Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day!

On this strange day, why not join us all in a big WTF, mates?

Why not celebrate with a No Parking Players + Off the Top improv show? (UC Danforth, 9pm, be there be there be there for serious, chumps.)

Or try this trippy Get Fuzzy cartoon. I like when he gets really bizarre.

Or go watch "No Country For Old Men" and tell me what the ending meant so I will stop being bothered by it.
(SPOILER ALERT maybe. I'm not going to talk details, but I will talk vaguely about the ending, so if you're going to see it, maybe you shouldn't read this)
There were some really super-cool scenes. Like the one where Anton Chigurh (the psycho killer) flips a coin for that guy's life in the gas station. Awesome awesome scene. And where Llewellyn Moss (the cowboy "good guy") wakes up in Mexico to a mariachi band, and where Chigurh kills the executive boss guy while the accountant watches, scared stiff. (PS. Chigurh's pressurized cattle gun: TERRIFYING.) The movie as a whole, though, left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I'm not going to say I like my movies wrapped up nicely with a bow, Hollywood-style. I will say, though, fuck Waiting for Godot.

Some kid was walking out of McConomy and said something like "I like my comedies black and my dramas existential" or something, which made me want to reply with a super super great Dismemberment Plan quote, "I like my coffee black and my parole denied", which is sort of my overall sentiment about the whole "life is terrifying and it sucks a lot, and then it keeps sucking, but never in a grand way, always just sort of blah" style of literature/film. There are awesome bits! Absolutely killer! But when you put them all together, you get something that's sort of blah. I guess that's the idea. But when you are making ART for the purpose of proving that things are sort of blah, why are you making art in the first place? You can find things that are blah all around you. Hey, my shoe's untied.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

EMAIL PROTOCOL for humans!

This is not about SMTP or POP or IMAP or STFU. This is about how I propose people should deal with emails:

- Your inbox is your to-do list. Everything that comes in should be viewed as a task that needs to be completed.
- A task is completed if:
- it doesn't require a response (ex: a message that just says "thanks" or a mass mailing)
- you have responded to it, and you know that you're responding to the right person
- Otherwise, the task is not completed, and it must fester in your inbox like a thorn in your side until you have dealt with it!
- Once a task is completed, it should be archived, or moved to a "trash" folder. (not deleted.)
- Your inbox should not be larger than, say, 30 emails. If there are more than about 30, you will lose track of some of them.
- Every day, you should read over your inbox and make sure that you're not holding anyone else up by not replying to these emails.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Even more music

Stuff white people like

This is funny/scary/funny/scary/funny/scary. Like #72. Right on. Ha ha. And #64. Hmm, guess I do that too. And then I got to #62. Shit!

Goddammit now I had to read the whole goddamn thing, and who are you out there blogging my life?!

Whatever. Fuck you. I'm not sorry. I'm going to get a nice big old suburban house and I'll drive my Prius to farmers markets and tea shoppes. I'll travel to Thailand just to one-up you and I'll come back with a story about how it totally changed my life and how I'm "spiritual" but not "religious" and buy a goddamn stand mixer! And drink microbrews while watching NOTHING on my NOT TV. Then I'll have my midlife crisis and go to culinary school.

Tomorrow's post: #76 Fantasies of becoming a chef.

Oh, sorry, I got distracted. I meant to also post this, because right on, I love "I Got a Man" by Positive K. Tally Hall fans, note #8.

More music: bein' a dj in more than one sense of the word

I kinda want to get into more aspects of pop/electronic music. I want to learn to do some stuff with mixing songs. I don't know what I mean by that. I know there are a lot of types of messing with music, as it were: you can be a live DJ for a party, or you can do scratching and like dueling-DJ stuff, or you can remix other songs, or you can be a little more hardcore-electronic and make something with a lot of bloops and bleeps. I don't think any of those are what I want to do (although I wouldn't mind learning them), but I'm not sure what I do want to do. But here are some things I like:

Girl Talk
The Avalanches
The album "DJ Kicks" by Hot Chip (or I guess I should say, by various artists, curated by Hot Chip)

I don't particularly like mashups for mashups' sake, although they can be neat too, I've heard a few good ones. I like thinking about what songs would go well together, and I like fading one song out and fading one song in real smooth-like. So if you know things about these and can point me in the right direction, or give me a name for what it is I like to do, or point me to some (free) software, I'd be interested in that.

Art and music

Okay, first, a question that I'm sure I (and many others) have asked before, and gotten a pretty good answer to, but I don't remember it. Why don't artists make anything nice anymore? (I'm not bashing modern art) Like Renaissance art, or Dutch-old-masters style, or anything that portrays actual things somewhat realistically. Why does "modern art" always mean "something abstract"? Note that I'm not bashing modern art, but what about the great artists who want to paint a nice picture of people or a landscape or something? (Hey I really like modern art, no seriously, I like it, I'm not bashing it.)

Second, I was poking through some WRCT playlists, and I found this from last Friday, which includes a song from this album, on which my awesome uncle played bass. So his band is officially somewhat famous. Neat!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Oh no oh no the political process is terrible

I mean, whatever. So we only get a choice between two candidates, or three this year, which is nice. And the debates are a sham, fine. I heard Beej and Scott Baumgardner talking about this, which is true: candidates only rehash like three points, and people all think what the candidates say. "Hillary has experience." "Obama wants change." Okay, so I'm going to vote for Obama because I want change. But it would be nice if I had a nice list of the issues and how they stand, so I could have a good reason to vote for a candidate instead of that candidate's sound bytes. Could someone bring up net neutrality or waterboarding? Then I'd get into it.

Also, here's where I show how I can see both sides of issues:
- Barack, shut up about how you voted against the war! Hell, I don't even know if I would have voted for the war or not if I'd been in the Senate at that time, based on the intelligence we had and my former political beliefs. It's true that I appreciate that a candidate has foresight and that, had he been president, we might not be mired in this mess. But it seems like he's basing a campaign on one ballot he happened to get right.
- New York Times, shut up about McCain. Now, I want a Dem to win as much as the next guy, but geez oh man, not because of sensationalistic "he had an affair!" stories. I am not going to try to say something clever about how remember that time Bill Clinton and etc. because that joke is too obvious but instead I will say SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Proof and Clones

Man, Proof was fun! I'm glad I was in it. The cast is a fun group, I mean, the tech staff is fun too. I got to hang out with family and friends this weekend, and everyone liked the show. What more can you ask for?

Also, while I'm on the subject of food, I'm going to vote that this is "probably not okay at all." Not being sarcastic; I really think it's probably not okay. I mean, we don't know what we're doing when it comes to cloning and its long-term effects, right? And if they try to narrow the herd down to the tastiest cows, that decreases genetic diversity, which is probably a bad thing.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Also, fuck college apps (this post is less important than my previous post)

I'm so glad they're over, and that I never have to fill out an application proving myself AS A PERSON again. It's messed with my mind enough. Sometimes I'll grumble about the job search process, and how they don't care if you're a good guy or not as long as you have a nice few letters on your resume (like CMU BS CS) and can reverse a linked list in under a minute. But it's a hell of a lot better than the college app process, which still messes with my mind, because it puts up a metric to judge yourself (not just your scholastic abilities) against.

I think. I don't know. Sometimes I go back and forth, and I rationalize that I DO want to be the kind of person that the ideal college app would like, a well-rounded involved leader blah blah, but sometimes I say it's (to quote The Lounge) "so fucked" because, to use Java metaphors, Person does not implement Comparable, nor should there be any Comparator that takes two Persons as arguments.

But please, ignore this whine and look at the next post about NET NEUTRALITY. Especially if you are a lawmaker.

Oh my god net neutrality.

If you don't know what net neutrality is, click the link or keep reading. In my understanding of net neutrality, the idea is that we'd have some sort of law to prevent, say, the ISP's from blocking or restricting traffic to certain sites.

That's a good idea, right? Of course it's a good idea! The fact that we're even debating whether or not it's a good idea is terrifying!

Let me phrase this like a congressional bill, because maybe Gerrit will get a kick out of it.

WHEREAS the internet is one of the best things the world has going for it right now (see as evidence Wikipedia and OLPC and CiteSeer and, well, Google),

and whereas If we allow Comcast and Verizon and etc. to decide which websites are blocked or whatever, the Internet will become the next TV or radio,

and whereas Clearchannel sucks a lot,

Therefore be it resolved that net neutrality is a good thing, goddamn it.

Anyway, there's a bill going through the house or senate, I dunno, and I don't know a damn thing about governments besides TELL YOUR CONGRESSPERSON TO SUPPORT THIS BILL BECAUSE IT SUPPORTS NET NEUTRALITY.

Seriously. There are only a few things I feel really strongly about (like waterboarding, and bicycling, and eating well (hey, two of those three are fun things, and the third sounds like it should be a fun thing, but it is really USA-legal torture!)) but this is one of them.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Rock Band.

So I go over to Aaron and Greg's house to play some video games because Mike Yin's in town. I remember they have this new Rock Band thing that all the kids are talking about. Hey guys, I say, you want to play Rock Band? Sure. So they bring out:
An XBox control
A microphone
Two guitars
A drum set (complete with homemade bass drum pedal)
A disco ball
A strobe light

I'm entirely* sold on the game. {
  • *by "entirely" I mean like 90%, because the strength of this game really depends on the songs- it's a lot more fun if you have a good song. And now I know they're never going to make a "21st-Century-Indie-Pop-Hero (Plus Some 90's)*" (with accordion so you can play along with Beirut, the Decemberists, and They Might Be Giants), and given that, they've made a pretty decent song list! See:
  • "Go with the Flow" by Queens of the Stone Age
  • "Suffragette City" by David Bowie
  • "Roam" by the B-52's
  • "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • and freakin' "Electric Version" by the New Pornographers! {
    • why won't they? You can imagine them releasing the API (or whatever you'd call it) for making a song, and people making their own songs and playing them on Rock Band. Why not?
  • }
(I guess I want code blocks in my blog posts. Who knew?)

Also, apparently you can buy a fog machine, strobe light, and disco ball as a Rock Band accessory. When Aaron and Greg heard about this, they reportedly said, screw that, we already own a fog machine, strobe light, and disco ball. --> Aaron and Greg are heroes.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Food, Bar, and this post is totally not about programming

I just noticed this book on Amazon. I'm intrigued. For those of you too lazy to click on the link, this guy made a nice little sound bite: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." He means to say that the modern Western/American diet (processed food, white flour, red meat, etc.) is bad for us and that people have come to believe in "nutritionism" (looking for vitamins and minerals; basically, looking at numbers too much). We've become focused on vitamin C, iron, and protein instead of bananas and spinach. And we Americans are so fat and unhealthy and blah blah. The cure? Don't eat so many preprocessed foods. Eat mostly plants. Buy higher quality food, eat less of it, care about your food instead of just shoveling it down.

I agree! I'm also not going to buy his book because it's self-defeating: in preaching simplicity, he's simplified his message to the point where you don't need to read the book. I think. But the point is, I agree with this guy.

Another side topic: Beej was talking about this ONQI thing, aka the "100 point nutritional scale" that I blogged about before. (a recap: the idea is, instead of (or maybe in addition to) the current nutrition label, we'd just have one with one number, 1-100, to tell you how healthy something is.) Pros: if it's implemented well, people might realize that all the processed stuff they're eating is unhealthy. Cons: if it's not implemented well, people might think that all the processed stuff they're eating is healthy.

See, what Michael Pollan is talking about (click on that link and read the article, he sounds like a champ) is the same thing I've heard from a lot of other people, and it makes sense. Use less pesticides, stop making everything out of corn and soybeans, don't eat mass-produced meat, don't eat all these added sugars and chemical nonsense, etc. Oh, and stop reading those numbers! We've grown accustomed to this idea of counting our food: counting calories, counting fat, counting protein, etc. Back in the 90's it was "fat is bad." Now it's "fat is fine, carbs are bad, protein is good." Oh, and fiber is good too. So just eat GoLean cereal, why don't you? Only 140 calories, 10g fiber, 13g protein! Who needs produce? After all, you won't get any protein in your watercress or pomegranates!

I guess what I'm trying to say is: if nutrition were just as easy as counting numbers, why couldn't you just eat every day a box of GoLean and a multivitamin and be totally healthy?

There are a lot of possible answers, including:
  • We haven't figured out all the vitamins and minerals that you need. There may be hundreds of different nutrients you need, and we're not going to be able to synthesize them all. So a multivitamin, tempting as all those "100% RDA"s may be, won't do it all.
  • Artificially produced vitamins aren't absorbed as well as those in food. NOTA BENE: I just made that up, I have no idea if it's true. I'm hypothesizing.
  • Nutrition is really just magic! I don't know why eating spinach works and eating vitamins doesn't, but that's the way it is!

Anyway, if you want to eat healthy, eating food, not too much, and mostly plants sounds like a good way to go.

But is there more to food than healthiness?

What if you don't want to eat healthy? Well, dammit, you should! But sometimes you don't. That's cool too. Our bodies are pretty miraculously flexible, and I feel like they can deal with a lot of crappy food. Just maybe not as much as the average American puts into them. Whatever. Sometimes it's not all about health. Let's consider some ways food can be good. It can be:
  • Healthy
  • Tasty
  • Convenient
  • Cheap
And I'm proposing that you can pretty easily get all but one. For example: all but healthy? Fast food. All but convenient? Cook your own! Home-cooked food can easily be healthy, tasty, and cheap. All but cheap? Well, that's a little trickier, but there's a lot of takeout places that you can get good stuff. Even Evgefstos in the UC is pretty good at this.

But all but tasty? That's the question I aimed to tackle. See, I like Clif bars. And any other "energy bar"- I like food that's convenient, tasty, and cheap. And I can sometimes convince myself that it's healthy. (look at all that fiber and protein!) But look at the ingredients list sometime. Disregard the "made with organic oats and soybeans" badge on the front. Yeah, it's processed stuff just like any other shelf-stable packaged food. So I set out on the same path that the Clif bar inventor did: I aimed to make my own.

And if I'm in the middle of a long day on campus, I'll take all of the above except tasty. Granted, I love to care about food. But sometimes I have to be on campus all day, and I may not have time for a meal. So give me something that's healthy and convenient, and don't let me get into the habit of paying $5-7 each for lunch and dinner.

So I embark on Project Bar.

What was the result? A bar made of almost-equal amounts of whole wheat flour and pureed spinach and peas. Sprinkled with pistachios and dried blueberries. A couple eggs and baking powder so they weren't bricks. No added sugars (except for those in the blueberries, and there weren't really that many blueberries). I found them surprisingly palatable! (Of course, I also eat herring-and-sour-cream sandwiches on walnut bread, so I may be a bad judge of taste.) Anyway, I don't think anyone else would like these bars, but screw them, they're for me! And they're pretty healthy. Although I aim to make them better! I'm thinking for Bar v2.0, I may toss the blueberries (the only sweet ingredient) and make them more savory. Or maybe not; I'm eyeing grated carrots, beets, and perhaps mashed sweet potatoes as a way to keep them interesting. The pistachios are out; peanut butter may go in. If you'd like more updates on Project Bar, let me know. And once I perfect the recipe (or at least get something that other people might find edible) I could make you a batch! You, too, can eat healthily, cheaply, and conveniently!