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!