Yaay, the weather’s beautiful (so far!)


Yesterday, the day of the rehearsal, was cool and drizzly, which was acceptable (it’s better than baking hot), but not ideal. Today, the morning of the wedding, has dawned sunny and cool — the weather says there’s going to be a high of 75. Hurrah! Chester County looks really, really beautiful in this kind of weather.


I got up this morning and rode my motorcycle to Northbrook Farms nearby for my wedding breakfast (apple cider doughnuts, scrambled eggs, and coffee), mingling with all the other yuppies in cycling gear and digital cameras (and Blogs, for all I know.) Now I’m posting with short, clean, wedding-manicured nails. As soon as I push the “Post & Publish” button, I’m going to go take a shower, put on my suit, put the rings in my pocket, and go get married to the most wonderful woman in the world!

Yaay, the weather’s beautiful (so far!)

Shucks, I have the bestest co-workers in the world

Shucks, I have the bestest co-workers in the world!


My Outlook calendar spawned a meeting request several days ago: “catchup and discuss HTML process debrief”, which turned out to be a totally unexpected wedding surprise lunch-and-champagne-and-dessert thing. Kieran even baked a cake! My co-workers are the best, as proved in the completely candid and non-posed photograph at left.

Shucks, I have the bestest co-workers in the world

Directions to the wedding and reception

Folks have been asking me about directions to the wedding and reception, so here they are!


* Latitude and longitude provided specifically for GPS geeks. Like you, Francesco. Those coordinates are for you. If that isn’t enough, here are some
satellite
photos!

Directions to the wedding and reception

Kate and I will get married in…

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Kate and I will get married in…

Kate’s Punk Rock/Billy Idol/Sombrero Birthday!

 

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<<
Slide of 8.
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(Click the arrows to see the pictures.)

Slide 2:Kate’s brother Matt came in from LA two weeks early. Matt plays bass for a hardcore band called Terror (“Straightforward hardcore with a negative approach!”: DemoBand Site), and he just finished a 20-day, 20-city tour. On the tour, Terror hooked up with other hardcore bands like Death Threat and Over My Dead Body. Matt’s got leopard-spotted LA hair now, and he can pull one hell of a Billy Idol punk-rock face on demand. There’s the Billy Idol face in the Healey.

Slide 3: The crew at Senora’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant in West Chester is hardcore, but with a positive approach. Kate’s dad canceled a customer appointment to drop off party supplies, and (from left:) Andrew, Steve, and Heather decorated the table with balloons and sombreros. They also readied the Birthday Flan. Senora’s is the BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD. If you speak to Steve in Spanish, he will respond in Italian.

Slide 4: Kate looks happy here, ’cause she’s just sat down to a pretty table and been given a Snoopy balloon. Dignity intact (so far), she smiles innocently.

Slide 5: Yeeeeah, that’s the stuff. Andrew hands out the sombreros. They’re surprisingly heavy!

Slide 6: Andrew lights the candles on the Birthday Flan, while Steve (just outside the frame) exhorts the entire restaurant to sing. This is working out just great!

Slide 7: The Smith clan is unflappable: once again, Matt pulls his Billy Idol face on request. The Billy Idol/Austin Healey/Sombrero combination is eerie, but I’m sure that the right person could somehow extract a blockbuster movie from it.

Slide 8: As for me, I don’t have the sombrero mojo, apparently: the best I can do is Terminally Bemused.


If you want to wish Kate a happy birthday, you can do it here!

Kate’s Punk Rock/Billy Idol/Sombrero Birthday!

The Count of Monte Sandwich


Kate and I will be getting married in two weeks, in a Quaker ceremony at Downingtown Friends Meeting. She’ll be making a stylish entrance in the car pictured on the right, a 1962 Austin-Healy 3000 Mark II. (more pictures of a similar car.) Her dad found it languishing in a customer’s garage, bought it, and restored it. It’s not a pampered Ferris Bueller showpiece, though — it’s a driveable cross between a roller coaster and a rocket sled. Well, kind of drieveable, anyhow. This weekend, in anticipation of our nuptual getaway, Bob “Snuffy” Smith took me out and taught me to drive it.


Which was, of course, kind of stressful. The stiff-upper-lip ethos may have been just the thing for extending the Britannic Empire to the four corners of the earth, but it makes for some pretty gruesome ergonomics behind the wheel. Whether or not you view that as a drawback, of course, is a matter of taste. Any schmuck can smile at the pretty girls while rolling around in a Porsche Boxter. If, however, you can maintain your sang-froid while simultaneously maintaining pressure on the handbrake, gunning the engine to synchronize the gearbox, eyeing the tach, and keeping the shifter in first with a propped knee, then you’ve become a better man.


Which I’m not, yet — a better man, that is. There’s a special kind of anguish that comes when you’re stopped at a shady intersection between two sidewalk cafes, people are smiling and standing up to get a better look at your hip ride, and you miss the synch on first gear and your little red race car lets out a loud, ratchety squeal of pain. Then stalls. With your future father-in-law in the passenger seat.


Later, after I got a little better at managing the transmission, the car put a huge smile on my face. Or a grimace — taking a page from the toe-toasting Rugby traditions in Tom Brown’s School Days, maybe, the Healey engineers had routed a blast of savagely hot engine air on my right foot. Grimacing painfully, eyeballing the tach needle, carefully shifting the gears, I felt hella cool. Like, Fellini-Italian-Count cool. Damn, what a great car.


Skraaaaaaaaawk!! Groooooan!! (Nuts!)

The Count of Monte Sandwich

Landscape paintings that run down the beach in slow motion

Frederic Edwin Church, Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860.
“There she stands, mighty Everest!” drones the narrator in a Monty Python sketch. “Towering a mile above the surrounding plains: wreathed in clouds, wracked by winds, killer of climbers. Everest — the mountain with the biggest tits in the world!


Kate and I went to the American Sublime exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on Saturday. The exhibit was put together by the Tate gallery in London. “Sublime”, according to the Tate’s program, describes European’s impression of the New World’s “wild, rugged, and awful” scenery, and their almost religious reaction to its “immensity and boundlessness.”


Frederic Edwin Church, Cotopaxi, 1862,
“Sublime” might not have described all the paintings we saw, though many fulfilled the requirements of immensity. Most of the canvases were five or six feet tall, seven and eight feet wide, with colossal sunsets, rugged mountains and usually a panther crouching on its kill somewhere in the corner. I suppose they were the Victorian equivalent of prime-time television, except instead of T.J. Hooker, you have the rise and fall of a mighty civilization in five turgid panels, complete with maidens in togas leaping from craggy cliffs to avoid the
Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire 4: Destruction (detail),1835-6
sweaty clutches of barbarian invaders. If these painters were alive today, they would all be making a lot of money in Hollywood. And, in a way, I suppose that’s what they were doing then: creating easily-admired paintings of vasty subjects on big, bold canvases that can be seen from the back of the gallery.


Not that I’m complaining! These muscular American works could have kicked the ass of any effete cheese-eating European paintings, any day of the week. If you put together a basketball team of these American landscapes, and played a basketball team made up entirely of Old Masters from the Louvre, the score would be 100-0 by the end of the first half, and a Thomas Cole Arcadian Idyll would have smashed the backboard, drunk all the Gatorade, and ravished the cheerleaders.


West Chester KOA Kampground, Site 27, 2002.
Kate had her wedding shower the next day (hurrah!), and I took a couple of hours to ride around Chester County on my motorcycle and compare the local landscape to the epic Sublime visions. It was, of course, a lot less dramatic — rolling hills, lots of trees, burned grass, nine-foot corn. But it’s more liveable: no worries about surprising a puma on its kill, or stumbling on hairy, tomahawk-wielding savages in the middle foreground. I found my way to a campground that Kate and I had passed by several times on canoe trips, and gave it a waypoint on my GPS. Here it is: KOA West Chester, Tent Site 27, on the west fork of the Brandywine river. It was hot, hot, hot now, but should be good for some prime camping in September and October! I’ll see how many folks I can entice down for a trip.



Hot coffee and apple cider doughnuts at Northbrook Orchards in the morning! And no barbarian invaders, I promise.


PS. I’m not really doing the exhibit justice: not all the paintings were of the cop-drama genre. these, for example, were really beautiful and placid.

Landscape paintings that run down the beach in slow motion

We needed to get outdoors

We needed to get outdoors after a long day of statistical math, so I looked up a Geocache nearby and dragged Kieran and Boris out to go find it. Here’s the story, in chronologial order, as you can see depicted at right:


  1. FRAME 1: Kieran needs a break bad. Real bad.
  2. FRAME 2: General skepticism ensues about this detour.
  3. FRAME 3: Kieran finds the cache. All cares forgotten, he giggles like a little girl.
  4. FRAME 4: Boris methodically checks the entire cache for suitable plunder.
  5. FRAME 5: Swag in hand, we return triumphant. “Gosh, John, this was swell!

Staged photos aside, it was an incredibly beautiful day, and perfect for using a handheld GPS device for going to find a tupperware container full of toys in the middle of the woods.

We needed to get outdoors

Training, Day 2 I’m in

Training, Day 2

I’m in the second day of training at Unica’s headquarters in suburban Boston. The product is actually really cool; it’s a tool to understand customer behavior, send messages to them, track responses — all the stuff that you assume that “evil marketers” are doing from their offices on Madison Avenue, but in reality they actually aren’t doing at all. We’ve been playing with sample data — donor information for gifts to a veteran’s organization — and have been running chi-squared automated integration detection models on them, then naive bayne matrices, then neural nets — I’m floundering in a sea of interesting math that I don’t really understand. (We discovered that the average amount of the individual donation was the best predictor for future response rate.) I’m enjoying it, though, and so is Boris Lerner, even if he doesn’t look like it.


Dean Shattuck, in the foreground, works in [My employer] Boston. He rode his new Ducati Monster to the training session, and we all stood around and looked at it over lunch. Then we compared it with a Honda Gold Wing nearby. The weather’s beautiful.


On the whole, not much going on.

Training, Day 2 I’m in