Chris Jefferies

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Heading to Texas – Day Two

Drove from Indeo, Ca to El Paso, TX. 

On the way we got a call from our neighbor and she said that there was a bad storm with thunder and lightning and that power had gone out in our neighborhood.  Of course the computers went of and back on when power was restored, but when she was checking out our house, she found that one of my computers was sounding a load alarm; the data server for the blogs, forums, portals, etc.  I asked her to re-boot the computer and that seemed to fix the problem.  So far so good.

We stopped Quartzite, AZ which is a snowbird town.  It is a town of people who travel and live in RVs and travel south, to a town like Quartzite, for the winter.  These folks mostly travel around and collect things to sell in the flea markets of Quartzite.  One of the main things you see in Quartzite are rocks; lots of rocks. Here’s a picture of a rock, that just wouldn’t fit in the car.

Some Quartzite links: 

We ate at a cafe called La Casa and met Rain Golden Bear, the waitress, who said her family called her “Face that rains a lot“.  I suppose she cried a lot as a child.  She had tattooed rain clouds on her temples and she let me take a picture.  Click on the image to see a close up of her tattoo.

We drove on to Phoenix and stopped for gas and that’s when I realized that I had lost my cell phone.  We called to the La Casa cafe and Rain said she had my cell phone and would send it to me in Houston and would let me know how much it cost to mail it.  So we She is an angel. 

We drove on, knowing the cell phone was safe and stopped at the Congress Hotel and ate dinner at the Cup Cafe.  Excellent.

Now we’re at the La Quinta, but first we tried a cheap hotel called the Lone Star Inn.  I had seen it on the Internet for $40/night.  When we checked into the room, we found roaches crawling on the toilet and that set off Aurora.  We were out and back in the car in a flash and here we are at La Quinta.  $70 and free Internet.

What a day.


Heading to Texas – Day One

Cold rain started out the day, so packing the car in the rain was no fun.  Rain lasted the entire length of the San Joachin valley but the Grapevine was open and dry.  Staying here in Indio (about 80 miles short of Blythe) with free DVD rental and wireless connection in the rooms.  Thus this post.  On to Quartzite, Tucson and El Paso.

Hurricane Rita

I went to Houston last week.  While many families were trying to leave town but instead were stuck in traffic on one of the freeways, I was flying into the path of, at the time, a category 5 hurricane.  Felt like Major Kong riding the bomb down…

 Me as weatherman at the Museum of Natural Science

I had agonized over going to Houston for a day or so and by Wednesday I was sure I should go.  I had spoken to Mother a few times that day and she was adamant about not leaving her home and was discouraging me from coming to “rescue“ her.  Annalee was in Hartford performing in a play so she was unable to get away without disrupting the show. 

On Wednesday afternoon around 4 PM I decided I must go and help Mother evacuate, if it came to that, and all indications were that it would be necessary.  By 7:30 that evening I was at the airport checking in a big duffel bag full of rescue things I’ve collected from my days with a search and rescue group, the Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit (“a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff…”)

I called Derek and Lisa from Las Vegas and arranged to catch up with them early in the morning for some good coffee.  I also called Bob Webb to let him know I would be in town and he admonished me for coming into town in the face of a dangerous hurricane.  I suppose I didn’t really get a sense of danger and Katrina “panic” until, as my airplane flew over the north bound highway 45, I saw the endless trail of red tail lights heading out of town for as far as I could see.  I called it the trail of tears.

I landed about 3:30 in the morning and picked up a rent car that Aurora had arranged for me and then headed south to Bellaire where Mother lives and nearby, Derek and Lisa live.  On the way I stopped at a Walmart, the only store I could find that was open, and bought some supplies.  They were rationing bottled water and only 2 cases per person were allowed.  I wanted to buy some wine to calm our nerves, but in Houston you can’t buy alcohol before 7 AM.  Had to put that back.  In general, the food shelves were trashed and mostly empty.

When I arrived at Derek and Lisa’s house, Beth was in her truck getting ready to head farther North and Derek met me with a great cup of coffee.  Beth was in a state of despair as her house is in Galveston about 6 blocks from the gulf.  She had, in her truck, some of her prized art pieces and 4 cats.  The rest of her treasure was left behind and it’s fate was now in the hands/winds of Rita.  I gave her a hug and she pulled out of the driveway and off into the dark, muggy, Houston morning.

 Derek, boarding up the windows

 How to weather a storm

As daybreak approached, Derek and Lisa proceeded to prepare their house for the worst.  I helped Derek put some plywood up on the front windows while Lisa gathered plants into the garage and collected important papers in case the house and all belongings were lost in the storm.  Around 8:30 AM the phone rang and I answered because Derek and Lisa were busy.  It was Beth calling in a panic and even though she had taken a path out of Houston that should have been relatively clear, she was at a standstill in traffic near Sugarland.  The weight of everything she was experiencing had caught up with her and she was in an awful state of mind.  I talked to her for a while and she seemed to calm down.  A little later, after I left, she returned and decided to stay and weather the oncoming storm at Derek and Lisa’s house.

By 9 AM I called Mother and announced that I was in town for a “visit“ and while she was happy to hear my voice, I could sense tension in her voice.  I waited a little while and then went over to “visit“ her.  We talked for a while and I told her of my overnight adventure and then I started discussing the possibility of a necessary evacuation.  She finally, although reluctantly, admitted that she would be willing but doubted that it would be required.  At that point, Thursday morning, Rita was still a category 5 hurricane and still projected to come ashore somewhere near Galveston with winds of 165 miles an hour.

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around…

I spent Thursday afternoon, prepping Mother’s house.  Gathering potted plants, removing items that might become projectiles in a high wind.  I also went to some of the neighbors who were not leaving and checked on their status and collected their information.  One of the neighbors mentioned a nearby church which was going to act as a backup shelter and I took note about that; just in case.

My general approach was to hold until we could no longer stay safe and to make sure that at any point, we might have enough lead time to evacuate.  The storm was due on Saturday morning and on the news programs we heard story after story of people trying to leave, getting nowhere only to finally turn around and head back home (one of the “jokes“ about the evacuations was to wonder about the asshole at the beginning of the line that was slowing everybody down).  Ben and Judy Rice took back roads to Austin and it took them, I think he said, about 9 or 10 hours (update: 14-15 hours).  Gasoline was also a huge problem and I had an almost full tank of gas (maybe 250 miles worth) but with delays that was doubtful.  Those that persisted seemed to average about 12 to 15 hours to get out of harms way.  I figured we should watch the news and leave no later than Friday, mid-day.

Friday morning’s “cone of uncertainty”, which was what they called the range of possible trajectories that the hurricane might take, revealed a slight drift to the East and a weakening of the storm’s eye and that trend continued throughout the day, so we never had to make the decision to leave, but it was always a tenuous situation.

As Rita drew near it’s path turned more and more to the East and finally came ashore about 3 AM around Port Arthur.  At about 2 AM we started feeling the winds and around 3 AM the power went out in our neighborhood.  I sipped whiskey, watched the trees get thrashed by huge gusts of wind.  Finally around 3:30 I settled into a restless sleep in a house in Houston, Texas with no power AND no air-conditioning…

Saturday morning I woke up to the sound of a house alarm going off because the power was out and the batteries were dying.  One of the neighbors had contacted us the day before from out of town and had asked that I disarm it if it started up; gave me detailed instructions and codes and hints about how to disconnect the batteries.  I’d had perhaps a bit too much bourbon the night before so the alarm was a bit painful; my face was greasy from the lack of air-conditioning and my eyes were puffy from dog allergies so with a startled heart, I got up and dressed quickly to do my part and save the neighbors from this intrusion.  As I approached the front door, the alarm went off and I was in a state of confusion…  windblown and confused.  We finally got power back on after about 28 hours in the post hurricane Texas heat.  What a pleasure to get air-conditioning back on in Houston.

The next 3 days were spent cleaning up the debris from around the house and replacing all the things I had put away.  I also took the opportunity to fix up some things in Mother’s house and to visit friends.  One afternoon I spent with Elena and Tyler, Leila and Carter at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  After the normal tour through the main museum, we went through the Cockrel Butterfly Exhibit, and saw an IMAX movie about the Grand Canyon.  What fun.

 Elena, Tyler, Leila, Carter at the Museum of Natural Science

Mother and I had a lot of time to reminisce about our family adventures in Laredo and Australia and she told many stories about her childhood memories.

A few nights I had dinner with friends.  Derek was “frying chickens in the barnyard!“ or was it turkey burgers?  Derek and I played some music to fend off the hurricane spirits and one night we watched the first episode of Martin Scorsese’s Dylan documentary.

On Sunday night I visited Bob Webb and saw how he was going to weather the storm.  He had created a sheltered zone in the middle of his house and because plywood was in short supply he had to use piece of art he had painted onto a sheet of plywood.

 Bob and his art shelter.

On Tuesday evening I flew back to the cool of the Bay Area, glad to be back and glad that the hurricane was not as devastating to Houston as it might have been.  My heart goes out to those in and around Port Arthur as Rita was indeed still at category 3 when it made landfall there.

The way I hear it, there are perhaps more hurricanes due this season…  I suspect “We’ll Meet Again”.



Montana 3

So the days in Montana were mostly cloudy.  The image of the dome shows what it looked like.  The temperatures rarely got out of the 60s in the daytime and dropped as low as the 30s at night.  Usually we’re trying to stay cool in 80 degree days.

As a result we fished a lot.  Here are some fish we caught in the front pond.  Most we threw back, but we decided to keep a couple of the big ones for dinner.  They were good tasting.

The last night was good for stargazing through the telescope so Dan and I stayed up until about midnight and saw about a dozen Messier objects (The Messier objects are a set of astronomical objects cataloged by Charles Messier in his catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters first published in 1774. The original motivation behind the catalog was that Messier was a comet hunter, and was frustrated by objects which resembled but were not comets. He therefore compiled a list of these objects).

On the last day, our departure day, Dan had an 8am flight so we got up at 5am and drove to Bozeman.  Dan got to his flight in good time and I had time to kill while I waited for my 1pm flight.  I decided to check out the Museum of the Rockies at the University in Bozemen (Home of the Bobcats).  It is an excellent museum.  I recommend it if anyone gets up there.

 Triceratops as big as an elephant.



Montana 2

Today we woke up to heavily overcast skies.  It started raining about mid-day and let up around 8. Dan and I decided to drive down to Yellowstone.

We headed South to Mammoth Hot Springs and then headed east to Tower Falls, and then up to the highest place we could drive which was the Mount Washburn trail head.  We hiked up the trail a bit and decided that being on top of an exposed mountain top was probably not the best idea in a rain storm.  So we hiked back down and stopped at Tower Falls and the Calcite Springs overlook and headed back to Dennis’.  The cloud cover was too heavy so there was no opportunity for stargazing or even watching foe Perseid meteors so we called it an early evening.  Hopefully this weather will blow through and tomorrow will be a better day for fishing and stargazing.

 Tower Falls

 Calcite Springs



 Dan Fishing in 6 Mile Creek behind the main house.

Yesterday I flew to Montana to stay at Dennis’.  I woke up late at 5am (after a 3 hour nap) and raced through the house gathering all the items I thought I had together and tried to make the 6am flight.  Aurora and I finally made it to the airport at 5:45, but the lady at the ticket counter said, “Too Late”.  So she fixed me up with a 7:15 flight that made my connection in Seattle and all was well so I went and got in line at the security check and got over my heart attack.

Arrived in Bozeman and met up with Dan and we drove to Livingston and shopped for liquor, groceries, and fishing flies. Drove on out to Dennis’ and by then it was cocktail hour.  After a couple of stout Martinis we prepped up some seafood (crab legs) and brocoli and as we were finishing dinner the “day” caught up with me and I went to lay down for a rest.

At midnight I woke up in total darkness wondering where the hell I was.  After a few moments I realized that I was in bed in Montana with all my clothes on.  So I stumbled downstairs and made my way outside to see a few early Persied meteors then went back to bed.

This morning, after breakfast, Dan and I went fishing in the creek behind the cabin and I had a few stikes and had not caught anything.  Dan and I were leapfrogging each other up the creek and as I moved up about 30 yards beyong the main house, I saw a bear in the brush across the creek.  It was black and had the biggest square head I’ve ever seen on a bear.  Based on its color I suppose it was a black bear, but because this is Grizzly country, I decided not to take any chances and backed down the creek.

This bear sighting shook me up, so I want over to the front lake and fished there, in the open, where I could see any approaching bear.  Caught 2 nice cutthroat trout.

This eveing Dan and I looked out for Persieds, but didn’t see very many.  The sky is fairly hazy and seeing isn’t very good.  It is about 2am Friday morning and sky looks like it is closing in…

Ah well, we’ll try again tomorrow.

 One of the Cutthroat trout I caught today.


For my book making friends

I had a picture book made for Aurora for her birthday.  It was made by Memento Press and while they were a little protective of their binding method they said it was a modified FastBind technique. I collected 20 images and one extra for the cover and included a word document with captions on a CD.  2 day turnaround.  Looks great.

Here are some online pages about do it yourself bookbinding: 


Skype Me!

OK, I’ve been using Skype for a while now and I see only one downside (mentioned later) to using it as a telephone replacement.  I’m eager for all my friends to get on board so I can talk for free.

If you have a computer and an Internet connection, you can upload Skype onto your computer and we can talk for free.  You may need to hook up speakers or a microphone, if you haven’t already, but that’s pretty easy to do.

I went to Radio Shack and bought a really inexpensive headset with a microphone for less than $3.  I see that there is an online version for about $15, but look for the $3 version.

I have set up the SkypeOut service which allows me to call out from my computer to people who don’t yet have Skype so I can talk to them on their regular phones.  It costs me 2.3 cents a minute to use this service to anywhere in the continental US (land lines and mobile phones) and I have to pay in advance (in chunks of 10 Euros, or 25 Euros).  I think that’s still a better deal than most folks get on their home phone service.  Overseas calls cost more.  For example, calls to our friend, Zsuzsa, in Hungary, cost about 4.6 cents a minute.  Still a good deal.  Click here to look at the rates. 

Downside: Outgoing (SkypeOut) long distance international calls to cell phones cost substantially more.  A call to Pace’s cell phone in Italy cost 33.5 cents a minute.  Not such a good deal.

I have also set up a SkypeIn account.  My number is: 415.578.3309 

Notice I now have a 415 area code .  The SkypeIn account allows my friends to call me at my computer.  And as I AM very often at my computer, you’ll be likely to catch me there.  It includes an answering service as well so you can leave me a message that I can hear on my computer.  The SkypeIn service costs me 30 Euros per year or 10 Euros for 3 months (including the voice mail service).  It will cost my friends the same amount they would pay to call my house phone.

I may eventually disconnect my home service and settle on a mobile phone and Skype.  If most of my friends get Skype, then most of my calls will be free.

I recommend that you check it out:

  • Talk to me at my computer for free; Skype to Skype: chrisjefferies
  • Talk to me at my computer via telephone: 415.578.3309


Finding Patterns in Corporate Chatter

  Email traffic – showing the patterns of email at Enron (click image)

  Email keywords – showing what subjects were discussed at Enron (click image)

My co-worker, Terence, found this article in the New York Times about a statistical analysis of email traffic at Enron during the time the company was collapsing.  One shows who was talking to whom and another shows, via common key words, what subjects were being discussed.

For example, the first chart shows the linkages between employees based on their email traffic.  In this chart it shows how a new person pops up, who is a focus of a high number of emails, who’s email address has changed.  Investigators can use this kind of analysis to find relationships among employees.

In the HR world, the business I’m involved in, there have been discussions of using this kind of email analysis to understand the relationships among employees.  While employees are normally organized around formal, hierarchical departments, it may be possible to understand the informal relationships within an organization and find ways to support naturally occurring collaborative groups.

With this kind of data, it would be interesting to combine this analytical approach with the TouchGraph interactive charts.  See other references on this blog at:


Local copy:

One O’Clock Boys at the Stork Club

Last Tuesday, I sang backup harmonies with Jimmy and the One O’Clock Boys at the Stork Club in Oakland.  We were the opening act for a group called Jug Free America.  One of the One O’Clock Boys, Jacob Groopman, is a member of Jug Free America.  The Stork Club was kind of a dive, but a few folks showed up and we had a good time.

You can see a few other images here.

The One O’Clock Boys are:

  • Jimmy Bruno – Guitar
  • Jacob Groopman – Mandolin
  • Adrian Bagale – Guitar
  • Rich Ferris – Stand up Bass
  • Chris Jefferies (honorary One O’Clock Boy) – Vocals & Percussion

I recorded our performance and you can find the tunes below.  They are in MP3 format; about 6 to 7MB each.  I recommend that you download each tune and then listen to them after they are saved locally.

The recordings were made with a Minidisc recorder with the automatic gain control set on.  This unfortunately creates a pumping sound whenever the volume changes quickly so it is a reasonable overview of our performance; just not too clear sometimes.

It was fun…


Joni Mitchell

Last night Aurora and I went to see Joni Mitchell.  She’s was speaking at the Commonwealth Club a few blocks from where I work. The event was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of Earth Day.  We were surprised to see our friend, Nancy Carroll, atending with a friend of hers.

Instead of being a straight interview, it started out with Joni talking about her world view and how she thinks we, as humans, have gone wrong.  At first, she seemed to be a little overwhelmed with the ‘big ideas’ and with the depth of the subject, but she had some notes to keep her on track and had apparently given considerable thought about what she wanted to say.  Her first statement:

“To love nature in this time is to be in terrible pain.“

She described a poignant display of our world condition as seen on the side of the Hard Rock Cafe in Los Angeles where there is a ticker or continuous counter that shows the growing world population juxtaposed with the number of trees being cut down.

She thinks it all went wrong with Plato and western ‘logic’ or intellect and the focus on western justice which lacks sense.  On a poster board, she drew a diagram with a large circle marking North, South, East, and West.  These points represented:

  • North as intellect
  • South as feeling
  • East as clarity
  • West as sense

She thinks that we, in the west, have focused too much on intellect and clarity and have lost our ability to feel and sense.  Because we seem to focus too much on intellect and clarity we are, as a result, working with ‘half a deck’.  What was needed, she said, is a balance and called this balance the “Apple mind“.

She draws her world view from various philosophies including Buddhism, Jungian theory, Nietzsche, and Native American culture.

Her talk was interlaced with anecdotes about her recording career, Larry Klein,  and “Iron Eyes” Cody (who is known as the Tear Indian in the famous Earth Day ad from 1971).  She was asked to read a letter, purported to be from Chief Seattle, which is included in the liner notes of her most recent album, The Beginning Of Survival.

Some other interesting things we learned about Joni:

  • She thinks of herself primarily as a painter
  • She started smoking when she was nine years old and would ride her bicycle out into the country and spend quite time, enjoying nature and her little bag of tobacco.
  • She was asked who she was interested in musically and she said responded without hesitation, “No one!“
  • She doesn’t listen to music very much and has very esoteric tastes; needs a high level of originality…  There was a term she used that I can’t recall now. (Update 04.25.2005: Nancy Carroll has reminded me; Joni said she needed a “high degree of divinity and originality“ in the music she listens to.)

Some other interesting links:

Interview by Elvis Costello from the November 2005 Vanity Fair magazine:

Discussion, from ’97 about one of my favorite songs, Sweet Bird:

They recorded the talk and I think you might be able to catch it at this location:

Parsing the State of the Union

State Of The Union Painting 

Here’s a site found by my friend, David Anderson, that lets you search for words within various State Of The Union speeches.