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small blue square This evening I rode my bicycle over to the new "New Tung Kee", a restaurant quite similar to the "Tung Kee Noodle" I mention frequently and described previously. This just-opened branch is about equidistant from the other one I visit, in downtown Mountain View; the inside accoutrements and decor's always identical and the menus are very similar, but the branches with the "New" prefix aren't listed on the other's business cards, and they additionally carry a few Thai items, like Pud Thai noodles, which is what I got. Another new establishment in this group of strip malls (it's near Tower Records) is called "Grateful Head" - I rode over expecting a smoke shop but instead found a hair styling emporium! After eating I checked the Super Crown for this new science fiction history/critique by Thomas Disch called The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of. Yes they had one so I got it at a slight discount. (Patronize 'em while you can; competition from Borders & Noble is hitting Crown hard, and many of their stores are closing.) Earlier, on my way home from work as I acquired some produce at the Safeway, "Free As A Bird" came out of the store's sound system - not the first time I've heard it there. <1> As often happens when I hear that song, I got a little emotional.

small red square Finished reading through Kristi's Japan travelogue - makes me eager to return. She can get annoying; her travel complaints flirt with the Ugly American syndrome at times <2>. Nihon may be a desirable and adequate travel destination for next year - it's fun fantasizing about going all the way around the world, but in my heart I'm thinking I'm not serious, the hassle will far out-weigh the pleasure. (Plus it would probably conflict with my family's planned beach vacation.) But Japan again - this has been under back-burner consideration for some time, and the exchange rate now is favorably inviting. I'd probably skip Tokyo this time, flying instead to the new Osaka aerodrome, and spending the bulk of my journey in and around Kyoto. Oh, so much to see and do!

small yellow square Y2K Spotlight

Heard a report on the BBC last night which said two tests have been run recently at power plants in the UK where their internal date was set forward, and as the Y2K rollover occurred the plants shut down. A lot of dire predictions were condensed into a simulated 1/3/2000 news broadcast of overlapping reports of civilization's collapse, which terminated in a wash of static. Like many news stories on this topic, some mild, mocking jest was then made of the situation, followed by discussion from a panel of experts. One voice declared that panic will ruin everything <3>, that the problems can be fixed in time, but those who can must do so, instead of being frightened off to their survivalist redoubts. Another quite sensible sounding voice declared that not every computer needs fixing, that it was a management problem to allocate the inadequate technical resources logically. The example he used was clocks in microwave ovens, although much larger systems are the real issue. I couldn't agree more - this is the crisis that should and will kill off obsolete old mainframe technology, but we'll all suffer as it's going down. I think that triage is absolutely necessary, but the status quo is such that it won't happen - in fact the reverse will occur - management won't be able to declare anything non-critical - in fact, more effort will be put into saving the unnecessary. I base this upon my own mainframe experience - six years through the early 80's (space agency tracking system), and three months last year, on an Air Force project from which I fled in disgust. Updates to these systems, done the government way (which does work) are incredibly labor- and time-intensive. And as the beast has grown, more and more layers of bureaucracy have been added to that process, simultaneous with the attrition of creative, enlightened people; leaving behind the most sluggish, dogmatic, and least capable workers. Yet many of the systems they maintain are critical, and the lack of organizational enlightenment means no contingency planning is possible, is even imaginable by those that control these dinosaurs. We'll be better off without them, but no alternative is in place. Hence, stand by for an Atlas Shrugged-style transfer of these old systems into the dustbin of history. The systems I'm thinking of: Transportation logistics and control, Treasury and the IRS, and global telecommunications & local power generation control. Admittedly, I've never worked in any of these environments, so I don't know what I'm talking about. (If you want more information check the latest news stories from Yahoo.)

small green square Odd Hollywood factoid I learned today (courtesy of the IMDb) - when Buzz went over the cliff in "Rebel Without A Cause" he didn't die - instead, when he grew up he became the director of "Star Trek: The Next Generation"!

BBC - British Broadcasting Corporation
IMDb - Internet Movie Database
IRS - Internal Revenue Service
UK - United Kingdom
Y2K - Year 2 Kilo
Nihon - what the Japanese call their country
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<1>But why that song, in the grocery store? Oldies, okay, Beatles, fine, but why "Free As A Bird"? How can that stimulate shopping? But it's not the strangest choice - a few years back in the Falls Church Magruders (a supermarket chain local to Virginia) "A Day In The Life" was played - that was fun.

<2>Can't we restrict travel there to people who actually like Japanese food?

<3>which is my expectation - the hysterical over-reactions will induce catastrophe