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This weekend we took off for downtime an recuperation. The summer has flown by with every weekend and every weekday filled with work, projects, festivals, trips, and chores. We needed a period of enforced relaxation, particularly after L was attacked by a stray cat the prior week. Fortunately her dozens of lacerations are healing amazingly quickly.

A and D were our guests for the whole weekend. I think it's the first time in years that they've had enough energy to spend that many days in a row with us, and it was a wonderful reconnection time.

Most of the days were spent doing crafts, drinking tea in the outdoor tea pavilion, talking and talking and talking. A had some of her mischievous spark back and was the flirtatious and inquisitive A of past years. D finally looked relaxed and smiled more than I ever remember seeing; she even allowed a few portrait photos to be taken for Facebook (they turned out great -- she's more photogenic than she knows!). D kindly worked on my lower back and managed to relieve the strong ache I've had there for days; I wish I could be as effective in taking away her pains.

A good sign of how effective and worthwhile this weekend was: this past week I've slept poorly due to high stress, mostly from work. Friday night I had no restless sleep, having a stream of bad dreams about my stressors at work. Saturday night though I slept soundly (and extremely long -- 11 hours!) and dreamed about working new jobs and with new teams, and introducing my new co-workers/friends to my passion for tea.

Even last night I dreamed that A and D were still camping over, but in the morning they were sleeping in my son's room. When I asked why there were there they said an animal had gotten into their tent. I went out to check and saw rooting about their bedding for snacks was a low, stocky dog-like animal with reddish-black matted fur -- a tanuki! It then began following me about at my heels, hoping for snacks. Although I'm not really into the idea of totem animals, if I were to have a totem it would likely be the hedonistic but family-centric and loyal tanuki.

It was a weekend of spiritual renewal.
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The following is a lengthy recounting of the day our cat Mucha died. Skip this post if you want to avoid the angst. Otherwise, here's the story.Collapse )
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Worked 41 hours this weekend (since Friday after normal work hours). Very, very tired. Almost done. Need lots of sleep. But need to get up early for the go-live and the inevitable deluge of problems that need solving for our hundreds of users. Nighty, night.
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I just did my timecard for the week and I've broken a personal record for hours worked!

Now to get a couple of hours sleep while the test tracking system is down for maintenance...

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It's the weekend before the Monday go-live, and as expected it's full of frantic fail beyond belief. L and the kids wisely left town for the weekend to visit the grandparents and to give me completely uninterrupted alone time.

Let's see... it's a full score of days working without a day off, all of them 11-16 hour days.

This weekend we (by "we" I mean "I") have to do 30 hours of data sampling verification testing of the conversion. If it's not done by our go/no-go meeting at midnight Sunday, then the 18-month project's go-live is delayed. Bad.

This of course means little to no sleep this weekend. Fun.

Now let's toss in a little curveball: Let's say we've been testing the same conversion logic for the last six months in repeated rounds of validation testing and fine-tuning. Now let's say that they suddenly decided that for the actual conversion we wouldn't use that conversion logic but rather a whole new set, completely untested.

As one might expect a whole new set of problems is appearing, and our timeline doesn't allow for them to be addressed and re-converted. Who know what the outcome of this will be.

Oh, and did I mention our fine overseas tech shop is taking down our testing system for routine maintenance in the middle of this critical testing window?

When L and the kids get home, there's a good chance they'll find me sitting in front of my desk, grinning blissfully and humming to myself a la the finale of Brazil.

I love a happy ending!
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Taking 15 minutes this morning to take a break between meetings and update LJ.

We're on the last five days to go-live, and then after a brief post-live frenzy of problem-solving things should settle down back to something resembling normalcy.

The past three days I was in Seattle trying to train 280 users on the new product, while doing two other job roles. I had hoped this trip would give me a chance to connect with a couple of people I don't see nearly often enough (hello VL and DB!), but as the the trip apporached it was more than clear that I wouldn't have a moment to spare. I was right.

I drove down, checked into my hotel, worked until midnight. Got up early, took the bus to Seattle, trained all day, stayed late doing emergency meetings, bus back to hotel, worked until midnight. Rinse and repeat for three days.

Now I'm back home. Still busy and looking at 30 hours of work this weekend, but the finish line is in sight! Yay!

Did I mention I brought fifteen types of tea with me to Seattle, and my own kettle for the hotel room? Never try to boil tea water in a hotel room coffee pot!
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I was on a commuter bus yesterday afternoon, leaving the city at the peak of the exodus rush hour. The bus was packed to capacity. At the last stop a young Japanese woman got on, and seeing the lack of seats took up a position leaning on the wall near the driver, pulling a small hardback book out of her bag.

The bus was uncomfortable and old, and bounced and jostled on poor suspension. The road noise was oppressive as we took to the freeway. The commuters were doing their usual emotionless avoid-eye-contact-at-all-cost dance as if each of the dozens of people on the bus were in their own individual world -- a dictionary-perfect image of "impersonal."

Yet as we drove, the setting sun on this warm afternoon gave this young Japanese woman a golden glow, and I noticed to my surprise tears form in her eyes as she read. The further we got down the road, the futher she got into her book, and the more silent tears she quickly and silently wiped away, completely ignored by all the other passengers around her. She was able to immerse herself into this emotional space despite very distraction and discomfort of the world around her.

The beauty in that moment wasn't her Japanese classic-beauty, or the warming light of the late-afternoon sun, but rather just in the fact that she was exposing a raw internal emotional moment in the midst of a crowd of utter blankness. Everyone else was a brick wall, but here was a woman with an open window to vulnerable place.

I imagine it would have been far less beautiful if it hadn't been clear that it was the book evoking her tears. General misery is not beautiful, but tears provoked by literature certainly can be.
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We watched the final episodes of The L Word tonight. Talk about a dissapointment!

I mean, sure they didn't really resolve the major plot point of the final season, leaving a major cliffhanger, but that I kind of expected. However, in the whole season they only had a SINGLE scene with tea!

It was a rather impractical sort of tea set too. Although it was a modern take on English blue-collar tea service, with a stout heavy ceramic pot in a utilitarian sky blue, it had an Asian basket-style bamboo handle combined with an extra-wide and extra-flat lid. Pouring would be a pain, as one would be forced to hold the flat lid shut (even if it has those tabs inside) while trying to maneuver the heavy pot with the thin bowed handle.

And they never even poured the tea, just let it sit there on the tray next to them.

Come on people! Some fan service please!

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I'm a bit punch-drunk from working 27 of the last 30 days (2 days off for Chinese new Year and one day off for my wife's birthday), with another couple of weeks without break ahead of me. Still, progress is being made, the go-live is approaching, and my family is being very supportive of me.

To celebrate, or compensate, or something (I may just be rationalizing here) we did a tea order from Yunnan Sourcing. We've gone too long without trying new tea, since we've avoided crossing the border into the Vancouver are due to the Olympics for the last month or two. So why not order some hard-to-find tea directly from Yunnan, China?

Foremost we wanted some arboreal white buds that we've only managed to find once before. They're like silver needle, but from full-grown, large-leaf camellia sinensis trees, and look less like needles than something that came off of a pine tree. They have more depth than silver needle and are very rare on the market. And Yunnan Sourcing has them for less than $20 for more than a pound! http://www.yunnansourcing.com/store/product.php?id_product=1135

Also, I've been drooling over Menghai's "peacock" set of pu-erh cakes from five famous tea mountains. There's been some great reviews of the set, and YS has them for under $70 for all five. Again, that's less than $20 per pound!! http://www.yunnansourcing.com/store/product.php?id_product=361

We also tossed in a few smaller fun items, like a Yunnan arboreal variety of Oriental Beauty (a Taiwanese speciality -- should be interesting to try the Yunnan version) and some custom-made hand-braided (!!) pu-erh cakes. http://www.yunnansourcing.com/store/product.php?id_product=714

I can't recommend Yunnan Sourcing enough. They have a gigantic selection of small-farm/factory teas and of arboreal pu-erhs, and they have the best shipping policies of any Chinese tea vendor I've dealt with. My last overseas tea order (from a different Yunnan tea company) cost over $120 for shipping and handling alone. This one cost $36 S&H and I ordered at least as much tea, by weight, and it was shipped the same way (China SAL post). Combined shipping rates are a wonderful thing! Even their express shipping was cheaper than the ground-shipping I've been charged elsewhere.
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Okay, I think I've cemented my status as a tea-obsessive.

Tonight I took some time off from work to sit and watch some rented episodes of The L Word. In two separate episodes there were scenes of intense and heated dialog between attractive lesbian lovers, and in both cases my eye was immediately drawn to .. the teapot on the table between them.

In the first scene it was a small spherical maroon-plastic and glass number of a type I've seen for as little as $5. No way to tell what kind of tea was in it as the glass front was facing away from the camera. It seemed odd for such a cheap pot to be featured in The Planet, the upscale coffee shop featured in the show.

The second scene featured a very nice glass Assam-style pot with a stainless-steel cylindrical infuser. The color of the tea liquor implied either a lighter Assam or perhaps Nilghiri, although I suspect it was actually a Yunnan dian hong (it was just that right shade of caramel/amber). A very nice pot indeed.

Even during the abundant sexually-explicit scenes in this fifth season of The L Word, I found myself often turning to thoughts of their teaware.

Sad. Very sad.
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