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 misc.market 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.