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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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2016

2015 In Review

I regret to admit it took me a bit to even remember how to build this site!

2015

Lake Wobegon Days

I’m Doing Fine

Get Off My Lawn

In The Old Days

Moving to California

We are in a bit of an in-between state. With the exception of my wine and winter wheels/tires, we no longer live in or have belongings in Connecticut. Our cat is living in our new apartment in California. She is joined by the possessions that rode with us on the jet west and an assortment of crap from Lowe’s and Target. We visit her daily but are living out of a hotel for two weeks, with one week to go. Then our cars and household goods show up. We hope. Work starts tomorrow, my first first day of work in a decade.

Invisible Corporations, Part Three

The company started innocently enough. Its reputation of hiring a diverse workforce was well-known. Also well-known was its habit of hiring only the best talent from the best schools. It experienced early success in its industry and revolutionized the product space in the first 10 years of its existence.

Leave Before It Makes You Hard

Aside from my uncle’s landscaping business, quitting a job has never been an easy thing. Internships in high school and college come with end dates by definition. I left colleagues and friends, but there was no decision to be made.

2014 In Review

Survived another orbit around our star. As is my tradition, I now will look back on the year 2014. It was another weird one, but perhaps the correct observation is that they’re all going to be weird ones from here on out. May revise this as I remember things I’ve forgotten. May not. In no particular order, here goes nothing:

2014

Broken Windows Theory

About seven years ago, I went on a cruise. One day, we received notice that our balcony railing would be refinished that day while we were ashore. The railing was in pretty good shape. I was irritated. From my vantage point, it could have waited until the next time the boat was in for routine maintenance or our stateroom was not booked.

Coursera Scala Course

After Flunking out of CPPGM and completing the Stanford Networking Course, I decided I was game for another MOOC: Functional Programming Principles in Scala.

Invisible Corporations, Part Two

This is a tall tale of two companies: On the surface, Monolithoogle bears a mild resemblance to Google. Distributazon has some things in common with Amazon. These similarities are anecdotal and superficial. Accuracy is not the goal. At best, I am attempting to develop hyperbolic caricatures of the companies as archetypes. The ideas here evolved from a conversation I had with a good friend.

New Theme

Nobody liked the ugly paisley background. It has been eliminated.

Raise Your Replacements

Here’s some obvious and oft-repeated management advice: A manager should always be raising replacements for every role in their team.

Learn to Give Up

Brace yourself, more made-up management mumbo-jumbo ahead.

The Intel NUC

I want to love the Intel NUC form factor, but it’s just not working out between us. I acquired one of the original generation NUCs; it was great for a few weeks and then it melted. Thermal issues in the chassis (at nearly idle) destroyed the SSD. They came out with a BIOS patch for this later, but the patch amounted to running the fan full bore all the time and still couldn’t effectively evacuate enough heat from the chassis in practice. There were some other problems with this model, notably the lack of USB 3 ports and problems with the NIC performance degrading when the adjacent HDMI port was in use. Still, it was a first-generation product and I wrote off the issues. At the end of the day I was still in love with the form factor and performance. It was not blazing fast, but it was fast enough for my routine needs.

Albuquerque

M and I spent a week in Albuquerque. Dry and a mile in the sky, the weather was beautiful in March – sunny and cool, getting downright cold at night.

Personal Trainer

As I reminisced, I started the year out of shape, overweight, and unhealthy. Three months in, it would be misleading to say that I’ve addressed any of those issues. With that said, I have made some progress.

Stanford Networking Course

After my last online learning experiment concluded with me flunking out, it would be a lie to say I was eager to get back into the saddle. When I looked back on 2013 at the beginning of the year, however, I was not happy with the amount of self-improvement/developmental effort I put in.

2013 in Review

I was reminded that it’s nearly February.

2013

Per Se

We ate at Per Se Saturday. Getting the reservation was not too bad. I set a rather precise and accurate timer, but I am pretty sure the line was already being dialed by many folks before myself (and they got through). I remained on hold 26 minutes, and then was able to pick on my desired day either 18:00 or 21:30. Not wanting to complete my meal on Sunday, I went with the 18:00 reservation.

Beverages Blog

For those of you that aren’t big twitter people, I’ve a new blog focusing on beverages. I’ll continue to write here, though articles about beverages are likely to be uncommon now! Check it out and let me know what you think. I have a lot of things lined up about which I am excited to write.

iPhone 5s, IOS 7

The iPhone 5s is fantastic. I upgraded from a 4S, so a lot of the change of the 5 gets rolled up in this. The media may suggest the upgrade is subtle (whether from a 4, 4S, or 5), but it’s not. The phone is fast, feels great (consistent with the 5), the fingerprint reader is better than a gimmick, and the battery life is improved in my use. The camera works better and is faster. LTE networking works great, and it wasn’t even slow before. None of the changes are revolutionary, but they’re all good. More important, there are no regressions. Nothing I miss or that I felt was better executed on the 4S. If every product I bought “just” got better without exceptions, I would be a far happier consumer.

Flunking Out of CPPGM

I’ve flunked out of CPPGM. Technically speaking, that hasn’t quite happened yet, but as of PA6’s Sep-22 deadline, I’m not going to have a functioning PA6.

Vacation Time

It’s been a while since we’ve been on a vacation. Sarah and Anthony got married a week ago, and that was as good an excuse as any to spend some time taking it easy in California. We did the wedding, went up to wine country, spent some time near the city, and finished with a day on the coast. Not a bad trip!

New Mac

After suffering with some hardware-induced kernel panics on my 27” iMac, an upgrade was warranted. Its internal storage is magnetic, and its external storage was all questionably reliable FW800 that was near its capacity. Being an iMac, I thus had to get a computer, new screen, and new storage.

Taking a Hammer to Your Turntable

I really did take a hammer to my turntable, but we’ll get to that.

PA5

As of this evening, I’ve received my first cppgm ALL TESTS PASSED of PA1-PA5. There’s a lot of refactoring and cleanup needed, but I’m in the home stretch and ready to start PA6 and PAA soon. I’d say I’m excited for what’s next, but I’m intimidated as well, since “we are getting to the hardest part of the course.”

Taxes & Leverage

“Engineering debt” is a phrase often tossed around in software projects. “Engineering tax,” by comparison, is a phrase I’ve seldom heard. I have no real ability to change the industry’s vernacular, but I believe the latter is far more accurate.

How To Kill Your Local Wine Shop

For What It’s Worth

How To Institutionalize Not Fixing The Problem

Let’s say there’s a thing that’s horrible. There’s the obvious way to proceed: Make the horrible thing not horrible. Then there’s the alternative: Provide people tools for coping with how horrible it is.

Let's?

Parts of this are somewhat esoteric and of interest to almost none of you. Sorry.

Vinyl

At an excruciatingly slow pace, I am downsizing. The miserable reality of being a seller on eBay has done little to help this. My general focus to this point has been on things I have not been regularly using, or things I do not anticipate needing in the future.

Driving a Ferrari F430

A coworker pointed out a groupon deal on Gotham’s Dream Car Sprint. For just $100, plus $6 tax (paid in person), it was an opportunity to drive an F430 around an autocross track.

Health Gamification Devices

Once, there was a Jawbone…

Komi

We ate at KOMI in Washington, DC this past weekend. It’s not the toughest reservation in town, which I’d already failed to snag, but it wasn’t trivial. Getting a reservation required calling at noon one month prior to our intended seating; by the time one of my two war-dialing lines made it through, about 15 minutes had passed and I was placed on hold for several minutes. Reaching a human thereafter, I was able to snag one of the later seatings that still remained, quarter after nine. Sweet.

Review: How To Love Wine

Eric Asimov’s How To Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto seemed more the memoir than the manifesto. When not talking through his career (and to a lesser degree his progression through drinking wine), there are some observations and thoughts about why he enjoys wine. It reads more like an ex-post-facto justification than a policy declaration. Here’s the short course: “Drink interesting wine with food and friends. Don’t stress out about it.”

C++ Grandmaster Certification

At least until I flunk out, I’ve decided to start doing the C++ Grandmaster Certification. I’m under no illusion that I’m particularly good with or knowledgeable of C++; at best my capabilities in the language are barely functional. I’m also far from being prepared for this in an academic sense. Aside from the top-tier data structures & algorithms class, languages & compilers class was far and away the most useful and relevant coursework. That I only took a semester in the topic is criminal in retrospect.

The Best Damn Healthcare System In The World

Back in November, you may recall that a gangrenous vestigial organ was cut out of my abdomen. 105 days later, I think I can finally say that the claim has been processed to the satisfaction of both the hospital and the insurance company. This has required a nontrivial amount of back and forth between myself, Aetna, the Norwalk Hospital, my local benefits coordinator, and by extension our insurance broker.

My New Router

I’ve been running m0n0wall on a soekris net5501 literally without issue or reboot for several years. Prior to that I was operating in a similar configuration, but with a net4801. While that configuration was fantastic, the net4801 could relatively easily reach CPU saturation under heavy concurrent flows or when routing several streams over 30Mbps (my Internet, while not fantastic, can pretty consistently deliver 60Mbps downstream and 8Mbit/s upstream).

A Tale of Two Fernets

Of note, this would actually be A Tale of Three Fernets, had I been more patient. I acquired Fernet Stock a few weeks ago and tried it. Unfortunately, it tasted horrible and artificial. Pushing past the syrupy fake caramel flavors and aromas proved impossible, and I dumped the whole bottle.

Review: A Memory of Light

Robert Jordan’s A Memory of Light, completed by Brandon Sanderson, completes the Wheel of Time after fourteen books. I enjoyed several sentimental reactions during the reading. With that said, I felt more relieved to be done with it than left with any real sense of enjoyment or satisfaction. The book opens with action and doesn’t really relent until another 900 pages have passed. Compared to the last dozen books in the series, the pace is frenzied. Hundreds of pages of battle resolve a lot of story lines (and characters), but it gets a bit tedious after a point.

Fun with OpenTSDB

For some reason I decided that RRD and mrtg just weren’t complicated enough tools to monitor my weight. And the temperature of my wine racks. Thus, I went down the rabbit hole that is OpenTSDB, after quickly discarding the idea to roll my own.

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I finally got around to watching The Dark Knight Rises this weekend, finishing the Dark Knight Trilogy. I’d probably put it in the middle of the three in terms of enjoyment, with The Dark Knight being the clear #1.

Review: How To Taste

Jancis Robinson’s How To Taste was pretty good. It’s a good overview of the British perspective on wine. It artfully interleaves tasting exercises with theoretical knowledge. Working through the book, it would be easy to develop a relatively thorough knowledge of wine (and a lot of credit debt, I suspect). Despite its succinctness, it’s surprisingly thorough – I find this to be far superior in substance to, say, Kevin Zraly’s Complete Wine Course or Andrea Robinson’s Great Wine Made simple (and certainly anything approaching an idiot’s or dummies guide).

2012 In Review

This is a weird entry I’ve been writing for many months now.

2012

Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011 Film)

Well, it’s time for another Reznor soundtrack movie! The 2011 Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was interesting. The opening credits were visually rather stunning, and the visual aesthetic remained interesting throughout the film.

Review: Boozehound

Jason Wilson’s Boozehound was an entertaining read. If you’ve read no other contemporary books on cocktails and mixology, it’s a nice introduction and tour of contemporary sentiments and spirits. Wilson pulls no punching in defining what a martini is, why faux speakeasies are silly, how vodka sucks (but pays the bills), how sour mix sucks (no save on that one, slackers), why Amari are interesting, Fernet is great, and then … it sort of devolves into some personal anecdotes and loses its way.

Napa & Sonoma: Days 4 and 5

Sundays Are Tasting Days, Too!

Review: Red State

Red State is Kevin Smith’s best film. It’s rather incoherent and seems to be trying to be too meaningful while not really meaning anything at all. Smith tries to suggest that there’s some great connection between all of his little pet peeves in the film, but it ends up being mostly a jumbled mess.

Napa & Sonoma: Day Three

On To Sonoma!

Review: Reaper's Gale

Yep, Reaper’s Gale was also great. If you’re still reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen, keep reading.

Napa & Sonoma: Day Two

Napa is Far Away

Napa & Sonoma: Days Zero & One

Day Zero: Getting to Sonoma

Back from Napa & Sonoma

I’m back from a much-needed vacation to Napa & Sonoma; hadn’t taken any time off since a brief trip back in March. Such a fantastic place to go with so many fascinating people. There were so many really fantastic experiences and opportunities. I’ll probably touch on a bit more of that as I get around to it. But for now, something brief while it’s still lingering in my mind.

Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Watched (see how I did that, so you know I’m not talking about the book by John le Carré per se) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the other night.

Review: The Social Network

The Social Network was a pretty awesome Reznor/Ross music video. Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake also did fantastic jobs in their roles (everybody else was far less impressive, I’m afraid).

Appendix

I’ve had relatively consistent pain in my abdomen for several months, idiopathic despite a few doctors and an ultrasound. On Monday, I woke up with it far more severe than it had been, and shortly after dinner in the evening it ratcheted up another notch and I decided to visit the emergency room.

Review: The Bonehunters

The Bonehunters was good, if you’ve read this far, you’re going to keep reading anyway, so I have little additional to offer you.

Comissioned Copitas

As I alluded in my post about Del Maguey’z mezcals, I commissioned the creation of some copitas from T Wesley Ruttle. Referred to by him as “pretentious drinking vessels,” I’m quite delighted to have taken delivery of the little clay cups:

Review: Bar Sugo

Bar Sugo is Pasquale Pascarella’s new place in Norwalk’s Eastside. I fell in love with Pasquale’s food at Pizzeria Rosso in Norwalk (which became Cortina Pizzeria), until it abruptly and disappointingly vanished from the scene. Not sure Norwalk realized how good they had it for fantastic pies for a while there…

An Incomplete Tour of Del Maguey's Mezcals

Introduction

First Impressions: Kindle Paperwhite

I got a new Kindle, the Kindle Paperwhite. The very first thing I noticed was how heavy it was. At 217.7 grams, it’s heavy. My previous favorite Kindle, the non-touch keyboard-free Kindle, comes in at 168.7 grams by my measurements. 50 grams may not sound like much, but the difference is very obvious in your hands. I presume this is largely because of increased battery weight to support the reader being on for 8 weeks with the lights left on. I have not evaluated this claim, but if it lasts me a vacation without recharging (usually an order of magnitude smaller time frame), it still will rate as incredible with me. Every other electronic device I take with me (some subset of iPad, iPhone, iPod, transport, DAC, amplifier) requires charging at least once. So that’s cool.

Review: Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT andd the Next Generation at Microsoft

It’s important to take Zachary’s Show Stopper! into context; it’s a book written about the process of making Windows NT back in the mid nineties. Zachary attempts to make things sensational, and the book clearly needs the services of a good editor, but it was an interesting read just the same. A lot of the attempts to bring software engineering “to the masses” are sort of half-assed, but clearly this was a book written for the masses, and not an insider’s book.

Review: Midnight Tides

The fifth book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Midnight Tides continues what has so far been an excellent epic fantasy series with no sight of slowing down. I love that I’m five books in and the typical “wow, this is decelerating and becoming incoherent and aimless” thing just hasn’t happened. At all. I also love that this book, while featuring some earlier characters, was filled with almost entirely new ones. And, while I’ve found that state of things irritating in the past, I loved it.

Review: Galactic North

Galactic North is a collection of eight same-universe Alastair Reynolds stories. More or less this is an adjunct to the Revelation Space universe. Most are pretty interesting, though the typesetting on the Kindle made it preposterously confusing what was going on in Galactic North itself, until I figued out that the headings were just inline in the text. Reynolds admits as much, but without having even read books from the rest of the series, this has a similar feel to the Culture novels. Some neat ideas here, and they’re all quick reads.

Guild Wars 2

Whoops, I’m playing an MMO again…

Well, I Finally Finished Something

One of the things that always bugged me when I was growing up was seeing a lot of projects that were never finished. I vowed to never find myself in that situation. The bad news is that I’ve generally failed in that vow, but one example I can now point to is that I’ve finished my vintage cocktail project. In and of itself, it wasn’t particularly worth it, but I’ve learned an absurd amount of stuff about cocktails and mixology as part of the process, so I’m happy where I ended up, just the same. If nothing else, it was fun dumping a bunch of bottles of stuff that I’ll be glad to never need again.

cats--

Wiki was about 7 years and three months old when we put her to sleep this afternoon. That’s pretty young for a cat, but she’s had some pretty tough years, as cat years go. Her last two weeks in the intensive care unit were more par for the course than exceptional. We had a few moments of hope and had a nice visit when she was at her best, but it was clear that she was suffering and would not be coming home from this visit.

My First Raspberry Pi

I’m stupidly excited by this.

Diablo III

This whole thing is about Diablo III. There aren’t any hidden software engineering metaphors or anecdotes about wine, I promise. You can stop reading now, as this is mostly rambling and incoherent.

Focus

This post has been half-finished in a buffer for about a month, and I’m tired of seeing it, so here goes.

Review: Leviathan's Wake

Leviathan Wakes is a tidy little story. Corey (pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) does a decent job with a mashup of a detective story and space opera. It gets a little rushed as it comes to a conclusion, but otherwise is a nice easy vacation read. Beyond that there’s just a little too much effort to make the story contemporary. Specific references to LEDs, for example. It just feels a little arbitrary. I hated it when Vinge and Stross did it, and I don’t care for it here either. But, for the money, it’s an entertaining, if not particularly fulfilling, read.

Review: The Forever War

The Forever War is a quick read that toys with themes of relativistic effects and first contact. It plays out about how one might expect, with the guy getting the girl and the aliens turning out not to be as bad as they first appeared. The author sort of wraps up the whole story in a quick little bow of “and then singularity, the end.” The whole story thus ends up being predictable and linear (despite the nonlinear time scales) but satisfying, with only the end feeling a bit slipshod. For something written in 1974, I can’t really complain. Worth it if you’re looking for a quick scifi read.

Review: The Lord of the Rings

I finished The Lord of the Rings. I was going to complain about the slow goodbye ending, but then the happenings at the shire felt like an appropriate bow at the end of the trilogy. So I don’t have much to complain about. I grow weary of descriptions of battles, as I do in nearly all epic fantasy, but then I need to appreciate the seminality in this instance.

Like This Product to Enter

I was at the dentist yesterday. We had a nice chat in which he told me one of my teeth has a crack and is going to be a problem. Then, while my mouth is occupied with picks and mirrors and tubes and crap that normally happens during a dental exam, he starts talking to me some more. He asks me to recommend him to my coworkers, since he takes their insurance, and his prices are good.

Plumbing

This is a yarn about software engineering1. I don’t know anything about plumbing, after all. ↩

Chicken Breast Mezcal

Check this out.

Browsing For Books

Krugman was interviewed in the Boston Globe. Everybody’s making a big deal out of how he’s a hard sci-fi buff. To be fair, that’s pretty damn cool. What I latched onto, however, was something I’ve been frustrated by before:

Metrics

This is a bit of yarn.

Cocktail Project Update

I’ve now completed half of my classic cocktail project. This is, I think, no small feat. When I started the project I had a dozen bottles of liquor. I now have ten times that quantity.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning scratched the same itch as Skyrim for me. The problem with Skyrim is it stopped being interesting after a while; there wasn’t any point to anything once the plot was finished. Sure, you could keep doing quests and exploring stuff, but it wasn’t getting you anywhere.

Learned Me Some JavaScript

I drink a lot of tea at work. Often at least a liter or two a day. This means that several times I day I need to be reminded to remove tea from a batch of hot water. There are fancy phone apps and computer apps for this, but the thing that’s always at hand is a web browser.

Mobile Check Deposit

Marco Arment’s post about mobile check deposits is on point. I was overjoyed to discover that Citibank started offering this feature in their mobile app – I’d no longer have to make my monthly trips to Citibank! Reality wasn’t nearly so kind, though. The steps I have to follow are similar, but worse. I’ll be somewhat brief as a lot of this is redundant with Marco’s original post:

Sandals Whitehouse

I’ve just returned from my first trip to an all-inclusive resort. The resort was Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica. Like all Sandals resorts, it’s all-inclusive, couples-themed, and adults-only. Not having kids at the resort was definitely a huge plus. Being my first stay of this variety, I have little to compare it to. The closest comparable was my cruise experience, which was pretty awful (the cruising part, at least) by comparison.

Internet Switch Must Be On at All Times

I’ve been meaning to get this photograph for a while. I definitely got some funny looks from the flight attendants. Once I explained that “I work with computers, it’s cool” they seemed less concerned. They did say to one another that “I sure was a queer fellow though.”

Victory Beer Dinner at Coalhouse Pizza

Coalhouse Pizza in Stamford is a regular haunt for us; we have a large group that’s been going to the restaurant at least once a week for over a year now. We’ve been lucky enough to attend some of the restaurant’s special events in the past, so we were delighted when Gerard invited us to attend the Victory Brewing + OmNomCT event on Monday. The event featured live music and five courses of beer and food pairings (plus four beer mixes to try at any other time; we sampled these extensively before our meals) and was a lot of fun! Some details follow, but the pairings generally worked well and the food was pretty good. At first the “five courses of bacon” seemed like quite the gimmick, but I’ll give credit where it’s due: it worked.

Review: 59 Seconds

59 Seconds: Think a little. Change a lot. is a self-help book masquerading as a book on psychology. Or, perhaps, it’s a survey on psychology masquerading as a self-help book? I’m not sure. It fits in a similar niche as Stumbling on Happiness and Satisfaction!, two texts that attempt to bring social science research to the unwashed masses (read: I can understand it).

Review: The Hobbit

In college, I started working through some of the top 100 lists of best films ever. Among this list were a number of films I didn’t really appreciate at the time. Seven Samurai was an example of this, where I reached the end of the film and thought “so what?” I’d seen it all before, in cartoons and other films. There was nothing new. What I didn’t realize is this: Seven Samurai is fantastic because it is seminal. The things that are common now didn’t happen before this film. Back when I was younger I wrote this film off as boring, but now I’m excited by it.

Review: Fighter Wing: A Guided Tour of an Air Force Combat Wing

Tom Clancy’s Fighter Wing: A Guided Tour of an Air Force Combat Wing is a dated tome. While the book is ostensibly updated, that’s not strictly accurate. Instead, a chapter is included with an also dated update on where things are going. That’s fine. I don’t have any issues with reading a vision of a fighter wing at a moment in time, but a lot has changed. For example:

Review: The Lathe of Heaven

I finished The Lathe of Heaven on the flight out to California. It’s a well-written novel (very nearly a novella) that meditates on the idea of a protagonist whose dreams provide for uncontrolled alteration of reality. It resonates with the feeling I get when I see a street light go out right after I look at it. Or the feeling I get when I dream something only to discover it’s a thing. It also seems to toy with a bit of a parable isomorphic to the unintended consequences of a genie’s wishes.

Wine and Extraction

I’m trying to understand the notion of extraction. Specifically, I’m trying to understand the concept of over-extraction.

Review: Regenesis

Regenesis is the direct sequel to Cyteen. After reading Cyteen, it was clear Cherryh was intending for a sequel, and this is it. The novel continues the plodding pace of the original book, with the last few pages being a maddeningly action-packed conclusion. There’s also a massive amount of the book devoted to Ari playing princess and the castle with Alpha Wing, and a nominal amount of the book devoted to the gestation of a few familiar creatures for the future. I’m not sure what the point of the latter theme was, unless to try to force the reader to think about the impact of the future world and how it was being shaped as the physical forms were shaped? Seems a bit weak, whatever the case for the frame.

Review: In Search of Clusters

I’ve been meaning to finish In Search of Clusters for years. I originally acquired this book in 2008 (thanks, Amazon, for blurring the lines of amazing and creepy). Somehow it took me until this morning to finish the last few pages.

Carpano Antica Formula, Campari, Gran Classico Bitter, and The Negroni

Carpano Antica Formula I first read about Carpano Antica Formula in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, the subject of my blog working through each of that book’s recipes. Carpano proves that Italian vermouths are capable of transcendence. It is incredibly complex. It has impeccable balance and versatility. Poured over some ice, it makes a fantastic drink all by itself! It is well worth the $25-40 it’ll cost for a hand-blown bottle holding a liter of liquid magic. Go buy some. I’ll wait.

There Are Phantom Keys

Brewing Tea at Work

I’ve decided to provide a rough sketch of the equipment and method to make good tea at work.

Review: Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas

I drank the occasional cocktail through college and my early adult years. I continue to have strong opinions about my drinks of choice during that era, the Martini1 and the Gin and Tonic2. These are fantastic drinks that are worth imbibing on occasion, but I am now drawn to other drinks. Stir a martini. Don’t overdo it, or the aromatics shut down. Strain ↩ The Gin and Tonic is a simple highball, it doesn’t need ↩

Review: Cyteen

C. J. Cherryh’s Cyteen was worth the read. Set in the Alliance-Union universe sometime after the events of Downbelow Station, the book deals with the expansion and maturation of the union. The book is half a coming of age novel for the book’s protagonist. The other half seems to be an exploration of the idea of engineering a population to provide for the continued expansion of the species. Framed together with murder mystery and political intrigue, it’s got a nice little bow wrapped around it.

First Look: Darien Social

We checked out Darien Social Friday. It’s not quite ready for prime-time yet. The front of the house (located in the middle of the house) was confused and flustered trying to keep things organized between paper bookkeeping and some newfangled iPad application that nobody seemed to fully understand. On the upside, sending a text message to me at the bar to let me know when my table was ready was a nice touch.

More on Social Media

Today I present a restaurant review disguised as another rant on social media support. I was talking to a friend at the bar last night who runs a business that’s built on customer service. One of the points he made is that you can take your time with positive feedback, but you have to nip negative feedback in the bud. This is especially true, he contends, for social media.

Reading a Paper Novel

I’m in the process of reading C.J. Cherryh’s Cyteen. More on that later, when I finish it. That’s not what I’m writing about today.

Latent Semantic Indexing

As an experiment I tried running jekyll --lsi. What I would get out of this is an automatic link of related posts after every post (where applicable). I have no need for this, but it could have been interesting. Unfortunately, this is how things look so far:

Beautiful Web Type

Slow

Did I say it took a minute to rebuild my site? What I really mean is it now takes over three minutes to rebuild my site. Seems sort of silly! And that’s an “incremental” build, which doesn’t seem very incremental in Jekyll. Oh well.

Kindle Touch Software Update 5.0.3

Issues

So there’s one issue I know of so far. Textpattern was set up to publish my rss feed as ?rss=1 and my atom feed as ?atom=1, which is about the dumbest thing ever. As of yet, I don’t seem to be smart enough to know how to get Apache’s rewriting to rewrite ?foo=1 to foo. If anybody has ideas, I’d appreciate it.

Switching to Jekyll

For years I’ve been using Textpattern to run this site. Now I’m not. Textpattern is far too big a hammer for my needs. I don’t need a relational database to run my dinky little website.

Joel Robuchon

We went to Joel Robuchon while we were in Vegas, and I celebrated my 31st birthday. It was on the bucket list, and now that that’s done, I doubt we’ll return. It was an impressive meal, but far from the best I’ve had. The recipe was, more or less:

Review: Blood Music

Blood Music was interesting. The concept of the story and the description of how a singularity takes place because of a biological take-off is pretty awesome. Probably the best grey goo concept I’ve read. The ending is pretty shaky; it’s clear that Bear sort of bolted it on as he bootstrapped the short story into a novel, but I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to dissuade you. Overall, it’s a pretty compelling thought exercise, and a quick enough read (barely larger than a novella) that this should probably be required reading in the canon. 7/10.

2011, In Review

It’s easy enough to realize I need to eat better, exercise more, and drink less. Or something like that. This year I’m looking at things in review, rather than setting goals for next year.

2011

Review: Naked Wine

Couldn’t finish Naked Wine; finally gave up in disgust. Incoherent, unfocused, unconvincing. Feiring seems to be just writing random crap with no particular theme, focus, point, or study. Maybe it’s just not for me, but I can’t see the attraction of this book. Avoid.

Review: Steve Jobs

There’s probably not much new I can say about the biography of Jobs, Steve Jobs. The latter third of the book is a bit more bolted on. It follows a more or less typical progression of a biography, starting somewhat chronologically, and then falling into a pit of overlapping but, for the most part, monotonically advancing chapters. It’s impressively thorough and it’s pretty impressive that it was brought to market so quickly. There’s an awful lot of redundancy and rehashing and heavy-handed foreshadowing, but maybe that’s a feature of the genre? I think it could be polished a bit, but it’s a well-done work as far as I can tell. I haven’t read enough biographies to really be a good judge or to rate this, but if you’re curious about Jobs, you should read it. 7/10 (much stronger on content, but a bit rough in structure as things start unraveling in the latter third).

Review: Kindle Touch

When the Kindle Touch was announced, I ordered one on day one. The third-generation Kindle had a lot of things that irritated. One, it was too large in pretty much every dimension. Two, the side buttons sucked. Three, the lighted case, while necessary, sucked.

Review: Jawbone Up

When I first read about the Jawbone Up, I was really excited. The idea of a passive device that tracks activity, sleep cycles, and eating struck me as magic. All I had to do is sync it with a phone and it would sort out the bodies for me.

Review:Children of the Sky

Was in a lot of pain and couldn’t sleep last night, so decided to finish Vernor Vinge’s Children of the Sky. Children picks up directly from A Fire Upon the Deep. Stuck in the dark ages of the slow zone, Vinge uses the setting as an opportunity to, more or less, write fantasy instead of science fiction. In a way, he’s writing a singularity book, but he’s focusing much earlier on the curve — how the industrial revolution plays out for a society with advanced information but without advanced assistance.

Review: House of Chains

So, House of Chains was awesome too. Do you like epic fantasy and have you enjoyed the Malazan Book of the Fallen thus far? If so, read this book, because it’s awesome. If not, ignore this review, because it’s irrelevant..

Review: Learn Python The Hard Way

Learn Python The Hard Way is Zed Shaw’s introduction to programming for non-programmers. He uses the Python language and gradually introduces concepts via examples. The exercises and instruction are reminiscent of the rote repetition of mathematics in grade school, with the complication that each lesson seems to build on the past; there’s never another zero-point along the way.

Home Wine Course 4 Part 2

So, didn’t end up really doing at all what Zraly wanted for this chunk. It is what it is. It’s hard to find the supply of precisely what he wants, and I’m too dumb about the specifics to get it right on my own. Also, this whole entry got wiped by accident, so I’m losing patience with writing this up, I guess?

My iOS 5 Experience

Completely Broken

Travel Before It's Too Late

Every six months I visit my doctor for a procedure. It takes a while for the drugs to kick in, so we chat for a few minutes beforehand each time. He’s an elderly man; I have no idea how old, but he’s definitely past retirement age. He’s been a doctor his entire adult life.

The Feynman Series

I feel it critically important that everybody read Carl Sagan’s The Varieties of Scientific Experience. It’s not my place to say that one should agree with the premise, but it’s a treatise worth understanding if only to compare one’s own beliefs with a set of beliefs well honed by science.

Review: Homefront

So, Homefront is this game where you kill Koreans that are invading America. My PC may not be the most up-to-date monster these days, but even playing at 1/4 my native resolution, the thing becomes bogged down and unplayable. Even ignoring that, gameplay is super-linear, flawed, and just downright horrible. Novel theme, completely half-assed implementation. 2/10.

Review: The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty

Julia Flynn Siler’s The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty chronicles, well, American wine, the Mondavi family, and how we got where we are today. For a family whose life reads more or less like a soap opera, the book is plodding and tedious, sometimes chronological in organization, and sometimes thematic. While there’s a ton of stuff to cover, it seems like some things get ample treatment, some get neglected, and others are disproportionately covered (or digressed into). It’s not really a good book, but it’s a lot of important context for somebody who missed all of the drama over the last several decades. If you want to know about the Mondavi family, and get some context for where/what Charles Krug and Robert Mondavi wines are today (as well as Opus One, Continuum, and the various other luxury properties), this helps set it up, but you might need to skim a bit to keep engaged. That is, it seems the most thorough treatise on the topic and is well-researched and sourced, but it’s not particularly well written. 6/10.

Review: A Dance with Dragons

George R. R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons continues the Song of Ice and Fire. After the plodding and relatively boring fourth book, it was nice to see our favorite characters a bit more again, but Martin is seriously wheel-of-timing this shit. Less and less is happening and things are bifurcating horribly. I’m not saying it’s going to require him to die and have somebody else clean up his mess, but books 4 and 5 really should just have been book 5. Get a fucking editor, for real.

Review: Startup Engineering Management

If you’re a software engineer, especially at a startup, you should read Piaw Na’s Startup Engineering Management. It’s good. Full disclosure: I played a very small part in the book’s creation and completion, so I’m a bit biased. With that said, this is solid, succinct, and sage advice. It’s good for those in management, those being managed, and those thinking about management. It’s focused on startup environments, but very little of the advice is relevant only in a startup context. Go read it.

Review: To Burgundy and Back Again

To Burgundy and Back Again by Roy Cloud is, I guess, a half-assed attempt at a lot of things. Part memoir, it’s framed about a story of the author’s dad putting himself in a coma. Or it’s a tale of brotherhood. Or it’s a tale of a man in a country where he doesn’t speak the language. It’s the tale of a wine importer just getting started. It’s a treatise on the importance of terroir and the sense of place in winemaking. It’s a diatribe on the dangers of commercialized winemaking.

Home Wine Course 4 Part 1

And so we start the red wines. It’s good to be here. The first chapter brings us to Burgundy and Côtes du Rhône! First, we start in the south of Burgundy.

Review: Windows on the World Complete Wine Course

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 25th Anniversary Edition aims to be a book form of (if not the textbook of, for that matter) Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World wine course. As such, it does relatively well: It presents eight chapters with associated tastings. For each of the tastings, several examples are provided for what to purchase, how to serve them, etc. Though a relatively recent edition of the book, the recommendations are already dated and impossible to find. This is not particularly surprising.

Home Wine Course 3 Part 3

Friends, it’s time to end the journey through the white wines of France, the United States, and Germany. The last wine in our journey is a Tokaji from Hungary.

Review: Inside Job

Inside Job is basically Matt Damon lulling you to sleep, while the screen displays “such and such declined to be interviewed for this film.” As such it’s entertaining, if nothing else. The diagrams used to try to “explain” things are childish and pointless (they should take a cue from planet money). They should either have not bothered or attempted to do things correctly, but that’s a minor niggle. They managed, just the same, to collect a lot of footage and a lot of interviews, despite the quantity of people that declined to be interviewed. If you’ve been following things to this point in the industry, there aren’t any amazing revelations here, though throwing it all together in one film without being overly heavy handed with one’s bias is impressive. It’s well put together, if not particularly educational or interesting. Mostly serves as a “who’s who?” of the financial meltdown. 7/10.

Home Wine Course 3 Part 2

Guys, I’ve got a love-hate relationship with German Rieslings. I love to hate them.

Review: The Town

The Town is Ben Affleck’s attempt to make a deep and meaningful romantic comedy. But, let’s think about this. Ben Affleck wrote it, directed it, and was the main actor. So, it’s about as good as you’d expect. 5/10.

Review: Memories of Ice

Memories of Ice is the third book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. It’s good. I didn’t find its battles as drawn out and tedious as the tale of Coltaine in the second book. It didn’t seem to be hell-bent on the themes of submission and abuse, either, which was a bonus. It did a lot to enhance the texture and back-story of the majority of the characters we met in the first book, while also doing a good job of further confusing and complicating the systems sketched out in the first two books. I finished it wanting more and feeling that I understood both more and less at the same time. Will keep reading this series, for sure, as should you, if you like epic fantasy. 9/10.

Home Wine Course 3 Part 1

The white wines of Germany. This is not a chapter that I was looking forward to; the big upside conceptually is that, following this chapter, we get into the reds. On the upside, it’s a bit shorter than the previous two chapters. On the downside, it features increasingly sweet white wines as the chapter progresses. You can’t win them all. Without further adieu.

The Late Summer of 2011

Let’s see. What’s going on?

Home Wine Course Class 2 Part 3

And so, we come to the last installment of the second chapter of white wines. On the upside, there’s only one more chapter to go. On the downside, it’s German whites. With that said, extended time with French and American white wine has now made me almost look forward to Germany.

Review: Crysis 2

I’m not sure why Crysis 2 is rated so well. My computer (which could barely run Crysis) can run it well enough most of the time, though certain portions bog it down pretty bad.

Jakarta, a few months later

There are exactly zero of you who care about this, at all.

Review: Portal 2

There is no point in playing Portal 2 unless you’ve played Portal 1. It’s not that you couldn’t play the game, it’s just that I think that this is not the sort of game that is going to be as easy to appreciate without experiencing the first episode.

Home Wine Course Class 2 Part 2

I think this chapter should really be titled “Too Many Chardonnays.” I’ve learned a new appreciation for Chardonnay, and I’m impressed by the varieties of end results the grape can take on, but the next tasting is a four-up of Chardonnays, and I can’t really say I’m excited.

Review: The Deadhouse Gates

The Deadhouse Gates is the second book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen. The first time I read Gardens of the Moon, I’ll admit feeling like a bit too much was going on. I re-read the book before starting Deadhouse Gates and was much more impressed with it. I fear my earlier review may be inaccurate.

Jury

A few years ago I was selected for federal jury duty. This, in the end, meant I sent a form through the mail, called a phone number for a week straight, and then was told I was unnecessary. Pretty much a non-event.

Review: Cracking the Coding Interview

Cracking the Coding Interview, Fourth Edition: 150 Programming Interview Questions and Solutions was a surprisingly good book in a sea of mediocre examples in the same genre. The book opens with some brief case studies (more like crude overviews) of how interviews work at several tech companies. It then progresses into some basic problem-solving advice and interview etiquette, and then spends the remainder of the book going through various types of interview problems (with solutions provided).

Update On My Expensive Cat

Many of you have asked after Wiki; you’re too kind.

Longwood Gardens

A Scathing Restaurant Review Disguised as a Rambling Mess of Nothing

My Cat

Review: Towers of Midnight

Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time, Book Thirteen) is the penultimate Wheel of Time book. I continue to be satisfied by Sanderson’s treatment as he starts to wrap things up. To some degree, the book feels like a checklist of remaining plot points getting crossed off the list, but I don’t know that that’s a bad thing at this point. There’s enough to tie up that the somewhat mechanical feel is perhaps an inevitability. Some things like this get sort of weird/asymmetric treatment (we spend the whole book waiting for Thom and Mat to go to rescue Moiraine, only to have it rushed into the end of the book in a few pages). Still, the book is at least as solid as the first of the terminal trilogy. Looking forward to finishing the series. 7/10.

More From Guatemala

I’ve put some more photos from my trip to Guatemala up on my flickr page. I haven’t had any cogent thoughts on the trip, recently, so I’m going to leave it at that for now.

Home Wine Course Class 2 Part 1

Getting started on the second of the three white wine chapters in the book. I’ve already learned a lot about whites … and that white wines remain not my thing. This is important, though, so I’m going to keep pushing through, so I can get to the Bordeaux…

Review: The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time, Book 12) is the first of the last three books of the Wheel of Time. Jordan spent a lot of books building a fantasy epic. He spun up an awful lot of threads, plots, and characters. It was clear at the time of his death that he was completely incapable of ending the series in a single book. Jordan has been branching and decelerating his story for years. It wasn’t within his capability to turn that around in short order.

Review: Reading Between the Vines

Terry Theise’s Reading between the Wines is not your typical wine book. It’s a short and small book that is somehow also quite dense and contemplative. It’s not, despite all appearances, a quick read.

Point & Shoot Guatemala

Guatemala was a strange place.

Review: The Girl Who Couldn't Come

I can’t remember what lead up to me putting Joey Comeau’s The Girl who Couldn’t Come on my Kindle. I really wish I could remember. It’s probably a better story than “I forgot why I bought this.”

Review: A Fire Upon the Deep

Continuing with the Zones of Thought books, A Fire Upon the Deep comes next. It’s not so much a post-singularity story in the same universe as it is the notion that the singularity is more a geography (if not a geology) than an impulse response. This treatment is novel and relatively unique within the genre. I haven’t come across another universe that links proximity to the galactic core to position along the technological singularity. It falls a bit into origin mythology (Stross does a bit as well), while leaving a lot up to the imagination.

Review: A Deepness in the Sky

Vinge’s Zones of Thought books are long-time favorites for me. It’s been over a decade since I’d read either of the published novels. Vinge’s third book in the universe is coming this year, so it was time for a re-read and re-check of my assumptions. So, these aren’t really reviews, as much as they’re my adjustments given a while since I’ve last approached them.

Back From Guatemala

We’re back from Guatemala. It was pretty crazy.

Tastes and Smells

Got in a polite discussion a few weeks back about flavors and aromas in wine. The gist was “you can’t taste apples from something that’s made from grapes.” The reality is that a wine doesn’t taste like it was made from something other than grapes, but it can smell or taste of other things to varying degrees. It tastes like wine, to be sure, though that’s going to vary a lot between grapes, styles of wine, regions, etc. I don’t really want to debate whether or not it’s possible to pick these notes out. Rather, the whole discussion got me thinking about how useful this whole notion is (or isn’t).

WD~50

Went to WD~50 for Melissa’s birthday yesterday. It was pretty sweet. We got arguably the best seat in the house, a 4-top with a view straight into the kitchen. Here’s the view from under the table, with Wylie in the house:

Tappo

Went to Tappo today for a late leisurely lunch. Service was a bit off; maybe that’s just because the the place was totally empty when we got there.

Review: Inception

I’ve been dragging my feeton this. I saw Inception a weekend ago (thanks Casey!). Nolan does an amazing job with the visual aesthetic of the film; there were times when my jaw just dropped and I had to exclaim “wow” aloud. He does a great job keeping the pace and intensity of the film accelerating throughout. By the end you’re sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for that unwind to happen.

Deep Dish Pizza

I made the Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza (subscription required, but it’s worth getting a subscription, just do it) from Cook’s Illustrated last night. It took a few hours, a stick of butter, half a jar of olive oil, an improvised cake pan, and a startling moment where I realized I forgot to put the sauce on the pizzas that were in the oven. Luckily the sauce goes on last with these creatures!

This is Why We Fight

I Liked This

From In Search of Clusters (2nd Edition):

Home Wine Course Class 1 Part 4

Well, we’ve finished the first chapter, which means we’re a third of the way through the whites.

Review: Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2) is the second book of the fantasy trilogy started by Patrick Rothfuss with The Name of the Wind.

Home Wine Course Class 1 Part 3

Time to forge onward through Zraly’s book. This round took a while for two reasons. First, with four wines to taste and not many people to share them with, opening four bottles only made sense when there were decent opportunities to consume them. Second, on three occasions I managed to forget to order the Chablis. Finally I made a trip by a local wine store and bought the first one they had, for risk of forgetting again, and having to put off another week. So, without further adieu.

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread was a recipe sharead in my Google Reader stream recently. In general, recipes on the Internet suck, but I couldn’t really resist trying this one.

Review: Use of Weapons

My third Culture novel, Use of Weapons by Iain Banks was probably the best written, and yet spent the least time dwelling on the Culture itself. It is a nonlinear narrative about a special circumstances operative that explores his timeline in the role. The plot twist at the end feels a bit bolted on, but it’s not a bad read. If you’re thirsty for more context on the Culture though, you may have to look more to other books. 7/10.

Review: Player of Games

“The Player of Games”:The Player of Games is the second Culture novel by Ian M. Banks. The novel writes from the perspective of members of The Culture, instead of from a faction warring against them.

Review: Consider Phlebas

After suffering through Peter F. Hamilton’s interstellar choo-choo train nonsense, I was ready for some decent science fiction again. I was turned on to the Iain M. Banks culture novels by a friend, and the series and world sounded compelling enough to be worth a shot.

Jakarta

So this is my betta; his name is Jakarta.

Social Media Presence and Fanatical Support

Social Media Failure: Geico

Home Wine Course Class 1 Part 2

Continuing the series, just a single bottle top report on this time.

Cancellation Stickyness

It took 23 minutes to cancel the Internet portion of my Sirius radio subscription. A while ago I’d signed up for this and used it extensively. It was nice to be able to “discover new things” this way. I was hooked on a break beats channel; for just $2.99 a month, it was well worth the expense.

Home Wine Course Class 1 Part 1

I picked up Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 25th Anniversary Edition. My problem is that I know just enough about wine to be dangerous. I have a lot of depth in certain varietals and regions but lack breadth otherwise. Zraly’s book goes through 8 chapters of regions and associated tastings, meant to give a broad exposure and vocabulary for drinking wine. I don’t know if I’ll make it through the entire book before all of the recommendations become outdated, but the basic formula should work, more or less. As is, I’ve had to make best guesses with vintage substitutions, trying to take into account annual variations that are nontrivial.

So I Got My CR-48

Without warning, a Google Cr-48 showed up at my apartment the other day. This is going to be a bit unfocused, but here are my thoughts on the thing.

One of Many Little Side Projects

I guess it’s time to lift the curtain on this; I still need to do some polishing work to get things sorted out with the site, but I’m ready to at least announce my new misguided effort.

A Tale of Two Induction Burners

One or two of you, at best, may recall that I wrote about the Max Burton 6000 induction burner previously. After about nine months, the control board stopped responding to increase messages, so I could only run the thing at “5” or below. I bought another copy in the “premium” version, hoping the control board was made at a higher standard of quality. It isn’t, but the stainless is much easier to clean, so I’m not entirely disappointed. We’re talking $75 or $100, which is in the cheap range for induction burners.

Classy Service

I’d recently acquired a piece of hardware from Wadia Digital. They are a maker of relatively high-end audio kit, but make a few cheap pieces of equipment, which is where I enter the picture.

Sous-Vide Short Ribs

I went ahead and did the sous-vide short rib thing. I got five short ribs from Whole Foods, dried them for a day in the fridge, threw some salt and pepper on them, and then threw them into a pair of vacuum pouches. Compared to using the FoodSaver bags when meat juices would inevitably attack what could otherwise be a good seal, having a chamber vacuum makes this easy now. I highly recommend the investment. The “squeeze the air out of a ziploc with water” approach usually works well, but I’m less comfortable with it when we start looking at the length of time these things end up in the water bath.

Hollow Leaves

Getting closer with the latte art, except that I seem to be pouring a little late (thus the third of the cup with nothing), and for a lefty. Whoops.

Sunday Mk II

I’m working on a new project.

Review: Making Sense of Wine

Matt Kramer’s Making Sense Of Wine seems to receive nearly unanimous praise for demystifying wine. Having now completed it, I can see why. Kramer goes through the basics you see in a lot of wine books, like blends and varietals, but focuses more on explaining both the common wisdom and debunking the common myths of the trade. It is full of solid advice on wine storage, good exploration of wine aging, and a nice explanation of how things got to be the way they are today. It blends accessible science, rich (but not tedious) history, and common sense to make a highly readable book.

Review: Darien Melting Pot

Went to the Darien Melting Pot last night. I’ve been morbidly curious about this expensive and ostensibly romantic chain that “doesn’t feel like a chain” for a while. Its two-person “couples” booths are lauded as being intimate and romantic, as well they should be, when you’re sharing a simmering pot of each other’s festering plagues.

Review: Judas Unchained

Judas Unchained is the second book of Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga. Like the first book, it’s a mess of of chrome without focus, wrapped around otherwise interesting concepts. This book spends less time with the interesting concepts, and really just devolves into a drawn-out space opera. The plot is overblown, predictable, and heavily foreshadowed. Unfortunately, it advances at a pace that makes the texture of the novel feel straight out of Tolstoy, with far less intrigue and elegance. This is saying a lot, because Tolstoy bores me to tears.

2010

Sweet

So, the snow hasn’t showed up as originally forecasted, but this is looking pretty promising…

Cassoulet

I made cassoulet; it was amazing. It took every inch of my 7.5qt pot, made a mess of my kitchen, and took most of the day (plus soaking the beans since last night), but was worth it.

Review: Pandora's Star

Pandora’s Star is the poorly written introduction to a two-part story set in the near-singularity future. It has artificial intelligence, alternative life forms, wormhole travel, galactic colonization, and some childish love stories. Normally I would say that’s a recipe for success, but the writing just couldn’t really carry the story.

Review: Blue Hill at Stone Barns

I was treated to Blue Hill at Stone Barns for my birthday, and it was marvelous. As it was a surprise, I didn’t pack a camera, so there are no pictures. I’ve forgotten many details already.

Initial Thoughts: Darien Burgers, Shakes & Fries

So, we got to Darien’s branch of BSF around 2:00 on a Saturday. The toppings &burgers list had no prices, and if I hadn’t been to the BSF in Greenwich, I’d have no clue what to do. The folks ahead of us heard that it would be a forty five minute wait for food, but elected still to order. This took about ten minutes since the receipt printer wasn’t working and nobody had a clue what was going on. They finally brought a different receipt printer over and after three different staff played with the order, they managed to sort things out.

This Officially Freaks Me Out

Google’s new “results from people you know” thing … is disconcerting.

Portland Remainders Omnibus

Alright, here’s a few megs of pictures, and them I’m done talking about Portland.

Just Outside of Portland

Route 30 and the Columbia River Gorge

Review: House of Suns

Lame review for an awesome book: House of Suns is the best hard science fiction novel I’ve read in a long time. Reynolds blends a fantasy back-story, relativistic travel, faster than light travel, post hard-singularity time, starships, cloning, nanotech, emergent sentient and semi-sentient AI and tons of other stuff, and somehow makes it work. If you’re into singularity fiction or just like a good hard sci-fi read, you need to pick this one up. It even has a killer ending. 10/10.

Portland: The Food, Part Two

Fenouil

Portland: The Food, Part One

Kenny & Zuke’s

Portland: Random Food & Drink

“Cupcake Jones”: was one of those things we stumbled upon, ended up eating there twice. They have 3 standard cupcakes and then three new cupcakes every day. Small count, keeping quality up, etc. Honestly, these are the first cupcakes I’ve had from a cupcake place where I … liked them. Definitely worth a visit, and better than the normal dry crappy cake with tooth-ache frosting. This is the egg nog and buttered rum cupcakes; both were great.

Portland's Famous Voodoo Doughnut

So, that first night in Portland, thought it might be time to try Voodoo Doughnut. Nope!

Coffee in Portland

Coffee in Portland wasn’t quite what I expected. Here’s the Stumptown at the Ace, where we went for espresso after getting coffee (and book shopping) at Powell’s. In general, Stumptown was good, but rarely great. Variation between baristas was immense; some of the milk texturing was borderline unimpressive, and espresso pulls were all over the map. It’s … a little more cozy than the Stumptown at the Ace in New York, but still a bit sterile.

Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

I love dystopian stories, almost as much as I love hard science fiction about the singularity. I could not get enough of books like 1984, A Clockwork Orange, The Immortals, Ubik, Brave New World, Animal Farm, and Fahrenheit 451 during my formative years as a young adult. So, I had some curiosity about the Hunger Games Trilogy. This series is targeted to young adults and explores a lot of the same ideas. I read it while traveling to Portland (on the Kindle, but more about that later). It’s the first “Young Adult” literature I’ve read (to my knowledge) since Harry Potter, so I may just not be particularly calibrated, as a warning..

Living With The Kindle

I deliberated over buying a Kindle in the past. My original objections still stand:

The Fall Revolution

I’ve finished the Fall Revolution collection of books from Ken MacLeod. I read them as the pair of omnibuses Fractions and Divisions. I’m happy to have found another author who is taking seriously the idea of the singularity and writing hard science fiction about it. Taken as a whole, the four books are loosely related (the occasional cameo is a bit heavy handed, such as the nearly anecdotal inclusion of Ellen May in The Sky Road), talking about the same universe and exploring the minutiae of what have become largely unrelated time slices. There’s a story arc, but it’s not really told as much by the books as synthesized by the reader as the pieces all fall together.

The Rain

There are evenings when I enjoy my apartment.

Duck

Paris

Stating the obvious, perhaps, visiting Paris on business is a lot different than visiting Paris for pleasure. I didn’t really end up with any “free time” beyond a few hours each evening between finishing work and getting back to doing more work.

Review: An Engineer's Guide to Silicon Valley Startups

Piaw Na’s An Engineer’s Guide to Silicon Valley Startups was a well-written and succinct book on the topic. Piaw distilled the subjects he discusses into their essence, and doesn’t belabor the point. I appreciate this approach to providing the essential commentary on each topic and nothing further, especially with his rich suggestions for further reading on each topic.

Review: Being Geek

Unlike Michael Lopp’s first book, Being Geek has typesetting that isn’t atrocious and features unique content. As a long-time blog reader, there were certainly familiar passages, but I found the entirety of the book worthwhile.

P. F. Chang's: What the fuck?

I really don’t know how to describe how terrible P. F. Chang’s was. I’d been meaning to give it a shot for years, and finally got around to visiting the one in Stamford.

Maintenance

I’m usually not overly worried about a remote reboot of my linux box. I had been putting it off for a little while, but am about to be out of town for a couple of weeks, so decided to do it when I was home. It didn’t seem to be coming back up when I first bounced it, so I checked the console, and sure enough, it had decided it was fsck day for a 4TB partition. Oops. Well, that’s fine, I thought, I’ll let it do its thing.

Kindle

The Kindle is becoming more tempting. I’ve gotten pretty good at traveling for week-long business trips. I travel with soft-side 22×14×9 bag (which will easily compress to 20" for international travel), which is pretty much legal in any carry-on, unlike the wheeled monstrosities most people seem to bring. I also travel with a briefcase to carry my work laptop.

Board Games

iPhones and iPads are getting an amazing assortment of truly excellent board games. Already, we have Mü, Catan, Carcassonne, Small World and a bunch of Knizia’s stuff. Things like Le Havre, Chicago Express, Neuroshima Hex, and Tichu are just around the corner.

Project Pluto

So you’re working on Project Pluto. Call it that because that was a really neat project. Call it that because it’s a really scary project. If you have to pick one, read the second link. Point being, this dichotomy is an important characteristic of all important projects. Neat and scary!

2010 Goals, 2/3 Edition

It’s time to check up on my 2010 resolutions again. I originally planned to track my progress every quarter, but it seems we’ve made it through two thirds of the year, more or less. I guess that will suffice for the last check prior to the new year. It seems like a mixed bag so far.

iPhone 4

In general, I’m happy with the iPhone 4. It’s a huge upgrade in performance from my iPhone 3G, which was getting to be sluggish and useless, especially under iOS4. I don’t think it’s a huge upgrade from a 3Gs; if I was in contract with a 3Gs, I would probably wait till next year. It is faster than the 3Gs, but it doesn’t really seem faster, except for in situations where you time some computationally intractable task (like how long it takes to load Grocery IQ; I’m going to try a new shopping list application, because this has gotten silly).

Hummingbird

Niki noticed that there was an abundance of hummingbirds at the resort in Pembroke where Bill had his wedding. She spent a lot of time being patient and getting some amazing shots.

Congratulations, Bill & Krista

Bill got married in the south this weekend; it was my first excuse/opportunity to wear a seersucker suit.

Review: The Millenium Trilogy

I finished the Millenium Trilogy over the weekend.

Another MRTG Chart

The weekly internal temperature chart is looking even worse today, so when my box fell off the grid, I assumed there was a thermal cause:

Three Stross Reviews

I read Overtime by Charles Stross on the flight to California this morning. This is the first thing I’ve “read” in iBooks. It wasn’t unpleasant, but I much preferred the time I spent with a paper book later. The iPad is still too heavy. I enjoyed this, I’m glad I didn’t waste the paper, but alas. The story itself was okay. I hadn’t yet read The Atrocity Archives, so I had very little context. It was a cute sci-fi story and all, but nothing really compelling or engaging. Not very thought-provoking. A weak showing, compared to some of his other shorts, to be sure. 5/10.

Not That Hot in California

It’s 66 in California right now. I’m glad to not be sharing the room with the Tubbs Center for Advanced Computation right now:

Red Bull Air Race

Why I Should Stop Coding

So I wrote a relatively straightforward program to try to quickly solve an NP-complete problem. The details are unimportant, but I can’t explain the result. I wrote my C++ in a way that caused it consume a great deal of memory rather quickly (pretty much as quickly as an allocator can spit out 48-byte blocks on an Opteron 180). Once I ate up about three gigabytes of system memory, oom-killer started obliterating system services, but not my stupid program.

Best Job Ever

When I was a kid, I loved to get involved in the Mac versus PC debate. Anybody who had a brain, of course, used a PC. Anybody who really had a brain was running something other than a Microsoft OS on that PC, too. Macs were for the people too dumb to have their own preferences and designs on their computing experience. When in doubt, flame somebody for their computer choice, and you had a few days of fun on the bulletin boards.

Foursquare and Corporate Achievements

Some coworkers were trying to explain foursquare to me today; I’m not sure I fully get it, but whatever, I signed up. I think my first goal will be to become the mayor of Espresso Neat. Or maybe my apartment. Probably my apartment.

Mad Science

Feeling like a bit of a mad scientist lately.

Dare to Dream

I’m sure half a million people have already taken similar photos, but hey, this is funny.

ExpandOS

Every once in a while, an idea comes along that’s so obvious you’re offended it took so long to get to this point.

Crossing Guard

I was at the liquor store yesterday, buying some beer. I picked up some Burton Baton, some Festina Peche, and my favorite standby beer, some 60 minute. I took the day off, so I was doing this around 3PM.

It's Rocket Science

I’ve been meditating a lot lately on what it is that makes a good technical interview. I’ve been trying to enumerate the differences between good technical interviews and bad ones. I wrote up a bunch of notes. I generated a lot of assumptions. I found myself entangled in internal inconsistency. Here’s the universal truth:

Dear New York Times Twitter Feed

Dear New York Times Twitter feed,

AT&T, etc.

Despite the pain it took to become an AT&T Internet customer, I am no longer one, and haven’t been for months.

On The iPad

I wrote back in January that I wanted an iPad. I now own one. It’s a really interesting device.

Anatomy of an Interview Question: Probabilistic Dispatch

Prologue

Review: The Little Schemer

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with The Little Schemer. It reminds me of Gödel, Escher, Bach in ways I can’t quite explain. The book’s Socratic dialogue seems clever at first, but seems forced as the book progresses. My main issue with it is that what the author finds tricky may be trivial to the reader. The opposite is also true. In a truly Socratic discussion, this would pose little problem, as the individuals would seek to match impedances, but the book offers little opportunity in this regard.

Kitty Likes Metal

I’ve noticed this recently: Loki is quite fond of Opeth, Mastodon, Katatonia, =ISIS, and Pelican. She doesn’t seem to like Behemoth. She’ll come up on the desk and get close to the speaker, even if it’s really loud. I don’t really get it.

Invisible Corporations, Part One

Meetings are booked like classes in school. They go from 10:00 to 10:50. Everybody shows up on time, and leaves with plenty of time to make their next meeting. Bells go off automatically when the 50-minute mark is reached and when a meeting is to commence. The doors close/open automatically at the appropriate times. White noise is generated in the room during the 10-minute window to make conversation inconvenient. Casual meeting areas are near each conference room to allow conversation in the margins, as appropriate. The lights flash in these areas with a two and one-minute warning to alert people to the start of the next meeting slot. There are clocks in the hallways.

Experts

I was talking to a friend about how I get confused by all of the sub-genres in metal. I can no more describe what “Polish blacked death metal” is than I can tell you what the differences are between “mathcore” and “metalcore.” Furthermore, it does me virtually no good to come to understand the specifics, or to be able to enumerate what bands fall into which sub-genre. The key is that I am not an expert. I do not possess knowledge of the vast universe of little details that separates the cognoscenti from the enthusiasts.

Anatomy of an Interview Question: Design a Deck of Cards

I have a thing against “design” interviews. It’s not that I don’t want to see candidates design something, but I often think a full interview of talking about design has a tendency towards false positives. Design is hard. Recognizing good design is an art form. Art is subjective. Everything about interviewing is subjective, though, including my opinion that design interviews can easily fall into false positive traps. I think my general feeling is that the insights that can be found while working through a design problem can also be found when working through a tough data structures and algorithms problem. I’m probably wrong, though, so we’ll play this one by ear. Here’s a design problem that I ultimately want to shape into a data structures and algorithm problem that involves writing code. The reason for this is because technical interviews should always involve writing code, or else they’re just polite conversation amongst people who like (well, we hope) using computers. Here’s the initial problem statement: “Design a deck of cards.”

Scheme

I’ve been teaching myself Scheme, as a way to keep my brain occupied when I burn out on the math side of Project Euler. Unfortunately, I worry I may be losing my edge. When asked to implement (= m n) in terms of primitives previously constructed1, my first go was:

Anatomy of an Interview Question: string.h

Repeating Myself

Review: Heavy Rain

I finished Heavy Rain. It pretty much perfects the choose-your-own-adventure model, in video game / movie form. In terms of an immersive story, I can’t say I’ve played anything quite like it. I don’t mind the awkward control middleware (it makes sense), and it’s probably the first game I’ve played that’s used the motion sensors in the PS3 controllers in a way that makes sense. The visual style and effects are well executed.

Muse, Philadelpiha, 3/2

Anatomy of an Interview Question: The Burning Island

I know the first two parts of the series were a little dull, so it’s time to look at a different species of interview question. Back when I was graduating from college, the industry was still sold on the idea that interviewing wasn’t about testing trivia or evaluating whether or not a candidate could write code. Who cares if they understand data structures and algorithms. What really matters is whether somebody can think outside the box!

Anatomy of an Interview Question: Reverse a String

Don’t Lose All Hope

Goals Checkup

I suppose the key to successful goals is constantly re-assessing progress towards them, rather than hitting the expiration of those goals and realizing you’re hopelessly lost. So, it’s time to check in on this year’s goals. Failing at photographs and books so far; have taken a lot of really crummy ones lately; the one at the end of this post is the best I’ve had for the year, but not particularly good. On pace with weight but decelerating in progress. I’m “done” with PT, but my ankle’s not really better, I just think my therapist threw in the towel.

Two Hours of Waiting

Well, this morning I got a call at 8 from my Geico adjuster: “Aaron, I rolled into work day and your car is here, what’s going on?”

Anatomy of an Interview Question: Detecting the Presence of a Cycle in a Linked List

I’m starting a new series of posts in which I analyze a number of technical interview questions for programmers. The problems will vary quite a bit. I enjoy the puzzles and nature of these sorts of questions. I don’t give very many technical interviews anymore, so I figured I’d share some of my experiences and insights I’ve picked up over the years. As to what makes me qualified to talk about them, I don’t know that I am qualified to talk about them. I guess that’s part of the fun. I’ll explain the problem and walk through some of the solutions, but I’m more interested in the meta-game: What does this problem teach us about a candidate. What are the traps and pitfalls of the problem? What are the strengths of the problem? What are its weaknesses?

The Second Generation Prius

While my car is getting some attention in the shop, my rental has been a second generation Toyota Prius. It’s an interesting car. It’s extremely practical; it has plenty of places to store stuff, and then a bunch more places beyond what’s necessary. It’s comfortable for four and has a nice rear storage area. That’s all stuff I knew before, but it’s important to emphasize — it’s quite possibly one of the most practical cars out there.

I'm an Octahedron, With Some Musings on Wolfra Alpha

So I’m working on my 100th Project Euler problem. Out pops a Diophantine equation I don’t particularly want to solve. So, I toss it into Wolfram Alpha. I was thinking this was one of those taylor-made problems; whereas most of my queries result in lost results, this is a pretty straightforward request. Granted, I’m asking the Mathematica engine to take a leap and realize I want my equation treated as a Diophantine equation, and not a continuous equation, but I try my luck, punching in:

Combinations

Write a function that accepts a functor, a container of items, and a desired choice size. The code’s purpose is to produce all choices from the input and apply the functor to the selected subset.

Why I Want an iPad

I’m quite confident I will be saying something said by a thousand other people today. I’m sure my opinions are not unique, original, or inspired. I want an iPad. It’s perfect for me.

Well, Shit.

Haven’t had an accident since I got my driver’s license, I suppose I was due.

The Height of Absurdity

Here’s how I want my driver updates to work. I go to a site. I download a quick installer/unpacker, I hit an accept on a UAC dialog, and three seconds later my driver is silently updated. Instead, this is the complete fucking nonsense Creative throws at me:

Recruiters

So I get a call, in the middle of the workday, from a recruiting firm. Blocked number, as always. They introduce themselves and their firm, and mention that I “worked with one of their colleagues” in the past. Kay. From memory, it played out roughly like this:

At Least I Can Do Some Things Well

My rosettas are getting better.

Another Snowflake

Oh, the joys of post-processing.

Snowflake

Resolutions, 2010 Edition

Once again it’s a new year, and once again it’s time to set some goals that I’ll fail to achieve in the coming year. But, first, let’s take a look back on 2009’s goals:

2009

Being Harassed by the Takhar Group

In September, I got a call from the Takhar Group, telling me I owed some money to Crafter’s Choice for a book club membership whose conditions I failed to satisfy. At the time, they gave me the account number and the phone number of the claimant. I called them, and they looked up the account. It had my name on it, and an address that looked suspiciously like (but not exactly like) the address where I grew up. This, of course, is somewhere I haven’t lived in a decade, and I certainly haven’t been ordering books on crafting to be sent there. The Crafter’s Choice book club folks agreed that this was obviously not me, and that I’m not responsible for the account, and closed it out with virtually no hassle at all. I did not hear from either company, though I did receive written confirmation from Crafter’s Choice that the matter was settled, and I can ignore further harassment about the issue.

A Cheap Induction Burner

I picked up a Max Burton 6000 Induction Cooktop. I want a Cooktek Apogee, I think, but this was enough to play a bit and see how things work.

One Big Happy Family

All the kids, all together. Apparently I’m down to 6 piece of L glass, two other fifties, two bodies, and three flashes.

Thanksgiving Aftermath

So, thanksgiving was all from Cook’s Illustrated. The “main dish” was the slow-roasted turkey with gravy, which I left unmodified except for brining the turkey ahead of time.

Thanksgiving Teaser

Need to be careful and remember to photograph everything before it gets eaten, or else there aren’t going to be many more of these photos. Anyhow, starting the fun out, here’s a teaser; this is the pie cooling last night a bit after two in the morning when the first round of cooking finished.

Review: Einstein's Dreams

Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams seems to borrow its structure and form from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. The resemblance is similar enough that I think Ligthman’s surprise and delight (as best as I can find in a quick search) at the comparison is false modesty. Rather than imaginary cities, Lightman imagines variations of time itself in each chapter, but the same frame and form is present.

Review: The Man in the High Castle

Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle provides a take on the parallel near-pat where Germany and Japan won the war. I have a hard time getting into, perhaps even appreciating, the I Ching aspects of the story, but otherwise really enjoyed the read. It’s interesting not so much in the way the alternative world ends up, but how the alternative world will be. The themes are tied together cleverly, and the structure and frame provided in the story is rich and textured. 7/10.

It's fall.

Fall has officially started; I’m making the first batch of chili for the season, and taking the new Le Creuset dutch oven out for its inaugural journey.

The Camera You Have

I’ve had a little more time with my S90, and thus far have been pretty happy with it. I’ve long suffered from the problem of not wanting to carry my SLR around all the time (and yes, Mr. Rockwell, if I had the cash, I’d carry a Leica M9 around all the time, but that’s Real Money). I’ve played with a few point and shoots in the past, and even own a couple. While they’re good, they’re not great, and usually the results were mediocre enough I just got fed up using the things.

AT&T DSL, Part 13

Remember those issues I had with AT&T in July? I sure do.

7, SSD

I’ve now installed Windows 7, despite an early snafu about not being able to make a system partition on the SSD when it’s not on the primary SATA channel for some reason.

Revolutionary versus evolutionary product cycles

Not that I’ll ever own one, but I was pondering the launch of the EOS 1DIV this morning. Back when I got my EOS-3, it was the technological testbed for Canon. They put all of the exciting new bells and whistles in the 3, like 45 AF points (which again I will say is an inexcusable omission from the 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 5 bodies), eye controlled focus, and weather sealing (well, advanced by standards on those days). Then, they perfected the technology and released it in the 1v, the ultimate statement of what the professional would want from the more experimental flagship (namely, no eye controlled focus, better weather sealing).

85L

I got a new toy.

Physical Therapy

I got a prescription for some physical therapy. I went to the physical therapist’s office (which happened to be housed in the same facility as my doctor) and dropped off my prescription. In return I got a two page warning in all capital letters about how I need to ensure that my insurance company covers physical therapy at this facility.

Michigan.

I drove to Michigan today, since my brother is getting married tomorrow. I used to fly here, but I’ve had so many troubles with that, I decided to try the driving approach this time around. It took about 12 hours, which is materially faster than many attempts in the past, though certainly longer than the theoretical optimal, whether connecting or just dumping me in Chicago/Detroit and then driving from there. Ultimately, 8 hours in air transit or 12 hours driving … it’s sort of a wash.

Germany, Part Nine

After a rousing day of museums and sausage, we took it pretty easy. For our last day in Germany, we started the day at the last tent we were interested in, the Ochsenbraterei.

Germany, Part Six

Not feeling wordy. Here’s a picture dump of the walk back from the tents.

Germany, Part Seven

After the last picture dump, I figured I should provide at least a baseline amount of commentary again. Whatever day this was, we ended up going to the Residence in the morning, and I foolishly left my camera behind, so I have no pictures of that. It was a weird place to visit, since virtually nothing was original, due to the place burning down / being bombed / renovated / looted / whatever. Pretty much each room was “Here’s some stuff that’s neat, this used to be a dressing room; nothing in the room has anything to do with what it used to be.” Worth a peek, but not exactly the most amazing place in Munich.

Germany, Part Eight

After exploring the sorts of places I’ll never live, the next day brought us to the Deutches Museum.

Germany, Part Interlude

No commentary on the trip like last time for this entry, but there are more pictures and trip recap coming. I know you all care.

Germany, Part Five

Right, enough bitching about how what I really want is a 1Ds. Back to Germany and all things related.

Germany, Part Four

Germany, Part Two

After an overnight flight, we found ourselves at MUC. An uneventful pass through immigration and a quick retrieval of bags (again, at least an hour faster net-net than the return at Newark), we met up with Bill, at which point we looked like this:

Germany, Part Three

Our first day in Germany was pretty fun, so we decided to get the shitty day over with on Sunday. First, some yummy breakfast, to distract you from what’s coming:

Germany, Part One

Drove to Newark on Friday the 18th; left around 3 … got there around … 6. Yeah. I hate traveling out of the New York area airports. Check-in was relatively smooth. Security was a good 45 minutes of waiting in line, and then one of the more unpleasant experiences I’ve had.

Review: Downbelow Station

Unlike a lot of my vacations, I didn’t end up reading too much in Munich, I think because I ended up doing more, and having less downtime. In some ways that’s good (more stories), but the downside is that I spent less time relaxing and reading.

Review: Axis

Axis is the follow up to Robert Charles Wilson’s Hugo-Winning Spin. It felt like a typical sequel that comes after a strong sci-fi/fantasy start: It’s weak, unfocused, and trying to weave more supporting lattice for the arc of the entire story. The writing feels formulaic, the author tried a bit too hard to tie things to the first book, and there’s very little new stuff going on. The pacing and excitement and mystery of Spin is missing, and instead it’s a boring journey along with the book’s protagonists as they plod along towards the uneventful conclusion.

Review: Gardens of the Moon

Gardens of the Moon was recommended to hold me over until the next GRRM or Robert Jordan not-finish. The story is rich and multi-faceted, but it really needs some editing. There’s just way too much going on, and a combination of way too much information and then some hand-waving when it’s critical to get more information. I’m interested in the series, still, but the book is a bit rough around the edges. 6/10.

Rosetta

I think this is, technically speaking, my first real rosetta:

Review: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II

Finished the single-player campaign in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II. Slightly irritated that, at the end of the campaign, they drop your squad without a chance for you to adjust their load-out. Should have just always kept them prepped, I guess. Didn’t really end up mattering, the end level was about as hard as a base defense.

Review: Il y a longtemps que je t'aime

Il y a longtemps que je t’aime presented the typical vignette of a person or group of people struggling to reunite with some long lost person. The specifics in this case was that an older sister was lost to jail for killing her son 15 years prior, and is now reunited with her sister and said sister’s apprehensive husband and kids. It was well done, if formulaic and somewhat predictable. It’s worth watching if you want to watch a high-end Hallmark film, but I don’t think there is anything particularly surprising or amazing here. 6/10.

Mix Tape for my Funeral

At my funeral/wake/afterlife party, I would like the following songs played, for reasons that only I will ever know.

Capuccino

It doesn’t look like much, and in fact, as cappuccinos go, it’s nothing particularly impressive by top west coast bar standards. But this is about as bad as my pulls/pours get now. It’s delicious.

Counter Culture Coffee Training

Thursday I visited the Washington, D.C. Counter Culture Coffee Training Center. I arrived around 9 to meet Alex and Konrad, who provided the instruction for the “Beginner’s Espresso Lab.” Twelve students (myself included) spent the day learning the basics of espresso drink preparation and machine operation, most of them from small shops around the DC area.

More Photos, Since the Blog is Getting Stale and Smelly

Didn’t accomplish anything of import this weekend. Almost went to the zoo Saturday, but the weather was threatening. It didn’t end up doing anything, of course, but there was no way to know that ahead of time. I have this big long list of things I need to get done, and I’m not making any progress on any of the items other than “grow this list in size and scope.”

Messy Triple

Watch Mad Men. Now.

I just finished the second season of Mad Men. The series amazes me. It starts a little slow, but the sad loneliness of Don Draper somehow penetrates my consciousness at a level I can’t quite explain or comprehend. I could see myself watching Don stare off into nothingness for an hour. And feeling strangely fulfilled. He has this lonely sadness and awareness that resonates too much.

Steam, Steam, Steam

Played Euchre last night for the first time in a year or two. It was sort of a surreal experience. I found myself thinking about the game quite a bit differently than I used to. I think that game playing in general, for entirely different kind of games, has led me to different ways of approaching game mechanics. Euchre is pretty simple, and I don’t know that I played particularly better, but the approach I used was a lot different.

Review: Watchmen (Movie)

I’ve decided that I probably won’t post most book/movie reviews here from now on, unless they were especially bad. Or good. But the latter never happens. If I’m just going to write “shitty romantic comedy, 5/10,” I might as well post it to twitter.

AT&T DSL, Epilogue

I just got war dialed by the AT&T auto dialer again. It said my Internet was broken, and a technician must speak to me, press 0 to go on hold and wait for a technician…

AT&T DSL, Part Ten

A funny thing happened this morning. AT&T called me back about my issue.

AT&T DSL, Part Last (For Now)

So. Our story arc ends for now. But not without something along the way.

AT&T DSL, Part Nine

Not really sure what I’m going to write about once my Internet is working. Luckily, the saga continues.

AT&T DSL, Part Eight

And so it continues.

AT&T DSL, Part Six

Part five of the AT&T DSL saga was a bit of a surprise. As was today’s first installment.

AT&T DSL, Part Seven

You kids have any hope after the technician mysteriously appeared at my apartment?. I hope so, because I’d like to crush your hopes.

This Just In

The building that’s trashing my upstream has been located by Cablevision (took 5 months, but who’s counting … beyond me). I offered to round up some thugs and provide muscle for the operation, or, barring that, a pair of cable cutters.

My Imagination Cannot Compete With AT&T's Broadband Reality

Continuing the saga with a brief update. I called AT&T today. I waited on hold for 27 minutes. When the agent picked up, I was greeted with:

This Is Scary

Titled Hell is AT&T, this blog post (of a letter) sounds eerily familiar:

Maryland, Part Only

After our triumphant visit to Delaware, we continued on to Maryland to party with friends for the fourth. Before stopping at the party, we explored beautiful (cough) Maryland a little bit.

Delaware, Part Four

AT&T DSL, Part Four

If you’re new to the saga, check out parts one, two, and three. You can also go digging for the cablevision history, but I’ll summarize it as “my cable Internet hasn’t worked reliably in almost half a year of trying.” Including this weekend. Apparently it’s spread in the building; one of my friends is now experiencing the same symptoms.

Delaware, Part Two

After our trip to the Air Mobility Command Museum, we continued our journey to Rehoboth Beach, which like most fabled journeys, actually sucked in reality. It was hot, we were in traffic forever, and people were stupid.

Delaware, Part Three

After visiting the Dogfish Head brewpub, we headed to the hotel for the night, to get an early start the next day. Our first destination was the Bomay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.

Delaware, Part One

I am pleased to report that my Internet is broken again.

Had a solid week of blissful fast Internet from Cablevision, during which I was doubting my purchase of a backup DSL line, and thinking maybe all was well again in the world.

Another number, another day.

Time for another installment of “I can’t make this shit up!”

"We don't normally provide customers with that number."

I’m sorry to post again so soon whining about my Internet again, but I’ll keep this brief and include photos to keep it interesting. I got a new camera, finally.

The Internets, They Do Not Want Me

Many of you will remember me complaining recently about my cablevision Internet issues. While my connection now has been behaving for three days without incident, I won’t trust it until I have a few months of stable connection. My contact at the outside line office has proven resourceful and helpful. Keep in mind I first started working with Cablevision about these issues in March. Maybe I shouldn’t complain that it took four months to get three days of reliable service. This is some sort of gift horse, right?

Fuck it, I give up.

I’ve ordered DSL from AT&T. Four months of fighting with Cablevision to get things working has gotten me nothing except wasted time and frustration. The Internet service they provide is amazing when it works, but I’d rather have decent all the time than great when I don’t need it. Here’s hoping the DSL works out.

Review: The Sopranos

It was tough watching The Sopranos, knowing from the start that the series would end with the death of the protagonist, but I persevered. Funny thing is, I don’t have any idea how I got the idea in my head that Tony dies in the final episode of the series. It’s left ambiguous. And I like ambiguous.

Tortilla

Oh, the miracles of olive oil.

Review: Spin

Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin was interesting. It’s singularity science fiction, to be sure (my weakness). I admired that it was clever, and especially appreciated that the author didn’t attempt to tie everything up nice and tidy. We’ll see where the trilogy goes, but the opening salvo was fun. 8/10.

Cooking Misadventures

Did some cooking experiments this weekend. Was too lazy to take pictures of any of it, sadly.

The Hired Help

Now that I’m no longer dealing with customer service at Cablevision, my experience is rapidly improving. Don’t get me wrong, my line is still completely useless at times; I have zero upstream bandwidth and exceptional amounts of packet loss. But, I’m discovering that the line office supervisor is actually human, and actually wants to get the issue fixed.

Scams

Been selling some stuff on eBay to make space and get rid of things that I don’t use that often. I’m astounded by how much of a cut eBay takes. I’m astounded by how much of a cut PayPal takes.

On The Upside, I'm A Cube

While my Internet has been completely useless for playing games and doing work, it still does okay for web browsing where waiting 60 seconds for a request to get through doesn’t really matter. The end state is that I’ve finished 50 problems Project Euler, so now I’m a cube.

Review: The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1) is one of the best new Fantasy books I’ve read in a long time. Magic is downplayed, mythical creatures exist, but are muted (dragons are pleasantly detuned; after GRRM and Robert Jordan, I was about to give up on any book referring to a dragon).

Review: The Kingdom

The Kingdom starts with an awesome title sequence, detailing Saudi contemporary history, and then transitioning to the geopolitical tensions caused by its relationship with America. It features perhaps the most subtle 9/11 lead-in in a movie that I’ve seen, which doesn’t make it subtle by any sense of the imagination, but I still admired it. This movie is worth watching for the title sequence, but return it without continuing.

Not That Anybody Cares, but I'll Whine Some More

Somebody apparently came out to the premises yesterday and the “work was finished.” That’s all Cablevision customer service could tell me. Of course, I’m still losing 78% of my packets. They wanted to send a technician out again. I went ballistic. Amazingly, didn’t get reprimanded by the person on the phone when I responded with unpleasantries about running speedtest, unplugging my router, and when I indicated that “if you think I will actually believe your bullshit about sending out a senior technician, I have some more choice words for you.”

Cracked Go Board

My Go board is a little sad; it’s cracking or buckling in about 11 places, and the board itself is now warped. Playing on an edge like this isn’t particularly fun:

Oh, Internets Just Refuse To Work

Fourth Cablevision visit in two weeks. Despite the assurances from the chuckle heads on the phone, this was neither a senior technician nor an elite team of crack Cablevision operatives, but I guess the lies were a fun fantasy for their duration. At least they gave me hope. No, this was a junior technician, and I know that because he complained that only senior technicians get “c-pods,” and everybody else has to deal with manual paperwork, phone calls, and work orders. Also, junior technicians get shitty hours, which is why he’s working till 8.

Games

Gran Turismo 5, Forza 3, and Starcraft II are all coming out this year? I may have to start giving up my incredibly busy social calendar.

Bing

Microsoft still doesn’t get it.

File Server Failure

Had some issues with the primary volume on my file server, but the damage has been repaired. The machine’s now up and running again with more ram, more CPU, bigger disks, a battery backup unit on the controller, and Ubuntu.

Review: Star Trek

In the newest round of re-imaginations of a past franchise universe, Star Trek was about what you would expect. I enjoyed it, though it was a little thick with times. Enough of the twisting camera lens flare shit too, really.

The Gallardo Experience

Last night I had a dream that I was driving a Lamborghini Gallardo spider. In my dreams, it had the most ridiculous soft top ever (more like a tube sock for the passengers, with a rain slicker that could be put up over it. Acceleration just wasn’t where I expected for an intermediate super car, and handling was a bit pushy. In my dream I attributed this to the excessive weight of the vehicle and sluggish reaction in the drive train.

Review: Volver

Volver was a decent little story musing on the family and the things done in the name of love. Carmen Maura stole the show. 7/10.

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

During school, when I had to study for exams, there were two approaches I took.

Review: A Feast for Crows

I suppose there’s not much I can add to what’s already been said, but A Feast for Crows was a bit frustrating. I’m note entirely enamored by GRRM’s approach of writing a book two books long, and then making two books out of it, by telling the stories of the characters nobody cares about first. Taking five years to finish the next book is a bit of a bummer, despite the claim that all the writing was mostly done, but that’s been hashed out to death on the Internet too. After burning through the first three books quite quickly, this one took me two years to slog through, and I’m not over happy now that I’ve made it through. It felt like one of Robert Jordan’s classic 318-page introductions, only it was an entire book long. Chalk that up to two authors whose next (final, in one case, I suppose) books I’ll read at the end of this year, but will probably do so more out of grudging dedication than appreciation for the immediate books preceding them. 5/10.

How To Piss Me Off

Cablevision’s inanity about my non-functional Internet continues; I had a scheduled appointment from 5-8 on a Sunday (!!), and they failed to show. At 8 I get a call from the tech asking if he can come tomorrow between 11 and 2 instead. I say that I’m having the issue now and would rather we deal with it tonight, but he pressures that he should come out tomorrow and replace my modem. And stick his thumb up his ass. And maybe if he’s really lucky, my Internet will be in its “good” state at that point and everything will be hunky-dory.

Cablevision

I suppose I could narrate the epic struggle I’ve recently had with Cablevision. In short, my upstream bandwidth regularly drops to, well, zero. But I don’t feel like writing it up, beyond saying that I’m extremely frustrated with having technicians out to visit (coming up on visit #5) that require me to be home. I could threaten to change, but considering SBC DSL is my only real other option, it’s an idle threat.

Anything look wrong here?

Review: The Prestige

The Prestige was decent, if a bit like a magic-themed version of The Departed. I thought it was well-done, and a bit clever, though things were a bit mechanical and predictable through most of the film. In a lot of bits, it just seemed like something was lacking in depth, for lack of a better way to put it. The female roles were hollow, and anybody outside the two main characters had little to offer to the film. Interesting, worth a watch, but not the film it could be. 7/10.

Review: Crysis

Crysis was novel, when things were getting going. Half Metal Gear, half every other tactical FPS, it had some interesting elements. The suit concept was novel, though irritating with each change getting a voice message for it. Having only two guns is a bit of a pain, but also forces you to adopt a certain style/approach, which is nice. That it requires a ridiculous GPU is silly, but the results were beautiful in certain parts.

Review: The Queen

The Queen was very well done; it felt almost like a documentary, despite being nothing of the sort. It addressed the changing perceptions between the monarchy and the populace in the UK around the time of Princess Diana’s funeral; despite being a brief narrative of the events of about a week’s time, I found it engrossing. Helen Mirren did an incredible job. Also, I want to go hang out at Balmoral now. 8/10.

Review: My Own Private Idaho

My Own Private Idaho is a good example of Gus Van Sant at the top of his game; it reminds me I should see more of his stuff. Even Keanu isn’t totally irritating. 7/10.

Cirque du Soleil

Had the pleasure of going to my first Cirque du Soleil show this weekend. The performances were pretty impressive, save for the tightrope and trapeze. A lot of time was spent with the clown acts, which got a bit tired after a while. At the end of the day, it felt like a stylized form of what a “typical” circus might involve (having never been one, I can hardly verify this), though with the talent of the performances jacked up quite a bit. There was chair-stacking, clowns, tightropes, wheels of death, and so forth. While there were still some of the stylized elements that I’d assumed would be a big part of the show, they seemed more a background theme, rather than what was tying everything together. Standing by itself, I’m not sure it’s enough that I’d want to see another show, but I think some of the more “typical” Cirque shows may well be more impressive to me.

Review: Effective STL

In my slow and steady quest to reduce the number of books I’m reading, I managed to finished Effective STL. It’s not a guide to the STL, but it’s something you should read if you use the STL. I suspect I will open Jusuttis far more often than this going forward, but it’s a nice tour of the basic gotchas and idioms. 8/10.

Credit Card Fraud

My credit card information was stolen. Given the specific information the perpetrator had, it’s clear it was somebody that I’ve done business with online. It can’t have been somebody that just swiped my card. My information was either misplaced carelessly, or used intentionally in a far more nefarious manner.

Review: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace is incoherent rubbish. Coming off the heels of the quite good Casino Royale, I am astonished at just how bad it is. 4/10.

Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Fuck it. I’ve given myself the better part of a week to rethink this, but Slumdog Millionaire was not that good of a film. The beginning was set up well, and the frame was clever enough, but the execution and the lat half of the film was a giant train wreck of a thing. Predictable at every corner, painfully focused on an obvious conclusion, and full of horrid acting and screenwriting, I’m not sure how I managed to finish the film. It’s a measure of how lackluster the last year’s offerings were that this managed to do so well with the academy awards. Avoid it and cling to the feeling that you’ve missed out on something great, rather than watching something and realizing you’ve wasted two hours of your life. I’ve seen better romantic comedies, and Rachel Getting Married was a better film. 4/10.

Review: Demigod

So I started playing Demigod today. It’s clever. It has all of the fun parts of an RTS (battle) without most of the time spent in the tedium (resource gathering). This is an oversimplification, but the game is pretty clever. It feels like a tactical RTS instead of a strategic one.

Review: DCS: Black Shark

Holy shit. Have I mentioned that the flare dispenser programming is scriptable via lua, in addition to the on-board programming system?

Review: Alias

For some reason I decided to start Alias. Maybe it’s because it’s by Abrams, and Lost doesn’t come fast enough. On that note, it’s disconcerting to see Lost characters.

Massive Backlog of Nothing

I have a big backlog of nothing to talk about. I guess I’ll post some stuff. I haven’t been doing anything interesting of late, but I guess I’ve kept busy.

Fake Plastic Heroes

Review: Rachel Getting Married

I’m a bit torn on Rachel Getting Married. On the one hand, it’s a sweet little story. On the other hand, I think it attempts to achieve too much poignancy, and falls flat on its face a lot of the time. There are so many bit parts, extras, and inexplicable sequences that it’s all a bit dizzying. Still, it’s about as good a simulation I can imagine for becoming immersed in a wedding, and dealing with somebody who has been/is very ill. It’s very easy to get lost in the film and get sucked into the moment, drawn into the peace of it, and then get pulled around again by the emotional struggles of the thing.

Bandwidth Woes

One of the really frustrating things when I moved was that the Internet service in my new apartment was … abysmal, especially at night. Whereas things were generally “good” at my last apartment, it was clear that I was sharing my Internet connection with a bunch of goons bittorrenting their life away all night long. Typically I was getting only about 1-2 Mb/s downstream, and a little under 1 Mb/s upstream.

Review: Shooter

Shooter works like this: Ex-marine super sniper gets hired to provide intelligence on sniper trying to kill president. Our hero gets set up, finds the root of the conspiracy, and kills everybody. Of course, you could guess that from the jacket, so what I’m saying here is that if this is the sort of cheesy action film you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong. Lots of firefights with Mark Wahlburg killing everybody. A good film? Hardly. But it’s exactly what you’d expect, which counts for something. 5/10.

Review: A Pattern Language

I finished The Timeless Way of Building back in April … two years ago. That means I’ve been reading A Pattern Language for almost two years. It’s not that it’s a slow read, per se. At almost 1200 pages, it’s by no means short, but the bigger challenge I found was that I never felt like I had the right amount of focus to really appreciate everything I was reading.

Review: Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche, New York was interesting and a bit challenging. Kaufman’s stab at directing confirms that his talents aren’t only in writing. He weaves a surreal experience where one can’t decide when they’re watching a play or watching reality, while it’s clear that the characters suffer from the same struggle. The point or message of the film is pretty straightforward, I think, but the presentation and themes along the way are challenging in both material and presentation. Don’t watch it unless you’re ready to pay attention and lose yourself in it. 9/10 for now; we’ll see if/when I get around to a rewatch.

Review: Body of Lies

Body of Lies was about what one hopes for an in action/thriller film, with the advantage that it’s not quite a romantic comedy. Unlike most “thrillers” today, that is. I wouldn’t say it’s any sort of masterpiece of anything, but if you’re looking for a predictable action film that doesn’t ask much of your brain, you can’t go wrong here. 6/10.

Review: Milk

Milk was done well. I don’t know much around the true story (and obviously this is a work of fiction, if based loosely in fact) of Harvey Milk, but the film did a good job of mating strong acting performances and strong screenwriting. It retains a slightly documentary feel, without ever becoming a narrative, and Van Sant continues his trend (for me, anyhow) of presenting reality in fiction without telling one what to think or believe. 8/10.

Review: Paris, je t'aime

Paris, je t’aime was a well-executed series of vignettes on the city of lights. The films are quite a bit different, and usually the flow from one to another isn’t too abrupt. It’s a nice chance to see what a lot of exceptional directors (and actors) can do in a few minutes for the short-film format. 7/10.

Duck Confit

Stop & Shop antagonizes me, when it comes to duck. I’ll think “I want something quick and tasty tonight, like some duck breasts!” Without fail, I’ll go to the store, and they will have zero duck, except for full ducks. Full ducks don’t fall under the “quick and easy dinner,” and I don’t have the heart to just cut off the bird’s breasts and throw the rest away. Then I’ll be going to pick up some OJ, and there will be a half dozen duck breasts, taunting me.

My place, I Keep it clean, like my body.

Place is still a mess, but I’m getting closer to being “done.” Here’s the view from the couch, more or less:

More Pictures

Still a lot more work to do, but things are taking shape in the apartment, while a blizzard is getting rolling outdoors. Neat. Was driving home from IKEA for the second time (got 11 drawer left sides and 1 right side in my dresser box) and was thinking that maybe snow was done for the season.

Review: Transsiberian

Transsiberian was a shitty romantic comedy. 5/10.

The New Place

I’ve moved. At some point I’ll get around to photographing the new place, though probably not until I’ve finished putting things away. Today the bookshelves should be arriving, so I can start packing up the vast majority of the stuff. So far I’m pretty happy with the layout; the additional space is nice. Anyhow, here are a few pictures to tide you over.

Review: The Fountain

The Fountain was visually stunning. It’s a study in light, dark, design and bokeh. As much as it is a beautiful thing to watch, I’m not sure there’s too much meaning behind it. Felt like an awesome music video, but at the end I don’t know that I got much out of it. 7/10.

Review: Vicky Christina Barcelona

Vicky Cristina Barcelona featured Javier Bardem in a role that didn’t involve him killing people with captive bolt pistons. While it had the opportunity to become a romantic comedy, it held fast and survived as a reasonable film. It made for an elegant, if somewhat simple and soap-operaish story. 7/10.

More Consumer Bitching and Moaning

So, still don’t have the replacement stuff for my Rock Band 2 guitar. Sort of afraid to go to the EA website, for fear of discovering that this RMA has also failed. We’ll see. The upside is that with everything packed up to move, I’m not really playing Rock Band 2 right now.

Rock Band 2 Guitar RMA

I don’t know why things need to be so difficult. My Rock Band 2 wireless guitar’s strum bar gets stuck when I strum down; it was doing this a few hours into owning it. According to the box it came with, I am supposed to get service for the guitar through EA, not through my original, competent, retailer.

NVIDIA Screen Scaling

I’m happy to say that the screen scaling capability for my video card gets around the issue that some game publishers are too stupid to support wide screen and/or high-resolution screens. Thanks.

Things Liable To Piss Other People Off

I’ve been trying to write this post for two weeks. No matter how many times I rewrite it, I don’t like it. So, I deleted everything and tried to write the highlights, and I gave myself a 15-minute limit, so whatever is done at that point gets posted.

Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno

And now, your painfully predictable review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno was a painfully predictable romantic comedy. Painfully. Predictable. Romantic comedy. 5/10.

Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was an irritating dub (French with subtitles would have been far better), at least via Netflix streaming, but otherwise I found it to be a good film. The whole time I was thinking he really needed some variant of T9 for eye gestures, but I’m a technology guy, so that’s where my head wanders, rather than to the deep emotional meaning and impact of his predicament, the frailty of our lives, and the futility of it all. Or something. Feeling succinct today, I think I’ll leave it at that. 7/10.

Yet Another Disastrous Technical Support Call

Are these accounts interesting anymore?

Review: Firewall

“Well, on the upside, it was shorter than Barry Lyndon.” Yes, readers, this is the best somebody else watching Firewall could add about this … atrocity. In the future, your server rooms are run by Dell, and they are silent. Even ignoring that one can’t go three minutes without another hit of product placement, this movie was a steaming pile of shit. 3/10.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Eight, Part Three

It’s been three months since I last solved a programming challenge from the book. I took some time to do some Project Euler problems, but there’s no real excuse why I’ve sucked at this. In any event, did another one:

DMV

Had a remarkably pleasant wait-free license renewal experience at the Stamford remote DMV office. Highly recommended for people in Fairfield county that don’t want to be at the Norwalk DMV for six hours. Hate that place so much.

Review: Encounters at the End of the World

Encounters at the End of the World was a visually impressive film, another of Herzog’s documentaries, if one can call it that. Mostly, it’s a slow interview of several characters in Antarctica, covering what they’re thinking, doing, and what makes them tick. The images are beautiful, Herzog doesn’t spend too much time telling you what to think, and, refreshingly, it’s a nature film that doesn’t spend too much time beating the viewer over the head with dire warnings about the environment. It’s not that the environment doesn’t factor into the film, but it’s not overly preachy. Herzog spends a lot more time talking to people and getting their stories than he does making gratuitous shots of the environment, animals, and scenery, which makes it a very engaging viewing. Of course, there are also some awkward interviews, such as the gay penguin question (which is well-rescued with the depressing crazy penguin bit) and what feels like a forced conversation with a German who wishes not to speak of his past. Definitely worth a watch for a “nature” film that doesn’t fit the typical mold. 8/10.

Review: Casablanca

Casablanca was a film that probably best falls under the “seminal” category for me. I now have seen all the references that I’ve heard dozens of times beforehand. The story is extremely predictable, but again, this is probably due to decades of imitation since. It’s still enjoyable as a classic, but it didn’t leave me overly impressed, a recurring theme in historically important and influential films. I don’t think it holds up that well over time, but then I’m no student of film. 6/10.

Fallout 3

I managed to finish Fallout 3 today. My time with the power armor was too short, and I felt like there was some depth lacking in terms of side quests if you stuck to the main storyline at all, rather than just screwing around and exploring. Still, the theme of the game was well executed, and it left a lot of variety in game play, weapons, and approaches to the game. I’d recommend it to people who like either post-apocalyptic games or role-playing games, though for those who like first-person shooters, it may not be quite as appealing. There was some real awkwardness in the way some of the cutscenes worked in terms of locking out movement and weapons, and the VATS system was, well, hit or miss. All-told, a fun game though, especially the theme. I think Vault 112 was my favorite part of the game, though making and using my first Shishkebab had a certain appeal to it.

Simple Bits of Genius

I called my doctor to schedule an appointment. They prompted me for who I wanted to see, and my date of birth, and that was it.

Review: Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading was incoherent. I don’t mean that it was difficult to follow the movie, or what was happening. The acting was good for the most part, especially Clooney and Malkovich. But, I didn’t feel the sense of awe that I felt when I saw The Big Lebowski. The movie feels predictable, mechanical, and without any purpose, and no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get anything out of it. Visually, the directing was good, I enjoyed the surgical use of focus, but I was looking for anything else to really latch on to as amazing in the film, and could not find it. I suppose it’s not fair to judge the film against the Coen body of work, but I can’t help it — and doing so leaves me confused with what happened to their genius. 5/10.

Resolutions, 2009 Edition

Last year, about this time, I was entertaining myself with OKCupid, had just quit World of Warcraft (my one year anniversary of sobriety is coming up), and was finishing the last mechanical bits of getting divorced. My cat was developing another lesion, grandma was in the hospital and things were looking grim, and I’d already lost the first disk of the year. I was working on dropping the double-spacing habit and was toying with dropping the Oxford comma. I think I’ve mostly succeeded at the first challenge, though the iPhone is inadvertently bringing the habit back via its autocompletion-by-space mechanism.

2008

Great Customer Service From Academy Games

My copy of the German markers for Conflict of Heroes weren’t stamped quite deep enough (if that’s the correct terminology, which it probably isn’t), so they tended to bring some backing with them, or tear the backing off the back of the chits when punched. Despite a lot of careful work with an X-Acto knife, I was unable to rescue most of the chits, and they ended up looking pretty nasty.

Went Home For Christmas

So, those of you that have known me for a while know I have pretty spectacular luck, especially traveling around the holidays. The past includes diversions to military bases, flights being grounded for two days, crew disqualifications, greyhound rides to make connections, and obviously more trivial things like lost luggage.

Review: On Being a Photographer

I found On Being a Photographer to be a very inspiring, if short, read. It’s written as an interview between Bill Jay and David Hurn. It’s not a book about technique, but rather methods of working. I think the biggest take-home for me is that all of the good photographers plan their shots long before they get close to taking them. 7/10.

Review: Grizzly Man

Grizzly Man tells the story of a guy who lived with grizzlies, knew that sooner or later they might kill him, and then they ended up killing him. This is a gross oversimplification, obviously. More accurate might be that Timothy Treadwell is a nutjob, and this is a film that expands upon that a bit. Ignoring the film for a minute, I don’t really see how he did anything effective to protect the grizzlies, at all. Misguided energy, and excuses, at best.Still, I have to admire that he managed to survive 13 years before being mauled to death. That takes a certain kind of street smarts and … balls.

Review: Dreaming in Code

I couldn’t finish Dreaming in Code. The premise is simple: The book tells the story of a massive software project that was poorly managed.

Quick Photos From The Trip, More To Come

So, was like this outside my folks’ place all day on Friday:

Review: Hancock

Hancock was an okay romantic comedy. 5/10.

Agricola, Unboxed

And … this is what Agricola looks like, except not really, since it’s lacking all the boards and cards. I got it for Christmas, Z-deck included. Having now applied post-its to the bugs, translated the X-deck cards, and impatiently awaiting 2500 narrow eurogamer width sleeves from a shady vendor, I can’t wait to play my copy of a perfectly swell game.

New Philadelphia Eatings

Went to visit some friends in Philadelphia yesterday; uneventful drive in both directions, though we decided it best not to stick around today, since the weather for the evening returning to the NYC area looked a little shifty.

Yep. It's Snowing.

Yep. It’s snowing.

Caylus

Just figured out that I’ve been totally playing Caylus wrong. Really wrong. If I’m reading the rules right, all the workers go back after activation, but the application of non-production effects is optional. So there’s no camping for multiple turns. I think. I suck at rule reading, I take it all back.

Dreamhost

So, my cluster’s filer is shitting itself, and despite an unusually communicative Dreamhost (there have been five updates to the outage notice), things still sort of suck.

Review: Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon was a weird film. It was the last of the post-1960 Kubrick films I needed to see, and I guess I was hoping for something different.

Getting Out Of Hand

I think perhaps this board game hobby is getting out of hand. I just placed 674 (well, actually 670) stickers on little wooden blocks. Here’s the before and after:

Borders Online Still Fails

Shortly after Amazon.com ceased being the provider for the online Borders.com presence, I ordered my special edition version of Watchmen. At the time, their site was preposterously slow, taking 30-90 seconds between clicks, the checkout process was almost impossible. It then took four months to get my “expected to ship in 2-4 weeks” book. Whatever.

Board Games.

I’m trying to understand my fascination with high-end board games, and not doing too well at the task.

Review: The Practice of Programming

The Practice of Programming is another book that needs to join the list of “books every programmer should read” in the post by the same name that I’ve yet to write.

First Twilight Imperium: Shattered Empire Game

So, yesterday was another ten-hour Twilight Imperium game. Now that we’re playing a bit more by the rules (last time we had sort of overlooked the single public objective during the status phase requirement), the games are back to taking a long time. The variants we played with:

Review: The Shining

Working through the Kubrick I haven’t seen yet, saw The Shining last night. If I never see two little girls in blue again, holding hands, inviting me to play, it’ll be too soon.

Tarte Tatin

Since reading Michael Ruhlman’s thing about Tarte Tatin I’ve been tempted to make one for a long while. Two people named Larry recently made them, and this kept reminding me that I had not done so, and that was excuse enough.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Eight, Part Two

It’s been three months since I last solved a programming challenge from the book. I took some time to do some Project Euler problems, but there’s no real excuse why I’ve sucked at this. In any event, did another one:

More Board Gaming. Nothing else of interest.

Played another game of Agricola, won by a small margin. I still like it quite a bit, though the variation imposed (provided?) by the starting 14 cards is a bit more randomness than I like in the game. Caylus does a much better job of ensuring there’s pretty much nothing random about the gameplay, but as games go is far less interesting and complicated.

Foiled Again

I’ve had my Windows PC (before which I haven’t had one for half a decade) for three days now. I was actually starting to think “you know, Vista isn’t that bad.” Sure, it’s irritating, and it gets in the way, but with modern hardware, it was pretty fast. It seems a bit better at insulating applications from one another, and the window manager compositing and IO prioritization actually seems to work.

Dear Industry, USB Is Shitty, Stop It

So there’s all this excitement about the epic speed of USB 3. Stop getting excited.

Agricola

Only played one game so far, but my thoughts thus far are that Agricola is awesome. Terribly complicated, despite relatively simple rules. I have no idea how to play it. The strategy, as far as I can tell, makes Puerto Rico look like child’s play.

Twilight Imperium

So, we played our first game of Twilight Imperium. It was, as promised by the manufacturer, epic. We started getting set up around 14:00, and finished the game around 21:45, with another 15 minutes to clean up.

Review: The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others was a well done, if predictable, film. Ulrich Mühe delivered an outstanding performance, reminiscent of Ben Kingsley’s finest work. I enjoyed the film, and the Blu-Ray transfer was well done. 7/10.

Race for the Galaxy

As a fan of Puerto Rico, I liked the premise of Race for the Galaxy — it’s like Puerto Rico, but with cards and no chits beyond the VP markers. Neat. Maybe it’s my childhood income and time spent on Magic: The Gathering, but there’s something appealing about a game whose mechanics revolves entirely around decks of cards (was excerpted from an article that’s now offline):

It's Nice When Technology Just Works

After putting a new video board in my G5, it works fine again, without smelling like burning plastic death. Realizing no new macs are coming this year, I decided to solve my short-term issues by swapping the two 160GB drives for 500GB drives. To do this, I made a time machine backup, powered down, yanked the drives, plugged in one 500, restored the boot drive to it, booted, restored the second drive to it, rebooted, installed the second drive, and everything just worked.

Storm King Photos

I need to process some more of them and get them up on flickr, but here are some excerpts from my Storm King photos.

Wishlist. Random bitching. I'm buying a PC.

In an effort to not buy myself these things, I’ve put up a wishlist for my birthday and Christmas; it’ll be linked on the left of my website from this point forward, till I grow bored of it. I’ll keep it up to date and so forth; now that Amazon does the universal wishlist thing, it works pretty well, since I can do things like add board games from Lotech Games (I was very happy with their service and selection). Now you know. I wish the wishlists had a “randomly shuffle the items in this list” functionality, but whatever, it serves the purpose.

Review: Anathem

Anathem is an ambitious novel by Neal Stephenson. It reads like some sort of weird combination of The Glass Bead Game and Goedel, Escher, Bach.

Technology, Failing To Fulfill My Dreams

I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve been, all things considered, quite happy with the Power Mac G5 I inherited from Sarah. It has been virtually hassle-free over the years, has performed well, and has needed little surgery, beyond tearing out its DVD drive at one point and replacing it with the guts from an external LaCie burner. The case design is exceptional, the fan system quiet, and it looks nice.

Sometimes, A Recruiter Is What I Need To Have A Good Day

I try not to answer most of the recruiter phone calls I get, but sometimes I’m in a funny mood when RESTRICTED starts flashing on my phone.

Review: Strada 18

Ate dinner at Strada 18 tonight. Starters were the calamari and the house-made mozzarella. The calamari was good; it came with superfluous dips and such on the side. The mozzarella was great, but was swimming in oil and a syrupy sweet balsamic vinegar; it would have been far better without one.

LittleBigPlanet

Huge shocker, Sony still sucks at game launches and LBP can’t connect to the server.

Looking Through Old Work

Saw a photo that reminded me of a wedding I’d photographed many years ago. I went back to look through what I shot at the time, curious how my photography had changed. At the time I was shooting a Pentax K-1000 with some slow Asahi glass (I didn’t appreciate the fast primes I’d borrowed from my father, and was shooting with slow zooms instead). Not wanting to interfere with the official photographer I shot everything on Ilford Delta 3200 with no flash.

Empty Work

These all feel somewhat hollow, after looking through some of my old work, but I went to New York on Sunday. Visited the Guggenheim and walked up and down fifth avenue a bit. Dipped into the park. The Guggenheim was almost entirely stocked with photography exhibits. Much more accessible than epoxy-resin-fly-carcass but nothing that really blew me away.

Greenspan

Was talking about this last night with some folks; I’m a light sleeper, so using WNPR as my alarm clock works great.

Go Board

I’ve been teaching myself Go on and off over the last year or so. I’m completely terrible at it, but I find the game very interesting. There’s something appealing about the simplicity of its rules (which are easy to explain, in a mathematical sense, but hard to comprehend, in an intuitive sense) and the complexity of the play.

Board Games

Crap. Lotechgames has Agricola in stock. And I wasn’t planning on picking up any more board games until I play the ones I have…

Twitter Still Sucks, But I'm Using It

So, I still don’t like twitter. It’s crashy, unreliable, and all that stuff. But, it lets me post little stupid things that aren’t worth writing a whole blog entry about, so I’m going to keep using it.

Cutting to the quick.

If you cut into the quick, the claw will bleed and the cat will experience pain.

Round-Robin Management

Some days I love management. These days are not frequent, yet they are often enough to, by themselves, motivate me to stay in management.

Yesterday was full of fail.

Yesterday was full of fail. I managed to cap it off by arguing with my grandmother about abortion, one of those conversations I should really know better than to have. It all started with her saying “So let me ask you…” and I cut her off with “You don’t want to hear my answer, let’s not have this conversation.” She countered with “I didn’t even ask you a question, but why don’t you…”

Leaf Peeping

Last year (almost to the day) I attempted to drive up north and spot the fabled fall foliage. As long time readers may recall, I was not very happy with the leaves from 2007. This year’s showing was vastly superior.

Fixing Things

So, I’ve been in a weird funk for a few days, and can’t really shake it. In an attempt to disconnect my brain for a bit, I decided to fix my car’s stereo.

Review: Cosmos

Cosmos was pretty good. It didn’t have a lot of new information (to me), but it was a nice compendium of the science and history involving the universe as we know (knew?) it. 8/10.

Canada, Part Two

The second part of the Canada trip was to stop at Montreal for a day and explore that city. This first meant getting to the hotel. Due, again, to costs for staying downtown, the election was made this time to stay away from the town, at the airport (10-20 kilometers away from the downtown area). After a frustrating few hours of trying to find a cheap but not horrific place to stay, ended up seeing the Montreal Airport Hilton for a reasonable rate.

Canada, Part One

I went to Canada. The drive up through the US was sort of crappy. With a little better planning, the drive would have been during optimal leaf peeping time, but you can’t have everything…

Seriously, WTF

I’m just going to re-paste these from this article, because it’s exactly what I thought when I first heard of McCain’s new strategy.

Review: The Last Colony

Scalzi’s The Last Colony is the third book in the Sagan. It beats you over the head with a theme of censorship, and it is utterly predictable at every step — a disappointing conclusion to the John Perry and Jane Sagan trilogy. I’m not sure I’ll bother with the same-world series (such as Zoe’s Tale) at this point. 4/10.

Crazy Compiler Tomfoolery

So g++ was crashing on me tonight. There were two reasons:

Back From Canada

I’m back from Canada. It was a nice little vacation; got to see two new cities (Quebec City and Montreal) that I hadn’t seen before. I’ll have some photos and additional commentary in the coming days, but until I get that stuff organized, some capsule thoughts:

Review: C++ FAQs

I like the web version of C++ FAQs far better than the book. The web version is more succinct and the format works well with interlinked content. The book edition tries to follow an irritating Socratic metadata-infused structure, and it pisses me off to try to read it. Don’t buy this book, just use the website. 2/10.

Review: Programming Interviews Exposed

Before I begin:

Bunny

Discuss:

Focus Bracketing

So the Canon mkIII bodies (and the 50d, by feature downflow) have focus calibration.

Looking At Sigma's New 50/1.4

I did a very crude comparison between Sigma’s new 50/1.4 HSM EX HSM DG, Canon’s EF 50/1.4, and Canon’s EF 50/1.8. If you’re interested in an EF-mount 50mm prime that does autofocus and a big maximum aperture, and you can’t afford a 50/1.2L, these are all compelling options for different reasons. While I don’t claim that my silly little page will tell you anything, there is a picture of a cat if you follow the link.

Review: Programming Pearls

Jon Bentley’s Programming Pearls was quite good. The 15 columns of the book talk through a number of approaches to correctness and performance (be it space or size), and go through some exercises of transforming the problem domain. While the first pass through most of the discussion in the book is in the direction of what comes with a decent training in data structures and algorithms, the later passes often look more at real-world differences (recursion versus iteration, cache coherence, allocator performance) and the subtle things that aren’t intuitive or as they seem.

Nobody Really Cares, But...

I now have a VPN tunnel from my phone to my home network, and it works quite well. No longer need I worry about people on free public wi-fi sniffing my traffic as I browse pictures of kittens.

Well, I'm An iPhone 3G Owner

Well, jerks, my Fin stopped booting altogether today, and a new one would run a lot of money. I don’t see a lot of point throwing my money at a dying MVNO (even now that they’re acquired by Virgin) that fails to innovate. So, I terminated my contract and transferred my number.

Dilemma

My phone keeps crashing. 4-5 times a day. It’s out of warranty. A new one will cost about the same as a contract break and switch to AT&T/iPhone 3G. Is my choice already made?

My Materialistic Hopes For The Remainder of the Year

All I want for Christmas is:

Review: Programming Language Pragmatics

When I went to school, my languages and compilers class used the dragon book. I think I ended up opening it four times. It’s a great book, and when it comes to compiler/parser design, it’s definitely a classic. But it’s not really an undergraduate text. It’s also dated, and not in the timeless way of K&R. But it makes a cameo in Hackers, and as such I’ll never get rid of it.

Review: Watchmen (Graphic Novel)

Watchmen was the first graphic novel I read. I’ve seen V for Vendetta and Sin City and 300 and so forth, but never got around to actually reading one.

Netflix Creating Synthetic Throttling Via Episodic Content

So, the first disc of a series is long wait for me, so Netflix sent the second one. This is freaking stupid, because the disc is no use to me, and I have my allocation out already. Ridiculous. Why aren’t series treated as a unit? It makes no sense (except to create a synthetic throttle) to send discs in a series out of order.

Review: Transamerica

Transamerica was the epitome of predictable; it uses the gimmick of transsexuality to try to tell a story that’s been told a thousand times before. Once you take the mental challenge of the gimmick away, there’s nothing left. Felicity Huffman did well, to be sure, but there’s nothing particularly interesting about this film. 4/10.

Canon 50D

I’m not disappointed with my 40D; it’s a good camera. Less than a year after the 40D was available, the 50D has been announced; I have to admit some envy. Microadjustment of focus on a per-lens basis, extremely high ISO performance, and peripheral illumination correction on a prosumer body? That’s hot.

As If There Weren't Enough Things I Wanted To Do

Somebody at work today pointed out Project Euler. While I’m still working through a lot of the Programming Challenges puzzles, these are interesting.

Bumped No Country

Watched No Country for Old Men again, decided it warranted the bump to 10/10 (having been watched again now).

Programming Challenges, Chapter Eight, Part One

Been getting lazy, feels like months since the last programming challenge I worked through.

Sigma's New Standard

DPReview’s review of the Sigma 50/1.4 looks good, consistent with a lot of the initial thoughts about the lens. I can’t believe I’m considering a third-party fifty, but I think it’s going to be a winner.

Review: Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone was sort of like The Departed, only better. That’s not to say it was great, but it was better. At first it was a few twists and surprises, then it was pretty predictable. Needed some editing, and could have finished a bit earlier (that is, don’t beat me over the head with the premise in the end). 7/10.

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

I knew I forgot something. From my room at the hotel I can watch jets come in over the bay; the view from the water (a few hundred feet away) is even better.

In Case You've Forgotten

The weather in California is un-fucking-believable. I can’t believe I don’t live here.

A Weird Travel Mix

Went to California today, so that I could have a full work week this week (complete with red-eye back Saturday morning) rather than three work days and two waste days. Too much to do.

Dutch Baby

And Then Something Clicked

I used to just think that flash photos look like crap; I know that’s not true now, I just have zero skill at it. No matter how much I bounce off ceilings, use diffusers, etc., I’m never happy with the results.

Flavor Tripping

Did the flavor tripping thing, had a party. It worked! Bought some tabs from ThinkGeek before they ran out, rather than deal with the spoiling aspect of the fresh miracle berries.

Review: Blow

I wanted to like Blow. It tried so hard to be serious, to tell an interesting story, to be some tale of redemption, fate, and failure of will. But, it just ended up sort of pointless and tedious towards the end. 5/10.

Some Unfleshed Thoughts On

Some initial thoughts that I haven’t fully thought through yet:

Using Cheap Glass

For some reason, I’ve been trying to force myself to shoot with my cheap glass, rather than my good glass. It’s a bit of an intellectual exercise, to remind myself that photography is not about the equipment, it’s about the process.

Amazon Makes Me Happy

My TV was $100 cheaper today than when I ordered it. I wrote Amazon and had a $100 refund about 4 minutes later.

Review: Patton

Started watching Patton the other night, and finished it tonight. I think Copola did a good job of portraying the general, in all of its greatness and insanity. The film looks a little dated now, and sounds a little funny; modern filmmaking techniques rival it. On the other hand, it still holds up despite this, and the film is about the man, not the technique, I think. 7/10.

In Other News

Feather dusters are awesome.

I May As Well Chronicle My CEVA Logistics Experience

Introduction

Smells Like Burning

I came home for a brief stop Friday, on the way to another adventure, and noticed that my apartment smelled like raw sewage. I checked out the drains and faucets, and everything sounded pretty normal. Weird.

The Most Expensive Cable Ever

No, I didn’t buy a kevlar-reinforced solid silver 300-meter HDMI interconnect.

Metal Gear Solid 4

So, I finished Metal Gear Solid 4. It was good. Worth the money, certainly. The gameplay mechanics are interesting, and the variety of items/weapons means that there are numerous approaches to a problem. I’m sure in the higher difficulties this starts to become more necessary; there are countless of ways to work through the game.

Review: Rescue Dawn

The best part of Rescue Dawn was that I got to see at least two characters from Lost in it. Otherwise, as my first Herzog film, the film sucked. There was nothing interesting in this film, and it played out exactly as I’d expected. Don’t waste your time. 4/10.

In Case You Were Wondering

Now that Border’s no longer sells through Amazon, their store really sucks and is unusably slow.

YouTube

So I was trying to find information on the new NERF vulcan gun, and all I could really find were YouTube videos. I thought, “Great, some action shots!” But, no, it was not to be. YouTube videos about the vulcan gun were just videos of some pre-adolescent child talking about how awesome the gun would be, interrupted by brief shots of panning over the images released by Hasbro. In a video. Here’s an example.

Blogging from my PS3

Yeah, I know this is so late 1990s and WebTV-ish, but there’s something strangely satisfying to blogging from my couch. On a TV. On my PS3. Now if only the browser had decent javascript support and could actually process something like, say, Google Reader, it would be useful…

My Thoughts on Reviews and Compensation, Without the Content

To reward me for my flattering praise of Cablevision’s concerted efforts to protect its users, they’ve decided to keep yanking my connection to the net just long enough to terminate my socket connections every 30-40 minuets for the last day or so. Oh well. Can’t have everything.

Tonic Water, Mk II

Following on the heels of my first attempt to make tonic water, I decided to try again. This time, the ingredients looked like this, new ingredients italic, other things adjusted slightly.

Wanting To Join In The Action, Most Kindly

Just in case you forgot this was a cat blog:

They Come As a Matched Set

Review: The Dark Knight

You know, it’s a comic book movie. I didn’t read the comics, so I can’t really comment on the accuracy of the re-imaging of Batman’s battle against the joker. The Dark Knight was far better than I expected; it needs a healthy amount of editing (say, cutting about half an hour). Most of this could come via the elimination of some superfluous side plots. As an example of the genre, it’s the best I’ve seen. 8/10.

Tonic Water

I needed a distraction this evening; my grandfather passed away this morning and I didn’t really want to think about it any longer.

Small World

I was reading through the funeral home website. Not only did my grandfather die today, but my great aunt died on the sixth as well.

Just In Case You Were Wondering

There is now a carrier fuel surcharge on flower deliveries.

Third-Rate Recruiting Firms

Stop calling me. I will not even have a conversation with you if:

Sunburns

I managed to sunburn my hands Saturday. Both sides. I’m awesome.

Shit

My Roku is now deprecated.

Review: Wall-E

Wall-E was mediocre at best. As expected, the animation was impressive. The story, whimsical. It was heavy-handed, even for a child’s film.

Telephoto Action Shots

I’ve not yet used my 300/4L IS USM extensively; it’s a bit large and heavy1 for casually walking around (not to mention it lacks a bit in subtlety), so about half the time I think “gosh, I would kill for some long glass right now,” I don’t have it with me. As far as telephoto versatility goes, it’s much more convenient to drag a 70-200 and converter along, even though one takes a slight hit in IQ.

Review: Zappos.com

I’m pretty set in my ways for buying things online — if I can, I buy through Amazon. If I can’t, I suck it up. But, generally speaking, the availability of Amazon prime, and direct Amazon billing for third-party merchants (that is, no need to register new accounts everywhere) is a huge time and hassle saver.

The Dangers of Threading

A derivative of JWZ’s often quoted wisdom regarding regular expressions, now you have two problems, I introduce my version1 which popped into my head today:

No Fucking Shit

I knew something was up when the entire complex was surveyed a few weeks ago. And, by extension, when the community manager was gone. And when the website went “down for maintenance” except the website was up, just “disabled for this property.” And when all the financials were being audited in great detail by a huge 20-person (it appeared) team one day. And when mountains of Dell computers showed up.

Review: A Talent for War

A Talent for War is sort of like a space opera The Da Vinci Code without the religion, tedium, and writing commensurate with a third grade education. So, it’s entertaining, if a little light on substance, and a little heavy on “oh, found a clue, onto the next step” repeated a few dozen times. 6/10.

Vernal, Part Nine, In Which I Present Some Parting Thoughts

I don’t really belong here. It was pretty obvious on the first day, but I wouldn’t say I belong here any more now than I did before. Everybody looks at me funny. This puts into doubt whether or not I could really live anywhere backwoods or rural anymore.

Fuck You, Holiday Inn Express, Vernal, UT

In case you’re thinking of staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Vernal, UT, don’t.

Review: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

I recently polled coworkers for favorite science fiction novels; since then I’ve started to work through some of them. The strongest recommendation came for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Having now finished it, I can see why. It’s a novel that is political, whimsical, distinctly Heinlein (line marriages, hah). It discusses mass kill vehicles (though not relativistic kill vehicles), artificial intelligence, global and interstellar governance, penal colonies (though somehow the absurdity of shipping criminals to the moon still itches the back of my mind), polyamory, the economics of interstellar trade, revolution, and a bunch of other things. And, quite unexpectedly, I now appreciate where “we throw rocks at them” came from in Scalzi’s trilogy.

Vernal, Part Eight

Things I learned today:

Programming Challenges, Chapter Seven, Part Three

So, seriously? I’m tired of Diophantine equations.

Vernal, Part Six, In Which I Accomplish My Mission

I stepped foot in Wyoming today briefly; I’d hoped that as soon as I crossed the border on 191, I’d discover a liquor store, like with the firework and cigarette stores on the Indiana-Michigan border. Instead, there was nothing.

Vernal, Part Seven

It’s true what they say — the dry heat thing isn’t so bad. With shade or cloud cover, 80 to 90 can feel downright pleasant. My skin is less irritated than usual to boot, though some combination of the dryness and altitude changes (I’ve been pushing 3-4000 feet deltas over the last three days) is giving me a persistent slow deep nasal/sinus blood drain, which is all sorts of fun.

Vernal, Part Five

Headed east out of town a little after nine this morning, catching 2804 eastbound. This became (or was from the beginning? I’m not really sure) Diamond Mountain Road, which made sense, since it climbed up (and down) Diamond Mountain. The drive was very scenic, though in full sunlight, it’s one of those things that’s really hard to represent in photographs. I could see for miles (and by miles, I mean 30+), some amazing geological elements, huge plains, ranches, and the like. Beautiful stuff.

Sunset From Last Night

Vernal, Part Three, In Which I End Up Not Getting Custom Boots Made

Today was was far less stressful than yesterday, which is a big benefit. I headed over to Merrell for my appointment at 10. We started with an initial consultation where we discussed what happened and when. Then we proceeded to make an imprint of my feet, as well as tracings with pressure pad (I’m making terms up here) indication, measurements, and the like.

Vernal, Part Four

Turns out the geographic feature I was trying to find in part one of my journey was the Dinosaur National Monument. I got much closer to it today. There’s not too much to mention in words here, it was a pretty place to visit thus far (I’ll probably be back at some point, the place is huge, and I’ve barely hiked any of it yet). It was very quiet, other than the wind (everywhere) and water (in places). The views were spectacular, and aren’t communicated well by the photos.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Seven, Part Two

10139 – Factovisors

Panorama Dinosaur National Monument

Another stitched panorama, this time a full 360 degrees; <3 Hugin.

Vernal, Part Two

I got up this morning at eight, since breakfast stops at nine. Had a lovely shower, and then had some lousy breakfast. But it’s something I don’t have to pay for (beyond that I already have, obviously), which is nice. Back up to room I packed up my gear, put on some sunscreen, and set out on a drive. First I drove by the foot lab, since I wanted to make sure I knew how to get there tomorrow. It wasn’t at all where I or the Garmin expected, but was very easy to find. Shouldn’t be an issue.

Things I Should Have Realized Before I Got Here

The Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center is the primary place in the park to view dinosaur fossils, but it has been closed indefinitely. A few fossils can be seen by hiking a short distance from the visitor center, and limited fossil displays have been set up at the…

Panorama of McConkie Ranch

I still wish I knew why stitch assistant wasn’t available on Canon DSLR cameras. Anyhow, shot this on my Elph:

Vernal, Part One

As expected, the flight out of LaGuardia was delayed. Equipment arrived on time, but there were 20 people ahead of us to depart, and they were pushing a plane only once every 5 minutes or so. Once in the air, we were informed that we also had to divert more southward in order to avoid weather systems.

Review: The Ghost Brigades

Compared to what I thought was a somewhat lackluster first part of the trilogy, The Ghost Brigades was actually quite decent. It threw in some more stuff, got a bit more political and philosophical, but didn’t get too heavy handed about any of it. I’m interested to see how the series concludes. 7/10.

Review: Old Man's War

Old Man’s War is roughly what Starship Troopers would have been like if it wasn’t a cleverly constructed exploration of the military and its associated politics. It read quickly, though not much happened in the book; more time was spent with the protagonist reflecting on his lost life and former wife than much anything else. In the end, not as good as I’d hoped, but a decent little story; we’ll see how its sequel does. 6/10.

Blues Traveler

Went to see Blues Traveler for the free Thursday concert thing in Stamford. Arrived at the crowd of beer drinkers, and spent about 15 minutes walking towards the stage. Bummed around another 15 minutes, realized that they were still in the early stages of setting up, and gave up. Here’s their bus:

Going to Vernal

“Have had very little to say recently” but I tend to just not post, rather than say something like that. Here’s the news that’s fit to print.

Bad Dreams

I keep having dreams that I want to play World of Warcraft again.

Review: American Psycho (Movie)

American Psycho was good; I’ve been meaning to read the book for a while but haven’t gotten around to it. Christian Bale did an excellent job, though most of the rest of the acting was background noise. 7/10.

Review: House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog featured Jennifer Connelly playing Jennifer Connelly from Requiem for a Dream. Well, and Ben Kingsley did alright too. Overall though, I hope the book was better than the film, because the premise was hopeless, and I found it quite dissatisfying and predictable. 4/10.

Roku Netflix Thingy

I got one of those Roku Netflix Players. It’s actually pretty cool. It’s a surprisingly simple device, and it brings me streaming netflix, without having to own a windows PC, which is nice. It just sort of works, and there’s nothing fancy or extensible about it; I’m okay with that. Looking forward to seeing how the HD works out in the future, but pretty happy so far. Worth the money if you don’t have a PC hooked up to your TV.

Review: 3:10 To Yuma

Dumb westerns, I just can’t get into them; I think I prefer romantic comedies. 3:10 to Yuma gets a 5/10.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Seven, Part One

So, seriously, this entry took longer to write than the problems did to solve, and that’s only true because I found myself lost in thought about Fratres and Spiegel Im Spiegel. I suspect the rest of the chapter is going to kick my ass, however, since number theory hurts me where I think.

Stamford Museum and Nature Center

Went to the Stamford Museum and Nature Center today. It was relatively deserted, probably due to the fact that it was hot.

A Few Culinary Experiments

Custom Settings

I meant to mention; Canon implemented my wish list already in the 40D. About the only thing it doesn’t do is have the ability to bring the custom stored settings into the “current mode” permanently, but that’s not a biggie.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Six, Part Twoish

I’m ornery; I finished two programming challenges last night, I think, but the UVa judge has been offline for a while with database issues, and the banner keeps getting updated to say “it’ll be fixed sometime after tomorrow.” Free beer tomorrow!

Review: Shoot 'Em Up

Shoot ’Em Up was stupid. Still, it was strangely enjoyable as a guilty pleasure, and I haven’t been able to get enough of Clive Owen since his BMW Films days. Interestingly, he was only driving BMWs in this film, though I’m not convinced that was contractual, since this was not the case in Children of Men. Oh well. If you want a pointless semi-comedic action film, you can’t go wrong. 6/10.

Double Edged Razor

I’ve started down the dangerous road of double edged razors. Frustrated with a not-smooth result from cartridge razors, and enticed by the romance and economy of double edged shaving, I’m teaching myself to shave with a safety razor.

Boomerang Tags

I talked to my vet about trying to get custom pet tags ordered, they didn’t have any advice, beyond “try that machine at Wal-Mart.” They used to do it, but got out of the business, and don’t have an outsourced tag maker at the moment either. I should probably get the cats chipped, but that’s another story.

Review: There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood was not at all what I expected, both based on P. T. Anderson’s prior repertoire and the publicity surrounding the film. Daniel Day-Lewis did a bang-up job, and the cinematography was impressive; I wish I could have seen it in Blu-Ray. Still, could probably use some editing, as the thing drags at time (if nothing else, Anderson does like directing long ass movies). 8/10.

Philadelphia, Part Two

Spent some time looking around the market on Sunday morning; saw the usual assortment of fresh tings that grow in and on the ground, though the mozzarella store (my favorite) was closed. It didn’t take long to find a bloody pig snout and some fish heads:

Philadelphia, Part Three

Far more foolish, we ended up hitting the Philadelphia Zoo before getting out of town. Here’s the short course:

Philadelphia, Part One

Went to Philadelphia this weekend in order to celebrate Bill’s birthday. Being a holiday weekend, that looked a lot like this:

Review: Superman Returns

Oh. Watched “Superman Returns”: the other night. To the folks that have known be for a very long time … this film is worse than any of the Spider-Man films. I watched the last 45 minutes at 30x, and it still wasn’t over fast enough. 2/10.

Cape Cod

Before I get started, NB the following photographs are not mine: picture of me at Olympia, the two dogs together, the kayaks, and the people taking photographs of the whale from the boat.

But I'm Not Well Traveled

Interestingly, according to this arbitrary list of the top 16 museums in the world I’ve been to half of them.

Ugh

Went to a Connecticut Coffee Society meetup to do a cupping. Tried two Uganded coffees, and one from Burma. The latter wasn’t roasted particularly well, and tasted pretty ass-awful, but the first two were a bit interesting, and it was nice to be exposed to a formal cupping, if in an enthusiast (and as such slightly less formal) setting.

Lead Acid Batteries

I May Stop Using Discover

For some unknown reason, Discover decided to change my account number:

Programming Challenges, Chapter Six, Part One

And so it continues! I went ahead and fixed my mime types too, so the solutions will appear in the browser.

Apartment Dwelling

My new upstairs neighbors are making tons of noise in the morning, starting between 5 and 8 AM. And they make tons of noise between 10 PM and 2 AM. I forgot the suck of being on the bottom floor. It’s a shame, since my neighbors on the three sides at my level seem fine, in terms of noise level.

Screw You, Open Sores

I really need a copy of Photoshop right now. There are some things only money can buy.

Review: Iron Man

Iron Man was the sort of movie that is, more or less, representative of the genre. I had a good time, though it wasn’t a movie to be taken seriously. It’s a comic book movie (arguably not based on the comic books, mind you), and if you approach it that way, it’s not bad. Seriously though, man in a cave, hammers some metal together and welds it at the seams, and suddenly is able to sustain rifle rounds? I don’t think so. I suspended my questions of realism at this point, and things improved markedly under that guise.

Polar Blu Ray Results

Of note, the Blu-Ray transfer of Lola Rennt was fantastic. The footage looks like it was intended for high def all along. I’d give the transfer 10/10.

Cats, Part 3943

An Expensive Excuse To Spend A Day In The Kitchen

Some day, I intend to make consommé. Being somewhat intimidated by the difficulty of doing that well, I thought I’d attempt an intermediate challenge first. A while back I came across Michael Rulhman’s commentary about veal stock, and I think I’d read an earlier form of it in The Making of a Chef a few years back.

Review: The Age of Turbulence

The first half of Greenspan’s The Age of Turbulence is rather readable. It is, more or less, an autobiographical journey through Greenspan’s youth, education, and career. I found it rather interesting, and appreciated the anecdotes along the way. The second half took me four months to complete, and consists in large part of Greenspan attempting, a chapter at a time, to explain everything. And predict the correct way for things to be, and the things that can’t be easily solved. Some is interesting, some is tedious, some is mind-numbing. If you are familiar with economics and read the newspaper, I’m not sure it’s worth reading. If not, it’s a decent overview of pretty much everything. 5/10.

Grand Theft Auto IV

I suppose everybody else is talking about it. I’ll put it this way: At one point I was driving quickly and ran into a curb, launching me from the car into a pole. My body wrapped around the pole, but I lived. Unfortunately for me, the car was still rolling behind me (it had hopped up on the curb after jettisoning me), and ran me over. Momentum is a bitch.

Merrell Boots

It’s not often I get excited at the opportunity of spending a lot of money. That said, I got a call back from Randy Merrell today; I was able to schedule an appointment to get a pair of hiking boots made in late June. I am very excited.

Thought of the Moment

A kilo of pu-erh is a lot of tea. At my previous consumption rates, this should last me six months.

Crap, More Pictures of Cats

My 35/1.4L is back from the shop. Hooray!

Massachusetts

My brother moved cross country over the weekend, and Dad helped them out. So, now, both of us have left the Midwest and are living on the east coast. That’s sort of weird.

My Genius Proposal

When selling a compact disc, an online retailer should provide two options:

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Use Emacs

I laughed. I know it’s silly. I’m a dork.

8:07, Restate My Assumptions

My collars arrived from TagsAndMore.com yesterday. So, I will restate my earlier observation. They aren’t a scam, they just deliver products 40+ days after you order them, and it’s impossible to get in contact with them at any point during the process.

The Cloisters

Beautiful day Sunday, went to The Cloisters. It was pretty. Would be hard to recommend it at $20 a person, though.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Five, Part Three

10105 – Polynomial Coefficients

Programming Challenges, Chapter Five, Part Four

10202 – Pairsumonious Numbers

Pop Tarts

I was eating some strawberry pop-tarts this morning, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I enjoyed them in the past. They were chalky, tasted like chemicals, and were dryer than I remembered. It took me until this evening to figure it out: I somehow picked up a box of low-fat Pop-Tarts.

Don't Use CArray With Anything But POD Types

Microsoft has promised to update their documentation with the same advice, but until that point I wanted to get this out there: Never use anything but POD types with a CArray. This is due to the SetSize function being “poorly designed” (direct quote, read the code and you will agree; it does things in a way ignorant of C++, for the sake of speed) within said container. The official recommendation is to use std::vector to store anything other than POD types, which is a great idea for non-legacy code.

Review: Blade Runner (Final Cut)

First off, the Blu-Ray transfer of Blade Runner: Final Cut is amazing. This is not simply a DVD that has been repackaged. Awesome stuff. Shame we won’t really have mega cities, replicants, flying cars, and electric pyramids of doom in 2019.

Better Looking Living Room Curtains

A week later and $10 more than quoted, but my new curtains have been tailored, and they look better than the old ones:

Review: Jericho

In typical white guy fashion (bear with me), I spent the week and weekend finishing watching the first season of Jericho. To be frank, the story is a bit contrived. The situations absurd. The acting often poor. Every episode is full of things that are wrong or inaccurate. For a series based on surprises, every episode is predictable. And, I’ve never seen such abuse of tobacco graduated filters. Every time there’s an outdoor shot, on goes the filters. Make it stop!

I'm Lazy

I didn’t get a thing done this weekend. It was great.

Things Not To Do While Drunk

I’ve had 150GB unallocated in my volume group for a long time, so I decided to extend the lv and do an online resize. It always amazes me when this sort of thing actually works and I don’t lose any data.

Attention: Robert L. Gregory

Hello, Robert L. Gregory and wife Katherine, AARP member and owner of several greyhounds that couldn’t control their bladders and pissed all over the carpet of my apartment! Please learn to use a change of address form. I’m tired of destroying your bank statements. Please learn to play. Thanks!

TagsAndMore.Com Seems To Be A Scam

As far as I can tell, TagsAndMore.Com is a scam. I ordered collars from them a month ago, payment processed via PayPal. Since the payment posted (the 12th of March), I’ve received no further emails or products from them. Twice this week I’ve tried to contact them via email with no response. They indicate that orders ship quickly, and I should allow fourteen (!!) days for my order to arrive via postal service. Maybe if I lived in a remote part of Alaska and had to wait for a boat or bush pilot to bring it to me…

Review: Stranger Than Fiction

If the film itself had sought to be an excellent work of film instead of a feel-good romantic comedy, it would have had to confront the very same difficulty presented in the film: Harold Crick needed to die. Should the film have ended when Farrell is struck by a bus, it would have received high marks. But, the target audience is afraid of tragedies and are suckers for feel good endings, so it’s a romantic comedy and everything works out in the end. Shame, it could have been good. All of that said, one of the better romantic comedies I’ve seen in a while. Until the last ten minutes, that is. Automatic 5/10 via the romantic comedy rule.

Your Web Infrastructure Is Deprecated

I guess most of the web is going to say what I’m about to say. I suspect a lot of people already have said this stuff, in fact. I’ve been at work and not reading the Internet today. Still, I want to put it on record: If you are a web developer and you’re not rethinking your entire world in the context of Google App Engine, you’re wrong. It’s the best thing to happen to the web since it showed up; all of the hard problems in the web domain that aren’t related to your application and specific problem domain are now solved. Unless I’m nuts, this is the new way to prototype and (when this becomes “live” and the full scaling/pricing model is released) deploy web applications. Why bother handling infrastructure and scaling when somebody can provide a much bigger and better infrastructure? We’re not talking Joe’s random scalable web infrastructure. We’re not talking about somebody who just read Schlossnagle and wants to stretch their nuts.

My Blog Is Not Just About Programming, Cats, and Short Movie Reviews

Dumping some crap from my brain, before I forget.

Initial Thoughts: RE960AS Pole Position

So, will be a while before I can say anything worthwhile about the tires, I suppose, but thus far I’ve been quite impressed by the RE960AS Pole Position tires. The comparison is a bit unfair, since two of my RE92 tires were half-bald, but thus far I’ve found them to drive substantially better in every way. They turn in quite well and track much better than the previous tires. They are certainly harder to break free on dry surfaces, and let loose in a very predictable and controlled manner. Where they are most impressive is the rain, where they inspire confidence, rather than terror. Their wet performance is pretty incredible.

Review: Fur

I thought Nicole Kidman did well in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus. The cinematography was as interesting as the story odd. I don’t think it had any sort of accuracy, per se (not that it purported to do so), but it made for an entertaining fable. 6/10.

Review: Cocaine Cowboys

Cocaine Cowboys was a sort of crappy documentary about the Miami cocaine business of the seventies and eighties. Feels an awful lot like a two hour Cops episode. 5/10.

Thanks For Fucking With My Model

I don’t pay for cable. Cable would run me something north of $50 a month with more for high def and special channels. Instead, I watch shows on DVD, and watch recent shows via a pay to view. In the past this has been iTunes or the Xbox Live system. I first got pissed when House got yanked from iTunes, because I’d watched season 3 that way, and wanted to watch season 4 that way. I still watch How I Met Your Mother and Lost this way. But all of the sudden, a week or so before the Battlestar Galactica Season 4 premier, SciFi disappears entirely from both.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Five, Part Two

Well, been 1.5 months since my last solutions, I’ve been sucking. Since then I’ve moved though, among other things. I still feel like my brain is rotting. Though, I got a chuckle recently; I started reading Knuth’s The Art of Computer Programming and enjoyed that in the very first section, there’s a 45-difficulty problem to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem. This is going to be a fun book.

Review: Ocean's Thirteen

Ocean’s Thirteen: Waste of time if you’re watching it, but it’s not awful background noise. 4/10.

Morning Thoughts

Have a couple of unrelated thoughts rolling around my mind this morning.

Grr. Tires.

Got my oil change today, and the dealer mentioned that my OEM Potenza RE92s should be replaced. I sort of knew that already, but I’ve been putting it off for a while, since I never felt like 27,000 miles should be enough to wear our the stock tires. We’ll see how the new RE960AS Pole Position rubber works out. Tire rack says I will love them, by comparison.

Wiki Doing Okay

Just got back from the vet (a new one, who happens to be the resident expert on hormone-based treatments). Wiki’s lesion, after 7 days on Ovaban, is now only a quarter inch diameter. Had her blood sugar tested (the vet ran the needle right through her ear and into his thumb, it was sort of funny, in a pathetic sort of way); so far she’s looking good. Only thing that’s changed is that she’s gained half a pound (an 11% weight increase) in one week. This is apparently not outside the realm of expectations. But she seems to be doing well.

Review: Blazing Saddles

It’s hard to fight with the political incorrectness of Blazing Saddles. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get clean playback due to scratches, and got nasty skips on the xbox, ps3, oppo, and G5. Oh well. I think it was my first Mel Brooks film, aside from Spaceballs. Which didn’t count, or something. Man, Gene Wilder is a weird guy. Anyhow, I laughed. Even if it wasn’t appropriate. I especially liked the self-hostage scene. 6/10.

Netflix Credit

So, Netflix credited me 5% of my monthly bill in exchange for being offline all day and not processing any disks. I think this is a bit half-assed (it’s a 1:1 match with the outage they caused me, in terms of availability, but much greater than that if you look at the proportion of the time during which I need them to be online (when my discs are being processed) versus the time that they’re available over the entire month). So, take the pittance of 94 cents you’re going to refund me, and invest it in fixing your architecture, Netflix. Never mind that recommendations and ratings were offline for another full day after the initial outage.

But Can It Make Toast?

I appear to have a PlayStation 3 running linux:

Review: Wordplay

Wordplay is a documentary about Will Shortz and crossword puzzles. I didn’t find it compelling or involving, and ended up thinking I’d wasted a bit of time watching it. Would make an interesting article in The New Yorker, but there wasn’t enough meat for a film or book. 5/10.

Review: Atonement

Atonement was interesting. Not what I expected, though that’s little surprise since I didn’t know a thing about the movie. I’m not sure I have anything clever to say beyond that; the acting was good and the story was compelling. It was not in the same league as No Country, but still deserved to be in the best picture category last year. That said, I couldn’t shake the feeling the whole time I was watching it that I was watching a somewhat different version of Titanic, and the final scene made that sensation much stronger. 7/10.

Quick Plug For Audiomagus

The PSU for my Trends TA-10.1 has been acting up; the power cuts on the DC side of the transformer frequently, and I only have luck if I force the IEC cord in and hold it. So, I wrote Audio Magus about my problem, and I had a response five minutes later offering to send me a replacement transformer.

Netflix, You Make Me Cry

Netflix is offline this morning. This sucks, since my discs are about to get back to them, and I wanted to shuffle my queue before they shipped the replacements. Grr.

Car Show

Went to the New York car show this weekend. Quick thoughts: Ferrari only had an F430 there, no booth. Boring. Lambo eyecandy didn’t know how to wear clothes. It was distressing. Saleen’s new supercar looks cool, but seriously, just buy a real car, right? Kias, Suzukis and Hyundais in carbon fiber, Enkei rims and Brembo brakes for the factory displays? Give me a break. Never going to happen.

Party.

So, I had a party in my tiny apartment. I didn’t realize how tiny it was until there were about 15 people in it. And two cats. Their behavior was admirable. Loki was more friendly than Wiki, it was weird. She’s still not “right” in the new place yet.

Two Photos

Ovaban

Don’t know if it’s just a weird coincidence, but the open sore portion of Wiki’s lesion is about half the size it was yesterday. I’m still scared of this drug, but if this is the effect it’s having…

The Inevitable Wiki

Well, talked to the vet again today; she’s not happy that the lesion is still present and raw at the moment. So, Wiki is going to start taking Ovaban, which comes with a high risk of Addisons and disabetes. Fun, right?

Kitten Mischief

Bedroom

I think I have everything figured out for the living room, though it’s not all purchased, in place, and so forth. Until everything is done there (or most of everything, I think the window film for the porch door is coming from China or something), I’ll withhold pictures.

Bathroom

I guess the bathroom is finished too:

Pointless Cat Blogging

I had a service call to fix the laundry room doors, and came home and could not find the cats anywhere. Eventually figured out they were in the laundry room, behind the fixed door. On top of each other. Loki wasn’t moving at all, Wiki was just laying on top of her, both of them squished into a four-inch space behind the washer. I thought Loki was dead, and in some perverse way Wiki was guarding her, because Loki didn’t move once I ushered Wiki out. But, both cats are fine. They’d been sitting there since about 10AM when the door was fixed.

Cats In An Apartment

Picked up Loki and Wiki today. After measuring both for a personalized collar (it’s going to be much easier for them to sneak out into the hallway here), I let them loose in the new apartment. Wiki wouldn’t leave her carrier for a couple of hours. Then she hid behind the litter box for a couple of hours. Then she moved to the sink; she’s just getting out for the first time in this picture:

Curtains

I felt inclined to dress all my windows. I have blinds, but the sodium lights from the parking lot come through the edges, and the door to my porch has a 1.5 inch slit through which it can see most of my living room. So, two large windows, and one door with a 2 foot by 5 foot window in it to put curtains on.

The New Nine Inch Nails Album I Don't Have

Back when Radiohead released In Rainbows, I downloaded the album, without paying anything, from their website. When the physical copy was released, I purchased it in a store, that day. The model fails! Except it doesn’t.

Propagation Delay

I like that I can move some things very quickly. My “home phone,” as an example, just requires unplugging from one Internet connection, and plugging into another.

Moving

Spent the whole weekend moving stuff from the condo to the apartment. Generally, the big problem is that I’m going from a 1500 square foot condo with a large attic to a 700 square foot apartment. While the condo looked pretty empty before, everything looks very not empty in the apartment, and I haven’t moved everything yet.

VoIP

I’d just like to say, modern telephony is the coolest thing ever. Being able to redirect phone numbers when one is offline, relocate phone numbers when you move your Internet, etc… Awesome.

Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour

Had the opportunity to go to the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Suffern, NY, tonight. I had a really good time. The films were (mostly) interesting. Summaries of the ones showed are listed on the Chestnut Mountain Productions page. My capsule thoughts:

Without Fail

Got a text message at 1PM that everything was on schedule. Got a phone call 30 minutes later saying that my flights were all canceled. ORD is getting hit by some weather; I’m not going anywhere near the Midwest tonight. New flight scheduled for Tuesday morning, and should have just enough buffer to make it to my first recruiting appointment. If the flights are on time. Which is not going to happen. Brilliant. Fortuitous that I knew this would happen, and allowed a certain amount of buffer in my travel plans.

Bad Design

Why on earth is the xbox 360 DVD remote IR instead of wireless?

Stamford.

So. Looks like I just picked up an apartment in Stamford.

Review: Delicatessen

Finished Delicatessen while packing today. The story is of a post-apocalyptic France where a butcher must butcher the tenants in order to … er, feed the tenants. This is punctuated by some entertaining Rube Goldberg attempts at suicide by the character Aurore. I found the whole of it quite entertaining. And, unlike the last French film I saw, it didn’t feature anything particularly disturbing, which is refreshing. Felt an awful lot like a Gilliam film, only more coherent. Brilliant. 8/10.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Five, Part One

Hm. Long hiatus since the last round; had to deal with some real life for a few weeks, I guess, but I’m getting back into it. I’m guessing with the condo sale and apartment move and everything else, though, it may be a while until I finish this book, let alone this chapter. 10127 looks to be a bit sticky, but I’m probably missing something obvious.

People Don't Want My Money

I’m trying to pay people to let me live in their building. I’m offering to give them two grand a month, plus security deposit, a tenant with good credit, good monthly income, and the like. And, for some reason, I can’t get a single fucking place to actually call me back and take my money that I’m trying so hard to give them. Avalon. Equity Apartments. Archstone. I got a promise over the phone for one to call me back in 15 minutes (negative, a day later), an email saying call the office (I called, nobody was there during business hours, left a message, didn’t hear back), and the other one listed a disconnected phone number. Web/email submissions to all of them seem to have gone into a black hole.

Snow Day

Roads were pretty nasty, so I stayed home today. The cats mostly behaved.

Two More

Random Thought

My stock configuration for my 20D is as follows:

Eclipse

Two More Failures

Review: Lord of War

Lord of War was better than I expected, but still mostly terrible. On the upside, wasn’t quite a romantic comedy, since things didn’t work out with the wife in the end. 6/10.

Review: Anatomie de l'enfer

You know it’s not a serious French film until you’re sharing a cocktail of menstrual blood or being violated by a rusty iron rake. Breillat’s Anatomie de l’enfer was a good reminder of this, and indeed why I need to pace myself in attempting to appreciate serious French cinema. I would say this is one of the more disturbing examples I’ve seen in a while, probably since La Pianiste, anyhow. It was a bit of a singular film; it had a point but no coherence. It had focus but no drive. It would read better as a beat poem than it did as a film, and the ending was a train wreck. 4/10.

Please Explain This To Me

I don’t get iTunes. On a late-model G4 powerbook, it takes me on the order of 3-5 seconds per character typed to filter songs. I don’t get how, with only around 4700 songs, the performance can be this bad.

Peas and Rabbits

Wiki had her first of two Depomedrol shots today, the veterinarian commented that the lesion looks to not be improving, and was not pleased with Wiki removing her stitches (no shock there). She (and, by extension, Loki, as I’m not segregating the cats (yet)) is now on a strict diet of Royal Canin’s peas and rabbit. Mmm. Peas and rabbit. Both cats seem to like the prescription diet, so we’ll go with it, and see what happens for the next month and a half.

My Leopard Is Broken

After the most recent Leopard, my Time Machine is now broken. It fails to back up, with the following nonsensical message:

Unfortunate Realization

At the moment, most of the films I have left to watch are not in English. This is problematic because I can’t work and watch a film in the background when I need to actually watch the film to understand it.

Uhh...

So, Wiki was behaving, leaving her lesion alone.

Review: How to Attract Anyone, Anytime, Anyplace

How to Attract Anyone, Anytime, Anyplace was a waste of time. Luckily it only took about an hour to read. I believe it was my first venture into the “self-help” section of the bookstore. I picked it up on a whim on Sunday while killing time at Barnes & Noble (waiting for two showings to finish), and it really didn’t impress me. The book was full of anecdotes intended to build confidence, but without really teaching anything. The next biggest chunk was self-promotion for Rabin’s seminars. The remainder was a few pages of content with some bullet lists of simple advice.

Weird Xbox 360 Issue

Somehow after jumping from the intro screen in Orange Box to playing videos, the screen retained a permanent alpha overlay that put dim bars around (different) letterbox dimensions on the screen. A power cycle of the unit fixed it, but nothing else seemed to. Not a big deal, but kind of weird.

The Quest Continues

At the current rate of about a pour a week, the quest continues!

Review: Papillon

My weekend of watching movies and working continues!

Review: Ocean's Twelve

Ocean’s Twelve sucked in every way. 3/10.

Review: Deliver Us From Evil

Deliver Us From Evil is a film about Oliver O’Grady, a pedophile shielded by the Catholic church for three decades. It explores the moves the church made to protect him through his campaign to molest countless children. The film does a vivid job of exploring how faith, guilt, and religion were used as tools to faciliate this abuse. Perhaps the most terrifying part is just listening to the interviews with O’Grady himself. Good exploration of a sick man protected by a deeply corrupt organization. 7/10.

Lap Cat

Wiki is now an automatic lap cat. The moment I sit on the futon or in one of the barrel chairs, she jumps into my lap and immediately settles into a ball there. Doesn’t matter if I’m using a laptop (she’ll half sit on that if there’s no room on my lap), playing Xbox 360, or reading. She still doesn’t get near me while on my desk chair, but the other surfaces are instantaneous. Ironically, this is what I’d originally wanted in a cat when I picked the little sick monkey from her cage; Loki has never been a lap cat for men, myself included. So, now I end up with various cat body fluid stains on whatever hoodie I’m wearing (after a couple hours of watching movies and working on some stuff on a laptop, my legs were burning, and my right wrist had a patch of wound ooze on it), but it’s still kind of nice. One of these days I’ll keep a camera handy and take a photo.

The Met

Had the opportunity to go to The Met today. Despite living a quick train and subway (or nice walk) away for five years, I’d somehow never done that before.

Review: American History X

American History X was excellent. It was a vivid exploration of the Neo-Nazi movement and contemporary race issues in America. It’s not an easy movie to watch, and it’s not a fun movie. But it is an important film and worth watching. 9/10.

Guacomole

Half a white onion, diced coarse. Five avocados, contents less pit mashed. Half a head of garlic, minced. Juice of two limes. Salt to taste. Coarse ground black pepper to taste. Two jalapenos minced. Some chunks of good tomatoes to taste, avoiding as much juice as possible.

Gastronomic Notes

I love my ten inch chef’s knife. Its weight and balance is excellent, and it’s sharp as hell. But I discovered something today. It doesn’t work well on an eight-inch cutting board. Obvious, I suppose. I was disappointed with the Newman’s Own Cab. The mourvedre from Spain was pretty damn good for a $10 bottle. For the money, I still have a hard time beating Spanish reds.

Non-Cancerous

Despite the vet’s concerns otherwise, it appears Wiki’s plaque is just an eosinophilic granuloma after all. Still something we need to treat and take care of, but as long as we can keep it from getting infected, she should be alright, if a bit uncomfortable. So, in a bit over a week we’ll get the stitches removed, and she’s going to get another depomedrol injection. Two weeks later she’ll get another depo injection, and the hope is that should be enough to encourage the thing into remission. At the same time, we’re going to try a full-scale food trial, and see if that helps things. If not, we’ll enter into the next tier of lesion reduction drugs, which come with the previously mentioned side effects.

Wiki Pills

Wiki still seems to be doing okay; no signs of infection at the incision yet. But, she’s recently gotten to be a real pest about taking drugs. I’ve never had a problem with her, ever, in the past with pills. Now, I can barely get her to take a pill, and it’s a crapshoot with liquid medications. This is getting frustrating.

Review: Fuck

Well, Fuck was a documentary about an expletive. It wasn’t that good. They explored the history a little bit, but more than anything just spent a lot of time talking to famous people about decency versus indecency with no particular cohesion or point. So, you get to the end of the documentary, and you’re like “alright, some people like the word, some people don’t, and sometimes the FCC’s decisions about censorship are completely random.” But, you’re left wondering “so … now what?” Nice try, but it’s just a gimmick documentary. Watch Outfoxed instead. 4/10.

Yes, I Voted

Yes. I voted. Stop calling me.

Wiki Post-Op

First, since Wiki’s been getting all of the attention, Loki wanted to say hi. Here she is, having discovered that the DVD player is a lovely place to perch and watch me.

Another Pour

Closer, but still not there.

An Old Lady Is Destroying My Sanity

I just yelled at an old lady for twenty minutes.

USB Storage Kernel Panics

Been having a recurring kernel panic on the dual G5; spent some time debugging the dumps and stack traces today. Generally I run into issues during mpeg transcoding. I think the problem is related either to the USB hub (integral to one of the Vantec USB disk enclosures), or the drive attached to said hub (branded Adaptec, has given me some issues in the past), though I’m not sure which. I only see it during heavy sustained reads while also experiencing heavy CPU utilization, and reproduction isn’t consistent.

Nice.

So, earlier today I got a call that a realtor would like to show the place. “When?” “Now; I’m outside.” So I got five minutes, put the place in order real quick, and dashed out for a few minutes so they could look around. I didn’t have time to vacuum, and since I’d done a few loads of laundry yesterday, there were various lint leavings throughout the top floor. Crap.

Review: Helvetica

Helvetica was a documentary about a typeface. If that sounds boring to you, well, you’ll probably find it boring. To some degree, it’s a who’s who of popular typography and design (at least judging from the people I’ve read/seen discussed on the web). I found it insightful, and it presented a nice tour of the typeface, its ubiquity, and its history. 7/10.

James Joyce Did It Before Twitter

Whee!

Goodreads

Goodreads was pointed out to me this evening, and I’m playing with it a bit. I may use it to replace my use of LibraryThing, which I’ve neglected. We’ll see if I’m still using it in a few days before I get over-excited about it, but thus far it seems far more quick to add books than LibraryThing. Still, like LibraryThing, I find myself at a loss, with hundreds of books to enter (thousands? I’m not even sure anymore). We’ll see…

Zoltar.

The Clamp Just Fell Off?

So, apparently there’s a thermostat sensor that’s attached to the coolant lines on the heat pump. Mine fell off.

Heat Pump

I hate you, new heat pump. I hate you in the face.

Expensive Cats: My Blog About My Cats Is Not Full Of Adorable Pictures

Wiki’s situation continues to deteriorate. The lesion is growing, at a slow rate, and still bleeding at the edges. Using disinfectant/antifungal wipes, I’ve kept her from getting infected so far. This is good, because the location of the lesion means an infection could quickly become fatal. Unfortunately, it’s just a matter of time at the current rate, with an open sore and an animal that likes to lick its anus before licking its wounds. And step in its feces and urine. The lesion hasn’t been responding to the oral antihistamines or initial antibiotic course (though on the upside her congestion has been less than I’ve seen in months; yay winter), nor did the depomedrol have any noticeable effect.

Review: The Guru

The Guru was a romantic comedy, with some not so subtle references to Indian film. As a romantic comedy, it gets an automatic 5/10.

Review: Poolhall Junkies

Poolhall Junkies was a fun romantic comedy, not because of the love story, but because pool is awesome. It made me want to play nine ball, be a hustler, and be good at it. More entertaining than many in the genre, but rules are rules, it’s a 5/10.

Review: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Perfume was not quite what I expected. Whishaw did a remarkable job acting in a strange role with virtually no talking for the duration of the film. Despite being a bit of a fairy tale, the whole orgiastic absolution at the end was a bit over the top, as was the consumption in a back alley thereafter. An entertaining story to that point, if one is willing to suspend reality, but the ending was a train wreck. 6/10.

Review: Black Snake Moan

I can’t figure out what I think about “Black Snake Moan”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0462200/. Ricci’s performance was excellent, but I’m not sure I got the point of the whole thing. I mean, it was a little comedic, a little dramatic, and a little bit just fun and games. I guess it’s just another one lost on me. 6/10.

Crazy Week

So, I took a week off, starting the day I got divorced. It was a crazy week, but I needed the vacation. I’m not sure I really had enough sanity left to function in my “normal life” by that point. There was a lot of good stuff, some bad stuff, and some things that didn’t work out how I would have preferred. Saw some movies, most of them sucked. Pasta Nostra is still good. Didn’t get any reading done. Cambridge was less impressive than I imagined, and the Sheraton Commander has some of the worst bed linens, ever. Philadelphia continues to be more impressive than I expect. Was good to see Bill and Krista again.

Facepalm.

Day before trial, just got a completely rewritten separation agreement. Head exploding.

Review: Kill Bill

Just watched Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2, which I’d put off until today. Watching them back to back was a great way to blow an afternoon. 8/10 for the pair.

Pink.

Third showing of the long weekend (perk to working in the financial industry) was a couple, about the age we were when we bought the condo. Didn’t catch a glance at their fingers, but they looked like newlyweds. They seemed to really like the place, except that there’s no external storage. The attic is really huge, I don’t get this desire for extra storage. Upstairs is a linen closet, two full-size closets, a walk-in closet, and a half closet with shelves, plus the storage in the laundry closet and the water heater closet. Plus the attic, which covers the same space as the entire floor plan, though only about 100 square feet have plywood down. Honest, it’s enough. And we’re only talking about the second story here.

Tolerance.

I realized something last night, after I spilled a beer (more accurately I knocked it over without spilling, and then madly attempted to right it before it spilled, which ultimately flung most of its contents out, rather than the knocking it over). Anyhow, I dramatically decreased my nightly alcohol consumption starting on the first day of the year. I’ve held myself to a drink a night (or not at all) when I’m alone, which I think is good for my health. The downside is that in just over half a month it’s made a dramatic impact in my tolerance for alcohol; six beers actually had me buzzing (and causing the aforementioned trouble), whereas before I’m not sure I would have noticed anything.

Review: The Simpsons Movie

I thought The Simpsons Movie was entertaining. Homer pisses Marge off, and eventually they get back together. It’s like a long episode, and as such pleasant. But, nothing particularly awesome, either. 6/10.

Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

I tried really hard to appreciate Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It wasn’t bad, I just … couldn’t get into it. Sorry. 5/10.

Wiki Status

Got her into the vet this afternoon. Her lesion is now about an inch and a half in diameter, and starting to look inflamed. The outer part of the lesion is a bloody red mix of hair and god knows what (well, blood, I guess), and the inner part has crusted over and is starting to look pleasant. By pleasant I mean not pleasant.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Four, Part Three

Chapter Four: Finished!

Programming Challenges, Chapter Four, Part Two, With Some Random Crap Snuck In First

OKCupid has lost its fun already; it was cheap entertainment while it lasted, but there’s no point. I’m tired of filling out questions, surfing profiles, and having inane conversations trying to make friends. I’m not expanding my social circle, and I’ve devoted an awful lot of time and energy to whoring myself out in attempt to do so. I have confirmed that a) there are a number of truly crazy people in the world b) I seem to be more likely to want to talk to them than the normal people, based on the algorithm behind okcupid and c) they seem to be more likely to be the ones to search for me. Simple explanations are probably best, so I’m thinking: a) “normal” people aren’t a good match for me, algorithmically b) “normal” people aren’t looking for other people, because they already have plenty of “normal” friends or c) “normal” people don’t exist. I think Occam’s razor is suggesting option c is the most logical explanation. I’m not yet sure if I’m okay with that.

Knuth, Bitches

If you don’t know who Knuth is, then you’re not a programmer.

Nail.

I do a quick walk around my car each morning. I don’t usually spot anything, but this morning I discovered a flat front left tire. Joining the screw that was removed and patched (no pressure drop, but scraped while cornering), that tire has now had a nail removed a as well. Whee.

1001

So, I got up to 1001 questions answered on okcupid. I’ll probably answer more. I still have no idea why. Along the way, I’ve noticed an interesting trend: 1) The more questions I answer, the more insane my “matches” become. I continue to not have any hope, which is fine, because I’m not really looking for anybody. Best case, I find some new friends/social circles, and life is grand. Worst case, it was cheap entertainment while it lasted. 2) The more questions I answer, the less well I match people. This is either a product of my moods changing every day, or that as okc gets to know me better, it realizes more and more that there’s no match for me.

Review: The Aviator

The Aviator was about an hour too long. Not a bad docudrama, but not a great one either. 5/10.

Review: My Life as a Quant

I found My Life as a Quant to be tedious and not worth the time I wasted to finish it. The first 80% of the book reads like a yearbook, followed by a frantic chunk where Derman starts describing some options pricing theory in the end, out of nowhere. The writing is not engaging, the stories and anecdotes are tedious, and he’s done a good job of making what sounds at the surface to be an interesting life into a couple hundred pages of sheer boredom. 3/10.

Quick Updates

Let the record show that Twitter is the worst thing to happen to the Internet, and I hate it, even if this blog entry reads like a number of Twitter updates.

More OKC

Would you consider dating a divorced person?

Meeting Theory

New theory: Weekly status meetings (lots of time wasted for entire group) are a substitute for poor 1:1 meetings (lots of time and planning required for manager).

Good News / Bad News

I’ve been sleeping horribly this week, and had to get up a bit earlier than usual Thursday/Friday. So, my plan was to, well, sleep in Saturday. That would be a nice change, to be sure.

Two In a Month

Well, I’ve now lost two Western Digital disks in a month’s time. First a spare drive in a jump logical volume on my server, and now my primary media drive on my powerbook has taken a nosedive. On the upside, the latter is backed up occasionally to an identical drive right next to it. On the downside, I haven’t done that in several months, so I need to figure out what CDs it is missing. Joy! It’s a half terabyte external FW800 enclosure that’s probably long since out of warranty, but we’ll see, since it was retail packaging, if the internal disk is covered by the 3-year or 1-year plan. In the meantime, time to rsync that to my file server before that drive dies and I’m suddenly left with the need to rip hundreds of CDs again.

Double Spaced

In one week, I think I’ve managed to cure myself of my inexplicable muscle memory to use double spaces between sentences. I’ve been doing this since I was first taught to type, so it took a while, and my paragraphs still look funny to me.

Sick Cat, Sick Grandma

Wiki started developing another lesion (eosinophilic granuloma, for the morbidly curious) on her neck on Friday; you can see its progress on Saturday a little bit in this photo:

OKCupid Has Replaced Warcraft In My Life

I think there’s something relativistic about okcupid. I’ve stayed up three nights in a row answering questions, only to discover that far more time has passed than should have. Again, it’s at least cheap entertainment.

World of Warcraft Account Cancelled: atubbs

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for two years now, with over a hundred days of playtime spent on my primary character alone. The amount of time and effort I’ve put into the game is, to my thinking, epic. I enjoyed the challenges, and I think I eventually got pretty decent at the game.

Thoughts For 2008

Not necessarily resolutions, per se. Realizations, perhaps.

Review: Juno

Juno was excellent. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought it was another Wes Anderson film, and that he’s back up to the Rushmore level. Other than the song at the end, I thought the film was expertly constructed, poignant, and didn’t take itself too seriously. 8/10.

Online Dating

I was in a committed relationship from 1995 until now, so I’m a bit rusty on, well, everything about single life. I don’t know how to pick people up. I don’t know how to flirt. I’m not prepared to make a move. I don’t even know how to dress up to go out. I’ll make you a deal: Just pretend I carry on woe-is-me style for another few minutes, and I’ll spare you the tedium.

The Sky Is Falling

I downloaded the new Radiohead album for free weeks ago. Yesterday I bought the physical album. With money. Well, actually a gift card, but that’s not the point. Obviously the model doesn’t work.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Four, Part One

I started doing some math, and figured out that I’m drinking more than I thought. So, tonight I decided not to drink, and got a headache as a result. Proof positive, if I’m not being thorough, but I think we’ll just class it as a single data point for now, and not get too excited. Over all, I’m not doing well at all.

Programming Challenges, Chapter 3, Part 5

848:

Playing With Lightspheres

For Christmas I got a pair of Gary Fong Lightspheres. The cats did not seem to appreciate the experimentation, but I’m pretty pleased with how they work; I get significantly smoother lighting than with the on-flash diffuser or with bounce flash:

2007

Review: Manufactured Landscapes

Manufactured Landscapes starts with a striking panning scene, no talking, and no music, for what seems like forever. It gives you the idea that this will be a film about factories. About the huge manufactured landscapes built up to support our economy. But it’s not, really. It’s a film about an artist, and it’s a fancy animated slideshow of his work. I like his work, but it doesn’t make for a particularly enticing documentary. 4/10.

Review: The Average American Male

Finished The Average American Male the other day. It was a guilty pleasure, and not for the easily offended. Probably best to avoid it if you’re a woman, in fact. The writing is simple, the chapters short, and most of them focus on the disastrous nature of long-term relationships. Most of the author’s focus is on the decrease in frequency of sex and increase in frequency of inanity.

More Silly Security

So, yesterday I opened a money market account with Citibank. I did this all online, and transferred funds to the account. However, I was not told what my new account number is. Everywhere on the site, it’s listed as XXXXXXXXXnnn, where only nnn are shown as real digits.

Goliath Online

Well, my Andreja Premium is back after its unfortunate pump failure, and of course the very first morning I had it up and running again, I managed to dump surplus reservoir water right into the pump compartment. I marvel at my innate ability to completely suck at everything I do. Everything still seems fine thus far; I pulled the back cover off enough to get an air gun in and try to blow out the excess water, but who knows.

Generic Design

There are a lot of common design mistakes engineers make. Premature optimization is one cited by most texts. That said (and C++ Coding Standards gets it right), writing code in a vacuum, ignorant of obvious injection of performance-killing code, is little better.

Firefox 3

I’ve long since switched to Opera on the PC and Safari on the mac. I miss the extensions in firefox, but I like the lack of suck in these products. The one downside is that Opera’s javascript engine still seems to choke from time to time, in places where Firefox wouldn’t. On the other hand, Firefox had all sorts of choking everywhere.

Bitches, This Is How We Roll

It was a tough Christmas once I got back to Connecticut. I’m glad I was there, but it was tough. And that’s enough of the serious stuff.

Airport Injection Timing Vulnerability

I was very sad to see the state of security at AZO. On Christmas Eve, the person doing the positive ID to boarding pass correlation left their post, and was replaced by another employee. The replacement said, “alright, who’s next?” I am an honest person, and I said that I had not yet been screened, and the person in front of me had. The other TSA personnel on the belt said “uh, I think it was that guy” pointing behind me. Now, it would have required a very careful manipulation of timing in the screening pipeline to pull off the injection, but were I dishonest or evil, I could have entered the air transport system without ever having a positive ID check (via phone reservation changes and automated checkin machines).

Programming Challenges, Chapter 3, Part 4

10150:

Review: The Varities of Scientific Experience

The Varieties of Scientific Experience was a book I bought on a whim a while back. A collection of Carl Sagan’s transcripts from the Gifford Lectures, it presents in eight parts Sagan’s view on theology and science, which I believe for him (and apparently for several who came before him, such as Einstein) to be one and the same.

Review: C++ Coding Standards

C++ Coding Standards was a good read. For me I found it to be a good refresher on some things, and some solid points otherwise. It aggregates a lot of best practices and useful trivia (there’s a lot of useful trivia in C++ that is unsafe to ignore) from papers and books that came before it, and spend a decent amount of time providing examples and supporting (as well as counter) arguments.

Review: Blinding Light

Blinding Light was the first fiction I’ve ready by Paul Theroux. Well, the first outright fiction, as I’m still not sure how much of My Other Life is true. Of course, maybe Theroux has actually dosed himself on jungle drugs to improve his writing ability and perception.

Holiday Travels

I suppose I deserved it, but holiday travels were a bit messy this weekend. True to form though, I don’t think I was every particularly surprised or frustrated, and it left me plenty of time to get some reading done.

The Cake is a Pie

Polite Fiction

Everybody asks if you’re ok.

Mental Defect

It’s weird, but I’ve become somewhat fond of modern air travel. The delays. The hopelessness of the situation. The craziness of it all. Somehow, I find the whole of it relaxing. I like knowing that, once I get to the airport, everything is out of my control, and I get to stop making decisions. I get to stop doing. I get to stop being. I’m just a unit to be relocated for the next few hours. I have nowhere to go, nothing to do, until my plane takes off, and then I’m stuck in a tin can for x hours until I get there. I can read, I can people watch, but there’s nothing I have to do, because there’s nothing I can do. I can’t reduce the number of tasks on my lists. I can’t really do anything. And it’s nice. I feel at peace. I like the smell of Jet-A. I sometimes dislike other air travelers, especially if a) they have kids b) they get irate when things aren’t on time or c) if they don’t respect my space. And, to be sure, I complain about the absurd luck I seem to have with things. But strange as it sounds, I think I feel most at home when I’m lost in the commercial air transit system.

Accountability

A pet peeve: “C/C++” on a resume.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Three, Part 3

Hm. Been dragging my feet on these; a month to the day since I last did one. I suck. Anyhow.

I Hate Being Right

Well, after becoming briefly lost in the wild world of UPS, my dead espresso machine made it in for service today. As feared, the problem was not of a blown gasket or simple hose failure, but in fact the main system pump is dead (in these machines at least there’s only one, and it manages both boiler fill and group feed). Yuck.

Wussy Winter Weather

Well, roads around here are pretty terrible this morning. I was actually kept awake for a few hours by some crazy icy rain that was beating on the wall behind my bed. But I would have been hitting connecticut around 4 or 5 or so, so that doesn’t mean much. In Maryland right now it’s just raining. In between, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, but it doesn’t sound like it’s as bad as expected.

The Joy Of Cooking

I need to remind all of you who have not yet purchased The Joy of Cooking to do so. Yesterday I made the casserole form of the baked macaroni and cheese, in between re-filing all the papers that have been waiting to be filed for three months and doing other chores around the house.

Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

What a cheesy romantic comedy. A guilty pleasure to be sure, but still a romantic comedy. 5/10.

I don't get it.

People have already been really great today. I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls, text messages, e-cards, instant messages, and the like. I know there are a lot of people out there that care, and that’s really great. There’s a party for me tonight, and the folks at work are taking me to Five Guys on Thursday.

Review: Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain was dumb. So two people fall in love one summer, go off and have their own separate lives, and are still in love, and it wrecks their lives. Big deal. Oh, wait, it’s supposed to mean more because they’re gay. And cowboys. And it’s a while ago. Big deal. The gay cowboy thing is a gimmick for an otherwise unoriginal plot. Beautiful scenery, from time to time, but waste of a movie. 4/10.

Maryland

I had a long post yesterday about stupid drivers, and about the tenuous balance of keeping torque to a minimum in my car, while trying to avoid increasing boost pressure during a half-mile uphill pull on snow. But I lost it, so whatever.

Hello Citibank, Please Fuck Off

I am this close to cancelling my Citibank account. I get a phone call from 677-3600 every day. Every time it’s from a call center in India, and they’re welcoming me to my account. Every time I’ve answered I say I don’t want to be bothered with a welcome, my account is fine, leave me alone unless you need new information or there is suspicious activity on my account. They say ok and hang up, and every time I go through this ordeal, I get a call the next day from the same call center in India.

Sleep Is Becoming a Chore

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, my neighbor woke me up between 7 and 8 in the morning, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Saturday I had to be up early so we could hit the city and get Sky back in time for his appointments in the afternoon. This morning I got woken up by work (4AM), and a realtor (7AM). Sure, I should be normal and go to bed at 10 and get up at 6 and then I wouldn’t have a damn thing to worry about. But I may stay up until 2, and may want to sleep until 10 on a Saturday. Or a Sunday.

Review: The C Programming Language, 2nd Edition

Several visitors have remarked at the fact that K&R was my bathroom reader. So be it.

Epeen

Yesterday I raided with a hunter wearing all ilvl 141+ gear, and who also carries the reputation of being extremely good. My sustained real-world raid damage output over several minutes clocked in just over 900 a second, he was a bit shy of 1000. Considering most of my gear is roughly in the ilvl 115 range (notable exceptions are 4 pieces of T4 at ~120, weapon at ~135, and bracers at ~141, though BoE, so you can discount that a bit), I’m pretty pleased with that result, and I’m half-convinced that I’ve reached the top of my game. Without either moving to the west coast or transferring to an east coast realm, I doubt I’m going to see much change at this point. There’s a chance my guild may get to T5 gear before WotLK comes out, but we’re not going to see Black Temple and Hyjal, by any stretch of the imagination.

Christmas Tree

I had to kill time out of the house while they were showing it again this afternoon. I strolled around Pier 1, wanting to buy some sort of Charlie Brown thing. But, I didn’t want to spend money on it, and couldn’t find anything anyway. See, I have last year’s plastic Christmas tree upstairs, but it’s a multi-hour project to straighten and unpack it, and I lack the lights and ornaments to dress it. Nor do I really want to pack it up once I’m done. See, I’ve had a tree, I think, every year, since I was about 16. But I don’t get to share it this year, and the expense and effort hardly seems worthwhile for just myself.

Review: No Country for Old Men

No Country For Old Men was fucking brilliant. Seeing it for free was a bonus. As a villain, Javier Bardem is one of the coldest, meanest, hardest guys I’ve ever seen in a movie. Ever. My vote for best supporting actor, not that it counts for anything. The whole film is visually brilliant and meticulous in its pacing and dialogue. Bravo. 10/10.

It Has Come To My Attention

And now for a departure from entries that are generally void of anything overly personal or emotional!

Four Hours In Southern Manhattan

Sky and I drove to New York City today, under the auspices of going to Pearl Oyster Bar, in order to try the city’s best lobster roll. Only when we were on the FDR Drive did Sky call Pearl and discover that they aren’t open for lunch during the weekend. Well, now what?

Salsa, Part Two

No Espresso For Me, Now

Yesterday the trap on my Hot Top wasn’t closing properly, and the green beans dumped straight through into the cooling tray. Giving it a good shake and a power cycle fixed that issue, but I’m still a bit frustrated. I’ve only put about 28 kilos through it since I got it, and I’m a little frustrated if it’s going to give up. WTB drum roaster in the half grand range that will last more or less forever. Also, I don’t want to pay for it right now.

Ow, My Finger

LIBPNG: Worst API, Ever

So. I’m glad there’s a PNG reference library in libpng, and that it’s open sores, and it’s free, and all that. But the folks that originally designed it were complete idiots when it came to API design. For some reason, in this C library, they decided not to follow the time-honored pattern of returning error codes from functions. Instead, they designed an API which uses setjmp to set up error callbacks, and then it longjmps to them as necessary. To quote the authors:

Irritating Design Issues, Volume Five

So apparently my new heat pump makes a lot of noise when it goes into defrost mode at night. I can’t tell this three stories up, but my neighbor has no qualms calling me at seven in the morning to tell me so. Sorry. New pumps are built to be efficient, not necessarily quiet. Quiet and efficient costs several grand more. Yes, I’m cheap, I don’t think it’s worth it to put a $10,000+ heat pump into a condo unit that I’d really like to sell right now but nobody is buying.

A (Heavily Biased) Field Guide To Computer Science Majors And Programmers

I struggle a lot with various issues when I’m involved in hiring decisions. I’ve been involved at many different levels of the process, assessing fit, knowledge, design skills, technical capability, experience, aptitude, and all sorts of other things that are pretty difficult to assess in X minutes. Sometimes I think I’m doing pretty well, getting a good read on a candidate, and balancing that correctly against the needs of the organization, all while maintaining my personal vision of what makes a good engineer. Other times I’m completely lost, and afraid I’m making the wrong choices, or that I may be synthetically encouraging/discouraging certain decisions. I have a really difficult time with hiring people that I do not think would thrive in my team (full disclosure: I run a team that could be described as having a difficult “fit”; I’m trying to ignore fit as a component in these statements, even though it’s important for final-destination hiring decisions).

Super Cute

Huh, it snowed.

Sorry.

I will not be getting many of you gifts this Christmas. I am deeply sorry and it pains me. Know that you are still loved and I still care about you.

Yay.

Travel was looking to be really expensive to go see my family for Christmas. Then I remembered I had nearly 100,000 miles with American. So I bought my trip home to see my family with my miles and only had to spend $10. Win.

Review: The Human Stain

The Human Stain was a weird one for me. At times I was sucked in, soaking up every word, and at others I was flipping pages without so much as skimming them. Some of the writing in this book is tedious, and I quickly grew tired of it. I guess it felt sort of formulaic after reading Everyman, and it seemed to try to make too much of itself, or take itself too seriously. Maybe I need to read some of the other Nathan Zuckerman books before I’ll fully appreciate it. 5/10.

Review: Diary

Diary: A Novel is another in a stream of Palahniuk books worth my time. I enjoyed the episodic nature of the chapters, the little twists, and the story, if it was a little mechanical at times. Not a particularly horrific horror story, but then I don’t really think that’s what he was going for. 6/10.

Review: Darkness Falls

Darkness Falls was a horrid book. The premise is a bit fun, involving ecological terrorism and oil-eating bacteria, it could have stolen a page out of Zodiac. Instead, it read like a lousy Tom Clancy knock-off, which is very bad indeed. I cannot describe how painfully predictable the entire story is. If you read the back cover and have any exposure to these types of books, you could pretty much write the outline, and probably get most of the specific details correct as well. At least it was over quick. Premise is fun, writing is not. Don’t waste the two hours it will be necessary for you to read it. 2/10.

Review: Ask The Pilot

Ask The Pilot was a quick read, but was entertaining. It suffers from the typical meta and redundancy issues of a column/blog that has been converted into book form. I’m not sure that I learned anything new per se about planes and flying, though it was nice to hear “Want to know how to help the pilots? Get the fuck out of the aisle during boarding and shut your damn kid up for the remainder of the flight” if not in exactly those words. The insights into the seniority system of the airlines and the union negotiations was a bit interesting, if not taken to nearly the depth I think I would enjoy. Probably a good read for somebody who hasn’t flown too much, or is afraid of flying. 7/10.

Rant No. 1

Lists

I wasn’t ready to go home yet, to face my family, for Thanksgiving. So I didn’t. But, I also realized I need to start living my own life too, so I wasn’t going to go to Kansas this year, either. I miss people at both locations. Instead I went to California, to hang out with my friends out there, and have a relaxed Thanksgiving. I was still kicking my cold, so it was a bit rough, but I’m glad I did something different. I’m in a bad place right now, but it was nice to not care and just forget about that for a few days.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Three, Part 2

Well, being sick has diminished my energy to work on these, but I knocked two out today:

Damn.

So I’m going about my lazy Saturday morning, still recovering from this damn bug, and I get a phone call “Can I show your unit in 5 minutes?” So ensues the scramble to quickly tidy the place up from “I just woke up” to “showing” condition.

Wiki

Well, Wiki is home now. She’s groggy and clumsy, coming off her anesthesia, but doing well. Short story is they found nothing. $750 later, she’s had a complete upper respiratory and nasal workup, x-rays, cultures, etc. She apparently had a “massive” amount of mucous, much to the surprise of the attending. No polyps, no other nasties to see. Best bet at this point is that FHV-1 as a kitten destroyed most of her mucosal tissue, leaving her particularly prone to allergic rhinitis, which she will live with indefinitely.

Review: SherryBaby

SherryBaby featured a good performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal. I am again surprised at her adaptability. I don’t know if it’s costuming, the director of photography, or what, but they seemed to want to make her chest the best supporting actress, which was a bit disturbing at times. Its most emotional scene is during the heavier of the two incest scenes, when it clearly shouts “no!” I mean, I know that all sounds funny, but what is up with the costuming and camera shots?

Oh. Nice.

As well as waking up feeling even worse, I heard a quick blip from the stack of computers next to me that sounds an awful lot like a click of death. ReiserFS was reporting inode read issues, so I checked the volume group, already knowing the answer. Luckily this volume group was just a backup stripe, but it still sucks. On the upside, this is my first disk failure in a while, so that’s good. Even better? This is my last IBM drive (and yes, it’s from the infamous Death Star production run).

Sick, Somehow

I’m sick. I don’t know why, but I woke up this morning, and was sick. I don’t think I’ve even seen anybody lately that’s sick. I’m hoping it goes away tomorrow morning.

Review: Michael Clayton

Michael Clayton was decent. I don’t get the point of:

Review: Mysterious Skin

Myserious Skin was good. It’s a movie about childhood sexual abuse (among other things), but very watchable. 8/10.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Three, Part 1

It took me too long when I last batched an entire chapter up, so I’m not going to go to that extreme, and will be batching these in somewhat smaller chunks. So, with that said, here are the first three challenges from Chapter 3:

Wiki Going Under

Cat update, but not a fun one.

Review: When The Levees Broke

I finished Spike Lee’s When The Levees Broke.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Two, Redux

I finished the problems in Chapter Two of Programming Challenges. It took me about a month, poking at the problems for an hour here and there. Not as fast as I’d like, but I didn’t give up, and I’ve still completed every problem thus far. Overall, I wasn’t very happy with this chapter, as it featured a problem with terrible parsing issues, and what I’m still convinced is an NP problem in a chapter that’s emphasizing clever use of data structures. In general, I don’t think this chapter does a good job of teaching anything, though some of the problems remain mildly entertaining.

The Road To Hell

I have a fondness for plans. Lists. Schedules.

Instant Couscous

Instant Couscous? I don’t get it. I just made regular couscous as a base for my Moroccan Vegetable Stew, it takes like 5 minutes. Boil a cup of water with some butter and salt. Add stuff. Wait 5 minutes (yeah, I know, we’re up to like 10 minutes, but whatever). Isn’t that fast enough?

Food For Thought

My new theory: Anybody who says “I’m a good listener, you can talk to me” is. But they’re saying that because they want gossip, not because they give a shit. People who are actually good listeners don’t need to tell you that they’re good listeners.

Bread

I made bread today:

Thinking About Software Engineering

For a team to work on software, you need a few things. The first thing you need is a good team. I’m still figuring out how to form, find, grow, and lead a good team. This stuff has been written about extensively, and everybody is wrong. Alternatively, nobody really knows how, because every situation is different.

Lillies

In more detail on my flickr page.

Hello Post Office, You Continue To Not Impress Me

When Sarah moved out, she filed a change of address form. I received confirmation more than a week ago, “INDIVIDUAL ONLY.” She received the same confirmation at her new address, I imagine.

Review: My Other Life

My Other Life is an interesting novel of Theroux’s life, or what could have been his life, as it were. It’s hard to guess what is fiction and what is fact, but the stories he weaves are beautiful. Of love, falling into it, and his eventual divorce. Of travel, hiding, and discovery. There are some treasures hidden amongst the prose:

Review: 30 Days of Night

30 Days of Night was my first bona fide horror film. It was alright. Bad acting, completely predictable, and yeah, bloody vampire stuff. Hurray! I don’t know that horror is really my thing, but that’s ok. Some of the scenes and setup were actually pretty beautiful, but most of it was, well, a bit silly. I should probably give the genre more attention before I pass judgement on it, though. I’m not sure I really get why it’s popular in the first place. 4/10.

Four Random Thoughts

When you are considering going crazy, remember that most of your friends are not equipped in the tools necessary to deal with a crazy person, or with a person saying crazy things. Crazy people say crazy things, and sane people only listen for the sane things, and they miss the important bits. It’s painful to watch a hero waste away into nothing. Sometimes you’ll be confronted with a situation where you know you can do better than those who came before you. Months or years later, something will break because of your hubris, not because you were wrong, but because you exposed a weakness in the system. At that time, those who came before you will remind you that they told you so. There are things you don’t want to happen, that can’t happen. Things that screw everything up. You wish with everything that things stay as they are, and you’re convinced you’ve succeeded until you are blindsided with the realization that you lost long ago.

California, Part N

So, in one of the more foolish adventures I’ve made in recent history, I rode out to California Friday night, in order to make a party that started at 8PM. Of course, I wasn’t going to arrive on time for the party, and ATC ensured I arrived even later than expected, but yes, I rode 2500 miles on a plane and dashed from SJC north at slightly faster than highway speeds in order to make a halloween party.

Review: True Romance

True Romance has, as far as I can tell, the worst designed DVD UI I’ve seen in a long time. Otherwise, it was a predictable and uninspiring story of a guy who falls in love with a sex worker, kills her pimp, and then everything works out in the end, after a few people die. I don’t get why it’s supposed to be good. 5/10.

Review: Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny

Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny was an extended Tenacious D music video. As such, I enjoyed it, but it was a terrible move. Kudos for the Kubrick, though. That was a nice touch. Probably about the only one, sadly. 5/10

Review: Syriana

Syriana was just like Traffic, only different. Painfully predictable from the start. Questions I came to in the first few minutes:

Review: A Scanner Darkly

I really liked the way A Scanner Darkly was done. I felt it did a good job of keeping true to the book, though it had to take some shortcuts for brevity. The visual style is creative and not distracting; after watching it for a while it felt “real” which was sort of an odd sensation. Having read the book it “made sense” what was happening, but I think if one approached the movie without that background, it may well be entirely impenetrable; there is just too much context missing, and too much immersion in the story to really get a sense of what is going on. In that regard, the faithful telling may be a bit too faithful; the movie serves only as a clever set of illustrations for the book, rather than a recreation.

Pathetic

I’m slicing some bread. I reach to put it into the toaster, and realize I don’t have one.

Cats

Despite ceiling cat, I’ve not blogged much about the cats lately. So they had their checkup today. Loki, like always, is perfect. She cooperated, got her two shots, and went back into her cage without a fuss.

The Hole

Fall Foliage

Unbelievable.

Of late, my mental state has been very bad. But, I think I am right now closer than ever before to wanting to just end it all. An hour before a realtor is visiting and a day before the open house, the fucking ceiling under the fucking shower just fucking opened up and poured water into the fucking dining room.

More Cavities

I had my routine dental checkup earlier this week. Everything looked great, my teeth were perfectly cared for and I was doing everything right.

Review: Six Feet Under

I just finished watching Six Feet Under. It was good. A Prius is way less cool than a hearse, though.

Review: Prozac Nation

I was disappointed in Prozac Nation. The two-voice narrative is a mess. The author seems at first to try to use them for different purposes, but in the end Wurtzel just seems to be flipping a coin to decide whether her text should be oblique or not.

Review: Everyman

Philip Roth’s Everyman is my first Roth. Given his popularity in literary circles, I was somewhat dubious, but I was pleased with the novella. It describes a life in passing, giving as much treatment to its positive moments as its sad, and ultimately ending in nothing. It’s a nice story, but a realistic one just the same. We live, we fuck up, we die. It doesn’t try to tell you whether any of it matters, leaving all the figuring as an excercise for the reader. 7/10.

Vegas, Parting Thoughts

I wrote this in the hotel before I checked out, but after my in-room Internet abruptly expired an hour before checkout. I don’t really understand that, but whatever. I just got home, a bit after 3AM, which is much later than expected, but to a certain extent, entirely expected, being that involved me and travel.

Review: Rules of Attraction

The Rules of Attraction was a good summary of the college life I didn’t have. Drugs, random hookups, nonstop partying, skipping classes. It even featured Clay (if briefly) from Less Than Zero. I again found myself strangely drawn, if in a bit of dreamlike fantasty, to the lives in the book. On one hand there’s no point to any of it, but on the other that’s strangely refreshing. It’s nice to read about people with no purpose, direction, or goals but the present. 7/10.

Condo For Sale

And, as of tonight, the condo is on the market. If you want a Condo in Norwalk, let me know.

Vegas, Day/Night 3

So, I realized yesterday what it is about Vegas that bothers me: It’s like a huge cruise ship and you can’t get off. All the stuff I hate about cruise ships is here, but multiplied to a degree beyond description. I’ve come to realize I don’t get anything out of gambling, I’m not big into smoking, and I’m not about to spend money on shows or things like that, so overall I’m coming to realize it’s sort of “meh” for me. I may try to hit the strip tonight since I haven’t really walked along it too much, but we’ll see.

Vegas, Day 4

It occurs to me, drinking a young single malt alone in my hotel room from a plastic cup, that I may have hit my emotional rock bottom this trip.

Vegas, Night Two

Yesterday afternoon we played the WoW CCG. Much to my surprise, it was not that bad. I used to be a big Magic the Gathering player, though I retired a bit after Revised went out of print (I was informed my rainbow deck and its dual lands are bank right now). I’m pretty sure getting at all into playing a CCG again will ruin my chances of ever resuming a normal life, so I’m resisting that little gentle pull of “hey, now that I’m not 15, I could actually just buy a few cases of boosters.” But it was fun, in a dorky regressive sort of way.

A Quick Side Note

For people new to blogging, I want to offer a word of advice: If you don’t have anything to write, don’t write that you don’t have anything interesting to write. This sort of observation is even less interesting to us than it is to you. Your blog is dying and you have nothing interesting to write. It’s ok. It happens to everybody who writes a blog. Even if you are a prolific blogger, you’ll have weeks without writing anything interesting, because nothing interesting is happening in your life. We know already. It’s ok.

Vegas, Day Two

I woke up at the crack of 13:00 (well, 10:00 local time), and proceeded to do nothing. This is mostly because I’m not supposed to be in the sunlight on my current medication, so there’s no sense in going outside. I breakfasted/lunched on dried fruit, nuts, and coffee. Not spending any money: Win.

Vegas

So we pushed back from the gate at JFK and were informed that we were “somewhere in line, ATC hasn’t really told us yet, but we’re not in the first 50.” While the “itinerary accounts for this” it didn’t end up counting on the full two hour wait before departure.

Programming Challenges, Chapter Two

Alright, I’ve started chapter two. I’ll just keep editing this post with progress, if/when I make any.

A Week With The Helio Fin

So, after years of having a phone with just a phonebook and a lot of battery life, I’ve jumped into the world of super phones. I now have a Helio Fin, complete with photo, video, 3g, web browsing, etc.

Ignorance

I am far from being an expert at the English language. My grammar and diction is average at best. I still haven’t gotten over the incorrect teaching of how to switch between I and me in a sentence.

Random Homebuilding Advice

So, in preparation for selling the condo, one of the things that has to happen is a few repairs. One of those is the water damage to the dining room ceiling.

Hello, Citibank India Call Center

Every day, for a week, Citibank has called my home phone, and left a message. By message, I mean they leave 30 seconds of call center noise on my voicemail.

Programming Challenges, Continued

Trying to batch my programming challenges progress up so I don’t bore the non-programmers in the audience. I’ve realized something along the way … even with a spec, and even if we’re not being malicious, the test cases I write (and I do write them, as the sample inputs/outputs are always intentionally deficient) are often far from exhaustive, and often miss failures. Sometimes (like in 10267) I miss something completely, but other times it’s something subtle I didn’t think about. This shouldn’t be any great realization, and indeed it is something I know, but I forget. Never trust the user. The user will try things I can’t think of. Gotta write code that’s better than that. Smarter than that.

And The Wheel Of Time Keeps On Turning

Robert Jordan died before finishing the Wheel of Time series. Lest I be accused of being insensitive, I’m sorry for the loss of his life, and for the grief his family is suffering right now.

My Visual History

As a great waste of time, it is possible for me to import photos on my phone and use these photos as pictures for people I call (or that call me). I’m not sure when I’ll actually see these pictures, but the facility is there.

More Programming Puzzles

About 2AM, time to go to bed, but first an update on my programming puzzles.

Review: Glasshouse

I always love the universes Stross creates in his singularity science fiction, but I typically hate his writing. It fills a thirst I have for more Vinge usually, but leaves me wanting.

Programming Puzzles

So, I started Programming Challenges. I started with the first problem in the book, 100.

Minesweeper

So, in working through the book, I next did problem 10189.

A Bit More On Opera 9.23

Gripes:

Understanding Wine Ratings

For some reason, I’ve been having the same conversation with different people lately, so I figured I’d just try to clear things up in public.

Streaming Media

The stop button is deprecated for streaming media. Play/pause combination button is all that is needed for stop and go control. Please try and keep up.

Review: The Last Kiss

The Last Kiss was a romantic comedy in the Shakespearean sense. I was curious since a) it was written by Haggis and b) Zach Braff was the main character.

Smoking

I’ve never smoked a cigarette before. So, I figured today was as good a day as any to buy a pack and give it a shot.

Review: Caffeine, South Norwalk, CT

I ducked into Caffeine in South Norwalk last night after an aborted attempt to visit the Ginger Man and try some beer/hang out/whatever. Advice: Never go to the bar solo when you’re somebody like me.

Depressing Books

Buried in amongst a number of other depressing self-help titles, I found that there is actually a book called Dating the Divorced Man: Sort Through the Baggage to Decide If He’s Right for You. This was not a pleasant realization.

What If I Could Be Excessively Longer Than The World

What if the spam I received was true:

Opera 9.23

I’ve talked about Opera before.

Multiple Cores

There’s an interesting article over at coding horror where the argument is made that going from two to four cores doesn’t provide much benefit, except for applications that are explicitly parallel, or synthetic in nature (rendering, scientific, etc.).

Hi Lenovo, You Still Suck

Just in case anybody is wondering, yes, Lenovo laptops are still shit. The good news is that after more than a year the memory parity error problem is supposedly fixed (not holding my breath) with a wireless driver update. The bad news? Well, everything else — wireless performance, bundled software, video drivers, docking isuses with resolutions/hangs/restarts, and this week’s random issue — is still a problem.

I Think I'm Getting Old

Today I realized that the 90’s grunge and alternative station, Lithium, is my favorite music channel on Sirius.

California

I didn’t mention anything about my trip out west last weekend, and that’s likely to stay that way. Not too much to say beyond that it was a good break, and something I needed, in more ways than I can express right now. I unfortunately did not take too many pictures of my adventures.

Bloglines Beta

One of the big struggles I have with applications I use is portability. And, by that, I mean a lot of different things.

Apostrophes

Dear Internet,

Parsing

I got tired of changing code to change my variations of my fractal flame renderer, and decided it was time I actually accept runtime configuration.

Review: Managing Humans

Managing Humans was, well, a good printed version of Rands in Repose. As such, if you haven’t read through the archives of that, it’s a pretty thorough take on some of the management challenges/insights Michael Lopp has regarding software engineering. It borrows heavily (not by design, I think, but just by the nature of the content that results) from Peopleware and The Mythical Man Month, and seems only to share the good bits in common, which is good. Beyond a fresh take on a lot of the issues, the only really unique thing is that Lopp’s book spends more time talking about layoffs than most texts on software engineering management.

Review: Coming Into The Country

I picked up Coming Into the Country while in Alaska, and just finished reading it on my trip to California. It was an enjoyable read, and I especially liked the background on the oil boom, gold boom, capitol move, bush pilots, and the like. I enjoyed all but the trailing end of the last book, which I felt dragged a bit. 6/10.

300.4

Been a sort of sad night. Sad few weeks. The upside to not sleeping well is that I’ve been staying up hacking on stuff. It’s better than laying awake for hours, anyhow. I haven’t really hacked on much in a while, so it’s been good for me, and it’s more productive than dumping a lot of energy into a video game that isn’t really bringing me joy proportional to the effort.

Fuck You, Meth Junkies

I’ve talked a bit before about what a pain in the ass it is for a law-abiding citizen to buy pseudoephedrine. Seeing an absurdly long line at the pharmacist tonight, I decided I’d just give in and opt for the version of the drug that doesn’t contain the the stuff.

Happy Monday To Me

I hate lawyers. Thank you for wasting my morning.

Citibank UI: Sweet

No. Not their banking/credit websites. Their credit/debit cards. They flip the back side so that it’s right side up when you rotate it, so the short-side flip is effective, rather than needing a long-side flip (much harder to do with one hand). Genius. Obvious. More people should be doing this.

Go Noob

I’ve started learning Go by playing against GNU Go. It’s something I’ve been wanting to learn for years, and for some reason I never got around to it. I have no illusion that I’ll ever be passable, let alone good. I’m ok with that.

Getting Closer...

Review: On the Beach

On the Beach was one of the saddest books I ever read. It describes the life of some of the last living humans after a nuclear war has taken out the northern hemisphere, and describes the last few days as they go about their business and prepare to off themselves when the radiation sickness gets too strong. Some people work, some play, some try to love, but they all die in the end, and they know it. It was a beautiful story, but a harrowing read.

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was my least favorite of the seven-book series. It spent the first several hundred pages going nowhere, the next several hundred getting ready to go, and then everything happened. It was unfocused, lacked coherency, and also lacked in the richer story lines and texture of the previous books. Instead, it featured a completely linear plot. The trajectory was obvious from the beginning, and only unimportant details (namely, which unimportant characters die) were left to guessing.

Blizzcon

Blizzcon sort of sucked.

Eep, No Pictures

So I forgot to bring a CF reader or a USB cable for my camera. So, no pictures till I get back. But, I do have a new toy, my murloc costume:

Review: Art School Confidential

Art School Confidential sort of sucked. It tried to be funny and clever, and failed. Totally predictable, and bad acting. 4/10.

My Ongoing Quest For Latte Art

My pointless quest for latte art continues with today’s Rorschach:

Your Favorite Computer Science Curriculum Sucks

Not much to say lately, I’ve been sort of dead to the world. As a small miracle, I managed to get hit with something that snapped me out of my funk for a few minutes.

ZOMG LASER PEW PEW

Mr. Pinchy

This will have zero meaning to virtually all of you. But after fishing daily for nearly six months, with an average take of over 20 furious crawdads a day, I’ve finally caught my first one:

Review: Hustle & Flow

Despite that I couldn’t really tell what Terrence Howard was saying through half the film, I enjoyed Hustle & Flow. It was well done, and didn’t try to make too much of itself. 7/10.

Review: Knocked Up

Knocked Up is the best romantic comedy I’ve ever seen. While the movie was completely predictable, to the point of tedium, there was enough crude humor, graphic shock, and brilliantly funny dialog for supporting cast that I’m glad I saw it.

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Film)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was a horrid adaptation of the book, and not worth seeing whether you read the book or not. Here are the two possibilities:

Opportunists

Somebody has figured out when our recycling truck visits our condo complex. Sunday night, after everybody puts out their cans and bottles, this person comes through and takes anything that has a deposit on it. Personally, my thought is “good for them!” If I’ve thrown it in the bin, I don’t particularly care if it goes to recycling, or if it goes to recycling and makes somebody $4. Somehow I suspect that at the annual meeting we’re going to hear complaints of people sneaking onto the property and stealing things, and how if our cans aren’t safe, neither are our kittens, puppies, and children.

Review: Ratatouille

So, there’s the story of the boy. A no-talent ass clown gets a lucky break by accident. That lucky break turns out to want to keep helping the boy. The boy falls for a girl, the girl falls for the boy. The boy hides his little secret, as it propels him to fame. Eventually, the boy says “screw the secret, it’s me that’s awesome” and alienates his talent. The boy pisses off the girl now that he’s a no-talent ass clown again, and the story ends happily ever after when he admits everything.

Review: Munich

Munich is Spielberg’s latest go of trying too hard to make something meaningful. I think what he’s trying to say is “it’s cool that Israel thought the best way to deal with terrorism was to embrace terrorism.” Note that that’s not what I’m suggesting Spielberg thinks, but just what the movie seems only to suggest. The brief attempts to interject some moments of “hey, maybe this doesn’t make sense” felt forced. I guess if that’s the point of the film, then Spielberg did a swell job, but it seems like an awful one-sided treatment of the topic, even for a work of fiction. Had the moments of doubt and contemplation not been so artificial, the film may have been worth watching. To make matters worse, it was also in need of some editing, with numerous pointless interludes and digressions that served only to stall the momentum the film built along the way. Felt like a bad and meaningless video game. 4/10.

Netflix

Netflix has always had really poor “second user under this account” support. Certain things just don’t ever work, like logging in, deleting profiles, or adding friends, for example.

My Quest For Latte Art

In the realm of foolish quests with no material value, becoming good at latte art ranks pretty high up there. Unless, of course, I want to become a professional barista. I’m pretty sure that pays less than a software engineering job.

Review: Network

Network was a lot of fun; it felt ahead of its time, and eerily possible. As a critique of television, corporate media, and corporations in general, it’s a pretty fascinating take. Definitely worth a watch, just as relevant as the day it was filmed. 8/10.

Review: Nine Lives

Nine Lives was pointless. Nine pretty, short, pointless vignettes. There is no coherency between them, no matter what the director may claim. 4/10.

Review: A History of Violence

A History of Violence was a good mob movie. 7/10.

Review: Pan's Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth was neat. Visually it was a very exciting film, and I thought the story worked well. The “real life” characters were just as much fantasy as the fairy tale portion. I wish perhaps that they hadn’t even bothered with the last little dream sequence, and had ended simply with the girl bleeding out in the labyrinth, but otherwise applaud that it was not tied up in a neat little bow at the end.

Whee!

Alright, deposit paid, going to be several grand poorer in a few days, and a new 10 SEER 2-ton pump is on the way. Rejoice.

What a Difference a Quarter Century Makes

So. Old heat pump:

Hating Home Ownership

Like a heart that has stopped, they kept using more and more boosters to try and fix the compressor. But during that time where pressure was just building in the system, apparently the compressor was getting hot enough that when it cooled, the thing deformed enough to melt into place. So, we need a new heat pump now. They’ll at least discount us the cost of labor and parts to this point, which is a small pittance for how much this is going to cost.

Bag of HVAC Suck, Part n

So Hellas came out again, and tore the unit apart; turns out there were two more things wrong (at least). Apparently there is a low and high pressure compressor cut switch, which is basically meant to keep the compressor from running in temperatures too hot or too cold to be safe. The technician wired a thick jumper over these switches so they can’t do anything, which eliminated the problem of them getting stuck. This made me a bit nervous when I heard it described, but figured it must be standard practice.

I Should Have Known Better Than To Get Excited

I still like Hellas. And I’d agree that the relay was busted. But my heat pump wasn’t working when I got home. Grr.

Hello Lenovo, You Suck, Please Improve

Hellas Air Rocks My World

So for those of you outside the Fairfield County area, this is completely irrelevant. For those of you inside it, Hellas Air is indeed excellent. The technician quickly isolated the problem. He then showed me the problem, and I said “yep, smoke and carbon buildup bad, working good.” And it was good. He ran to the shop to get the right part, came back, replaced the part, verified it, and departed.

The Importance of Neighbors

To this point, I’ve always seen Pack-Timco vans at our condo complex, so that’s who I called when my heat pump wasn’t working, and that’s who took over a month to show up, provided a nice big bill, and said everything’s fine!.

Git

Linus had a little talk at Google about the git distributed source control management project.

Victoria

Victoria itself was good weather, with the sun out and not even a breeze. Pleasant change to be on stable ground after a stormy trip.

Skagway

Seattle, Part II

After the cruise from Victoria to Seattle, it was time to go home. We decided to do a three-hour post-cruise bus tour before getting to the airport. We spent a lot of time driving around downtown, and then stopped at Cafe Appasionato. It was completely horrid in every way, at least as far as coffee goes.

Sailing to Victoria

So. Overnight we headed out of the Alaskan interior and into the open ocean. I woke early in the morning to rather substantial rocking of the boat. While the cruise ship has horizontal stabilizers, and these eat about 80% of the side-to-side motion of the boat, they do nothing for the pitching, especially if you are a good ways away from the moment of the boat (like us!). The size of the boat means that we don’t get little bumps, but we get large periods of motions back and forth. It felt to me, from our cabin, much like it was a large elevator moving constantly up or down over the course of 10-15 seconds, with smooth transitions.

Review: Match Point

Match Point was an irritating movie; the acting was horrible and it was almost as obnoxious about driving its point home as Spider-Man. At the core, it sounds like a Graham Greene novel (man marries, they can’t conceive, he has an affair with his brother-in-law’s future wife, brother in law breaks it off, they keep fucking, affair leads to pregnancy, wife gets pregnant, man kills subject of affair), but in execution it’s more Dostoevsky, of the beat-you-over-the-head-with-it variety. Shame Nabokov was so great, else this might turn into a rant against Russian authors.

Ketchikan

Juneau

Here’s continuing my notes from our cruise. At this rate I may finish up by Christmas or so…

Glacier Bay

Cruising Sucks

So, having briefly recapped the cruise vacation, I figured I’d talk about cruising.

New Experiments

So I took the electrical panel off my heat pump, and all I could find was wires. I quickly realized I was out of my league, since they’re all the same color, and there are no diagrams, and I can’t spot the relay. I suck at life.

Thank You, Faulty Logic

Hey Blizzard! Credit card expiration in this month does not mean that if it’s this month that the card has already expired. Thanks!

Sure Enough

Today the heat pump is stuck off. Not pleased.

Seattle

Friday

My HVAC is Like a Doctor's Visit

So it took a month to get somebody to come look at my compressor.

Review: Scalable Internet Architectures

Theo Schlossnagle’s Scalable Internet Architectures is a book full of good ideas. Unfortunately, the writing is terrible and the intended audience doesn’t exist.

Review: Peopleware

Peopleware was a good read. It does a good job of throwing a lot of conventional management wisdom on its head, and gives a good treatment to best-of-breed management for software engineers. Like most books full of truths, a lot of the ideas seem obvious and intuitive upon reading, but I don’t think the sense presented in the book is particularly common. Though the first portion of the book is dated by technology standards, the material is as fresh as the day it was written, and I think this is a text invaluable to anyone working in the software engineering field, especially those who wish to manager. 8/10.

Review: Market Forces

It creeps me out that I still feel echoes of working at the bank in Market Forces. That said, Morgan’s first novel not featuring Takeshi Kovacs is … the same as a Takeshi Kovacs novel, just with a different plot and different names. The writing style is quite similar, and the protagonist suffers similar flaws and strengths. It feels a bit too contrived at times (which is impressive, compared to a series where re-sleeving is the norm), but is a quick read when one needs an intellectual break and wants more Morgan. 5/10.

Review: A Storm of Swords

I rather enjoyed GRRM’s A Storm of Swords, despite the awkwardness of reading a 1100-page novel. Somehow, unlike Jordan, his books in this series keep getting better, rather than decelerating into mushy go-nowhere do-nothing plot-less cash cows for the author. I continue to admire Martin’s ability to kill off pivotal characters, and to reinvent characters by showing a different side of them to the reader in each book. He continues to have no consistent protagonists or heroes, and does not write any characters as flawless. I’m looking forward to the fourth book. 8/10.

Back from Alaska

Just a quick note; we’re back from Alaska, and despite getting into JFK a little late this morning, am back to reality. Much more blogging later (have a pocket Moleskine full of notes and 5 gigs of photos), but the capsule thoughts are:

Also

Being sick when you’re going on vacation sucks.

The Fallacy of the Open Door

I was thinking the other day about how the whole open door policy. Here’s a definition from answers.com:

What. The. Hell.

I just got a notice of a mismatch between IRS records and my 2005 returns, telling me that I now owe the fed several thousand dollars. I guess it’s called “an audit” and it fucking sucks (the phrase “audit” doesn’t appear, rather they call it “an examination”).

Hey Norwegian Cruise Line: Your Web Site Sucks

Hey, Norwegian Cruise line, your web site sucks. It doesn’t work for shit (which is to say it won’t even let me submit forms) in firefox on a mac, and just barely gets by with Safari. Please try and keep up.

Blah

Couldn’t sleep at all last night, was really frustrating. Took me hours before I could, sleeping pills included.

Whee, Three Years!

So, happy three-year wedding anniversary to us!

Review: Morimoto, Philadelphia

Bill’s birthday is this weekend, and he invited us down to visit him in Philly. We were more than happy to oblige, as we hadn’t seen bill and Krista in quite a while. More about the other bits of the trip later, but let’s start with Morimoto.

Philadelphia

So, we arrived in Philly Friday night, after about 4.5 hours in the car, and checked in at Club Quarters Philadelphia. Well, rather, we walked to the counter, our reservation wasn’t there. It was, actually, just spelled wrong, which is weird when you reserve on the Internet.

Aborted: House of Leaves

I’m putting this one away for a while. I don’t have the mental state at the moment to actually read it. Sorry. I found it good so far … but horribly irritating at the same time. Maybe next attempt…

Sick Kitty

We’re heading to Philadelphia tomorrow. Last night I spotted a lesion growing on Wiki’s face, similar (thought smaller) to the one she had previously due to allergies. Unfortunate, with it being near the eye that gets irritated, it meant that she was rubbing it open to the point of bleeding whenever she got the chance.

Heat Pumps

I was talking to a coworker the other day about the hidden maintenance costs of owning a house, and how that has to be amortized into the monthly payments before you ever kid yourself into thinking ownership might be a “good deal.”

Python, And My Sordid Affair

I’ve wanted to hate Python for so long.

Review: The Squid and the Whale

I thought The Squid and the Whale was a beautiful little film about divorce, self-absorption, and emotional disconnection. 7/10.

Review: Babel

Babel was another weave-the-stories-together film, though a bit better than most of the cruft. I think it provided some worthwhile consideration of America versus the rest of the world, which was interesting. 7/10.

Review: Hot Fuzz

So Hot Fuzz was about what you’d expect; if you go in expecting that, it’s about a perfect 10, but it’s not a good film.

Review: Things You Can Tell Just by Looking At Her

As made-for-Cannes vignette films go, Things You Can Tell Just by Looking At Her was ok, if a bit formulaic. It felt like something that would do well if Oprah had a movie club, instead of a book club. Only mildly thought-provoking, mostly just mindless dialogue. 5/10.

Poignant

Reddit again, but work reposting. $456 Billion

How To Lie With Statistics

Spotted on reddit — I think perhaps this is how the RIAA tabulates record sales. Maybe if they read The Long Tail. Or, the fact that people are now building albums a song at a time rather than with albums….

Office

Internet Video

I was talking with some friends, and I think social Internet video has reached the status of TV with me. That is, it’s not something I miss if I don’t use it. I find myself skipping videos in reddit and so forth, because they bypass my browsing model: Spawn a bunch of tabs, and get to them when I think about it. It’s hard to “skim” a video and decide whether or not it’s worth it, and more often than not the videos are not worth it.

The Frozen North

Every year for our wedding anniversary, we travel somewhere, rather than exchanging gifts. Sort of fits with the whole destination wedding thing, I think. In the past this has meant warm places — the Caribbean, Central America, and South Carolina. This year we’re going to do two things slightly different. First off, we’re going to try a cruise, which we’ve never done before. Second, we’re going somewhere a bit colder (fifties and sixties) — Alaska.

More Kitty, Less Depressed Rambling

Review: Why We Fight

I was glad I watched Why We Fight. I think it could probably be retitled “Eisenhower had it all right, shame we didn’t listen to him.” Ultimately, it’s a not-so-concise description of how Iraq is the same pattern as Vietnam is the same pattern as WWII, etc. Probably a little long for the content it had. I think I also need to watch The Fog of War. 6/10.

Review: The Timeless Way of Building

I found The Timeless Way of Buildling to be a remarkable book. I first heard about it when Alexander was mentioned by Steve Dewhurst at SDWest.

In Case You Weren't Paying Attention, GPS Is Nice Now

A couple of years back, I invested good money in a top-of-the-line navigation GPS. While it still holds its own, for less than half of its cost, I now have a 320×240 color GPS in my car that’s just as accurate, faster to lock from cold or warm start, and includes a street map of the entire country. Oh, and it has navigation and real time routing. It works really well.

Flamenco Guitar

Turns out I like Flamenco Guitar. Heard them covering Metallica’s Orion in a coworker’s car, and was suitably intrigued. The whole album is good.

Depression and the Software Engineer

I identify with this guy (found via Library Stuff).

Two Things

If it’s raining hard enough that you need your wipers on full-tilt just to drive on the interstate, your lights should be on. If you offer email support on your site, answer it. If you don’t plan on answering it, don’t offer it.

Lots Of Stuff, Nothing To Say

I’ve been writing a lot, but nothing for public consumption, sorry about that. Trying some new things. Trying to get what I need.

Review: Layer Cake

I rather enjoyed Layer Cake. Far and away one of the better action films I’ve seen in a while. Clever, rather than irritating, like The Departed 8/10.

I Adopted My Dog

Long Live The Oppo

For some reason my 971H stopped reading discs last night, which sort of sucks since I’m having a movie night Thursday. I have a 970h for next-gen audio playback, but it won’t scale encrypted content to 1080i. So, I’m left with the Xbox 360 software scaling on the VGA input as my highest-resolution playback source, or decrypting the DVDs and re-burning and running on the 970h; both options are shady at best.

Hiccup

Mail and web stuffs were hosed for the better part of a day, sorry about that; it’s the price I pay for cheap web hosting. Seems the NFS mount my data lives on stopped playing nice, data came back, web configs got corrupted, mount went offline, server went offline, mounts were back, web configs corrupted, well, you get the idea. Things seem stable at the moment, we’ll cross our fingers.

Blizzcon

It looks like Sarah and I are going to hit Blizzcon in August. I’m hoping we get something at least as cool as Murky. This will be my first time

Ball of Suck

I ran out of ink in my uni-ball vision elite at work, so I bought another four today. I then discovered after opening them that they are blue ink instead of black. This is most disappointing.

Morons

Let’s just get this straight.

Self Awareness

Sometimes you realize how alone you are when life shits on you and you have nobody to talk to. Nobody that would understand. Or that’s what you think, which is just as bad.

Review: Borat

Borat was a waste of time, even as a satire and criticism of Americans. Yes, I “get it.” That doesn’t make it good. 1/10.

A New Coordinate System

It is horribly awkward to spell out one’s address, city, zipcode, and the like on the phone. Worse yet, when you give such information to somebody, there is nothing encoded in it to indicate to the recipient where you actually live.

Never Let Them See You Sweat

Had a somewhat frank discussion with my boss last week; the major topic of discussion was adjustment to management, and whether or not I felt like regressing (reading this over again, I’m realizing my word choice there is telling) into a purely technical role. In theory, one of the great things about my current company is that there is no superiority in technical leadership versus managerial leadership — both are valued just as highly.

Double Trouble

My coffee drama continues. I’ll continue to write about this as if it were something important, when in fact it’s the most meaningless thing in the world.

Tanqueray Rangpur

Tried Tanqueray Rangpur. Novel. Too sweet. Prepared as a martini. Too much cowbell rangpur. Fun to try for a change, but don’t fuck with a classic. Would probably make a pretty swell gin and tonic, but there are better gins for martini use. 5/10.

Review: C++ Common Knowledge

Despite being a complete moron about how base-2 logarithm notation works, Steve Dewhurst’s C++ Common Knowledge was a good read. No bullshit, which I like. No meta content. Reminiscent of Effective C++, and terribly to-the-point. Take a look if you’re a C++ programmer professionally and don’t consider yourself “an expert.” 8/10.

Google 411

Yeah, so at some point Google figured out that they had all the information that a 411 service would have. So they gave it away for free with voice access, and it works brilliantly. Nice work!

Unexpected Expenses

I hate unexpected expenses. I guess everybody does.

log lg

This has been irritating me lately. Here is my conception of the world of logarithms:

Focus

It is hard to focus when people are emptying your trash, vacuuming, cleaning, etc. In theory it should be possible to actually get something done late at night, but I’m just getting frustrated.

Review: Stumbling on Happiness

Stumbling on Happiness seemed to me to be a thorough survey of historical and contemporary research on what makes us happy. It is not a self-help book (thank God), but rather a bit of a scientific journey, and an exploration of what, scientifically speaking, determines happiness, and how more than anything perception and the way it’s influenced impacts our feelings.

Review: Eraserhead

Yeah, I feel that way too sometimes. 6/10.

Taxes

Filing your taxes the first time: $575 + a whole lot of money.

Review: Shortbus

Shortbus was excellent. Not for those squeamish about mild sexuality. Not at all pornographic. Somewhat predictable, but not in a way insulting to the viewer. Poignant, but doesn’t try to beat one over the head with meaning. 9/10.

Office 2007

So.

Two Phrases

I’m trying to find two phrases/words, which I can describe, but can’t recall (if indeed they exist):

Review: Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero was an enjoyable read. In a way, it’s the perfect anti-existential novel:

Conserve The Sheets

This kind of crap bugs me:

Social Work

One of the struggles I’ve yet to figure out how to manage is the conflict of work and life in my mind. As much as I can, I’ve always wanted to keep my work like and my social life separate. The idea is that, once I leave work, work is at the office, and now I’m free to enjoy myself without the responsibilities/standards of the workplace. This is not to say that my behavior is orthogonal outside the office, but it’s nice not having to think things through.

California, Sarah

So I made it back from California. The JetBlue flight, despite leaving much later in the day than I’d prefer, actually departed ahead of schedule, and made the trip in just over 5 hours, so I was home by just after 8 this morning.

Heterogeneous Control Paradigms

What brought me to thinking about this is the following scenario. I’m editing a file in vim, and I want to vertical split a different file and work with it. :vps path/to/a/file I write. Crap, what I really wanted was :vsp instead. So I do a :vsp !*. I suppose I could have hit :, up-arrow, and edited my command-line, but that’s no longer my natural response, because I have an innate comfort with command-line manipulation in my shell of choice.

White Noise

I’m easily distracted by noises in the night, especially those that don’t happen frequently under my normal sleeping conditions. One way I combat that when traveling is to always have the HVAC unit at full fan, which keeps the white noise up and makes it harder to be distracted by all of the things that are happening.

Review: She Comes First

She Comes First is the book to which I was referring while complaining about meta-content. It is an egregious offender. Any chapter over two pages has a summary section. I won’t go into the details, but I’d wager over 60% of the book is meta-content. Trust in your reader to read! Don’t repeatedly bash them over the head with the same damn thing again and again.

Whee!

One week down in California, and one more to go before I red-eye back for Sarah’s birthday. I had a good time at the conference, and had a good time with friends this weekend, and enjoyed being out here; I wish only that I had more time to spend, and more opportunities to do things before going back. I find I rather like it in California. There was something magical driving through the mountains over the last few days, and driving over the San Mateo bridge today, and walking along the coast and watching the jets land at SFO.

Twitter

Everybody is excited about twitter now, and I’m not sure I get it. Seems like the sesame street generation version of blogging combined with that special form of cultural dance known as “saying things in your away message.” The great big upside of using bitlbee is that I can stay disconnected from my primary IM, but always be “online.” This means I don’t miss messages, though they may come a bit late. Oh, and centralized logging, which is key. Of course, this means I’ve turned my IM more into an email sort of thing, but … whatever. Downside is bitlbee doesn’t really support the reading of other away messages, so I miss out on that particular bit of fun. I think it would be great if twitter could aggregate that information for me from other users, but that’s entirely another story.

Review: Tatja Grimm's World

I’m a huge Vinge fan, but Tatja Grimm’s World was disappointing. It’s not disappointing because it’s not singularity scifi (well, it is, but not with the intensity of much of his stuff), but because it feels like a short novella inflated to novel length. Unfortunately, the padding used wasn’t that engaging, and the characters were rather hollow. 5/10.

More California Genius

I’ve grown fond of Safeway out here. They are just grocery stores, but in addition to the ubiquitous Starbucks, they also have a Jamba Juice, full deli, and a nut roaster. Anyhow, that’s not the point, so much as an intro. The genius is out here, rather than training their employees (at the deli in this case) to actually use a sharp knife, they just make them wear steel mesh gloves with their non-knife hand, so it doesn’t matter if they miss and go for their thumb. Awesomeness.

Meta Content

I’ve commented on this before, but it’s worth repeating: I hate meta content in books. Chapters and chapters where every paragraph mentions things to come later or details that will be covered in the course of this book or stuff that will be discussed in part II. Write the content of the book. Then complete the book. Do not provide extensive introductions, commentary on things to come, or try to sell the reader on the book once they’re already reading it. I have a similar aversion to frequent summarizations (read: one per chapter when chapters are 1-2 pages), bullet lists of key points, and other PowerPoint-ready isomorphisms.

Creative Writing Experiment

I’ve been thinking an awful lot about writing a suicide note lately. Don’t worry, I’m not thinking of “ending it all” or that it would be “easier to just give up.” Rather, I was just thinking about how effective of a frame it would be for telling a story. Think of all the things you would want to say to people not just if you were going to die, but were planning on ending your life. Who you would want to thank, what you would want to say to them, how you would want some people to know it’s not their fault, how you hope others will suffer because of it (hey, like I say, writing it as if it were real, not rational). I don’t think I will ever do it, or if I did I doubt I’d make it public, since it would be too easily misunderstood, but I think it would make one hell of a creative writing assignment in a college composition class.

The Genius of California

It struck me while stuck in rush hour traffic tonight that California is smart about some things. While we have HOV lanes out here, we use them for entirely the wrong things. California realized that they can do nasty things like queue non-HOV passengers, and just give a separate flyover ramp for hybrids and carpools. The genius is this: Most states that provide benefits for hybrid owners and carpoolers do so only through financial incentives — reduces taxes, awards, and the like. California does something far cooler: they provide a reward of time back to the people that satisfy these conditions, by letting people get home/to work sooner, and time is the greatest luxury out there.

Conference Done

I have now finished my week at the conference. It was an enjoyable and educational experience, if a bit overwhelming at times. I think I ended up getting the most out of Steve Dewhurst’s talks, many of which centered around ways of simplifying code and using abstractions to get away from sticky coding nightmares.

Review: Eats, Shoots & Leaves

I rather enjoyed Eats, Shoots & Leaves. I kept hearing in low voices while sitting at JFK’s extension JetBlue temporary terminal “he’s reading a book about grammar!” I don’t know if these were cries of intense respect. In fact, I’m pretty sure the folks saying these things were all making fun of me. Despite the seemingly dull topic, I found the book quite readable and finished it in one sitting (modulo getting up to get on the plane). I rather enjoyed the author’s humor and commentary, and the book as a whole was a good refresher and reminder of things I never really learned. 7/10.

Conference

So I’m at my first conference, SDWest in this case. Conferences are … interesting. They’re a form of indirect compensation, and it’s nice to work for a company that sees value in them. Admittedly, I could probably learn everything here by reading several books, but it’s much more pleasant this way, and there are a lot of unique opportunities afforded me by the experience.

Two Quick Stories

First, there was a guy next to me on the plane. Forties or so. His TV didn’t work, and he didn’t pack any backup entertainment, so he was fidgety like a child for the 6.5 hour flight, constantly getting up, walking back and forth, etc. After about three hours of this he started getting successful hitting on one of the attendants, and then he and she disappeared to the back of the plane.

Review: A Scanner Darkly

I enjoyed reading A Scanner Darkly. I appreciate how Dick decided not to make a morality tale out of it, and doesn’t try to tie things up neatly in the end. The story leaves a fantastic amount to the imagination, and only once does Dick digress into “hey idiot, if you haven’t figured it out already, this is what’s going on.” 8/10.

<3 Bill Maher

It’s all over the Internet I’m sure, and I found it linked from Reddit, but this dialogue by Bill Maher is most excellent. Bravo.

Keys

I dropped my keys outside coming in last night, apparently. Somebody put them in my trunk, but didn’t steal my car. That was a nice thing.

Dumb Stuff

Chase sends an email saying we could win $25,000 by going paperless.

Whee Travel

Heading to California for two weeks today, and of course out of nowhere we get this whole blizzard thing. Funniest thing is this:

A Sense Of Frustration I Cannot Express Coherently

Note: Reworked and reworded after I’d gotten past all the anger. It’s been a … frustrating day. I was pretty calm about things until this evening, and then things started getting to me.

Review: The Constant Gardner

I rather enjoyed The Constant Gardner. Many of the shots flying over Africa were beautiful, and the interludes where the story wasn’t being told were visually stunning. I thought the story was extremely predictable from the first few minutes, though the way in which things ultimately concluded was far better than “the good guy outs the bad guys and all is well” which I appreciated. 7/10.

Review: 300

We saw 300 in IMAX at the Palisades today. I enjoyed the time out with my wife, and it was a visually impressive film, but beyond the visual bits was disappointing at best. I think I liked it better as a trailer than as a real film. Cut into a 10-minute music video, I think it would have been excellent. 4/10.

Review: 9 Songs

I enjoyed 9 Songs, but I have a hard time saying that it is not pornography. Perhaps the pinnacle of what pornography should be — meaningful, intellectual, and erotic. I can’t really be convinced that the film stands on its own merits, however. 5/10.

Review: To Die For

Gus Van Sant’s To Die For was good. Nicole Kidman was excellent. I liked the half narrative, half news story frame. This was my second Van Sant film (Elephant was my first, which I also quite enjoyed), and I’m thinking I’m going to have to go back and see some of his other works. 7/10.

A Plea For Sanity In Paging Design

I have a serious qualm with web pagination. My premise is rather simple: Your web browser has a scroll bar, and your mouse has a scroll wheel. If you are lacking the latter, you have page control buttons on your keyboard.

Anecdote Two

When I got back from DC, I arrived at the Stamford train station, pulled out my keyfob, clicked unlock, and immediately realized what I had done — I left the map lights on. Sure enough, couldn’t even get ignition circuits powered up, everything was fully dark.

Back From DC

I’ve returned from my trip to the nation’s capitol (haha, pedants, I got it right, eat it).

Anecdote One

So on the train to DC, I happened to notice a lady writing a PowerPoint slide in front of me. I feel bad, but I can’t help but read laptops in front of me on trains/planes, especially ones with big fonts and so forth.

Review: The Game

I was more impressed than I expected by The Game, an offering by Neil Strauss chronicling his rise (and fall?) as a pickup artist. There was a certain amount of what you would expect with such a book, but there’s a lot more story and intrigue than I expected. Granted, Strauss goes on and on about the impending fall, building up this great big event, and then sort of whimpers out with a little bit of “yeah, and then it was over.” Could use some work there, but otherwise I enjoyed it, and finished it just in the weekend trip. 7/10.

I Know, You Have To Make It For Them To Take It

I know that part of taxes is that they can’t tax what you don’t make.

Grandpa

On the upside, my grandfather pulled through his valve replacement, and other than being very groggy sounds to be in good shape. Hurrah for a man in his eighties with perfect health other than this valve, clinical blindness, and near-deafness. :) “Veins and arteries of a 35-year-old.”

Abject Failure

Haven’t had anything but reviews to share lately, and not insightful ones at that.

Review: Boogie Nights

Somehow, I’d never seen Boogie Nights before. It was good. I think my favorite performance was Julianne Moore. She does self-medicating going-nuts lady really well (see Magnolia for more of the same). It was a bit long, maybe needs some editing; didn’t have the poignancy for me that made Magnolia’s excessive length (over three hours) worth it. 6/10.

Review: Clerks II

I enjoyed Clerks II; it was … another Clerks film. Exactly what I’d expect, little more, but no less. 6/10.

Review: An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth did not make me suddenly respect him more or anything silly like that. It was, however, a good heartfelt documentary. I sort of which it had just been a videotape of his lecture, and not his little “I’ll play with my powerbook on the plane now” or “I’ll tell you my sob story about my family thing” now. All of that said, pollution is a bitch, and we’re sort of screwed, and I think he does a good job of presenting that. 6/10.

Review: A Clash of Kings

I wasn’t that impressed with A Game of Thrones, but I decided to try the next novel in the series, A Clash of Kings, since my friends seem to like it so damn much.

Killington

We went up to Killington. It was swell. “Best snow in 7 years” said our first instructor. It was damn fine snow. Went through the level I and II courses, and are ready for III now. Played around in snowshed a lot, had a good time; constant snowfall meant for good powder. Would definitely do it again. Highridge condos were ok, though the boiler not working and the mice were a bit unfortunate.

Review: The Old New Thing

The Old New Thing is a book by Raymond Chen that offers a summary of the content that’s been on his blog. As his blog is great reading, I certainly don’t mind having some of the best content in hardcopy format.

Filing Done

Alright, major logistic challenge number one of my resolutions is finished — I’ve refiled all the stuff that was piled in boxes, and migrated the files to the new filing cabinet.

Review: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

I wanted to love Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, but at best I was luke-warm. Yeah, it’s another Reservoir Dogs, but not as good. 6/10.

Review: This Film Is Not Yet Rated

This Film Is Not Yet Rated is a documentary that examines the MPAA ratings system, shielded in secrecy and consistent only in its inconsistency and lack of accountability. I think the most fascinating sequence is when they show, side-by-side, the same scenes, on one side straight (receiving an R rating) and the other gay (receiving an NC-17 rating). The near-comic-relief aspect of the lesbian private investigators is pretty much a waste of time compared to the rest of the thing, but overall I think it was worth the watch. 6/10.

Getting Tired Of The Warlock Nerfs

Yeah, warlocks got nerfed again. Meanwhile, druids tank better than warriors, do more damage than cloth casters as oomkins, and can out-damage a rogue. Oh, and they can fly out of a fall. Because it’s fair for somebody who can’t decide what they want to do to be better in every way than somebody who can.

Review: Last Tango in Paris

Last Tango in Paris was interesting. Bertolucci’s (at the time) graphic (and in fact X-rated) drama would most likely pass for R these days, but it’s easy to see how it would have been controversial over three decades ago.

Review: Y tu mamá también

Y tu mamá también was a cute little film, a bit of a tale of travel, love, and sex. It wasn’t especially deep or moving, but I enjoyed it. 6/10.

I Will Know When I've Made It

I will know that I’ve really made it when I can buy furniture made of wood, and not fiberboard. It will be finished in stain, not veneer. I will not have to put it together.

Netflix Strikes

So I’ve had occasional issues where, depending on where I sent my DVDs back, Netflix would take more than a day to receive them. Till this last weekend, I had a special trick, in that I only saved my White Plains envelopes, as those always made it back in one day.

SMS Sucks

I hate SMS messaging.

Review: About Schmidt

In About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson plays Jack Nicholson; I couldn’t complain. Life sucks, and then you die. I liked it, but it was trying too hard to be meaningful. 6/10.

Review: Romance

Romance (sorry, can’t find the IMDB link) was much better than I expected. I figured it would end up being high-end pornography, but I’d say it was sufficiently good to be considered as a film instead. I enjoyed its monologues and their sentiments, and treated it as I feel was intended — as a meditation on love, sex, trust, and oneself. To be sure, the film is intensely graphic, but not without point, and not to the point of just carrying over into pornography. Well, and it’s French, and I like French films. 8/10.

2008

Clinton.

Review: Brick

I loved Brick. Film noir. High school kids. Pure awesome. 8/10

Review: Bottle Rocket

I hated bottle rocket. It was trite and not worth my time. 3/10.

Review: Amores Perros

Amores Perros was another of these formulaic stories where you take n unconnected stories and then through the course of the film tie them all together into one coherent point. Done well, it’s meant to say something poignant about: love, sex, relationships, hate, rage, commitment, violence, society, culture, and just about anything else important.

Mental Clarity

I went for a half hour walk today and the previous two days. It’s far from an impressive feat, and certainly puts my weekly exercise level barely above ‘sedentary’ but I’m glad I did something; probably the most exercise I’ve gotten in a week in the last .. oh .. year.

I Guess It's Been Decided

I’ve been waiting for the moment to determine whether I should invest in Blu-Ray or HD-DVD. The wait is over! The porn industry has selected HD-DVD.

High Pitch Whine

The dual G5 is emitting a high-pitched whine, and for all the poking around in the case I can do, I can’t figure out the source, except that it’s near the CPU. The thing has, in the past, always made a bit of high pitched noise when the CPUs are under heavy load, but this consistent high-pitched whine thing is new. On the upside, it’s so damn irritating that I may well be interested in spending more time reading and away from the damn thing, at least until I invest in some earplugs.

Cunnilingus Versus Fellatio

Alright, Violet Blue? You’ve got to be kidding me. Best porno name ever.

Review: Children of Men

Children of Men was good. Things tied up a little neatly at the end, but if one rationalizes away the inconsistencies as allusions to faith and adventures in absurdities, I think it’s hard to find much fault. It was very Twelve Monkeys with better writing and plot, while also lacking Gilliam’s meticulous (notorious?) attention to detail. Going to peg it at 8/10 for now, we’ll see how I feel after I give it another watching in half a year or so…

Mmm, Mussels

So I decided to buy 2.5 pounds of mussels from the local seafood store (Pagano’s seafood).

Innoculation Against The Whooping Cough

Yeah, so did the physical thing, that was fun. I’m now innoculated against whooping cough, which is apparently making a fierce comeback in recent months.

Alright, I Give Up

I have given up the idea of finishing GEB on this reading. I made it to page 337. Next time through I’ll start over and read from the beginning again, and maybe get a bit further. After reading this far, I begin to wonder if indeed that isn’t the best way to read the text, through a recursive journey. The book is fascinating, but I don’t have enough state to read it late at night and get anything out of it as it gets more abstract. I think, were I to find myself with a month of time off, I’d probably easily breeze through it, but who knows. Better luck next time, self.

Review: Beautiful Evidence

I am a huge fan of the ideas of Edward Tufte, and his thoughts on information design. I was hooked from the first page in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, and got a lot of value out of seeing him speak live.

Mental Health At Anthem BCBS CT

So let’s just say you are an Anthem BCBS subscriber in the state of Connecticut, and you decide you want to talk to a psychologist:

Hostile Host Environments

I’m in the business of writing software that has to exist in a hostile host environment. To some extent, anybody who writes software is in this situation. On the best end of the scale the hostile environment is relatively well designed and all its parameters and parasites are known by the engineer. Additionally, the environment does a good job of protecting processes from one another, and minimizes interference to things that can pass across communication layers and shared resource exhaustion. Take, for example, writing daemon processes on a unix system.

Verbiage

Is there a word or phrase for the phenomenon wherein an abbreviation develops into its own word, at least in vernacular? For example, lauging out loud becoming LOL, becoming lawl?

The User Always Lies

In House, the mantra is “the patient always lies.” Something tells me that sentiment (if not that exact phrase) has been around for a while. Working with software, I think a natural extension of this law is “the user always lies.” I don’t seem to be the first to put that exact string of words together according to Google, but I’m pretty close.

Warlock Spellstone/Wand Macro

For those of you locks looking to have one button that either shoots your wand or activates your spellstone (I couldn’t find an example of this) in the 2.0 UI, here it goes (and I don’t know this funky macro stuff, so there may be a better way, but I couldn’t get the conditional /cast working):

Resolutions Thus Far

Slow progress, but progress:

Random Thoughts After Midnight

Bah, can’t sleep. Random thought (honest, no particular relevance to anything): It’s harder to escape your first job out of college and its implications than you think.

Bitches, This Is How We Roll

Theroux On America And Beyond

Great op-ed from Theroux over at the New York Times that echoes many of the things we’ve come across while traveling or thinking about the way the world is changing:

Sunrise

Saw this looking out the office window this morning…

PPO Downside

I find that the downside of a PPO is because you don’t have to have a primary physician, it’s easy not to. So then you end up picking somebody at random and seeing what happens. That sort of sucks.

California in Pictures

As mentioned, Sarah and I went to the west coast for New year’s. Since I’ve been neglecting to post photos of my kitties, here’s a shot of Loki for no particular reason:

Back From California

Had an awesome time in California (a bit more on that in good time), and am back now after our red-eye. Sort of want to go to sleep, but the maids are coming soon. Of course, since it involved a) travel and b) us, there were hassles. On the way out we had equipment arrival issues, departure delays, and ground holds. Oh, and we had to park in the JFK overflow lot, which adds another 15 minutes of joy on top of the normal long-term parking hassle. On the way back, our equipment was late out of JFK, so we didn’t leave until about midnight; encountered gate availability delays on arrival, and then they had equipment issues with getting the bags off the plane, so that held us up even more. But, we got home at about 10:30 AM, so it works out.

2006

Review: Woken Furies

Richard K. Morgan’s fourth major novel, Woken Furies, was a decent read. The third book in the Takeshi Kovacs series, it continues (well, as much as it can given the story) the adventure of Kovacs, this time with him encountering himself (again), as well as Quell (maybe), and learning a few new things about the Martians. To me, I felt like Morgan lost a bit of the focus the previous novels had, and it was a lot more internal dialog/flashback/constant action, without as much clever story work. Needs polish, or something like that. Still, a fun and engaging read. Maybe he’s just trying to bite off too much with one book. 6/10.

Review: The Glass Bead Game

The Glass Bead Game was perhaps the most interesting book I finished over the holiday. Hermann Hesse’s magnum opus confronts issues of elitism, genius, the interrelationships of art and science, higher education, sheltered intellect, and numerous other topics. I found it an interesting meditation on the importance of making sure the intellectual elite stay connected with society, and how we often lose sight of what’s important. 7/10.

Review: The Art of UNIX Programming

The first half of The Art of UNIX Programming was great; a nice refresher on a lot of stuff I knew but hadn’t seen formalized. The second half was a lot more fluff; case studies and best practices. Strangely, the second half was a lot more familiar to me, and if you’ve read the first half and also existed in the Unix world for more than a few years, it’s all pretty self-evident. On the other hand, if you had read the first half of the book but had never really spent any time with Unix, I think one might find it rather fascinating. Very much worth a read to understand the Unix mindset and philosophy, even if you think you already do; skip the second half if you’ve been hacking on it for a while, however. 7/10.

Another Holiday, Another Airline Hassle

True to form, the airlines screwed us on the way home, and we just got home, well after midnight, instead of getting home in time for a late dinner. We sat on a plane for two hours while they fiddled with the ground power unit, rebooting the plane’s cockpit a half dozen times before declaring they couldn’t figure it out, and maybe it was time to grab some new equipment. Second plane was in good working order, but of course they had to transfer the crew and luggage, file new paperwork, and get a slot to get out of the abomination that is ORD. So, four flights since we departed from New York a few days ago, we’re back from Christmas with luggage intact, and that’s about all the more I can muster at the moment.

Why I Like OS X

I left Mail.app running at home. Since I use IMAP, I don’t have to worry about a fetching race, but it’s still irritating since Mail.app marks stuff as received, and does lazy deletion, so things look funky in mutt as long as Mail.app is also running.

Gift Cards, Psychologists, Amazon Prime

You can no longer by American Express gift cards in Connecticut, it seems. I thought it was just Staples that had stopped stocking them, but I cannot order one directly from American Express either. In a quick search, I couldn’t find an explanation why, though I suspect it might have something to do with the Connecticut Gift Card law, which prevents such things from expiry. Generally the best way to find a good doctor/mechanic/plumber/painter/contractor is to find somebody else you trust who has had good experiences. Unfortunately, “Hey Fred, had any luck with a psychologist in the area?” probably isn’t the best conversation starter. Then there’s the whole stigma of “Why is Bob asking around for a psychologist?” Shame, really. In the last month, UPS has either failed to deliver or severely delayed delivery of at least four shipments of mine from Amazon.com. All were “premium” shipping and “second-day air” and all were direct from Amazon. I’ve had zero issues with direct ships from Amazon vendors, or with shipping via “slower” methods. Far from statistical certainty here, but I think Amazon is probably sending the wrong message by screwing up its Amazon Prime deliveries. I’ve scheduled a physical for early January. It only took me about two and a half years. I’ve got the dental thing under control, but it’s probably about time for another eye exam. I still don’t have a primary physician, which while perfectly valid under the whole PPO thing, is a little disconcerting. It would be nice to have somebody who knows the various things that are already wrong with me (not that anybody can actually explain them) so that when I go with a chest pain we can skip the 30 minutes of inconclusive background story, but that’s probably a pipe dream.

Review: Aeropress

Got an Aeropress for my birthday and I’ll be damned, the thing works awesome.

Cheese For My Birthday

Flying For The Holidays

A few dollars lighter, I think we’ve finished booking all of our holiday travel. We’re going to be heading to Kansas around Christmas to be with Sarah’s paternal family.

Resolutions, MkII

Getting a little ahead of myself, but I decided to look back and do a final review of this year’s resolutions.

No News Is Not Good News

Not sure that no news is good news, but for now it’s all the news I’ve got. A long time ago I’d ordered some t-shirts, and they just recently showed up. As I was putting them away, I noticed that I have a lot of t-shirts, and I wear but a small subset of them. Similarly, I noticed there was a crate of shirts I had yet to unpack since moving to the condo.

Yesterday

It was one of those weird mornings where it was just warm enough to have the windows open on the car while wearing a coat. This also happens to be the temperature range where the WRX, for some reason, seems to operate at 105%. Warmer than this and everything is as normal, colder than this and it runs a little “rough.”

Lost by carrier, Arrived at destination country

So, got a new one from UPS today. The relevant portion of the tracking summary follows.

Just A Friendly Reminder

So there’s a guy on myspace that decided to take one of my photos and use it as his myspace background.

Bare Feet

In a moment of brilliance, I managed to leave my only good pair of orthopedically correct shoes in the back of our rental PT Cruiser (mini-review: sucked). For new readers, I have a leg that’s too short, and wearing shoes at the same height causes my hip/spine/back to do bad things.

Oh Right, Where Were We?

So I didn’t mean to interrupt the narrative for random tales of site maintenance about which nobody cares. We did indeed make it to the Midwest to see family and friends. Spent Wednesday with my brother, which ended up involving a trip to the Mongolian barbecue place (meh) and watching Casino Royale again.

Dreamhost Move

So, I sort of got tired of dealing with the ongoing csoft problems, and I’m trying dreamhost, we’ll see how it works. If the website randomly craps out or dies, let me know. DNS should be fully synced up within a day or two.

Sleeve Bearings

Why the hell do people still put fans with sleeve bearings in computer hardware? Was getting horrible noise from my file server at home, to discover that the chipset fan was failing. Fine. Unplugged that, I think I’ll survive for now. But, while in there, I’m noticing that the CPU fan is dying. An expensive CPU/heatsink combination, but apparently not expensive enough to warrant a proper ball bearing design. Just a few months into ownership, the original exhaust blower (I didn’t figure I needed it, but it was there, and evacuated some heat off the RAID controller) shipped with the case popped its sleeve and started dying. I had the presence of mind to at least tear out all the case and power supply fans and replace them with panaflo 80/120mm fans, which are still running without complaint.

Off to the Midwest

Couldn’t fall asleep again last night until after 2.

The Wii

So Kyle was nice and brought his wii over (HAHAHAHA, wii).

Thanks, Weinsteins

So just read this note at USA Today. Eww. I just linked to USA Today.

Review: Five Guys Burgers, Orange, CT

Since first hearing about Five Guys I had to go and try the famous burgers and french fries myself.

Review: Crash

I think with Crash I’m officially tired of the “a whole bunch of meaningful but small vignettes that all somehow tie together in the end, even though you never expected that they would, and everything in the world is all interrelated” movie frame. There’s nothing wrong with this frame, but it’s no longer impressive enough on its own without something meaningful to say. Granted, Crash tries to focus on race politics in a nice neat “at the end of the day, everything isn’t as it seems, and it’s all good” sort of way. I pretty much hated the film, and don’t think it said anything insightful or meaningful, rather I think it played at the fact that it was trying too hard to say something insightful or meaningful, and bludgeon you in the head with it. It was well done, but overdone; few things are more offensive than a film that tells you it’s important. 3/10.

Review: Habana, Norwalk, CT

Habana Restaurant in Norwalk was interesting. Sky and I visited, hoping to find excellent cubanos and whatever else came our way.

Review: Casino Royale

Casino Royale is the best Bond Film I’ve seen, and not a bad film in its own right. Keep in mind that I’m judging it as a bond film, but bravo. The only thing that sort of sucked was the amount of Sony product placement. It just got downright obnoxious after a point. 8/10.

Disposable Vibrators And Coke Machines

Saw two things this week that struck me as clever.

Hottop Roaster == Crap

So this morning I finished my 49th batch in my HotTop roaster. As I was removing it from the porch, I managed to catch one of its legs on the step, and broke the leg off. After making a new leg (PVC end cap + epoxy FTW), I plugged it in, and it no longer powered up.

Please Enter Your Sixteen Digit Number Followed By The Pound Sign

I had some issues getting gift cards for Borders from Discover; I get the $25 borders gift certificate for $20 of cash back money option pretty often, since I’m not real big on steaks by mail. In any event, I had one gift card show up, and then nothing else for about a week, so I called Discover, and asked where the other 4 that should be in my order are.

I Just Want A Fatburger

So I thought perhaps the way to at least distract myself from this cloud of gloom was to go get a Fatburger. The closest Fatburger I know of is at the Palisades Center, so I drove there. Got to Fatburger at 12:30, and was told they weren’t open yet. When would they open? “I don’t know, maybe half an hour?”

Yay.

Hurray, depression out of nowhere.

Review: Accelerando

Charles Stross has written an outright load of rubbish. I should have enjoyed Accelerando , but instead I found myself halfway through the novel thinking to myself that I’d not yet found a redeeming quality about the book, beyond that it was half over. I decided to throw it out, and have not returned.

Bloglines Scroll To Top Issue

I’ve been having the problem for a bit that when I right click the first time in a bloglines article that my article pane scrolls to the top. Today I figured out it’s because I have caret browsing enabled. Thus, I thought I’d share.

Yo, What's With These Slackers?

There was no line at the polling place. At 9. Are people forgetting that this election is second in importance (and only ever so slightly so) to the presidential election?

Travel Sucks

Spending a long weekend on the west coast? Awesome.

Review: The Mythical Man-Month

I finally got around to reading a classic text in the field of software engineering (where it’s mighty classic indeed at over 20 years old) — The Mythical Man Month.

Facebook?

So my flirtation with Orkut was brief, as I never saw the point. Joel’s compendium of essays has a good one (I forget the author/title at the moment) discussing why social networking sites are dumb, and I tend to appreciate that author’s viewpoint.

Review: Satisfaction

I had a hard time finishing Satisfaction: Sensation Seeking, Novelty, and the Science of Finding True Fulfillment. I think the disorganized incoherency of the book is closely aligned with the rambling mess of a title it bears.

Review: The Algorithm Design Manual

I have mixed feelings about The Algorithm Design Manual. It seems like the perfect CS textbook for a programmer that hasn’t had a classical CS training, if that makes any sense. The first major chunk of the book covers basic searching, sorting, and data structures, and then proceeds to touch on computational geometry and graph theory.

Pill Popping

I’ve somehow caught another cold while fighting off the first one. I went to the store and got the VICKS DayQuil/NyQuil double pack thing. It’s a big box that has a healthy dose of both drugs, sold at a discount to buying both separately.

OMG Clicky Buttons Tag It Save It Share It

I have not yet jumped on the newest weblog bandwagon. Those of us who have been around for more than a couple of years on the Internet remember some earlier fads. Some examples: The blink tag, javascript background faders, and a sidebar full of advocacy banners.

FM Modulators And Some Radio Rambling

There’s an interesting blurb over at techdirt talking about the battle between NPR and FM Modulators. For a while, I used a satellite radio with a built in FM modulator for a while. The little Sirius Sportster radio had some pretty cool features: A rewind/pause buffer, built-in FM modulation, you get the idea. It got me to love Sirius, but I threw it out in the end because its flaky antenna mount in the cradle would far too often fail to connect without bludgeoning the thing to death.

Review: The Departed

Sarah and I went on a date to the Darien Playhouse to see The Departed. It was sort of weird. It’s a small little theater, and only old people go there. We were probably the youngest people there, it was awesome, save for the collective gasps whenever somebody died in particularly gruesome fashion. They had the sound turned a little high, though that was probably for the old people too.

Whee, Thanksgiving Booked

Thanksgiving travel and car is booked. I swear this gets more expensive every year. I think it was NPR I was listening to that indicated people booking early have made sure that procrastinators like me are going to eat it.

NSFW

I find this fascinating, and maybe this is nothing new, but I just read an article on wired that opens with:

Firefox 2.0

So I’ve done the firefox 2.0 thing for a few days now. Coolest thing is the speed improvement and online spell checking in text areas. I sort of wish it spell checked normal inputs as well, though that’s just a little niggle.

Weird Headache

Had a really odd headache last night. The symptoms were a general head pain, but when I would tilt my head I would suddenly feel as if I were drunk, complete with spinning room effects. It’s gone this morning, which is good, but I was really not a fan.

Stream of Consciousness: Peanut Butter and Management

Stream of consciousness brain dump time…

Review: Uncommon Carriers

John McPhee’s Uncommon Carriers was an ok book, though hardly his best. He sets out trying to explore the livelihood of those that move stuff with big equipment — freighters, trains, semi drivers, barge captains, package handlers, and the like. And then, in the middle, he starts up this dumb summary of a canoe trip. It’s not a bad story, but it really doesn’t mesh with the spirit of the book, and instead is a bit of a literary travelogue. Cut it out and the book isn’t all bad, though the last little tie-it-up chapter where he revisits the semi driver is a bit dull as well. 6/10.

No More Clutch Noise

There’s something about starting the week at the Subaru dealership that makes life more … well, it’s a Monday, anyhow. My rear driver-side door no longer has a failing seal, which is a plus. More importantly, after several failed attempts to find anything wrong, the technicians now indicate that my clutch pedal was out of adjustment, and that was causing all the noise. A quick adjustment and some more lubrication (I’m starting to get the sense that the way to solve any noise in a car is to dump grease into it until the noise of part failure can’t get out), and now I can actually get into first gear. As an added bonus, there aren’t any more funny ratcheting noises when I release the clutch.

Flow Intuition

At work we have a bathroom. It has five sinks. For logistical reasons, there is one sink that is:

Half.com

Alright, so I know it’s going to sound like I’m about 5 years late coming to the party… but I’ve started using half.com.

Review: The Dreamers

The Dreamers wasn’t quite what I expected. On one hand it’s a film about an incestuous love triangle, focusing more on self-absorbption than anything with any real meaning. Yeah. Quick shock value: Nudity, graphic depictions of sexul and mature material, and incest? Check, check, check. Alright, it’s NC-17, got it. What else?

Private Struggles

A friend at work gave me a yo-yo yesterday out of the blue. Maybe I’d given some useful advice at some point in the past, or maybe he just was pleased to find somebody else who liked yo-yos (and hopefully he doesn’t mind that I’m completely lacking in skill), but it was really touching, and I don’t know that I fully understand why. It meant a lot to me.

Awesome, You Killed Somebody!

Am I the only one that is disturbed by the sensationalization of violence in this Washington Post article article?

Review: Raising Victor Vargas

Just finished Raising Victor Vargas. I think it featured the most embarassing moment in cinema, when Altagracia Guzman, playing ‘Grandma’ walks in on Silvestre Rasuk (‘Nino’) while he’s masturbating in the bathroom.

Cablevision Call Centers

So cablevision calls me every so often to sell something. I’ve asked to be removed from their list. They’ve called me again, and I asked if I was showing as being on their “don’t call me” list of customers.

Review: Lost Highway

Alright, too many David Lynch films in one year (read: more than one). I watched Lost Highway, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for years, since it has one of the best soundtracks ever.

Apple Lossless and iTunes

I’m flirting with the idea of abandoning FLAC and switching to apple lossless. Here’s my decision support thus far (will keep updating this as I play with the process):

Just When I Think I Knew Norwalk

I thought I knew Norwalk and most of the good things I’d ever figure out about it, but then I come along something new. Today I found a garden center down Richards avenue that sells firewood.

In Case You Were Wondering

Should you have a rubber/vinyl strip on the bottom of your shower door that has failed and has caused water to pour into the ceiling beneath you and cause extensive damage … and you need to purchase a replacement seal, the term for this strip of vinyl that may just have cost you several hundred dollars is “Vinyl Door Sweep.”

Bad Documentation, Good Service

Alright, first the bad stuff. Just got a Kenwood in-dash double-din (DPX 501) receiver that works with a Sirius receiver. Got it because my starmate was getting worse and worse about recognizing whether it had an antenna. I think the brokenness was in the dock itself, but on the off-chance it was a dock connector on the unit, I didn’t want to keep purchasing and supporting a poor design of receiver. This way I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff that’s hard-wired to the car, and I don’t have to deal with FM modulators and all that crap.

300

I know everybody else is saying it, but it’s not just the Nine Inch Nails track on the trailer — I want to see 300. Why must it wait till next year?

Service

So I’ve dropped off my car for service again. The symptoms:

I Want To Be Trusted To Break The Law Or Not

Somebody has probably said all of this before.

Driving School

Just got back from high performance driving school, where I had a blast. Here’s the full rundown of the day.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Lime Rock

Made it to Lime rock, in preparation for my high performance driving school tomorrow.

Review: V for Vendetta

I was really enjoying V for Vendetta, in the “this is a dystopic world represented through a graphic novel through a movie” sort of way. It was a moving, meaningful, and well-told story, and Natalie Portman wasn’t overly irritating. Hugo Weaving was awesome.

Review: The Ethical Slut

Highly regarded as an introductory text on polyamory and open relationships, I found The Ethical Slut to be somewhat disappointing.

Review: Anna Karenina

So, it was about time I read some Tolstoy. I picked up Anna Karenina, not because it was an Oprah’s book club book, nor because this particular translation is heralded as the finest of its type, but because it was in the Border’s 3 for 2 pile, and I’m a sucker for that stupid table. I forget what the other two books I got to complete the trio were, but I’m pretty sure I’ve not read them yet, and they’re part of my ever-growing collection of unread novels.

Miracle of Miracles

I arrived at CMI nice and early, and they said “hey, we have an earlier flight today, it leaves in 6 minutes, if you can make it through security.” So I did, and it was swell. I then had to wait 6 hours at ORD before my flight to HPN, but it was going to be 5 hours anyhow, so it wasn’t a big difference. And, now, having wasted a good 12 hours on a weekend, I’m home, which is good, I guess.

Infinite Running Time?

So I think that after this last trip to UIUC, I’m done with recruiting (at least in terms of traveling for it) for a while. It was an interesting trip. Part of that comes from being back on campus, which brings a weird sense of “home” with it, though along with that comes the “you can never go home again” feeling in that everything CS is now in a different building, and most of the people you knew are gone. It’s sort of weird seeing posters for good friends that I had back in school coming back from their respective companies to give a talk or whatnot.

ESC Off

I did notice one interesting thing about the Sonata that I failed to pick out initially. It does not understeer under mid-corner acceleration. I was stunned by that, until I realized what was happening. The electronic stability programme was braking the inside wheels, causing the car to rotate when it should just have plowed off on a tangent.

Take It Up With American

After yesterday’s “debacle”: , I got to the airport expecting the worst. I was not disappointed. After a relatively (15 minutes) short wait, the lady behind the counter printed out my stuff, and then said something under her breath about the baggage tag, and then started flipping through her ring-bound hand-written list of several hundred notes on how to book flights and so forth. Having realized the answer to her dilemma (whatever it was) was not in this booklet, she then said “excuse me” and ran through the security door behind the booking area, never to be seen again.

Review: Hyundai Sonata

I searched all afternoon for something positive to say about the Hyundai Sonata. There is nothing good about the Hyundai Sonata.

Travel Continues to Surprise Me

As some of you may remember, traveling sucks. So, not knowing exactly when the information session I was supposed to present on campus would be, beyond that it would be tomorrow, I scheduled my flight for this evening.

Sorry, You Lost, Now Move Along And Quit Bitching

I have friends at Amaranth, so I feel bad for them, but otherwise, what’s the big deal? A hedge fund blew up and lost most all of its value over the course of a few hours. At least it didn’t have enough magnitude to break the entire banking industry, like some of its predecessors. I’d say it’s about the best way a hedge fund can blow up, where the damage is localized to those willing to take the risk to invest in it.

High Performance Driving School

So I got Sarah a Game Boy DS Lite and some games, and she got me a trip to Lime Rock on October 10 for a day of high performance driving school. I’m not quite sure how that was a fair deal, but I’m excited! I get to drive the following:

What's Wrong With Me?

So I’m reading along Practical Common Lisp due to a friend recommending that it would be a good place to start, and doing so on the dual-G5 power mac I inherited from my wife. I’ve got gvim running, clisp in an rxvt window, and firefox up with the book displayed.

Review: Blue Velvet

Just finished Blue Velvet. Not nearly as messed up as Mulholland Drive, in that I actually understood it the first time through without thinking too hard. That said, part of what I liked about the latter was that it was harder to piece together; this just seems like a creepy mystery that was done very well. 7/10.

Review: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

I found One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest to be a brilliant film. Nicholson and Fletcher are fantastic in their roles, and the scenes of the two staring at each other are fantastic. I’ve yet to read any Kesey novel, let alone this one, but speaking of the movie on its own terms, I think it just as marvelous as when it was released 30 years ago. 9/10.

Video Card Too Fast

So Sarah was noticing on her new 4-core Xeon system with gobs of this and that that she was getting nasty screen lag and tearing during World of Warcraft, as if her system was pitifully slow. We tried to jack the settings down, but nothing helped.

Stealth Bomber in the Wild

So, driving through Norwalk, I saw a stealh bomber flying low overhead (under a mile up, if I had to guess). This is, of course, kind of weird, since a stealth bomber doesn’t get much advantage in terms of stealth or ideal performance flying at these levels. Apparently I wasn’t crazy, as they were approaching NYC

The Importance of Expectations

I talked a bit about ownership, a lesson I learned from the bank, and then did my best to avoid for a while while recovering.

Stuck

I’m stuck in Champaign for another day, due to weather delays out of ORD. Red-eye tomorrow morning if all goes well. It is, of course, weather-related, so therefore the airlines are not culpable. Thus the onus is on me (or my company as it were) to cover me for another hotel room and another night of rental car, assuming I could actually find the former (took 16 tries, hello shadiest Baymont ever!) and arrange the latter.

Review: Hampton Inn, Urbana, IL

I’m sure this is nothing new, but this Hampton Inn has pictures on the doorplates for each room, each picture unique, so you get a visual reminder of what room you are in.

Review: Dodge Magnum

The Dodge Magnum 3.5L is, perhaps, the most fun car I’ve rented. This is not to say it’s a good car, but let’s dwell for a moment on the nice parts about the car:

Who would have thought?

There is something delicious about chatting with a headhunter and being able to say “I’m actually pretty happy in my job and don’t really see any compelling reason to look outside of it; it would take something pretty special to make me want to leave.” He’ll keep in touch, of course, by I’m a “mismatch in terms of what the market needs since my need is not immediate.” Shucks!

The Quality of Things, Or Why Is Ownership The Rarest Corporate Commodity?

I like things. I like to buy things. I spend a lot of time thinking about things, and a small but present part of my personal happiness system is based around things.

Household UI Design

Lost power Saturday, so we went to Sarah’s folks since they had power and a propane generator, should power fail. We’re addicted to electriciy and connectivity I guess. We’re back home again for the evening (Sarah is heading out tomorrow at 5AM to CA) and have power, but as of writing it sounds like there are still several thousand folks in the county and immediate area without power, after three days. Now, when the remnants of Ernesto came through, it knocked down all sorts of wires and trees, blocking roads everywhere and so forth; Sarah got a little upset when we drove under some downed lines, but we found a way out.

Fascist?

I keep hearing the phrase “islamofascist.” What does that even mean? I thought I’d do some research to try and figure it out, so I used good old reliable Wikipedia, surely the bane of english composition teachers in every high school around the nation, and I found:

Review: The Curve of Binding Energy

The Curve of Binding Energy, John McPhee’s 30-year-old exploration of the security risks of home-built nuclear weapons, was a most pleasant read. Using Ted Taylor’s oration on the topic as a frame, the book moves smoothly and pleasantly. Just as relevant today, there is much discussion of how dangerous plutonium can be, in a dirty bomb, and just how trivial it may well be to construct a small low-yield nuke. The chilling phrase that repeats through the work is “enough to bring down the world trade center.” Especially if you’ve never read about Los Alamos, this is a great introduction to a little bit of the science (at a very high level), and a lot of the clandestine risks and politics of ubiquituous nuclear energy. 8/10.

Hilton Head Island, The Rest Of The Trip

So I could have continued with the daily summaries, but they would have gotten a little drab. Lots of reading, swimming in the ocean, some warcraft, etc. To sum everything up, instead, here are some of the things I liked about Hilton Head Island:

Thank You, May I Have Another?

So we bought a whole bunch of crap online for Sarah for her new Mac Pro, and we’ve been buying a whole bunch of things, like groceries, down in Hilton Head. The day we bought the Mac Pro, I knew that I’d get a call from Discover Fraud Prevention, because it would look pretty weird what was happening.

Review: Rainbows End

Vernor Vinge’s foray into pre-singularity near-future science fiction, Rainbows End, is a disaster. Vinge paints a picture of a future not too distant, trying to cover all of the following in 364 pages:

Is it just me, or do all energy drinks taste the same?

Today I tried “Von Dutch” energy drink. It tastes like No Fear drink which tastes like Red Bull which tastes like, well, I guess what I’m getting at is all energy beverages taste exactly the same. Beyond the taurine + caffeine + gobs of sugar trick, you’d think that one of the three dozen or so major energy drinks out there would have a slightly unique flavor. Unfortunately, it seems the only innovation that’s coming is in can design, which while visually impressive, is just not doing it for me.

Fat free almonds do not exist.

I bought some fat free honey almond yogurt by mistake (the rest of my yogurts were appropriately fatty). For those of you wondering how they put almonds with no fat into yogurt, it’s not a trick with FDA allowances. The only way to make fat free almond honey yogurt fat free is to replace the almonds with almond extract. Yuck.

Hilton Head Island, Day Three

Dolphin day! We got up a bit earlier, bummed around the house, and then headed to Sea Pines for our Zodiac tour. Turns out it was just the two of us and our captain Dwayne (Duane?), but that’s fine. We toured the area, and got to see a ton of dolphin activity, as well various storks, egrets, and the like. The tour was fun, but was in the hottest part of the day, and left both of us feeling warm and spent.

Congratulations!

Congratulations to Sarah on her new baby!

Review: Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Mr. and Mrs. Smith was a terrible romatic comedy. Automatic 5/10.

Review: Broken Angels

Broken Angels, the second book in the Takeshi Kovacs world by Richard Morgan, was decent. It was not as coherent or sensical as his first novel, and sought to explain more of the world he glossed over in the first novel. Overall, I thought it was a bit of a step down, as Morgan seemed to try to accomplish things at far too many levels, without the talent to back it up. It was still an enjoyable sci-fi thriller, and I’ll continue to read his books for now, but I was expecting a bit more as he refined his writing talent from his first novel, and wasn’t entirely satisfied. 6/10.

Hilton Head Island, Day Two

Today was a much more sedate day; a good break after a day of stressful travel and such. We slept in till about 10, which was delicious, and then got up slowly with coffee and such. The big activity of the day was going out to the beach.

Rental Car Insurance

So, when I travel under work, I’m covered by the firm’s blanket policy on car rentals, so I never need to take out coverage, but I’m totally lost when I’m on my own — what is the correct insurance (if any) to take out for rentals?

Hilton Head Island, Day One

Today started at 4:30, when we got up to catch our limo to LaGuardia. Unlike some such events (bling dude, the drunk, and gallon jug of ice tea guy), the ride up was entirely uneventful, which was nice.

So, Have The Terrorists Won, Already?

I’ve been resisting posting something to this effect for days, but I can’t help it. Are the terrorists winning the “war on terror?” The hair gel bombers, an unconvincing premise from the start, have been debunked. One may argue that the register may not be the most convincing source out there, but then with the amount of information being made available, I find it much harder to be convinced that the plot had any real threat from the start.

Review: The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries was a beautiful little film that romanticizes the motorcycle trip and cultural discovery of Ernesto Guevera’s early life. If one can ignore the political undertones and the romanticization, it’s a work of visual brilliance and a moving and inspiring tale of the evils of capitalism and the beauty of South America and its people. Granted, I don’t buy the evils of capitalism bit (or, invoking my misanthropy, I believe the evils are more a part of human nature than an inherrent part of a political or economic system), but I still found the film quite enjoyable.

Review: Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon, Richard Morgan’s first novel, was an enjoyable and easy to read noir sci-fi, a subgenre I never expected to encounter. Chris lent me three books from the Takeshi Kovacs novels, and this is the first I’ve read, after about a year of procrastinating. I thought the book was intelligently written, though it tends towards a bit of a detective crime thiller, and less of an thinking man’s book from time to time. At the end, it’s a cleverly disguised and well-written detective story without much original content outside of the frame in which it operates. That said, the not-subtle criticisms of the Catholic faith were enjoyable and enriching, so it’s hard to hate on the book too much. For easy to read yet satisfying science fiction, it’s hard to beat. 7/10.

Great Adventure in Stupidity

So every year at the end of training, folks from my company go to Six Flags Great Adventure. It’s right about here. I live right about here. I left too late in the morning, and thus it took me quite a while to get to South Amboy, NJ, at which point I rather suddenly realized I’d left my tickets to the park back in Norwalk.

Review: La Paella, Norwalk, CT

Despite having an offensively long domain name, La Paella restaurant in Norwalk was a pleasant excursion. We started the evening with some of the complementary bread, which seemed to be a decent (though not great) sourdough of some sort, sliced thick and toasted. The olive oil they provided at the table was bland and uninteresting, probably some commercial crap from a supermarket or food supply store.

Assisted Suicide

There’s a fascinating and moving article on suicide over at the Guardian; I don’t have anything particularly interesting to add to myself, and I think the following sums it up nicely:

Migration

I’ve moved where latentcontent.net (web and mail) are both hosted, so things might be funky for the next 24 hours or so while the TTL expires. If you see anything weird, broken, or gone, let me know. This isn’t really an upgrade (it’s on a busier system now), but now I’ve got mail and web/database on something with RAID and offsite backup, so I can have a little more comfort on data integrity. Once I finish the eventual project of getting a fully redundant offsite system for the rest of my data at home, then my medium-term hopes for this sort of crap will be complete.

62

I realized that I have over 62 books on my shelf of things to read that I’ve either purchased, been gifted, or have borrowed. This is getting to be a problem. That said, much to the delight of Chris, who has been hounding me for a while, I’ve started the Richard K. Morgan books, and they read very fast, so soon I’ll be back down to 59. A trip to Hilton Head Island should hopefully knock another half dozen off the list. Maybe by year-end I can be under 40. Still halfway through GEB and the new Tufte book.

Review: Capote

Watched Capote. First off, Philip Seymour Hoffman was amazing, but for god’s sake, how distracting is it for a period film to have somebody in antireflective multicoated lenses? They were dashing glasses, but were a constant reminder that I’m watching a modern movie. Otherwise, a very nice film. 8/10.

August First

It seems I’ve had little of import to say of late, but we’ll break that up with a happy birthday for Mel!

Mental Note For The Future

I, at least, take it for granted that your compiler and linker work, as an engineer. So, I’m quickly discovering that problems become an order of magnitude harder when one cannot count on these certainties.

I Like My Xbox 360 (In theory)

I feel like there’s something wrong with admitting this, but I really like my recently won xbox 360, at least in theory. The whole subscription-based gaming model makes an awful lot of sense, and it’s novel being able to download demos, and after some fighting, I’ve managed to get it to cooperate with my wireless network. The wireless controllers just work and work great at range, and the control sensitivity feels great. I haven’t tried the bundled headset yet, but the integration into the controller is awful novel. When it comes right down it, it’s priceless to be able to sit on the couch, 15 feet away from the TV, without a haphazard assortment of wires stretched across the room.

Mother Nature Ruins My Uptime

Well, I hadn’t rebooted my file server in a while. The weather last night caused an extended loss of power, however, meaning that my big old UPS could only last so long, and we went for a graceful shutdown with about 10% in reserve.

Compiler Hackery

Buried a little bit down in the Visual Studio 2005 release notes, Microsoft provides this little tidbit about changes to the C++ standard library support:

Review: A Game of Thrones

I don’t get the big deal about GRRM. With Robert Jordan patting him on the ass on the back of the book, I should have known better. A Game of Thrones, the first in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, is a large pile of rubbish. In terms of mindless, uninspired, copycat fantastic fiction, it’s a grade-A winner. Unfortunately, my initial impression was correct. If you’ve read Robert Jordan (himself a miserable copycat author), you’ve read this book before, and you’re not missing anything. On the other hand, if you have a hankering for some bathroom reading or something with which to pass the time on an airplane, this might be up your alley.

Review: Pirates 2

This movie does not deserve this blog entry. It joins a half dozen other movies in the top five worst movies of all time list. That is all.

Review: The Princess and the Warrior

We watched The Princess and the Warrior. It would be an excellent little thinker of a film if somebody took a razor to it got rid of about 45 minutes of film. It was as if after Run Lola Run, Tykwer decided that he was now important, and he could just spout crap for 2:15 and expect it to be worth watching. For the first bit it had that nice unstoppable rhythmic quality of his earlier classic, after which it stalled and just the life out of the screen. I like tense contemplative ponderous films, but there can be way too much of a good thing. Watch it in fast-forward. 6/10.

Integrated Banking Is A Lie

So, back from Maine, more on that soon, but in the meantime, my ATM card has expired. That’s all fine and good, except they sent my replacement card to my old address. I called Chase, and asked what happened, and they asked “did you change your address over the phone?” I said yes, and they indicated that “the address on your banking card is changed in the branch, as opposed to the address on your account, which is changed already.”

Pissing Around About Password Change Policies

I hate VMS, because it does not allow me (at least in the VMS I use) to use cryptographically secure passwords. Worse yet, it does not require I use cryptographically secure passwords.

Off To Maine

Not that I’ve been writing that much lately (oh, but I’ve wanted to, if only it were professional), but we’re going to be heading to Maine for a bit to visit with some friends and relax away from technology and indoor plumbing1 for a while.

E-Cards

I hate e-cards. They are just another vehicle for cultural neglect, allowing people that don’t care and can’t be bothered to pretend that they do. I don’t know what folks think that a dancing birthday cake flash animation tells other folks, even with its 200-character personalized message fifteen minutes later. To me it screams “I can’t be bothered to write a few sentence son a piece of paper, address an envelope, and put it in the mail for you.”

The New Software Engineering Resume

I’ve talked a little bit before on interviewing and recruiting, though with no particular depth or focus.

Copy Protection

So I’m an idiot and didn’t realize this, but apparently SACD and DVD-Audio prohibit one from getting a bitstream out … so there’s no way to use an external DAC with a cheap transport in order to get high fidelity sound out of the “next generation” audio formats. How crappy is that?

Condo Association Meeting

So we had our annual Condo association meeting today. It was … painful. I came straight from a long day at work to two hours of that, and it was full of dog poop complaints and fears that our parking lot was “becoming the Indy 500.”

The King of Prussia

This weekend we went to the King of Prussia mall in King of Prussia, PA. Yeah. I’m with you, don’t worry. It was time for another little trip, and this time a driving adventure (Sarah felt guilty for stuffing me into a train), and we needed some clothes and such. We ended up meeting some friends for lunch, which was fun, but went a little long, and then met another friend for shorter than we might of liked, and then braved 95 traffic back to Connecticut, which turned out to be … somewhat of an adventure. On the upside, it was a fun time, on the downside, didn’t get much shopping done (or see more than about 5% of the mall for that matter). You win some, you lose some, you know?

Wiki, Again

So the doctor doesn’t think it’s ringworm, but is running the test, as it still has a similar appearance. What she thinks is that it’s a severe manifestation of an allergy, like a hive, but ten times worse. So, she’s had an injection, has been put on some antihistatimes, and is receiving a lovely cream treatment in the interim. On the positive side, she’s doubled in weight since her last visit, and shows no sign of fleas, which is promising, as hard as they are to eradicate.

Wiki

So wiki has this quarter-sized spot on her. At first it looked like some sort of burn, but after talking with the emergency vet, it sounds like ringworm. Brilliant. Better yet? Contagious to humans and other cats. She’s in good spirits and seems normal, so the emergency vet doesn’t think she needs to be seen tonight, so that will be tomorrow’s adventure, it seems.

Review: La Place De La Concorde Suisse

John McPhee’s La Place De La Concorde Suisse may be somewhat dated, but was a fascinating journey into Swiss culture, with specific regard to the Swiss Army. In the short book, I learned more about the fabled military force than I imagined I would, and I have to say I now find the Swiss both fascinating and terrifying. My favorite dialogue, paraphrased, went something like “who is checking where the mortars are aimed?” “They’re they Swiss Army.” A nice two-hour page turner that, despite its nonfiction nature, holds the attention, its only failings come in its rather lackluster attempt to “follow the life” of a few characters. 7/10.

foobar2000

I’m in love with foobar2000. It may be the best audio library manager for windows, ever. It may look plain, but it does exactly what I want, and nothing more.

Review: Thank You For Smoking

Thank You for Smoking was a good satire, worth a watch. 7/10.

Boston, Trains, Fish

Sarah and I went to Boston to visit Chris, who was in town for a conference.

Enough With The Children, Already

So, next little rat that I see skating around on those shoes with wheels on them in a grocery store, nowhere near their parent? I’m going to facepunch them and toss them in with the produce. For god’s sake people, learn2parent.

The New Pravda

I was thinking about the humor of the situation of Fox News, and how it reminded me of Pravda. Then, google informed me that somebody else has already come to that conclusion.

"Escalation is a Bitch"

Here’s a picture of the … dart gun, with my feet alongside for scale:

Escalation is a Bitch

I have to apologize in advance, as I’ve loaned out my DSLR for a few days, so I’ve no illustrations for this post.

Happy Day

Two years ago today, Sarah and I got married! That’s pretty cool, to my thinking. Since then I’ve changed jobs, we bought a place, and we got another (perpetually sick but adorable) kitten. So yeah, happy anniversary to us!

Review: Young Miles (and a mess of pointless rambling)

I finished Young Miles the other day. This is an omnibus of The Warrior’s Apprentice, The Mountains of Mourning, and The Vor Game. I liked it better than the chronological prequel omnibus, Cordelia’s Honor, in that it was less political, feel-good, and more space opera and strategic sci-fi. Of course, there was still the whole mutant hate thing going on, but it felt sort of like a mash of Ender’s Game and Starship Troopers. At the end of the day, I still find the books somewhat … intellectually damped, but if you just treat them as easy-read fictions, they’re pleasant mindless entertainment, sort of like early Robert Jordan; still not really sure what all of the fuss and praise is about — maybe it gets better as we get past Bujold’s first few books. 6/10. I’ll probably continue the series, to see what happens, just because it’s getting harder and farder to find easy-read fiction that is at least agreeable these days.

Giving Up on Newspaper Delivery

Well, the paper is now consistently either not showing up, or showing up after 7AM. This is of little use to me, as if I want to read the paper every morning, shower, and all that stuff, I can no longer do it without getting a horribly late start to my day. I don’t understand why in the hell I can’t have a paper at 5:30 or 6:00 at the latest. When I was a paperboy, all my customers had their papers by 6.

More Cats, Less Newspaper

14:42 PatRichey> you, sir, have a broken internet website 15:18 atubbs> yeah. 15:19 atubbs> yours still works, right? 15:19 PatRichey> yeah 15:19 atubbs> shit. … 15:58 PatRichey> write a cat update 15:58 PatRichey> no one cares about your damn paper

50% Is Passing

So the newspaper saga continues. This morning, the newspaper didn’t show up. Tried to use the online form, it was unable to process my request, called them, and they fed me the same line they fed me last Saturday.

VIM 7 Rocks

Foie Gras On The Way Out?

It seems Chicago has banned Foie Gras.

New York Times Home Delivery: Incompetent

So, as I started to explain before, the New York Times has had some problems delivering papers to me. So far I have:

I Want My Newspaper

One of the big promises of the Internet that has failed to deliver is asynchronous customer service. In theory, the Internet meant an end to spending hours on hold, to talk to some guy in a call center for two minutes. The Internet could do this by having you explain your problem in a form (and it could prompt you for all of the relevant information you need to provide for them to produce a resolution).

Oh For Fuck's Sake Already

From news.com

Man On Dog Action

I’m not usually a huge fan of USA Today and their dumbed-down bite-size news, but this quote from an interview with Rick Santorum had me cracking up

The Worst President in History?

Good article about the president over on Rolling Stone, couresty of reddit. Worth a read.

Review: Cordelia's Honor

More soap opera than space opera, Cordelia’s Honor surprised me a bit, because I question how the second novel of the Omnibus, Barrayar, warranted a Hugo Award.

Stream of Consciousness

Focus has been difficult for me to control lately; it seems trivial for me to wander off and zone out for 5-10 minutes at a time in the shower, at work, at home, on a walk… and I can’t seem to snap out of it. I guess this is what a slow progression into madness feels like. My dreams are getting weirder, and I’m beating myself up for not being able to harness any imagination or creativity. I’m sleeping hard and falling to sleep with ease, which always makes me nervous. I’m used to my mind running rampant at night and preventing me from falling asleep.

LED Christmas Lights Suck

I put up a string of LED Christmas Lights from Philips in my cube some time in December. Back of the envelope indicates that’s about 3600 hours of continuous operation. At least 5 of the bulbs are completely burned out now, and several are running at reduced intensity.

One Year At New Job

A year ago today I started work at my new job, and left the investment bank. I’m glad I made the move, and it’s been an improvement in almost every way.

BlaK

Yeah, tried Coca-Cola BlaK today. Yes, “BlaK.” Anyhow, it sucked. It’s a mixture of Coca-Cola C2 (it’s half corn syrup and half aspartame), with some coffee flavor thrown in. I really don’t get it.

Some Pictures

Back when Chris was here, we went to the Mystic Aquarium. This featured the following fish that was photographed solely to terrify Mel:

Slide Rule

One of the topics I have discussed at length with Sky is the beauty of old technology, and what a human can do when faced with a problem of utmost importance. Some great examples are innovations that came out of the US nuclear program, or the space race (a war in its own right).

More On The Mars Bars

More on the candy bar confusion — the following is a “Mars Bar” in the UK:

Bad Engineering

So the new fridge came today. The Best Buy delivery folks took the old one away and brought the new one up. There were lots of scraping and flexing sounds, but I didn’t see any evidence of this, so it seems to be find. The damn thing beeps like a truck backing up if you leave a door open for more than 15 seconds. At first I thought it was trying to warn me about compressor failure or something like that, but nowhere in the horribly long instructions or troubleshooting guide do they mention that the fridge beeps. Only when I’d re-attached the doors (more on this later) and restarted the compressor did the beeping stop. In fact, in the “sounds your refrigerator may make” section, containing a full-page diagram and troubleshooting guide, they never mention that the thing makes a beeping sound. Oh well, now I know how to properly store at least 30 varieties of food products. That counts for something.

Management Musings

At the bank, I was working to become an AD. This was for two reasons. The first was that one of the best things (and one of the few positive things I can remember) about working at an investment bank is gobs of money. Becoming a director meant a higher rank, which meant a higher pay scale, which meant more gobs of money and a bigger bonus. The second was that it was the only way I could see to engineer myself out of a position that was doing its best to destroy me. It was impossible for me to work with my management, near or far, to get out of my position, despite the constant promises that things will get better soon. Reaching rank meant more delegation, and more mobility to another group, so it was a win-win situation.

Review: March of the Penguins

I enjoyed March of the Penguins … but in the “that was a nice Discover Channel special” sort of way. The cinematography was beautiful, and the whole sparse Morgan Freeman/zen thing … well, it was a nice attempt. Cut 30 minutes of footage and put it on cable. I mean, I like penguins … but this is no amazing documentary. The amazing documentary would be the “making of” film. 6/10.

Candy Bar Confusion

Sarah brought home some chocolates from the UK. This lead to much confusion between Kyle and I at work, luckily wikipedia came to the rescue. In short:

Iran

From reddit … are we going to Iran? The following quote is what I found the most disturbing:

Comments

Comments will now be auto-moderated if they contain more than one link in them. This sucks, but is a stopgap measure until I have time to implement a “write this cryptic graphical sequence out” check.

Resolutions Update

So, we’ve made it to the 25% point of the year, and it’s time to check in on my resolutions that I foolishly made at the beginning of the year.

My, This Orange Juice Tastes Warm

It seems the time has come to replace our fridge. Rejoice!

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

A very happy birthday to my beautiful wife!

Review: Tipping the Velvet

Tipping the Velvet is a serial erotic period film (no, not that kind of period film) made by the BBC. The story centers around the struggle of the protagonist to find love with another woman in a time when such things were inappropriate. Overall, I found the series rather enjoyable, though decidedly a BBC production. 7/10.

Reviews: Sin City, Bound, Good Night, and Good Luck

Chris brought Sin City with him, and we watched that Saturday. I was very impressed with the way in which the pages of the graphic novel were transitioned to the screen. The contrast and dynamic design of the film was fantastic, and the constant juggling of the realistic and fantastic was done expertly. The stories themselves are entertaining, though not particularly insightful or innovative — but I recognize this is not the point. The point is that this is an adaptation of a graphic novel. While I claim no experience with that genre, it seems to me to be an expert transition from one form to another, leaving little room for improvement. As a work of cinema it borders on perfection, but the lack of depth in the stories pulls it down a bit. 8/10.

Quiet Again

I’ve dropped Chris off at the airport for his regularly scheduled pattern delay into ORD, suffered some rather unexpected awful traffic (against the morning rush) getting back home to shower and so forth before work, which added a couple of hours to my morning. Now I’ve got one more evening with Sarah, and then she’s off to the UK for a week, to return on her birthday (the 31st). After that, I think things settle down for a bit, which will be refreshing.

Chris Visits

Yeah, so Chris is in town, and I’ve not really been blogging about any of it to this point. I’ll probably forget most of the detail, though I have a little bit of photographic evidence from the Mystic Aquarium that I will try and put up later. Incidentally, we arrived there at 16:00, and even though they are open until 17:00, they apparently close off the penguins at 15:45. This made me want to cry, because I wanted to see the penguins.

Visit To The Dentist

Today I went to the dentist for the first time in about a year. As I looked up at the examination lamp, I noticed a tiny stuffed koala bear wrapped around the controls and commented on it. “That’s Bernard. He’s followed me around for thirty years. I’ve not always been in the same place, but he’s always been with me.”

Review: Visual Explanations

Visual Explanations continues Tufte’s series of books on information design, containing excellent design and research. What I’ve said before continues to apply. Unfortunately, each volume I read seems more repetitive than the last, often self-referencing (isn’t that a crime of hubris in academic circles?) and redundant. I am hoping that Beautiful Evidence does not suffer from this same trend; Tufte has a wealth of fascinating opinions to share, I don’t see why he feels the need to repeat himself. 7/10.

Opera Redux Redux

I’ve forced myself to try and use Opera for two weeks straight, despite my previous complaints. Firefox corrupted itself randomly during a crash and destroyed my entire profile, and made me sad, so I’m giving it another shot. So far, I’m feeling awkward without:

Selling Near The 52-Week High

Finding out you owe a metric ton of cash to the fed? Expensive.

Introductions Suck / Initial Review: The Pragmatic Programmer

If you are writing a technical book for a technical user, don’t write introductions to each chapter.

Review: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman

I’m going to take the liberty of going off on a rather long tangent before I get to the point of all of this; this happens to be a convenient point in time to dump some thoughts that have been in my head for a while. Sky and I have talked at length about the concept of a luxury. Our general conclusion is that to the uninitiated, the concept of a luxury is usually something expensive and material (cars, jewelry, big house, vacation home, mistress) or novelty experience-based (fine dining, shows, travel, skip trips, etc).

Review: Envisioning Information

Everything I said about Tufte’s First Book on Information Design is true about Envisioning Information, except that it’s not quite as good. I think what I mean by that is it’s more a book of art in places than a book of information design. That’s cool, but not quite as cool. Now to see if I can finish Visual Explanations before Beautiful Evidence is printed. 9/10.

Stratton

Sarah and I went skiing for the first time this weekend!

Philly Picture Dump

Sarah did a nice job wrapping up the weekend, so there is little point in my doing so. Without further ado, here are some pictures.

Work of Genius

I’d just like to note that Hello Nasty is a work of musical genius that I did not at first appreciate.

Whiz With

I’m realizing I haven’t been writing much lately. Been rather hectic, I guess. Next week it looks like we’re on a ski trip with Sarah’s coworkers (neither of us ski, it should be entertaining), and two weeks later CK is coming to visit. Anyhow, I’ll report on philly a bit more shortly, but I’ll leave you with a teaser: There’s a bar stool district.

Review: Wedding Crashers

Wedding Crashers is a romantic comedy, and is therefore by definition a 5/10. Still, in that uncomfortable funny commedy genre, it was about what you would expect and worth a shot.

Review: The French Connection

The French Connection was a disappointment. Not because it’s a bad movie, but because its much-hyped car chase seen failed to satisfy (me). I mean, it was seminal and all, but … so what? I guess I feel like it’s a movie that didn’t age well. It’s a drug smuggling movie with athe shady violent cop getting it right in the end after getting it wrong blah blah blah. 6/10.

You Know What Sucks? Cenarius.

We had a horrid largely-PUG MC run last week. Bad idea. Didn’t work. This week we did it right. Dropped Lucifron first attempt, only dropped a rogue and a hunter.

Recruiters, Part 2

I’ve talked about some of the funny oddities of recruiters in the past. I’d forgotten to mention this guy in the past, but whenever he calls, he asks to put you on hold. I usually respond “sure thing” and then hang up.

Why I Hate The Healthcare System, Part 2

Why I Hate The Healthcare System, Part 2

Yup, still snowing.

The snowdrift on the left is my car.

Snow Day, Too Bad It's Sun Day!

It snowed a bit here (and it’s still snowing):

Sirius!

For valentine’s day, Sarah got me Sirius, woo! I’ve installed it in my WRX and routed the antenna through the cabin (it seems to get enough signal on the rear deck, which means no worrying about routing through weatherstripping and such nonsense). I’m looking forward to playing with it in the coming weeks. It will be nice to be able to get NPR and so forth again, since I can’t get that on FM around here.

Review: The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect

The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect was an interesting read. It was far more graphic than I’d imagined. That’s not important, but worth mentioning.

Review: Effective C++

Finished Effective C++, 3rd Edition. I thought it was a volume of largely relevant and important material on the language. The only part I didn’t find personally valuable was the more detailed stuff about templates, which, unfortunately I’m still too novice a c++ goon to fully appreciate. Of particular interest was the idea of custom allocators and deallocators. If you work professionally in C++ and haven’t read this book, you should. Fascinating stuff. Otherwise, it’s going to be boring as hell. 8/10.

Recruiting, Woo!

Am safely at UIUC for recruiting, despite the typical round of pattern delays into ORD, made up for by an APU failure in the connecting flight (otherwise I’d not have made it much before midnight). Really, nothing to add to that, save the belligerent guy behind me on the flight from HPN to ORD that became physically and vocally aggressive once he found out the flight was delayed. I’ve gotten past the point that air travel has the ability to make me mad — it’s just a standard part of the experience now. I’m not sure how regular business folks that travel don’t expect pattern delays, crew disqualification, de-icing backups, and equipment failures.

Vonage Update

An update on the vonage situation: “Based on the information supplied to us, we have decided to go ahead and honor your request since you did return the device to us with a Shipping Tracking ID.”

World of Warcraft Screenshot Contest

So they’re sponsoring another screenshot contest. For some reason, my sorts of screenshots never make it into the winning spot. Some examples are:

There Are Times When I Want To Break The Law

So I have a job and all, I can buy my music and movies and television or something like that. No need to pirate intellectual property. That’s good.

Shit

The Problem of Casino Night

So I just came from a “casino night.” The idea of this is it’s sponsored by some organization, you walk in the door, you get 500 points, in the form of casino chips. From this point forward I’ll just pretend they’re dollars.

Vonage Strikes Again

I’ve bitched about Vonage before so none of this will come as a surprise. Back when they sent me a replacement device for my failed (surprise, it was made by Linksys!) VoiP adapter, they did the typical company thing where they send you a replacement, and you send the original back within fifteen days, or they charge you for the cost of the replacement.

Review: Pledged

Pledged: The Secret Life of Soroties was a dull read. This was not because it was devoid of juicy tidbits (I mean, who can get enough reading about “choose which of these five things you will be violated with” sex acts and people being driven into the ocean to their death?). No, it was because when you attend the school with the largest sorority and fraternity system in the nation, none of the details inside come as a particular surprise.

Sixty

Sarah has gotten her rogue to level 60 in warcraft, and I got my warlock to level 60. Pretty slick, eh?

Reviews: The Corporation, Murderball

We tried to watch The Corporation this weekend. Got about an hour and a half into it before we gave up. It was all stuff that was obvious if you had ever worked in your life, or read a newspaper. The documentary was put together in a manner that had it constantly repeating the same thing over and over again without adding any additional content. The rhythm of the piece was terrible, and beyond some interesting character interviews (few and far between, sadly) there was nothing of value, at least until we gave up on it (not a common thing). Maybe there’s a huge redeeming second act, but for now it gets a 4/10.

Review: Engineer to Win

Just finished Engineer to Win. Gotta say, the author’s writing style is irritating at best, but he knows his stuff. I feel like I have a much more comfortable knowledge of metallurgy and the like. I don’t really know what to say beyond that; if you’re interested in this sort of thing it’s a good book. 7/10.

Review: Serenity

So Sarah and I finished the Firefly season this weekend, and watched Serenity. It was a fun movie, honestly … and in the spirit of the series. On the other hand, there was something totally wrong about the feel of it. Nobody acted the same as they do in the series, voices were different, visual appearances and mannerisms were totally different (especially Kaylee, who wore entirely different styles of clothes) … and just felt wrong.

A Quick Note On Exiting the Household

Say you’ve taken a long nap to try and combat a disease. Say you wake up and you still feel rather sick. Say you are out of medicine, and decide to go to the store to buy some.

Tumbler Valve

So what’s wrong with my car … they took the old impreza into the garage with the service manager muttering under his breath that it was probably just a loose fuel filler cap.

Random Thought

Why does .mil exist? Isn’t, by definition, .mil just a subset of .gov, and therfore redundant?

Review: The Making of the Atomic Bomb

I’ve knocked another one off the list. The Making of the Atomic Bomb was fantastic. Everybody with even a weak interest in our nuclear history should read it.

More Guild Game Theory

I’ve always taken for granted something I heard in school, that re-branding campaigns almost always fail to achieve their goal. I have no data at all to back this up, so I’m taking it all on faith right now. But, I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think the recent changes to the corporate image of Kodak, AT&T, or Intel or going to achieve the intended goal.

My First CEL

Well, the WRX just passed 10,000 miles a few hundred miles ago, and now it’s time for my first check engine light. Was just driving along at about 25 in third when it popped on. Lovely. Happened to be a quarter mile from the dealership so stopped by to see if they could check it out; they can do so Wednesday. Also lovely. Bitches.

Holiday

Why exactly is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a trading holiday?

Review: Scarface

So, Scarface … I just can’t see myself with a poster of Pacino and some sort of “Yeah, gotta have the Scarface” drone when Cribs comes to my house.

I'm Ashamed of America

There should be an American aptitude test. My emphasis added to the excerpt from a findlaw survey:

Lifehack, Phase Two

Since leaving my last career, I’ve slowly let go of the habit of getting up at 5, being at work by 6, and being home by 8, so I have enough time to eat before the evening calls started. All told, I think it’s still an improvement.

New Powerbook

cry: 4 times faster and it costs less than mine. That magnetic power thing is genius

Review: Iron Sunrise

Just finished Iron Sunrise, knocking a book off my stack without accumulating another before finishing it. Progress!

Cablevision/Optimum Online Clusterfuck

So a couple of coworkers, my wife, the guild leader, and I are about to the end of an instance in Warcraft last night. The guild leader sends the message “I’m almost to you guys” so he can come back and we can recover from our partial wipe.

Paris Recap: Friday

And so it was Friday, the last day of our trip to Paris, with an evening departure to JFK.

Paris Recap: Thursday

After another night with a frightful hot midnight, I am convinced the thermostat controls in our room are meaningless. We slept 10-10, with a two hour hole in the middle from 12 to 2.

Mindstorms

So I just really started playing with my mindstorms yesterday.

Hand Injuries

This morning I caught my right hand in the dishwasher while the door was snapping shut, banging up the side of it like something awful, and cutting it in two places. Just now, I tore open one the finger nails on my left hand. I realize rather quickly in this state how much my employment depends on functioning hands.

A Reading Problem

I have a reading problem. It’s not the problem that I don’t read fast enough that I mentioned before, but that I can’t seem to constrain myself to enough books to actually finish. I realized that I am at least partway through all of the following books:

Paris Recap: Wednesday

Fifteen hours later, we awoke. Jet lag is a bitch, apparently. I suppose it also has something to do with the days being quite short (sunlight seemed to last from about 8 till 5 at most) and overcast. Well, and it also didn’t help that the bed was super-comfy, and it’s cold outside.

Paris Recap: Tuesday

Collectively, Sarah and I may have managed an hour or two of sleep on the flight over, but that was about it. Further, sitting in economy class for 7+ hours does a nasty number on your neck/back and legs/feet if you’re on the tall side. I knew this would be the case, but it’s always fun to experience it. A few moments into the airport folks started smoking. It was novel, and not particularly offensive.

An Interlude of Resolutions

I’ve always resisted New Year’s resolutions, but I figured I’d try something new this year. Thus, I resolve to:

Paris Recap: Monday

We arrived at JFK about 2.5 hours before our flight, not knowing how bad the traffic and parking were going to be on the day after Christmas. We slowly navigated our way to the long-term parking lot, which is several miles from the terminal (well, it seems like several miles), where we were greeted by a guy who yelled at us that the lot was full, and there is no more parking; we’re not going to be able to go anywhere.

2005

Two Quick Pictures

Writeup from Paris (as well as some photos) still coming, but in the meantime, we have these two photos:

Back From Paris

We’re back from Paris now. Feet hurt. There were travel problems coming back, because that happens every time we take a vacation, but we still managed to get home by about 2AM last night. We had a great time, and will have stories for years to come.

Creepy

Creepy is a relative reading a sex scene out loud because he thinks you might find it interesting.

So Cute

Sarah is singing Christmas carols, and Wiki is singing along. It’s about the cutest thing on earth.

End To Menstruation

There is a fascinating article about the idea of ending menstruation forever. More interesting are two direct quotes from said article, first, some trivia (unconfirmed) that I had not realized, related to the idea that menstruation on the pill is not really menstruation at all, but an arbitrary chemical deprivation:

Elevator Puzzle

Now it’s time for a completely horrible illustration again. You have a special gimp elevator that allows up to nine people, and they must stand in the places indicated:

Connecticut Roads

Small-town backroads in Connecticut make me happy. Getting to my destination and seeing an orange glow under my car tells me I have done my job.

A Better Alarm Clock

I have a friend who sometimes has problems getting up in the morning. This is due in large part to forgetting to set an alarm. I think the solution to this problem is trivial, so I’m wondering if anybody has seen such a thing out there yet.

Enough Already

To all of you dopes out there who have installed spam-blocking software on top of your mail server, I need you to do one of two things. The first option is to uninstall it until you grow enough skill to use it. Your inability to administer indicates your ability to administer systems makes your hosts a prime target for being hacked. Please resign and consider working in a slightly less dangerous circle of hell, in a career as a call center operator or destination specialist. Your second option is to gain sentience and realize that sending an email every time you receive a spam message is idiotic.

Happy Holiday

Merry Christmas/Winter’s Veil/whatever, from Jiku and I:

Adventures in Altruism

(in Westfall)

w00t!

I got my first birthday present — a subscription to Car Magazine from Sarah. I’m excited to be receiving regularly, airmailed, the best car magazine on earth.

The Writing Process

I’ve bitched about the inefficacy of hierarchical organization for ideas several times. One of the things drilled into our minds from middle school on that the Correct Way To Write is to create an outline of the paper to be written, starting at the opening paragraph, and ending with the conclusion. This idea of a rigid framework for writing is beaten into us whether it be a 5-paragraph essay, a 100-page report, or a work of fiction of indeterminate length. We’re told that this is the way to write, and if we just approach it haphazardly, we will end up with a mess as a result.

Fruit Cake

So I cracked open a small fruit cake loaf tonight.

Wikipedia Lawsuit: Sheer Madness

There has been some nasty buzz about Wikipedia lately. First there was Adam Curry’s ritual defacing and self-promoting on the podcasting entry (which he later said was just being done because he thought he was right). Then, there was the high-profile Kennedy assasination article, getting recognition in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune and all that. High-profile is really only describing the coverage, and not the data, as despite this inacccuracy sticking around for an exceptionally long time, it was on a page that few would see.

Warcraft Drama

Yeah, so our guild is going through one of those phases every guild seems to go through. Basically, there is a nucleus of higher-end players that have been there for a while that have seen all the UBRS they want to see, and want to raid MC/BWL/ZG/AQ several times a week. The impatient ones leave and join a full-on raiding guild; our seminal attempts every Saturday in MC only discourage them.

Christmas Tree, 2005

Continuing the tradition of posting my christmas tree on the web, I’m here to post this year’s Christmas tree:

ZOMG, It Snowed Here Too!

First things first, yes, it snowed here. When I got up, I brushed about three inches off the cars. An hour later I brushed another two inches off the cars. No, despite frequent plow traffic, none of the roads, main or otherwise, were clear to the pavement. So we’ve got our background covered; now I can start one of many of my annual winter rants.

Good News

For the first time since we moved in, there is not a hole in the ceiling of the second bedroom. Rejoice.

The Suck of Optometry

So a long time ago I found out that lens replacement in glasses sucks; I had a pair of glasses that I was perfectly happy with and I didn’t feel like buying new frames, just wanted to update my prescription. Unfortunately, I’d purchased the frames at a different vision center, so my new vision center didn’t have the data on the frames on file. So, what they could do was measure the lenses and then attempt to grind a pair that would fit. I said sure, waited 10 days, and then went to get the new lenses. The tech realized in relatively short order than with an eighth of an inch gap between the lens and the frame, that they probably weren’t going to fit. I guess for their first measurement they were using My First Ruler, with quarter-inch graduation, and guessed the next significant digit. Realizing their measurements were obviously off, they removed and re-measured the lenses, and sent off directions to the grinder. This time they came back about an eighth of an inch too big.

Sunday of Snow

So I forgot to mention it yesterday, but we woke up on Sunday to a winter wonderland. I think this is a view from the third-story window, though it may be from the kitchen. I lose track:

Phishing

I’m really tired of phony “click here to update your (amazon|ebay|…) account!” phishing emails, with their phony URL redirects but official-looking text. Sadly, I’ve not found anything particularly effective at filtering them yet. Anybody found any good tools in this regard?

Memories of the Bank

Last year, sometime in November, I created several dozen loaves of fruitcake. I babied them for a month, feeding them XO cognac and luxury rums, before giving out several of the small ones for gifts to family, friends, and through a moment of temporary insanity, coworkers. These little labors of love were high in flavor, expense, and alcoholic value.

Comic Books

I learned today that comic books have ads in them. Lots of ads. All through them. Back cover too. I find it offensive and distracting. If I bought books that had ads in them, I would stop reading. Has it always been this way, long time comic book readers?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

We watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was a horrid, wretched, disgusting excuse for a film.

No Kidding

Amazingly enough, a repairman has actually called me as of today to look at the hole in our ceiling that we’ve been living with since we moved in in June. Granted, it’s just to inspect and provide a quote, and he will actually repair at a later date (surely several months down the road), but it’s the first sign of progress to actually removing this unsightly friend of ours with which we’ve grown so close. So, after five months, we have a new roof (yay), there’s a chance the ceiling will be patched (tentative yay), and after that we just need all of the screens that were destroyed during the repainting of the building’s exterior, a side effect of re-roofing the place, to be done … and then the house will be in good shape again.

Pulp Fiction

About freaking time. I finally watched Pulp Fiction after seeing little bits of it here and there. Magnificent stuff. I need to re-watch Reservoir Dogs as well. 8/10.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Some quick photos of our dinner:

Apocalypse Now Redux Redux

I just finished my re-watching of Apocalypse Now Redux (I don’t think IMDB has links for the different versions; I’ve not seen the original cut). I think it’s my third time. Chris first introduced this to me back in college, and it still strikes me as one of the more remarkable films I’ve seen. It’s got stellar acting, magnificent cinematography, and a simple yet potent plot that is well-carried through the film. 10/10.

Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?

Unlike Rear Window, I found The Manchurian Candidate (the original, naturlich) quite enjoyable. Unlike some films, I feel this is a classic that can still stand on its own, rather than merely being a new standard for innovation or something that had never been done before — the stuff made dull by contemporary examples. The acting was good, the pace good, and the film holds my attention. Lansbury and Sinatra were fantastic. The directing was remarkable; I don’t think I will ever forget the rotating scene demonstrating the brainwashing victims collectively in both the imaginary and “real” context.

Brazil

So I’ve been meaning to watch Brazil for years, but until tonight I had not managed to pull it off.

Rear Window

Just finished Rear Window, my first Hitchcock film. I guess it goes to show how far desensitized to violence nad horror we have become in that I found it mild, slow-paced, and lacking in suspense. The acting itself honestly didn’t impress me either. I guess I just don’t have a perspective for what filmmaking was half a century ago … or I just don’t appreciate Hitchcock.

I Hate Turkey

As some of you know, I really hate turkey. I think it’s the most boring, bland, and worst-textured fowl out there. A foul fowl, if you will.

Firefly

Well, I managed to finish the Firefly boxed set before returning to the Decalogue. I guess there’s something to be said for a series that doesn’t chronicle a dark journey through each of the ten sins.

Three Obvious Things

Three obvious things that I learned through experience today:

Before Vonage Fucks You, Listen Up

So I started talking about this a couple of days ago, and things have gotten worse. First, Vonage managed to, over the course of six months, completely screw up my phone number transfer from my old residence to my new residence. It took them six months to figure this out, after which point they asked me to inquire with my old carrier as to what class of service my phone number is under. My phone number isn’t under any class of service anymore, because somebody else other than me purchased it in the half a year since I initiated my perfectly normal and legal and straightforward number transfer request, only to have Vonage completely screw it up.

Non-Stop Harry Potter Action Adventure

So we went and saw Harry Potter: The Goblet of Fire today. It was ok. The real problem is fundamental to the nature off the challenge — this book is too long for one movie, and any attempt to reduce it to less than four hours of movie guarantees something is going to be neglected. In this case, it’s character development — there is none. Most of the interesting colour characters from the novel are lucky if they receive a single line in the film. Huge expanses of pages are reduced to a few seconds of film, or ignored altogether (“Hi, we’re at the world cup, oh my god, run from the death eaters!”).

What I Learned on Nov 17, 2005

Hobson’s Choice is when you have no choice at all. On that note, the linked site’s collection of idiomatic phrases, definitions, and etymologies is quite extensive. Chimney sweeps aren’t licensed in many cases, and your only real hope of qualification is through looking a swee up in the CSIA database. As all it takes to be a chimney inspector/cleaner is a brush and some eyes, it’s hard to find good help, apparently. Burning newspaper in a fireplace/chimney to light a fire really isn’t a good way to go. Natural tinders or gel/wax starters are definitely teh way to reverse the current and to light the fire. Those creosote cleaning logs they sell at home depot on TV really don’t do much of anything just like I expected.

Vive La France!

Sarah, through much effort, has found us reasonable passange and a five star hotel, we’re going to Paris to finish out the year, baby!

Expedia Bait-And-Switch Conspiracy Theory

So Sarah and I have been toying with going to Paris for the last few days of 2005, because … why not? Ski or tropical vacations during that time period run 3-4x the normal price, and are hard to find (just for that week; the next one drops to pre-gouge prices).

Way To Go, Vonage

So it’s been half a year, and Vonage has now written to inform me that my phone number transfer was “stalled by the carrier.” Lovely. I love the idea of Vonage, but thus far their service has been only a brilliant display of incompetence. I cannot recommend them if you plan to order a number transfer and have any hope of it working.

Wal-Mart

Just finished a showing of Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, an opinionated documentary (aren’t they all) against Wal-Mart and its mission to destroy humanity.

Not Enough Cat Pictures

This isn’t looking like a blog anymore. While I have the appropriate amount of whining, there aren’t nearly enough cat pictures. To resolve that, I’ve a collection of five photographs for you.

Norwalk Maritime Aquarium

We had a pleasant weekend, spending Saturday lounging around, playing Warcraft, and visiting the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium. I think I’ve probably talked on this before, but I’m always confused with the Norwalk aquarium has to spend so much effort to attract people with things unrelated to the sound or aquatics. The biggest billings these days seem to be for the I-Max features and their dinosaur ride.

New York Botannical Garden

Fog Lights

Chris mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating. I don’t understand the fascination with fog lights. It’s like every idiot out there on the road with a set of fog lights says to himself, “Self, it would be brighter in front of me if I have two sets of lights running, I should turn them on!” And so it is, everybody with a pair uses them.

CVS, Insurance, Prescriptions

I’ve ranted about insurance a few times before. Now onto another related topic: prescriptions.

I (Heart) Huckabees

I Heart Huckabees was interesting. This one has been on my Netflix queue for quite some time, and has sat in our house a month before we got around to watching it. I think to some extent, we can all identify with the film’s existential questions, and whimsical approach to finding an answer. The film had me laughting at its absurdity at times, but overall I would not consider it particularly insightful or humorous.

Some Random Absurdities

Update: I shouldn’t post entries without checking them.

Death in the Family

Just got a call that my cousin committed suicide. He has struggled for years with pain from his arthritis, barely mitigated by constant medication. More recently he had fallen in love with a female roomate who did not return the sentiment, and he fell into deep depression and attempted to kill himself. Hospitalization and treatment seemed to be going well, but his shooting himself demonstrated otherwise. It’s scary what pain and love can drive one to.

I Will Miss The Ocean

As I mentioned before, I’ve had problems with my sinuses when diving. Where this gets to be a real problem is that I can’t fly without taking a substantial amount of sudafed, and even when I do, it’s never without pain.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

I just finished Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Second Edition. Perhaps I’m a lemming, but I find myself agreeing with and appreciating Tufte’s stance on every issue in this text. It is a fantastic collection of simple ways in which to better display (and understand the display of) data. There are few things I can say (without going into great length) about this text other than that it is everything I hoped for and more, and that it is a text without comparison, both in terms of content and careful efforts in publishing. Better than seeing him live. 10/10.

Old-Time MMORPG Veterans, I Have a Question

I used to run/support a production system, so I know it sucks. I’ll preface everything I’m saying with that. It’s not a fun job, and it’s not an easy job, and it’s impossible to achieve 100% uptime and solid performance.

Digg, Don't Be a Bad Citizen Like Slashdot

A lot of people have been chatting about how Digg is better than slashdot. I agree wholeheartedly:

Damn The Man

Dressing up as zombie baristas from Starbucks for Halloween? Priceless.

Mondovino, Longitude

We watched Mondovino this weekend, a length documentary pitting the small “independent” winemakers against the big consultants and wine powerhouses. The director certainly had a statement to make, and I believe they got their point across; whether I agree with it, like most things these days, boils down to “it’s complicated.” I think they at least didn’t try to simplify what’s ultimately yet another debate of globalization versus the little guys.

Kids These Days

So the first kid that comes to our door is this little kid who can barely talk and is shy as hell. Wearing an adorable little dinosaur costume. “Say trick or treat!” Bashfully, the kid turns back to face me, looks at my feet, and says “… trick or treat.” I hold out the bowl and he tentatively takes a candy. I offer he can grab one for his baby brother (meaning he gets another one, because he’s cute)! He asks mom for permission with a glance, and then goes for the second candy, and says “thanks!”

House of Nanking, San Francisco

A group of five of us went to “House of Nanking” in San Francisco. All I can say is wow.

Also, For the Morbidly Curious

Somebody out there was surely wondering how life could continue after I became inundated with hand towels without a wash cloth in sight.. Rest soundly, for I was yesterday delivered ond dozen wash cloths.

Coffee and Sushi

I had my first cup of coffee at Peet’s in Burlingame this evening. Rather, I had a demi of espresso, but you get the idea. It was not bad, and was far superior to anything I’ve had at Starbucks. We’re not yet on par with what I make at home (and by extension, I imagine worlds behind Seattle’s finest), but it’s a decent cup, and I can’t complain for $2, at least until I get a chance to hit the Northwest some day.

In-N-Out

I visited In-N-Out today. I am now a believer, and I know what all of you have been talking about. It’s clear from the start that this is a dedicated operation. One burger. One cheeseburger. One double cheese double burger. Maybe a side of fries. Maybe a soda. Maybe a milkshake. These are your choices. Fries are being cut and fried in front of your eyes. The restaurant is clean. Really clean. Everything tastes excellent. The buns even taste excellent. A perfect meal, for less than $5. Please God, move them out east. 10/10.

How Crazy Is This?

Kudos with Snickers pieces in it. It’s like a candy bar within a candy bar!

What The Heck

I think it might be because I’ve only been driving in San Francisco in the dark, but I’m having a hell of a time navigating the place. I mean, who on earth thought up this:

Made It To San Francisco, Read Some Stuff

Well, made it to San Francisco, after the late arrival and subsequent jammed cargo loader for our 767. Managed to quickly get lost, the rental car’s “Just turn left at the exit” directions getting me nowhere (he must have just been trying to get rid of me, as there was no way such directions could have worked). Luckily Streets and Trips came to the rescue, and I made it. Hotel room is a bit of a dump, in that the windows/lights don’t work, the fride is full of somebody else’s half-full coffee cups, and there is hair everywhere, but I’ve come to expect such things. Can’t speak to the beauty of CA so far, as it’s been dark, but it appears I can see the airport and bridge from the hotel parking lot, so it can’t be too bad.

Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm was an odd film. British humor at its finest, though I spent the first thirty minutes deciding whether I liked the film or didn’t get it. Ultimately, though, it was a nice pleasant feel-good film with some entertaining tidbits along the way and just enough randomness to keep one interested. 6/10.

Infection

So we couldn’t pick up Wiki today as planned. Her belly incision has become infected, and she’s not responding to the existing round of antibiotics. I got to see her briefly, she seems depressed, though was happy to see me, and her belly looks very unhappy. Will be talking to the vet tomorrow, but it doesn’t look like I’m going to see her at home until after my CA trip, for which I leave Sunday.

The Funeral

Largely, the funeral was nice. There was lots of singing, which would have made Nana happy, and there were nice anecdotes, both of the funny and serious variety.

Some Reviews

The Dodge Stratus is, quite possibly, the worst car I’ve driven in recent years. Here are a few of its flaws:

A Few More Travel Reviews

Wolfgang Puck’s in ORD was my lunch today. The service was horrid, despite the place only being half-full. It took me ten minutes to get a drink, and fifteen minutes to get a bill (never once an offer of a refill or other drink) after I’d finished eating. The food itself was ok, but nothing incredible; my pizza was underdone. 3/10.

The Most Ridiculous Circumstances Ever

I’m about to go to bed, after distracting myself with the first few episodes of Firefly for a couple of hours. I pet Wiki good night, and take my customary look at her staples from when she was spayed (four days prior) … and find half of them gone. Further, I find her incision now has an opening large enough to fit a dime (layed flat) through.

I Love Vets Who Love Pets

My vet just called me and said “Hey, we got a note from the emergency vet last night that Wiki pulled some of her staples, could you give me a call back and let me know how she’s doing? We want to make sure she’s ok.” That was the coolest moment of the day.

A Quick Quantitative Exercise

Rough estimate of cost of spaying at my vet: $125 Spay-inclusive fee for adopting kitten: $125 Cost of spaying done by shelter: $0 Cumulative time spent driving back and forth to shelter twice for spaying during rush hour (only time they’re open): 5 hours. Cost of a 30-minute trip to emergency vet to re-staple and provide plastic safety collar after incision opens up: $125.

A Quick Complaint

The business of death disgusts me. I understand that funeral houses are a business like anything else, but the pitching for an “online living memorial” just incenses me. I don’t even entirely understand why.

Goodfellas

What better way to celebrate your grandmother’s death than to watch a great mob movie. I suppose to complete the trifecta I’ll have to watch scarface now. Eh, it was fine. 7/10.

Bye, Nana

My maternal grandfather died when my mother was 12. Since then, I’ve not lost a single family member — be it an aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc. In fact, I’ve lost a good friend — Heather, to cystic fibrosis; when she died, I wasn’t yet ready to really acknowledge her death, so I skipped the funeral. Other than that, I lost a grandfather in law. He was a nice guy; I met him maybe a half-dozen times and spent a combined 24 hours with him at most. That was still pretty rough, and it was sad to see him go.

At Least All The Kids Made It

Nana died early in the afternoon; all the kids made it. My dad got to spend at least an hour sitting with her while her eye was still open, and that’s all I can hope for. It’s going to take some logistical tomfoolery to get there since Sarah’s gone to CA and I’m gone to CA next week, but we’ll get there.

The New Bloglines Rocks

the nothing stong sticks to your mouth like peanut butter on the brain

Travel, As An Antidote

I could talk at length about holding patterns.

Singularity Sky

Yay for travel! I finished Charles Stross’ Singularity Sky today, which I found an entertaining light sci-fi read. I’ve stayed away from this genre since finishing Vinge’s books, and it’s nice to come back to somebody else toying with the idea of singularities. I find Stross to be a little forward in his trying to explain technological and social singularities, as if he were trying to explain a bit too much; trying to have a basis for the singularity of one thing, but then trying to tie it all back into a neat bow with routers and switching technology of the Internet as its source strikes me as a little silly. Overall, I find Vinge’s treatment of singularities far more ambiguous, and far more engaging. That said, Stross writes a lovely space opera, with the usual villainy, themes, and triumph of the heroes in the end, and for that, one can’t be disappointed. I’ll probably grab the sequel, Iron Sunrise, next time I’m feeling like some light sci-fi, but I’d really just rather Vinge released another of his magical novels. 6/10.

Stranger Than Fiction

I finished Chuck Palahniuk’s Stranger than Fiction on the flight to Kansas City. Despite it being a collection of short stories (with my aforementioned allergies taken into account), it was a very easy and fast read, and quite fascinating at times. The most chilling perhaps was the description of a hurricane rescue worker and her dogs (used for smelling dead bodies out) from several years ago; it had a disturbing resemblance to the work being done in the previous weeks in New Orleans. While I am not necessarily a big biography fan, I find I enjoy anecdotes from people’s lives, especially when they involve tragic, ridiculous, or comedic events. I only found myself skipping through one story, if I recall correctly. Especially if you have enjoyed his fiction in the past, his nonfiction is just as fascinating. 7/10.

The Daily Show w/ Jon Stewart Live

We saw Jon Stewart live this evening. All I can say was that nine hours of hassle wasn’t really worth the show; you’re better off watching it on TV.

Two Thoughts

Spending thirty minutes in the car with two crying kittens, taking them to a boarding facility, is one of the saddest things ever. Is there a difference between wanting to die and wanting to kill oneself?

Chase User Interface Design

Each of the following is a distinct page; I’ve combined any steps that do anything dynamically on the same page.

Bitlbee

Bitlbee is quite possibly the coolest software I’ve seen in a while. It provides an IRC proxy for most of the major chat protocols. Now I can use irssi for my instant messaging. Swell!

Apache Upgrade

(Of no interest to anybody but about four people) I upgraded Apache on this system, and everything seems to be working on cursory inspection, but if anybody sees any quirks in their vhosts (or if anything on this site is downright broken), send me a holler.

Edward Tufte

I got to see Edward Tufte’s Presenting Data and Information yesterday. In general, it was a really cool experience. A lot of the first half of the presentation reminded me of the better classes in college — where there was a professor who was an expert in their field, had strong opinions, and had a true passion for teaching and an interest in transferring that wealth of knowledge they have to their pupils. When you find yourself in a class like that, you get to the point where you don’t care if you agree with the proctor or not, as the passion itself provides enough interest. This is the part of school that I really miss, but it was one of those rare things that should be the very focus of higher education, and I don’t think in this world it will ever be.

Corporate Game Theory

A hypothetical situation has entered my thoughts lately. While this situation has happened at many places I have worked, it is entirely a synthetic construct, and does not reflect any real-world scenario.

Steingarten and Mizrahi

I actually started It Must Have Been Something I Ate back when we went to Belize … it’s been my bathroom reading for far too long and I decided to finish it. First off, Steingarten is a certifiable misogynistic asshole. That said, these same qualities seem to give him focus and dedication to several gastronomic tasks, and I suppose that’s an asset. Still an asshole, though.

NCAA Football

I think I’m going to have to start watching the pros. As expected, Illinois was murdered when they played somebody other than a high school team. It’ll take time, I’m not concerned. Far more unfortunate, it looks like after this weekend, the winningest team in the history of the sport is no longer ranked by the AP or USA Today. Oh dear.

The Worst $500 Meal For Two We've Ever Had

Of course, by definition, for the time being I believe it is the best $500 meal for two we have ever had. As I mentioned, Sarah and I went to Le Bernardin today. We also saw Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, which was a good time (micro-review: 6/10. Well done, unoriginal, we had a great time, the UA on 64th and second is lovely, though the 20-minute pre-commercial and twenty solid minutes of trailers was somewhat unnverving).

Broken Remodeling

For a few weeks/months, Chase has been “remodeling” their online banking website, with several sections “temporarily unavailable” during the work, and this and that. Now, I’m a pretty patient person, so usually I come back after a few days to pay my bills, for example, and things work out. But this has been going on for weeks, and I’m tired of it. In short, when I try to go to bill payment, an error message pops up that my session (which I started less than a minute ago) has expired, and due to security reasons I’ve been logged out.

Ten Years!

So ten years ago today, my wife and I decided to start dating, which is pretty wild. It’s been an adventure since day one, and I look forward to many more years to come. This may not be a “real” anniversary, but it’s always been a special day for us.

Roll Your Own User Interface

Last week the world got to see what Office 12 might look like. Office 12? No Office 2003? Office XP 2? Office Vista?

Professional Networking Equipment

I’m reminded again and again why professional networking equipment is so much better than consumer-grade shit (read anything with the word “access point” or “router” in its name made by Netgear, Linksys, or D-Link that costs less than $150).

The Joys of Pet Ownership

Wiki still has an upper respiratory infection (have you ever heard of a lower respiratory infection?). Got a different antibiotic. Wiki has conjunctivitis. Got drops for that; she loves them (not really). Wiki Loki has fleas.

That Crazy Google Blog Search

The blog search has certainly been drawing more traffic to my site as of late. The most interesting example of this is that the phrase joel software lists a recent review of his compendium as being the second highest link, with the actual Joel on Software page being in fourth place. Luckily, the phrase “Joel on Software” is still pointing people in the correct direction.

Opera Redux

So I decided to start playing with Opera. Here’s the scorecard.

More Wiki

She still has a cold, but she’s super-cute!

Opera

I love firefox. I use it at home, and at work, I use it on linux/windows/OS X. It makes me smile, because it works, and the rich extensions/scripts make things work the way I want them to.

Zissou & 12 Angry Men

I wanted to hate The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, but I couldn’t help but be drawn in by its quirky sense of humor. Like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums before it, Wes Anderson took a story and filled it with so many little bits of dry humor and digressions that it took on a life of its own. It’s weird; it definitely wasn’t a great film, and I didn’t feel like it was up to the standards of his previous works, but you know something? I really couldn’t help but enjoy this film. About the only way I can put it is if you like Wes Anderson, you’ll like this film. If not, well, it’s not what you would expect from the advertisements. 7/10.

Oh Heavens

It has finally happened. I have achieved my first god shot. I knew from the moment it started dropping that it was perfect. The honey-dripping, the tiger-stripes, I didn’t even need to check the stopwatch to verify the pull was timed perfectly. I cut the shot just short of two ounces as the first signs of blonding, and it was an instinctual thing; I knew even before I smelled and tasted it that this, dear reader, was something special.

Good Ideas On the Net with Bad Architecture

I’ve complained, in many cases, offline in the past about PHP. I want to preface all of this with a few things:

What I Learned on September 14, 2005

Having several inches of metal tube stuck up your nose to poke is surprisingly unpleasant. Nasal anesthetic makes swallowing feel rather strange.

The Best Software Writing I

Joel Spolsky’s compendium, The Best Software Writing I was a unique experience for me. I had read most of the essays collected within on prior occasions, but there’s something special about reading them in print. I think part of it is that I’m used to skimming when I read soft copies and blog entries, complete with haphazard mouse wheel scrolling. Reading these through the second time (and even better, the ones I had not seen previously the first time) was a lot of good food for though. In specific, the essays that talked about things like compensation, recruiting, and success were refreshing. And, of course, anything by why the lucky stiff … well, it’s a good time in hardcopy format; when I read it online I tend to just get drawn to the cartoon foxes, ignoring the text. One of the difficulties I have in general is that I like the idea of anthologies, but I tend to have a hard time staying focused, and often drop them mid-book never to resume, but somehow this book compelled me to get from cover to cover in rapid fashion.

Cat Chaos

So, last night Wiki spent most of the first three hours I was trying to sleep playing with her new favorite toy — the shower curtains in the master bathroom, doing a lovely job of keeping me awake. Then, at 4 in the morning, Loki decided she was lonely and started raising hell just outside the bedroom door, crying, meowing, and so forth, with no end in sight. I eventually went out and pet her and then put her in the main floor bathroom with her litter/food/water, as she was not willing to settle down. This morning I’m on the way out, and just as I crest the stairs from the bedroom to leave I smell cat urine. I have no idea where, but somewhere on the upstairs landing, stairs, or downstairs landing, she took a ripe piss, so I did my best to spray the entire thing with enzymatic odor neutralizers and urine deterrents, but this behavior is not at all like her. This of course caused me to get to work later than I’d hoped, smelling of rubbing alcohol and cat urine.

Ugh

Three words you don’t want to hear from the elderly passenger sitting next to you on a plane: “I’m feeling sick.”

Job Fair Wisdom

So I spent the day recruiting at a job fair, which came with the normal pains and pleasures. It was a good time, and I hope that we get some good result from it in the long run — we’ll see. There were a lot of the things you would expect, including the chemical engineers turning their CV in for a software engineering job because it seemed they were turning their resumes into every single booth they could find. I realized very quickly that though I am socially inept and a poor salesman, I seem to have an effortless time selling our company, which was somewhat surprising. That said, there were a few things that weren’t obvious to me from the start that I thought I should share:

It Comes In Black

It comes in black. That’s so hot.

Better Parking Through Geometry

Today I was accused of idiotic parking. In principle, I understand what the guy was saying — that high schooler in his camaro parked diagonally across six parking spaces is definitely a dick. However, I’m parking in an atypical way in order to maximize the ease of exiting and entering my vechicle, minimizing the risk of somebody opening a door into my vehicle, and causing no additional impact to the vehicles around me (other than something looking strange). To illustrate, here is the expected way to park in a corporate lot. Corporate lots try to maximize parking real estate by making the spots too small so that everybody gets their doors banged up and cannot escape. A lot of this is the fault of SUV’s, but there’s an intrinsic civil engineering breakdown at fault. Anyhow, here’s the diagram:

Off To Champaign-Urbana

I am departing for Champaign-Urbana tomorrow afternoon, for a fun-filled recruiting trip. w00t!

Goofy Cats

So Loki, after trapping Wiki in a box, rolled over on her back with all of her feet in the air and exposed her tummy to Wiki. Wiki then ran away in terror. What the hell does all of this mean? Are they friends now?

Spam Blogs Keeping Me Up At Night

Mark Cuban got me started thinking about this spam blog thing. It’s something I’ve been chewing on for a while without writing anything. I think it’s the sort of thing that’s gone through most folks’ heads when they try to search for information in blogs or try to parse their referer logs (assuming they have already filtered anything involving the phrase “poker” in advance), but Mark did a good job of making the idea more concrete (and made me aware of the “splog” and “zombie” and “blam” phrases). Now it’s the sort of stuff that I find occupies my idle thoughts and keeps me awake at night. I’d recommend reading his commentary, and then reading all of the comments if the topic interests you.

Wiki, Take Two, In Pictures

Loki The Pussycat

Loki is over a year and a half old, and is as large as she’s going to get. In terms of sheer weight, she’s at least four times heavier than Wiki. Unfortunately, much like how she is scared of people, she seems to be terrified of the new kitten, and interactions to this point have largely consisted of her hissing and then running away scared. At the moment the new kitten just seems to get tired of their interactions and goes off and does her thing, whereas Loki looks intent on settling something … but never makes the first move. We’re waiting for that eventual “Loki beats the crap out of the kitten, and everything is understood” moment, but it does not seem to want to happen.

The Hudsucker Proxy

The Hudsucker Proxy was fantastic. It was so extreme as to be an obvious satire, but a satire of the sort that ridicules the most venerable of corporate institutions. I loved it! 8/10.

The Wiki Has Landed

We have added a second feline member to our family, and her name is now Wiki. We’re not sure how old she is (we’ll find out shortly), but she’s about the size of both of my hands together when she’s rolled up in a ball. Here’s a few pictures; she’s fast asleep under a t shirt right now (more pictures of that later) as it’s been a stressful day:

Rockbox

I installed rockbox on my iRiver iHP-120 today, so I could play flac files. I’m slowly starting to re-rip all of my CDs to flac for the day when I purchase a SqueezeBox2. I’ve found it thus far to be somewhat stable, and the playback quality of flac files to be sufficient, though movement between said files is much slower than the tiny little vorbis files I’m used to. I think I managed to crash/hang it about four times.

What I Learned on August 31, 2005

A new word — Otolaryngology, meaning ear, nose, and throat medicine. Another new word — conflate, meaning to mix together different elements. Linguistics is crazy. New Orleans is one of the more critical ports for importing coffee.

Kali Update

Well, some more news has surfaced on the Kali front. It sounds as though the foster family, after nursing the kitten through severe surgery, have become attached to said kitten and may no longer be interested in her being adopted. I understand that, and I’m sort of at peace with the situation … on the other hand, it’s sort of a downer. We’ll know for sure tomorrow, but I’m feeling less and less confident about this one.

Enough with the Splash Screens Already

I’ve had enough of splash screens, they can be safely deprecated. I don’t want to see them on websites, I don’t want to see them in applications. They serve no purpose.

Why I Love My Job

I get to go see Edward Tufte for a day. And I get a copy of each of his books, to boot!

Shady Conversation

Names and so forth changed, emphasis added…

Another Case of Twisted Science

So this link won’t be particularly relevant in a few days, but if you look at this current google news search you’ll see how many times the popular press perverts science for its own appeal. A study was done that indicates that, in terms of percentages of antioxidant consumption, coffee leads the charts. The popular press? Fifteen different variations on “coffee is the best source of antioxidants around and you should drink it all day long.” I’ve complained about this in the past, but in the all-important quest to get tempting headlines and enticing stories, this wanton reporting on real science gest to me from time to time.

To Heck With Kali's Precog Abilities

Seriously, check this cat’s blue eyes out. Anyhow, we found out Kali swallowed some string, and required substantial surgery to clear the obstruction, as it had become wrapped around her intestines. She is doing well and they expect her to recover, but for obvious reasons she is not yet ready for adoption.

Kitten Yawns Look Like Roars

Why I Love Greenwich

Spotted in the wild today:

Crying Cat

Yeah, so one of the minor downsides of the cleaning service was that they lost track of where the cat was yesterday. Usually she hides under the dining room table or the couch, but since they were vacuuming everywhere and running around (there were four people cleaning), she apparently found a new place to hide. For fear of locking her in a room without water/food/litterbox, I had them leave the bedroom and upstairs bathroom open in case she was under the bed or something similar.

Cable: Still Sucks

Well, I’ve now been playing with m0n0wall on the net4501 for about two weeks. Unlike the Netgear, I’ve had no serious issues with connectivity, router functionality crashes, or complete router lockups. That said, I’m still comforted in being able to say that cable sucks, as we definitely had an outage on the Optimum Online side last night:

Kittens

I’m no longer (not yet?) at that point in my life where I have to believe everything happens for a reason and so forth, but I’m hoping this is all working out the way it’s supposed to. Drove out to Bethel again to visit with Kali … and Sarah found her way from Middlebury as a giant hassle to her as well, as mentioned, and would take her home if she was everything described. Sat there till about fiteen minutes after our appointed time at which point one of the counselors came in and said that the foster family had just called, and that they’d had to rush her to the vet.

The Decalogue

I have started The Decalogue,, ten fifty-five minute films, each (at a superficial level) on one of the ten commandments. I have only finished the first film, but so far the vivid imagery is hard to escape. What was even more chilling is that I had sketched out a movie script once of a very similar inclination, replacing faith with love, but centered around the contrast between one firmly grounded in logic and reason, and one swept away by the emotions and love, and how the relationship ultimately lead to the suicide of one of its members. The part I struggled with was which would kill themselves, and what sort of change would come over the other side. Not being able to solve this, the script rotted, and sits in brittle form on my file server, never to be touched again. This is a different story, to be sure, but it was very strange seeing a lot of the same themes played out on screen.

Share Your Own Customer Images

As Kottke pointed out, Amazon now offers adult toys. I think this is fantastic, as it brings even more accessibility and removes even more of the cultural taboo against sexuality.

Maid Service

To paraphrase a brilliant and often misunderstood friend of mine, “Luxury isn’t owning the Ferrari — it’s having a car service on retainer to drive you to Manhattan whenever you want to go.” Taking a page from this book, we’re trying a new experiment in the condo. I’d mentioned this briefly a few days ago, but we have hired a cleaning service to come each week and keep the condo in shape. The price is far greater than I’d imagine, but on the other hand, I am hoping that the extra time it will buy us will be worth the expense.

Leave My Tab Key Alone

Here’s a clever trick that web form designers like to do because they like to use javascript, and remind me why I used to run a browser without javascript enabled. They take a form, like one asking for a phone number, and as soon as you type the three numbers in the area code input box, it tabs you to the next form field!

Management Company

Ok, so have managed to get in touch with the management company after several weeks of voicemail. Turns out the guy just had a kid, and there were some family issues with the board, but apparently our roof has gone out for bid and it’s being approved by the board tonight. Further, that we haven’t been billed for our common charges was a screwup on their side (I’ve actually been calling them pestering that I’ve not received any sorts of bills/welcome packets/so forth … what kind of sucker am I, demanding to pay money…), and that’s sorted out now. Finally, I now have two additional contacts at the management company that I can harass when our primary contact is unavailable. That’s a good thing.

Kitten-Riffic

So this is the kitten we are to visit shortly — this picture just came from the kennel:

I Am A Weapon

Ok, I finally went around to creating a warcraft section so you folks who don’t care can easily ignore me. Anyhow, did our first Scarlet Monastery run today with our guild; it was fun. Granted, it didn’t have all of the entertainment value of Deadmines. I still think Deadmines is the best instance that I’ve done, followed closely by Gnomeregan.

Has It Happened?

Reality check. Does the fact that I have a certain 7-week-old kitten picture on my desktop at work indicate that I’ve become … a cat person?

Harry Potter Six

Well, first off, this is a book about terrorism. From the alert system to the pamphlets to the reporting suspicious behavior to the twins working as defense contractors and preying on folks’ fear, to the imprisonment without trial, to the young child being accused of being under the imperius curse and killing its grandparents, it’s a quality fictional tale (dare I say allegory?) on the nature of this “war on terror.” The resonance with our current situation and the absurdity of the administration’s approach is downright chilling — more scathing a criticism could not have been written, and with luck the youth (and adults) reading this book will be subtly nudged into realizing how absurd the behavior of the administration over the last several years.

Irish Comedy and Salmon

Watched The Brothers McMullen. Decent story — one of the better romantic comedies I’ve seen in a while, but it still perfectly fits the formulaic romantic comedy … well, formula. To a T. As such, by definition it has to go in as a 5/10. This actually deserves it — though I enjoyed it more than most, the acting was the worst I’ve seen in years.

Kitten Hunting

Not enough cat pictures lately, I know.

DMZ and MRTG

So we were still having issues getting wireless to work with the Netgear thing, even with nothing else to do, so I’ve tossed it into the cheap junk network equipment pile. In its stead will be a managed access point in plenum chassis that should hopefully be a little more … well … useful. In keeping with this, I’ve now installed a FreeRadius server on my file server, which my router can now talk to. First off, this lets me set up a captive portal, so any traffic that makes it onto the DMZ, be it over wired ethernet or wireless, has to go through a “hi, who the hell are you, and why should I give you Internet access?” chokepoint. Second, it lets me use WPA enterprise, rather than pre-shared keys. Now, the challenge will be deciding whether to do that, or just use WEP or no encryption at all on the access point and instead trust any user to only connect via VPN (which, coincidentally enough, m0n0wall also supports) and not care if everything can be tapped.

Come On, Blizzard!

That’s right. The boats make a routine habit of dropping me in the ocean or getting me stuck in a running state so I have to go through a complete round trip, but rather than fix them, Blizzard has added the ability to dress your character up in the next patch. So much for developer efforts on stability improvements. I’m also not pleased with the weapon swapping global cooldown. I don’t play a rogue, but my hunter is really handy when he wants to off-tank because I have a sword with +armor, +defense … and being able to switch to this quickly is a very effective strategy, I find. No more! On the other hand, since they’ve nerfed defense ratings on weapons, they’ve made this point moot.

Hilarious

Read the third and fifth post here .

Charcoal

Bill had asked in a comment on one of my grilling rants what my opinion of classic Kingsford briquettes is, compared to natural hardwood lump charcoal. One day I will go so far as starting with wood (not hardwood charcoal) and going all the way to cooking, but that’s another experiment.

All American Movers Can Suck My Balls

Yeah, some of you may remember my bitching about All-American Movers. I even commented later how much they continued to suck. But, after our statement arrived, the last gian clusterfuck takes place. Of course, just to make trouble, they are also incompetent with credit billing, and double-billed us. An American Express fraud investigation was opened (took me 15 minutes to get through the menus, but then only two minutes end to end to get it going) and I’ve been refunded the duplicate charge, but these jokers just can’t seem to let the misery they caused stay put.

TXP Upgrade

So I got around to upgrading to Textpattern 4.0 today, and despite some minor hiccups, I think everything is functional again. If you come across any strange quirks, please let me know so I can fix things up. I’m a big fan of TXP, and whil my aversion to PHP has grown over the years, it still seems well-suited to my purposes for blogging. Being able to produce content with textile, inline php code if necessary, and use an easy templating and extension system makes it attractive to me. It’s still not for everybody — I think wordpress is still a far more generic and accessible solution for those that just want a turnkey blog, but I’ve not regretted my switch from a custom solution to this yet.

Random Catch-Up

So my five weeks of training at work are done. I’m glad, to be honest. I miss my desk, and I miss working on something. Don’t get me wrong, training is swell — learning about the company and how everything fits together is key, but I like my job, and I like having goals, achieving them, and … well, doing my job.

On How (Not) To Adjust Your Mirrors

Let’s get right down to it. If, when I drive up behind you, I can see your face in your side mirror up until the point where I can no longer see your side mirror, your side mirrors are not correct. Here’s the way it works — your rearview mirror, mounted on your windshield, is meant to show the view of what is directly behind your vehicle. Anybody with a trailer or other obstruction in your vehicle can promptly ignore the rest of this rant, as you are in that special case when your side mirrors have to serve double duty. We’re going to work through this, workshop-style. First, the purpose of your rear-view mirror. I’ll provide the disclaimer now that my illustrations are terrible and the angles and ratios are all wrong.

The Aristocrats

Hilarious. Best documentary I’ve seen in a long time. 8/10.

m0n0wall

So I’ve been playing with m0n0wall for … a few hours at best. And, it just works. It just works well. I now have a separate DMZ in which all the wireless traffic sits, a whole mess of firewall rules, port forwarding, and traffic shaping. I’ve seen identical (sometimes better) performance than the “hardware” Netgear “router” we were using (now relegated to being a wireless AP only). I’m very pleased. We’ll see how its stability compares in the long run (the Netgear box was somewhat flaky, though I still want to blame optonline, not the box itself) keeping the connection live and so forth.

Mmmm, HVAC

So I was pretty scared that our power consumption was going to go nuts when we moved to the condo, as we’d:

Jersey

Ok, so the garden state, at least in terms of transportation infrastructure, is the worst-engineered state in the union. Period. And, that’s just ignoring the whole turn right to turn left thing, of which I’m mildly fond. For this and many other reasons, I now understand why everybody hates New Jersey. It’s terrible!

Dark Star Safari

I started reading Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari back before we went to Belize; in other words, it’s been at least four months since I started it, but I have now reached the end. I think the reason why it took me so long (and why I was able to read so many other novels in between) is that it’s a difficult travelogue to process. In the pages of his book I learned of all sorts of suffering, as one might expect in an African journey, but I think I learned several far darker things.

Apparently I've been asleep all of this time...

So we’ll ignore the wars … and the environmental policy … and the human rights violations … and all of that crazy stuff that people debate. Yeah, yeah, Bush is an idiot, and the only more shameful thing is that majority of our citizens aren’t aware of it. Tell me something every Daily Show viewer doesn’t already know.

The Usual Suspects

“Oh my god, there’s a horrible twist at the end, nobody expects it.”

Fast

So I can now confirm that an unmolested WRX has a comfortable time bouncing the rev limiter in fifth fourth, even with the air conditioner on.

RAID

Yeah, so I accidentally kicked the power on my file server yesterday. Whoops. The RAID array came up and said “aww, it looks like you turned the power off when you weren’t supposed to. I’m rebuilding your array and verifying integrity.” It took seven hours (and was usable during that time, and it did a clever job of pausing the array sync when I was uding the disk), but is all working again, without having to fail over to the hot spare. Hooray for 3ware, and hooray that I could monitor all of that from linux. Since I rebooted anyhow, I took the time to resize /usr, which is pretty hard to do on a booted system, which also went smoothly. Hooray for LVM!

w00t!

Congratulations on your promotion, Sarah!

Not Funny

Folks, this is fucking sick. There’s nothing funny about eating disorders.

The Lego Set From Hell

Some assembly required. So we realized, after starting to unpack the book/media boxes, that we don’t have enough storage. This combined with that I still have four large boxes full of liquor that are boxed up could mean only one thing: We needed more furniture. Honestly, how it all fit in the last place is beyond me. We have double the square footage, and still not enough storage…

Crossposted to alt.home-theater.misc

So I thought I had a pretty good handle on analog and digital audio formats/transports, and then I [made the mistake and] entered the world of mid-end video, and am somewhat confused.

Huh.

Somebody at work shut off my cell-phone and I now lack the access (on my account) to re-enable it … so don’t call me for now, or you won’t get through. :)

Gobs of House Photos

Ok, apologize for the size of this post, but I thought I’d dump out a whole mess of house photos..

Night One with the Weber

Well, I played with the Weber. I started by filling the rather large Weber chimney starter about half full of hardwood charcoal, and lit it up with two firestarter cubes. In about three minutes, I had exploding fireballs everywhere, and was pretty scared I’d nuke the porch. Anyhow, this settled down after a bit, and I dumped the white-hot coals into the weber … and then I realized I had a scorching hot chimney with nowhere to put it. Not sure exactly how hot, I touched it with my suede gloves, which instantly started burning. This was a problem, as I had nowhere safe to store said blazing-hot chimney except on the grill, and putting it there would not allow me to cook (or it to cool down).

You Won, Bill

Well, it’s done. I went to our local Barbecues Galore, and took a look at the contenders. The Beefmaster was a flimsy piece, and was too large. The Texas BBQ Grill was awesome … but WAY too large. In the end, I came home with a Weber One Touch Gold, chimney starter, some hardwood lump charcoal, and the potential for cooking with some serious heat. I’m firing it up for the first time tonight; the hardwood charcoal burns seriously hot, and is a little treacherous getting going, but settles down a bit once it’s nice and warm. I don’t know that I’m ready to attempt hardwood outright just yet. :)

More House Stuff

I know, you’ve all got to be getting tired of this house stuff; I know I am. Soon, things will be in a reasonable state and I’ll start whining about the usual stuff instead.

Stuff

So the new thermostat is hooked up, that’s neat. Touchscreen menu-driven interfaces are the way these things always should have been done. We’ll see how it works when it’s heating season, but it recognizes my heat pump and emergency heat, and before I’d properly configured the toggle for the reversing valve, I was getting blazing hot refrigerant coming into the unit, so it seems to at least electronically work.

Amazon.com Is Not Transactional

I quote from the fifth amazon customer service rep to look at this issue:

Have I Mentioned Lately that Amazon.com Sucks?

So I complained a bit about my shipping fiasco with Amazon.com. Shortly thereafter, I was enticed by their “create another wish list, and win your list for free!” promotion, promoting their new wish list functionality. I tried to do this, moving all of my books into a book list … instead, the first 50 books I tried to move just got deleted from my wish list.

The Movers, Take Two

So the worst managed moving company in the world was supposed to, after yesterday’s fiasco be there Sunday at 10 in the morning.

All American Bullshit

So this is based on two data points, so it’s not necessarily valid. That said, I don’t think we’ll ever give money to anything named “All American something” ever again. First off, there was All American Limousine which was a special experience during our Belize trip. Now, we’ve got All American Movers, which managed to completely fuck us over today. They were supposed to show up between 11 and 12 today, load up all of our boxes, and ship them over.

Woah...

Good: We’re moving Saturday. Scary: We have to box everythign ourselves before then.

What I Learned on July 6th, 2005

I know I’ve needed to get back into the habit of writing this stuff down.

Insurance Claim Forms

Seriously, what the fuck? I’m pretty sure the only collection of paperwork more complicated than insurance claim forms and coordination of benefits forms are taxes. Would it be so hard to be able to just pull up a website, associate your card to another insurer for your spouse, and then say “File a claim” and it prints out a pre-filled form, you enter the relevant information for today’s claim (or do this beforehand on the website), attach the required receipts/coordination of benefits forms/etc, and mail it out?

More Progress

So Sarah painted the entire master bedroom on her own, so that’s done, which is awesome. We stripped out the half bath, so it can be painted tomorrow, and sarah taped that so we’re ready to go. Turns out the toilet leaks. More plumbing I get to do, hooray! Replaced most of the outlets (ran out) in the master bedroom. Installed new faucets (Kohler Forte … nice coverage, not as much pressure as we’d like),

Shit!

Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit.

Roofing Update

“Oh, this is bad … grunt … Very bad. I’m going to have to call Noel [management company contact]. There’s no quick fix, your whole roof needs to be replaced.”

Promising Signs

I called our contact at the management company and he returned my call about half an hour later — he’s authorized the on-site roofing contractor to stabilize the situation, and then once that’s been done somebody will be brought in to fix our ceiling. A few minutes later I was contacted by the roofing contractor to arrange an appointment to come out and take a look tomorrow at 8 to see what needs to be done. Now, until my roof is not leaking and I know it’s not leaking during the next super-heavy thunderstorm, I’m not confident of anything, but it seems promising so far. This is a pleasant change from the apartment management company, which is a steaming pile of shit, and unpleasant for handling any matter, small or large. On the other hand, I suppose that’s the advantage to paying a corporation to manage a condo, with the understanding if they don’t work for you, they’re going to be replaced.

The Joys of Homeownership

So I finished restoring the old thermostat and powering up the HVAC system again. I got through five of the six outlet replacements, which was a little scary, as half of those outlets had wires on both side sof the plug that were partially stripped and exposed. Thank god we have plastic boxes and not metal, or this place would have burned down years ago.

The Battle of the I-S-E and the Themostat

Well, the garbage disposal installation went well enough. Getting the old corroded pipes disconnected was a bit of a chore, until I realized that if you beat the crap out of an old corrodde metal pipe/washer/nut with a nice big channel wrench, sooner or later either the wrench or the pipe is going to self-destruct. Along those lines, I found it much easier to shatter the retaining nuts than to try to unscrew them, and removing the original sink drain was a challenge requiring three wrenches and a makeshift duct-tape rig to get apart. I forget how much I hate that black shit that grows in your pipes. I should have recalled that one of the most important lessons my father taught me is that plumbing is a nasty business.

Rainy Day Hopes

As I’d mentioned, the trip to Home Depot was not completely successful. I’ve had to order our faucets online from Home Depot; while they stock them by mail order, apparently Kohler shower faucets are not generally stocked in the store. Their selection of charcoal grills was lackluster (though there was an entire aisle full of gas grills), so I’ll hold off for a bit and then mail order that and the associated equipment from Barbeques Galore. I’m still not convinced on the relative merits of Beefmaster and Bar-B-Chef, but I’ve got some time to think about it. Finally, I’m somewhat confused on what blinds will actually fit our window, as our window is 71" wide and the blinds I could find at a comparable size are 72".

An Open Letter to Amazon.Com

I ordered1 a television from you recently (order XXX-XXXXXXX-XXXXXXXX). This was a bit of a sham to begin with, because the first time I tried to add the television to the cart and select it, I was able to do so, check out, hit place order, and then be informed that this shipper could not fulfill my order and I’d have to select from a different location. This is swell, except every other buying option cost $XXX-XXX more. A bit of a bait and switch? Of course, this comes after a $XXX price inflation from Amazon and J&R proper in less than two weeks time. Yikes! Bait and switch again!

A Good Reminder

I hadn’t realized how much I take my car for granted these days. I borrowed a Jeep Grand Cherokee (one generation behind the present) because I had to pick a load up stuff up from Home Depot. Of course, the big stuff I needed the Jeep for (blinds, grill, attic door) were not available, or were not the right size, so it ended up being pointless, but it is what it is.

Word of the Day

certiorari.

Progress

Done:

Progress

Done:

Weird

Yeah, so Sarah’s dual G5 locked up and stopped responding … and then the fans started revving faster and faster until it sounded like it was going to explode (instead of being virtually silent like usual). It was scary; a reboot seems to have resolved things.

Progress

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The Saga of the Television With a Side of Market Behavior

Part of moving is that we’re giving our borrowed 30" ProScan television and beautiful stand thing from another era back to its rightful owners. This means a new television, which would be simple. Well, simple except god knows what the right choice is these days with CRT, CRT projectors, LCOS, DLP, LCD, plasma, DCDi, HDMI, 780i, 780p, 1080i, 1080p (!!), and on and on. After some looking, weighing of longevity, picture quality, price/value, and price/chance of deprecation, we settled on the value play – a modest third generation DLP back-projection television. This gives us the following advantages over competing technologies:

Progress!

Done:

Oops.

Well, this doesn’t bode well for the anti-Ferrari sentiment…

Episode III

Silly. Silly, silly, silly, silly. But the fight scenes were swell. 6/10.

Market Morality

I’d mentioned this back before I went to Belize, so it’s high time I get it out of my head. I was sitting in traffic on 95 a while back, and pondering the classic entrance ramp scenario — some nut in his SUV cruising along in the right lane at 45 mph, slamming on his brakes and wedging into the pattern so he’ll be at the front most possible entry point when traffic starts moving again. Why do people do this? It’s pretty obvious, in that it accelerates their departure, at the expense of everybody behind them. People are selfish creatures. The driver of this SUV sees almost no risk — what could happen? Nothing he is doing would probably pass as illegal. The folks in the other cars aren’t going to get out of their cars and beat him to a bloody pulp. The other cars aren’t moving, so there’s not likely to be an accident. There’s only upside, if any sense of morality is thrown out the window.

RIP, F1

I’ll miss formula one. Rant in comments there.

Pretty Nothing

Saw Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events … it was fine. I fine the movie to have the same irritations that I found in reading a portion of one of his books (at my old job, I read every week to children as part of a community service program), and I found the plot tedious and predictable. On the other hand, I think a marvelous job was done with set building, special effects, and cinematography, given the target audience. 5/10

Home!

Here we can see Loki playing with our mortgage/sale docs/etc. This is poorly disguised as playing with a toy mouse:

The Gnomish Hedge Fund

So I was thinking about it the other day, and in World of Warcraft, there is a functional and dynamic market for goods and currency. Especially on my realm (Cenarius) which is low population, there are gobs of volatility. On the Alliance side, at least, there is also a huge market for foreign-sourced vended items (fishing books, first aid books, odd vended herbs and reagents, as well as various recipes, patterns, and so forth).

Almost There

Done:

Suck

Apparently our new condo is not serviced by a CO that has any sort of dry line capability. Therefore, it will be impossible to get anything but phone company DSL, which from experience is pure trash. Therefore, cable seems to be the better solution — this means no routed subnet, high latency, and all of the other hassles that come with consumer-level service.

Crap

When I installed mutt with ssmtp on my box at home, I didn’t pay attention to my outgoing mails. The consequence is I sent a week of emails that couldn’t be replied to. I’m not ignoring you, and I do exist — honest!

I Got Tired of Hair

Screw Dr. Pepper

Ok, so I go and try enter the Dr. Pepper contest to win a free mini cooper. I enter my 15-digit unique code, and try to enter, giving them gobs of personal information they can use to profile and sell to me, and my one-time email address.

Another Housing Rant

So the mortgage broker calls me today and says “Oh, crap, the underwriter is complaining that your two paychecks actually covered a period of 29 days, and not a full month, and therefore they can’t underwrite your loan unless you provide us a paystub … within the next couple of hours.” WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T YOU FIGURE THIS OUT A MONTH AND A HALF AGO WHEN YOU APPROVED OUR LOAN AND REQUIRED ALL OF THIS DOCUMENTATION IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Transitional Moving Plan 2

Done (assuming moving service does what they say):

Transitional Moving Plan

Done:

Pulling Teeth

Every since I signed the first binder, I’ve been told that a free service will contact us from the realtor agency (Prudential CT) to arrange for the transition of utilities and so forth. I’ve been nagging about this service now for over a month, being that we’re closing next week. This morning I just said “fuck it” and started arranging things myself. Of course, this became a problem once I realized I didn’t have the meter number for our power meter, so I wrote our agent and said “listen, since these folks obviously have no interest in contacting us, and you’re not being of any help, can you go get our meter #?”

Not Much Of Interest

Really very little of interest going on. We still close next Tuesday, and get the house the following Tuesday, which is cool. Lots and lots to do, lots already done.

Coinage

I want one.

Hooray!

Move-in day has been set; we will suffer only a 7-day leaseback and will take physical possession on the 21st! Rejoice!

God Save Me

Sucasas. An American Supercar. Using God and America to sell it, cheaper than those dirty European bastards that know what they’re doing.

Belize, Days Two through Seven

The rest of this is just a collection of mostly random observations in no particular order.

Another Housing Hassle Knocked Out

Ok, it took way too much time on the phone with different agencies, but our condo is now insured, and we’ve fulfilled the last legal requirement for our closing, beyond coughing up the closing costs. Now to start the long laundry list of service cancellations and activations, and so forth. This much I think I have figured out:

Belize Literary Reviews

So here’s the roundup of all of the various stuff I read while on our trip:

Holy Shit, Batman

So I’m sitting here, realizing it’s June tomorrow, and realizing what that means…

Belize Day One

We woke at 3:45 on Saturday to take our car service to LGA. The Russian driving the car drank from a one gallon jug of iced tea the whole way there. I don’t know how his bladder could handle it. Most of the ride was well north of 100 mph, which is always a little terrifying. Our trip from LGA to MIA was uneventful, save a lady getting checked through security that refused to remove her cat from the carrier, citing that the cat would run wild through the airport. Having a cat of the same inclination, I was thinking much the same thing. This then required a physical search of the carrier and its cat; we left before hearing the end of that story. A few observations, and subsequent rules based on the first flight’s experience:

Back From Belize

So I have three bad things to discuss about our vacation, and then all further posts can be good things. I’ll get it out of my system, and then only the routine whining will be present in the later entries.

Happy Anniversary To Us!

So this is really just a forward-dated entry, the only computers we’re interacting with right now are telling us our air consumption and nitrogen ongassing rates.

What I Learned on May 20, 2005

I’ve been resisting moving away from bash ever since I started using bash. I like bash, it works, and when I want to do fancy shell scripting … well, I just use perl instead. Everybody who uses zsh seems to like it, but I always say “no, I don’t need your fancy shell, it can’t be that great.” Today I read Ned’s post about zsh, and I became an instant convert. First struggle was making sure I knew how to do all of the stuff that worked in bash. Problem solved; it does everything I want and more.

What I Learned on May 10, 2005

Trying to force a byte-based library (like zlib) to cooperate with c++ iostreams is a bitch. A long time ago, Jason Zych told me "always always always remember to terminate your class spec with a semicolon, or else all sorts of compiler nonsense will show up. Today that little reminder hit home in a big way. C++’s ability to use C libraries is as swell as it is dangerous, as it forces the programmer to ignore all of the lovely safety measures, smart pointers, and so forth that make c++ so attractive these days. This is cool right up until you do something and smash your stack in some poorly-documented API. Ok, so that’s my user error, but I think the point is somewhat interesting (and I’m sure obvious to the veterans out there) — one’s whole programming process and set of paradigms breaks down as soon as third-party C libraries come into play.

Kitten War

Kitten War is perhaps the best site ever. Vote for loki here.

Holy Shit, Luke

Ebert gave Sith a lower rating than the New York Times.

Silly Saab

Yeah, so a Saab tried to race me today. News flash: torque steer is a bitch!

This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Talk About

An old friend was in town from high school, so we spent most of Saturday driving around Connecticut, talking and listening to Modest Mouse. We drove west through Greenwich, took the Merritt to Norwalk, took 7 up towards Brookfield, 34 towards New Haven, and the post road until it started heading towards Boston. Good times. A few graphical highlights from the 300-mile tour:

Recurring Dreams

I have three recurring dreams:

Restate My Assumptions: More Rambling on Podcasting

About half a year ago, I ranted about why I thought podcasting is silly. My feelings then were (reworded):

Portable Audio Players Should Have Ethernet

USB is swell. Firewire is swell. That said, portable audio players should have:

An Update and Story

A lot of radio silence lately. No news is good news, I suppose. I still like my job. We’re going to Belize. I’m getting up each day and doing some form of exercise, even if it just means going for a walk. I managed to get to work today before realizing I’d left my badge at home. That is now a much more time-expensive endeavor, as it takes a lot more than 10 minutes to walk home and retrieve my badge.

The Horror

Aunt Sonya’s is closing!

French Food

I still dream of the proper French baguette. Entries like these remind me of the importance of trying that before I die. They also remind me that sometimes revolutions happen on a smaller scale.

The RAID Plunge

All of my external firewire storage went corrupt and my firewire controller seems to have failed in my primary file server at home. As a stroke of luck, I was only using external storage as a backup for the internal, so as of yet (the machine has been hibernated in preparation for a safer data storage area) I’ve lost no data, but I’m running scared.

Closer to Closing

So things are looking good on the housing front:

Prime Rib Dinners At Work Are Not A Perk

There is an article over at Mercury News talking about hi-tech company cafeterias. Not too much information there, other than that yes, hi-tech companies do give perks such as decent subsidized/free food, in order to keep people on-campus more often than not. At my current job, we get sandwiches/salads and all-you-can-drink beverages each day, and a cafeteria is on the way. That’s not what I’m interested in talking about, however. It’s this quote that jumped out at me:

What I Learned on April 27, 2005

boost::spirit is really cool. It solves those problems when you need to write a full-fledged parser, without making it any more painful than necessary. When things actually start working, you start getting a bit of a god complex though, because you’re now implementing your own language, rather than just writing a nasty regular expression. On the other hand, sometimes parsing a trivial one-liner in a boost::spirit parser just isn’t worth it. Better to rewrite the syntax into easy state machine candy. Because, at the end of the day, debugging spirit is less than trivial.

The Station Agent

Both Sarah and I were really tired this Monday. Our best theory (which is to say hers, as I don’t do well at theorizing) is that we had a lot of childish fun this weekend, and didn’t want to face the real world.

What I Learned on April 25, 2005

This has been on hiatus for a while while I acclimate to my new job. This is no excuse, as I’ve been learning new things, but it is what it is. I’ll sprinkle some of the things I’ve learned in the last two weeks in the below.

Since When Was Consciousness Disloyal?

So some may remember Arlen Specter for his brief debacle in which he recommended against nominating Roe killers. Now he’s gone and disagreed with the president. There is all of this fantastic fuss around this issue — “How dare a republican disagree with the president? How dare a republican be disloyal?” I really don’t understand this. A senator’s primary job is not to be loyal to a president. Their job is not to be loyal to their personal ideals. Their primary loyalty is to their constituents. If they do not feel a decision is the best one for their constituents then they may have to make a decision that is orthogonal to that of the president. They may have to make a decision that is orthogonal to their own views. Doing everything the president commands upsets the balance of power and belittles the point of having separate branches of government.

Weirdest Weather

So it was 85 yesterday! In any event, here is ths trangest National Weather Service warning I’ve seen in a long while:

The Old Job Blues

Yesterday I received my first cry for help from my old job. I replied via email. Today I have two additional follow-up queries, I have replied again via email. It’s not a big deal at the moment, and I don’t want to burn bridges, but I Find myself getting more worked up over it than I should.

Political Poison Pills

I’ve started reading the portions of the Times I like each morning through blogrunner’s annotated syndications. This may well make me dangerous, until we get a condo and can start getting physical papers (which will be a novelty) … and then I’ll be more like “On page 4a of the Times, there’s this great piece…”

The Tubbs Scale

It is time for me to fully enumerate my critical evaluation system, both to keep me honest, and to give some sense to the random numbers I dangle on the end of movie reviews. As I mentioned before, the scale is logarithmic, such that a rating of 6 is an order of magnitude better than a rating of 5.

Down With Romantic Comedies

We saw Fever Pitch. Shame on you, Nick Hornby. At least in High Fidelity there was funeral sex. Allow me to digress with an illustration:

Perturbance in the Force

Somehow our 1% escrow check and our 10% down payment both got exercised, even though the former was supposed to be destroyed, so now 1% of the house value may or may not (I say may not as I’ve not seen the actual debit from our checking account yet). My agent’s explanation: “Yeah, I’m sorry Aaron, this is why I hate doing this the Prudential way, I knew this would happen, and we should have just done it my way.” So let me get this straight:

Housing and Employment

I don’t know how best to quantify it, except to say that all of this house-buying stuff is freaking me out. I know I said my last rant was just a placeholder, but I don’t think I have anything in specific to say. I’m just glad we’re most of the way through the first portion of this adventure. After we sign contracts, put down 10%, and lock in our rate, we get some merciful silence for 50-60 days, until things go nuts again with the closing and leasebacks. I’m looking forward to when everything is done, they’ve moved out, we’ve changed the locks, and we can actually start worrying about living there.

Contract Signage

Well, we’ve signed a contract and wired 10% of the house to our lawyer. Now we just cross our fingers that the other side signs the contract, approves the rider (our protection during leaseback), and then we’re officially legally getting a house, assuming one of the eighteen pull-out conditions are not met before closure. I’m not sure whether to celebrate or scream in terror.

Reading List

The “list a lot of crap on your blog” seems to be the spirit of the times and has the added benefit that when not in summary mode, it makes reading entries through aggregation each time they’re updated real irritating. I’m thinking of adding the greasemonkey article filter for bloglines to get around this, but that’s another battle. I don’t know where this list came from, as it seems awful arbitrary, but there’s probably something to oit. Enough whining.

More Short Substitutes

So this is another placeholder, but lawyers suck. Real estate agents suck (buy AND sell side agents). Mortgage brokers suck. House buying sucks. Suck suck, suck.

I Like My New Job Thus Far

I’ve got some more notes I need to collate, and write a proper entry, but I wanted to stop and say “I don’t hate my job yet.” In fact, I like the people I’ve met and worked with thus far. I keep thinking to myself “Gee, these people don’t suck; why does that still surprise me?” My current project is to start learning COM/OLE/ATL/MFC and write an excel add-in. As technologies go, I’m not that excited about the excel side of things (or Windows development in general, for that matter), but COM is interesting.

Geocaching

So the weather was great today, so we decided to go out and hit a couple quick and easy caches in Darien. The first was a relatively easy one, but bore a 4 terrain rating because of a rickety bridge suspended about six feet over some slippery rocks and rapids.

The Plot Thickens

So last night we get a call from our realtor — “The buyer is still trying to find a home and they want more flexibility; they want a 90-day close.” Still upset about the whole bid getting raised thing because we gave them a “night to think it over” we don’t feel like being real flexible right now.

Why The Real Estate Market Is In Danger

So for a long time I’ve feared that we’ll see people loading up leveraged on adjustable rate mortgages when the rates rise are going to have to bail and flood the market with supply. I try to remain optimistic (hell, we’re buying a house!) about the market, but then I read stupid shit like this (link defunct).

This Job Still Has The Power To Surprise Me

“Since you’re going to have to go out and sign some contracts tonight, and because you’ve taken some time in the last two weeks in working with house stuff, which is fully understandable, well, you’ll understand that there have been some missed opportunities for knowledge transfer [I’ll try to keep the digressions quiet, but what about when an employee to which I was to transfer knowledge decided to take the afternoon off?], and because of that, we may call you during the next few weeks for clarification on issues with the system.”

On The Upside

… our new (at the money) bid was accepted! Now we just need to force to contract ASAP.

If You Give The Seller An Inch

Well, we’ve entered the multiple-bid world.

Rant 1 of 36,726 on House Buying

In this market, setting a bid price is no small task.

The Weirdest Thing I Did Not Expect Today

The head of development in my product area came over and wanted to have a chat, and he proceeded to argue that I should stay with the bank, and offered me a position under him. The points he made were important — in that I am giving up my pension, options, and the network of people I’ve already built at this company. But there are so many other concerns that aren’t resolved by just jumping over the fence and working the same job from the software engineering side.

Today's Disovery

I find some mackerel on a bagel tastes awesome in the morning. Sarah has some theories about this one for me (and no, I’m not pregnant).

A Fable

13:01 – “What does this issue mean? How do we resolve it?”

Rhode Island Recap

So as I mentioned before, we went to the ocean state. A lot of stuff happened, but I’ll just summarize a few points, as an excuse to post some photos.

I Remain Excited

I read a blog entry today that talked about somebody leaving their job at the company I’m about to join. While one doesn’t have to believe the written word, I am encouraged when I read the following about said company:

Birthday Princess Loki

What I Learned on March 31, 2005

about:config Google is now prefetching the top search results in firefox. I love google. I love firefox. I never want to use IE again.

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Hooray!

What I Learned On March 30 2005

layout: post title: What I Learned on March 30, 2005 tags: [] - Prepare yourself, it’s all about coffee.

Quitting Day

I resigned today. It felt good, but didn’t bring the instant relief that I thought it would. Throughout the day, however, I’ve been feeling better and better about things. The whole “weight off my shoulders” thing hasn’t set in yet, but I’m hoping it will soon.

New FDA Labels?

I happened upon an empty coke bottle today, for Coke with Lime. On the back is the usual nutritional label, except with a twist (forgive my pun) — there was a ‘Standard Serving’ column and then a ‘This Package’ column. The standard serving said there were 2.5 servings per container, 100 calories per serving, and all of that jazz. The ‘This Package’ column listed the container as a whole, doing the math of multiplying everything by 2.4 (nevermind that it would seem to suggest 2.5 would be the correct factor; it’s all about percent error), so that you can see that a whole bottle is one eigth of your daily caloric consumption. I don’t know that this will help anybody, but I think it’s interesting. A little sad that we cannot be trusted to do math, but that does not surprise me.

Ocean Coffee Roasters, Newport, RI

So we’re back from Newport, Rhode Island — it’s a quaint little place. It has one of the largest, longest, most sprawling “down towns” I’ve seen in a long time.

The Small State

Buffalo Soldiers

Just finished Robert O’Connor’s Buffalo Soldiers. Not exactly Catch-22, but then I couldn’t finish Catch-22, so there is something to be said for that. All in all I found the novel dark and satirical, though I would not call it funny. At times it verges on saying something great or profound. Apparently a movie was made from the novel; I’m tempted somewhat to add it to my netflix queue. All of that said, for a first book I can’t complain. I would probably read the author again. 6/10.

Weekend Movie Reviews

So we saw Sleepover. I’m not going to give this movie the pleasure of my feedback. However, I did finally realize why Sarah keeps renting/paying to see this garbage. It’s not that she enjoys terrible movies; it’s that she enjoys the misery they put me through, as the awkward plot inconsistencies (airbags cannot go off twice), lack of plot (where the hell did the Cindarella story come from) and the complete impracticality of it (oh, give me a break; women in high school have no honor). I mean, it’s a 0/10, a complete life waster … but I’m convinced Sarah gets some sort of sick pleasure out of it, so it’s cheap entertainment, eh?

Webtrash

When will professional developers learn that they have to do things like trap what happens when a database user fails to authenticate? I understand that catching and handling every exception with proper care is difficult, but a user should never see this:

Damn You, Lance Armstrong!

So we were talking to a lady today that had lime green awareness bracelets. Asking what they were for, she indicated that they were for eating disorder awareness. I am a fan of eating disorder awareness, and think it is a good cause; while I’ve never worn a wristband before, I thought “what the hell, that’s great!” So I get home and search the Internet, and find that lime green wristbands seem to be for muscular dystrophy, not eating disorders. On the other hand, the correct coloration for an eating disorder seems to be up in the air. One site suggests light blue is appropriate. This also comes with the double meaning of tsunami relief and legality of abortion. I can go for that. Another one tells me purple bands are for anal sex, whereas green is for cunnilingus and the outdoors. Ok, that’s cool, but probably not as reputable. Along the way, I found so many colors, engravings, and meanings for these things that I’ve concluded that they no longer have any meaning. It’s just become a commercialized mess, and most people seem to be selling them as a fashion accessory. They’re the snap bracelet of the millenium, I guess.

100 Cups of Coffee

I love this guy’s project; he blogs through 100 cups of coffee; since then he’s shot past 100, but the journey is an interesting idea — the inspiration seems to have brought some interesting conclusions. One of the things Matt said was inspiring:

Stamford Harbor

Sarah and I walked down to the harbor today, and I played with my macro lens out in the daylight for the first time—

What I Learned on March 17th, 2005

I’ll just cut to the chase — this is just more babbling about the genius of Ruby.

To Hell With Social Security, Fix The Postal System

Here’s something I don’t understand. Every time you move in the US, you get a new address, and you’ve got to update all of your previous address information. You have to update it with employers, people that send you bills, and so forth. The post office offers forwarding services, but these expire after a while, and are slow, and add another point of failure, and so forth. Say you miss a tax bill or something else, suddenly you’re in collection, your credit is dinged, and all of that crap, or you fail to pay something and you get a tax audit, or god knows what… It’s all a royal mess, and for people in rental properties, it is especially nasty.

What I Learned on March 16th, 2005

The Lotus Elise is a sexy car in the wild. There’s a brand new one today in the executive-director-and-above parking garage (where I walk to get my car kick), with full sport package courtesy of HRM, red with black racing stripes and yellow accents. I just want to pick it up and take it home with me. Despite its cost, it looks so much better than the various AMG SL cars and 993 and 996 bretheren around it. It steals the thunder of the tuned up 5.0 Mustang, and the Ferraris didn’t show up today. The nearby STi looked like a toy, even though it was twice the size. And so forth… As car, completely impractical, but oh so desirable.

Unnecessary Roughness

When I was interviewing people earlier this year, one of the first things I did after reading their resumes was to google them. Many of them didn’t really exist, but every once in a while you come across something. I’m not sure what impact the information I find has. For example, one could find a blog, and realize “hey, this guy is actually interested in technology, even when he’s not at work, that’s nice to see, for a change!” Or, one may come across some stuff and think “gee, this is a bunch of really strange stuff, but at least this guy won’t be another boring gnome that hides in the woodwork.”

ThumbWiki

In some exploration of Ruby today I came across instiki. Short run-down: Instiki is a self-contained wiki, implemented in ruby. It provides web server functionality, persistent data storage, ability to export to html, and all of that out of the box. Nothing beyond a basic installation of ruby is required to run it. It reminds me a lot of some self-contained projects in python I’ve seen, except that it works. Oh yeah, and it has built-in textile formatting. I’m continuing to smoke from the ruby crack pipe, and I like what I’m tasting.

What I Learned on March 14th, 2005

It’s not trivial to keep chrome looking clean and shiny. It’s best for your capital gains to be long-term. Thank god for that, several thousand times. Life is much more peaceful when: Your phone is disconnected because the phone switch is going haywire You forgot to open Outlook You “forgot” to open chat Vim’s :bufdo functionality is super-cool. I like Modest Mouse even better than I thought. I find not using a mac at work more and more depressing. First off, I miss having QuickSilver at work. I find myself wanting recall one of the half-thousand del.icio.us bookmarks I have, and realize I actually have to browse there to do so. This is a tremendous hassle. Better ability to use unix tools via the standard distribution or fink is worlds better than cygwin will ever be. Even though OS X is more graphical than just about any other operating system, I find it is far more keyboard intensive (and effective) than Windows. Again, this may be due to QuickSilver. While Expose seems like silly fluff, having a quick mouse or key sequence expose my desktop, or let me see everything I want is fantastic. Using the witch plugin to pick in alt-tab style is also extremely effective. I don’t mean to be a plugin junkie, but my productivity soars with this stuff. I miss the fact that I can just script/drag/glue everything together across applications without thinking. To hell with “productivity suites” — OS X is a “productivity environment.” Build it from the ground up to be productive, and it will be. With distractions breaking it up, it takes me 11 hours to get through three albums worth of music at work.

Robots and Episode III

We saw Robots this weekend. More important, we saw the Episode III trailer. I wanted to hate it, I did, I did! After the pretty but pointless Episode I, and one of the most tedious and boring movies of all time (we gave up watching it the first time through) in Episode II, I knew Episode III was going to suck. But, then, I saw the trailer, and just like everybody else in the whole world, I was transformed into excited anticipation in the space of a two-minute trailer. I now want to see Episode III, and I can’t help myself. George Lucas better deliver, this is his last chance, especially now that he’s screwed up the DVD’s of the last three movies.

Close-Up

$5 to anybody that can guess what they are; Sarah doesn’t get a guess.

What I Learned on March 11th, 2005

Even when one is being paid, “please remove me from your list” wars still happen on distribution lists. McDonald’s is considering outsourcing drive-thrus. I think this is pure genius, and for that matter can’t comprehend why the entire restaurant isn’t yet automated by robots controlled from India as well. People search for some weird stuff, like “apache2 gran turismo 4” or ‘starbucks and “roasting profile”’ as well as more mundane things like “gran turismo 4 transformer more money from GT3 cheat code.” First, to address that last point, money is not a problem in GT4. With 100,000 credits and 8 minutes in b-spec mode, all anybody has to do is b-spec the silver arrow race, get the CLK race car, b-spec the german professional race, and pocket a cool million credits. b-spec makes cheating unnecessary, as credits are superfluous. For the Starbucks roasting profile, just set your roaster to “char” and pull the beans out just before they turn to powdered charcoal. Ruby doesn’t support increment/decrement operators. With all of the rest of these programming usability features, I’m left going “why not?” The only explanation I can find referenced on google doesn’t exist anymore. Bother. That said, thinking a bit about the way everything is an object (more on this in a bit), I realized that i++ would be expanded to i = i + 1, which could potentially require some object-incurred inefficiency. Who knows. Continuing in that trend, the distinction between !, ^^, and || and not, and, and or is “most curious.” Ok, now I’m just stealing from the above, but zero is considered truth in ruby, and only false and nil are considered untrue. Ruby has native arbitrary precision integer support built right in by default. Classy! Ruby supports closures! Ruby’s iterators such as each and collect seem to make it a much more functional language than I expected. Map, grep, inject, all of that stuff is therefore trivial to accomplish. I miss functional languages, it seems that Ruby bring some of the best features out into a more “useful” language. Ruby supports parallel assignment — another one of those stupid space-saving programming tricks that make a whole bunch of declarations so much cleaner. Ruby is weird:

More Pictures

New Toys

Ok, you’ve put up with my bitching, I got a few new toys, and I thought I’d share a couple of the first half-dozen shots:

What I Learned on March 9th, 2005

TurboTax is a piece of junk: I tried to use TurboTax behind an authenticated proxy. Failed. Error message came back “the proxy requires authorization.” There is no way to enter proxy authentication information. Check the Internet Connection settings in TurboTax — it uses the general computer Internet connection settings … but provides no facility to enter proxy authentication information. I get a little fussy when open source developers ignore things like proxies, and consider them a trivial problem to solve, but this is a commercial product! Combine this with all of the spyware problems with TurboTax, and one can safely say that this product is a piece of crap. It’s also a real bitch for people with income in half a dozen states. To get back to the proxy issue, Intuit has been aware of this problem since at least August of 2002 and has done nothing to resolve this issue. What a bunch of jokers! Apparently spending all of that time developing invasive monitoring products didn’t leave enough resource hours (over the course of three years) to develop the proxy authentication handlers. I don’t think my manager gets it. Don’t get me wrong, he understands at least at a functional level some of the stresses going on in my life, and he at least admitted to doing just about nothing to help me in the last six months. Even with that, rather than sticking to the plan to take me off front-line support, it’s just back to the same old bullshit. He says things like “I want to get somebody in here to work on some web work for us, since we don’t have the technical expertise within the group.” For god’s sake, does he even know what my work history involves? When I’ve mentioned that my history is from software development, especially with a web focus, and that I’ve been hacking on web stuff since 1995… Anyhow, I’ll stop that train of thought there, but it goes back to “he doesn’t get it.” While I’m pushed to “transfer knowledge to X” all of the time, and she comes to me all of the time like “we need to get knowledge transfered for Z” the biggest impediment is not me — I make plenty of documentation available when requested (it is never read), answer all email questions (never read), block out huge chunks of time for meetings (other party is always busy), show up early (party is not in yet), stay late (party leaves early), etc. Other party is not answering evening calls. Other party is ignoring weekend calls. I can’t fix that. There’s nothing I can do to transfer knowledge when nobody is there to receive it. I can’t say as I expected anything different, but like I said, I was hopeful. So now we’re back to holding pattern, square one, with no intent to get me out. Fuck that, I’ll get me out, I’m tired of playing this game. I’m tired of delivering more, fixing more, managing more, and putting in more effort than the rest of my team and getting nothing rewarding out of it. The paycheck isn’t enough anymore. I’m tired of working with incompetent and uninspired employees in all directions — up, down, and sideways. Enough is enough. At this point I just hunger for change, which is a dangerous place. Had another chat with my old boss today, and found out exactly what he told my new manager when he went and talked to my old boss to find out what was going on with me — “You are fighting a losing battle. There isn’t a thing you can sell him to change that, and any efforts you expend are wasted. The second Aaron knows what he wants to do in his career, he will be gone.”

What I Learned on March 8th, 2005

I learned that the six-wheel formula one car is not dead. I think it would be interesting to see a complex drive train in the form of a six-wheel car … with inline duals in the back, and a single for steering in the front. It would be a menace to turn without some serious computer assistance (I’m pretty sure mechanical differentials can’t solve all of the problems), and I don’t have a clue if it could ever perform outside a straight line without some form of high-speed all-wheel steering, but the launch traction would be incredible, especially if you bias the rearmost tires so they’re riding a little higher on the suspension so they don’t really get in the way until you really plant the accelerator and shift the weight balance onto them… I learned that even in Connecticut, going from 50 to below freezing is impossible in a short amount of time. I’ve not completely lost the Midwest. Quicksilver is even cooler than I imagined. If you’re not using it, you should be. Of course, that means you need a mac. If you don’t have one, you should. I’m a convert for life. Down with windows. Linux on servers. Mac forever! Vim can save your life, even when the power goes out. Swap files forever! Ok, so it didn’t save my life, but when the power went out, I was just like “eh, that’s ok.” Everybody else was yelling and groaning. I saw it as a mandatory coffee break. You can’t teach a developer anything if they don’t have the fundamentals. This probably isn’t true, but I’m bitter. This guy is trying to work with locking constructs … it’s abstracted out a ways, but the end of the day is there are a pool of processes, a pool of tasks, and job control is done via files on a network share. Safely mutually excluding is hard in this scenario, but it’s not impossible. Right now we’re seeing 1-5% performance attrition in our system because of duplicated work, because things aren’t mutually excluding. I pointed out that locking the lock file, rather than just creating one and trapping an exception when one tries to create the same file again, is probably a good first start in refactoring the approach to solving this problem. So after much complaint from my side, explanation of the idea of a TSL, and explanation of the problem, the new approach was proposed:

What I Learned on March 7, 2005

I learned what it feels like to be a Michigan fan. That is to say, the Illini are at the top of the conference, league, and all that, and then Ohio State has to come and screw everything up…

The Periodic Work Whine

So last night at 1AM I’m waiting for a process to finish (I eventually gave up at 2AM), and I get into a chat with a guy in Tokyo, and among other things, he said “I’ve seen your work, you shouldn’t be GSD, you should be promoted desk dev or pure development.” (My emphasis). My immediate response was going to be “is development a promotion?” But, my experience earlier that same day answered that question; we had to go up to the floor to support a user with some application problems, and the dev manager happened to be going up so came along, as did one of the QA resources. So on the elevator up, the dev manager says "This is great, we have the Level 1 (pointing at me), the Level 2 (QA), and Level 3 resources to figure this out.

More Gran Turismo 4 Thoughts

So in Gran Turismo 3, it takes a lot of racing to get to the point where you are no longer concerned with making money to buy faster or race-specific cars. Not until one has international licenses and is racing in professional class does one really have to stop worrying about the cash accounts. In Gran Turismo 4, money is a complete non-issue. Do the one-time GT3 transfer of 100k, buy a fast car, spend a few grand to tune it up, go into b-spec mode for manufacturer races, and in 15 minutes you have a quarter million credits. Wash, rinse, repeat. My primary RWD platform for the next sixty-three minutes of game play, in about thirty minutes of effort, is a fully-tuned M3 GT-R. It rocks the Nurburgring. Now I just need to figure out what series lets me win the McLaren race car.

What I Learned on March 3rd, 2005

I learned the word bloviate — to orate verbosely and windily. I learned that classes are never closed in Ruby; this is somewhat strange, but strangely handy, at least when used in a tutorial environment. I’m not yet sure whether this is helpful in the long run. Even weirder, you can append or override an existing class definition, and the changes are applied to an existing instantiation of that class. Polymorphic instances? I don’t even know what to call it, but it’s pretty cool.

What I Learned on March 2nd, 2005

Ruby has a lot of the stupid shortcuts that let me enjoy perl, such as putting short one-liner conditionals after the operation. Even better, it also supports pushing loops into the secondary on a one-liner, which I do all the time when I want to quickly write something — and it makes for cleaner code compared to building up a huge structure (my opinion only). I’m starting to believe the assertion that Ruby does take the best things from other languages, and is going to be appealing even if my hack-together language of choice is Perl. Related to this, effortless inline regexps feel right at home, and don’t force the user to treat them as objects, which is really nice. I’m sorry, regular expressions are not a tool for scripting and hackers; they are a critical part of every developer’s toolbox, and not using them makes everybody’s life more difficult. I couldn’t believe how many people had never touched regular expressions when I started my current job, now the developers are all using them — and couldn’t imagine life without. My initial impression of using regular expressions as modifiers suggest they are slightly more hassle, but mostly of the syntactic sugar nature. I’ll get off my high horse. Ruby terminates everything with end. I find myself appreciating this; it doesn’t have the stylistic restriction of Python “There’s only one way to do it.” It doesn’t have the awful redundancy of VB (or any of its other issues), and for a scripting language, I’m not sure gobs of braces were ever the way to go in the first place. At first it seemed crude, but now I’m starting to think it is elegant. We’ll see how it wears in the long run. Ruby lets you anonymously toss around chunks of code with little to no effort. This first blew my mind when I saw the following example, which made clear in a few short seconds that looping constructs are method calls, that yield is genius, and that the theory that Ruby was made to get things done has truth to it. This is similar to the moment of perfect clarity I felt when I first understood the call/cc operator (which, as a scary thought, came sometime after I implemented it in a new language, and secondly, I’m not sure I could explain it anymore), only it took a few seconds instead of all afternoon, and did not require the use of mind-altering substances.

Initial Gran Turismo 4 Thoughts

So I like Gran Turismo 4. It’s not a big surprise, I knew I would, but it’s still worth saying. I’ve only spent about an hour and a half with it thus far, but here are the things that jumped out at me:

I want one.

Yummy — Evo IX is here. Now it’s time to see what the next-gen STi looks like, beyond the Tribeca nose job…

What I Learned on March 1st, 2005

“Beyond reproach” and “above reproach” seem to be interchangeable, and at least according to google seem to pop up in roughly the same quantity. That said, google only seems to recognize “beyond reproach” as a phrase in and of itself. I can’t seem to find a quick link to any cunning linguists discussing the differences in these two phrases, and indeed in many cases I find biblical debates peppered with both phrases. If any of you folks out there have any familiarity with these phrases or any distinctions between the two, I would appreciate it. I learned that one can define pragmatic as “guided by experience rather than theory.” With all of this excitement about pragmatic programming, (I need to read the book on the topic that I’ve had in my library for two years) I think it’s good to remember that. A good reminder that if one is intending to go into the workforce, and not remain in academia, school will only get you so far. There is a big hoopla around Ruby, that quirky scripting language that only Europeans and Asians use, and Americans tend to ignore. The hubbub seems to be most prevalent in recent weeks/months because of Ruby on Rails, and a general recognition of the language on American soil. It’s been a few months since I’ve taught myself the basics (or anything further) of a new language, so I decided I may as well figure out why everybody loves Ruby, and then why Ruby on Rails is genius. Last time I tried this, I learned the fundamentals of C# (I decided to first build an RSS aggregator, which taught me how C# does HTTP, XML parsing, and XSLT transformation, all of which was pretty easy; then I built a file archiver, which reminded me why Perl is much better suited for quick dirty automation work). While I’ve done a lot of web work, I’ve not any familiarity with the model view architecture paradigm, so I’ll have to ramp on that at the same time. This is an artifact of not having been a huge java-for-the-web guy in the past, I suspect, as most of my work centered around CGI (C, Perl), PHP, and ASP (the old-school VBScript, was before .NET and the whole form interpretation of web sites contained therein). In any event, if you ignore the preceding thousand characters, what I learned today about Ruby is that at least on a philosophical level, Ruby aims to be pragmatic; to quote Ruby: The Pragmatic Programmer’s Guide.

I Fucked Up

So I was getting yelled at by the development team, yelled at by the desk, yelled at by the infrastructure management, yelled at by the DBA, all of them wanting to know what was going on and why shit was broken. I could spout on about a whole bunch of other excuses, but whatever. I chatted out to our business support channel, in response to a developer, that the reason everything was fucked up was because my management wasn’t getting me the information I needed. True or not, this was not what I meant to do, and was not a good idea.

What I Learned on February 28th, 2005

When I weighed the coffee grounds from espresso shots in one week, it came to almost four pounds.

Firewire Enclosure Surgery

So I think I’d mentioned, all of the fans in my external enclosures were frozen up and worthless, after being used for 4-8 months a piece. Not content with inadequate cooling, I ordered replacement dual ball-bearing fans. Unfortunately, they didn’t have width on the fans, so I bought them site unseen. If I had been smart, I would probably have figured out the predicament by noticing CFM differences, but I wasn’t thinking. So, I went from a 40×40×10mm set of fans to a 40×40×30mm set of fans. Oops.

Bob Roberts

Bob Roberts was a terrible movie, in the ways that it was excellent. It was well done and satirical, but all too true to life; so many of the utterances are echoed in the last election, and in our current administration… It was put together very well, and the frames used in folk music, music videos, and conspiracy theories/ists was well interwoven. 8/10.

Cheap Hardware Sucks

So I rebooted the box on which latentcontent.net resides the other day, because I was experiencing strange behavior when trying to access NFS mounts on its secondary (private) interface. Namely, anything that used these mounts hung hard. Not being able to figure out anything obvious, I tried the old Windows solution and kicked the box; it didn’t come back up. Chris did me the favor of figuring out that my last PCI slot appears to have failed, which could explain things. This may be the downside of using cheap commodity hardware to run a web server. I’m now crossing my fingers that will be the last of the hardware failures for a while.

What I Learned on February 24th, 2005

I learned what a Pundit’s Fallacy is. I found out that the pope wrote a book in which he bashes homosexuals with such clever phrases as “a new ideology of evil”. Hey, pope, this ideology of evil has been a big part of the Catholic culture for a long time. I’m pretty sure “sex abuse with little boys” falls under that headline. Despite the fact that there are more subarus, land rovers, jeeps, and hummers per capita out here than anywhere else in the world (NB I just made that up, and it may not be true), people in Connecticut are sissies. There’s a forecast of “heavy” (that means 5-7 inches at the long end) snow, and there are already warnings going around that people should ask their managers if they can go home, my boss has all but announced he and the regional manager are not coming in tomorrow (he rides the train, what gives?), and on and on. For some reason, people out here get scared of a little bit of snow. I grew up with lake effect and 2wd cars; everybody drove econoboxes, and we all went to work when it snowed. Part of learning to drive in the state was learning how to drive in the snow/ice. Out here, you could have a rock crawler with chains and screws on the tires, but if the roads weren’t plowed nobody would look at you funny if you said “well, the roads are a little slick, I might stay home.” On that note, Jesse James is going to make a Panoz fly

I May Not Have Mentioned Recently

I love google. Now I have much less need for Yahoo! Movies and IMDB.

What I Learned on February 23rd, 2005

I learned why a pigeon bobs its head when walking. Ok, so maybe not. There are only ten more days until Melbourne! Even better, Silverstone testing has been in the snow (thanks, Corey)! Porsche has made the Cayman official. A $60k mid-engined flat six at 300hp? Done right, I’d say that could beat the venerable rear-engined 2+2 on the Nurburgring Nordschleife, and that’s something to celebrate. I love the idea of the 911, but I can’t help but think that a Cayman Turbo would make it look like a toy. If Porsche doesn’t do it, the RUF conversion should go like hell.

Learning From Your Coworkers

So we have gobs of applications that run as part of a process, and they have gobs of configuration files. These configuration files are written as XML. The problem is, certain segments of these XML documents don’t allow comments. The first time this happened, I said to myself “that’s a mistake, but mistakes happen.” The developer realized the error of their ways, but it was decided that the effort to resolve this issue was not worth it, so for now there’s a stanza of XML that we refer to as the “do not put comments in this stanza” section. Three months later, another developer on the same team released an application that crashed on a block of comments in the XML, because their parser tried to interpret the comment as a configuration section.

What I Learned on February 22nd, 2005

Not only was Bush responsible for one of the silliest stunts ever (while invading Iraq and the whole WMD thing also qualify for this title, I’m speaking of the whole “freedom fries” debacle …, even though it’s all the same thing), he lacks the conviction to stick by it, and has restored pommes frites to their rightful if inaccurate name?. The world is a safer place. The ‘/’ character on the main page of US passports is micro print that says “passport.” This was posted in a friend’s Live Journal, so I wasn’t sure if they wanted it linked. I knew this before, but waiting and not knowing is one of the hardest things to handle. If I could somehow learn to accommodate not knowing what is going to happen, life would be a lot easier. I can be pushed to the point where I find myself chanting “I want to die.” Every single one of the 40mm fans in my external hard drive enclosures died. This was also true of the chipset cooler on my tbird board, but from looking at the way it was designed in the first place, I’m pretty sure it never provided any cooling, though maybe its failure is what caused my desktop to have so many inexplicable issues. If I ever start a high-end designer PC fabrication service, I’m going to either invest in high-quality (screw the noise) ball-bearing fans, or I’m going to invest in fanless cooling. Maybe I just shouldn’t buy the absolute cheapest external enclosures I can find. I have a lot of old computer junk that isn’t worth anything these days. Anybody want a SoundBlaster Live!, or a six-year-old SCSI scanner? I’m not even sure there’s a market for this stuff on eBay. RAID/LVM on linux is a lot easier now than I remember. That said, when I rebooted this morning, GRUB just kept writing “GRUB GRUB GRUB GRUB …” to the screen. I think this is because I put my swap partition first instead of my boot partition (idiot!) on the first disk in the array. That was dumb. Jokes and drinks with coworkers will not make up for my misery, and will not improve my morale, and will do nothing to reduce my workload. Ok, I didn’t learn this, I already knew this, but some other folks should. Filling open positions with incompetents will only make things worse. Ok, I knew that one too, but it’s worth reiterating.

What I Learned on February 21st, 2005

The stock WRX is a little low to the ground to clear 8 inches of powder, but it still has enough weight, and skinny enough tyres, to manage. The bottom of the car doesn’t have a terrible tendency to become a sled, but there are times when one is surfing more than driving. The front radiator intakes tend to clog up pretty quickly during this sort of tomfoolery, and of course one needs to watch out for the snow-caked wheels once exiting the venue, as they can cause rather significant handling changes, and throw some chunks of sludge in spectacular fashion. Police officers tend to set up shop near large snow-filled parking lots. The only way around this was to find a large snow-filled parking lot that had no plowed access, and therefore some small chance of stopping a crown vic. All of that said, I still can’t figure out if there is anything illegal about doing donuts (of course they are being done to practice handling in unpredictable conditions, not to joy-ride). Anybody have some information on this one?

The Gates

Corrado Bread And Pastry

What I Learned on February 18th, 2005

I learned new stuff about my wife. I knew a lot of it, but there were some surprises, and it’s always neat to know more. I learned that I enjoy interviewing kids fresh out of (or towards the end of) college. They still have ideals and hopes and dreams that haven’t been crushed, and that’s neat. I learned that we aren’t going to Mexico. C’est la vie. I learned that French visa regulations are a bitch.

I'm Living Office Space

So our group now has new regional managers. This is part posturing for promotion, part of our global strategy, and part of what will be necessary to shape and leverage a larger global group. I was not offered this opportunity in Stamford, nor was I given any opportunity to consider the role in London (this was assigned to a contractor that had been at the firm less than a year). The person that was appointed regional lead in Stamford was responsible for a system that is based out of London, whereas I was responsible for a system that is based out of Stamford. Both did roughly the same thing, though I managed to improve, support, and run mine by myself, through a tremendous amount of effort and impact to my personal life, consisting of constant struggles with the development team to improve software, as well as developing numerous solutions to accommodate and recover from failures in our applications and in up/downstream systems. At the end of the day, I took a complete disaster and made it a supportable and reliable system. It was not a single-handed effort, but it was single-handed from the support side of things.

What I Learned on February 17, 2005

The Internet is there to remind us that trusting one’s queries to the consensus is a dangerous business indeed. The Apple Developer Documentation is really good. There is more proof that SUV drivers are morons. Granted, this is more just “people are morons” than anything to do with an SUV. Somebody has taken the time to make any easily-referenced legal rights for photographers. This is really cool. Open houses have a 2% success rate in selling a property. There is some other good information in this article, such as that pre-approval is a bit of a tell, and that there is a legal obligation for a broker to disclose informatino to the seller. Also, inspections are priveleged information and need not be disclosed to a broker.

I'm not learning anything.

So I’ve been using QuickSilver an awful lot at home. I’m still a novice at best, but I already find myself struggling without it at work. Instead of being able to quickly hit a few keystrokes to add some numbers or define a word, I’ve got to go and invoke a different application, or at least go to google in my browser.

What I Learned on February 15th, 2005

I learned a lot more about how to use quicksilver.

Oh My God It Burrns

Can Things Improve?

In a surprising turn of events, being gone from work for two days seems to have been the final force necessary to get somebody to start picking up some of my responsibilities; after all hell broke loose, they started using what I taught them months ago, and started solving problems. So then, I get to work today, after a merciful recovery from travel, and say “I’m pretty behind on this stuff.” “No, you’re not. You’re no longer responsible for support for application Z. X is now leader for application Z, and you are technical lead for the group instead; your new projects are A, B, C, and D…” I don’t believe it for a second, and X is still too busy to take on the normal release for today, but I’m hopeful.

Midwest Travel Hell

Well, there were more phone calls from work on Saturday and Sunday, filled with words like “emergency,” and things like “ASAP.” For reasons I’ll cover later, there really isn’t much I can do about this.

Trip to the Midwest, Day One

Ok, so the first day of our three-day frenzy through the midwest before our departure to France is over, and after a few more minutes it’s time to get to sleep, to wash rinse and repeat tomorrow. Let me step back a bit; we started the day by getting up at 4:00 … well, we would have gotten up at 4:00, but work called much earlier, thus the previous entry. That sucked. Throughout the day there were another 8 additional mails or so, and what really pisses me off is that one of the people that called crying for help is the same one that decided to skip work early on Thursday after arranging to get together to prevent this sort of crap from happening. Monkeys. I finished 21 Dog Years, which was an entertaining tale of life at Amazon.com, and reminds me that it’s good I didn’t go there instead of UBS. Who knows if that sentiment is correct. 6/10.

What I Learned on February 10th, 2005

Sometimes you have to ignore your direct orders and just do the right thing. A “global manager” is not much help if they ignore your emails for two weeks and fail to return your phone calls four days in a row when on the road. If a person needs to be prodded in person in order to get a response, they are qualified for a regional leadership role at best. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the folks in Abu-Gharib should have told their CO’s to shove it. A pair of Shure E2C Ear Buds sounds quite a bit better than the pair of Sony sound-isolating buds I had before, and they’re a lot more comfortable. Only downside is they block even more sound, so I’m not so sure it’s safe going out in public with them. I’m not alone in my hatred of SUV’s. It just appears I need to move to the UK to find some people that agree with me1. I love these guys: “Our goals are to make driving a big 4×4 as socially unacceptable as drink-driving and to increase taxes on big 4×4 vehicles, including an increased congestion charge in London and increases in road tax. We are also demanding an end to 4×4 advertisements in the mainstream media. Our campaign began in London (where drivers have absolutely no excuse to drive big, dirty off-road vehicles) but we are now active in towns and cities hacross the country. When you consider that 95% of four-wheel drives never leave a tarmac road, it’s not hard to see how we came up with our catch phrase: NOT SAFE, NOT CLEAN, NOT COOL”

Some More FedEx/UPS Ranting

I know, I’ve ranted about UPS and FedEx enough, but one little additional story. We’ve had a pair of packages that have failed delivery three days in a row from UPS. For some reason, our lousy landlords are doing a lousy job of accepting packages during the day; they used to be much better at it. Anyhow, I grabbed the “final notice” slip and called UPS, and was told rather quickly “please visit our website to reschedule delivery and on and on”; rather than talk to a human, I figure I’d give it a try. I punched in my InfoNotice number, said "I’ll pick these up at the holding center (I could also select another delivery location, select to return to sender, etc.), and was given a date range during which I could do so. I drove to the UPS in SoNo over lunch, walked in, gave my name and my driver’s license and address, got two packages, and was out the door. There were three people in line, and I still had a total round trip of just over thirty minutes, which isn’t bad considering I had to go two towns easy to get to the UPS office. Painless, fast, easy, and all automated and electronic.

Owning a Mac == Instant Blog Traffic

I knew that buying a Mac was like buying into a religion. Well, I thought I knew, but it’s already starting to manifest itself in strange ways. Take for example, my referrer log. In terms of visitors coming in on referral links, about 50% of what I was getting back in my linux days were from people searching for QuantumView, another 20% for people searching about Lex Luther, another 10% for people searching about smokers getting fired, and rest evenly split between searches for naked portafilters (which, ironically, I am interested in, but have never talked about — google just finds my page because the word naked is in the link stack, and portafilter is in some of my espresso musings), pedophiles, “you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide” and various queries about proxy authentication methods. My old traffic from the Canadian Headhunter have pretty much dried up.

What I Learned on February 9th, 2005

France is killing the 35-hour workweek. Rove is now deputy chief of staff. Harry Potter book six will be available on July 16. VIM 7 is on the way, and some of the proposed features would be really handy.

43 Things

Sarah posted about a new service from Amazon.com today. This is another cool extension of the sort of tagging things included in flikr and del.icio.us, creating a folksonomy of aspirations. I would say that I don’t know what Amazon is planning on doing with it, but it’s pretty apparent — they include context-sensitive advertisements ala google, to buy stuff from their store. Genius. Want to “roast your own coffee?” Huh, Amazon puts an add that helps you reach that goal by selling your a coffee roaster. Want to reduce your stress? Huh, there’s a self-help book on Amazon that will help you out. To a certain extent, this sort of advertisement is actually pretty neat, and especially when you start building this in with people recommending you purchase something to achieve a goal, it’s really clever.

Powerbook First Impressions

Happy Lent!

What I Learned on February 8th, 2005

Google Maps is about the coolest thing ever. You can click and drag the maps, and it scales to fit your web browser, and on and on. Further, being able to just input free-form places/addresses is worlds easier than filling out 3-5 separate boxes in order to get anything done. You can click on a step, and it shows a detail turn. It adds shadowed address boxes, not because they need to, but because they can! I love you, google. There are people that subsist on Red Bull. I was talking to one of the guards today; he gets up at 9, works from 23:00 to 9:00, has two hours off, then has 5 hours of lecture at college, and then goes to his second job in the afternoon. As to when he sleeps it’s “on Friday” and he goes through about a case of red bull during the week in the meantime. Once he gets to the weekend, he “hits a handle of Captain Morgan to prepare for next week.” When a woman locks a baby in her jeep, the fire department, police, and all sorts of other people show up. I was hoping the press would cover this exciting bit of local news, but I can’t seem to find any record that it ever happened. Shame I didn’t have a camera at the time. I learned an awful lot about this cell processor stuff after reading the link from Chris’ post (defunct).

Running Money

I just finished reading Running Money last night. It’s a book about a guy that runs a hedge fund, his experiences, insights, and on and on. The most confusing thing about the entire book is that it Kessler’s “hedge fund” seemed to be more of a mutual fund, as nothing to do with shorting, derivatives, or arbitrage entered the game. It may be the case that a lot of the long exposure he had was on margin, or something else that’s beyond my crude understanding of the industries, but this isn’t a book that is going to teach you how somebody at a stat arb firm thinks. I thought the book was well-written as a bit of a primer into the buy side during the dot com era, but was not nearly as entertaining as, say, Liar’s Poker. Some of Kessler’s insights are clever and interesting. Other insights are just too convenient or abstracted; his dialog with “Mr. Zed,” which starts out as finding the connection between the tech bubble and the industrial revolution, ends as a multi-page grand unifying theory, even going to the extent of trying to explain happiness; I think he’s setting his goals a little high. In any event, good bathroom reading, but nothing particularly exciting in terms of insight or entertainment. 5/10

Mail and Validation

Yeah, so I upgraded courier-imap the other day, and nothing worked anymore. It ended up being due to changes in authdaemon/courier-authlib, and there not being a valid authdaemon.mysql to use, and it not properly failing over to authdaemon.plain and on and on. Enough of that; I’d been putting off switching to vhosted mail domains with courier/mysql/postfix for far too long, so I’ve now managed to pull that off. It’s a bit clumsy to set up, but once it’s up and working, it works pretty sweet, especially if you want to create virtual mailboxes for domains without having to create corresponding user accounts. It would be nice to figure out a way to allow procmail to interface with the vhosted accounts as well, but that’s a project for another day.

FedEx Rant Redux

If you haven’t heard previously, I hate FedEx. Today’s treat is that my powerbook, coming from Shanghai, apparently came without an apartment number on the address label. Now, I know Apple had the information, since they correctly shipped my AppleCare and so forth, but this is through FedEx International as opposed to FedEx, so god knows whose fault it is. At the end of the day, they tried to deliver my package, and there was no apartment number on the package, so they threw it back in the truck and gave up. I called FedEx, gave them my tracking number, and was told “oh, that’s an international tracking number, you’ll need to call FedEx International.” “Uh, can you transfer me?” “Sure.” Of course, each time I had to give my tracking number (including the first time I talked to a representative, which was after I’d keyed it into the system) … why the redundancy? Why the lack of integration between domestic and international shipping?

What I Learned on February 7th, 2005

If you drink 5-7 double espressos a day, not only will you nose start feeling like it’s going to bleed all over, but you will also suffer a serious headache the day after you stop. Even if France were to fall apart, I still need to get out of my current job before it kills me. I need to re-evaluate the whole investment bank/financial services thing before it kills me. I scheduled this re-evaluation for sometime after I return from france, but I should probably include a contingency plan in my life roadmap.

Pat, Make Me An Offer I Cannot Refuse!

Pat, I promise to post more cat photos if you enable some sort of RSS/Atom syndication on your website. Until then, I’m going to ration them out and talk about more boring crap, rather than talking about my kitten. In any event, as an incentive, I have a few more photos. First off, we have a lovely new wool blanket from Norway. Apparently to Loki, this feels like momma kitty, so she likes to paw it and sleep on it more than just about anything else in the house.

CIC Credit Monitoring / Boycott Experian

So I’m looking over my Discover bill, and I see this:

How To Get In Touch With Me

If you have thoughts on an article, it may be most appropriate to just leave a comment there, but that’s up to you. If you’re interested in me for professional reasons, some outdated information is available at my old site.

What I Learned on February 4th, 2005

The roasting process seems to have the potential for causing some serious trouble. Yesterday I was trying to pull Sweet Maria’s Espresso Donkey shots on a roast from the previous day. Ten times in a row I pulled shots that channeled within 4-5 seconds after the preinfusion completed. I thought at first it was because I was forgetting to dry the portafilter basket. No luck. Varying the grind yielded nothing — I got a quick puke when it was made coarser than it should be, and a slow start (looking towards a 60-second pull) followed by a huge explosion when the channeling started with too fine a grind. I backflushed, I cleaned the dispersion screen and gaskets with the brush, I tried cooling flushes, vented steam/tap pressure, went through an entire tank of water, nothing worked. I tried pulling a few shots on pre-ground regular illy, and I got a fast pull (it’s ground a little coarse for my machine), but no channeling. I overtamped the illy to bring the pull up to proper timings, and got a shot that looked about right and didn’t channel. I pulled a decaf shot from the same bin, and lo and behold, no channeling. The only thing I could figure out is by that point I’d spent enough pucks to be in the dregs from the previous roast. It occurred to me that I’d baked the new roast; I couldn’t get the chamber temperature high enough, and ended up using the full 15-minute roasting cycle, so it really didn’t progress through the roasting fast enough; it’s the only thing I can figure out that can explain this weirdness. Sliders are disgusting … yet I am drawn to them. I’d never had White Castle; one of the guys coming up from New York brought along a box of 100 of them. Like I say, they aren’t good … but I couldn’t help pounding back a half dozen. Crazy stuff.

Shanghai? You've got to be kidding me!

I was getting very excited; most of my Apple purchases shipped two days ago, and are arriving today. I got my notice yesterday that my powerbook itself shipped, and was figuring the same thing, so I was thinking “huh, maybe that will show up Saturday!” Then, after much re-loading of the Apple Order Status and FedEx Package Tracking pages, it finally updated:

What I Learned on February 3rd, 2005

Dropping a subtle hint in conversation like “because I’m going to be out of the country from March 27th onward” is a good way to get the attention of a manager that keeps avoiding having meetings with you. The Canon EOS 20D is much lighter than I thought; after being used to a heavy plastic bodied EOS-3, the magnesium chassis feels light and cheap. I gave it a go while waiting for my passport photos to develop (all six of them, as they came in pairs, and I needed five), along with the EF-S 10-22mm (not compatible with the normal EF-mount, equivalent to roughly a 16-35 on 35mm, but without the abberations that would normally come with mounting a 10mm fish-eye not built for the tiny CCD sensor). I like the lens, though it’s a shame the glass is so dark. I would much rather a pair of /2.8 or so primes at maybe 10mm and 18mm that were built on the EF-S platform, but it is what it is. Even in a dim store on dark glass, the camera focuses comparably to my EOS-3, though I had to go to manual focus to get the focus correct at the short end of the focus range. Picture taking is fast and responsive compared to a point and shoot digital, and feels pretty similar to the EOS-3; focusing and metering is definitely faster than the Elan IIe. The user interface reminds me more of the EOS-3 (good) than the Elan/Rebel (bad), in that it gives you access to everything you’d need with a single hand; I’m not as used to the hat controller as opposed to the main/auxiliary wheels, but I suspect that can be reconfigured with the custom functions. At the end of the day, much closer a typical film SLR than I had expected, and the onboard flash was usable. They didn’t have a 100mm/2.8 USM macro in stock, which was the other toy I wanted to play with, but alas. Fresh-roasting Sweet Maria’s Espresso Monkey blend yields an espresso that is in my opinion easily on par with Intelligentsia’s Black Cat blend. This is good and bad, I suppose.

Gran Turismo 4 Release Date Announced

I will have just over a month to play Gran Turismo 4 once it ships. I’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of me.

Folksonomies, Taxonomies, Lists, Hierarchies, and Wikis

One of the things that I do is write a lot of notes. Things to do, things to buy, things to think about, things to try. Thoughts I have, stuff to blog about, stuff to write about, stuff to remember. Stuff to forget, random drops of information, reading recommendations, quotes for later. You get the idea. For some things, there is a best of breed place to put all of the information. For example, in terms of storing, classifying, and recalling bookmarks, del.icio.us works perfectly for me. The “folksonomies” concept that’s been floating around the blogosphere (still hurts to type) seems well suited to this sort of thing — classifying atomic chunks of same-sized data and information according to topic spaces.

What I Learned on February 2nd, 2005

Every once in a while your broker really will cut you a deal. I actually made a transaction today without he or the bank claiming any fees. The iPod is wildly popular at Microsoft. Ayn Rand was born today. I found her books very inspiring when I was younger, whereas I now find them rather foolish and self-indulgent. It’s perfect stuff for a smart, disaffected, and dissatisfied high school kid to read. As to whether or not she is important, I think she is important much in the way Michael Moore is important. I don’t always agree with him, he’s a bit of a nut, and anybody who buys into what he says 100% is downright scary, but at least he gets people thinking/arguing/discussing topics once in a while. It’s “never mind” instead of “nevermind.” I blame Nirvana. It’s hard to believe that somebody that is “too busy and doesn’t have time for you” when you need to talk to them about something important when they’re leaving an hour before you. Less time for them to prepare, I suppose.

What I Learned on February 1st, 2005

I did learn something, but I managed to delete it before I posted it, so I’ll try to re-assemble today what I could remember:

I'm Going To France If They Let Me

Oh right, now I remember the other thing I learned yesterday. It was that some people think that just because they have a certain rank, they are more important than a person with a lesser rank … and indeed they are equivalent to anybody with the same rank. Just yesterday, I heard a directory say of an associate director “she’s not that important, she’s just an AD.” Never mind that the D was on the IT support side, managing a small group of personnel, and the AD was on the business control side. But, this sort of thing is said of the actual profit makers all the time, with a D pissing on an AD, even if that AD is making the money that supports the D’s existence. The problem, as I see it, is that rank is really only useful for setting vacation allowances and benefits, and really has little bearing on worth or actual rank. Maybe I just don’t get it.

What I Learned on January 31st, 2005

Every once in a while you have to make the “wrong” decision.

Espresso Nirvana

So my experiment has been interesting thus far. I got up early again today, but I found myself getting to work almost an hour later than normal. I may have my espresso hardware to blame for that, or maybe it was a life-changing decision I made last night, but I’m going to have to kick that habit at least for the short-term.

Tivo Taking on MCE

Tivo has made some interesting moves, and I think it’s a good direction. In essence, they’re taking on Windows Media Center Edition by releasing a developer toolkit for the Tivo Home Media Edition, which will allow the creation of custom apps for the Tivo. Realizing that MCE is going to destroy them rather quickly in standard Microsoft fashion if they do not innovate, I think this is the smartest thing they’ve done in a while. While I still prefer my ReplayTV over any Tivo, I think this is the only real way to go, and the complete lack of innovation on the ReplayTV front is going to kill any hopes they had left, leaving MCE and Tivo to duke it out, and I think we all know how that’s going to end. I’m somewhat tempted to get a Tivo and start playing around just to help the underdog, but I’m not sure I can justify another DVR sitting around the house. We’ll see.

Taking One For The Team

Sometimes we have to make releases that we know are going to fail. This usually means that we’re looking at a change so substantial that there’s no effective way to test and ensure that everything is set up right the first time. In the ideal world, all of the software distribution and configuration management would be automated, but many systems I work with are not part of the ideal world — they contain thousands of lines of configuration, hundreds of interconnections, and there’s never enough time to complete testing. I’ve mentioned all of this before.

Lifehacking Experiment

I’m trying a new experiment this week, getting up much earlier than usual, and forcing myself to get into the habit of walking to work again. We’ll see how it goes by the end of the week. My theory is that I’ll feel better if I get up early and have time to wake up and start may day on a positive note, rather than just rushing to work and starting it with unpleasantness. The downside is that to achieve this requires getting up a solid hour earlier than I might otherwise. As I say, it’s an experiment.

Hearthware Hits a Home Run

Much to my chagrin, I dropped the chaff collector assembly on my coffee roaster on Saturday, breaking the chaff collector base. This at first caused chaff to spray all over the kitchen, and then as the heat fatigued the plastic (the exhaust temperature goes between 200 and 500 degrees depending on what’s going on), it made it such that the lid would not longer stay on at all, causing there to be insufficient heat retention, and even more of a chaff mess. The last roast I did required holding the collector lid on with two knives during the roast process.

Anti-SUV Rant

GM is trying to make their vehicles safer by making “cry for help” and “computer thinks so you don’t have to” features standard on all of their vehicles. Personally, I wish somebody would just step up and stop building the SUV — at some point responsibility needs to override profits (I know, this will never happen) — SUVs are a danger to their occupants, and a danger to other folks on the road. After that we can address the fact that even beyond vehicles being dangerous, drivers should be trained to more stringent standards in order to enforce safety, rather than trusting in computers to sort everything out. Don’t get me wrong, these features are a welcome addition … and for the schmuck who plants his corvette into concrete at 70 mph by braking in a mid-corner adjustment after entering a corner too hot, it’s probably going to save a few lives, but something always rubs me the wrong way about building driver aides that compensate for people making mistakes, rather than trying to combat the mistakes in the first place.

Sideways

Clive Thompson found some fascinating research that he talks about on his blog. Additionally, I learned that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are short the dollar. Smart people invest smart, so I suppose I should not be surprised.

Free Shipping Counts for 85 Pounds of Equipment

Today has been crazy at work. It did a great job of knocking down any “you know, I should just learn to like this” thoughts I had yesterday.

What I Learned on January 27th, 2005

Some coworkers have never understood the concept of discretion. “Have you had your performance review yet?” “How did that go?” “Have you had your compensation meeting yet?” “Don’t mind me asking, but about what you expected as well?” Please die. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. I learned more than I ever needed to know about flapping and voicing. That is to say, I now know that the correct wording is “deep-seated” and not deep-seeded … but this is largely due to deprecated meanings for the word seat, causing it not to make sense in the current vernacular. Linguistics is a funny business. Both adapter and adaptor are legal spellings.

Old Managers

Due to the firm’s requirement that we have our performance review before we receive compensation (logical), my boss called from another country yesterday in order to give it to me. This was somewhat brief, though the intent was to have a “full discussion” once he gets back. I believe that, I do… But, basically in terms of my electronic review documents, they consist of almost no feedback from my existing manager, and a huge block of stuff copied and pasted from my old manager’s review. The only other stuff provided was my development area, which basically said “I’m overworked, and I need to offload some work to other people, rather than taking it all on myself, except first there needs to be people to which work can be offloaded, which to this point has not been possible due to other projects going on.” Yeah, I knew that; I even identified that myself as my biggest problem that needs to be addressed in the coming year.

Numbers Day

So today is numbers day (see background), the day when those of us in the money-moving business look for validation. We look for validation in terms of raises and promotions, but more important we focus in on the (not-really-a) bonus. For those of us that are cost centers, we look for something to make up for the difference between what we’re paid and what we think our work over the last year was worth.

In Practice, Theory Is Of Little Use

Sometimes I wish they just gave me the numbers and didn’t say anything, then I can just take the numbers for what they are, and feel whatever way I do about them, because at least I have them, and what’s done is done.

Companies Firing Smokers?

Continuing my recent series of postings about smoking, Sarah pointed me to a doozey — apparently some firms in Michigan are banning people from smoking at home. Yes, you read that right:

What I Learned on January 26th, 2005

As soon as you say “the system has been quite stable” or “things have been pretty quiet” said system is destined to blow up in spectacular fashion. It’s impossible to be happy with your performance evaluation at first glance. Certain fish have a modified anal fin that is movable and used to impregnate females during mating. This is called a gonopodium.

Network Appliance Filer Woes

So I support an application that creates about 25GB of data, across 25,000 files a day. Don’t ask me why the data isn’t in a database. In any event, we used to be on NT servers with SAN back-ends for file storage, but this was pretty slow for our purposes, so we switched to using a share on a NetApp filer. At first, NetApp was great, because we saw 45% performance improvement over the NT/SAN solution … not to mention it was worlds more reliable.

What I Learned on January 25th, 2005

All espresso machines are not created equal. I realize this is obvious, but it’s an interesting experience. The general consensus on the Internet is that a proper pull is 14g of espresso, tamped at 30 pounds with a twist (though the pressure and rotation amount of the twist are hotly debated), ground to adjust for 25-27 second pull at 9bar of brew pressure, and with a 202-203F brew temperature. The problem is that all of these folks are a) using 58mm commercial portafilters b) using machines with decent temperature control (be it through PID or HX) and c) are working with machines that can create and sustain at least 9 bar of pressure. Our machine at home, no matter how hard I try, can’t seem to accommodate more than about 12g of espresso, and it’s much more comfortable with about 10. It likes to be tamped on the gentle side, somewhere in the 15 pound range; if overloaded on grounds or over tamped it tends to bog, and produce a 40-50 second shot that is bitter and undrinkable; a slight adjustment in the other direction and it pulls a shot in 15 seconds. Through experience, I’ve found that it tends to work best with about a 10g shot, 13 second pull, though that alone still ends up with a bitter shot. Leading cause of bitterness is brew water being too cool, so I tend to kick the machine into froth mode for a few seconds before brewing to bring the water and group temperature up to steam (sorry, I couldn’t resist). While this does a decent job getting the group and portafilter nice and warm, the initial blast out of the group then tends to be superheated steam, which scalds the grounds, so as soon as I come off the steam boiler, it helps to flush the group without the portafilter in place for a few seconds to diminish the initial blast. Assuming I get the portafilter tamped and loaded relatively quickly to keep its temperature up (as it is not made of a large chunk of metal to begin with, so it quickly cools), I can then pull a decent shot at an appropriate temperature. That’s a lot of uninteresting crap, but the end result is that all espresso machines are not created equal. Waiting till the last minute to buy something, hoping the money will come in before the price rises, is not going to work. Ding! That sucked. My orchids are just never going to live well in the kitchen; the light just isn’t good enough, and between the drafts from the window and the baking from the register, things just aren’t going to work out. Implementing a logic solver in C++ is a lot more difficult than doing it in Prolog. Much more difficult.

Today's Random Quote

Woah, I keep getting weird dream flashbacks. I realized in the last few days I’ve had dreams involving the following (though not at the same time):

Short-Term Solutions

So yesterday I wrote a lackluster piece about one-off requests. In retrospect, I didn’t say anything interesting, and I think I produced that entry more out of the sense that I need to post something, than having a good way of saying what I’m getting at. I need to revert to my former strategy with lackluster entries — don’t bother setting them live.

What I Learned on January 24th, 2005

Thanks to the ACM World Programming Contest, I was reminded once again that music is at its core a mathematical beast, and that like most math, it only becomes art once you start to play with it. It took me far too long to think about why B# would be an invalid progression (collision with B) because I’d forgotten the rules of double-sharping (conveniently left unmentioned and taken for granted) in the context of major scales. I learned about the psychoacoustic effects of listening via headphones/earbuds/etc. All other things aside, this offers some explanation as to why I can only listen to my iRiver for a certain amount of time before I grow tired of it. Of course, there are solutions to this, in the forms of various delay circuitry and DSP magic, but each has a nasty trade-off. And, like anything, anything additional in the signal path must degrade the signal. Prolog is still cool, but useless. I thought it was a lot of fun in school, as theoretical tool, but still have yet to see a practical use for it that wasn’t somewhat contrived. It’s a shame, but it is what it is. On a side note, I found rather quickly that trying to use syntax highlighting with Prolog is silly, since as soon as you define new operators and so forth vim would actually have to compile the thing and dynamically syntax-highlight it … possible? Yes. Worthwhile? No.

One Off Requests

Congratulations Sarah! I’d love to say more, but it’s not my place; she’ll have when/what to disclose. :) Suffice to say, things just got more interesting!

But I'm A Cheerleader

We saw But I’m A Cheerleader this weekend, which was excellent. The only real turn-off of the entire film was an overall strange color output on the film — everything looked a little dull and washed out. Not sure if it’s post-production or something to do with our old TV. Whatever the case, the story itself was excellent — a touching love story, and a lighthearted comedy about the idea of “immersion treatment” to “cure” homosexuality — a silly concept from the start. I don’t think the point was to take the whole thing as a drama — it’s a dark comedy that doesn’t try to take itself seriously — and it does quite well at that. 8/10.

Blizzards and Spam

Yeah, so we got a lot of snow. I don’t really get all of the fuss. Back in Michigan, this was pretty much the norm; part of living with lake effect is that getting several feet of snow over a week or two is pretty much standard issue. It does not take much time in these conditions to learn how to drive in the snow, and to learn that anybody in an SUV or an Audi is an extreme danger to your person. Out here, the entire place shuts down over six inches of snow. I just don’t get it. I went to the gym this morning, one person in front of me was literally letting their car idle … I’m all about going slow, but this was silly. The dangerous part of it is that people were zooming by on the left and the right, and most of them did not notice that their front wheels were spinning like mad as they floored it. It’s a good thing these folks don’t have rear-wheel. Or maybe they should … Darwin in action? In any event, after the fun times of getting to the gym, I stopped in the (empty) church parking lot for a few minutes and practiced car control; I was most proud of sliding the car perfectly sideways for about three meters before picking up any sort of forward motion. The Potenza RE92 tires are definitely not built for snow. Sadly, I started to draw a crowd from the people that were shoveling snow across the street … I’m not quite sure why, but with the police station only a few blocks away, I decided it best not to draw any undue attention.

What I Learned on January 21st, 2005

There is a sculpture at the CIA containing a code that has remained uncracked since its being placed there 15 years ago. Some theorists would suggest that the great die-off of dinosaurs and so forth was caused by gradual warming and decreasing oxygen, not a meteor impact. Something tells me this all happened slower than the current rate at which we impact the environment, assuming the theory is valid. Another one from my Worst Case Scenario calendar. I was told that to disable a car, if I am underneath it, I need only cut the red starter wire located on the passenger side. I took a quick look, and I don’t see any red starter wire … but I may be missing something.

More Lazy Usability Issues

I talked about how there is a contest at work to name the conference rooms. Once the voting started, they created a web form that accepted one’s name and their vote. Of course, one could fill in any name you like.

What I Learned on January 20th, 2005

That parental advisory sticker on your albums? That’s put there by the RIAA based on a judgement that said album is objectionable, according to the PMRC. In fact, Tipper Gore seems to have been one of the strongest forces behind these annoyances, as she figured that this sort of stuff apparently corrupts and ruins the minds of young children everywhere. I still remember listening to some pretty explicit stuff when I was 8. I don’t know that I underestood any of it, but I’m pretty sure there were things that scarred me a lot more than that. Of course, the bigger crime is Wal-Mart just refusing to sell such albums, and therefore selling albums without explicit content. I think these should be required by law to have a bright red sticker telling the consumer “This work is not what the artist intended, all explicit material has been removed.” I still remember when I bought Astro-Creep 2000 from Wal-Mart, only to discover my discount $13.99 CD only had every other word … though it’s not like one can understand Rob Zombie in the first place. Claude Chastagner has put together some history on this stuff.

More on Twenty-Four

So I’ll spend a little bit more time on the 24 puzzle I talked about the other day. To describe the puzzle that was posed to me, here’s the game:

More on Smoking

Apparently Italy is not alone. Cuba is enacting a ban of smoking in enclosed public spaces starting next month. That said, it’s not as bad as it sounds, it’s more like what the US did two decades ago — there must be distinct smoking/non-smoking sections, no more cigarette vending machines, and children under the age of 16 will not be able to buy cigarettes. While I’m mostly just quoting the article now, I find it interesting that this is happening in a country that subsidizes ciagarettes and has a smoking habit in half of its population. I suppose things have to start somewhere.

What I Learned on January 19th, 2005

No matter how hard I try, I always seem to try and spell accommodate with a single m. OLAP is really cool; I need to spend more time playing with it and learning how to implement it, rather than just rigging up servers and making sure it’s running. Porsche is preparing to release a new car, the C7S, that will be priced between the boxster and 911, and will deliver (largely due to a more useful mid-engine layout) better performance compared to the naturally aspirated 997 line (excluding GT2/3 models, I suspect). I probably should have taken some contemporary cultural anthropology courses in school. I think I would have found the topic pretty fascinating. I’m not interested in the old stuff too much, though certain things, like determining the development of sexual culture, would require a certain amount of history to grasp. Maybe I’ll pick a book up at some point and figure out if this is just a fleeting notion, or if it’s yet another fork in the “what do I want to do in the future” dilemma.

Mixed Management Messages

So there is this project that blew up in our faces that we’ve been scrambling to accomodate. While the specifics aren’t important, it’s related to my chat about desk developers. In any event, I ended up behind the eight ball on this one in the first place because my management was out of the office on an emergency, and while my management knew this was coming, the ball was dropped, and I only found out after the fact. It was the desk developer’s fault that the appropriate folks weren’t in the loop, but things probably wouldn’t have been so dire had fate not stepped in. Emergencies happen; I do not begrudge any of that, but the downside is that any efforts I was making were already two months late. Even if I spin this in record time, it just looks like I’m ten weeks late, and I step on a lot of toes and pull a lot of favors getting that pulled off.

A Quick Firefox Hack

I came across a lovely hack today for firefox … one of those things that should have been obvious, but nobody thinks of. The basic idea is modifying the chrome userContent.css with an imported css file that is updated to get rid of advertisements that adblock isn’t built to handle (suck as google’s adverts in their search results). To cut to the chase, you would just hack up your userContent.css (creating one if you don’t have one already), to include @import url("http://adblock.f2g.net/sites.css");.

What I Learned on January 18th, 2005

Just entering New York City makes you [statistically] 34 (visitors) to 55 (residents) percent more likely to die of a stress-related heart attack. I picked this up from Clive Thompson’s blog, where he mentions (Both links defunct) the above article he wrote. There are some other really fascinating observations in that article; it’s worth a read. I think some of the more interesting discussion revolves around crowding, and related to that, I found this quote: “street crowding may not be a big deal … the real crowding problem isn’t on the streets but in tiny apartments.” New York City has a proposal on the table to secede from New York. Honestly, I think it’s a fascinating idea, though I can imagine the D.C. dilemma if it happens. That said, I’m not sure what would happen to the voting balance of the state if the city was broken off. Could be rather interesting. Dockers are not nearly warm enough for 10 degrees and 20 mph winds. Even if you’re wearing a cashmere scarf, wool socks, a KDOT orange construction hat and seriously insulative gloves, your thighs are going to burn. No matter what you think, you will forget everything you knew about probability in college in a few short months. Expectations, expectations, expectations! If you value the cards in a standard deck as 1 through 13, you can pick any four cards, and by organizing them as necessary and only using the four basic operands (+, -, *, /), you can in most cases combine the cards together to reach a value of 24. If you reduce only to having cards 1-9 in each suit, it is solvable. I’ve yet to find out if it is always solvable when 10, 11, 12, and 13 are included. This can be used to play a game called Twenty-four, a slightly more interesting variation on war, that would take several more fun-filled hours.

What I Learned on January 17, 2005

Shaving a slice of your finger off with a vegetable peeler is as painful during the regrowth period as I remembered. I really don’t like vegetable peelers. Without the bad translations and super-goofy antics and hysteria being taken seriously (and indeed, just the cultural differences), Iron Chef America will never be as cool or entertaining. as the original. It may not be the Shatner version (thank god), but it’s just not the same. Wireless networking is still more of an art than a science. Some category 5 cable comes with lubricant on the wire, I’m guessing in order to ease extraction from the spool as well as enable easy routing through conduit. It served me well today to that end, though I think Sky said it best when he said “I’m lubed up enough to be a proctologist.” The Apple 23" Cinema Display is sexier in person (in a house, that is) than it is in the store. Some barbers take today off.

The Flying Football Field

I’ve always been fascinated by large jets. I try not to visit sites that encourage my facination, as it would just get me interested in purchasing airliner trade magazines and so forth. As I will never be a pilot, nor do I have the perfect vision or military service required to fly heavy equipment, it’s a bit of a silly fascination. Even sillier, I’ve yet to be on any equipment larger than a 757. My guess is that other than being impressed by the sheer ginormity of the things, there’s not much to it, and the on-runway acceleration certainly probably is not as impressive as the small planes. That said, the idea of seeing and/or being on a 747 as it flies into one of the super-difficult approaches, like St. Maarten. If I could go back in time, riding one into Kai Tak before it closed (requiring an unbelievable hard right-angle turn before dropping onto the runway) would be a real treat. In any event, the point of all of this is that Airbus has unveiled the A380 the largest commercial passenger plane ever built. I think it’s fantastic. I can’t wait to see one in person, even if that may still be many months (or years) away.

The Fog of War

We watched The Fog of War today, about Robert McNamera. It was fantastic and well done; it was fascinating to see somebody looking back during the twilight of their life. Watching the segment on Vietnam, it’s amazing we can make the exact same mistakes, just a few decades later. I keep hoping that, like McNamera, at least some sense of perspective is realized by our current leadership in the last years of their lives, but then when I see quotes like this, I realize that is not very likely. 9/10.

What I Learned on January 14, 2005

Today was not a stellar one for learning new things.

What I Learned on January 13, 2005

I learned how a camshaft works for an overhead-can engine, as well as a pushrod engine. I figured out that I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. I learned that there is always a place for a snowman. I learned that, at the end of the day, it’s all going to work out. I learned that, no matter what you learn, you’ll forget it as soon as you can’t write down that you’ve learned it, and come up with something else later that night.

Lex Luther or The Hand of God?

So I went out for my community service project to get on the school bus, and it’s snowing these huge flakes of snow. I hear on the bus, first thing, “It’s been crazy in terms of weather ever since the tidal wave.” “… and the mudslides in California.” “And the tornadoes yesterday!” “It’s like the apocalypse.”

Will Think For Champagne

Today they announced a competition at work to name ten new conference rooms … I think it’s part of a scheme to get us to like the fact that a lot of people are going to be moved to the less-sexy location, but that’s neither here nor there. My first four ideas were:

Robots And The Inevitable Formula One Rant

I seem to be grabbing Slashdot links today. I read about Deep Impact, NASA’s plan to fire a rocket at a comet to see what happens, strikes me as a scheme that only exists because some senator saw one of those cheesy movies and said “damn, we better figure out how to save ourselves from an impact with a comet!” I know that’s not the point, but it seems rather silly.

Decaf Coffee Beans and a Slap at Developers

I roasted my first batch of decaf beans last night, which was a little interesting. The profile I was running has a setting of two minutes at 335, two minutes at 385, and then 6 minutes set at 435. In most cases, I halt the roast just on the verge of second crack, about 1.5 to 2 minutes into stage three.

What I learned on January 12th, 2005

I learned what a serif is. I could never keep serif and sans serif straight, so I looked up the term. Now that I understand the concept of a serif, keeping the two straight is trivial. Not real tricky stuff, to be sure, but good to know. 101 years ago today, the land speed record was set, at 91.37 miles per hour. This fact was culled from my The Worst-Case Scenario 2005 Daily Survival Box Calendar, though this sparked some controversy — according to what I could find, this record was set by Henry Ford. According to the calendar, it was set by Barney Oldfield, which seems to have been hired after this heroic event due to fear of Ford’s impending death on the part of his wife. While the calendar makes a better story of it, the truth is still interesting. January is National Oatmeal Month. The cafeteria first told me that this was the case, and that as a result, the 10oz oatmeal would be $1 all month long. I now know how to artificially fade my t-shirts.

Open Concerns for the Hacking as a Hobby Community

Let’s play a game. I feel like writing an application in Java. Hell, I’ll write a news aggregator, because there aren’t already six dozen half-assed solutions out there. After I’ve built up some configuration management functions, a way to cache some data out to a file, and some other standard routines, I decide it’s time to fetch data from the web. Java makes this really easy, so I just start hacking away (removing all comments, imports, logging, and the like, for brevity) … (apologies for the indenting, but that saves some horizontal as well … well, the real reason is textile seems to not do what I expect it would with pre and code tags; am going to have to re-examine that):

On Sucking It Up

One of the bitches of being a manager is the requirement to be beyond reproach. As part of maintaining the necessary aloofness, I feel one has to set an example for their subordinates. I think I am still of the (old school, perhaps) opinion that managers should be working at least as hard as their employees. This does not mean that they have to work longer, or even the same, hours. However, I feel like any situation where a manager is setting a precedent of not working at least as hard as their employees is just going to be amplified as it propagates through the ranks. For those who have enough fortitude to not let their work ethic be compromised, this situation still creates resentment for a manager, and therefore serves to create resentment for the company since they put that manager in place as one’s superior(One that surpasses another in rank or quality).

Firefox Extension Evangelism

So one of the beauties of Firefox is that it’s a fast, standards-compliant, light-weight browser. The other real beauty is the ability to build the exact browser you need, no more, no less, with extensions. To this end, I find a number of extensions are critical to enjoy my Firefox experience:

What I've Learned Today

For my current job, I get up in the morning, go to work, work 10-12 hours, and come home having learned nothing of interest. One of the things I miss about school is that I felt like I learned something new each day, even if it was not in the classroom — be it by reading, lectures, or events (again, not always related to my coursework). In those days, even if I had gone through hours of banging my head against some graduate-level theory problems and getting nowhere, I could at least go to sleep at night knowing that I had learned something new. I have been inspired by the BBC’s recent article, and indeed their “10 things we didn’t know this time last week” segments, neither of which I had been exposed to in the past.

What I Learned On January 11th, 2005

Kenyan beans are praised for their acidity, and as such can make a fantastic cup of drip/press/vacuum coffee, but are usually too bright for espresso blends. The reason Starbucks over-roasts their coffee is that carbonized beans tend to mask inconsistencies (that is to say the impact of inexperienced pushbutton operators that have no respect for the coffee or equipment is minimized) in brewing technique. Further, it does a good job of covering up for stale beans or beans that have been sitting, ground, for hours or days at a time (as charcoal doesn’t tend to be nearly as volatile as coffee grounds), as well as beans that have been improperly stored (incorrect humidity and heat, for example). Consistency is more desirable than quality, as the latter comes with a hassle. iLife/iPhoto 2005 has native support for RAW images providing sharpness, color, and temperature adjustment out of the box at full CCD capability. This clears up one of my two hesitations with owning a mac as a primary platform (the other being the lack of good mapping/navigation/GIS software; Streets & Trips and OziExplorer for OS X would be sufficient), as in the past working with raw photos was much easier on a PC. It’s not “alterior” it’s “ulterior.” Bad sprains can take a year or more to heal.

Smoking Bans

I was listening to NPR this morning (as I often do on the way to work) and they mentioned that Italy enacted a nationwide ban of smoking in bars and restaurants. I’ve become used to this in NYC and Stamford — I still remember the first time I went to a bar where there was not any smoking, and remember thinking “gosh, this bar is pretty nice.” I couldn’t figure out what made everything so pleasant, what made all of the drinks taste better, and what made the food have flavor. It clicked on the way home, when my clothes didn’t require commercial laundering — there was no smoke at the bar. In any event, in a nation where the vast majority does not smoke, I think this sort of legislation makes sense, though smokers are virulent in their opposition. I figured that over time smoking bans would spread, but I hardly imagined I would be hearing news of it happening in Italy.

Kinsey

Kinsey was fantastic. The acting, especially by Neeson and Laura Linney, was superb. Still can’t believe we saw Neeson on the stage from third row for The Crucible. I digress. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart (I think everybody should read Paul Joannides’ book), which tends to cause a bias, so take that as a warning. In any event, it does a good job of exploring Kinsey’s life, and some of the difficulties in thinking of sex in purely scientific aspects. Definitely worth the watch. 8/10.

Beating the Development Lifecycle

Like most large companies with large applications, regulations, policies, and so forth, we have a certain procedure for developing and releasing applications. In theory, that means gathering requirements, building up a design, implementing the project, going through a QA cycle, going through a user acceptance cycle, and then releasing to production. To make things worse, entries have to be made in project planning software, priorities and deadlines need to be set, change management requests have to be put in place and approved, deployments have to be tested … The deployment and support (and indeed the environmental administration, QA deployment and facilitation, user acceptance testing, etc.) is handled by the support entity, of which I am a member. The downside to this process is that even in the most accelerated cases, this means a week or more to turn around a project, and in most situations things are planned in terms of months.

Welcome to the Dollhouse

Welcome to the Dollhouse was horrible. Rather, it was exceptional, in that it reminds us how horrible junior high really was. It also serves as a lesson to teach parents why to never have three children. While listed as a comedy, it is only a comedy in the darkest sense, though several scenes had me laughing out loud. That said, anybody who reminisces about “the good old days” and how great their childhood was should use this as a quick refresher. Then again, maybe I was just a disaffected child because I was on the wrong end of the mean stick at that point in my development. Definitely worth a watch; 8/10.

Some Boring Crap About My Vision

Today’s realization: Hungarian Cherry Peppers are fantastic. Just thought I’d share.

How I Became Stupid

How I Became Stupid was an entertaining existential journey through the theory that ignorance is bliss. The hypothesis explored is that life is better when the intellectually-gifted protagonist tries to escape his burden by becoming stupid — through alcoholism, Prozac overdosing, big business, obsessions with material goods, and superficial relationships. It is a very French novel, though I think I find the idea behind the novel almost more inspiring than the writing itself. Such is the danger of translation, I suppose. I love the idea of intelligence being a burden rather than an asset, and appreciate the author’s brief treatment of the topic. Good light reading, without being devoid of room for consideration. 7/10.

Some Ego Padding and a Mess of Links

I actually interofficed a guy in the city a fruitcake the other day. I didn’t think it would work (I just stuffed it into an envelope), but lo and behold, it arrived today. Sometimes it’s the stupid little things that bring you more surprise and joy than you would expect.

UPS Rant

As I’ve mentioned before, I do not like FedEx. That said, I still have a bone to pick with UPS.

The Lost Birthday Reviews

It seems I had some orphaned notes from around the time of my birthday that I’ve been meaning to commit to type. Most of it is no longer relevant, but criticism lasts forever!

The Real Luxury of Wealth

I’ve just finished some Jamaican Peanut Drink. Strange stuff, given the third ingredient is peanut butter. This was the first 300-calorie 12g-fat 12oz soft drink can I think I’ve had. I’m not sure I’d ever have it again, but I think I enjoyed it.

Garden State

Garden State was interesting. Not at all what I would have expected from the advertisements, but it was a pleasant off-beat difference. I’m really impressed by Zach Braff and both his writing and directing ability after seeing this. I feel like I’ve been using this word a lot lately, but I really felt a lot of personal resonance with the film for some reason … and I can’t figure out quite why. Overall it was very satisfying, if a bit disturbing. 9/10.

2004

The Top Five Worst Movies of All Time

Ok, I should get this down in an entry, so I can keep track of it. These are my top five worst movies of all time, in no particular order:

The Bush Effect Felt at Home

Well, it’s finally happened. The dollar has fallen so much that it is now impacting my dreams:

Holiday Whining

Ok, now that I’ve gotten my act together with regards to coffee, theatrical releases, and literary matters, it’s time to get my holiday whining out of the way, and then everything will be back on track.

Holiday Reviews

Right, saw a mess of movies and read a book while in Kansas. First, let’s get the painful out of the way. The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement will join my now unintuitively-named top five worst movies of all time list. It took a tired and poorly-executed concept from the first movie and turned it into a complete waste of time. Even the most uncultured and uninspired children would find this tedious. While I am sure that the thought of an (obviously stunt doubled) Julie Andrews going down a stairwell on a mattress would make small children giggle, the rest of the inconsistency, plot weakness, and terrible acting would make their poor heads explode. The only redeeming part of the whole experience is that it ended. Torture. 0/10.

Complete Failure

No small surprise, but it was a long sleepless night before the return to work, thanks to insomnia and an early call from Hong Kong. Getting up this morning I figured I’d at least have another roast to try and some fresh coffee to wake me.

She Has Created a Monster

Lots of stuff to blab about (most of it personal and uninteresting). We’re now back from Kansas, have Loki back from the vet (hooray!) and all of that good stuff. Will update on the rest over the next few days.

The Mythical User Error

For various political and practical reasons, 75-80% of the application incidents we file for my system get booked as “User Error” or “User Knowledge.” In all cases, there is something that the user failed to do, but nine times out of ten, it was a mistake the user should never have been able to make.

A Momentous Occasion

Last night I received my first cashmere scarf. I have been ruined to scratchy wool forever.

My Training Paradox

We got another new resource the other day that I’m going to have to train and get up to speed. The hope is that (third time is a charm?) we’ll get somebody on board that can handle the normal day to day crap on my system, so I can focus on project work and a transition out of support. Until that point, I’m too buried in the regular din to be able to escape, unless I were to quit outright.

Family Dollar Wishes You a Burning Death

So we needed another power strip in order to fix up some swapping of power cords in the bedroom. I was at Family Dollar, because it is across the street and we were out of toilet paper, and I saw a $5 power strip, and figured, “eh, what the hell, it’s a power strip!”

Differentials Are Violent

I was driving around the backroads of Norwalk, for various reasons, at generous speeds this afternoon. In the process, I discovered what they mean when they talk about slip having to happen before a limited slip differential can redistribute the torque. I’ve felt it on wet/icy roads before, but never on dry (albeit a little rough) tarmac, while the vehicle is loaded much nearer its dynamic envelope. I would go so far as to say it was quite violent, but thoroughly enjoyable. That is all.

Lieberman To Head Homeland Security?

For three weeks now I’ve had a difficult time falling asleep Sunday through Thursday nights. I’m able to sleep on the weekends, even though the thoughts that plague me are not temporal in nature. This may be due to less stress on the weekends, as I know that I have to go to work the next day, or it may just be something to do with going to bed later on the weekends. The thoughts that keep me awake center on trying to figure out what I want to do with life, and how to make whatever I do more satisfying and challenging. The problem is that there are a lot more questions than answers, and all the while I’m just getting more exhausted.

1420 Calories, 107 Fat Grams, 2700mg Sodium...

The Hardee’s Monster Thickburger is a work of art. Such a feat of modern food engineering that I’m half-tempted to try one. In a nation that was pretending to veer towards health-consciousness, I’m glad to see the proper American meal is back to stay.

The Support Dilemma

My primary job role is application support. That means a lot of things, but in theory, these are my core job responsibilities:

Head Hunting Mumblings

I made bread pudding to take to work this weekend, and my favorite comment all day was from an older male coworker, “Thanks for the pudding, it proves that the only way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Very juicy.” It is also the comment that may well give me nightmares and cold sweats, but so be it. As I’ve said again and again, if you don’t own The New Joy of Cooking, you really should.

Weekend Movie Roundup

Dodgeball was fun. It’s about what you would expect if you don’t take it too seriously. I really don’t have anything to say beyond that. 4/10.

Christmas Shopping Culmination

So we’re done with our Christmas shopping, except a little bit here and there (ok, so we’re not really done, but there’s just one and a half people more to go, and that shouldn’t be a big deal). Having all of that done and our holiday travel booked by December 5 is priceless.

Happy Birthday, Loki!

Pivot Table Hell and the Mac Bug

So I still hate Excel, but I have come to see the beauty of pivot tables. You can do magic with pivot tables. That said, it seems like I keep seeing pivot tables being used where we should just have data in a relational database, and query it as God intended.

More Musings on Down Comforters

Our down comforter and cover have now arrived. I realized what a predicament this created after I unpacked the down comforter and realized I had to somehow stuff it inside a cover and then button it in. One of the things I never uncovered in my research was any sort of description of how terribly difficult it is to get a comforter stuffed inside a comforter cover. Luckily, dear reader, I have figured out the secret, and I can provide another secret to down comforter enjoyment:

Christmas Decorations and Some Loki Action

Ok, there haven’t been enough cat pictures lately, you’re probably beginning to think this isn’t a blog, and instead is just a place for me to whine about my life, so here are some Loki pictures (courtesy of my wife; Loki would never forgive me were I to put her in a hat) with the excuse of Christmas in the air:

Windows and the Down Comforter Craze

While trying to rescue a Windows machine from a nasty virus infection this holiday, I returned to my conclusion that Windows is a pain in the ass. This is true not just because of the infectability, but also because of the crude nature of permissions and rights, and the ability to do things without registering that you’re doing them. I’ve been thinking for quite a while that my next desktop will be a mac of some sort, so there isn’t much concern, but I was pretty sure my next laptop would be a Windows machine. This is primarily because a) a lot of the digital photography work is still easier until you get it into Photoshop via a PC b) navigation and mapping software for the mac really sucks by comparison. However, I’m finding myself so frustrated by the architecture on Windows that I’m half-tempted to suck it up and just go with a second-class solution on those fronts. There are still a few months before any of this becomes relevant, but not having run Windows anywhere other than at work for the last few months certainly hasn’t caused any great pain in my life. At this point, if the citrix client I use for work was compatible with firefox and worked properly, I probably wouldn’t even need to run that through vmware on my workstation.

Thanksgiving Film Reviews

Ok, time to just get these out of my system.

Post-Thanksgiving Gastronomic Adventures

So we made some bread yesterday and today. Friday we discovered what happens to your naan when your yeast is dead. That was pretty fun. Today we got new yeast and things were much better. We started with some Naan which was not as fluffy as what is found from a proper establishment, but was still quite tasty. Then we made a country bread that looks great, has a nice texture, and had a little over-developed crust (but was still nice). Lots of good learning experience there.

Working Long Hours

Google does it again. They’ve taken the Amazon wish list to the next level — getting rid of Amazon. I think I’ll start moving my wishlist over to this, and killing the Amazon one. It’s not that I have anything against Amazon, but this is a lot more generic. That said, I ordered a a slew of stuff from Amazon by first finding it on a number of vendor sites, and then realizing that every store but one had a vendor relationship with Amazon. From that regard, the centralized electronic commerce is still brilliant, and the Amazon commerce engine is a work of genius for all involved.

Pornography == Pedophilia

I know this got picked up over on Slashdot, but it’s killing me. Internet pornography is the new crack cocaine if you believe our conservative friends, chaired by Sam Brownback. “The most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today?” Please!

Lotto Logicians

I heard some guys walking around the cafeteria today saying, “Yeah, that guy just ruined his life. I mean, he was a parking attendant and he just won $150 million, his life is destroyed. That guy isn’t going to know how to use that sort of money.” Listen, just because the guy’s a parking lot attendant who plays the lotto doesn’t mean a damn thing. I don’t understand smart people thinking that they know what to do with money any better than the next guy. You give an IT worker in an investment bank $150 million, I doubt the outcome is going to be that much different than a parking lot attendant than a garbage collector than a street worker. In some scenarios, you will see either waste all of the money … in other scenarios you will see intelligent behavior with regards to the money.

Strange Coincidence

So I went to the doctor today out of paranoia to have my ankle checked out. I fell down the stairs at Target Monday night, (I know, the clever thing to do would have been to sue Target, but it was really just my own clumsiness that did it). In any event, none of the five “auto x-ray” points seemed to be broken, and there was no blood pooling on the bottom of my foot proper, so the doctor said it just looked like a nasty sprain that tore several ligaments.

I fell at target / I totally should have sued / but it was my fault

Don’t have too much of import to cover today; here are some random links.

How to Treat New Hires Like Shit

So my manager took the day off on a day when he has a new employee coming in. That means I get to manage the induction of said employee. Fine — except that I don’t know anything about the status of his accounts, when he’s arriving, what my manager’s plans are for this resource, and so forth. Further, because my manager arranged a phone change for me that still has not been completed (about which I also do not have any information), I am unable to receive phone calls from the front desk to let me know that the new employee is in.

The Fruitcake Preparation Has Begun

Ok, I know, I shouldn’t be posting any more red/blue maps. But really, this site takes another interesting spin on re-projecting the maps based on population instead of on geography. That said, as long as I’m yet again kicking a dead horse, here’s some food for conspiracy theorists about the election in Florida being rigged.

Nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide...

Was listening to NPR this morning and I heard those dreaded words “really, there’s nothing to be worried about as long as these people have nothing to hide.” This was in reference to an upcoming supreme court case going back to a guy that was stopped for going 71 in a 65, a drug dog showed up for no reason, happened to smell a boat load of marijuana in the back of his car, and he got 12 years in jail for it. Obviously, you shouldn’t be transporting drugs, and what the guy was doing was illegal, but any time I hear the “nothing to worry if you’re innocent” argument it sends shivers down my spine.

Oklahoma, What were you thinking?

Contrapositive has a nice article introducing you to Tom Coburn, our charming republican Senator from Oklahoma. That’s right kids, this guy thinks that “abortionists and other people who take life” should get the death penalty. Chew on that for a minute. More counterintuitive yet, he thinks abortion is in place in our nation because of the “gay agenda.” I’ve gotten past the fact that the people have elected a monkey and his puppeteers as president. Yes, we really missed it on the “moral values” bullshit. We have better moral values, but nobody bothered to point that out. We lost. C’est.

Bonus Culture

After I received an offer to work at an investment bank, the first phone call I received was from one of my interviewing managers, asking me what my thoughts were, congratulating me on the offer, and commending me for my strength in the interview process. That’s not the point of this entry, but one needs context. I remember a phrase that went something like this — “It’s a pretty ok place to work … and the bonuses can be really nice.” I liked meeting this guy. He seemed to be both smart and balanced. He was working on some pretty cool stuff in his job, developing some neat applications and solving some challenging problems. At the same time, he had a family, and seemed to have a good family life, though we didn’t touch on that too much.

Weekend Film Reviews

Saw a few movies this weekend. Saved!, when taken in the same vein as other works of satire like Camp or Best in Show, was actually rather entertaining. Sort of a Mean Girls with a Christian slant, and a little better, to boot. Nothing with any sort of intellectual fire power, but for that special brand of entertainment that’s best when not taken seriously, it’s worth some attention.

I am Trying to Resist the Urge to do More of This

Sarah emailed this to me, and I found the original blog entry — if you haven’t heard it yet, Adam Felber’s Concession Rant is well written; he puts to word a lot of the thoughts that are still running through my mind. I know, I’m just a sorry loser and I should just accept the fate as what it is and move along for the better unity in the country. But, quite simply, I cannot. Die-hard easily-frustrated conservatives, now may be the time to unsubscribe from this blog. The paragraph that hit the closest to home:

FedEx Rant

I’ll try to keep this quick. We can’t find the belts for our vacuum anywhere, as Hoover belts seem only to be sold in stores for their uprights, not canisters. I broke down and ordered four of them from the Hoover web site half a month ago, including a shipping cost higher than the cost of the four belts. This was retarded, but it’s also retarded to not be able to use the sweeper attachment. In any event, tracking through FedEx, this package came from about 100 miles away, and ended up in the Bronx, where it went out for delivery … in the Bronx. They realized sometime two days thereafter that the delivery was going to the incorrect location, and drove it straight on a delivery truck, from the Bronx, to my apartment. They then left a final notice, because the first and second notice were left for somebody else in the Bronx. Right on. I called and said, in simple terms, “What the fuck?” but now the package is on the way back to Hoover because FedEx has no ability to do anything but return to shipper after the final notice has been placed, if the customer does not agree to pick the item up (again, in the Bronx, not at my local FedEx; I am not driving to the Bronx to pick up my delivery; I could have just driven to Hoover’s warehouse). I guess I didn’t keep it that quick, but that’s my why-I-now-hate-FedEx story.

Toasters and Blogging

I’ve noticed something. People aren’t blogging enough at 3AM when you’re waiting on some guy to drive in from bumblefuck and reboot the SAN because there isn’t any onsite support for the SAN and there isn’t any way to do this sort of thing remotely. While the obvious solution is for people to never sleep, I suppose what I need to do is start aggregating internationally so there is no risk of a traffic outage during the evenings.

Smart Cat, Genetic Cat

Hypo-allergenic cats. “Lifestyle pet.” This is the coolest and at the same time most disturbing thing I’ve read all day. On one hand, the whole premise, being able to bring feline companionship to the allergic, is great. On the other hand, this scares me an awful lot. What’s the next step? That’s the question that keeps circling through my mind. And yes, $3500 might be a luxury for those who suffer from allergies, but it does very little to encourage population control for cats throughout the country. I did find their little cat-facts window interesting though; they mention that cats respond the best to names ending in the “ee” sound. No wonder Loki comes when Sarah calls for her. They also mention that cats will spend 30% of their lives grooming. With another 65% spent sleeping, that tells you something. Things I never knew.

This Cannot be Happening

It seems we have lost two of the battles and the war is going the same way. Having the republican party eroding the liberal presence in the house and senate is bad enough, but losing Daschle is a huge blow. There was too much at stake, and things are not turning out the way they need to for a stronger, healthier, and smarter nation. Hearing that FOX has already called the election is a little too familiar after 2000, but I am beginning to fear that they are right this time.

The Importance of Forward Motion

Nothing can be done about it in the short term. Back to whining about life as usual. I’ve got to do some thinking about what to do in the next few years to rectify this situation. Believing that our nation would actually pay attention to what was going on and correct its mistake was a foolish hope.

Kerry Cedes

It’s over.

Zogby Says

Zogby says Bush is going to win the popular, and Kerry is going to win the electoral, the former by a hair, the latter by a landslide. I find that pretty disturbing, but ultimately it’s an outcome I can accept. We’ll see if it sticks.

VOTE

CNN has way more coverage of the exit polls than you could ever possibly digest. Now, if you have not already, please do your civic duty and go vote. I heard people in the cafeteria saying, “The lines are too long, I just decided I wasn’t going to vote.” This sort of behavior is immature and inexcusable.

The Election Approaches

So the presidential election is tomorrow. I cannot imagine an outcome in which Kerry does not win. Suffering through another four years with this administration is not something for which I am prepared. As an aside, it appears that the UK is hedging its bet in case their existing relationship with the bad guys continues. That said, if Bush wins, in the long run we have nothing to worry about, because giant squid are taking over the world. In the meantime, I have to work the next two weekends, and I’m blaming that on Bush as well.

How Hikes Become Mall Visits

We tried to go to the Rockland Lake State Park this weekend, to hit some caches up in the cliffs overlooking the Hudson. A long stretch of route 9W was closed, so we ended up being able to reach just the central portion of the park, where we then discovered that the southern parking areas were closed off. Not wanting to hike through the golf course and all the way up the hills just to get to the trail that leads to the cliffs, we decided to just walk around the lake instead on the walking path. It was a change of pace from our usual weekend adventures, but was still fun. After that we drove around Congers and New Town a bit, and ended up running into the Palisades mall, where we then spent some time looking around. Nothing like what we planned, but it made for a fun outing just the same. We found some Nightmare Before Christmas mugs at the Disney store that we couldn’t resist, and other than that just looked around the monstrosity that is the Palisades.

Football and Offensive Cartoons

Saturday we went and saw Friday Night Lights, which was good. It was predictable, but an enjoyable story. Billy Bob was pretty much a nothing character, which isn’t to say he didn’t act his part well; I also feel like a lot of the plots were out of control and did not tie together. In the end, it felt like the movie was a highlights reel for the book. Still, it put me in the mood to see UNC beat Miami. That was pretty sweet. And between the Michigan/Michigan State game and the Oklahoma/Oklahoma state game, it was a good college ball weekend. Oh, and then there were the Patriots. That was a bit of a surprise.

Healthy Happy Kitten

Loki is in purr-fect health (sorry, I couldn’t resist); she got her one-year booster shots (not so much as a sad expression out of her), her nails trimmed (the vet makes it look effortless; I need to learn that trick), and a routine check-up. We like it when the vet can say she’s in perfect shape, small for her age (the life of a runt), at a good weight, and is incredibly cute cat. I’m sure he tells that to all of the humans that bring cats in, but it still gives you that warm fuzzy feeling.

On the Occasion of my First Cavity

As I mentioned, I made an appointment to see the dentist. I haven’t seen the dentist in years. I went to see Dr. Cahn, who suffered from that awkward desire to have a conversation with his patients while there is stuff in their mouth (I don’t really want a conversation, I want clean teeth, and I want you out of my personal space as fast as possible), and the same old dentist soundtrack playing, but otherwise was pleasant. I don’t know if it’s a Connecticut thing or what, as Sarah encountered this too, but the dentist actually does the cleaning as well as the check-up, so the hygienist doesn’t spend the whole appointment destroying your gums, which is nice. In any event, he started looking at my teeth and said “Wow, nice clean teeth!” and then about 20 seconds later said “Oh, but there’s a cavity. That doesn’t make any sense, that tooth is sealed.” Long story short, several x-rays later, there was a cavity indeed.

When Yucca Attacks

Sarah’s gone off to Seattle, leaving me up to no good for a week. While it’s cool that she gets to see the west coast, I’m not real excited for losing her to a different time zone after having her in France for a week. C’est.

The Periodic Whining About Work Entry

I’m finally getting around to scheduling all of that crap that I have been putting off for months — vetrinary check-ups (Loki hasn’t seen a vet since losing her womanhood), dentist check-ups (it’s been about three years), eye check-ups (it’s been about five years), physicals (maybe a decade?), oil changes (I’m almost to 3750 miles). It feels good, strangely, though I always worry what I’m going to find out in the coming weeks — your engine is grinding its pistons away, you will be blind before the year is out, your teeth are all rotting, your kitten has a tumor, and your leg is eating itself from the inside out. I’ve been putting most of these things off because I have work to do during the day, and there’s no time for this, but it’s time to start making small steps towards reclaiming some of that time — telling rather than asking. Not big steps, but it’s something.

Nice Bus Drivers Finish Last

So back when I grew up in a more rural community, there was still a bus to pick the kids up for school. If you weren’t at the bus stop, the bus went on. If you were one of the lucky kids that lived in a loop subdivision, you could maybe catch the bus around on the return pass, but there was no guarantee. The bus yielded after picking kids up on a busy road to let traffic by, and so forth. Most runs were about 60 minutes long or so, and peppered kids here and there, with few stops grabbing more than 3 or 4 kids.

Math is Hard, Let's Go Shopping

I was at Target last night, waiting to check out, so I could take my fresh half-gallon of milk and three bars of soap home. While this six-story monstrosity in downtown Stamford probably deserves its own entry and discussion, I’ll just leave it to say that for the time being, the place is chaotic, and still needs its bugs worked out. In any event, this girl was ahead of me, and she had two dollars. She was going through each item in the candy selection next to the conveyor (she wasn’t quite tall enough to reach, so the whole exercise was a little awkward, with her leaning over the belt to reach the top row and so forth). She kept debating what she would get, then handed some gum to the checker, who rung it up and said it would be 98 cents. The girl then lit up with surprise and grabbed another item from the rack, which was then run up, and she thrust her two dollars at the checker.

Cognac is Swell

Sarah has returned from France, thankfully. I am mighty jealous of her gastronomic journey however, as she was able to dine at the world-famous Pic restaurant in Valence. She (mercifully/mercilessly — I can’t decided) brought home the tasting menu that several of her party enjoyed, and it does no justice even then to what all was brought out, after hearing her recite, for about half an hour, the endless waves of food.

And I Thought City of God Was Good

Wow.

That Crazy Nobel Peace Prize

Wow. Elfriede Jelinek won the Nobel Peace Prize for literature this year. After seeing La Pianiste, easily one of the top ten most disturbing films ever produced, I must say this is mildly startling. That said, the amount of emotion and passion communicated by that film was truly amazing, and I can only imagine a similar (if not more powerful effect) being present in her books. To a certain extent, I applaud such a controversial and powerful writer being able to be recognized in this way. Then again, this is the same peace prize that went to Yasser Arafat.

Loki Strikes Again

Now Loki has been putting up a semblance of behavior, but I’m finding other little surprises she’s left me. No, not of the fecal kind. She unplugged the left cable from my computer’s speakers, pulled it to the other side of my desk, wrapped it in a knot around the leg of the table, and then tucked the lead under a pile of papers, without even disturbing the speaker on my desk. That’s insane!

Debate 3/3

In case you were wondering, dropping a two liter bottle of Rum in a closet on a parquet floor is ever bit of a nightmare as you can imagine, and so much more. I know somewhere a person is laying awake right now wondering about that, so I figured I’d spare them the excercise.

Southern Manhattan Foodie Trip

So Sky and I did a little eating tour of lower Manhattan Sunday. I ran out of stomach capacity long before we ran out of intended food joints, which was a shame, but had the upside of being a lot cheaper.

Secondary Kitten Litterbox

Well, I’ve managed to go and screw with computers a bit more again. I now successfully have Windows 2000 running under linux via vmware (whereby successful I mean it works fine if I don’t mind throwing away my resolution and video acceleration). A little more hacking to get it working with the nvidia drivers may be in order, but the end result is that I no longer need to keep the laptop around to connect to work from home, as windows 2000 in vmware is sufficient to run a terminal services client on another windows 2000 box. Got that? Linux to Vmware to Windows 2000 to Windows 2000 terminal server to Windows 2000 application server. Despite this, I’m still getting usable performance. Crazy what you can do with the amount of processing power available these days.

Debate 2/3

Just some quick thoughts — enough with the same old three stock issues, let’s have a debate that we haven’t already had twice. There is only one Internet. Harvest the rainforests. Work overtime to spread freedom. Defecits foster tax cuts. Reagan lives.

Unintuitive Software Design

We are using SharePoint at work for establishing “community team synergy platforms” or something like that. I think SharePoint has a lot going for it, as does any other easy-to-use CMS system. One of the features of SharePoint is a discussion forum, which while seldom used effectively, is being utilized by one of our projects. One of the things that I thought was very perceptive was that Microsoft included the functionality to notify users whenever the forum is updated. However, being that Microsoft has never actually used its software, it does it in a very unintuitive fashion. It sends out, in email, a note saying that the page has been updated, and provides a link. Well, they achieved their goal, the page sends out an email, but if you actually try to use this facility, your Outlook inbox is soon full of:

Reception Book Reviews

So there are still some things I need to get to from the wedding reception trip. One of them is to carefully unpack the quilt when Loki is not around, take a photo, and then figure out how we will protect it from said kitten. In the meantime, though, there are two books I finished on that trip that I thought I’d talk about for a few moments.

Debate 1.5/3

We watched the vice presidential debate last night. I am amazed at how much more articulate Cheney is than Bush. I fear that the conservative party would actually have some clout if Cheney was their president. That said, he was really nasty through the first half of the debate, slinging mud a lot more than trying to construct a good argument. The one really impressive moment was when he made clear that he does not agree with Bush’s policy on gay marriage, and that he only goes by it because Bush sets policy. That he responded so gracefully to Edwards’ comments about his daughter, and did not debate the point showed for a brief moment that there is a human somewhere in there. Don’t get me wrong, Cheney, Rumsfield, and Ashcroft still form the triumvirate of evil (Sarah’s phrase).

Developers Who Need To Go Back To School

Have been really busy lately, and am building up a backlog of stuff to write about that I will likely never get to. I’ve been wondering why the Starbucks coffee sleeves are for one use only, but that’s a topic for another day (they’ve replaced our styrofoam coffee cups with starbucks cups, so I can pretend I have a habit). Here’s just one little nugget.

Apple Picking

Sarah and I went to Lyman Orchards today. After trying to follow the horrendous directions on their web site, and eventually giving up, turning on the GPS, and really getting there, all was swell. The whole town of Middlefield Connecticut was disturbingly reminiscent of the midwest. Downright scary, in fact. I may be able to get my midwest fix with this, in fact, provided they also spontaneously start producing good beef to boot.

Logitech Driving Force Pro and Gran Turismo 3

Sarah got me the Logitech Driving Force Pro for our dating anniversary, which seemed awfully swell. The unfortunate thing was that in Gran Turismo 3, my driving really sucked with it. I felt like the wheel was giving lots of feedback (though not necessarily sensical feedback; I could do about 7 laps before my arms hurt too much), and I just was too used to the traditional controller. Thinking it would just take me a while to adapt, I kept doing silly things like taking a Viper GTS-R, turning off traction control and active stability management, and then racing circuits with it on simulation tires, training myself on steering and throttle control, figuring that once I could drive like that, everything else should fall into place.

Debate 1/3

Love him or hate him, George Soros is behind a slew of incredible derivative transactions and arbitrage trades that have netted him billions. You would think somebody rich like this would be another Bush lover, but it’s quite the opposite. He has an interesting speech which spends a little too much time promoting his own interests, but makes clear that he thinks Bush is a nut too.

Manager Conversations

Had a couple long chats with my boss yesterday. One related to resourcing, and the danger of losing headcount, and hiring inept employees to prevent that. The jury’s still out on that topic, but I am getting to the point where I prefer no employees to bad employees. There is a very particular case that is infuriating, but I’ll leave it at that for the time being.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Midwest

So I wanted to get back to our trip to the midwest for a few minutes. First off, being able to order Papa John’s was a treat. It’s simple no-fuss pizza, cheap and fast. It tastes decent. None of this floppy crap they sell out here on the east coast. In other food news, we also came across the honeycrisp variety of apple, which is as crunchy as a good granny smith, but has a nice sweetness. I wouldn’t say I prefer it, but it’s a nice alternative when all of the grannies are cold storage New Zealand specimens from last season.

Another Website Screwup

I made the mistake of upgrading apache again without thinking about the consequences, nuking my site in the process. Whoops. I should probably pay a little more attention to what I’m upgrading every time I emerge -u world.

Quick Update

Lots of little things to cover after our little wedding trip to the Midwest. Most of it will probably drip out over the next few days. To summarize, we had a stateside reception to make up for the fact that our wedding proper was in the Caribbean. This way, our friends and family that couldn’t fly out for the wedding could still share in the joy. It was really nice to be able to see everybody again, and visiting the Midwest is always interesting. Our cake at this reception was also much nicer:

Midwest Movie Reviews

We saw Supersize Me, which was fun. Disturbing (as most things about the fast food industry are), though not anything revolutionary when compared with Fast Food Nation. I find Morgan Spurlock is reminiscent of Michael Moore, though he looks a little better on screen. I’m not sure what to think of that. In any event, worth seeing for entertainment value, and somewhat for education on the fast food industry, though like most documentaries, one must be careful not to take anything too seriously.

Yummy Chinese

Mix equal parts jalapeno slices and chicken, dose with soy sauce and MSG. Deliver in under ten minutes, it’s a tasty treat. I’m pretty weak, though.

Why I Think Ipodder is Silly

Audio blogging is just not ready for prime time. I mean this in the nicest possible way. It’s hard enough to find good written blog content — that there are so many good blogs is only because there are hundreds of thousands of bad blogs. I admire what they are trying to do with things like ipodder. However, I tried to download every audio blog entry I could find, and started sifting through them. Roughly 75% of everything I heard was people gabbing about their recording setup, what they’re using, what they’ve changed since last time, and what they need to do to get it right. The next most popular event seemed to be reading the equivalent of a weblog entry aloud, but most of these people have no radio experience (there are a few notable exceptions), so it’s a lot of mumbling, um, mumbling, um, content, um, well, um, pause, um, etc. It’s the sort of thing I would produce were I to attempt to audio blog. I would not be an interesting audio blogger.

Corporate Resource Branding

The project I am working on outsources all of our QA resources. In the past, this has gone relatively poorly, because we’ve ended up with a lot of terrible QA resources. However, the last three that were hired on are extremely competent, organized, and responsible. Contained within the group is even a senior test engineer who coordinates all of the activities. They set deadlines, achieve their deadlines, and deliver on what they set out to achieve. When they miss something that stings us in production, they adapt their procedures to better detect that sort of failing in the future. This isn’t really the point of this entry, I’m just trying to give some background.

The XML Lifestyle

There is some commentary over on 43 Folders about how a lot of people are becoming huge XML consumers, and both simplifying and enriching their lives in the process. At least I think that’s roughly the point of the commentary. It’s a bit more abstract, sort of a “what are you doing with XML?” but I think the point is that people are starting to smell that there is a revolution on.

Recipe for Happier Working Conditions

Take one terrible Dell keyboard:

Python is Hard, Let's Go Shopping

It seems to be a surprisingly tricky thing with modern languages to attempt to figure out just how to retrieve data from the web behind a proxy that requires authentication. I’ve found it especially confusing when using languages that have half a dozen different standard libraries for retrieving url-based or http-based data. Two great examples of this are Java and Python.

Debate Schedule Set

The presidential debate schedule has been announced. Mark your calendars for September 30, October 8, and October 13. Suggestions for drinking games welcome. I’m most interested in the last session, wherein they discuss the economy. I am also pleased to hear this will just be Bush and Kerry, and not Nader. I’m not sure what I think of the choice of venues, but that’s not really important. Tune in, America.

Pants and Wheels

For our (dating, not wedding) anniversary this year, Sarah got me the Logitech Driving Force Pro steering wheel for my PS2. It is swell. Now I just need to wait until I can get my copy of Gran Turismo 3 back, and wait impatiently from then on until Gran Turismo 4 is released, which will allow the entire 900 degrees to be utilized properly. If they’ve finally set a working release date (it’s been pushed back at least four times to my knowledge), Prima will be available mid-November. I can’t wait! In the meantime, I’ve ben playing Need For Speed 4 with the wheel, and it is swell.

A Nice Hike

Sarah and I had a really lovely hike today; it didn’t get over 65, was sunny, there was a nice breeze — it doesn’t get much more ideal than that. We went to Devil’s Den, and went all the way north through the interior of the park, and then looped back on the outside pond loop. Total trip was somewhere in the neighborhood of 5.25 miles and took us a few hours. Sarah’s heart rate monitor told us we burned 200 calories. There’s no way. We hit a few lookouts on the way, but the treecover was too dense to see much (which also screwed with the GPS units aplenty).

Index Card PDA

I found an odd kinship in this post (now defunct) about using index cards as a PDA, instead of something electronic and fancy. Much to Sarah’s chagrin, this has long been my habit, at least since my TRGPro failed and my m100 cradle stopped working. I have not yet started organizing them with binder clips though (I did start using these as money clips though — they work brilliantly). Perhaps that is the next step. It’s almost fetishistic; I use note cards for everything related to note-taking and so forth, and they’re a lot more convenient at three in the morning when you have an idea. Sadly, they don’t let you play bejeweled in the movie theater while suffering through the pre-feature portion of the experience.

Cayman

I feel for the people of Grand Cayman. Getting hit with a Category 5 hurricane dead-on is way up there on the list of worst possible things to happen to an island in the Caribbean. Little Cayman and its 150 residents had to be evacuated, and the destruction is widespread.

Am I Missing Something?

Let’s talk about taxes. They have to be raised. That’s it, it’s that simple. There is no other easy fix to the problem. We need to repeal the tax cuts that were put in place by Bush, and raise taxes beyond that.

Weekend Wrap-Up

Sarah made me boston baked beans and zucchini bread this weekend. Both were quite yummy. The former came from the Joy of Cooking, which as you’ll remember never fails me, and the latter from Emeril (we concluded we used the wrong size loaf pan). I now have another 3.5 quarts of beans to go through at some point in the future.

Two Bad Movies

We saw Jersey Girl, which while having its moments was mostly terrible. I can’t get past Liv Tyler when she isn’t an elf. That will come with time, I guess.

Whoops

Chris was kind enough to point out my site was broken last night. I blindly upgraded apache without really paying attention to what I was doing. So much for stability.

It's Hard To Use Boost In Rush Hour Traffic

The WRX has a new muffler, and it doesn’t whistle anymore. On the other hand, it smells like burning, but that will wear off as the exhaust components wear in. I’m crossing my fingers that I will be able to avoid going in for service until the first oil change (still another 900 miles to go).

DSL Woes

So as I mentioned, I had some problems with my DSL connection last night. It didn’t come back this morning, or this evening, after extensive power-cycling and all that stuff. Set up a PPPoE software driver on a machine and bypassed the router. Bingo, connection works. Go back to router, connection doesn’t work. Hem, haw, it seems it was the router-modem patch cable. I am pretty darn sure it was loki’s fault. Of course when you look her direction, she feigns innocence:

That Sinking Feeling

Last night Tokyo woke me to tell me that there were some issues with one of our batch jobs. Luckily there were not any real issues with this problem (one of three redundant jobs had failed, but the other two picked up the slack, just did so with some additional latency).

Formula One Is Boring

Steve at Formula One Update has some about Bernie’s why Formula One is actually boring. I’m with him. Let’s get some overtaking. The most exciting thing I saw this season (well, other than way too many carbon-shard tire explosions and blown engines) was Montoya’s passing Schumacher at the bus stop. That was some exciting racing.

The Danger of Words

Today I learned the danger of using words. An issue came up in production the previous night, and after receiving some attention from development (as soon as you start carbon-copying the business people start waking up), I sent out a note that things had been resolved “due to expedient help from the development team.” Now, what I was trying to say relied on a deprecated definition of the word, causing my phrase to mean something entirely different. Instead of saying expeditious, speedy I was saying self serving and self interested. The definition from freedictionary gives me slightly less harsh definitions, which is reassuring, but still is not the most flattering adjective.

I Will Never Floss Again

So I am never going to floss again. Well, at least not with that that stringy jumbo thick floss. The Oral-B superfloss is still fine, because it is still a single strand, and not a bunch of expanding stringy crap. I was flossing this morning with said jumbo thick crap, and the floss broke in half while I was working on my back molar … and left a chunk of floss there. I could not dislodge it with the floss, with a toothpick, etc. This hurt like hell until the company store opened at nine and I was able to retrieve some standard cheap waxed floss that does not fray during use. Problem solved.

Crossing The Street Without Looking

I got a phone call from HR last week asking if I would mind participating in an activity for recent graduate IT hires. Having done some of these things in the past, which usually involved eating dinner with some interns, I was eager to say “Sure.” Helps me step out of my terribly nervous anti-social shell and do something productive where I meet new people.

The Beer Fridge Has Auto Defrost

I didn’t realize it until now, but my dorm fridge has an auto defrost feature. Once there’s enough ice that the door can no longer close, the ice starts to thaw, and drip out onto the parquet floor. Sheer brilliance on the GE engineering team, for implementing a simple yet effective automatic defrost in this model. If I’d only known this back in school.

Hiking and Driving and Hiking

We hit up the Saugutuck Falls Natural Area in the Redding/Easton area on Saturday seeking an easy cache, and spent a little more time exploring the park. Went by the falls, which were fine, and then went up the powerline trail back into the rear end of the park a little bit, and hiked on back. A pretty little park, but a little crowded, especially near the watering hole.

Crossed Fingers

Well, may have problems with this host sorted out, though it’s hard to tell for sure. Chris spent a lot of time working to try and fix things, and went to the trouble of replacing my cheap-ass RTL8139 card with a far better Intel NIC. Unfortunately, was still experiencing the same problems as before.

The Importance of Audible Interfaces

I used my keycard to get in from the parking garage at work this morning, and received no beep after bumping my hip against the RFID pad. There was no beep, so I pulled the tag out of my pocket and swiped it over the reader again. No beans. Last time this happened it was my one year anniversary with the bank and my present was an expired tag. The third of September is not anything special, so that was not it. Then I realized the little red light was turning green, the reader just was not beeping.

Textpattern + Hardenedphp = Bad

Not sure how generic of a problem this is, but one of the trickiest parts of getting textpattern working was that whenever I saved an arbitrary amount of data in a form on the admin site, it would get comletely emptied out and nothing would get stored. This was worse than no effect, as it caused a whole bunch of stuff to just get entirely wiped out.

Musings About Work

New boss has instituted morning reports, which is cool, except those reports still need to be made even if I have late night coverage as well. Not so cool. C’est. Times of change. Came across this quote in the process of pondering this:

Mortgage Suicide

I happened across this article on the impact on real estate in the event of a 2% interest rate hike, and while it’s catering to the UK market, it lead me to some interesting (though obvious) thoughts. I think we could see a similar impact on the housing market in Stamford, say, which would in theory cause an abundance of supply due to the amount of people that could no longer afford their mortgages. That should make a lot cheaper (though there’s still the problem of the expensive mortgage hanging around). Again, this is all obvious, but it makes me wonder more about the intelligence of buying in this market, recognizing this probably isn’t going to be a 30-year house.

Giving Textpattern a Try

I’ve gone ahead and started a new blog here, at latentcontent.net. Rather than implement my own blogging software as I had in the past, I am going to try using textpattern instead. It offers a lot of built-in functionality, a rich management interface, and a pretty flexible plugin architecture. What impressed me most is that all of the templates and layout are stored in the database, and the only real filesystem content are images; the particular approach to how the software is implemented is what makes it interesting.

About The Author

Hi, I’m Aaron. I’m a software engineer, I like systems, enjoy writing code, and have been dabbling in management. If you want to employ me, visit my professional home. I’ve been working professionally with computers since 1995, and can’t really imagine a job that doesn’t involve them.