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Jeff's Journal


We flew out of Louisville at oh-dark-hundred. Somehow we got bumped up to 1st class on our flight to St. Louis, which was nice. Too bad it was only the flight to St. Louis. The flight to San Francisco was uneventful enough -- it was on a 757. I don't think that I had ever been on a 757 before; it had a surprising amount of space and leg room. So I'd actually have to say that it was the most comfortable continental coach flight that I've ever had -- I actually sat in the middle seat and had plenty of room. Tracy sat in the window seat and was amazed by the Rockies and whatnot (she's never been further west than Iowa).

The movie on the flight was Dr. Doolittle 2 (Eddie Murphy), which I found to be quite amusing. It was a cute little movie, and I had a several big laughs, so I recommend it -- I'll give it 7.5 minutes. I finished The Fellowship of the Ring on the plane. Although I did bring the next book in the series, The Two Towers, with me this week (always pre-plan your reading schedule when traveling!), there wasn't much time left in the air after I had finished the Ring.
On a whim, we upgraded our rental car to a Volvo S80. Pretty nice car, actually -- lots more buttons and toys than our Honda Civics. It had a Magellan GPS device thingy built in as well, and it worked surprisingly well. We punched in Darrell's address and it started giving us directions (audio and visual, on its little monitor screen
-- "Turn left in 2 miles", "Turn left in 1 mile", "Be ready to turn left", "Turn left now"). It was surprisingly accurate. Halfway to Darrell's, we decided to get some lunch, so we got off US 101 at Palo Alto and looked up "restaurants" on the GPS device and found a nice pub-like place. Then we punched Darrell's address again, got directions back to the highway, and it literally took us to Darrell's front door. Pretty cool.

We hung out with Darrell and Dian all day, had some wine, Darrell made chicken cordon bleu for dinner which was great (he insisted that it sucked). But it was quite yummy. It was a lot of fun hanging out with D&D all day.


Did more hanging out with Darrell and Dian (haven't seen them in so long...). Lots of good conversation, laughs, etc. Darrell took us to see the new Yahoo! complex... sorry, campus... which was very cool. They just moved into this campus about 4-5 months ago. Their corporate setup is extraordinary. Everyone has their own cubicle (which is not extraordinary), but there are millions of little random conference rooms, each of which has a full computerized A/V setup including a teleconference phone, white board, conference room and comfy chairs, etc., etc. Lots of little break areas (coffee and sodas and whatnot are free) scattered around the buildings (there 4-5 buildings in this campus, BTW). They even have lots of Yahoo!-style furniture, meaning that it's purple and yellow, somewhat ornate or fairly modern-looking in design, yet pretty comfortable to sit in.

There's a building that has an enormous fitness/health center, a huge restaurant, complete with outdoor grills and private dining rooms for official functions, a conference/learning center with at least a half dozen or so classrooms (each of which has a full computerized A/V setup, of course). Incredible setup.

Whoever their designer is, they did a very tasteful job of incorporating purple into everything. Even the sprinkler heads on the grounds were purple. We didn't get in to see the development group's server farm (Darrell is in the Yahoo! Infrastructure Development group -- his official title is "Technical Yahoo") because Darrell hadn't yet activated his proxy key to work on the door to the room in the new complex. Bummer. It was the weekend, so there were no sysadmins around to let us in, either. We might stop at Yahoo! on the way back from Carmel later this week; we'll see.

We moved Darrell's old Atari Star Wars video game (full size) upstairs, and not without a good bit of effort. He'd been intending to move it there for quite some time, but never had the manpower to do so (in the end, it took me, Darrell, and Tracy to get it up the stairs). I'm no judge of weight, but this thing must have weighed at least over 100 pounds. There was much rejoicing when we got it up there, and we all played a few games (it's rigged to not need quarters, of course). A little while later, we were all downstairs again when we smelled a electrical-burning odor. We went up stairs and found that the game's video monitor had fried itself. So sad. :-( It's unique in that it's an X-Y monitor, not a raster monitor. Darrell has no idea how to even begin to fix it since he knows nothing about television repair. Doh. :-(

We went to Outback for dinner because it was Darrell's birthday (he loves the steaks there). Always good food and fun at the Outback.


Work up early for some reason and did some work. Played with the new automake with my dissertation code. It certainly seems to fix a bunch of bugs that existed in automake 1.4. Here's what I found:

  • Don't need to include a bogus PROGRAMS line in a top-level directory when making convenience libraries.

  • Don't need to have a bogus noinst_HEADERS line in a top-level directory to make the tags target work properly.

  • Seems to be better about making the various *clean targets, even in the directories that are not conditionally selected.

  • The new automatic-dependency-generation scheme seems to work, but I don't have anything other than gcc to test it with at the moment; hopefully it will work with KCC and the Solaris Forte compilers as well.

  • The ar replacement stuff doesn't seem to work with libtool; it only seems to work with the static linking that is built into automake. And unfortunately, you still need libtool to make the multiple-directory-library thing work. :-(

We went to Carmel-by-the-sea today. The Magellan took us there pretty much without fail. We stopped at a random pub-like place for lunch somewhere on the way down (again, with the help of the Magellan, but it was slightly off in the final destination). We checked into our hotel in mid/late-afternoon. It's mounted very high on a hill overlooking the Pacific and has a great view of the sea, the waves, and the rocky coast. It's quite breathtaking. Since it was so late in the afternoon, we just lounged by the pool and walked around on the hill trails and whatnot before going to dinner.

Amusingly enough, my cell phone doesn't get any service at the hotel. Not that anyone has called me, but it makes the battery drain at a high rate, as if it is in a cellular area. We must be just so high above Carmel proper that we're out of range of the cell/digital towers.

We went to the hotel restaurant for dinner, and I had some excellent local fish for dinner (don't remember what it was) and a local wheat beer; Tracy had a local vintage wine with her dinner. It was all yummy. We even had a working wood fireplace in our room, so we felt compelled to try it out. Fire, fire! (Beavis voice) :-)


We drove up to Monterey today to see the Monterey Aquarium and generally bum around the town. The Aquarium was neat; I got a fuzzy penguin for my desk. We walked around the town a bit and saw all the local sites and whatnot before heading back to Carmel for dinner at a local grill in the middle of town. More local food and vintage again, but some of it didn't agree with Tracy. :-(

Allison called Tracy back today and they decided that we'll go see her and her husband on Thursday evening before going out to dinner somewhere.

We did the 17 mile drive throughout the Monterey peninsula that winds around the coast and through the famous Pebble Beach golf course (and some others whose names I don't remember). Quite beautiful scenery, and some really big/expensive houses. We saw the official Pebble Beach tree -- it's over 240 years old.

It seems that I'm tromping through The Two Towers at an alarming speed and I might actually finish it before the week is out, and I didn't bring the last book in the Ring series with me this week. Doh! So we stopped in a bookstore and I bought the new Clancy book, The Bear and the Dragon since it's now out in paperback. This will definitely last me through the rest of the week and the flight back.


Some random notes about the Magellan GPS receiver:

  • The + and - buttons, which are for zoom out and zoom in, respectively (yes, you read that order correctly), are opposite of what one would expect. + means zoom out; I guess that means "show more map". - means zoom in; I guess that means "show less map".

  • We would periodically lose the satellite signal when in the foothills in various areas, and it would think that we weren't on any roads. Hence, it would tell us, "please proceed to the indicated route", even though we were already on the route.

  • When you look up something by category (say, a restaurant), you can't directly tell it to take you there. Instead, you have to remember the street address, exit out of the search functionality, and then go enter that address in the "plan a route" section. Pretty lame.

  • You can't insert waypoints at all -- so you can't say, "take me to A, then to B, then to C." You can only say "take me to A". Waypoints are a very useful feature; it would be quite a good feature to add.

  • It seems that roads/ramps/etc. that have been surveyed for GPS are marked in green. Other roads are marked in grey. Took a while to figure that out.

  • You can switch from the "map view" to the "turn by turn" view, but the directions / street names are clipped (vs. wrapped) in the "turn by turn" view. That's somewhat difficult, especially when you're not familiar with the area, and half the name of the street is missing.

  • They really need "page down" and "page up" buttons. Currently, you can only scroll by individual items.

All in all, the GPS was somewhat off in some cases, but it was remarkably accurate (all things considered), and it ended up saving us a lot of time and hassle trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

We left Carmel this morning, and drove up the coast on CA route 1 to take in the scenery. Very beautiful stuff; some areas of the CA coast are actually cliffs and quite dramatic. We took a hard right at one point and headed back to Yahoo! so that Darrell could give us a tour of the development server room (geeky, yes, but I really wanted to see it :-).

Whew -- that hard right took across large hills with lots of windy, turny roads with harrowing 10 mph, hairpin 270 degree turns. Somewhat stressful to drive across. But we finally got there. Darrell met us at Yahoo!, and escorted us into the server room. It was pretty cool. A big room, just full of racks and racks of machines. Probably about only half of the racks were full, but it was still a lot of machines. This is the server farm of just the development group of Yahoo! -- the production clusters are distributed around the world, and are much, much larger (Darrell says that the one located in Sunnyvale is about the size of the football field). It was pretty impressive.

We got to see the Yahoo! campus with a few people in it (there was nobody there over the holiday weekend). We also visited the Yahoo! store because it was closed over the weekend, and I bought a few things.

Discovered another cool feature of our car -- the rear-view mirror has no knobby thingy to adjust for night-time driving when headlights are bright. Instead, the mirror itself detects the bright headlights and tints the mirror to dim them. Handy.

Tracy and I continued on to San Francisco and checked into our hotel. The carpool lane on US 101 is a Good Thing.

We were pretty beat from all the driving and whatnot, so we just had a quiet dinner at a local diner and planned out Thursday's activities.


We woke up early and took a bus tour of San Francisco. We saw all the major sites, and got to walk around at some of the higher outlooks over San Francisco. Great scenery. In the afternoon, we hung out on Fisherman's Warf, had lunch, did a little shopping, and waited for our ferry to Alcatraz.

Alcatraz was more interesting than I thought it would be. It was about a 10 minute ferry ride to the island. We watched a short video named The Secrets of Alcatraz that gave a brief history of the island and the things that have occurred there. Alcatraz was a military encampment, a defensive fort, and a prison. The island itself is only 12 acres. You can't walk too much around the island --
most of it is closed off. You can walk around some of the old Army barracks/guard apartments, up the hill to the cell block, and around in the cell block itself. Outside, only some of the walkways are open, including the recreation yard.

We took a walking audio tour by renting little audio devices (probably an MP3 player) that did a pretty good job of giving a history of Alcatraz (concentrating mostly on the history of the cellblock), had surprisingly good sound, and had you walk through various parts of the cell block while it talked about them.

After the audio tour, Tracy and I wandered around the island a bit. We strolled around in the recreation yard off the cell block building, and we randomly ran into Steve D., a previous grad student at Notre Dame in Computer Science, with whom I shared an office for a year or two. He currently lives in the SF area somewhere, and was taking his visiting brother to see Alcatraz. How random is that?

We wandered around on Fisherman's warf a bit more when we came back from the island, and then took a cablecar back to our hotel. The cablecars are kinda neat -- there is actually a cable running under the streets that the cars grab onto in order to move, and let go in order to stop. There are always pairs of cables running in parallel to each other -- one for a track in each direction. Not sexy technology, but it seems to work well enough.

We picked up the cable car at the end of its line. Each car has a distinct front and back, so when it reaches the end of the line, it has to be turned around. Since it's a cable, you can't really have a circular track. So what they do is run the car off the end of the track onto a big rotating wooden disk (that has no cable underneath is). Workers then spin the disk by physically pushing the car around so that it's pointing up the track in the opposite direction. They then push the car onto the new track, and start it up going in that direction. Again, not sexy technology, but it's worked well for quite a long time.

We met Tracy's college roommate Allison and her husband Jack for dinner. It took us a while to find a parking space and an open restaurant, but we finally did. Dinner was good, and the conversation was fun; I know that Tracy and Allison were glad to see each other again. Jack's a funny guy, so we all had a good time. The conversation drifted from what-are-we-doing-these-days to the DOJ's surprise announcement of not wanting to break up Microsoft anymore (don't get me started...). We left Jack and Allison at their apartment and headed back to our hotel.

The grade of the some of the hills in SF is just unbelievable. Wow.


We went up to the Napa Valley today and had lunch in Napa itself at some random restaurant (good club sandwich). We wandered around Napa and found a store that sold the wineglass trinkets that Darrell had (handy little sets of trinkets that you attach to a wineglass so that you can uniquely identify your glass from among a set -- say at a dinner or something). We continued up into the Napa valley and took a tour at the Mondavi winery (Tracy had made reservations in the morning). It was pretty interesting. They had a pretty modern setup (they renovated their winery within the last 2-3 years); hearing about their process and whatnot was pretty cool. The woman who gave the tour had obviously been with the winery for a long, long time, and her performance was flawless (very polished).

We tasted some wines at the end of the tour - a chardonnay, a cabarnet savingnon (sp?), and some dessert wine whose name I don't remember. Then we went to the wine store, and after a bunch more thinking and a little more tasting, we bought four bottles to take home with us. Yum.

Traffic was pretty heavy on the way back to San Francisco, so it actually took quite a while to get back to the hotel. On the way, we drove down "the curveyist street in the world". I'm quite sure that I've seen this street in a movie somewhere, but I don't remember which one. It's an amazing street -- I have no numerical stats on it, but it's a one-lane, one-way street that comprises of a series of 270 degree turns going down an extremely steep grade. Woof -- I can't even imagine living on that street.

We went to a random Irish pub for dinner. Yum.


We got up at oh-dark-hundred for our flight. The GPS device had a "Return to Hertz" feature. Even though it came up with a whacky way to get to the airport, it was still cool. :-)

We took an early flight back to St. Louis (it was all that was left when we booked our tickets). It was on the same kind of big plane that we flew out so there was plenty of room, plus the flight wasn't nearly full.

The in-flight movie was Bridget Jones's Diary, a romantic comedy. It was cute, and had Hugh Grant in it, as well as a bunch of other random British actors. The second movie was Shreck. Three words: funny as hell. But we only got to see about half of it before we landed in St. Louis. Doh!! So I'm sure that we'll end up renting it sometime in the near future to see the whole movie. Plus, it will be good to see all the details -- the screens on the plane were pretty small and a little distance away. So the DVD clarity will be nice to see.

We actually landed early, and the flight to Louisville was uneventful. So we're home again, home again. Whew! I'll submit this entry now; I've got some other random notes, but I'll keep this entry specific to the California trip.

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