely end to that. I guess I'll be renewing my Blockbuster movie pass after all.
That's all I have to say. I'm sure there were other things I wanted to blather on about, but maybe they'll come to me later.