Friday, December 31, 2010

On tonight's menu...

...we will be missing the traditional prime rib we've become known for (see illustration in my other post today). We've ironically found it frequently throughout the year and yet no good deals at year's end. So, how about a little variety?
  - French country loaf bread
- little Quiches
- assorted appetizers*
- salad
- pasta capellacci in a sage and butter sauce
- meats:
roast lamb
pepper steak
paprika chicken
- potatoes dauphine
- mixed vegetables:
yellow squash
baby carrots
sugar snap peas
baby potatoes
- triple mousse cake

We're minimizing the portions this year not only just to cut down on what we ingest, but also to minimize the amount of waste we inevitably find when we go to clean up the kitchen the next morning.

* A plate of tasty little things like marinated artichoke hearts, mozarrella balls, varied olives, tiny pickled peppers, tomatoes, etc.

Au menu ce soir...

A notre repas tradionnel de réveillon, nous invitons les amis habituels plus un sculpteur qui éxerce dans notre voisinage et son épouse. Tout est (toujours) fait maison. La photo ici est d'une année passée. Au menu ce soir :
  - pains
- quichettes
- plat crudités*
- salades**
- pâtes capellacci en sauce au sauge et au beurre
- assortiment de viandes :
gigot d'agneau
steak au poivre
poulet au paprika
- pommes dauphines
- macédoine de légumes :
courgettes jaunes et vertes
carrottes bébé
petits pois « sugar snap »
pommes de terre nouvelles
- gâteau à triple mousse

Nous nous passons de l'entrecôte de bœuf magnifique qu'on fait habituellement—faute de pouvoir en trouver de valable au magasin cette année.

Nous offririons du fromage s'il n'était pas le cas qu'il n'en existe point en Utah : notre seule magasin d'importation de fromages, à Salt Lake City, a fermée voilà quelques années déjà. (Hélas, le Camembert me manque au point d'en chialer.)

Aussi veillerons-nous cette année à ce que les portions soient beaucoup plus petites d'une part pour éliminer l'excès et d'autre part pour limiter le gaspillage typique que nous retrouvons dans la cuisine le lendemain matin.

* Ce plat contiendra un assortiment de délices tels que cœurs d'artichaut, boules de mozarrella, olives de sortes différentes, petits poivrons saumurés, tomates, etc.
** Aux Etats-Unis la salade vient toujours en début du repas (ben, voyons).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Cupcakes in the park

There was a large and spacious park in a distant city, with many trees and flowers, and visitors come for the day to enjoy it. One afternoon, a table was erected there by a kind and generous gentleman who laid it out with tasty cupcakes, free to all who would take them.

The park was so large that there were many who did not learn at first of the cupcakes, but of those who saw and ate from the table, there were some who were pleased to go throughout the park at the man's bidding to spread a word of invitation. Some came; others stayed away.

There were many more who knew of the table who ignored it. Still others spread rumors about the cupcakes not being tasty or healthy, or the man not being good or kind or fit.

Many were inexplicably opposed to the cupcakes being made available in the first place and angrily wished to ban the man and his table. It went to the point of ridiculing those who would eat the cupcakes as childish, silly and to be avoided.

Some who had eaten the cupcakes were ultimately embarrassed to have done so.

The angry ones acquired a large following. Instead of enjoying their day in the park, they bent their energy upon the task of persuading others not to eat the man's cupcakes.

But, the man persisted; he stayed all day. Seemingly, his supply of cupcakes was endless.

And that's where things stood late in the evening when the park was set to close.

Happy Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Guys' day out...

The annual guys' day out. We hold it every Christmas holiday. We eat out. We take in a movie. We talk. Guffaws, hyperbole, laughter.

Unplanned. Unrehearsed. If we knew ahead of time what we would do, it wouldn't be spontaneous. It wouldn't be "guys' day out."

This time we saw the recent Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and we ate copious quantities of roast meats at Tucanos. Love the meat. Love the side dishes. Love the real lemonade made with actual lemons and limes.

Oh, and 3/5ths of us looked for and bought Julene a car, a 2007 Mitsubishi Galant, low mileage, very clean, very pretty. Transferred the spirit of our old Galant into it at the base of the Mother Tree.

We missed Taylor again. Where is that guy anyway?

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas season tragedy

The Provo Tabernacle burned down this morning. Shortly after 2am, a fire that appears to have begun in the attic structure that would wreck much havoc. The Provo Fire Department responded within a scant minute of the first call, a security guard noticing smoke sometime later, but it was already impossible to reach into the roof. Firefighters attempting to stem the tide from within the building were ultimately withdrawn for safety and the roof itself finally collapsed sometime a couple of hours later.

By the time I got there, shortly after 8am, the scene was reminiscent of something out of a period piece on the Great Fire of London. The walls stand precariously; the four towers still stand, but you can see through the windows and doors the detritus that is all that is left of the interior structure and its contents.

I just finished interviewing with Fox 13. They sent a reporter with camera all the way to my workplace to do this. Owning as I do, I've been getting e-mails and calls for information. I don't have a counter on my site, but I can tell by how hard it is to get into some of my other sites that my nephew Richard's network at home, where my web server took refuge against some ISP trouble I had earlier this year, that the Provo Tabernacle site is getting some serious traffic. Some of the pictures are huge once you reach them via the thumbnails. The prints thereof hung in the back passageways of the tabernacle and are now gone.

I'm glad I can play even a tiny part in the preservation of any of this via my website.

Of course, I'm nothing and nobody with respect to our Tabernacle, and have protested as much, but they seem to want my reaction. They say they want me to be on a television program Sunday morning. I can just see myself finally breaking down in tears...

...because it's been hard this morning. I walked around zombie-like watching them putting out the last tongues of flames when I got there. I took pictures of all that I could reach while respecting the police tape. I turned my head away from people as I crossed by them, but some had the same expression that must have been written upon my face. After getting the first e-mails at work, it really came home to roost when I began to think about all the wonderful things that have gone on in that grand old building including those small few over the last 20-30 years in which I've had my own part.

As I write this, I'm thinking of having sung so much great music there. Some of the greatest moments that come to mind are principally with the Utah Valley Choral Society and Lois Johnson. To name just a few (but the dearest to me)

- Mozart's and Rutter's requiem masses
- Rachmaninoff's Vespers (or All-Night Vigil, yes, in Russian)
- Handel's Messiah
- Rob Millet's and Doc Taylor's arrangements of traditional and folk hymns
- a gala night of opera choruses in German, Russian, Italian, French and English

On two Christmas Eves, I sang under the baton of Mack Wilberg with Doug Bush at the organ.

And now I'm thinking about how I conducted some one hundred men singing two Don Ripplinger arrangements and also my own very first choral arrangement in a stake conference when I was Lewis Billings' stake music chairman. I'm remembering now how directing the congregation there was a little disorienting to me because of the building's delayed acoustics. Imagine: to think I got to conduct choral music in that building! It seems almost a sacrilege.

Those days were wonderful and fulfilling for a young, pretty much talentless music aficionado. Working with others with talent to be a part of something so wonderful as the music we made is an indivisible association with the building in my mind.

I'm sure there was much I don't know or haven't thought about that we lost in this fire. Like an original, Minerva Teichert series painting, the one of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood painted in 1934. This is a heart-breaking loss, significant well beyond the bourns of mere Provo and Utah Valley.

There's the time that Rachmaninoff himself performed. In the middle of his concert, a train on the old line that passed just behind the building rumbled by and the story goes that the great composer and performer showed no more perturbation than simply to suspend his hands above the piano and wait until the noise was finished before continuing his piece. (Okay, I'm an old guy now, but I wasn't around for that.)

Also perishing in the fire, Salt Lake Tabernacle organ pipes deemed surplus from that building's 1917 organ rebuild. Some of the pipes were wood and must certainly have perished; those of metal won't be of any more worth musically.

The stained glass windows might be said not to equal those in the great cathedrals of Europe. I've seen the latter, fair enough. But, I can say that no light was ever warmer and cozier than that pouring in through the beautiful windows of the Provo Tabernacle during a Sunday morning stake conference.

My favorite seat in the tabernacle was on the center aisle, just a few rows from the back, the one with a gallery support. These supports were steel and could be counted on for cooling one's hands or face when pressing up against it during a hot and stuffy meeting.

I remember being disappointed that my own last stake conference was not to be in that building a few months ago, but broadcast by sessions in our stake building. Alas, if I had known. That comfy old chair at grandmother's was always a great place for us children to sit. Then her house burned down and the chair's gone. I don't know who else was thinking about that chair over the years. I always was—hence my website. But I'll bet they're all thinking about now and they will for a long time to come.

I don't know what the best thing to do for the tabernacle is. I can only imagine what the most practical thing to do would be. But my heart is in the building and my voice is for its rebuilding.

Monday, December 13, 2010

In cube hell: casa Russ at HP...

So, it's back to cube hell once more for me after my September-November hiatus from having to make a physical showing at work.

My life appears to continue its downward spiral toward total entropy in accommodations.

What must we endure for the sake of career advancement and fun? Dilbert just isn't funny anymore.

Most places, Novell for one most notable example, are gradually moving toward the low-walled cube with no privacy for the occupants. It's a fact of life in my industry. Behind my four-person star you behold all the privacy of a conference room—entirely glass. This takes some getting used to. At Quest Software, I actually had a curtain across part of the entry into my cube that would hide the sight of my cross-aisle neighbor scratching and other things. In the present arrangement, a few furtive glances and/or patience are required for executing the necessary movements that sustain life (particularly during the very dry and itchy Utah winter weather).

The downward march...

- Novell: private, hard-walled office with magnificent view of Mount Timpanogos.

- Quest Software: dingy, gloomy, high-wall, private cubicle with no view of the outside world whatsoever.

- GWAVA: my home office, private, little view except of my neighbor's back yard, but all mine.

- Avocent: fairly dingy, two-person, shared cubicle with access to windows viewing Mount Olympus and Real Stadium on one side or the Jordan River temple and Kennecott Copper mine on the other.

- Hewlett-Packard: ½ of a low-wall cubicle open to the world; not a bad view of the outside, I-15, Mount Timpanogos, Utah Lake, etc., very open, just zero privacy.

- Next stop: fold-down tables with fold-down chairs?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Out to lunch...

Today I indulged in a little, shameless fan worship at noon. Because of work location, it's been a couple of years since I last ate at Rib City in American Fork.

That's where I've been wanting to go since I started at HP. The restaurant is about as close as any other.

I knew that Rib City was owned by the sister of Vincent d'Onofrio and I asked the woman a few pleasant questions about this as she seated us only to find out that she was Toni, the actor's sister. She and her husband own and run this restaurant. I had assumed she lived in California or something, a sort of absentee owner who owned part of the entire chain. In fact, while Rib City is a chain, this is the only one she owns, having closed another in the Salt Lake valley some time back.

The half rack of ribs was on special. We also had the cheese fries with the amazing and spicy fry sauce. I decided on baked beans and cole slaw for my sides. And, yes it was real good, but I already knew it would be.

Toni came back later to chat about her family which was perfectly delightful. Of course, as a bunch of geeks, all of us are undying "Eggar" fans* and some of us have enjoyed Vincent in Law & Order: Criminal Intent too.

It appears that Vincent comes by from time to time and hangs out at the restaurant. So, we're going to keep an eye out for the opportunity and pleasure of meeting him. His sister is already so much fun to talk to.

* Edgar, whose name his wife pronounces "Eggar," was a country hick who went to inspect a crater freshly made by a meteorite hit on his farm in Men in Black. His body was usurped and used as a disguise by an "interstellar cockroach." He bid goodbye to his wife and left for New York City. Later, she recounts this to MIB agents Jay and Kay (played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones), "But I know Eggar. And that wasn't him. It was more like something else that was wearing him. Like a suit. An Eggar suit."

Monday, December 6, 2010


Wow. I just found out that the greater division for which I work at HP is in fact the one that produces printers.

Yeah, that's right: those insanely great printers by Hewlett Packard. Just think...

I've been unknowingly a religionary of this division for most of the last two decades as in my life I've only owned a couple of non-HP printers and have generally refused to buy anything but HP.

Meanwhile, after the obligatory clueless period that lasts a few days, I've settled on a hardware configuration. I put my two Samsung monitors on my i7 notebook along with Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat. I found a crap box to run Windows 7 on which I'll handle e-mail and the odd thing just to keep that off my development host.

Eclipse, Hibernate, Spring, etc. We're just about ready to roll.

(Incidentally, Maverick seems to work just fine. I installed the proprietary NVIDIA drivers and it took a little banging around to get the dual head thing working again, but all is well now.)

Gonna find someone to speak too about beta-testing the next printer out in my diverse home computing environment (Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Linux).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First day at MarketSplash...

My first day at Hewlett-Packard went well. It's going to be a great place to work. Everybody's polite, there's a tiny and very pleasant HR presence, the building is nice, and the view from the third-floor windows is a luxury unequaled since my Novell days.

And, there's a foolproof way to make an excellent first impression on your new colleagues: get your manager to make your first day on the job an excuse to take the team out for sushi at one of the better places in town! I'm looking forward to someone else starting soon.

Already, I'm booked on a trip to San Francisco the 15th and 16th of December to schmooze with our new teammates from SnapFish with whom we will be working very closely.

Now begins the painful shuffle of attempting to get work done without benefit of competent equipment. I'm supplying my own big monitors, but they will arrive no earlier than tomorrow. Keyboards and mice will not arrive until the end of next week. In the meantime, I've got a notebook computer (HP, of course), a craptastic, unergonomic keyboard and a mouse whose scroll wheel doesn't work. Maybe I'll have better luck scrounging tomorrow.