Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Beers I've come home with this break

Allagash White
-Standard, a little over flavored, but good regular beer - very drinkable

Allagash Tripel
-The 9% ABV showed through a little stronger than expected, good but didn't have personality. Very Belgian. Probably not paired well with dinner.

Allagash Grand Cru
-Haven't had it yet

Allagash Curieux
-The 11% ABV was subtle. It went great with pork - it had great personality and strength.

Ommegang Abbey Ale
-Great fruit flavors, loved this beer. Would love to drink it again and again.

Ommegang Hennepin
-Great personality, strong flavors, a little off what I expected, but I'll make sure to get it again.

I love Beer Advocate. Anyone who loves beer should read the site.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Syriana

I saw Syriana last night, and found it very good.

The movie is a seemingly disjoint set of 4 storylines - but one of them was particularly touching. There's a Pakistani boy in the Persian Gulf who can't find work and can't speak Arabic. He has nothing to do, so he ends up attending an Islamic school. They feed him and give him work, and teach him about Islam. It turns out he's being trained to be a terrorist; however, it's very well written so that you could understand why he would follow this path.

Random language dork:
I could pick up some of the Arabic
I could figure out when it was formal arabic and when it was colloquial
I could (mostly) figure out when it was Farsi or Urdu

Tags

Woah. Blogger just added tags. Cool! This deserves its own post
tags

Monday, December 05, 2005

Optimization

I saw some code that prompted the user "This could take a while, are you sure?" when the user asked the code to sort something.

So here's a suggestion for you: optimize code by "optimizing" user expectation.
tags

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Things I wish I'd known freshman year

There are a few things that I wish I knew freshman year or had done differently, and I'd like to enumerate them. Actually some of them I did and found amazingly helpful.

1. Find something to escape in. Find something that makes you completely forget about the assignments, upcoming tests, etc. Life gets so much better when you have a few hours a week when you're completely focued on something that isn't school.

2. Get off campus earlier. I didn't do late night freshman year, I didn't go to the Waterfront, I didn't get to Shadyside more than twice.

3. Try things that you might not like. You might find your new favorite thing.

4. Don't ever hate something. Think that it might be different the next time. I've met people who had one bad experience with a food genre and they think they hate it, but they just had something that wasn't great.

5. Go to concerts of bands you only kind of know, or your friends like. They might show you new music you love.

6. Run an organization. Or at least be a really active officer. You get to see how people in charge you thought were awful were pretty awesome, and you start realizing how much people in charge who seem awesome are gods. Plus, every interview I've had has talked about me running CIA.

7. Date more, when you know it won't work, end it. There are tons of opportunities to date, why try and patch up a bad relationship?

8. Pay attention in class. The things you think you can ignore because they won't be on the test? They'll be in an upper level class, and you'll be at a loss because everyone else understands them.

9. Take a writing course every year. I have noticed my writing skills seriously slipping as I haven't written a paper since sophomore year.

10. Do things that are more practical than theoretical sometimes. For example, learn how to install MySQL and Tomcat and a few libraries if you're a CS major. It's not really covered in classes, but it will help you get jobs - people know you know how to get dirty and you understand the application, not just the theory.

11. Start research in your sophomore year if you can. It's lots of fun, lower stress, and very rewarding.

12. Tutor or TA. Helping people learn teaches you how people learn. You will become a better teacher or explainer (and therefore, a better friend and neighbor).

13. Live in a freshman dorm. I'm still really close with people from my freshman dorm.

14. Join a club. This is related to numbers 1 and 6, but it gives you another base of friends.

15. Take advantage of culture on and off campus. I've been to a bunch of shows downtown, and on campus - and it's made life a lot more fun.

16. Be on a first name basis with your advisor. They can be your biggest advocate in classes, jobs, and life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Automated phone dialing systems

I have a real issue with automated phone dialing systems - systems that call me and don't have a person at the other end

Or a number of smaller issues:
1. Ones that call and leave messages on the answering machine - but don't say who it's for. If it doesn't say who it's for, I won't call back. If a letter comes to my house and it doesn't say who it's for, I'll probably throw it away.
2. Ones that call every 30 minutes until they get an answer - that happened this morning. Leave a message
3. Ones that call me, then say "please wait for a representitive." Interrupt my life to make me wait?

Music rant

I was just looking back through some of my more recent music purchases, and realizing that there were a couple CDs I bought without listening to anything ahead of time, assuming I'd like them.

I did not fully appreciate the following CDs:
Dave Matthews Band: Stand Up
Ben Folds: Songs for Silverman

Both artists have songs I really enjoy, they rock live, but their current offerings don't pull me.

I really like "Landed" from Songs for Silverman, but that's the only song I want to hear twice from either disc.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Good way to obfuscate code!


boolean isDiskFull() {
someReallyStupidSideEffect();
return(diskFullness);
}

regularRoutine() {
if(isDiskFull()); {
//doErrorHandling in here
}
}


Best part about this code? The error handling will always execute, and some side effect will always happen.

I'm not sure I would have allowed the semi colon after an if (or while, or for) without an in between statement - I probably would have required the {} for an empty statement. (Though legitimately, ';' is a statement!)

Friday, November 18, 2005

At least it's something

From asharq alawsat: Israel ’s Arkia Airways and Qatar Airways Sign Deal:
"The Jerusalem Post, which reported the agreement, indicated that Israeli passport holders would be allowed to travel from Tel Aviv to the Jordanian capital Amman on board Arkia flights and then continue their journey, using the same ticket, on Qatar Airways."

That's not saying that Israelis can enter Qatar, or even transit through Doha International Airport, but Israelis can fly on Qatar's planes. I wonder how popular it will be.

[EDIT: I misread the article the first time. The article does say "The airline said in a statement that under the deal, Israelis would not need a visa to be in the transit area in Qatar's airport."]

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Support New England craft beer by drinking it!

Beers I miss while in Pittsburgh:
Allagash White
Moat Mountain Cathedral Ledge Lager (and the rest of theirs)
... I swear there are more. Though the local beer distributor has probably 3 or 4 Maine brews (Gritty's, and one with a lobster on it)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Long Dark Car Ride of the Soul - Part 2

Back in February, I gave an initial Long Dark Car Ride of the Soul play list

I've been working on it, here's version 2
Blue Man Group - "PVC IV" from Audio
BT - "Beta (3AM Mix)" (Download)
The Crystal Method - "Trip Like I Do" from Vegas
The Crystal Method - "Bad Stone" from Vegas
Deftones - "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away) [Acoustic]" from Little Nicky
DJ Tiesto - "Lethal Industry" from In My Memory
Raff & Freddy - "Deep Progress" (mixed by Sasha)from Global Underground: Ibiza
Groove Armada - "At the River" from Best of Groove Armada
JAYA - "Precession (Subterranean EP)" from Essential Selection Vol. One (Disc 2)
John Digweed - "ABA Structure / Illusion" from Bedrock (Disc 1)
Radiohead - "Pull/Uulk Revolving Doors" from Amnesiac
Radiohead - "Everything in its Right Place" from Kid A
Sasha - "Baja" from Xpander EP
Underworld - "Dark & Long" from Dubnobasswithmyheadman
Underworld - "Tongue" from Dubnobasswithmyheadman

New additions from Joe:
DJ Shadow - "Blood on the Motorway" from Private Press
DJ Shadow - "Building Steam from a Grain of Salt" from Endtroducing...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

No, just stop

Just stop with the hating folks.

How about rolling over all current marriages into civil unions, and make marriages a religious thing and civil unions a state thing - then how do you oppose homosexual civil unions?

Maine Coalition for Marriage: please give it up. Thanks. 55% is a good majority. How would you have mobilized 40,000 more people to vote "yes" without a similar number of people to come out and vote "no"? It's time for gay rights, please listen to the tolling of the bell.

NEW DIRECTION (From WGME)
Leaders of the unsuccessful attempt to repeal Maine's gay rights law are saying their main focus now is passing a state constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage. At a news conference this morning, a leader of the Coalition for Marriage invited Governor Baldacci to introduce an amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. But the Reverend Sandy Williams says his side is not abandoning the idea of repealing Maine's gay rights law. Michael Heath of the Christian Civic League of Maine, which also sought to repeal the gay rights law, says Tuesday's loss was not unexpected. His side says that with more time and money, it could have won. Maine becomes the last New England state to adopt a gay rights law. With ballots counted in 94 percent of the state's precincts, the "no" votes calling for keeping the law is ahead 55 percent to 45 percent over the proposal to repeal it. The issue went before voters Tuesday for the third time since 1998. In 1998 and 2000, Maine voters rejected similar gay rights laws.
QUESTION #1
YES: 179,175
NO: 219,404

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Victory for gay rights in Maine

From WGME
GAY RIGHTS VOTE
Mainers vote down a repeal of the so-called "Gay Rights" law, meaning it will stay on the books. With ballots counted in 74% of the state's precincts shortly after midnight, the “no” vote led by a comfortable margin of 56% to 44%. The issue went before voters for the third time since 1998. In 1998 and 2000, voters rejected the gay rights law. The campaign pitted a coalition of mainstream religious and business groups against a network of Christian church groups that see gay rights as an assault on traditional marriage. This year's vote was a referendum on a law enacted earlier this year to amend the Maine Human Rights Act by making discrimination illegal in employment, housing, credit, public accommodations and education based on sexual orientation.

QUESTION #1
YES (repeal): 135,910
NO (keep the gay rights law): 171,099

The saddest part

I've been reading a bit of anti-gay-rights campaigning. The saddest part is that it's apparent these people don't just dislike gay rights laws, they actually actively hate and fear gay people.

Jesus never taught us to hate, right?

Every few years, the Maine legislature passes a gay rights bill, and soon after, the religious right come in and organize a referendum to override the bill.

Well, this year is more of the same. The people behind overturning it, largely Maine's Coalition for Marriage, has been very fun in their hate of the passage.

Let's see how they tell you why you should vote against gay rights if you're a man

Why Men should Vote YES

Men should vote YES in order to take a stand for their families. Ware you willing to sit by while our Legislature and ultra-liberal Governor say that all forms of sexual deviance are welcome in Maine no matter how bizarre?

Right, because everyone who is gay is a sexual deviant - 100% of men and women who are gay own whips and sheep.

The law says only that gay people can have equal rights - I don't think they're suddenly giving the green light to necrophilia.

Are you willing to sit by, while the Boy Scouts are labeled as haters, and cross-dressers, nudists, and pedophiles are praised as heroes?

From the news stories, I'm pretty sure that the ousted priests aren't heroes. Plus, nudism has nothing to do with being gay. And that guy who dressed as a girl at the halloween party really screwed up my ideas of right and wrong.

Are you willing to see the words FATHER and HUSBAND written out of the law as hateful and bigoted, as already happened in Canada?

I'm pretty sure lots of guys are still proud of being fathers in Canada, it's never been a swear word. Lots of gay men are proud fathers and husbands.
If not, protect the ones you love by voting YES to repeal this very bad law

Very bad law! Strong language!

Ok, now on to why I should vote against it if I care about children.

Why a YES vote is good for children.

Children need a YES vote to protect them from the hidden agenda at school.

I never heard about being gay at school til I had other kids from yelling "FAG!" at me. Strange. They could have used a book about why being gay was alright so they don't punch their TV when "Queer Eye" comes on.

The hidden agenda is the normalization of homosexuality in the public schools through books as "Heather has Two Mommies" and "Daddy Has a Roommate"

Maybe Daddy's in college?

Every child deserves a healthy and safe environment at school. Sexual deviance has no place in a school system that is already falling way behind in the teaching of basic subjects. The classroom is not a place to experiment with a redefinition of marriage and the family.

So, gay implies all sexual deviance now. Interesting.

Under the current law, a pedophile cannot be barred from a job as a public school teacher on the basis of his sexual orientation.

Under the current law, a terrorist cannot be barred from a job as a public school teacher on the basis of his sexual orientation. But he probably can be barred from a job as a teacher based on BEING A PEDOPHILE. Gay does not imply pedophilel.

In short, a YES vote will help protect your little ones at school.

I'm pretty sure most school kids get emotionally injured more from people calling them gay and them feeling shamefully about it than having gay teachers or having a little tolerance taught, but you never know.

And now, why our ladies should vote yes

Why women should vote yes

Women should vote YES in order to take a stand for the family. Women have the common sense to know that every child needs to know that boys are boys and girls are girls. Impressionabble young children need to be shielded from a dangerous hidden agenda which deliberately tries to blur the lines between the sexes, against the wishes of the parents.


This has a lot of fun places to start, but I'll start from the beginning.
Gay men are still men
Lesbians are still women
Right?
By this argument, of "men are men and women are women" my mom needs to get the hell back in the kitchen. What ever happened to equality of the sexes? This is insanely reinforcing gender roles.

Textbooks such as "Heather Has Two Mommies" and "Daddy Has a Roommate" promote a hidden agenda to redefine the family. Parents have no say in this dangerous experiment. Is the homosexual rights movement so powerful that it can teach students what they should believe against the wishes of their parents?

If they succeed today in repealing this law, I don't think those books will stop being taught. They're two separate issues.

Women should vote yes to protect their little ones from the hidden agenda.

The hidden agenda of tolerance, equality, and equal rights.


From their FAQ
Is there discrimination in Maine?

Against Christians who dare to publicly defend the gospel, yes. Against "gays" . . . no way. Maine citizens who are appropriate (private) about their sexuality have always been respected in Maine.
(cut for brevity)

I was discriminated against in high school for not being religious, by my peers. I've never seen someone discriminated against ffor being Christian in America.

Of course, being out is being inappropriate. And being appropriate means lying about who you really are.

I really have work to do, but I hope Mainers finally allow a law giving equal footing to the gay community to stand today.

Blockbuster, we are confused

I thought that the local Blockbuster was still doing "No Late Fees" (which was a lie, but the policy behind it meant you could keep a movie out much longer). But they weren't, and had signs up all over the place to that effect - all of which I ignored when I rented 3 movies and kept them all 8 days longer than I should have.

I'm very confused

I'm very confused by Pittsburgh.

We had thunderstorms Sunday, today, and we're forecasted to have a few more.

It's November.

I do want to see a thunder-snow-storm before I die though

Monday, November 07, 2005

The benefits of living in NYC

Usually, I am pretty dang glad I'm not in New York City.

But right now, I take that back. I wish I could go to The Battle Over Books at the New York Public Library.
The flyer for this.

Plus, Paul van Dyk is at Roxy NYC November 11.

Uneven PowerBook illumination

I love my PowerBook 12", purchased February 2005.

However, I have had it in a number of times for repairs
1. Display brightness uneven (went to repair depot)
2. Airport card connection had to be reseated because the laptop fell on to carpet (quick, in store)
3. New ComboDrive because the laptop, in a lightly padded sleeve, in a laptop bag, fell on to carpet from 2 feet (went to repair depot)
4. I think it'll go in again soon for the same display brightness issue.

I now find out that the brightness issue is perennial (Discussion forum on topic). Weird, and disappointing. Laptops are supposed to be heavy duty, I remember stories about dropping laptops off tables onto hard surfaces and the laptops were supposed to survive unharmed. So although I really enjoy OS X, and the form factor, I'm not sure which laptop I'll buy next time.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Worst advertising targetting ever

I've complained in the past about the untargetted advertising on Yahoo Mail, huge 200x200 or more banners for University of Phoenix Online. (Right now, 425x600 pixels for a credit check).

That's alright, they don't have all that much information about me, I'll forgive the untargetted advertising, although I could deal without the huge dimensions.

Well Facebook, who does know a lot about me and about its target audience, right now has an ad up for Strayer University, a multi campus, questionable quality institution. But I'm already at college! So why put college ads on a website you must already be in college to see? They do a few grad programs, like IS, MBA, MIS, Accounting, but it just seems like a poor use of a university's money to advertise an online university to one of the top schools in the country.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Test drive!

I test drove an Audi A4 today. I liked. It only has 170 horses compared to the 200 of the new A4s. But all in all, it drives well, had smooth acceleration, etc.

Now hopefully I can find an S4 with about the same milage etc.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Movies I need to see

Howl's Moving Castle
Transporter 2
Good Night & Good Luck
Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Relocation madness

I have a relocation contact at Google.
I have a relocation company (Plus Relocation) that Google hires.
I have a relocation company that Plus Relocation hires to move my stuff.
I have a relocation company that Plus Relocation hires to find me temporary housing.

I have contacts at all of these.

Moving's hard, let's go party

Monday, October 17, 2005

The ambiguity, the move

Purchased:
One way to San Jose for 1/2/2006
One way San Jose to Reno for 1/5/2006
One way Reno to San Jose 1/15/2006 (thought I wouldn't go to San Jose first when I bought this ticket)

California dreamin...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Car comparison

So, here's a grid of the cars I'm looking at. Requirement: standard transmission, AWD wagon.

Why is the Audi S4 do damned heavy?

(This isn't really my purchase list - I can't afford half of these new, and I'm not a big fan of Subarus, so my hope right now is a 2000-2005 used S4 wagon)

MakeModelEngineHorsepowerWeight in pounds
AudiA42.0T i42003671
AudiS44.2 v83403957
SubaruImpreza WRX2.5T flat42303252
SubaruImpreza2.5 flat41733071
SubaruOutback XT2.5T flat42503415
VolvoV502.5T i52183263
VolvoV702.5T i53003646
BMW325xi2.5 i62153737
BMW530xi3.0 i62553858

Other effects of the information age

When someone says good morning to you, the proper response is "good morning", right?

What about when the person is 7 time zones ahead?

It's just kind of disorienting, especially when I just woke up!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Tabletized

I am tutoring an advanced programming course this semester - a sophomore level course, where students learn how to translate complex algorithms into code. Advanced programming as a sophomore and not as a senior? yeah, the difference between programming and computer science... ask me if you really want to know.

I'm tutoring a couple students in Pittsburgh, and I'll start tutoring a few of the CMU-Qatar students soon. I learned how important face interaction and having a white board of piece of paper there really is for tutoring - so the remote tutoring will take place with a webcam and a Tablet PC from HP. I hope it can transmit intuition as well as pencil and paper, or whiteboard - but the latency of the drawing, the barrier to understand fully what someone else is thinking, is hard to fake through the internet. (As a side note, I found IBM's virtual, distributed offices with phone conferences and web conferences to be terribly cold and much less effective than face time. I like people)

We'll see how this experiment goes. I'll let you know.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Un-targeted advertising

So to completely switch gears from targeted advertising, today's gem is un-targeted advertising.

TartanTrak front page

Anything look out of wack on that? That's right, McDonald's. TartanTrak is part of MonsterTrak, but every college I know of uses MonsterTrak as a career management utility for their students. So I imagine McDonald's would just say "Hey I want to go to all college students!" If they get anyone from Carnegie Mellon, I'd be amazed.

Or maybe it is targeted. And my career center is telling me I'm not good enough for a job in my major.

[EDIT: This is where the link goes - a general page, not tuned for college grads, that's for sure]

Thursday, October 06, 2005

More thoughts of things that could be cooler

I was sitting on the lawn today, having a delicious lunch from Sree's truck, when the parking garage alarm starts to go off. And keeps going off. (In case you're wondering, I got tarimand chicken, spinach potato, and grape leaf curry. The grape leaf curry is amazing.)

The fire department gets summoned every time a building's alarm goes off without warning. But I'd guess fewer than 1/3 of these are real, summonable issues. The other 2/3 could be cancelled within a minute (which is probably under the amount of time it takes the fire trucks to leave the station).

So how do we avoid summoning trucks in these cases? I propose a way for a phone system to integrate with the alarm system - during an alarm a person could pick up the phone, hit a special key (let's say #), and immediately get either the station or the dispatcher. The station or dispatcher get the context when the call's coming in - there's an alarm going off where the call is coming from. It's alrady their primary mental focus - getting to the scene of the disaster.

Why this is cool: It's easier than remembering the dispatcher's phone number, and it instantly, without much effort, gets you in contact with the people who are on their way. It could be even intelligent enough to dispatch to the exact station that's coming, if you might have trucks from one of several stations.

Why this is better than 911: 911 doesn't immediately associate the incoming phone number with the alarm, and even if they do, they're focused on other things too. So it requires a mental switch, and them to contact either the station or the dispatcher. Too much time explaining to prevent the firemen from actually having to leave.

Policy issues: Who can cancel the call? An arsonist might try to cancel the trucks - but we could either allow only certain phones (like the lobby-person's phone, or a secure phone), or require security personnel to cancel it by entering a PIN.

I had a dream...

I had a dream last night I was in Qatar at a supermarket, searching for Gatorade. But for some reason it had a pet store in it too, and I definitely can't remember to speak Arabic in my dreams. But for some reason my car made it to the middle east.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Facebook and targetted advertising: old school

Facebook, for those of you who don't know, is a social network for college students. People have pretty wide ranging browsing ability at their own schools - so you can find the guy you crush on who you know 3 things about, or find out who knows that girl you like so you can know if she's nice.

I have 2 facebook accounts - one from my Pitt email address (thanks to Arabic) and one from my CMU account. Both were set as CS concentration.

On the CMU account, I see an ad for jobs at Facebook, front and center on the home page. Not where they put ads normally. On the Pitt account, I don't. Interesting...

So I change my major in my profile from CS to English on the CMU one, and the ad disappears.

So yes, folks, Facebook only wants CS majors (maybe some others) from select schools.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

And in other news

And in other news, I begin on January 16 instead of February 6, so I can go to the Google Global Sales Conference

Friday, September 30, 2005

The real deal

I have accepted a position at Google, working in Partner Services as a Web Applications Engineer in Mountain View, California. I start February 6, but will be out there the first of February probably.

I'll be giving my dad my car and buying a new car in California. Plus I get to rent a car for a month - probably an SUV for getting things.

I don't know where I'll live yet, but they provide a furnished apartment for up to a month. Shashi has an extra bedroom - so that's a possibility.

I am very excited :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The disappointment of Carnegie Mellon West

Carnegie Mellon West sounded really cool to me. I mean, being able to continue studying at Carnegie Mellon on the west coast, 2 miles from my job? Hotness.

But check out their schedule. It's a professional masters in software engineering. No offense, as I will be a software engineer, but I really would like a professional program that has some theory classes.

So I guess if I want to study while working, the solution's really Stanford. Shucks.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Again more things that need to be fixed in computers

Arabic is a little buggy on the Mac. It may have "just worked" to get it installed, but the directions of the right and left key swap when the keyboard's backwards.

It's like no one who programmed it actually uses it

I've noticed similar things from Google Arabic too.

Monday, September 26, 2005

My new background



Try the full resolution - I just really enjoy this picture

Saturday, September 24, 2005

And in other news

And in other news, I finally got my first ticket for parking in Pittsburgh.

PARKING VIOLATION:
PITTSBURGH ORDINANCE 541.1C4
No Parking - street cleaning

Reminder to self: when the parking spot seems too good to be true at midnight, it probably is.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Things that are random

I got Paul van Dyk's new 2 cd set, called The Politics of Dancing, Vol 2.. The first volume (The Politics of Dancing) was one of the first electronic CDs I got. It is amazing. I highly recommend it as an intro to trance or dance.

I preordered the CD 3 weeks ago. Today I got the CD, and I got two disc 2s. Amazon has this really cool return system though; you can print out a return label and mail it back in postage paid. I think they're shipping out the replacement before I even send the original back.

E-Commerce has really gotten a lot easier than its early days.

As a side note, I'm off to Boston tomorrow. Had to buy new shoes and a garment bag, but I think the garment bag will come in handy throughout life.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Taking an inventory

When I was working on my resume, I realized it had a lot of fluff. I had jobs whose bullets were obvious from the title, I had many bullets I didn't need.

So I thought about it, and I realized that I needed to figure out what I wanted my resume to say, then get rid of everything that didn't contribute to that. Instead of "TA for database course" having 3 bullets, it got 0. I didn't want to explain what I'd done, I wanted to show that I know what I'm talking about with databases. Jobs from 2000 didn't need 3 bullets, as I've done those things later in life.

But basically, condensing what you want to say down into a few major points is really powerful. As much as you live every day exhibiting these traits, taking an inventory and making them stronger, more pronounced, will stengthen your conviction. And it will surprise you how cool you are.

There are many ways ticketmaster sucks

... and it's not just how they charge too much in fees.

This summer, I'd go to the Ticketmaster site, search for events around "Durham." It would then say "Which Durham do you want?" I'd select Durham NC. Then it would bring me back to the front page, Durham auto entered for the region I wanted to search around, without the state. I'd be ambiguous, it would get specific, and then it would cause me to get back to the same error. Cruel UI design.

Just try it: go to Ticketmaster's site, search for events in the next 14 days for Durham, and feel my pain. Plus, it would tell me The House of Blues in Myrtle Beach was in the Raleigh area. It's 4 hours away.

So I'm thinking of moving to the California Bay Area. (Also thinking of Boston, Austin, etc) I want to see what kind of arts are in San Francisco - how often San Francisco has musicals, plays, etc. So I enter San Francisco, and it spits out Northern California/Northern Nevada. Technically it's only three and half hours to Reno, but I see no way to limit regions more specifically than this. They used to have a "x miles from" feature on their search. Yes, Ticketmaster has gotten progressively worse and less usable over the years.

They could do so much, instead, they are lazy with $10/ticket fees and a monopoly.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Learning from domain specific compression

There are two compression techniques I know of basically - one compresses every character based on its frequency - if 'a' is used a lot, it could be '01' while if 'x' is rarely used, it would be represented as '100101' or something long. This is called huffman coding.

The other type is LZW encoding - it has to do with a fixed length code, but variable length of what the code represents - so if we've seen "aaaaaaa" a lot before, it could be encoded in only 8 bits.

So here's one for you - music encoding. Let's say we're encoding notes. So we might have "bs3q" or something like that - b sharp, 3rd octave above the lowest octave we'll encode, quarter note. We could use LZW for this - it might be nice if we see a lot of notes in one octave. Huffman might be a little naive - if all the notes are in one octave, there would be plenty of overhead to keep entering bits for the octave.

So think about music - sheet music is fairly sparse compared to the representation I described. At the beginning, it says which octave it is, which notes are sharp, and the time. If we could encode that only once, it might be useful.

But that's not the point - I could write the desnsist representation of music ever, and then run huffman and or lzw over it. But the beauty of XML is readable markup - so how do we compress this extremely densely while having the original being uber readable? How do we use smarter compression algorithms than Huffman & LZW?

I'd love to check into "smarter" compression techniques - not necessarily ones tuned for music or another format, but ones that take into account how humans like to represent data (ie: not referring to an external table, but having all information available at their point of focus) and seeing if there's a better way to compress data meant to be read by humans - based on how the mind really likes to work, and how humans actually write naturally.

Just for fun.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Warning: nerd post

The general idea behind Google's ranking (and the other major search players) is that a page's rank is directly proportional how much time someone who randomly clicks links would spend on that page.

It's called the random surfer model - if I click around and spend 1 second on every page, but spend 5000 seconds on yahoo.com and 5 seconds on stupidpage.com, then Yahoo's rank is 1000 times greater than stupidpage's.

But all of this is neglecting how people use the web now. Who actually surfs? Is there a better way to rank pages, having to do with how emails, IMs, and away messages fly around for faddish cult favorites? What about with the fact that searching is how I get to most pages, not browsing?

Don't get me wrong, PageRank works pretty well, but I'm starting to get annoyed with some of the automated properties of it: like how the top result on lyrics search invariably starts the JVM and tries to do a java exploit

Okay, so until next time, keep sending me your questions, and I will keep making fun of your punctuation and spelling. I mean, answer them.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hey Tim - Thanks for the quote

Bill Maher Excerpt

"""
New Rule: America must recall the president. That's – that's what this country needs. A good, old-fashioned, California-style recall election! Complete with Gary Coleman, porno actresses and action film stars. And just like Schwarzenegger's predecessor here in California, George Bush is now so unpopular, he must defend his jog against…Russell Crowe. Because at this point, I want a leader who will throw a phone at somebody. In fact, let's have only phone throwers. Naomi Campbell can be the vice-president!

Now, I kid, but seriously, Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you anymore. There's no more money to spend. You used up all of that. You can't start another war because you also used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people.

Yeah, listen to your mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit card's maxed out, and no one is speaking to you: mission accomplished! [laughter] Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service. And the oil company. And the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or spaceman?!

Now, I know what you're saying. You're saying that there's so many other things that you, as president, could involve yourself in…Please don't. I know, I know, there's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela, and eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote. But, sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man.


Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire metropolis to rising water and snakes.


On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two Trade Centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans…Maybe you're just not lucky!



I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side. So, yes, God does speak to you, and what he's saying is, “Take a hint.”
"""

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sometimes, things just work on a Mac.

Today, I wanted to see how hard it would be to type Arabic on one of my computers. On my Windows XP desktop, I can't do it yet because I don't have the Windows CD. Apparently Apple decided OS X should install with Arabic support by default, and now I can switch quickly between US-English-QWERTY and Arabic-QWERTY.

Maha and Yasmine spent a bit of time this morning helping me properly type several Arabic words I know already - like Shukran (thanks), Qatar, and habeebety (female sweety).

There are a few things that don't work so well right now though - Apple decided to overload AppleKey + Space, so I can't use that to switch keyboard types. Switching between english and Arabic has some really weird properties. Backspace going to the right also bugged me at first. TextEdit just doesn't behave "right" with Arabic - sometimes artifacts are left after characters are deleted.

But all in all - chatting with my friends in Adium in Arabic works pretty well! Unicode is a good thing!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The next thing I hope to see from iTunes...

The next thing I want to see from iTunes is the ability for easy synchronization between two computers under one account through direct connection (LAN, whatever, Apple doesn't have to give bandwidth).

I, right now, use ourTunes to download one library from one computer to another - but it's not easy to grab just the new or updated files, and it doesn't update meta-data (play count, etc). Another friend uses CVS for this task - same issues, and a little heavyweight for what I want to do.

Just downloading files also won't update the playlists and the podcasts on another computer. So right now - the work flow just is awkward - this really is an important feature Apple should get to. I really enjoy iTunes, but having two computers that should have the exact same files and playlists (but don't) is very annoying.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Growing up

Some parents add themselves to college packing list

Key Excerpts
[Two parents] said they would be talking to [their freshman daughter] often, at least once a day, but more likely two or three times daily.

[One parent] expected to be in almost daily contact with the student-affairs office as well - as she was for her first daughter - to work out the kinks.

Today's college students are e-mailing their papers home for their parents' inspection before turning them in. Their parents in turn are stepping in to solve roommate problems, helping students pick out courses and demanding improvements to their rooms.

[One student] said parents want to attend their children's adviser sessions.

[The director of counseling at Colby] said the urge is strong among baby boomer parents to smooth away the issues.


This seems like an interesting article - especially in light of the whole parents not letting their kids fail issue. Let them bump their heads - we never will feel real joy until we feel real pain. And what about when parent can't solve things for their kids anymore? How will the kid cope? I say really poorly.

Mark Stehlik delivered a great "last lecture" on failure and its importance in life. The abstract is
American society has become increasingly failure-averse. Nowadays, in order to feel good about oneself, one has to be successful, virtually at everything. I argue that our greatest successes often arrive on the heels of an epiphany-relaying defeat and that failure is both a barometer of our desire to take risks and a data point on the yardstick by which we can measure our success. Put another way, is success without risk of failure really success? And what does this mean in a university context where failure is not thought of as productive?


So parents: go away. No, seriously. We'll call home once a week, and we'll struggle through bad roommates, picking classes, finding food, buying clothes, editing our papers, and getting hung over. We have school help for that.

You want us to be happy? We'll never feel prouder at graduation than if it's something we managed on our own, when we've made it through the trials, the failures, the heartbreaks that are inevitable in a college experience. We'll forge true bonds with the friends that helped us through it. We'll know how to handle work, life, living with a partner better that way. We'll love you for giving us the space to run. We'll grow up to be stronger.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bah Hahbah

I was thinking about how to make computers pronounce in dialect - do you spell how you want something pronounced, or do you program the dialect in to the speech system?

So then I got thinking to an old story about automated voices and how good they are.

About 6 or 8 years ago, NOAA Weather Radio switched from a live person giving the forecasts and a computer reading them. The guy used to be a good old down east person - he had a great Maine accent. It sounded perfectly normal to me (it wasn't til I got to college that I realized my dad has an accent).

When they switched, the computer pronounced the town name Bar Harbor as Bar Harbor, which if you've ever been to Maine you'd know is not how any local pronounces it. They all pronounce it "Bah Hahbah". (Don't worry - we understand the conservation of letters law and just add the missing Rs to other words. Like our capital, Auguster. Though I'm not sure all the Rs are appropriately transferred - we talk a lot about lobstah, stahtin ahhh cahs with cah keys, and we love ahhh beeeah.)

So they had to program into this new fangled computer system the ability for the town to be pronounced "Bah Hahbah" so the locals wouldn't laugh at the voice too much, and more so that people knew what area the report was actually for!

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans

We have troops that can be anywhere in the world in under 24 hours from 0 warning, and you tell me that we couldn't get food, water, medicine, and troops to New Orleans in 4 days?

This disaster recovery has been one of the most embarassing, worst failures of the US Government, in the history of this country.

Even New Orleans' mayor says so.

How does one specify a mandatory evacuation but not help the people actually evacuate?

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Just to give you all an idea...

Just to give you all an idea of how hard working on computers can still be some times, my good friend Steph came to me today complaining about how her computer wouldn't boot.

Well, I put the hard drive from that in my desktop as a slave, and then my computer wouldn't boot.

In fact, her drive really wanted to be master and wouldn't relinquish control of the computer to my hard drive, no matter how I configured it.

So I had to play with jumpers. But I don't have laptop jumpers around. So instead I used speaker cable (pulling a single strand out at a time) to create a connection on the jumpers. I'm losing them all the time - but they still work thankfully.

So I can get it to boot and recognize a cd-r, my hard drive, and Steph's hard drive - so I downloaded Knoppix (let me tell you, it's a lifesaver) and I'm booting linux on that to get it to recognize her disk.

Until I realize that Knoppix hates NTFS. In fact, I can't blame it.

So I have to use Partition Magic to convert NTFS to Win 32, to copy her files onto my hard drive.

So the break down of hacks:
1. Using speaker wire strands as hard drive jumpers
2. Booting from knoppix
3. Converting my machine's second partition to Fat32 to be able to copy files onto it

Slowly but surely it seems to be working...

EDIT: the drive seems to be deteroriating while I pull files down. Maybe it's overheating? I'll try again in the morning. I've never, ever been this frustrated working on a computer issue

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

You always said I was backwards....

Arabic is written Right to Left (a woman today in the Pitt book store said "Hey, this book's cover is on backwards!"... had to inform her it's an Arabic book, and that's why it opens the other way)

I've been answering questions on tests backwards for quite a few years - which I believe lends itself to having Arabic writing come more naturally - I thought writing right to left would be odd, but it really isn't

The food

Dinner the last two nights has been Spinach and plum tomatoes with grilled salmon (tonight with some cajun seasoning) and balsamic vinaigrette from Moat Mountain.

Yeah, it's diet food. Yeah, it's really good.

I've also been eating Sabra baba ganouj lately. It seems a little odd there's mayonaisse in it. I really like their hummus though.

More things I'd like to see from technology...

I did my taxes in California last year by way of filling out a PDF online, and doing the calculations manually. Which really bugged me - I'm not sure if there's a way to embed simple math into a PDF, but there should be if it will be used like that.

That gets me to thinking - we don't really have that much choice on our tax returns, basically 2 people would write the same return if they had the same w-4s, right?

So let's have a system where a tax return program synthesizes files - perhaps transparently. The user can make choices when need be, but instead of my employer sending me paper, how about they send me a file, digitally signed (and probably encrypted in transit to me). I then use a program to merge all of these files and it does my tax return. Kind of like Turbo-Tax, but with additional integration with these tax-files. This saves me time from reading directions, and it saves the IRS time from people making mistakes. It could even present what appears to be a 1040 to people, so they can understand why they get a refund or owe more.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

HBP

Can I borrow the latest Harry Potter book from someone in Pittsburgh?

Thanks

More tech stuff that would be nice

The Optimus keyboard is pretty awesome, with remappable displays under the keys. But it'll cost as much as a "good mobile phone". Probably $500+

I'm starting to get RSI in my hands. The Natural keyboards alleviate that - but I can't find a Mac layout, USB natural keyboard. Plus, I don't like the random buttons on the top of most Natural keyboards.

There's a company that sells unprinted keyboards, but not natural ones.

I suggest a new marketing strategy for keyboards: a company sells personalized keyboards - you can select what keys are where - for only $5 more than everyone else sells keyboards. They have several form factors - regular, natural - several base keyboard layouts per language - Mac, Windows, Solaris, and several options about having the custom buttons at the top.

Kind of keyboards, on demand. I'd buy one.

Good food

So one thing I found in Raleigh-Durham that I miss (never thought I'd say that) is this little place called "Spice & Curry". It's an Indian restaurant - pretty authentic and very good.

I haven't found a similar place around here - any CMUers found a good, cheap Indian place in Pittsburgh?

EDIT: I'm looking for Rogan Gosh, biryani, etc. I'll try to find the region of what I'm looking for.

EDIT #2: Northern Indian, but any good Indian

Also, does anyone know a good place to get shawarma? or a good Lebanese & Mediterranean grocer? I'll try the middle east place in the strip soon

Saturday, August 27, 2005

More things I want to see from technology

1. Right now, when I get a call, my computer pauses music, turns off the sound, and displays the caller id info for the person calling. When I hang up, it undoes everything it did. I'd like my car to pause / mute my music and roll up my windows when I get a call, and then return them to the original state when I hang up.

can't figure any other out right now. Oh yeah, back in Pittsburgh!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Things I want in a weather site

Features I would like to see in a weather site:
1. More historical data. What was the weather on any given day the data exists?
2. Weather along a route. Kind of a combination of Google Maps and weather. Give a starting time and location, and it shows you the weather at about when you'll head through a city every 60 miles or so.
3. A different way of visualizing data. I'd like to have ad-hoc queries & reports against historical and forecasted weather. My random one is being able to specify a line on a map, then left to right show the temperature across a period (either across a day, or highs across a year). This would be cool to see if one area has a shorter period where it's at its high temperature, or which states have more excessive temperatures, and how that varies by region.

Tomorrow's the 12 hour trip to Pittsburgh

From a friend

My friend Andrew, from high school, took this summer off to spend some time with his dad, who was sick. I knew Andrew's dad pretty well - he went to New York with us when we were in high school, and was a really nice guy. My mom worked with him for a while and always found him to be a good guy.

I hope he doesn't mind me sharing this - it was really moving. I'm going to the visiting hours really soon.


Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005
From: Andrew
Subject: news

Hi,

Yesterday morning, my dad, Ed, passed away after a three year battle with renal cell carcinoma. I thought I should let you know.

Visiting hours will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Brackett Funeral Home, 29 Federal St., Brunswick.

A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Charles Borromeo Church, McKeen St., Brunswick.

Later in the day yesterday, a very large end-to-end rainbow with another faint rainbow above it appeared in the sky facing my house. It was the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. I couldn't fit the whole thing in my camera, but I thought I would send a few pictures of it anyway. You can see the middle of it in the first picture and the right tail in the second. I don't think the rainbow was a coincidence.



I am sorry if I forgot anyone.

Andrew

Thursday, August 25, 2005

BNAS: Closed

So I got lots of notes yesterday about the base closings - thanks everyone for knowing how much this means to me.

However happy I am Portsmouth stays open, Brunswick Naval Air Station, which is no more than 3 miles away, has not made the cut. It has been slated for full closure.

Originally it was slated to be "realigned". That meant that the Navy didn't want to pay to keep it open, but didn't want to lose the runway either. The board decided it would be better to return the land to the community, and therefore decided to close the base.

20% of the kids in school around here are military kids. The base adds a lot of money to the community, and a lot of diversity. I've never had a problem with people from the base - they've always been an excellent part of the community.

I'm interested in seeing how everything reacts around here - the big box stores, the small stores, the schools, the housing prices, and how the land is used.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Did I ever tell you about the time...

Back when I was 3, my dad used to do his reserve duty in Washington, DC. My mom, sisters, and I would go down and meet him halfway through the two weeks. I would sit by my mom, and my sisters would sit behind us (they were older, and honestly better behaved!).

Back in the day, you used to get planes with a 3 and 3 configuration from Maine to DC - I'd sit at the window, my mom would sit in the middle, and a random person would sit on the isle.

One time, I wanted to try the middle seat. My mom implored me not to, but I wanted to, so she let me.

She woke up to hear me saying "tickle, tickle, tickle!" She looked over to see me tickling a very unamused Ralph Nader.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Ideas while stranded in LaGuardia

1. The subway system signage in NY should be replaced by LCD or projected displays. At one point, we got off a J train because the J train said "all passengers must get off". There was a sign to take another train, on the weekends, down to where we were going. So we got to that platform, only to learn that this other train wasn't the right way to get there on the weekends.
2. How hard is it to do the plane reassignments in storms? I could imagine it's all done by computers, and I could also imagine it's all done by hand. Our plane has been diverted to Baltimore, instead of landing here - does a human say which people get which planes in a situation like this? Does a computer suggest alternatives? There are hundreds of flights to keep track of, but how much planning is automated?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Things I learned

First and foremost: you reserve a room at a hotel, but you request the type of room. We reserved a room at the Grand Central Hyatt, but requested 2 double beds. we got one king. SOL says the hotel.

Saw all the typical NY things yesterday & today - saw the Empire State Building, Times Square, Rockefeller center, St. Pat's, Central Park, the Met, Battery Park, Statue of Liberty from afar, Wall Street, Ground Zero, Chinatown, etc. Led people around - I know how to navigate this city pretty well now. I still haven't mastered subways, but when they change things up all bets are off.

By the way: the idea of All you can eat sushi is amazing.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Apple customer support: 4/5. Apple repair facilities: 2/5

Got the laptop back. I'm impressed with the turnaround time - but the repair place is in Tennessee, so now I get why fedex got it there so quickly

Plus on repair: they replaced the front face that I decided to drop this summer, without me asking.

Minus on repair: the left half of my monitor is still dim. They also told me it wasn't covered under warranty and therefore I should expect to be billed in 5-7 days.

Apple customer support assured me when I called this morning to say "I'm not paying" that I wasn't paying.

Downsides on customer support: they take forever to get stuff done when you call.

Upsides: they said my repair'd be free and they actually don't try to get you to go away

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The fun of Apple

Fun things Apple said

"You didn't specify this as the problem when you left it at the store." (a. But I did? b. What did I say then? c. Why'd you notice it if I said something else?)

"You didn't damage your laptop, we see the problem, and it's under warranty, but it's not a manufacturer's defect." (uhh, what's the definition of manufacturer's defect?)

"I'm sorry, I was on hold" (man, but I was on hold)

"Repairing your monitor costs $1256" (but the laptop only cost $1299)

They're repairing it, but after 2 marathon sessions with customer support. Good game, Apple, good game.

Pittsburgh

I actually like Pittsburgh. I like the start of the school year - each start has felt special, due to running CIA or starting school or having someone to see. I like September and the smell in the air at school, and the walk to campus.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Hero of the Day

Hero of the Day: Traci, for lending me Rustic Overtone's hard to find 1994 release Shish Boom Bam. Well, now you can't find any Rustic Overtones stuff, but this CD was hard to find even 5 years ago.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

How to repair the Master Boot Record in Windows

How to repair the MBR for Windows XP when you screw it up like I did by deleting the Linux partition.

1. Download the Windows Recovery Console ISO.
2. Burn this ISO to a CD (making it bootable) using Nero, Record Now, etc. (Don't just burn the file, actually burn the image)
3. Launch the Windows Recovery Console
4. fixmbr is the command that replaces fdisk /mbr , so run fixmbr

If you need more details, let me know. but this is more for me

More things that are silly

Eric said yesterday "I never use Linux on the work laptop, so I am going to blow it away to get the space back for Windows"

I thought this was a marvelous idea! So I went into Partition Magic and deleted the Linux partitions.

I forgot to reformat the Master Boot Record. So now the laptop's dead in the water until I make a bootable disc for it and reformat the mbr.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Funny story

I keep locking myself out of my car. I did it 2 times last semester, and then I did it again this summer.

This time, since it's warm out, I left my windows slightly ajar. Well, I discovered a way to break into my car: I took off one of my windshield wipers and pressed the unlock button on the inside of the passenger door to unlock my car.

Important lesson: if you leave your windows cracked, make sure it's not too much that someone could stick a windshield wiper through. Though I guess someone could always stick a coat hanger wire in through a narrowly opened window.

(I guess the more important lesson is don't lock yourself out of cars, but that one seems more obvious)

Lappy takes a break

Randomly, the left half of my PowerBook lost a lot of brightness. It only happens when the brightness is set low (which I always do, because it used to still be really crisp and legible. But now I can't see everything that I used to be able to. So I had to bring her in to the ol' Apple Store to see what they'd say.

They said that there's nothing they can do in store (slight surprise) and so it's been shipped off to Apple's maintainence location, hidden in some remote mountain location. I'll be Apple laptop-less for 2 weeks, but at least I have the IBM ThinkPad to tide me And hopefully the display will be fixed & like new when I get it back. I can deal without the Apple while I have the ThinkPad. I don't want to have a faded screen in the fall.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

When you blog

When you blog, be prepared for your mother, your roommate, your enemies, the government, your school administration, anyone on earth to read it. If you don't want a certain person to read it, make it private.

Stand by what you write, stand by what you say.

It reminds me of this old thing someone once told me - "If there is one person you could not tell what you are currently doing, you're probably doing something wrong." It doesn't mean that everyone has to accept what you're doing, but it does mean you must be able to stand up to anyone who might confront you on your actions.

distances

East coast
Portland ME to Boston: 106.8 miles
Boston to Providence: 50.7 miles, Providence to Hartford: 85.9 miles
Boston to Hartford: 101.2 miles
Hartford to New York: 117.6 miles
New York to Philadelphia: 100.2 miles
Philadelphia to Baltimore: 102.2 miles
Baltimore to Washington DC: 44.1 miles
Washington DC to Richmond: 104.9 miles

Yeah. You get a major city every 100 miles out here. It's pretty different in the southeast, things aren't as close. I hear New Mexico & Texas have even longer drives between places.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Polenta

Polenta is great. Just thought you should all know, and try it sometime.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

My next car

The Thunderbird is in the shop. It needs power steering work, oil pump work, and brake work.

I'm thinking the cost of the repairs might be more than the car is worth. I'm therefore considering my next car.

The requirements are: all wheel drive, wagon, manual transmission, sporty. That narrows it down to Subaru, Audi, and BMW. (The Dodge Magnum only does auto with AWD, Lexus IS 300 is RWD, and Volvo is decidedly un-sexy)

I am not a fan of Subaru, for no good reason. So the WRX is out.

I've decided on an Audi. Now the question is S4/A4 and new/used. If my car's dead, I might have to settle...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Song of today

"What a Good Boy" - performed by Duke's Men of Yale

(Thanks to Katie Dana for getting me hooked on them)

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Grocery stores

In Durham, we have 4 choices for grocery stores. From lowest to highest cost, we have Food Lion, Kroger, Harris Teeter, and Whole Foods.

This is quite the nice departure from Pittsburgh's single source of food - Giant Eagle. There is a single Whole Foods in the Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, but it doesn't really make a dent in Giant Eagle's monopoly.

And now it's time for me to decide where I want to be, full time, when I grow up. I have to figure out where I'm going to work, and start work in February or July, depending on whether I go to Qatar to TA.

Honestly, I'm not extraordinarily fond of the idea of living here in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina after I graduate. The combination of low 90s and high humidity makes me not want to go outside much during the day. In the bay area, to contrast, the mid 80s with low humidity made it easy to be outside during the day.

I really enjoy Chapel Hill's Franklin Street. However, I don't really feel a community feeling here otherwise.

I was asked this week to specify where I want to be when I graduate. I said California Bay Area, followed by Boston and Pittsburgh. I also said I'd go anywhere for the right job.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tornado Watch

I don't know what's up with this, but I didn't sign up for a Tornado Watch here.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Delinquent

So I've been delinquent posting. I'll give you the highlights, in bullet form.Have a good Fourth of July everyone! I have to pack and take out the trash and sleep now!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Brandon and Pizza Hut

"They're running out of places to put cheese!" - Brandon, in reference to the Pizza Hut 3 Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza

Friday, June 24, 2005

Wonderful day

One of the mentors brought in Dunkin Donuts today. I love Dunkin Donuts. Pittsburgh doesn't have Dunkin Donuts (nearby anyway).

I also have started to like coffee (!). 3 large cups of coffee and a Monster Assault later, I'm pretty wired.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tact

Walking down the hall in the lab

Coworker: "Wow, no belt?"
Me: "uhhh..."
Coworker: "Oh, you are wearing a belt"
Me: "Uhhh..."
Coworker: "Just over time you've grown steadily more sloppy"

I wear jeans and collared shirts to work normally. Today, I have no presentations, no meetings. I'm wearing jeans and a Sunday River shirt.

I'm a coder.

Monday, June 20, 2005

DDR

I'm becoming a DDR addict at work...

Stealth Start-Ups Suck

Lots of thoughts good in the linked blog post, but especially his bulleted list of

Why go fast? Many reasons:
  • First mover advantage is important.
  • There is no such thing as a unique idea. I guarantee that someone else has already thought of your wonderful web service, and is probably way ahead of you. Get over yourself.
  • It forces you to focus on the key functionality of the site.
  • Being perfect at launch is an impossible (and unnecessary and even probably detrimental) goal, so don't bother trying to achieve it. Ship early, ship often.
  • The sooner you get something out there, the sooner you'll start getting feedback from users.


The EB program has me thinking about the end user, differentiation, first-to-market, rapid prototyping, start-ups, entrepreneurship, corporations...

One of our speakers talked this morning about how important focusing on users is. That's what I bring to where I work - I care.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day

My dad was the first person in his family to graduate high school. I'm not sure if his brother or sister ever finished college. He spoke only French til he was 10, in America.

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When I was a kid, about 6 or 7 years old, my mom used to read all the time. She'd always have a new book from the library.

My dad once in a while flipped through a magazine. When you're 6 years old, you keep hearing about how bad illiteracy is and how you need to learn to read. So I assumed my dad didn't know how to read. My sisters and I thought that he just memorized all the books he read to us before bed.

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Every night when I was young, my dad would read a story to me and tuck me in to bed. Although I was pretty old when he stopped tucking me in, I only realized then that I felt safe and warm in bed because he tucked me in.

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I remember my dad's Navy dress uniform, he let me keep his Commander's cap after he retired from the Reserves. I was so afraid during the Gulf War that my dad would be called into active duty - that is what they do to reservists after all.

I remember my dad going down to DC for his 2 week a year deployment. He'd head to this mystical place called "The Crystal City" and he'd always bring us back grapefruit slices. I was so proud that my dad was serving the country and not just his family. Of course, my dad works for a defense contractor, and he's still serving the country.

------

My dad built the porch at our house in Bath, and rebuilt the porch at our Harpswell house. He used to do almost everything in the maintenance of my Grandpa's apartment buildings in Bath - build steps, paint ceilings, wire things, work on the plumbing. He landscapes, weeds, seeds & mows the lawn, snow-blows, and builds. He's going to build a lot of the Bethel House, in 3 years (when he's 60).

------

My dad was my hockey coach, my soccer coach, my cub scout den leader. He'd wake up at 5:30 on the weekends to bring me to hockey practice, he'd watch me referee games that he didn't have anything to do with. He helped a lot of other kids grow up.

------

He's worked at Bath Iron Works for almost 30 years - through ups and downs. Even when he's annoyed with the company, we know he'll retire from there. He's a company man, dedicated and loyal. During the DD-X Project, he worked 65 hour weeks. He still worked around the house, took care of the dogs, and did everything that he had to, and more. He never, ever complained.

------

He has never complained about doing things for us, I've never felt unloved by him, and I've always felt safe around him. He's been mad at me before, but because I don't recall him ever being mad at me without reason, it really means a lot to me for him to be proud of me. His trust in me means more.

------

When I was a senior, my high school had our parents write us letters to explain how proud of us they are. My mom's letter made me happy - my dad's made me cry. He's the strong, silent type - I never realized how proud of me he is.

------

He has taught me the value of people, the value of honesty, simplicity, and purity

------

I hope I can grow up to be as selfless as my father. I hope I can raise strong children, show them what it means to give and not to count the costs. He's taught me that "just good enough" isn't enough, and excellent work should be done, even if it's not recognized. He's shown me that sometimes things just have to get done, and complaining won't do anything and won't make me feel better. He's taught me the joy of working with my hands, of building. He's taught me to pick my battles, to give, to love, that sleep is less important than people, that it's not "someone else's problem." He's taught me that drinking a beer on the porch is a darned good way to spend a summer evening. He's taught me a lot on the chair lift and in the car about life.

------

I love you dad. Thank you for everything. Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The summer so far

North Carolina is a pretty good place to live; I could imagine raising a family around here. There are a ton of trees, the traffic isn't as bad as everyone had warned us about, there are jobs, there's education around, there's minor league teams (and a major league hockey team, if hockey ever starts back up).

The commute to work is about 10 minutes; it then takes about 5 minutes to walk from the car to the office. IBM has quite a few buildings (30+?)in Research Triangle Park, and even has a few campuses in RTP. I work in the 500 campus, which is the software group location. The company seems a lot older when you first look at it, at least compared to last summer, but then I see a bunch of mid 20 somethings walking around, and I know they're not interns. Their work policies are very family oriented.

The Extreme Blue lab is pretty cool - it's a cave though, no windows to the outside, and the windows we have to the inside are always kept closed. We do have a lot of fun things inside the lab, like a server room just for us, competition DDR pads hooked up to a PS2, and foosball. I've been working 8:30-6:30 so far, but during crunch times I'm sure that'll increase. Some people have already been logging 65 hour weeks.

However, from talking to full timers who did the Extreme Blue program previously, it sounds like it's not as cool working in the rest of the company. I'll definitely consider IBM for full time anyway. My dream job is programming with travel, at least right out of school, and there's a possibility for something like that at IBM.

I also realize this summer that I like the lab environment, the research setting, knowing that cool new things are happening that have never been done before. I like attending technical presentations and learning what other people are doing. I really want to work at a company ahead of the cutting edge (Bleeding edge, if you will).

So in summary: the summer in North Carolina has been pretty good so far!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

UNC Bar Crawl

Highlights of the night:

32 ounce black & tan at He's Not Here (In other news, I'm becoming a black and tan fan)
"Hey, you guys should be dancing!" from a couple cute UNC girls, to Will and me, at a place called Players

Downsides: we only hit 2 places

Next time we'll have a better plan. But that was a good night.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Must Read Books

Book for Software Engineers: The Mythical Man-Month
Book for Java Coders: Effective Java
Book for people dating women: She Comes First
Book for science students: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

News update on today

I propose a genetic test on any woman I date in the future.

Next week is shaping up to be fun.

Sunday night: Ralphie May at Charlie Goodnight's in Raleigh
Monday night: Durham Bulls with Extreme Blue
Tuesday night: Modest Mouse with one of the other interns

Monday, June 06, 2005

Frames

I had the same frames for 3 years at least.

New frames came in the mail today.


Almost everyone who knows me knows me with the old frames. It'll be interesting, other than the people who have read this. They'll notice some small change, be freaked out. Well not as much due to the summer break.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Corn

Fresh corn on the cob is good.

Getting it, sweet and perfect, the third of June, is better.

mmmm.... North Carolina...

IBM songbook

MARCH ON WITH IBM

Verse:

The fame of IBM
Spreads across the seven seas,
Our standards fly aloft,
Proudly waving in the breeze,
With T.J. Watson guiding us
we lead throughout the world,
For peace and trade our
banners are unfurled - unfurled.

Chorus:

March on with IBM
We lead the way,
Onward we'll ever go,
In strong array;
Our thousands to the fore,
Nothing can stem,
Our march forevermore,
With IBM.

March on with IBM
Work hand in hand,
Stout hearted men go forth,
In every land;
Our flags on every shore,
We march with them,
On high forevermore,
For IBM.




........... there are more IBM employees than citizens of Qatar, so this makes a little sense. It's still hilarious however.

And yes, I'm in Big Blue right now.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Warning signs

My right wrist hurts. And I think it's the hurt of RSI.

Possible causes:
Driving. (It didn't hurt before yesterday)
Powerbook (I use a natural keyboard in Pittsburgh, but I've been using the laptop exclusively for 3 weeks now, and in any random posture I feel like)
Random.

I think I'll get a natural keyboard asap at work, and asap for the laptop

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bugnuts

This weather is driving me batty. Cold and wet. And dim.

Can't wait for next week. I drive down on Sunday, and start Tuesday.

I guess this is Maine's way of making me glad I'm not coming back so often.

7 months from now, my life is a complete mystery.

The Diamond Age

     "I think I have finally worked out what you were trying to tell me, years ago, about being intelligent," she said.
     The Constable brightened all at once. "Pleased to hear it."
     "The Vickys have an elaborate code of morals and conduct. It grew out of the moral squalor of an earlier generation, just as the original Victorians were preceded by the Georgians and the Regency. The old guard believe in that code because they came to it the hard way. They raise their children to believe in that code--but their children believe it for entirely different reasons."
     "They believe it," the Constable said, "because they have been indoctrinated to believe it."
     "Yes. Some of them never challenge it--they grow up to be small-minded people, who can tell you what they believe but not why they believe it. Others become disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the society and rebel--as did Elizabeth Finkle-McGraw."
     "Which path do you intend to take, Nell?" said the Constable, sounding very interested. "Conformity or rebellion?"
     "Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded--they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity."

From The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. (Page 355-356 of my Bantam Paperback)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Maine at Night



You know the drill, the title's a link to the gallery, the photo is the one I like best.

The first 9 are around the dam on the Androscoggin between downtown Brunswick and Topsham (and the Frank J Wood Bridge).

Sunday, May 22, 2005

BT - "The Revolution"

We stand in the face of a quickening,
And the great dumbing down of our people,
And in our greatest minds,
And we wage war,
By whatever means necessary,
By punishing awakening,
Into our sources and into our thoughts,
By blaming our cookie-cutter pleasantville,
Out of our gray slumber.
This revolution is not free
This revolution is not free
It's powerful

Friday, May 20, 2005

Why is this news?

IBM has been over the news lately with news of how FireFox is being recommended internally, and 10% of its 300,000 employees are using it.

IBM is a computing company (mainly software and consulting). Natonal acceptance rates for Firefox are about 5%. So it actually is surprising how LOW the acceptance rate for Firefox is given the (hopefully) early technology adopting of a tech company.

I can virtually guarantee Google's Firefox usage rate was at least 25%+ last summer. Y'know, 12 months ago. We had issues in my group that some of the stuff rendered slightly wrong in IE and the developers didn't notice because we all used Firefox.

So let's start writing news articles like "Tech companies, which should have Internet Explorer strictly for testing how pages render (because they know better), still have more than 50% of their users using an old, buggy, spyware-prone application."

We're the people calling out for the average net user to stop using IE, yet the average user at our tech companies aren't adopting it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Never date someone...

Never date someone who...
... doesn't want you to look at her before she's brushed her hair
... doesn't want you to look at her before she's put on makeup
... isn't comfortable wearing her glasses around you
... pretends that she doesn't burp
... wouldn't wear sweats around you
... wouldn't consider eating pasta and watching a DVD an excellent Friday evening sometimes
... wouldn't cry in front of you


(Feel free to suggest more)

Puppies

Monday, May 16, 2005

Things that are very uncool

Dualdisc.

I will not be buying any more CDs that aren't plain old CDs anymore.

Dualdiscs are new CD/DVD combinations that you flip to use as one or the other. However, they don't rip on my PowerBook or on my parents' DVD drive. They do rip on my parents' CD-RW however.

I only buy CDs so I can rip them and have the liner notes & jewel case. I listen to music solely on my computers, solely off of the hard drives.

As a side note, I purchased Ben Folds: Songs for Silverman, and Dave Matthews: Stand Up

And as another side note, both discs have big ass "FBI ANTI-PIRACY WARNING" logos on the back. When did this start?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

To do this week

    To do this week
  • Learn about OS X Widgets and maybe start programming one
  • Eye appointment
  • Visit Cheverus
  • Slack
  • Inline the bike path 3 times, hopefully returning to 10 miles per session

My mom graduated from her master's program this weekend, and she's turning 50 on Tuesday, so it's been a very fun couple days of celebrating her.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A realization after my 21st birthday

Number of times I have purchased alcohol since I turned 21: 5
Number of times I have been carded: 2 (once only because everyone was, at PDC, and once at a grocery store)

If I'd known carding was so infrequent... I probably still wouldn't have risked it. But it's rather surprising.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Falls & The Drive home

(Click on title for gallery)
    Notes of my trip:
  • The exit for the Rainbow Bridge to Niagara Falls is not well marked from 190. But there's another bridge a little further up that works
  • Customs is easy. Going in to Canada, had to show no id. Coming out was almost as easy. Plus the guy said "Happy Birthday" to me
  • The falls look big in pictures, small in real life.
  • It takes longer than you think to drive from Niagara Falls to Maine.
  • Driver suffers burn in crash on I-495, jumps into river to put out flames (whatever happened to stop, drop, and roll? The extra hour and 15 minutes the holdup put on my trip (at least) let me take pictures like this though)
  • Leaving one place at 7:15 am and getting to the destination at 12:40 am is not fun; however, I wasn't driving all that time.
  • New York is a lot of nothing. And unfortunately you can't see Rochester, Syracuse, or Albany from I-90.



Home.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Things that are bad

So today's been interesting.

Get to campus before 10 to do some things - the cross registration form for Arabic at Pitt, change of address form for campus mail, etc.

First realization: Postal Services doesn't open til 10, Hub til 10:30.
Second realization: when I rebooted computers the other day, my webapps project would no longer work from outside the apartment
Third realization: while packing stuff from my desk, I didn't see my Social Security card or my Birth Certificate (they're kept together)

Well, these were all solvable
Had enough time to return and fix the webapp
Took in the trash from outside to make sure my SS card/Birth certificate wouldn't get taken
Did my change of address & cross registration after lunch

Everything's good, school's out for the summer, and I'm in good shape for the future

Have a good summer everyone, I'll keep blogging!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The flip

When I was a freshman, I went away to college. We all did the long pack of moving away.

Now we're all packing to return to a place that isn't any longer our base of operation. The long, emotional pack is at the end of the year, and the beginning of the year we're just sliding in to our dorms, back to normal.

In the fall, I'll carry some stuff up from the basement, take a few courses, and then move. To where, who knows. But there's one semester left after this one. And then the big move. The next big separation.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Advisor clarification

So I'd like to clarify something about the post from the Advisor.

I recognized myself not in the male description given in the Advisor, but the description of the female. That's what I found most amazing.

Some females I know peform the role of the male, not talking about things due to perceived lack of perfection, a perceived loss of strength.

It's not to say that I'm effeminate, but that I've got appreciation for reassurance that a relationship is strong, and I appreciate conversation that reassures me of that fact.

But at the same time, I don't look to share mundane details with my male friends.

Disclosure does not make me feel vulnerable. It actually makes me feel stronger.

If you've ever seen 8 Mile, it's like the scene where Rabbit (Eminem) disses himself, and then says "now what are you going to say about me?"

If you make everyone know your weaknesses, you lose a weakness: the ability for someone to find out something you're hiding that they could use against you.

I'm also not very comfortable with the idea of "gender roles" either. Even if we are genetically predisposed towards being one way or another, I believe the human mind and body (not to mention soul) are such amazing things that we can all do everything, and we can all peform the actions we feel are most correct.

I'll continue being me, continue to keep my faults obvious, continue to reaffirm my affection, and continue to ignore gender roles.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Advisor

Sometimes, the advisor's pretty amazing

What does it mean when a woman asks, "What are you thinking about?" --W.G., Bowling Green, Ohio

She's looking for a pulse -- some acknowledgement and reassurance that the relationship is humming along. The question usually confuses guys. They figure if the relationship isn't working, one person will leave. They think, Does she want me to catalog my current random musings on baseball, (etc)? That will only piss her off. But if you respond with those old standbys "nothing" or "you," that doesn't satisfy her either. Men need to recognize that the exchange of seemingly mundane details is how women establish intimacy with their best female friends. She's approaching you in the same way. Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown who wrote the bestseller You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, says the best way to deal with this is for couples to acknowledge what's going on. The man should get in the habit of bringing up topics for discussion. The woman needs to reassure herself that, absent other signs that the relationship is suffering, the silence doesn't mean he's unhappy. Linda Vaden-Goad, a social psychologist at Western Connecticut State Univesity who has studied how couples use silence, says even if men are willing to share their thoughts, they are more comfortable with action than analysis. "Disclosure makes them feel vulnerable, and they're supposed to be strong," she says, "though some men in our studeis admitted to using silence as a strategy to maintain power because it keeps their partner guessing." Which is interesting but not something we want to talk about.

Postmortem

43 minutes to fix.

Now break.

Break time

Because

rm model/*.java
is not the same as
rm model/*.class

It's just a bunch of classes that will be easy to rewrite

but it's still probably an hour of work

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Next statement

Every government (or administration) has to decide between two goals that are fundamentally at odds.

They can either pass and enforce laws (rules) that follow the idealized morals of the society, or they can enforce sensibly. It's the choice between idealism and realism.

The administration of Carnegie Mellon is caught in this issue right now: do they do as they usually have and turn a blind eye to underage drinking, or do they enforce realistically, caring more about safety than catching minors consuming and frats providing?

College students will continue drinking underage, no matter what the school tries. By enforcing idealism, they're creating a more dangerous environment, with people drinking hard alcohol irresponsibly outside the confines of the amnesty policy, instead of drinking bad beer on campus within the school's safety net.

Tying in my earlier post, I believe that young, intelligent minds should be allowed to make their own moral decisions as long as they're safe. The amnesty policy increases safety on campus. Drinking a drink or two, even underage, is safe. Students are no longer free to try a drink or two, illegally, and make up their own minds and learn their own lessons.

Making alcohol taboo will only increase abuse.

To the administration of Carnegie Mellon: let us make mistakes. Let us learn our own lessons with alcohol in a safe environment, instead of making us experiment in a more dangerous one. Your idealism now will cause more problems later.

(This sounded a lot better in my head)

Idea for human relationships

In Computer Science, in some protocols, there's something called "exponential backoff" when something would otherwise break.

When you have a problem with someone else, I recommend exponential backoff. First time you annoy someone, go away for 1 unit of time. Next time, 2 units. Then 4 units. Etc etc etc.

I've found, looking back on my experiences, that's how I handle people a lot of the time. Back off in larger increments each time. Persistence is important in some things, yes, but giving people more time each time does help, I find.

It's not simply that x time has elapsed since you pissed someone off, it's that it's been y units of time since you last tried to talk to them about it.

Golly gee I'm a dork.

The beginning of a philosophy

I'm trying to synthesize my ideas into a coherent and cohesive corpus.

Here goes


Parents are called to prepare their children for their adult lives. This, I believe, is composed of two large parts: morality and the ability to fail.



The ability to fail is under appreciated. If you look at the past in America, people came through great adversity to try, to take the chance that they might fail in order to succeed greater than they ever have before.

If you look at many people who lead in America, they have failed. Look at Bill Gates, who left college. I can almost guarantee most of the great leaders of America had relatively tumultuous upbringings, that they didn't lead better than average lives. Even if they grew up rich, that doesn't necessarily imply a calm, peaceful existence.

People who are comfortable with failure will take the big risks and earn the big rewards.

So I believe that parents should teach their children to question, to try, to experiment and not keep them away from failure.

A parent's responsibility is not to make their child the happiest child ever, make her life the easiest life ever, or remove every obstacle from his path. (I was pretty pissed off when I knew my parents could do something for me and didn't. I appreciate it now.)


However, the questioning nature needs to be weighed against the idea that a youngster could lie, cheat, and steal because they believe he is always right, or she believe there is no other authority. Morality therefore needs to go hand in hand with the instilling of questioning, so that the child will have to reflect and think about the decisions so wise ones are made.


So the general idea is a society of people who are OK with failing and willing to admit mistakes.


I think a large part of the problem in America is that much of the country has grown up as either the strongest nation in the world or seemingly tied (during the cold war). We have the problem that many act as the spoiled trust fund child - the idea that we deserve the first place position and that we are entitled to it perpetually.

Others realize that this isn't the case, so they're fighting the current trying to stay in one place, trying to keep first place by standing still.

The reason America was first was due to a desire to be ahead of the pack, a desire to run, a desire to strive, a knowledge that survival wasn't guaranteed.

We're going to not be first forever. And some people are going to be shocked. We need to, right now, put ourselves into a state of intellectual battle if we're going to excel. The ever increasing globalization means that our geographic isolation will no longer be enough to ensure success. We need to start designing better cars, building better airplanes, writing better code, being better to mother nature, being better teachers, and having stronger minds.

I said Johnny whatcha doing tonight?
He looked at me with a face full of fright
And I said how about a revolution?
And he said, right.


"The revolution will not be televised"