Monday, December 31, 2007

Top N, or Pour Me a Glass of that Delicious Kool-Aid, or How Are You Celebrating the New Year?

I'm sitting in a hotel lobby in The Villages, Florida. But you know what? It's been great! We had a funeral for my grandpa, a reception at his house with lots of relatives and fun, and a golf cart parade to a country club for a toast. (note to Beej: that last bit might be the whitest thing possible. but skiing in Utah for a week is still close.) I met some new family, talked with their old friends, and had a much better time than I imagined my grandpa's funeral could be. And that's how he would have wanted it. So yeah. I think I might not stay up 'til midnight this year, even, and I am sure not at any parties, and it's my favorite New Years Eve on record. Chew on that, social butterflies.

PS. This is a mid-script post-script. I am going to work for Google! I have accepted the offer. Microsoft's offer was tempting, but Google's won out. They are both great companies, I've had great experiences with both, and I can recommend them both heavily. I'll be living in Seattle (working at Google's #2 office), working on I don't know what, and, you know, enjoying free food and massages. If you'd like, bring it up sometime in conversation casually, and I can gush with excitement a little bit! I'll try not to weasel it in the conversation if you haven't brought it up.

Regarding the "top N" thing, I figured, well, I do like this year 2007 more than any other year that has ever been, and I do like people, and things, and I do like top N lists, and I do like using variables in everyday speech, so to ring out 2007 I shall combine them all.

I give to you the "Top N people, places, things, and events of 2007." I also give to you the usual slew of disclaimers, like "there are a variable number of entities" and "they are not in order, but they are in some semblance of order, like sorta-cool to really-cool, and maybe each one is +/- five slots, so something could even be cooler than something else 10 slots after it."

And also with a preface: this has been such a goddamn great year. I'm like that guy in Office Space except in reverse: every day is better than the day before, and I think I passed up my previous high-awesomeness-score day in about August, so now pretty much every day is the best day of my life. Thank you to all my friends and family. I love you all. Thank you for everything; I have no complaints whatsoever.

Bulleted list!
  • Orbital's CD "The Middle of Nowhere". I heard this in a London bookstore, went home and looked it up, and got so excited that I decided to pick up a bunch of techno (more on the way) with two cool benefits: 1. listening to great stuff like the Prodigy, and 2. I can talk intelligently about music with my cousin James and uncle Jim (Tasse, that is).
  • XKCD. If Toothpaste for Dinner was the comic for my last year (sarcastic, funny, but a little bitter), XKCD is the nerdy, cute, and hopeful this year.
  • Of Montreal. The first half of this year was highly influenced by "The Sunlandic Twins" (certain songs still bring me right back to Austria) while the second half saw "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?" flitting through my head. Good grief. These guys are solid pop music gold, in the experimental pop style of, say, The Beatles.
  • St. Anton, Austria. Speaking of which. This is both a charming Alpine town, a good ski location, and my first totally-transplanted-immersed-in-another-culture experience. I don't think I had such a great time while I was there (although parts were really good) but now it's got a big chunk of the "halcyon" portion of my brain.
  • Erm, Morocco. The whole country. And Rob, Andy, Steve, and Jared for making sure I wasn't too much of a wuss to have the most notable long weekend I can remember.
  • Tom, Jon, and Corinne, as their enthusiasm gives me hope about NPP's future! I remember we thought it might be a bad idea to invite 3 people to the PG at once. Nope! By far the best thing we did all semester. Also: everyone who comes to NPP workshops. I love you all. Keep coming, they'll be fun!
  • Maastricht, the Netherlands. Lovely town, straight out of a fairy tale. Also within two hours of a few airports.
  • Scotch'n'Soda Theatre, for welcoming me back into your open arms even after about a year and a half of not being involved, and a semester of being gone. Plus, there are so many of us now, and that's exciting! I mean, we threw awesome parties, put on good shows, and invited both Bingo O'Malley AND the Neo-Futurists in one semester!
  • Maastricht University and particularly Nathalie. They provided a great place for me to study abroad, take some useful classes, take some not-so-useful classes. Nathalie is the nicest and best study abroad coordinator you could ask for.
  • Seeing Live at a Pittsburgh Pirates game. Or maybe the one where I went with Sarah, the Math Club, and a slightly inebriated John Mackey. Either way, if you go to a Pirates game, you'll get your money's worth.
  • My Maastricht friends. I mean, acquaintances, even. Clearly, those of you who I became good friends with, I wish I got to know you better and that we had more time. But if I shouted out to all my friends, this would get tiresome. So I mean here the people I had sorta chance encounters with. Of course, we were all (mostly) in the same studying-abroad boat, but thanks for making such an awkward time fun. Whether it's my acting-class friends, Beej's friends from Singapore, the beautiful French ladies I very awkwardly hung out with a few times, odd classmates, or even people like the girl I rode a bike with to a korfball practice across town that one time. You may have thought I was the weirdest dude, and I will probably remember these one-time encounters longer than you. But thanks for making me feel a little more welcome in a strange land. Gerrit, back me up that these sort of friends are cool. PS. if any of you are reading this, feel free to drop me a line!
  • Oh shit, Granada, I almost forgot! I think this is where my chill-the-fuck-out semester hit its peak. You can't spend four days at the Rambutan Guesthouse there with no goals or worries (and "La Costa Brava" by Ted Leo ringing in your head) and still be anxious afterward.
  • Microsoft. Betsy and Dina have been the friendliest, most helpful recruiters, Bill (my friend from high school) has been great, and thanks much to all you Microsofters I interviewed with or talked to once or twice. To totally quote Robert Frost like word for word, "I had two paths in this wood. They both looked good. I picked one of them. The other one looked good too. This poem is not about being a rebel. It's about how, if I had it to do over again, I might pick the other one. Seriously, they were both pretty good paths."
  • Noah Smith. Thanks, Noah, for taking me on as an undergraduate research assistant last summer without even meeting me, for helping me along my senior thesis so far, and for believing that I can possibly make it in the research world when even I don't think I can.
  • Beej, and him letting me live in his house. It's fun, and novel to me: I'm rooming with a great friend, and so far we haven't even grated on each other much! Instead, we've developed an eccentric relationship where we're either a fast-paced super-witty comic duo, or a 68-year-old married couple. Either way is fantastic. Also, the location is nice, and the house itself is super cool, and I'm starting to get over feeling bad about breaking it a little bit.
  • Gramp. See my last post.
  • Google. I'm so stoked. Thank you to Melissa and everyone else who worked to get me an offer there, thanks to CMU for making it so easy, and I am feeling on top of the world in that, I don't know what I want to do, but Google is the maximum likelihood hypothesis, and I'm working there.
  • Sarah--*** this post has been interrupted by the the bloggy-police. this blogger has been apprehended and put on probation. if he commits one more aww-isn't-that-cute infraction, he must move this blog to LiveJournal.***

Friday, December 28, 2007


My grandpa just died today. Those of you who've followed this blog for a while may have noticed my many notes about him throughout the past maybe three years. So it wasn't a big surprise. He had lung cancer, and then a variety of cancers (maybe it was just one that metastasized; I get third-hand information), and a tumultuous journey with chemo and radiation and everything else.

So I've become so desensitized to the whole thing, and I dunno, maybe I'm in denial or entirely heartless or something, but I'm fine. My grandma, mom, and uncle are understandably rather sad.

However, this doesn't change the fact that he was a pretty darn awesome grandpa. This is the kind of guy who started a group in his retirement community called the "Fraternal Order of Geezers" that had three rules:
1. you have to be at least somewhat interesting
2. I forget the second rule
3. you have to be able to pay for your own lunch

I'm pretty sure I inherited a lot of characteristics from him, such as:
- preference for quick and dirty fixes
- a healthy dose of denial of bad things in life
- a love of skiing
- above-average height and light eyes
- a very logical mind (he was a chemical engineer) and as such, a healthy dislike of organized religion

I hope I inherited more, such as:
- the ability to cut through nonsense and do whatever the hell he decides to do. My mom wrote a poem about him at one point that ended with the line "he taught us we can do anything."
- a fantastic sense of humor. He told lots of jokes. And he introduced me to such comedic greats as Laurel and Hardy and Sid Caesar.
- incredible money managing skills. He never made a ton, but he invested well. I remember one time he counted up everything he owned (including his dog, which he valued at $300) and found out that he was quite literally a millionaire. A $1.3 millionaire, in fact. Although, in his words, "having a million dollars isn't what it used to be."
- creativity! He wrote a novel! It never got published (I don't think) but it was close. He also made great Halloween costumes, and a remote-controlled dinosaur.
- adventurousness, both in terms of travel (I'm not sure where all he traveled to, but he traveled a bit) and life in general. Even in his old age, he would buy computers and stuff.
- ability to function despite handicaps (like not being able to see very well)
- probably most importantly, a sense of happiness with life. My mom recalls how he always whistled while he worked, quite literally. He and my grandma were very happily married too, all fifty-four years or whatever.

Anyway, he was quite a renaissance guy, loving, and happy, and there's not much higher praise in my mind. I can't think of anyone over 70 that I look up to more.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Solstice!

The days are now getting longer.

In the last few days, I've hit the relatives whirlwind. And enjoyed it! It's nice meeting cousins who are grown-ups now. Check that- it's nice meeting cousins now that I'm a grown-up (sort of). I mean, granted, I still didn't get to talk to most of them beyond "where do you work now" but that's still interesting. Especially when the list of cousins looks like this:
- living in NYC doing I don't know what but making a lot of money, happily married with two bright, cute, and funny kids
- just got back from working to fight AIDS in Rwanda
- opened up a branch of his company which is owned by J.P. Morgan in London
- living in NYC doing marketing stuff for Liz Claiborne
- owning his own stock brokerage firm in San Diego, living the good life and partying on his boat
- getting a degree in computer animation or something
- working on a residency to become a radiologist
- quit his job and is full-time volunteering for the Obama campaign (PS vote for Obama, I'm sold. Or Ron Paul, but he's slightly less good because he will get Jon Nardolilli kicked out of college, but he won't actually because he won't actually do anything because his ideas are too crazy but in a good way, but anyway, vote for Obama. I mean, he smiles really nice, and hey, if he's good enough for Oprah...)
- finished law school, working in LA as a lawyer with her husband who's into movie production
- finished a masters in electrical engineering, now taking a couple more classes and working for a startup

It's enough to make one feel goddamn inadequate if he didn't just accept a position at ***** This broadcast interrupted to bring you this message: Always drink your ovaltine *****

Monday, December 17, 2007

Request for Comments again

Hey. Sorry, I know it's been a while. Listen, I am going home tomorrow and can probably vomit onto this blog for about 14 years once I do. But in the meantime, I have one question:

1. Do you know anyone who works for Google or Microsoft, and if so, could I ask him/her a few questions about what life at Google/MS is like, and if so, could you send me his/her contact info?

Thanks so much! Without talking too much about the job search (I totally will, don't worry, as soon as I accept an offer and the big "probably doesn't matter but you might as well not talk about it anyway" shields go down), I have to make a decision, and (as in the college decision process) nothing can help you make that decision better than a simple random sample of people who are there already, and (as in the college decision process) this sample is hard to find.

Don't get me wrong- recruiters from both places have been really great. But more information is always better!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

We've solved the nutrition question!

It's just one number!

This irks me, because I tend to think I know a thing or two about nutrition (literally, a thing or two, not a lot of things) and that attaching numbers like this is misleading and will cause people to make more bad judgments. Especially if they find these numbers by combining other numbers. I mean, if you look at numbers (and follow current nutritional fads), Kashi GoLean cereal should be all you need: a lot of grams of fiber and protein, very little fat, no cholesterol, low sodium, and pretty low in calories per cup. Okay, so it's missing vitamins and minerals- so take a Centrum. Or a Flintstones vitamin. Whatever. There: by the numbers, you're eating super-healthy!

Maybe my biggest gripe is that I'll probably end up reading these numbers too, and I'll be just as deluded as everyone else.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The loneliest place in Pittsburgh

is not, in fact, the Wean cluster right before Thanksgiving break; instead, it is the Wean cluster DURING Thanksgiving break. Yessir, yessir, I locked myself out of my house. I'm a dumb guy.

Just got back from Florida, and while it did bug me to spend two days in slow motion, it was more than nice to see my grandparents and my uncle Jim. Plus I got to cook Thanksgiving dinner, which turned out really well, and made everyone a lot happier by sharing my good news.

Did I mention I have some good news? It's super exciting! Ask me if you haven't heard it! I have some bad news too, but the good news tends to cover it in my mind; you know how that goes.

And so I will continue to fritter away my time by doing a music vomit:

- I am liking the technoes more and more. (who am I, Jackie Bernard?) (not because she likes techno, but because she pluralizes things) And by that I mean, so far, Orbital, Aphex Twin, and the Prodigy. If you know what I should call those bands (besides just "techno"), or if you have any recommendations for similar bands, let me know!

- Patrick Wolf, "The Magic Position": RIYL David Bowie. (RIYL = "recommended if you like") This guy makes some pretty good orchestral pop.

- cloudDEAD: RIYL the Books but wish they were weirder. This is a little weird. Grows on you a bit though.

- Scissor Sisters: I started out hating them after "Don't feel like dancing", but now I kinda like them after "Lovers in the Backseat", "Music is a Victim", and of course their cover of "Comfortably Numb", which is gutsy but cool. Their pop is still the Spoonish sort of straightforward stuff that is not that great but still sticks in your head, but at least it's pretty good, and it sure is catchy, and also full of falsetto.

- Have I shout-outed Balkan Beat Box yet? They're great! Middle-eastern flavored pop, or pop-flavored Middle-Eastern, all a little bit hip-hoppy and dancey.

- Okay, the new Radiohead, it's awesome, shut up and die. Seriously, though, if you've never known what's the big deal about the Radioheads, this might be as good a place as any to start. "Bodysnatchers" is as good a rock song as anyone can make, of course "Nude" and "Reckoner" will grow on you, and I really like "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi", and even moreso "All I Need".

- Klaxons. They're like a band called "Portugal. The Man", which is like an accessible Mars Volta, but the Klaxons don't sound anything like the Mars Volta; instead, they're more like a slightly more sugary Bloc Party. Which is to say, there are flashes of brilliance (at least a few) and some dullness. The first tune ("Two Receivers") will drag you in to this CD. Epic rating: 2 1/2 epics out of 5.

- Pavement- I listened to Slanted and Enchanted again, disliked it again, but then grew to love it again. It's really good. "Conduit For Sale!" remains a favorite of mine, but this time it was joined by "Trigger Cut/Wounded Kite at :17" or whatever track 2 is called.

- Last and Most (not least!) Tegan and Sara, "The Con". Whoa. I was not prepared for the duo behind the catchy but annoying "Walking with the Ghost" to come up with something as sweeping as this! It's equally catchy, but in a minor key, and very grand! It's got a great album feel- 1 is a nice intro, 2-5 feel like one cohesive song, 6 is a dumb pop tune, then there are a couple of short tracks and a few with more meat at the end. Great drums and rhythms on 3 and 5. I love this album! RIYL: Mates of State

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Upon realizing, thanks to Alex Belton's blog, that I did a bit more spouting than asking for advice...

and that asking for advice is usually a good thing, I will now do so. I may have the opportunity to live in two places:

1. Seattle

2. The San Francisco Bay Area, meaning about 30 miles from SF, in the heart of Silicon Valley (I'd probably live in SF and commute via train)

So if you know anything about these places (you've lived there, visited there, generally like or dislike either one), and/or have any opinions, let me know! I have a lot of thoughts of my own, but I'd like your unbiased ideas.

And there's the off chance I may end up in Boston, too, as there is one company there that I'm considering. So throw that in the list if you have any ideas about it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

First post in weeks, and it's just a link?

Essentially, yes. In the meantime, I've been flying around and interviewing with (company's name withheld for professionalism reasons), (company's name withheld for professionalism reasons), and (company's name withheld for professionalism reasons). It's very exciting! I can tell you that I really liked (CNWFPR) and want to work there, I was sort of impressed by (CNWFPR) and would be okay with working there, and don't really want to work at (CNWFPR). Come on, you can't post that stuff on a blog. Talk to me to fill in the blanks!

I will say that I'm not sure how I like the Bay Area, and the big reason is distance. I mean, I love the Bay Area because San Francisco seems one of the top n coolest cities in the country, where n is a small number. I mean, here's my unordered list of cool cities in the US, in my humble opinion, and by "humble opinion" I mean "random guessing":
San Francisco
New York
Okay, maybe that is actually ordered. SF seems nice. I only saw it at night, which is not quite fair, but I will say two nice things about it anyway
- As you drive in, it's like a scene out of the Matrix. Beautiful, exciting, and I wish I had had a camera. This picture doesn't even do it justice.
- It's the most colorful city! Even at night. I walked around the North Beach, Haight Ashbury, and the Mission for a while, and was just wowed by all the colors on signs and everywhere.
However, I wouldn't be working in SF; I'd be working in (city name withheld as it might give away a company name) or (CNWAIMGAACN). Which means a long commute, even on the CalTrain (which sounds very good); it'd be a bike ride plus a long train ride. I think I could deal with it though. I'd rather live there than in (CNWAIMGAACN), despite (perk of living in CNWAIMGAACN withheld as it may give away company name).

Talk to me in a month or so, and I'll have decided my future, and I'll be all gushing about whatever job I've chosen, and THAT'S okay to put on a blog! But for now it's all got to stay vague, I think.

Okay, so not just a link. Here's the link I was going to post. I'd heard about this "Keepon" guy before: he's a robot just recently invented by CMU folks, and he dances. What I didn't know is how goddamn CUTE he is!

This sort of stuff makes me sing Louis Armstrong. Not just stuff that's doing service to humanity, or stuff that's bizarre, or stuff that's cute, or stuff that's genuinely impressive, but stuff that matters to fall in the intersection of all those categories. I've got some bizarre loop playing in my head of
"I see great comedians, and philosophical dogs,
smart hedgehogs and dancing yellow blobs
and I think to myself... what a wonderful world."

Monday, November 05, 2007

I choose you, Ubuntu!

But it's all right, everything is all right, the struggle is finished. I have won the victory over myself. I love LINUXES.

I just got a DUAL BOOT up and running on my new hard drive. (that means it runs Linux, but I can restart it and pick Windows and it'll run Windows if I want.) 120gb of space, a new Windows installation, and to top it off, Ubuntu 7.04 "Feisty Fawn". So far, I'm pretty happy with the Linuxes; it's a lot quicker and easier to get it up and running than it is to get the Windows up and running. I don't need to download 84 updates (literally) for an hour, then hunt around for my video driver which no longer exists. I do need to dick around with partitions, but that's because I'm dual booting, and it's not Linux's fault.

But I don't want to judge based on a couple days' worth of experience. I'll let you know my verdict after I've, for example, developed for a bit. But my initial response is that it's about as easy as Windows, and it fits in better with my Fair-Trade-coffee-and-riding-a-bike kind of life.


Take that, Identity Style Guide. I will teabag you later.

I'm excited about The Lounge. Not because we're creating great theatre. Mostly because it will be super fun.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Taoist would say desire is the root of all pain

If you don't want things, you can't be sad if you don't get them. Therefore, no desires, no unhappiness. Fair enough.

I'd be a miserable Taoist right now, because I really really want to get a job at Google.

Let me tick off some great things about Google:
- They do everything better than everyone else (they just launched Google Translate!)
- They have the most data and the most interesting problems
- They treat their engineers like royalty; they give you everything you need to do your job
- um, well, free food... that is actually nutritious and appetizing.
- And did I mention the freakin' 20% time? This is so revolutionary and so smart. If you don't know what I mean (and get a little shiver when you think about the possibility of working for a company that lets you do that), click on the link.
- EDIT: "Don't be evil." That may be the greatest thing about them. So far, they're pretty much the least evil giant corporation that I can think of.

Let me continue by ticking off some great things about Seattle:
- Super cool neighborhoods
- Pike Place Market! (see #5 and #7)
- On the subject of food, the International District, featuring many Asian markets
- People (apparently) care about the environment and stuff
- Lots of young people, lots of nerds, thanks to all the tech companies
- The air smells good there! It is so lush!
- An hour or two from great skiing, and 4 hours from the best skiing anywhere.

Tomorrow I will know if my application is moving on! (I interviewed there on Friday) Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Best day/best day

Hi! I'm back from the sunny and burning region known as Los Angeles. What a great two days! Although that's like saying "I was eating coffee-flavored ice cream. What a good food!" Of course it was great. I was traveling.

But Sunday in particular was like that improv game, best day/worst day, except it was just best day. I got all my homework for the week done on the plane (proof that I should stop worrying, because a week's worth of homework = five hours). Met my cousin and her husband (so my cousin-in-law?) who were supremely welcoming, which was nice, because going to LA is somewhat intimidating!

Side note: back when I was a little kid, my friends and I would make simple computer games. One that we made once was called "BOMB". The plot was summed up in one sentence: "Your goal is to dismantle a car bomb set to blow up the United States." So you'd travel to various cities and win money or lose money or get a bomb detector or something. Anyway, when you go to LA, the screen would display:
You get off the plane and somebody shoots you.
Then it beeped five times. The end!
End side note!

So there's that. Plus, it's so goshdarn big to see in one day. But thanks to Jessica and Matt, I felt right at home. They told me some cool places to go. I went there. I think I found some of the hipster/vegetarian/young/nerdy places, which is the kind of place I'd like to live. There were more secondhand clothing stores than I could shake a secondhand stick at. That is awesome! There were also a lot of trendy boutiques. That is not so awesome! There were some cool comic book stores. That is awesome! I have to read more graphic novels.

Dinner: awesome Mexican food at a restaurant called "El Compadre." Maybe it's just because of my preexisting bias that "LA Mexican food is so much better than midwest Mexican food", but man, LA Mexican food is so much better than midwest Mexican food. Hung out at the bar afterwards and watched the Indians get pounded. Okay, that was the one part of the day that doesn't qualify as "best day." BIG FROWNS. But the bartender bought me a beer as consolation (he was a Sox fan).

And then... this day wasn't awesome enough yet, so I noticed a sign on a restaurant advertising the Go! Team playing a concert that night. Wait, THE Go! Team? Awesome! After a half hour trying to find parking for this venue that I wasn't sure even existed, there I was, watching Bodies of Water (who seem pretty good... at least, they have two trombones) open for the Go! Team. Man, they are electric on stage! Even though their horns were just sampled, watching them do their thing was a blast. If you get a chance to see the Go! Team, you ought to.

Next day, my interviews were cool. It ain't professional to go into more details than that on a blog, I think. Let me say Burbank is really a bummer. It feels like a dusty old highway-stop town with a big old gob of Cheesecake-Factory "gentrification" or whatever they call it when someone tosses CF and friends at an otherwise-reasonable city.

LA is a little bit of a bummer too. At least there's something going on there, it's big enough. But it has downsides:
1. It feels junky! There's islands of glitz among a ton of junk. Nothing I saw felt anything near as welcoming or nice as Squirrel Hill.
2. It's so goddamn hot, which makes it feel junkier.
3. CARS EVERYWHERE. Not bikes or public transport.
But then, big up:
1. Awesome Mexican food everywhere.
Still, it's no match for Seattle, the Bay Area, Boston, or even Pittsburgh, in my mind.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

God, please let the Indians win game 7

...for my dad's sake. He'll be bummed for approximately fourteen years if they lose.

Find YOUR spot, or, I (heart) internet surveys, or, I must be raciss as hell!

There is this website where you answer a bunch of questions and it tells you where you should live. Yeah, you know, internet blah blah blah, but they have a pretty thorough questionnaire, so I figure it's as good a recommendation as you can get for 5 minutes on the internet. Look at my results! Huh. I love this city!

Edit: link doesn't really work. Well, whatever. Here's the list it gave me. A little heavy on the crappy pseudo-northeast cities (Buffalo? Erie? um, Harrisburg?) but it reaffirms my belief that I really should live in the Pacific Northwest. Or Pennsylvania, apparently.
1. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2. Carlisle, Pennsylvania
3. Worcester, Massachusetts
4. Hartford, Connecticut
5. Seattle, Washington
6. Providence, Rhode Island
7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
8. Altoona, Pennsylvania
9. New Haven, Connecticut
10. Tacoma, Washington
11. Columbus, Ohio
12. Denver, Colorado
13. Erie, Pennsylvania
14. Spokane, Washington
15. Syracuse, New York
16. Rochester, New York
17. Portland, Oregon
18. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
19. Buffalo, New York
20. Albany, New York
21. Lancaster, Pennsylvania
22. Anchorage, Alaska
23. Nashua, New Hampshire
24. Olympia, Washington

Friday, October 19, 2007

I missed Blog Action Day!

This day happened a few days ago where everyone blogged about the environment. I forgot! so I am doing it now:

I think you should save the environment. There are two questions: how?, and why?

First, how? I don't know if it's possible to achieve a sustainable way of living without giving up major parts of the lifestyle that you and I have grown accustomed to. However, I'd like to give it a try. There are often easy ways to do this, and you can do it to, if you just think about it a little bit and go an even littler bit out of your way.

The answer is not "sell your car and hug a tree." It's not about going backward to the good ol' days before we had disposable plastic bottles and paper towels. It's about going forward and using our prodigious smarts to set up better systems.

For example: Note where you can recycle paper (example: the CMU recycling room!). Then, next to your trash can, keep a box. If you're going to throw paper away, put it in the box instead. When the box gets full (every couple months in my house) toss it in a big backpack and bring it to campus the next time you go. Ta-da! You no longer waste paper. Total elapsed time: maybe 10 minutes every two months.

Also, buy organic fair-trade locally-grown things. Now, I don't think we can buy our way to sustainability; that thinking kinda goes against the whole idea. But it can't hurt!

Okay, now second, the why. Why save the environment? I'll tell you why: because we live in a goddamn fantastic world! And what's so great about it?

Tuesday night, I turned on my laptop to find: "Non-system disk or disk error. Replace and press any key to continue." I reached for my floppy drive to pull out the floppy disk. Hup-- I have no floppy drive! My stomach lurched. I think a couple other organs lurched too. My hard drive was toasted! And of course, I hadn't backed up since like June, on my parents' external HD. My project! My music library! My dreams! My list of movies to see! My recipes! My, uh, digital album notes from the Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible"!

Wednesday morning, I brought it into the help center to make sure it was the hard drive that was gone. Nope, it booted up fine.

Now, in a just world, there is no way I get to save my hard drive. It's gone. And someone has told and all the techies are laughing at me. But I actually got the second chance! The one you don't ever get! And now my computer is on, and all my data is backed up on my new external HD!

So THAT is what is so great about the world, and THAT is why you should save the environment, because no environment = ozone layer hole and massive tsunamis = us departing this world for whatever afterlife, and I would not want to leave a world that is benevolent enough to give you that second chance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hello The Facebook.

I had mixed feelings about blogs on The Facebook. But what the hell? If it works for Jacques Strappe, it's good enough for me. And I can always take it off.

Speaking of The Facebook, I had an interview with them. Neat, right? I mean, it's absurd. How does an employee of The Facebook take himself/herself seriously?* Nevertheless, they work with some of the coolest brand-newest technology. The stuff that Google's doing with massive parallel computation; Google's doing that, The Facebook is doing that, and who else? Geek out moment, but I feel like if anyone's going to compete with Google in any sphere, it's The Facebook. And they're pretty successful so far.

*Hello The Facebook recruiters! I keep putting self-conscious notes like this, but in this case it's completely appropriate, because now my blog is on The Facebook. If The Facebook does any kind of background checking at all, maybe they'll look on THEIR OWN SITE first. Note to The Facebook recruiters: I don't mean "how does a facebook employee take himself/herself seriously?" in a bad way. It just seems silly, but actually isn't. It's like selling fluorescent colors for a living.

Also, I have great taste in music. At least, I like to think so. And I'd like to work for a company that thinks that is a good thing. I've got the new Go! Team on my ipod now and it's making me happy. Speaking of happy: The Fiery Furnaces, They Might Be Giants, Tally Hall, and Broken Social Scene are all coming to Pittsburgh.

In other news, gooo indians! They're up 2-1 over Boston- awesome. And I'm going home on Thursday to go to the game! It's like my childhood all over again... but a decade later!

Oh yeah! And Sunday/Monday I'll be in LA! What the geek, yo?! Next Thursday/Friday/Saturday is Seattle! I still like airports!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A note to those who drink alcohol but do not buy it

First, I'd like to say that the party on Saturday night was a great success (if I do say so myself...). Thanks so much to everyone who came to make it so much fun. The rest of this note is of a rather unsavory financial nature, and I don't want the matters of filthy lucre to despoil the memory of such a joyous occasion. (indeed, one could view such a weekly party as our youthful worship service (now hear me out dammit) in that we set aside a time from our work and nonsense lives to lose ourselves among friends (perhaps with alcoholic assistance) and suck every minute out of a night that we can. granted, this metaphor is a stretch. but this is a note for another time!) I don't regret the money I spent on the party a bit.

Second, here's the main point of this note: parties are expensive. To those of you who donated to the donation jar yesterday, thank you! I still lost a boatload of money on the party, though. Again, no regrets, but I can't keep doing this, and the other people who buy you alcohol can't either. I don't think anyone's trying to rip me off or anything; I think people just don't know how much stuff costs. So I'll throw out prices that a couple reasonable drinks cost the buyer:

Cheap beer (Pabst class): $15 for a case of 30 cans = 50c each.
Normal beer (like a Yuengling): $20 for a case of 24 bottles = ~$1 each.
Nice beer (Sam Adams, Blue Moon, etc.): tend to cost $9-12 for a 6-pack, so ~$1.50-$2 each.

Smirnoff vodka: $24 for a handle (1.75 liters). 1.75 liters ~ 1.75 quarts = 56oz. Now, if you pour some in a cup and add a mixer, you might pour about 2 oz. So you get 28 drinks' worth out of a handle. So each 2 oz. drink costs you about $1.
Vladimir vodka: about half that, or 50c.
Bacardi rum: comparable to Smirnoff vodka.
Tanqueray gin: $20 for a fifth (0.75 liters). So that's about 24 oz., so a 2-oz. drink might cost $1.50-$2.
Kahlua: between Smirnoff and Tanqueray, I think. $1-$1.50.

Mixers tend to be cheaper... 8 oz. cranberry juice, milk, orange juice, tonic, or cola will cost 50c or less.

It adds up, though. Say you're making a White Russian. A shot of vodka, a shot of Kahlua, and fill it up with milk, and it'll be worth $2-2.50. Your vodka and cranberry could be $1.50, gin and tonic $2, etc. Multiply times a few drinks... toss in a little for cups and ice and snacks and stuff, and that's a big hit on the liquor purchaser/party host.

So what am I saying? Give a good donation at your next party. Tossing in a dollar or two and figuring "well, I'm only drinking a little" isn't going to cut it. I'd say $5 will cover you if you have a tolerance like me; maybe more if you're slightly more stout of constitution, and maybe a little less if you're drinking light or only quaffing a few PBR's. And don't forget! We old folks aren't trying to make money here, we're just trying to break even, but we routinely fall way short.

Wait, I see a hand in the back: "You don't have to buy such nice alcohol!" Would you like me to buy cheap stuff? If that's what people want, I'll gladly do that. I won't scoff at you- I've been known to enjoy the ol' Pabst myself. Another hand: "Quit whining! If you don't want to spend money, don't host parties!" Fair. I could do that too. But then it's less fun for everyone... I don't want to lose our chances to hang out just because of the price of boooooooooooze.

Thanks for listening; I will not speak of this again. But if I host a party and charge money or something, no whining allowed! And when you go to other people's parties, know how much you drink monetarily, and make sure to donate that much.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Some things that make me excited:

Last Monday: that Of Montreal/Grand Buffet show. A few notes:
Grand Buffet creates the most enjoyable concerts I've ever seen.
Of Montreal creates some of the most enjoyable music I've ever heard. (how about that qualifier there? I think they're maybe #4 on my favorite-bands list.)
Oberlin is neat, and not actually any less nerdy than CMU. I think. It is out in the middle of nowhere, though.
Getting out of town to clear your head a bit is nice.
And "Song Association" may be my new favorite car game. It works like this: someone sings a song. If that reminds you of a song, you start singing and they stop. Repeat.

Yesterday: while sleep deprivation makes you sad, it evidently magnifies the effects of caffeine. Whoa. I was on a cloud at about 9:30 PM.

Tomorrow: teaching a Concepts recitation about counting. Combinatorics. It's the most fun math.

Starting this weekend: the Indians vs. the Red Sox in the ALCS. Woo!

Friday: Improv show with free cereal! I'm so stoked about the cereal. 8PM, UC Danforth, be there.

Saturday: Glow in the dark party. See you there (and by "there" I mean "my house"). Yeah!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Another reason to root for the tribe:

Great taste in music.

I point you to Travis Hafner ("Du Hast") as a shining example. Between the whole team, they also managed to hit Static-X, Mims, Metallica, Audioslave, John Mellencamp, Collective Soul, and Staind.

I propose a rock-off: Indians Mix vs. Pirates Mix. (Disturbed!) Or maybe vs. Dungeon Mix.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Go Tribe!

You may be familiar with the Major League of Baseball. Also, it's October, which makes all of us former baseball fans think about postseasons, World Series glory, and early dark nights with huge stadiums packed with fans and lights. Where it's nighttime but it's still so bright because you're focused on this turbo-lit field.

Anyway, the Cleveland Indians are back in it! They actually are tied for the best record in baseball. They have two power starters (C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona), which is crucial in the short best-of-5 and best-of-7 series. They have a pretty solid bullpen too (except the closer, Joe Borowski, maybe), and a decent lineup. The point is, this year they have a chance to actually do something cool. Through the 90's, they came so close to winning a world series, but never really did, and then sucked for the first half of the 2000's. They haven't won the Series since 1948.

Hell, Cleveland has not won any MLB, NFL, or NBA championships since 1948. That is so long. Red Sox, quit your whining. And don't even get me started on the Yankees. What I'm saying is, if you're looking for a team to root for, root for the Indians!

Also, this.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I want to post, but I have so little to say

I want to shout my little yawp from the rooftops, but yeah, there's not a lot to say.

I did see my parents this weekend, which was nice. Good to catch up. They were very excited about my interviews. I am too. It will be nice once I have these interviews and I can nail down whether I have a job offer from them or not.

Also, we had an excellent improv show. If we can get more than 8 people to show up in the audience, that would be really nice.

I was thinking about pro sports, and how they're really pretty silly, right? Two arbitrary teams compete in this arbitrary competition, and you cheer for the one that happens to come from the city you live in. But given that they're silly, they're kind of perfect, because they provide some filler to life. Ooh, I just thought of a good analogy!

People are like colored flashlights, all right? You want to mix colors together and make new brighter colors and so on. But it's like people are flashlights outside with nothing around. If you have no substance, you can't reflect off of anything. Pro sports, for example, provide some dust in the air. If you and another person are hanging out, and just shining your lights out there, nothing happens. But if the air is all dusty, you can kind of see the beam that you each shoot, (like lightsabers!) and then you can interact. Similarly, if you have something to talk about, some experience that you share, then that gives meaning to your interaction, even if the experience itself (watching a football game) is meaningless. The worth of an interaction is measured not only through the strength of the lights but also by the amount of dust in the air.

Fair metaphor? Even if it means I equated people with flashlights, which sounds like goddamn Successories nonsense?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Point/counterpoint: XKCD

Counterpoint: It's terribly drawn. Maybe it'd be funny as a joke blog or something. It's like a movie that just shows a test pattern while talking over it.
Counterpoint: It's just nerd humor. Anyone can (and at this goddamn school, anyone has) just take a stupid joke and make a "comic" out of it. It's unoriginal and lame.
Counterpoint: Really, I'm just jealous. Because I'll make a joke, and then I'll go reading through the archives, and I'll think: Shit! They beat me to it!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Oldies but goodies

A few songs today that have sent shivers down my spine or made me dance or sing or otherwise wax ecstatic:

Once in a Lifetime, by the Talking Heads
Almost Crimes, by Broken Social Scene
Common People, by William Shatner, covering Pulp
Solta o Frango, by Bonde Do Role
Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above, by CSS

Friday, September 21, 2007

Amen to this!

I mean, this.
connecting (maybe) with all you readers right now, through technology
or at least introducing another subject to make for better conversation with you readers next time I do talk to you in real life.

PS. I got a new IPOD NANO, used, for $40! Bargains make me glad! The return of music in my ears makes me more glad!
PPS. more excitingly, I got an interview with Google! In Seattle, too! Yeah!
PPPS. hi Google recruiters; check it out, I'm excited about your company!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Two more things I like a lot:

1. Andrew Bird's song "Simple Exercises." Catchy and epic at the same time!
2. Copper. It's so well drawn! And that sort of cute-and-deep (but not too cute) combo that I love (see: The Little Prince). This one is ... apropos.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Two thoughts about tomorrow's TOC:

1. I'm really disappointed that there kind of isn't a place for me at SilverTree Media.
2. Sorry, Redback Networks.You're off my list. Note that I wrote that post in summer 2005.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

How can anyone expect me to sleep

when I can turn on the version of "Scenic World" that's on Beirut's "Lon Gisland" EP (the original is pretty good too) and it's autumn, and it's getting that delicious chilliness in the air, and life is so goddamn good and there's nostalgia because it's fall and there's future nostalgia when you know you'll look back on these halcyon days that you're experiencing right now and there's so much being AWAKE to be done!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Me and my old Schwinn WorldSport

The poor thing. I treat it like crap sometimes. But then it goes and does this to me... the little bastard.

We've got a slightly dysfunctional relationship. It's like a horse that I never feed, yet still expect to keep working. It's down to four gears (it has 10, but I don't know from derailleurs, so I haven't been able to fix the other 6), of which one slips. They're all a little rusty. The wheels are not bad, although the back one has a little bump that rubs against the brakes sometimes. The brakes are pretty good. There's a light on the front that works, and a blinky on the back that has no batteries (which reminds me, I should fix that!); a lock that attaches to the frame but rattles around, and pedals that work fine but are sharp! I can't ride it without shoes. The seat causes super numbness if I ride it for any distance, and the seat post and handlebars are a couple inches too short for me.

There are stickers: Free Ride, Tally Hall, WRCT, "Commute to Work", and a crappy Grand Buffet that looks like hell. It's got character.

Sometimes I feed it new parts. It's always a pain, though, because there are two options:
1. Free Ride, which is awesome in theory, but always a negative experience in practice. They have a lot of tools, but not necessarily good parts. (what do you expect for free?) And they're open at odd hours (Tuesday/Thursday like 6-10, Saturday 1-5), meaning that whenever I go, I've got to get stuff done quick! And I have to be able to ride the bike home, so I better not mess anything up. Plus it's dark and grimy, but that sometimes makes me feel good, like "Look at me, I can do manual labor too!" (the punchline: I can't. I'm so useless.)

2. Biketek or Pittsburgh Pro, which are good bike shops in theory, but when you leave, your wallet will be many dollars lighter, and your self-esteem will be many notches lower. Welcome to the Bike Shop. Our special is a heaping plate of condescension with a side of bike parts. Can I take your order and scoff at you?
They are a lot closer, though, and open at somewhat-reasonable hours. (Only somewhat, though.) So the other day, I went in there asking for a tire (my old tire was rotting and awful), tube (I got a spare tire from Matt Joachim, but it was a slightly different size), or maybe wheel (to fix the aforementioned bump, while I'm at it). After a few brusque questions, the guy established that I don't even know what size wheels I have. (surprise! 700 mm != 27 inches. Also, they don't even make 27 inch wheels anymore. Oh bike, you are so old.) Then he sold me a $15 tire, and tried to sell me a $45 wheel. My entire bike cost less than that!

Whatever. I made it happen. Got the tire. Put it on. Also added a little screw that was never there before, that according to the Free Ride folks (a while ago) would fix my derailleur woes.

So I'm heading to campus, listening to my ipod (which I wasn't sure if I wanted to bring, but decided to at the last minute), and I switch gears, and I have a couple seconds of blinding terror where NOTHING IS WORKING and I'm not sure why and before I know it I'm skidding along the ground, and I have the presence of mind to get up and get out of the road before it hits me that I just fell down, and I hope I am not bleeding too much (luckily I'm not) and the adrenaline jolt and LCD Soundsystem's "Get Innocuous!" are jazzing me up enough that I yell out a prodigious "FUCK!" and start cursing at my bike. Turns out my chain fell off and got stuck between the gears and the frame, causing my back wheel to stop turning.

Look, bike, I just tried to fix you! I gave you an entire new tire! Whatever. I have no big wounds, so I keep rolling down to campus.

It's only when I get to improv and go to turn off my ipod that I realize it is all broken! The screen ist kaput! The buttons aren't the most functional! The "lock" switch doesn't work! Well, it still plays music, although the last couple days where its battery has lasted about 40 minutes have given me reason to doubt that too. My phone's screen is a little messed up, but not in any way that affects its function. (although it seemingly has started answering itself if I don't answer it. if you call me and hear My Pocket: Greatest Hits instead of voice mail, I apologize!)

Hey, bike, come on! If you don't like me, give me another one of those injuries where my foot slips off the pedal and hits me in the heel and it bleeds a little bit but leaves a cool scar. But don't take it out on the ipod! You two are a team! Between the two of you, I can get anywhere, and really enjoy it!

Sigh. Two things have come out of this, though:

1. I'm probably in the market for a new mp3 player, so I'm open to suggestions. I've had great experiences with the ipod nano, and terrible experiences with a Samsung YP-U2J. I'm not all so sure I want to deal with the Apple monopoly, though. I do want flash memory, a backlit screen that's not dumb, the ability to play an album straight through or shuffle, and no nonsense with connecting/downloading/etc. Capacity is not a big deal- 1gb is fine. The cheaper the better. This is a good thing, because it lets me buy new technology, which is always fun. Plus, it doesn't even cancel out the raise I got for TAing, so in terms of overall luck, I'm still ahead!

2. Cause and effect: check this out.
If I hadn't tried to replace the tire AND gotten this screw and "tip" from Free Ride, I wouldn't have adjusted the derailleur and therefore wouldn't have fallen.
If I hadn't decided to take my ipod at the last minute, I wouldn't have broken it.
If I hadn't been going to break dancing that night, I wouldn't have worn gym shorts, and maybe better pockets would have saved the ipod.
If I had bought the new wheel, I would have bent it too, which would have sucked.

Okay, whatever. But here's a cool cause-and-effect chain: yesterday I was coming back to campus, and I had this impending feeling of doom that this car would hit me. (it didn't, don't worry.) But I was wearing my helmet, because Sarah convinced me that I should after I told her about my wreck on Thursday, and it only came up because we were talking about music and I mentioned that my ipod was all broken. So, if the car HAD hit me:
Going to break dancing -> wearing gym shorts
Replacing tire + screw from Free Ride + wearing gym shorts + grabbing ipod at the last minute -> fall + broken ipod.
broken ipod -> conversation about bike crash + I decide to wear my helmet
wearing helmet -> not dying when car hit me
So in a way, my life would have been saved because I tried to replace my tire, I got this screw from Free Ride, I was going to break dancing class, and at the last minute I decided to take my ipod.

The life you save, quite unintentionally, may be your own!

Friday, September 14, 2007

A few slangs and catch phrases you should know when talking/emailing to me

Hi! I'm glad to hear from you. However, to avoid possible misunderstandings, I'm just going to throw a few terms out there. Hate to impose extra cognitive load on you, but I'm sure we all use certain slangs and we may or may not know what each other's slangs mean. Plus, this way, you can be in on my inside joke, and what is friendship, really, besides a series of inside jokes?

Also, this serves the purpose of properly citing the sources of all my slang, so that the right people can get credit. Or blame. Your call.

So if I say, for example, "Is it The Best?" (or Worst, or Biggest, or Smallest, or whatever) that's an Alex Grubbism. It's meant mostly facetiously, as in when Will would say something was good and Grubb would respond with "But is it... The Best?" just to antagonize him. Hopefully you can catch when I'm capitalizing The Best in conversation.

On the topic of Alex Grubb, "Why would anyone do that?" is another rhetorical question. I probably agree that what you're doing has merit. It's a sort of sarcastic throwaway.

I picked up saying "great" from Will. It might sound sarcastic, but it actually means something is great. For example, seeing Live at the Pittsburgh Pirates game is great.

This is not to be confused with writing "GREAT" or "AWESOME" in capital letters, which I picked up from Ram. Same idea- it actually means something is very good. But it carries more of a connotation of very genuine excitement, whereas saying "great" a la Will is just acknowledging something great.

XOXO is another one I've stolen from Ram, although not actually used much. It's a signoff on an email, as in "XOXO Ram." Though I don't use it much, I do appreciate it. I think the reason I haven't stolen more slang from Ram is that it's all very genuine, and I think copying it would make it lose some of its sincerity.

Back to AWESOME, though. "AWESOME" is also a nice segue into Brian Gadomski slang that I have picked up. For those of you who don't know him, Brian is a friend from high school. He is also a juggler, which is how I got to know him, although that's not true, because I actually got to know him because he is the brother of Pete Gadomski, one of my best friends from high school. A long time ago, he made a short film, like a minute long, about a kid who's just wandering around. Then he meets a friend who says "what are you doing?" "eh, nothing." And then they jump into the air and the screen goes "AWESOME!" all 60's-like or something. The Go! Team is on in the background. It wasn't a great film. But I do mean "AWESOME!" in that sense sometimes.

Other Brian Gadomski slang I've adopted:
"Book" = "cool"
"Choin" = "cool" but you're a loser if you say "choin", so I try not to say it.
"Bru" = "bro" except it's so much cooler than saying "bro".
Oh, and "It could be worse." I've been big on this one recently. It's a two-person line, really. The idea is like this: someone complains about something ("Man, the weather's bad today"). Person A says "It could be worse." Person B thinks up an extreme outlandish way in which it sure could be worse. ("Yeah, it could be raining hot molasses!")

"Fresh" has been kept alive in my memory by Brian, but it really started with Erik, another one of my best friends from high school. It means what it meant back in 1992: good. I should point out that a lot of the slang I picked up from Erik (which is a lot!) came from Magic: the Gathering players. I think the only other one I use is "What a hopping" = "Man, that's rough."

And then there's the catch phrases I've picked up from Brian Gray, which might as well be a different language. A recent favorite is "Try this delicious soup, Samuel." "I'm orange!" I offer no explanation.

Err... and then there's the Adam Jaffe catch phrases, which are a different language, and varying degrees of offensive. If I say "er-ver-car-durrs" instead of "avocados", or talk about popping up in your car's backseat with your favorite Chingy CD, or claim that my name is "Wenis McGee", ... well, the only excuse I have is that these things happened in an improv scene.

Hey, the Technical Opportunities Conference is next week, which means recruitment is happening, which means employers might be facebooking me, and then might follow the link to my blog. Or they might just Google me. At any rate, hi recruiters! Not only can I bring my sweet COMPUTING SKILLS to your company, I can also bring to you a whole new generation of slang!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A proposal about the nature of life.

Here's a thought, and I have no other way to introduce it besides "here's a thought":

Life is just playing games. You play a game as long as it interests you, and then you transcend it and move on.

When you're a kid, remember how it was always a big deal who was the fastest runner in your class, or who could spell words the best, or whatever? And then you realized, that's dumb, nobody cares. Maybe you entered the science fair, or the football team. I know I personally entered the marching band, Academic Challenge (aka quiz bowl, or whatever you call it), and juggling club. I played those games, got okay at them, but eventually just moved on. I played the college admissions game and the grades game. But I don't care about those anymore. Grades, more or less, are for suckers. I sure don't care about being the best trombonist in marching band anymore.

Now I'm playing the job search and/or grad school game. I'm almost done with the College game. Some of the games I've played on the side: the cooking club game, the exercise game, the "not being a nerd" game. It's all kinda nonsense. Eventually I'll transcend this game too and move on.

Maybe some games do matter: the career game? Maybe the deal with the super-wise monks is that they've transcended those too-- they've transcended ALL the games!

But I'm not saying playing these games was bad. I enjoyed the marching band while I was in it. Hell, I enjoyed Magic: the Gathering back when. I don't wish I never did these things, but at the same time, I don't want to do it again. So while all this sounds like me ranting about how life doesn't matter, that's not what I mean at all.

Just trying to keep it in perspective: All I'm doing is playing games. Enjoying it, but playing games nonetheless.

Also, wow, A Softer World is the best Successories posters for twentysomething* hipsters. Sometimes it's hilarious. Sometimes it's creepy. Sometimes it's kinda awww. Sometimes it's a combination of a couple of those characteristics.

*something = one. Not that I'm insecure about my age. For example, I can't wait until something = forty-five.

Let's make a convention

that if you get a phone call and it embarrasses you, because you're in class or something, it is entirely YOUR fault. Come on. You can turn your phone on or off. If you haven't turned your phone off, then you are willing to accept calls. Done.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Postin' links, postin' links, postin' links, postin' links

This really tickles my fancy. Not sure why.

On a related note, this comic might tickle my fancy. I'm not sure. It is pretty. But sometimes it's just nonsense.
Some good ones:
credit to Daniel Dewey again. And, a couple years ago, Joe McDermott.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

This quote is awesome enough that it makes me want to edit my Facebook profile to actually include it as a quote.

I just keep picturing a fox being all cool and suave and hopping around in all directions, while a little hedgehoggy guy kinda sits there all fat-like and giggles to himself because he knows ONE BIG THING and nobody else does!

Monday, September 03, 2007

I think this is pretty accurate

Webcomic nerd time!
It's true, though.
Credit to Daniel Dewey for (unwittingly) pointing me to this comic. Or "online graphic novel." Call it what you will.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

So they're all like "a whole new world" and then Jasmine goes "wait, how big is this carpet?"


I just had the best Concepts recitation ever! Aliens made an appearance, as did Aladdin, Jasmine, and the Genie (who only deals with planar geometry). It kicked ass. I managed to teach polynomial division, too.

It's been a good week. A good day. A good month (and by that I mean, last two weeks or so). A good year. I'm seriously floating on a huge, like, gigantic cloud.

Thank you for everything; I have no complaints whatsoever.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My room is The Reddest.

Plus, I had Google (the class) today. It is nuts. It's held in the Google Pittsburgh office. It's called "Internet Search Technologies." They greeted us with "Welcome! Help yourself to a snack or something to drink." And by "snack or something to drink" I mean big ol' cookies and a fully stocked cooler full of drinks from your common sodas up to and including brand namey newfangled iced teas. We spent the class talking about how to make algorithms work on huge multi-computer systems. At one point they said they had to have everyone tell them their citizenship, because we'll be getting access to some Google machines, and there are issues with exporting or something if they don't get it cleared up.

Funny, after that cookie and bottle of Propel, I found myself wanting to buy some AdWords or let them read my Gmail or something.

And I'm freaking out about the year starting. I'm not going to have time to do anything ever! Gaaarggh! So I'll quit blogging now.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fence fence fence party paint school

I'm so done with the fence. Boo-yah. It was kinda fun while it lasted. What am I going to do? I'm going to go hang out by the fence. Great! It'll be fun. I can stay there indefinitely. (Maybe I can't leave... but whatever.)

Party last night was kind of fun. I didn't have the greatest time ever; maybe it's because I was hosting and sort of trying to accommodate guests and stuff. I should just relax like everyone else does when they have a party. The drinks went over well though! Wow, you can make stuff that really tastes great when you know what you're doing. That's cool!

Painting my room now. Got the primer up, going to paint it "Crossfire" red-orange tomorrow. SWEET.

And then school starts Monday. I have so few worries now, and how quickly that will change! My inbox is in the single digits. Oh it is nice.

Not a lot to say. And no comics either. I'll get to that, you know, when I do.

Oh, here's something I have to say! How do people ever have anything to say? I can't make conversation-- I don't come up with these mental connections to ask people about something else or to talk about whatever. It's damn awkward. Particularly now, because I'm getting back to school and talking to people I don't really know, and we don't have any common ground to talk about. Drives me nuts. Probably, though, the more you worry about it, the worse it gets.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Fence blogging = flogging?

Nope. Fence dancing = fancing? I've been big on combining words recently.

I've also been at the fence. It's been nice. We (SnS) built a little house out of flats. It's got a roof and everything. By "we" I mostly mean Julie, Elliot, Daniel, and Kevin, because I didn't help much with the building. I did make dinner at one point though. It's kind of fun, being part of this big ol' hoo hah tradition, although I suspect it's only fun because we're just hanging out in our little hut, and doing things like eating big trays of fruit left over from OC training.

Did I mention I went to New Hampshire too? With Kemal and Adam. We visited Pete at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge. Neat place, mountain next to it, that's cool. I am not super outdoorsy! Surprise! I was real tired by a 10 mile hike up and down that mountain. My friends were not fazed- they started up a soccer game right afterwards. There was something I was going to say about this. I forgot what it was.

Going to go do an International Orientation thing. I'm a helper with International Orientation. I guess it's cool.

Oh, by the way, why did I EVER think about being an OC (for the real orientation)? That is the dumbest shit ever! All that fake enthusiasm and retarded cheers and motivational talks. I think especially the cheers.
"My head's up high, my feet down low, and this is how I gigolo"?? (in chess notation, they write "??" after a move if it's like a super bad blunder. (EDIT: I wrote "they right ?? ..." before. Who does that?!)) Anyway, that doesn't make any goddamn sense. Here's one:
When I sleep, I like to snore, and this is how I whore!
Here's my head, and here's my butt, and this is how I slut!

How about "Show us how to get down" "No way!" "I said, show us how to get down!" "Okay! D-O-W-N and that's the way to get down!" Also dumb. I wish you could apply that argumentation to different parts of life:
"Hey officer, I wasn't going that fast, let me off with a warning!"
"No way!"
"I said, let me off with a warning!"
"Okay! W-A-R-N-I-N-G; no ticket for you, you're going free!" (dances)

Good lord, they're practicing their inspirational speeches now. God help us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

God don't let me be a snob

If I had to make a prayer right now, it would sound something like that. Aargh. In practicing the hobbies that I like (for example, cooking and learning to mix drinks), I've developed this sort of food-snobby attitude. I can't fathom why people are content to buy premade foods and shop at Wal-Mart and drink Bud Light and so on. This is my problem, not theirs; to each his own. But the more I hang around Real Adults, the more I realize that food (and drink) snobbery doesn't make you unique, it just makes you another Whole Foods Asshole.

Yes, I like nice food; if you say stuff like "organic cage-free locally grown farmers market" enough, I'll get all hot and bothered. I also think everyone should buy organic cage-free locally grown farmers market stuff all the time. But so many people are real pompous about it, and I'd rather subsist on frozen pizzas from Aldi than sit around and chit-chat with people who try to hide their unhappiness behind a conversation about how happy they are that they're paying double for a Certified Organic seal.

The point is: I'll keep going on my merry way, but please, if I'm being a snob, smack me around a little bit so I realize not EVERYONE cares how great those blueberries were. Or whatever.

I feel like there's more to this post that maybe I'll expand some other time. Right now, it's past my bedtime.

EDIT: What's wrong with people pretending to be better than others? Nothing, inherently. I mean, if guy A is an ass, and guy B is a good guy, there's nothing wrong with B thinking he's better than A. But the thing with food snobs/organic snobs/etc is that they're not saving the world. They just buy different things. And "saving the world through buying different things" is like donating lots of money to charity... it rings hollow. It's nice, but it really doesn't do that much. Does it? If you want to be green/environmental/whatever, don't buy a hybrid and organic beans; downsize your house to a condo somewhere. Stop eating so damn much.

Still just thoughts swirling in my head, and not a coherent argument for or against anything yet. And my rice has just finished cooking so I better go save it.


They do everyone's job better than everyone. The Google Revolution is coming, and it's going to be great.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What I Do (tm)

A couple people have asked me over the last few days what I've been doing all summer, and it's taken me way too many words and I've probably not said anything comprehensible at all. Here's a hopefully concise version of it.

So there are these Machine Translation (MT) systems out there. There are a lot of different kinds, depending on how far up the pyramid they go. A graphic would help here:
Okay. See, you start with an English sentence, and you can translate by just going word-for-word (like Babelfish : "the red house" -> "el rojo casa").
Or you can do some analysis on morphology, meaning you deconstruct each word and then reassemble. (like "I walked" -> (I + walk-past-tense) -> "yo caminé")
Or you can go further to analyze the syntax of the sentence, like "I walked to the store" -> Noun (I) + verb (walk-past-tense) + prepositional phrase (to the store) -> "yo caminé a la tienda." This can be useful with languages like German, where word order sometimes flips around a bit.
Or you can analyze the sentence for its meaning, and this is where things get a little hairy. It'd be something like "I walked to the store" -> (first-person pronoun) + (moving on two feet) + (to the store) -> "yo caminé a la tienda."
And then if you're a real baller, you can translate everything into Interlingua, The One Universal Language (which doesn't exist, but bear with me) and then reconstruct in the target language. This hasn't worked very well, so far.

Anyway, the approach we're using is still mostly word-for-word. It's not as dumb as Babelfish, because it includes triples of words ("trigrams") instead of just words, so it'll know "the red house" -> "la casa roja", not "el rojo casa." So instead of a big word-to-word dictionary, we need a super-big dictionary of three-word phrases. You can't just go to Webster and look that up... you have to build this yourself. So we need a lot of parallel phrases in English and, say, German. Where can we find that? Wikipedia. See on the lower right, where it says "this page in other languages"? Great! So if you look for something thrilling like, say, Subprime mortgage financial crisis, you can easily click on the "Francais" link and see that, in French, it's "Crise des subprimes." Now, whenever our translation system wants to translate an article containing "subprime mortgage financial crisis" into French, instead of looking for each word, it just goes, bam, crise des subprimes.

What have I done? Mostly extracted those page titles, using databases and other cool things, and found that there's not too much interesting that we can do. Maybe we can use other bits of Wikipedia to find more translated phrases. Maybe we can use knowledge that we learn about these words to help us out further. (like if you know "Stevie Wonder" is a guy's name, then we don't have to translate it at all, so we won't accidentally go with "maravilla del Stevie.")

Okay, what do I actually do? Mostly dick around with databases and other stupid things. Bang out some code. Read some papers, and then get confused. If you've never read academic papers, like Academic Papers, you're in for a treat. Pick up whatever journal is preeminent in your field, or whatever conference is The Big One, and start reading. If you can follow it for more than like two pages, congratulations! You're a grad student!

Seriously, though, I'm trying. Eventually this whole field will make sense. I'm figuring I'll solve machine translation (and every other language-related problem) within the next three years.

I'm starting next year by pushing all this Wikipedia nonsense to the back burner. We're going to try to develop a representation of language by going all the way up to the semantic level. Yeah. We're teaching computers what sentences mean. That's right. And we're going to test it by using recipes. So by Spring 2008, I will not only have a badass thesis of like tens of pages, but I'll also have this great recipe software I've always dreamed of.

Yeah yeah yeah yeah! Languages are it! The wave of the future! I've got new comics coming up check them out.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Album Order Challenge

Among a few friends last night, I got into a somewhat heated discussion as to the best way to order tracks on an album. We agreed that track 1 isn't the ideal location for the best song on an album, the real "knockout punch" if you will. However, my esteemed colleague, one Mr. Gray, insisted that track 2 was the place for it, whereas I preferred it to be buried a little deeper, at track 4.

Before I start, let me make sure I have the particulars of the argument straight.
My point of view: Track 4 is probably the best spot for your best song. It's the centerpiece of the album, it really should show off the best of what you've got and what you're offering to the audience. Track 1 should be an attention-getter, but tracks 2 and 3 should sort of warm up to the big hit at track 4. If you put your centerpiece at track 2, it's too front-heavy, and the end of your album will lag a bit.
Brian's view (and correct me if I'm wrong): Track 2 is the spot for such a song. While that doesn't mean that the best song goes at track 2, it does mean that track 2 should set the tone. Often, track 2 would be the single. Track 4 is less than good because it's too late; people have already judged the album by then, and some people don't even get to track 4.

With that somewhat vaguely defined, I'll put forth the format of the experiment: I'll pick 20 random albums from my itunes ( a random shuffle; yes, that does favor bands that have more songs on the albums, but it's usually pretty close shut up shut up). For each album, if it's a great album, I'll examine the track ordering (particularly 2 and 4) to see what makes it great, and if it's not so good, I'll look at tracks 2 and 4 for an example of what not to do. Obvious "concept albums" are excepted; if we're talking about The Wall, say, Pink Floyd can do whatever they want with the track ordering, fine. All tracks, including short intros, will be counted as songs (after reflection, I've decided this is the way to go, because pretty much the only thing that intros and interludes count for is the album as a whole.)

So if an album is in favor of the track 2 theory, it gives Beej a point if it's good, and a negative point if it's bad. If it's in favor of track 4, the same holds for me.

Let's begin!
1. iTunes is a piece of crap. It keeps freezing on me. Let's try this again. Okay.

1. Illinois, by Sufjan Stevens. Nice! Okay, this is clearly a great album. And the track order is clearly well-thought-out. Track 2 has a track name that is so long, I can't even find the whole name online. It starts with: "The Black Hawk War, Or, How To Demolish An Entire Civilization And Still Feel Good About Yourself In The Morning, Or, We Apologize For The Inconvenience But You're Gonna Have To Leave Now, Or, 'I Have Fought The Big Knives And Will Continue To Fight...'" It's nice, but it's definitely a warm-up. I mean, it's instrumental. Track 4, on the other hand, is "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.", which may not be the centerpiece of the album, but is one of the most-commented songs on it, and one of the best. Interestingly, the centerpiece would have to be track 3, "Come on! Feel the Illinoise", where the single, "Chicago", is stuffed away at track 9. The only thing that my colleague can say to counter this point is that it's an unusually long album. POINT: ME

2. Daisies of the Galaxy, by Eels. I don't love this album; I don't think it's Eels's best. But then, toss an acoustic guitar in front of me and I'll run screaming. I feel like it sort of folksy-wanders through 14 tracks of ehh. Track 2 is "Packing Blankets", nothing special. Maybe weightier than "I Like Birds" at 4. Neither is stellar. The real star on this album is "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues", the last song; what a baller. Although, I'd argue, that was a gutsy move that didn't turn out too well on his part, because it's a pleasant surprise, but it means the rest of the album is boring. INCONCLUSIVE

SKIPPED: Live at Winterland '68, by Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Co., because I've never actually listened to it. That's embarrassing! I sorta pride myself on actually knowing all the music that's on my computer (as opposed to bragging "I have 89237 gigs of music!"), and I think I am at about 90%, but I'd rather it be 100.

3. Steve Goldberg and the Arch Enemies, by Steve Goldberg. Hah. Well, I think it's a good album, and he is not the kind of guy who would just toss songs onto the album in any old order. Track 2 is "February Third", a fun song, but it takes a few listens to actually stick in your mind. At track 4, "The Spy Part 1" hits, and any song with Part 1 and Part 2 is going to be a focal point of your album. POINT: ME

4. D-D-Don't Don't Stop the Beat, by Junior Senior. I'm tempted to say it's inconclusive, because the only song that matters ("Move Your Feet") is at track 3, but I think they tried to release "Rhythm Bandits" (track 2) as a second or third single, and it's more fun than the embarrassing gay-straight-haha "Chicks and Dicks" throwaway at track 4. And this isn't a good album. NEGATIVE POINT: BEEJ

5. The Futureheads, by the Futureheads. I hate this album! (despite the pretty good critical review, I think) It's 15 songs, each 2:30, each with a British accent and nothing interesting. Track 4, "Decent Days and Nights" is actually one of the standouts, but really, every song is the same. INCONCLUSIVE

6. More Adventurous, by Rilo Kiley. Eeh, it's too folksy for me, and it got a 75 on Metacritic. Is it good? Well, my favorite songs are 1, 3, and 9. (actually, track 9, "Love and War 11/11/46" is really good!) You know what, on that point, I'll say this is a well organized album. 2 or 4? Track 2, "Does He Love You" is no prize, but I really don't like track 4, "Ripcord", so I'll say 2 is better here. "Ripcord" is a two minute throwaway. POINT: BEEJ

7. Waiter: "You Vultures!", by Portugal. The Man. I say this is a solid album! Think a bit of the Mars Volta, except listenable, and Linkin Park, except not sucking. It's no "best of", but it's good, and they keep the hits coming throughout (1, 8, and 10!). Track 2, "Gold Fronts", is the song I'd play on my radio show, I think, and track 4, "AKA M80 The Wolf", is not so good or important. POINT: BEEJ

8. Winter Women, by Matthew Friedberger. Man, a Fiery Furnaces album would be tough enough, and Matt without his sister Eleanor to rein him in is just experimentally noodling all over the place. It's not a bad album, but it's a thick 16 tracks, and if you'd care to make sense of this album's structure, go for it; I sure haven't. INCONCLUSIVE

9. Discovery, by Daft Punk. Your call: "Aerodynamic" (2) or "Harder Better Faster Stronger" (4)? POINT: ME

SKIPPED: Mugimama is this Monkey Music?, by Mugison. This is retarded. Come on.

10. Lincoln, by They Might Be Giants. Great album, but I don't know this track order at all, because I've only heard these songs on "Then: The Earlier Years." Let's take a look! Okay, "Ana Ng" is far and away the best on this album and probably the second best thing TMBG's ever done, and maybe in my top 20 songs of all time. It's track 1. After that, a cool-down is in order, so "Cowtown" is a goofy, relaxing track 2; "Lie Still, Little Bottle" brings you through track 3 to this album's third best song, "Purple Toupee", at track 4. Props to them for saving "They'll Need a Crane" all the way at 14. POINT: ME

11. Liquid Tension Experiment 1, by Liquid Tension Experiment. Crazy instrumental supergroup, including a bunch of Dream Theater, I think. Good album, but the centerpiece is a five-part "Three Minute Warning" at the end, plus "Paradigm Shift" at track 1. 2 and 4 are both interludey throwaways. (the fact that the interludes are 3:26 and 2:00 points to this album's reckless indulgence) INCONCLUSIVE

12. Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, by PJ Harvey. Great album. Ergh; but it's sort of a big mood, not a bunch of ups and downs. (except "The Mess We're In", at 7, which is cool) "Good Fortune" (2) and "One Line" (4) are both good... I'd argue "One Line" fits more with the theme of this album, so I'll give myself a weak point. POINT: ME

13. The Sunlandic Twins, by Of Montreal. One of my favorites ever. Tracks 1-7 are a stream of sonic gold. But I'd say the graph of awesomeness vs. track goes like this:
Track 2 is a little better than track 4. I'll give you this one. POINT: BEEJ

14. CSS, by Cansei de Ser Sexy. Damn! There's only one good song, and it's "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above," and it's track 4. NEGATIVE POINT: ME

15. The Real Thing, by Faith No More. While FNM is a respectable band (listen to the album Angel Dust), and some of Mike Patton's other stuff is even cooler, this album is still sorta a touchstone for rap-rock. Singles are tracks 2 ("Epic"... you know, that "you want it all but you can't have it" song) and 3 ("Falling to Pieces"). Responsible for Linkin Park -> Not a good album. NEGATIVE POINT: BEEJ

SKIPPED: Push Bar Man to Open Old Wounds, by Belle and Sebastian. It's a collection of old EP's and B-sides, so the track list isn't really relevant.

16. Talking Heads 77, by Talking Heads. Great album, but the hits are, in my mind, all in the second half ("The Book I Read", "Don't Worry About the Government", and of course "Psycho Killer.") I give them credit for that. "New Feeling" at 2 is a lot more important to the album than "Happy Day"- it gives you that goofy jerky Talking Heads feel, and "Happy Day" at 4 doesn't do much. POINT: BEEJ

SKIPPED: Frank's Wild Years by Tom Waits. It's on my iPod now, honest!

SKIPPED: Boat of Confidence by the Pathways. This album is no good, I don't know why I ripped it, I've listened to it like twice, and I always mean to delete it. Okay, it's deleted now.

17. Let Me Introduce My Friends, by I'm from Barcelona. One, maybe two good songs, and they're #3 and #4. Treehouse (4) is the better of the two. But this is a bad album. NEGATIVE POINT: ME

18. Everything All The Time, by Band of Horses. I'm not a big fan of this album, but the critics kinda like it. Track 4 ("Funeral") is really the centerpiece, and the only really notable song, though. I like "Our Swords" (3) better. POINT: ME

SKIPPED: Thought for Food, by the Books. I think they're a concept band. Don't ask me what concept that is.

19. Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, by Tally Hall. Didn't we already discuss this? Well, it is good, anyway. The songs, individually, are hit or miss, but they manage to space it out well so there's no dead stretch. It's frustrating that we're debating "Taken for a Ride" (4) vs. "Greener" (2), when they're surrounded by "Good Day" (1), "Welcome to Tally Hall" (3), and "The Bidding" (5). But given those two, "Taken for a Ride" is really the better song. "Greener" is straight out of Yellowcard or, I dunno, Dashboard Confessional or something, while "Taken for a Ride" is a good dose of Tally Hall with a couple punches of the Polyphonic Spree. POINT: ME

SKIPPED: Geogaddi, by Boards of Canada. Sorry to skip so many! I don't know each individual track on this one well enough to comment. I just know I really like this sound.

20. Bows and Arrows, by the Walkmen. Aargh! Screw the Walkmen! This album sucks a lot. Besides "The Rat" (2), every song is a bunch of whining to death. NEGATIVE POINT: BEEJ

So, add them all up, and what do you get? 7 - 2 = 5 for me, 4 - 3 = 1 for Beej. Hey, surprise, I did a little survey by myself, on my own rules, and I won. This is not how science works. Or even criticism. But I did convince myself, and if I didn't convince you, well, I welcome thoughtful critiques!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Belle and Sebastian and The Knife and Justice and Staind

That's been my last month... one part halcyon, one part straight out rocking and everything I hoped it could be, one part pounding and driving (in a good way!), and one little bit of boring sticking its face in the door at the end there.

I'd say it's had its ups and downs, but really, it's only had its ups. For like three weeks I was on fire! Firing on all pistons all the time! I wanted nothing more than to be doing whatever I was doing in five minutes (which means I was startlingly close, like five minutes away, from being pretty much enlightened all the time). I've said before I think I get manic depression without the "depression" part; if so, I just had a big bout of mania.

A few instances stick in my head. Exactly twice, I got this absolutely exhilarating feeling while I was biking to work down the hill in Schenley Park. It's a pretty ride- a road through a golf course- and definitely the best commute I've ever had. It's been lovely weather- not too hot, often cloudy (and I love my clouds). Plus, I was going downhill, which is always nice. Anyway, I felt ACTUALLY THERE, I just was absorbing all the outside color, and I was listening to great music, so I was soaking that in too, and it was so euphoric my eyes just started tearing up and I couldn't even pedal, I just coasted, loving the moment. I mean, it was orgasmic, in a sense, or like the high points of mushrooms (would hypothetically be if I had ever tried them). I also felt like "maybe this is it; this is what nirvana is like; this is what those monks who meditate their whole lives always feel like."

All the same, I figured I'd be more enlightened, on the whole. Why? I dunno, because I spent a semester in Europe? (Note to spiritual seekers: you won't find it studying in Europe. The typical study abroad is a glorified five-month vacation with classes sometimes.) Because it was foreign? Because I hung out with stoners? I dunno why I thought I'd change in big ways from just one semester. But I felt good, in Europe, and at home, and here again. I felt like life made sense, and yeah, it's uncertain, but I'll do fine. Don't worry. You can do whatever you want.

So what's wrong? Well, the edge is wearing off; I'm getting a little bored with my work; waking up in the morning isn't so easy anymore. The biggest thing is that I'm still the same old me, neurotic and mostly Western. I worry a lot. I'm not at ease, even with my friends. I know what I should be doing (focus on others, not be full of myself), but I don't have the presence of mind to do it. And the more you worry, the more you're concentrating on yourself, and it's a spiral into your own goddamn belly button. So I'll stop talking about it now!

To remind myself: thank you for everything; I have no complaints whatsoever.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Mornington Crescent

I knew it first as a song title on Belle and Sebastian's The Life Pursuit, then as a London tube stop, and now it's a game. I guess it was a game a while ago. Read the rules. It's Bob Barry! There's also a link to Mad Magazine's fantastic 43-man Squamish. Note that most of the games like these are pretty nerdy. Mornington Crescent, even, seems to be nerdy and full of itself, so while I appreciate the premise, I'd rather enjoy a round of Bob Barry any day. But I'm glad someone's playing these, anyway.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

AAAAAAaaaaaaaaa Harry Potter Harry Potter Harry Potter

NO SPOILER ALERT. Look, I'm not going to put spoilers on my blog, a week after the book came out. You can read this, don't worry.

What I will say is that I'm sorry it's over. I think that's the longest series I've ever read. (if you've read a longer one, let me know!) I mean, if you count Hardy Boys and stuff, I probably read more of those back in the day, but they were like 100 pages each, and not a continuous story.

Whoop, check that, I read the Wheel of Time, which is like 10 books of 1000 pages each. But by about book 7, they got kinda boring because nobody would do anything.

I got attached to the characters! And the whole world! The level I got drawn into that world was somewhere on the level of Final Fantasy VII or Chrono Trigger, and if you're a geek, you know that means something. More than the Wheel of Time, for sure. It felt like a good RPG: good characters, story, and a lot of fun items and spells along the way.

I was a little disappointed by the ending; the last chapter in particular. And the epilogue. But whatever; at that point it was seven books of history crashing down and JK could have had Harry Wingardium-leviosa a jar of jelly to smack Voldemort in the face, and I wouldn't have cared.

One more thing: wasn't it a cool phenomenon? It was pretty much accepted that you were reading this book, no matter who you are. It was also pretty much accepted that you can't talk about it if there are people around who haven't finished it. I've never seen anything like it!

Okay, make that two more things. Here's a comparison: J.K. Rowling is the Beatles of books. Sure, we've had popular novels before, but nothing to get everyone reading like Harry Potter did. Similarly, we had music before the Beatles, but everyone listened to the Beatles. Harry Potter and the Beatles are both easily consumed, like so much candy, but they both have some depth behind them too. (the Beatles more than J.K., probably, but hey, time will tell) She's no Shakespeare, but the Beatles aren't Mozart. They're both the best at what they do: J.K . Rowling is the best popular novelist, and the Beatles are the best rock and roll band.

So what's next? Will books evolve and flourish like Rock and Roll has? If so, it's an exciting time to be a reader!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Official Government Things

What better way to commemorate my 300th post than with the launch of my new series of cartoons?
Official Government Things
I'll be posting more or less one cartoon a day. Putting them online gives me some incentive to actually keep up with it, and as anyone who has ever done anything knows, that's the hardest part!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hey, would you give me a kiss? Just a quick smooch?

Harry Potter 7 came out, and we were dementors- Greg, Josh, Missy, and I. We draped sheets over our heads, walked through the line outside Barnes & Noble asking for souls, or maybe just a kiss (surprise! Then we'd take their soul too!) or hey, would you be interested in a free vacation to Azkaban? We were the best.

Speaking of the best, life is spinning along like a Yomega Fireball, which is to say, pretty well! I'm constantly wired full of energy, and I'm sleeping 7-7.5 hrs/night. Work is pretty cool; I'm not sure if I'm doing anything that's worth doing, or what, but the professor and grad students that I'm working with seem pretty happy, and it's sometimes fun and the hours are easy, anyway. I'm surrounded by whatever friends haven't graduated and left, which is surprisingly many. Plus, I finally feel like I did junior year of high school, which is to say "king of the school"... I know my way around this place now, so I can do anything, say anything to anyone, and if you don't like it, bugger off! It's a good place to be.

Plus, I have my iPod, so I'm assimilating music into my mental jukebox.
Recent listens:
Architecture in Helsinki- Places Like This- eergh. Getting lamer and lamer each listen. It's just not got the same pop that "In Case We Die" had. They're trying to go more rock-y or something. Hey, you know what happened when Weezer did that? Right... they sucked a lot. If you're a pop band, that's nothing to be ashamed of.
Battles- Mirrored- Again, the opposite of "growing on me." It's sounding like proggy noodling, not awesome futuristic rock. It's good, but not great, to me at least.
The Hold Steady- Separation Sunday- not quite a fan. I like Craig Finn's vocal delivery- the whole angry talky thing is really pretty cool, and the lyrics are pretty good- but the music itself just bores me. Well, I never was much for classic rock.
Justice- + ("cross")- Hah, I still like this one. Not sure why- none of the songs are really that great, and some ("The Party", "Stress") are hard to listen to, for one reason or another. But whatever- no matter what I'm doing, it makes me pump my fist.
The Knife- Silent Shout- SO GOOD. Did I mention this is good? Here are some adjectives: Danish spooky fist-pumpy icy dancy synthesized pop. If any of those appeal to you, listen to this.
Manitoba- Up In Flames- pretty relaxing, but I wouldn't fawn all over it like the critics apparently did. It is nice. But it's a little too passive for me.
The Rapture- Pieces of the People We Love- This is nice! Yeah, they've got a British accent, but I'd put them two steps ahead of, say, The Futureheads, because they're about fun pop, not British-accent-punk-rock. "Get Myself Into It" has fun drums, "The Devil" has fun saxophone, ... oh yeah, they have a saxophone. There are a couple dull tracks, but overall, a fun listen, even if it's not that substantial.
The Smiths- Singles- Arggh too mopey and 80's and bland. Yeah, that's right, I don't like the Smiths.
OutKast- Speakerboxxx/The Love Below- well, I've done my fair share of making fun of "Hey Ya", and also my fair share of worshiping it as the one top-40 song that actually deserves top-40 status, and well, I suppose it was time I actually listen to this. Now, I'm not a hip-hop critic, but Outkast is pretty much rap for white kids, right? Also, I like pop, and this is as poppy as the next album. It's true what they say, Speakerboxxx (Big Boi's half) is better than The Love Below (Andre3000's half), but they're on different ends of the "black music" (to use a European phrase) spectrum. Speakerboxxx seems to me to be classic hip-hop, maybe a little funkier than most (like on "the rooster" or "bowtie"), but I like that. I really like "Knowing." The Love Below is Andre's R&B sort of disc, pretty much entirely about sex. (song titles include "spread", "vibrate", and "where are my panties?") Whatever, that's fine; also, he's enough of a character to pull this off. And if you listen to it, you'll realize what an accomplishment that is. (sample lyrics: "your roses really smell like poo poo") Well, it mostly works, that is. It wears thin towards the end. A double album with 39 tracks has to have some self-indulgence, and Andre claimed more than his half. Fine. Whatever. Hey Ya is still such a goddamn good song that if there's one song that people remember from the decade, forget the Arcade Fire, forget Broken Social Scene, forget Ted Leo, but remember Hey Ya.

All right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right. Life is cooler than being cool.