LA Restaurant Watch

sushi.jpg I got email from the owner of RestaurantWatch.com asking me to link to his website. I took a look, and it definitely got some good content.

I was surprised to discover that 98% of restaurants get a rating of A or B from the Health Department. Either Los Angeles retaurants are really very healthy or grade inflation extends beyond high school and college.

It turns out that you can get much of the same information directly from the LA DHS, but RestaurantWatch.com provides a better UI.

My new Web Hosting ISP

I love DreamHost, my new ISP. I now have most of my domain names (hebcal.com, shtibl.com, and the rather stale utf-8.com) hosted there now.

JR convinced me to switch last month. Even though I’ve been absurdly busy with Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, I’m happy I initiated the switch.

For about the same price, DreamHost gives me more of what I want: more disk space, ability to manage fowarding email addresses without having to bother a sysadmin or trust myself to procmail, mod_php compiled directly into Apache, phpMyAdmin already pre-installed, etc.

Due to the complexity of the software that runs my High School Alumni Internet Directory, I haven’t had the time to migrate radwin.org yet.

Updated reading list

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson Looking back at the 17 books I planned to read this year, it looks like I haven’t made much progress. I’ve finished four of them (Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!; Crossing the Chasm; The Cathedral and the Bazaar; and most recently The Diamond Age).

The Diamond Age was good, but not as enjoyable as Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon. It looks like Stephenson just came out with a new tome. Maybe I’ll find time to read that in 2004.

I’ve been reading bits and pieces of The Art of Deception by Kevin Mitnick and Effective C++ by Scott Meyers, but neither of those books is compelling enough to sit down and read straight through.

Ariella just bought me a used copy of Meyer Levin’s Classic Hassidic Tales. I was reading a bit of it over Yom Kippur and it’s great. I like short stories.

This week at LAX I picked an audio CD of Steve Martin reading his new book The Pleasure of My Company. I read Shopgirl right when it came out almost 3 years ago and found it surprisingly good, so I’m hoping for another winner. I ripped all of the tracks to my iPod today so I’ll be able to listen to it on the plane. If I listen every week on the plane, I’ll finish it by mid-November.

Bubba Ho-tep

bubba-ho-tep.jpg Ariella and I saw Bubba Ho-tep at the Nuart last night. Bruce Campbell is incredible. Don Coscarelli is a genius.

Basically, the plot involves Elvis Presley, JFK, and an undead Egyptian mummy. Brilliant.

Campbell appeared in person to introduce the Friday night show. Too bad he didn’t make it last night. I would’ve liked to shake his hand and asked him to autograph my collection of Jack of all Trades episodes on VHS tapes.

The Goal by Eli Goldratt

0884270610.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg I finished reading The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt back at the end of July, but only now (at 30,000 feet on my way back to LAX) have I finally found a free moment to sit down and write about it.

Although the book was originally written almost 20 years ago, it does a great job at making the subject of process improvement engaging. Goldratt very cleverly disguises a “business book” in the form of a fiction novel.

It seems that I always enjoy books more if I can relate to one of the characters. Although I don’t run a factory like Alex Rogo does, I am a pretty busy person who struggles to balance personal and professional demands.

Perhaps the most compelling theme in the book is the concept that the journey is more important than the destination. Every time Alex Rogo thinks he has improved how his factory operates, a whole new crop of issues arises, and Alex needs to re-investigate what’s really going on the factory floor so he can find and eliminate the new bottleneck. Goldratt summarizes Alex’s task as a process of ongoing improvement. Bottlenecks can appear anywhere, even where you least expect them. The real challenge in being a manager, Alex discovers, is being able to work through the improvement process no matter what form it may take.

If you’ll allow me to drash it a little bit (perhaps I’m in the mood because we’re right in the middle of the Yamim Noraim), what Goldratt is really getting at is that the process is more important than the outcome. In other words, the journey is its own reward. The struggle is what makes us stronger. That’s not to say that the end isn’t important; Goldratt entitled the book The Goal for a reason. Businesspeople (Goldratt’s audience) know that they need to be profitable or they’ll go out of business (or get replaced by someone who can make a profit).

The truly rewarding part of work (and by extension life in general) isn’t at the moment that you reach the goal. In fact, once I’ve finished a project and declared success there is often a little hint of disappointment that it’s over. Instead, it’s the process itself that is rewarding. It’s through the process that we grow into better people.

Uniden TRU5885-2

We bought a Uniden TRU5885-2 5.8 GHz cordless phone yesterday.

Uniden-TRU5885-2.gif

For the past couple of years we’ve been using a 2.4 GHz phone and have been suffering from interference with our 802.11b Wi-Fi home network. Picking up a phone call would sometimes disrupt the wireless Internet connection and our SSH sessions would terminate. When our old phone finally started to show its age (intermittently would fail to get a dialtone), we decided to try something new as a replacement.

Like most 5.8 GHz phones, the Uniden TRU5885-2 is pricier than comparable 2.4 GHz or 900 MHz models. But it’s got a much greater range throughout the house, and more importantly, it co-exists with our wireless Internet.

This model in particular has an absurdly large number of features. Aside from standard stuff like Caller ID and an integrated digital answering machine, this model gives you a good-sounding speakerphone in the base, and an extra handset. But wait, there’s more! Each handset itself can act as a speakerphone. 3 different speakerphones? Wow.

Sound quality is very crisp. It almost sounds like a wired phone. Plus, each phone has an orange backlight. You’ll see an eerie but beautiful glow when you hit any key on the keypad.

The only drawback we’ve found: you can’t use both handsets simultaneously. There’s only one base station, and apparently only one handset can speak to it at a time. There’s a nifty transfer feature that lets you put the call on hold and pick it up on the other handset, but that’s not the same as being able to have two people on the line at the same time (when we’re talking to our families, for example).