Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lists dovetailing into other lists: comics, phones, Cranium

Number of comics in the good-old-fashioned dead-tree newspaper here in Cleveland today that are about trying to party on new year's but going to sleep early: 6.

What does that tell us?
- dead-tree comic writers are old
- their comics are really really really not funny ever
- they are so out of ideas
- newspapers are truly on their way out
- oh my god traditional comics are so bad (Get Fuzzy and maybe Frazz excepted)
- quit reading newspapers, get on the internet, and by the way get an Android phone; it is now better than the iphone*
- you should do what you want on New Year's; partying for the sake of partying is just as lame as buying christmas presents for the sake of buying christmas presents.

* so I've got an Android phone now. And I like it better than the iphone. I'm biased because I work for Google and the open Android Market is better ideologically than the apple-approved App Store. But in case those reasons do not convince you:
- the hardware is just as good as the iphone's
- driving directions is maybe the killer app; it is literally a Garmin
- haptic response (it shakes a little when you press a button)
- voice-powered everything
- i've already found a game I'm hooked onto (Robo Defense)
I think the tides are turning, and these are the first days that android > iphone. As more developers make more android apps, this will only get better. New phone? Make it an Android.

And speaking of games, I will list reasons that Cranium is not a good board game:
- most of the time is waiting. You sit out half the time or more (when it's not your turn). This is the good ol' American Risk-Monopoly-Clue model, and as we all know, it quite sucks.
- even in the time that is not waiting, you spend a lot of time reading instructions. 4 colors times 4 types of card per color = 16 games to learn. Even if you know them, other people don't, so you must explain them all. Compare that to Pictionary, where you pull a card and you know what to do immediately.
- the roll-and-move structure is flawed. You feel screwed by a random god when someone rolls a purple and jumps you.
- the inner-track-outer-track is terribly flawed! Given that you win the card, say, 80% of the time, what other game gives you such an easy way to lose big instantly? Miss your first question on the first brain, get on the outer track, and well I guess maybe you might win the next game. (I've heard that later Cranium editions have skipped the outer track, so I guess they've fixed this one.)
- the brain-in-the-center win condition feels like molasses. Oh hey I got all the way around, I'm going to win! ... in four turns, maybe. Bleh!
- as I've mentioned, you win the card 80% of the time. So when you lose it, it feels really bad. And some cards are orders of magnitude harder than others, so sometimes you will randomly lose.
- Charades and Pictionary are roughly equivalent games. Trivial pursuit is not; figuring out the answer to a question is less fun than acting a charade. "Word worm" is also not. Spelling bee? Really? Are you saying it's as much fun for a team to pick one person to spell a word, as it is to draw and guess a Pictionary?
- the cards are dated, already. I am 23 years old. If a game is going to come in hip flashy colors, but still have songs and actors from before I was born, that is a flaw. Thrice in the last game with me, my sister, my mom, and my uncle, we had to skip a card because it was too old. Are families supposed to play this? How will the kids have a chance?
- the clay goes stale. Don't make a perishable game. Didn't we learn from The Grape Escape?
- finally, it takes a long time.

Boy, I did not think I could actually come up with this many reasons. Err, have fun playing Cranium at your New Year's parties tonight! (for the record, if you're looking for better games: Catch Phrase, Time's Up/Identity Crisis, uhh Pictionary or Charades, and if you like word games then Bananagrams or of course Boggle.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

How To Get Awesome, or, those "my brain is a computer" jokes are not at all jokes.

Happy blahblah! Christmas has passed, and as long as you didn't spend the weekend drinken de kerstman onder tafel, you're ready for the New Year. Perhaps you'll make resolutions. But you know those don't work, so perhaps you'll make resolutions knowing that they won't work. Or perhaps you're sick of pessimism, so you're convincing yourself that this is the year that your resolutions will work, and you're making a resolution to keep your resolutions.

Here's my challenge to you: make ONE resolution. You can keep one resolution. You probably can't keep ten or five or three resolutions. Why not? The same reason you can bench press 100 lbs but not 200 or 1000 lbs. Start small. Stay small, until it's second nature. Even do something that's not even that meaningful, but do it! Your willpower is limited, and it's not because you're a bad dude. It's because your brain is subject to the same chemicals etc as the rest of ours.

Super interesting, right? Even willpower, this very "human" thing, is sorta just a basic mechanistic thing that is controlled by your brain.

Also this is neat: a map of how remote places are. Enjoy your days, I'm feeling pretty happy and excited about life, thank you for everything, etc. I have a cold so I may go nap.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You weren't there that day for the Naming of Things

Naming things at work is hard. I mean, and at home, and everywhere. Say I'm working on a project to resize videos (to pick some random thing out of the air)- what should I call it? Video Resizer? Video Shrinker? I'm sure these are both taken. Or if it were an XML parser, or whatever: I'm sure every single configuration of the words "xml", "parser", "interpreter", "understander", etc is also taken. It gets worse when you have to name every class you write, every binary you make, every concept you think about ("this project frings the glorbs. no, it doesn't really fring them, it first slarfs them and then it frings them, so it's really a GlorbSlarferAndFringer").

The internet hit this problem with domain names, kind of. And links. A temporary solution: everyone uses url-shortened links. Instead of "hey go to (long website name)" it's "go to this bitly link". What if we did the same thing at work? Every project, every idea, every time you need an abstract name for something simple, you just pick a short, recognizable word with no attachments. I need a binary to connect to this DB and slurp out this information and send it to a server somewhere? Call it "Whortle". I'm sure there's nothing at work called "whortle." How about something to read in a feed of some data and compute some thing for each account? "Polyrhythm". Then there's a globally-accessible dictionary somewhere that tells you what these things mean.

Better yet, invent a set of nonsense words. Or use Pokemons.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oll Raigth!

I've realized two things recently, and the second is more fun than the first:

1. My whole complicated relationship with Christmas? It's not really some high and mighty deal against consumerism or mindless waste or whatever (although those are bad too). It's really just because Christmas is complicated, and I don't want more complications in my life. Receiving presents is nice, but it doesn't make up for the difficult process of buying presents, so I'd rather do neither. Similarly, a nice gemutlich Christmas atmosphere is nice, but it's not worth the struggle to decorate for Christmas (and own so many more things), so I would not like to do that.

Which is not to say it's not worth it to go all out to do hard things. Quite the contrary; it is SO worth it to go all out to do hard things, even if it's only because they are hard! I just want to do them on my own terms: I'll create a nice atmosphere in my house, but it's for a flaming wine party or a dinner with friends, and mostly achieved through food and drink. If someone else wants to decorate, that's great, but that's their task. In this sense, I'd put in the effort to do something cool, but I'd enjoy it, instead of being forced into it by custom. Christmas rolls around and I am forced into someone else's idea of a task.

So, no worries, I'll play along in the presents-buying game a little bit. Still, simplicity simplicity simplicity! That is what I would like for Christmas.

2. This is a most genius thing: Prisencolinen sinainciusol. Yeah it's worth your four minutes. I'm not even sure whether it's funny or terrifying! But any way you slice it, it's undoubtedly the single best song with one chord, constant 4-square beats, and a structure of "verse chant verse chant harmonica-solo". A+!

EDIT: oh geez, I forgot to even mention WHY this was so great: it's fake-English gibberish. This Italian guy wrote this song, not in English, but to sound like English.

Friday, December 11, 2009


I was riding my bike, listening to French tapes, and I totally rolled an R! Like all casually, back of the throat sort of French-style R rolling, not the helicopter tongue-flapping front of the mouth R rolling that takes about twelve seconds. Least, I think I did it right; it sounded pretty good. This just goes to show that I, and you, can learn to do almost anything, and that all it takes is a little bit of regular practice.

It's going to be a good day.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bluetooth for my phone?

Bluetooth is hilarious. First of all, there's the game "Bluetooth or crazy?", which is almost as fun as "moose or fox?". Second, there's the linguistic usage of Bluetooth, where it has become an aspect of your phone instead of a separate thing: you get "bluetooth for your phone", you don't get "a bluetooth headset to use with your phone." It'd be like your phone getting super-calling-powers or x-ray vision or something; all of a sudden, your phone "has bluetooth."

Language geekery and sidewalk games aside, I'm interested to know what a Bluetooth headset can actually do. In my mind, it's this totally-programmable other interface to your phone; basically a headphone and microphone, minus a cord.

Here's what I want: I want to be Captain Picard. I want to be walking around, and then just say "Computer: call someone" or "Computer: make a note. I had a thought just now that I want to save for later" or even "Computer: run this python script that I wrote." And then the computer (which is sleeping) would turn on when it heard its name, and do the thing for me. And I'd like the computer to be able to contact me, too; ring a bell or something. And by "computer", I mean my iphone. Or maybe android phone, because I'm sure it's more customizable.

Any of you ever played or hacked around with a Bluetooth earpiece? Can a Bluetooth do this all for me? Is there something better than a Bluetooth that I should be using? Will I become a "bluetooth AND crazy"? Time will tell. Either way, within the next five years, I will be pretty disappointed if I can't say "computer, make it so."

Sunday, December 06, 2009

A little heavy philosophy for a Sunday

Okay, question 1. Is the world deterministic?

Answer 1. Yes. Neurons in my brain fire based on which chemicals they get which is from some other neuron, these things happened because atoms interacted in some way, the way in which they interact is prescribed by how physics works, etc. If the universe were to start over again right now, with the same starting conditions, it would end up the exact same way.

Do you agree? I do. And this is way more than a theoretical blahblah. It's super relevant, because it means that I don't have any say in what I do right now! It's all just physics in my brain! The same way that a cockroach seeks darkness because its few neurons fired, I "think" because my many neurons fired. Furthermore, there's not even any "I"! Wow. Now I sort of understand the whole "the world is all one, you're just a wave in the ocean," etc.

(Straw-man: What about radioactive atoms? They decay randomly!
Daniel: okay, fine, random, same as deterministic; the point is, I don't have a say in it all.)

Wow! Let me know what you think, and I'll continue this train of thought next post.

Friday, December 04, 2009

I was looking for some stuff

and I stumbled upon this essay by Paul Graham. I think it pretty well captures my view of stuff, but of course he says it better than I could. Two main points:
1. Having lots of stuff is not very good!
subpoint 1a. Stuff is not valuable.
subpoint 1b. Stuff in fact has negative value because then you have to think about it a lot.
2. Point #1 is not some grand truth.

Stuff these days is like dirt used to be. You kinda need some stuff (to build a mud hut or something) but if you have too much it's kind of bad. But if you're all "I don't like to have a lot of dirt", it's not some revolutionary idea and you're not automatically an enlightened hero. It's just true, and then you get on with your life.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Aaaaa too much!

Too Much #1: Information.

I think the main problem in my work is ... well, I don't know what it is! It's something between boredom and lack of concentration. Let's call it "frazzlement". Today I was working for a long time on a thing that took between 2 and 10 minutes to compile. I'd set it to go and then for 5 minutes I'd think about it a little bit and read the internet a little bit. 5 minutes later, I couldn't even remember what I was doing. Entirely frazzled. You can imagine, after a day of this, I'm fried to a crisp. My head is just spinning.

Those of you who have greater mental focus than I are probably nodding and saying "he needs to meditate more". Likely yes. (Check it out: I'm at a constant approx 2x10min per day! But it's chanting, which is maybe a little different?)

Anyway, tomorrow I will try an experiment: I will not read the internet at all. Even if it means I miss a Beartato.

Too Much #2: Food.

When I'm frazzled/bored, I snack on things, to the point where I can tell that my body is not super happy. I think that any degree of mental focus would help me with that. I'm not sure how to back up my assertion about this, because I am too frazzled to structure my argument well. Maybe tomorrow's experiment will bear fruit. If not, perhaps I will experiment with adding some for real meditation to the chanting. (or replacing it!)

Too Much #3: Worrying About Christmas.

Uhh here's the deal: I'm terrible at Christmas. I'm sorry. I'm sorry to the environment, to poor sweatshopmen, to rich unhappy people, to recently-bankrupt people, to hedonic treadmill runners and burned-out I-bankers, to priests and penguins, to oldmen who are wondering just why our society is so flashy and weird nowadays, for participating in this vicious cycle of consumerism. And I'm sorry to my family, to my friends, to tradition-lovers and genuine goodwill gift-givers, to retailers who want to make a living and parents who want a little magic for their kids, for worrying so much about the whole thing.

What's my beef with Christmas? It's not on the "giving" side, because I can control that. The only way the giving would be bad would be if I felt pressured to give someone something that I didn't want to, and I don't ever. It's on the "receiving" side; I don't want to receive a bunch of stuff. Why not? Is it the clutter factor? I can deal with that; give stuff away, etc. Is it the environment factor? Sure, but then, I do much worse things and much better things. Saying "my Christmas presents are killing the environment" is like saying "those four times I've smoked hookah in my life are killing my lungs". Is it the fact that people are giving their money to big soulless sweatshoppy corporations? Yeah, maybe, whatever, but goddammit, it's their money. It's not my responsibility, nor my right, to make them spend it fairly/locally/responsibly/etc.

So I hereby am resolving to try not to worry about Christmas presents at all this year. (did I say this last year too? if so, I re-resolve.) I'll buy you a present that I want to buy you. You can buy me one you want to buy me. Or not, that's fine too. Really. Honestly.

Too Much #4: computers today.

I do not want to count the number of hours I've spent staring at a computer screen today. Ow my eyes! Good night.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Widening the corridors and adding more lanes

Hey! It's that time again, when my music on my digital music playing device is all old. Because I get bored faster than an averageman, I want to seek out some new stuff now.

My musical tastes have remained largely unchanged for a few years: indie pop, with a good deal of electricity, happiness, and inventiveness. When I listed my top 10 most favorite albums over a year ago, they were: Animal Collective, Of Montreal, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Broken Social Scene, the Knife, Arcade Fire, The Go! Team, The Fiery Furnaces, Of Montreal, and Architecture in Helsinki. If I remade the list today, it would probably be about the same. Maybe I would try to squeeze a Talking Heads album in there.

Can you recommend me something that is not that genre? Perhaps you like an entirely different genre: the hip hops or the technoes or the country or the blues or the experimental jazz. Maybe it's 18th-century harpsichord music or 5th-century Gregorian chants, or West African djembe, or Finnish seal-hunting war cries! Whatever it is, I am throwing down this pledge: you name me up to two albums (and/or copy or give them to me, that would be particularly delightful, but just the names is fine too) and I will give them a good honest listening-to.

I can also return the favor if you'd like.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Comically bad service: united airlines.

Good morning. It is 6:30 am. Did I mention it's 6:30 am? Oh my god it's 6:30 am.


So I'm flying on United Airlines on January 5. You may be aware that this is in the future. Quite a ways, in fact. So I signed up for "United flight alerts" or whatever so that they can call me if my flight gets delayed. I don't usually, but I figure, well I guess I will want to know if my flight changes.

I get a phone call at 6:30 am. I go straight from deep sleep to high alert, because I am on call right now for work. There is a possibility that an automated system from some unknown phone number will call me and say "wake up, Dan, time to fix Google!" Aaah, the call is from an unknown phone number! And it's a mechanized voice saying "fix Google"... oh wait, no it's not. It's United Airlines, saying there's a schedule change to my upcoming flight. ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff-- I didn't mean to type those f's, I am just so tired my finger fell on them and I couldn't pick it back up.

united airlines what is it! i am not flying within 24 hours. it is not acceptable that you are calling me at 6 am when it is not urgent urgent urgent. aaargh
but I guess I'm awake, I might as well figure out when the flight is. I'm listening, automated system, when is it? "please call United at 1-800-..." what? you're making me call you to find out when it is? aargh I will check online.
Online: what's your frequent flyer # and password? here. No, wrong password, okay, there. On the itinerary: "there has been a schedule change. please call united." Argh! You can't just tell me here what it used to be and what it is now? gggggg

Okay I call United. I tried to zero out their system by saying "operator" in my I-am-tired voice. It tricked me! "Before we can connect you to an operator, we need to know what this is about. Is it about arrivals and departures, frequent flyer, ..." it even got me playing that game for a while, before I realize "I'm still fighting with a menu even though I said "operator!"" So I groan again. Operator. Oh please.

A nice Indian lady answers, and I'm like "do not take this out on her do not take this out on her do not take this out on her" so I'm about to start a reasonable request but unfortunately the first thing out of my mouth is "It's 6 AM where I live and this system has just woken me up" and so whatever, now she's in for my whole sad story whether either of us wanted me to tell her. luckily it is a short story: "The system said call United to find out what my schedule change is."
her: "first of all I want to apologize that this system has woken you up, it's an automated system that just keeps calling people" etc
me: "okay, right, file a bug because this is unacceptable." (did she think I'd just say "oh well, those rascally computers"?)
her: "let me look it up, what's your confirmation number?"
her: "okay. while it's loading, would you be interested in something something rental car?"
At this point I bust out laughing. Somehow I manage to sputter: "No! I am-- I am-- very mad right now! And you're trying to sell me something--" "I'm sorry sir--" "No! No thanks. No rental cars. Oh my geez."*
her: "okay. your flight change is: " and she describes the change. My flight is getting moved back FOUR MINUTES. And so is the connecting flight! I cannot imagine who would care about this!
me: (laughs and tries to make up for being an angryman on the phone, because that's a lame thing to do), "okay, sorry to take this out on you, goodbye, have a nice morning, or evening"
her: "okay, thanks. yeah, it's evening."

* the frustrating thing about interacting with people on scripts is that you have to be on a script too. I'm sure there's something on her flowchart that says "you may only respond with apologies and restatements of the question. you may not move on with this conversation until the customer says specifically 'yes I want a rental car' or 'no I do not want a rental car'."

Anyway, everyone knows United Airlines is the Worst Company, unless maybe it's US Airways, and yet we'll probably keep flying them and cursing them because they own the airplanes. So it's not even worth cursing them out here, or trying to convince you that they're terrible, so, two points only:

There's something poignant, or whatever the right word is, oh my god I'm tired, about this huge brutal system annoying me in Seattle and making her put up with annoyed people in India.
Did she really try to sell me a rental car?!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

There's not one quotable Fiery Furnaces lyric for this title

And there are a lot of Fiery Furnaces lyrics.

I just got back from their concert. Ah! So good! It entirely held my attention the whole time, even though I know most of their music. I guess part of that is because it's at breakneck speed all the time. And sputtered lyrics too fast for the music, and loud and skronky, with meters that don't make sense and stuff. I mean, it's not even enjoyable to listen to. But something about them is really quite incredible; something between their lyrics and their musicality and their prolificacy and their straight up weirdness. Don't get me wrong, they can make a nice tune like anyone (see "Evergreen", say) but sometimes they just rocket into the far reaches of the world ("Borneo") or the seas ("Blueberry Boat" and "Quay Cur"), there's magic ("Duplexes of the Dead") and bizarre religious practices ("Staring at the Steeple") and and and ... Vietnamese telephone ministries and tropical ice-lands and the Garfield El and ... I could go on all night but I'm tired. Listen to them! I recommend "Blueberry Boat" (of course...) and "Bitter Tea".

But I just diverged into why their recordings are great. I can't tell you why their live show was great. It was objectively not great listening. But it was like memorizing the dictionary, and then someone picking out a dozen great words. Every time I'd understand what they were playing, it was like "oh hey I remember that song". Also, they're crazy. Matthew Friedberger, the guitarist and main songwriter, didn't say almost anything the whole time, until he urged us to give a "hip hip hooray" for the drummer and the bassist. Eleanor Friedberger, his sister, sort of blankly stared while rambling out way too many lyrics for the syllables she had. And there was this crazy dude in the audience who kept putting up three fingers, then two fingers, then three fingers, as if this was a common dance move.

A+, ladies and gentlemen. A show well played. Off to bed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

All over the place.

I've heard a lot of advice about how to find your true calling etc, and most of it is very sensible, and along the lines of: "find something that you think might be your true calling, and try it." But I'm a little scatterbrained. Every week I find a bunch more things that I think "oh hey this would be very cool"- whether they're software, somewhat related to software, or completely off the wall. My question: how do you find the time to do them all? Lest you say "stop thinking about doing something and do something", I am, in at least three areas: work, cooking, and languages. Perhaps that's all there is; keep trying and it'll work out. At least I'm fairly certain that it will involve computers, cooking, and/or travel.

Unrelatedly, I'd like to repost a couple things from my friend Aditya's blog, because I think they're very cool and you might like them too:

David Foster Wallace's commencement address to Kenyon in 2005, because what's more inspiring than a commencement address? Also, the idea that "your liberal arts education has given you the ability to decide what to think"... fascinating! Talking about deciding what to think approaches psychology, and then in turn philosophy and spirituality.

And then here's a thing about mindfulness, from a psychological point of view. So there are two modes your mind can be in, narrative and direct, and those who meditate (or practice, commune with God, pray, train their minds) often can distinguish between the two modes more often. Sometimes I wish I read more psychology so I would learn more of this kind of stuff! Also, the scope of this drives me nuts: how does this fit in with all the million other theories of the brain?

Furthermore, and unrelatedly once again, while I'm thinking about scope, I was wondering the other day if scope is the main thing that makes programming difficult. And by "scope" I mean "holding all these scopes, and what words mean what in which places, in your mind." I could make a long example but I'm tired, so I'll just say "ponder this." Like I said, all over the place.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What I like about places, by induction.

In Bratislava, there's a guy who sells real Soviet pins and badges and awards. His shop is the size of a closet. He's somewhere in the old town, but he's hard to find, because streets are all twisty there. His hours are more or less unpredictable. My friend Vic alerted me to his existence; I finally found him the last day I was there. I bought two pins: one was an award for "best lawyer", one for "best builder," and spent the trip back wondering which one my dad would like better.

There's an area of Tokyo called the "Golden Gai." Not quite secret (it's in the Lonely Planet) but it felt like it. There were a bunch of bars with room for about 8 people each. Most of them were closed. In the center of skyscraper city (near Shinjuku I think?) this little city block of old-looking sorta-shabby little old houses still survives. Thanks to Ram, we both had a great time there. And some terrible drinks. (Pickled ume in a drink? Really?)

London! You might be stumbling around right smack in the center of your Underground map, by like Holborn and Covent Garden, and you might find yourself in a place called "Neal's Yard," and all of a sudden the London grayness (or rather, "greyness") vanishes and you're in this flowery colorful courtyard! With vegan hippie restaurants and stuff! Maybe this is a well-known place even, but I did not at all know it, and I dug it for its unexpectedness.

In Boston, there's an alley with a ton of pictures of saints. I guess if you get there at the right time, a guy who lives there will come out and talk to you about them. 's about all I know.

But these places might help me answer a question that always has confounded me: what do I want when I travel? I mean, authenticity, of course. Seeing a place like the locals do. Real connections with people. But there's two things about that: 1. I don't know how, and I don't know anyone who knows how, to do it well in a short time; and 2. I can't shake the feeling that it's a little gawky-weird*. So in lieu of, and in addition to that, we have experiences like the four above.

* so I don't really want to get into this, but it seems a little weird, like imperialistic even, to talk like this about "the locals". Who are you, that they'll want to hang out with you? Sheesh. Granted, if someone met me in Seattle, and wanted to talk to me about what it's like to live in Seattle, I'd be thrilled and honored! But I can't help feeling so very white everywhere I go, and that my desire to, say, strike up a conversation with a guy at a roadside stand in India would be met with confusion at best. Maybe this is just my insecurity talking, and this is kind of a discussion for another time. Anyway...

What do these four experiences have in common? They're awesome, they're unique, and they're hidden. It's sort of like why I'd rather live in Pittsburgh than in New York City. If you meet someone in some random place and start talking about Pittsburgh, it's great! If you're from New York, well, sure, everyone's been to New York. If I talk to you about the Eiffel Tower, because we both saw it and it is big and stuff, meh. But if you also saw that dude in Bratislava, and talked to him in broken English about Soviet prizes, then we have a connection.

But it's not just for the talking-about-it that I like these things. There's something more there, and I can't quite put my finger on it. Something like "I am seeing this, and not many other people are, and it's amazing. I have discovered an untouched corner in the world. Neat."

So! You should come visit me. I'll try to show you some hidden parts of Seattle. And then I'll come visit you, and you show me the awesome hidden parts of your city. This will be so much better than going up in the Space Needle.

EDIT: I forgot, I wanted to include this in the discussion. I hope I find a Toynbee Tile someday.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Webcomics evolution wonder! Absolutely hooray for this!

Sorry, I'm just further scattering your brain, and not contributing anything useful but but but but (deep breath) this is so good.

Okay, so you know Dinosaur Comics.

And you know Garfield Minus Garfield.

Stop for a moment if you don't know Dinosaur Comics or Garfield Minus Garfield. You gotta know these. They're both genius. Read a bunch. Okay, now you may continue:

T-Rex is Lonely Comics.

SUPER YES. I am glad that the world of webcomics has come to this. It's entirely a webcomics inside joke. I feel like this must be how like Mondrian felt or something, when he just took some existing art and broke it down to its bare fundamentals and he's like "hey this is a tree" and everyone else is like "what are you doing." You look at T-Rex is Lonely Comics and you're like "what the hell" but it's SO GOOD because you know the backstory...

HOLD UP it just got better. I didn't realize they were munged from EXISTING DINOSAUR COMICS.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Daylight Savings Time Happened, and Overreading

Last night was apparently Fall Back night, of the "spring forward fall back" variety.

Time zones don't make any sense. You know? (pardon me if I've ranted this to you before. (they're particularly irksome to me due to a year-long bug at work. anyway:) Why is it that we all have to have the privilege of waking up at 8AM and going to sleep at midnight? Why can't we just say, okay, UTC (or GMT for you non-time-zone-wonks) is it, and maybe in Britain the sun rises at 6AM and sets at 8PM, but in EST it rises at 1AM and sets at 3PM, and here in PST it rises at 10PM and sets at 12 "noon". No worries, you'd get used to it.

Supposedly they exist to make the trains work. What?! That's the most nonsense: the only thing time zones could to trains is screw them up. Instead of "I'm arriving in Cleveland at 5pm" I'd have to say "I'm arriving in Cleveland at 5pm my time; that's 8pm your time"; and good grief if I'm in America talking to someone in India about a train in Europe. And yeah, they make extra complication in software, which is almost always bad.

And now Daylight Savings Time too, which makes things even worse. Longer evenings for farmers etc, and now we just like it because it's nice in the summer; whatever. All it really ever does is make us miss church one more Sunday every year. (of course I never reminded my parents.)

So what happens last night? DST happens. And because my only clocks are my phone and my computer, thanks to the internet, I don't even notice. Wow! Maybe technology can save us after all! (although it really feels like a band-aid instead of fixing the bug, which is also almost always bad.)

End topic one. Begin topic two. Dan's prediction of the day: information is the new food.

Remember back in the day, like all of human history until like 100 years ago for some countries, it was always a struggle to get enough food? And now we have so much food all the time, and we're just going on this raging bender and making ourselves sick? Look at information: until like 10 years ago, it was a struggle to get enough information, and now we have so much information all the time, and we're just taking it in, more and more.

After a point, I stop comprehending and appreciating. Reading RSS feeds does this for sure: I just click through and read them all because they're there. I often couldn't tell you what I just read. It's a kinda icky pattern; whenever I'm at a computer and not totally immediately gratified, I check my email, and if there's nothing there, I check my google reader. At the end of any given day, especially a work day, my mind feels all strung-out and awful. Sort of like overeating.

Diabetes is on the rise; how's ADD?

There are more parallels too: used to be that everyone made a little information/media: they told stories around the campfire or whatever. Then corporations got in the game and a bunch of Americans stopped making information and started watching TV. Nowadays, everyone can generate media again. Same as food: everyone used to cook, then everyone bought fast food, now people are realizing that's a bad idea and starting to make their own food again. There's junk information (say, People magazine, reality TV, arguably video games) just like there's junk food.

Subtopics for further discussion:
- where does Google fit in? Am I working for tomorrow's McDonald's? (I think not; if anything, I'm working for tomorrow's super-grocery-store. and while the farmer's market is better than the grocery store, the grocery store is sure better than the convenience mart, or no food at all.)
- would adjusting our information intake fix most of our scattered 21st-century brains, just like adjusting our food intake would fix most of our messed-up 21st-century bodies?
- has anyone else thought this?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Toilets and Pagers

I just read "No Impact Man" and it was very good. He was really earnest and yet easy to relate to. And he did some things that made me think. I don't plan on turning off my electricity anytime soon, but I realized that I ought to start making small improvements one by one, because that way I'll actually get to a way of life where I use a lot less than now. (it's worked for some areas of my life: daily language practice and "no desserts alone" have stuck.)

So, small improvement number one (no pun intended): I won't flush if I pee. Eww, right? No! It's not really gross. "Gross" is arbitrary and self-reinforcing, and so the more people who don't flush when they pee, the more commonplace it'll become, and the less "gross" people will think it is.

Small improvement number two (pending): find a straight razor! Save a few disposable plastic things, and become a badass in the process.

On another topic, I think I've been quite a whiner about pagers, so I'd like to formally man up and quit sniveling. (backstory: I'm going to start having to carry a pager 1/5 of the time for work, so I was complaining a lot.) I ended up standing only on principle. I maintain this principle, I maintain that I'd rather not carry a pager and it should be doable to live without pagers, and I maintain the right to retract this whole post in the future, but the actual downside in my particular case will be probably pretty small. And I've never even tried it! Maybe it is kind of satisfying.

I think a big mental block is that I saw it as somehow shameful. Like "this idiot is working too hard, he's got his work/life balance out of whack" or "this poor shmoe carries a pager because he doesn't value his free time enough". Maybe. Or maybe they're putting in the work for a project they care about.

Finally, the rest of the job is pretty good, so I can't really complain. Bring it on! I'll keep your Google Analytics coming to you 23.999/7! I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sockmeisters, breathe your socky wisdom into me

Really. I need some socks. Sandals weather has ended and my beautiful Zorro tan on my feet will begin to fade. (well, "Sorro" on my left foot I guess.)

Foot comfort is paramount to entire body comfort! If your socks don't breathe, you'll feel all clammy; if they have holes, well, it's kind of crummy. And let's not even get started with wet socks (among the worst things that exist).

Furthermore, foot style is paramount to entire body style. And I don't just mean shoes, although if you can recommend any sweet clogs (or other no-hands shoes) too I would be quite intrigued. The socks make the man! I present as evidence Brian "Argyle socks" Gray.

I would like some socks that are super-comfortable for indoor and outdoor weather (not super-heavy mountaineering socks), breathe nicely, and have some color and/or pattern. Price is not as important. I'll take recommendations of fabrics, brands, guidelines, whatever you've got.

I've already tried some Smartwool everyday socks, for the record, and they seemed kind of clammy and too warm. Plus they look like they're falling apart after once in the washer/dryer. Every cheap sock I've bought has been thin and awful. I'm still rocking a couple pairs of many-year-old Champions, and they're surprisingly nice, but they're white athletic socks.

In return for your recommendations of socks, I'll offer some wisdom from some other people that I agree with:
"I know it intellectually but I don't really feel it." If you talk to me a lot ever you must have heard me say this.
"Avoid feature creep in everything." This goes two ways for me: I hate feature creep in software so I really hate it in my life, and I hate feature creep in my life so I really hate it in software.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Five questions for two religions and one group of people

Dear Christianity,
Why do you have this belief that people are inherently not good?

Dear Zen Buddhism,
Why do you put such emphasis on the instantaneous one moment of enlightenment ("Kensho")? Okay, I guess I can see the emphasis; I imagine such an experience would be worth the years you put into it. But how are people supposed to follow Zen with no promise of said enlightenment? Furthermore, is it still worth following even if you can't sit in a monastery and contemplate "Mu" for six years and reach this Kensho?
(readers may note that I am like four pages into "The Gateless Gate".)

Dear history scholars,
If Christianity posits that we are all sinners in the hands of an angry god, and Buddhism posits that we all have a Buddha-nature within us, is this a cause or an effect of the differences between the Eastern and Western world?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yeah, this guy!, rip city, pagers, and huge top N lists!

Umair Haque sounds a rallying cry for idealism, collaboration, and more of the same things that I like a lot. And disses the entire older generation. (well, not all of them, just some.)

Portland is fun. Daniel and I went there last weekend. We hung out with Henry, and went to brunch, and went to a movie and drank beer, and went to a couple of parties, and went hiking, and I went to Powell's books. Far as I can tell, these are the quintessential Portland things, and I quite enjoy them.

Another note to my college self: if you go into software development in the web apps world, well, web apps have to be up 24/7. Someone has to carry a pager, and if the app goes down at 2 AM, someone is going to get paged. That someone might be you. It might not; your team might not have to deal with it. But you might. Just so's you know.

And in other news, Pitchfork released their "top 200 albums of the decade." AND the "top 500 tracks of the decade". Yeah, there's quibbling to be done*. But still, I look at the list as a whole and I am happy! This is my music! I can intelligently debate it, and I can look back and relive it. I can get shivers reading the top 50 songs. And I will be proud to tell some young whippersnappers in a half century about how they made good music back in my day.

* Blueberry Boat down at 140-something, In Case We Die not even on the list, Hey Ya not being #1, the weird half-assed hip-hop coverage that Pitchfork is known for, that weird ironic(?) coverage of mainstream pop like "since u been gone", and... Kid A? Really? Come on, giving Radiohead the best albums of two decades is critical laziness. Sheesh.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quick post from a slow day at work

Things that are cool, two out of three of which are in the "most popular" on the NY times today:
Zen Vegetarian Cooking (which I've not actually used yet but I'm going to tonight)
Social Cognitive Neuroscience (which I don't actually know a damn thing about but it seems cool)
Things that are hilarious because these people are crazy (right? I mean, they're just insane, right? but are they really?):
I have a problem with the idea that "traveling back in time and killing your grandfather is a paradox, but traveling back in time and saving your grandfather's life is not a paradox". What sort of universal rule of physics etc would understand that some changes you make in the past are harmless but some would unravel space and time?
But then, I don't know from physics, so I'll refrain from commenting.

Finally, after a week or so trial period, I think I'll actually swear off desserts, but as always with me and food it's nuanced:
- it's about the food itself, not the role it's playing. So if someone serves fruit as dessert, I'll gladly eat it. Really, it's a "refined sugar" thing.
- similarly, refined flour is also out. But it's not 100% out because so many things have some refined flour. I'll just take a much more careful look at anytime I would eat refined flour.
- only things with non-trivial amounts of refined sugar are out; I'm not giving up, say, a half teaspoon of Sriracha.
- booze is straight sugar, and I'm not giving up alcohol. But I mostly drink beer anyway, which is healthier than liquor (debate postponed for another day), and pair this with the next rule:
- biggest nuance, which makes this all a lot wussier but also more better for real life by solving the "birthday cake" problem: I'm not giving up all desserts, I'm giving up all desserts alone. If it's a celebration or something, great! Or even if I'm out for friends with ice cream.
You may snicker, but adopting this very complex "rule" will probably cut my white sugar/white flour intake by ... 80%? Good enough for me.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

How much things cost

Part 1 in a series that I'll publish every so often entitled "things I wish I knew in college." (not that I'm in the "real world" and oh me oh my it's so difficult. it's not. it's different. just things I did not previously understand...)

What do things cost in the real world? Note that this is slightly different from actually discussing finances, because that's gauche in person, let alone on the web. I'll just explain how much I spend on things. I hope this might help you if you're still in college.

My apartment, in Capitol Hill, Seattle, pretty much in the epicenter of places I want to live, trendy hip and close to everything, half of a 1000 sq. ft. 2br 2ba sweet pad with a big kitchen and a hell of a sunset view: $850 + utilities (about $100) per month. Used to be $975 + utilities, until the market for everything collapsed. (this is expensive: it's $1700 total. Most apartments around here cost $1600 or less. It's pretty spacious, built in the 90's, and we've never had any problems with water, heat, utilities, anything. Yes, maybe we could pay less... but maybe also we could frustrate ourselves trying to find a "better deal". I'm currently not optimizing here.)

Travel: $6300. That's 2 weeks in India, 1 week in Japan, 2 flights to Pittsburgh, 1 flight to Chicago/Cleveland for Christmas, a car trip to Hocking Hills, 2 Zipcar trips to Portland, and a trip to Burning Man. I like to think I'm pretty frugal, but trips are expensive, especially if you have to fit them into a workingman's schedule. (for example: 1 week in Japan was maybe $1700, but $1200 of that was a plane ticket.) Nevertheless, travel is something I will always spend money on if I can afford it.

Groceries: $200/month. I shop at farmers' markets and coops. However, I also eat close to half my meals at Google, so that's not really fair. Take this number with a grain of Portuguese fleur de sel.

Entertainment: $470/month. I don't really economize much here either. This is my biggest expense, after housing and travel. Strange, eh? A lot of this is meals or drinks, although it also includes classes and any "extracurriculars" I do.

Bike upkeep: $185/year. Per year! You could pay that for parking in 2 months. And this is a bike I rode for about 8 miles every day. (I should have probably spent a little more; I let my chain get too worn out and it wore down my gears, so I'll be due for a $150 hit soon enough. Still a lot cheaper than a car, though.)

A quality suit and 2 shirts and ties: $582
A nice overcoat: $100 (on a big sale)
A pair of hiking shoes: $100
The rest of my clothing expenses for the year: $181

Medicine/health/things: $172/month. Most of this is probably because, in January, I started going to a counselor for $75/week, and later found out my insurance wouldn't cover him because he's not in their system. Pro tip: most counselors are probably pretty good, so if you want to go to one, check and see if he/she's in your insurance plan (if you're lucky enough to have one) first.

Total expenses for one year of living without worrying about money at all: $31072.

Do I feel a little uneasy at this number? (Considering that many families live on less than this?) Yes. Especially the entertainment and housing costs: what kind of a hedonistic life am I leading? But total up your own numbers; I wonder if many of you aren't paying the same. And if you are, don't necessarily sweat it. Quality is worth it; quality of things, quality of experiences, quality of life. "Money can't buy happiness, but it can make life a lot easier" -Gramp. I don't think I go to tremendous excesses, I save plenty, and I don't have to worry about money, which is the end goal of having a high-paying job. If the finances could work out this well forever, I'd have no complaints at all.

Again, the point of this is not to brag or complain about my own expenses (although I do get a little kick out of telling you how little my transportation costs). It's intended for those of you who are not in "the real world" yet, so you have some idea of how much things cost me in particular. YMMV etc. It may also interest those of you who are in "the real world", to have a point of comparison, say if you live in another city or something.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What I do with about 25% of my life

Sometimes people ask "what do you DO as a software engineer?" (not often. it's not really sexy or really confusing. but it's a little of both, and sometimes people are trying to make conversation.)

Well, it's about 25% coding, 25% organization, and 25% looking stuff up.

Coding: this is "doing things." Ever take a programming class? it's kind of like that. I'm writing mostly java code to put little buttons on pages or deal with objects and save them to databases or call other services and stuff. Sometimes it's a little complex, but the real codey code is nothing that you couldn't learn in a year in college. This, incidentally, is the fun part. This is the part where I (like every engineer) am a wizard! Where entire worlds flow forth from my fingertips like Zeus's lightning! Where I merely cough and mountains of data get processed into pudding! Where I make furniture fly and books flap in your face like that haunted room in Poltergeist! It's a real kick when I actually get to write code.

Organization: this is "doing things right". There's a million ways to sort a list, say, but half of them are horribly slow. And you wouldn't even know it until you tried it on a list of a million things. You could also call this "software engineering". Knowing which algorithms or data structures to use when, knowing what will be easier to reuse in the future, structuring your code so it's easy to read, making tradeoffs for speed and efficiency. This is a thing I almost never learned in school. Or maybe they alluded to it in some classes (like "you should really write unit tests", say) but we never actually worked on it. And it is kind of fun.

Looking things up: this is "figuring out how to do things". It's a weird job where, if you don't know how to do something, the answer is "google it." (or maybe that's not so weird anymore.) Sometimes it's "I need to understand this concept" (like asynchronous RPC's or dependency injection); this is sometimes kind of fun because I feel like I'm "leveling up" every time I can do a new thing. Sometimes it's "argh what is this thing called, I know what I need I just don't know the exact syntax" and that is not fun at all. One could argue that my quibbling here is BS: if I don't know the exact syntax, I don't actually know the thing. You don't actually know something until you implement it. This is the same school that advocates actual writing code during job interviews. I think I partially agree. (Looking Things Up is still boring though.)

And maybe 25% is just overhead/meetings/tech talks/etc. So it goes.

And this is why working on my own projects is fun too, because it's a different balance. At work, everyone's done all the easy parts, and we have to polish a lot around the edges. When I'm coding on my own, I can just put on my welding goggles and call forth a firestorm of code. But the cool part about the Organization and the Looking Things Up is that it gives me new spells in my spellbook, so next time I want to do a side project, I can cast a friggin' meteor swarm instead of just a magic missile.

Add it all up, it is a pretty good deal. And I have the jitters from summoning fiery code demons today and yesterday. Boy am I tired.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A few things that have happened

1. Decibel Festival. I went to a show that made me question whether I actually do like electronic music. Then I saw a couple DJs who just blew me away: Nosaj Thing and Daedelus. (and a few I kind of liked: Noah Pred, Mary Anne Hobbs, Gaslamp Killer) Check them out if your musical tastes align with mine.

2. David Byrne and a panel of (older) Seattle bicycle wonks. Byrne talked for like 15 minutes about "here are some cool photos of bicycle things and cities that I've seen" and the Seattlers gave vague sermons to the choir about how we need to have fewer highways and more bike lanes, etc. So I'm maybe biased because I consider "you dance like David Byrne" to be one of the highest compliments I've ever received, but I'd rather have heard him talk about what happened to him on the way to the talk than hear these yuk-yuks. (and I agree with them even! shoot...)
To unify this thought with my current life theme: they weren't compassionate. It was all "bike people vs. car people" and "Hummer (boooooo)" and "bike parking (yayyy)". Look, you drive in cars sometimes too. (to say nothing of planes.) Let he who can transport a bookshelf on his bicycle cast the first stone!

3. I made (well, am making) a small web app. Daniel sent me this article. That is a cool thought! "It doesn't scale" doesn't necessarily have to be the end-all be-all of software quality metrics anymore! Huh. I'd really like to take this idea and run somewhere with it. (although first I should finish my small web app.) I think I will ruminate on this later. I will say that using App Engine + GWT hits that sweet spot (for me) of a project that's like 80% stuff I know and 20% stuff I don't, where I'm still learning something but it's really fun to work on.

4. I am also making small incremental improvements to my life. As of about a week ago, I am assiduously writing down my dreams. As of today, I am drinking tea at work instead of coffee. And I am honestly debating giving up desserts. So here's a thing: my dad has started eating very healthily recently, just cold-turkey on junk food and sugar and stuff, and I figure, if he can do it, why not me? Plus, it'd be a little show of solidarity, a bit of a mindfulness thing (like kosher laws), and it can't hurt.
It's a good feeling. I am trying not to overextend myself (because it sucks to try too many things at once and then they all come crashing down) but it's really nice to be making constant small amounts of progress. See also: daily chanting.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Do you like electronic music?

Oh, also, do you live in Seattle? If both are "yes", let me know, as the Decibel Festival is happening this weekend, and we should go to a show or two.
Sincerely, Dan, who has very few electronic-musically-inclined friends.

Friday, September 18, 2009

So, this Nichiren Buddhism

... is about happiness. Speaking of which, before I forget, an article about how people judge other people's lives all the time, oh geez I do that too, or at least I used to, but it's really unproductive and will make you miserable.

Uh, back on track. Nichiren Buddhism. I found out about it at Burning Man. Check that; I found out about it years ago, from a guy named Matt in a hostel called the Rambutan in Granada. Then I forgot about it because it wasn't nearby. Previously, I had dallied briefly with Zen but did not understand it at all (and neither did anyone else). After I returned from Europe, I didn't follow anything, then I went to a Theravada monastery for a weekend and then meditated for a few months but thought it wasn't helping, took a break for a few months, and now here I am. Buddhism, take three.

Nichiren Buddhism: outwardly, their big deal is chanting. Twice a day, they chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo repeatedly. Rough translation: Nam is Sanskrit for "I dedicate myself to", Myoho Renge Kyo is Japanese for "the Lotus Sutra", or "the law of cause and effect." The Lotus Sutra was the Buddha's biggest best teaching, where he laid down the real truth and said "everything up to now has really just been preparation so you were ready to hear this." So twice a day, you chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and read part of the Lotus Sutra and offer prayers.

But saying "Nichiren Buddhism is about chanting" is like saying "Catholicism is about Mass." It kind of is, really. But it's not; the mass/chanting is just the way to practice the religion. What do they believe? Well, for starters, enlightenment is for everyone, everyone has a Buddha-nature, and you don't even have to go become a monk to find it. It's a relatively recent Buddhism (700 years old or so) founded (by a guy named Nichiren) in response to strict, elite, arduous Zen.

Chanting is meditation. Don't get hung up on the difference between sitting + chanting, and just sitting; it's a way to focus your mind, I guess. But they do emphasize different things; the Theravadans go for "mindfulness", where you see your thoughts, watch them, and let them go, while the Nichirenites chant to bring out your inner Buddha self. It's the same, really: your Buddha nature is mindful; if you are mindful, you'll realize the Buddha is within you.

Another big thought: remember how I mentioned the law of cause and effect? They're big on that. Any cause you make will come back around. Not in a good or bad way, but it just will. Everything that happens is a result of a lot of choices a lot of people made (and nature and stuff)... which is trivially true. When you make a cause, the effect is set in motion. I have to talk to them more to figure out what exactly they mean by that.

What I like about it: it's easy. It's progressive (at the time, it was the first to extend enlightenment to women, for example). It's populist. No focus on reincarnation. More focus on compassion.

What I don't like about it: they tend to talk about their founders and their association (the Soka Gakkai International, or "value creating society") a lot, which seems too worldly to me

Another thing I like about it though: you can kind of pick and choose what you do and don't believe.

A thing I just had to realize about Buddhism in general (well, religion in general): a ritual is probably useful. No matter what you do, or how little you do it. I found 20-minute meditation hard, so now I just do a couple minutes in the morning and at night. Okay, maybe I won't transcend my worldly body at this rate, but a little is better than nothing, and I'll get into a habit.

More compassion! More mindfulness! I am all about these things these days.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I had a great ride home today

It kind of smells like fall, and for fall I give an A+ to Passion Pit, on first listen. Also A+ to Belle and Sebastian in general for "Get me away from here, I'm dying". I've commented that my Pandora stations tend towards all Belle and Sebastian and Sufjan, all the time. The former, really, is A-OK with me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This is a good essay:

"How to do what you love" by Paul Graham.

That's about all I have to say right now, although I do have a lot to say about Nichiren Buddhism maybe tomorrow, but now I am tired.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What is Burning Man, though?

So I went to Burning Man. It was very good. If you're reading this, you probably know what Burning Man is. If not, I'll try to explain. It's a big festival, first of all, without any one particular aim, and it's kind of full of peace and love and etc. This leads a lot of people to think "Woodstock" or something, and therefore to think "sex, drugs, and rock and roll". Let's run with that and try to refine it.

Well, first of all, the music of choice is mostly techno. At any time of day or night, you won't have to strain to hear thumping basses. Rock is not so preferred; the "concert" in which four people play and a hundred people watch is just not as fun to the "dance" in which everyone's participating. Or maybe people just really like computers in their music. Whatever: sex, drugs, and techno.

Sex? Well, there's probably a lot of that going on. There's not a lot of clothing sometimes, you see people making out, there are talks and parties about all sorts of sexual things. All your major sexual orientations are prominently on display, as well as most of your garden-variety fetishes. In a safe, open, relatively-less-taboo atmosphere, which is great. Still, despite what you may have heard, it's only there if you seek it out; Burning Man is not a big orgy. Bear with me, dear conservative reader!

Drugs? Yes, there are those too, but again, not as much as I would have thought. There's plenty of booze, the familiar smell of pot, and I met a couple people tripping on something. Again, this is also great; whatever floats your boat. And again, it's only there if you seek it out. So we've got a reasonable amount of sex and drugs, and an unreasonable amount of techno.

But if that were all, you would have a much lesser festival! First of all, there's the art. Everywhere you go, and especially after dark, you will see incredible things! Amazing things! A 40-foot-tall art-deco rocket! A replica of the Thunderdome from Mad Max! A giant Rubik's Cube! A cubatron! A grid of jets spewing fire into the air in choreographed patterns! And then there's the namesake Burning Man. And did I mention the "art cars": decorated buses, trucks, other mutant vehicles holding 10, 20, 30 people, playing music or serving drinks, looking like a dragon or a pirate ship or a Victorian mansion? Yes sir, if you could do nothing but gawk at art it would be worth the price of admission alone.

Pyromaniac much? You may know that they burn a big statue of a man. And I mentioned one of the "grid of jets spewing fire" art installations; there are others. A neuron that spits fire, a bug that spits fire, cars that spit fire. And fire dancers: there must be hundreds of folks who spin fire poi or fire staffs or fire swords or a long-fiery-thing-on-a-string or whatever you like. This is neat.

Burning Man is a camp in the desert. This is difficult but not painful. You have to build a shade structure over your tent so you have somewhere to be during the day and so that you can sleep past dawn. Dust gets in everything. It's really hot during the day and kinda cold at night. But it's not crummy, really. It's dusty, but it's not muddy, so it's a very clean kind of dirty. It's a week without a shower, it's a week eating dried and canned food over a camp stove, but these are challenges, not ordeals. It surprised me how not-so-bad it was.

It's a spiritual opportunity. I learned about a new kind of Buddhism there (more on that later). I chatted about the meaning of it all, how to live with more compassion, whether Christianity was really so bad (oh my gourd, it is actually pretty good, get off its case), different meditative practices, and all sorts of religious, spiritual, and quasi-spiritual things.

It's an opportunity to do generally fun things too. Want to draw on a giant mural, learn to make kimchi, or paint your body all different colors? Run through an obstacle course, eat a grilled cheese sandwich at 1AM, listen to a kind of music you never have before? Dance like you never have before? Wear a different goofy costume every day of the week? Hell, wear no clothes at all, just because why not? You can do it, and nobody will laugh at you.

And there is the real magic of Burning Man. It's so supportive and welcoming. The only thing you can do wrong is not do what you want. (and even then, it's cool too.) The crowd is a little bit of a cast of misfits. It's not just a nerd crowd, it's not really a hippie crowd, but you get the sense that everyone there is a little outside the mainstream because the mainstream is a little unsatisfying. And because they're a little outside the norm, they've been pushed around a little. And they react in the best possible way: by not pushing others back, indeed, but by opening up to others to a really unusual extent. It makes people like me feel like we're really truly okay, more than anything has in a while.

So what is Burning Man? Sex, drugs, techno, art, fire, camping, spirituality, fun, a really fantastically open atmosphere, and that's still not the half of it. As usual when I travel somewhere, I'd love to talk about it anytime.

(and if you'd rather hear it from someone other than me, this guy wrote a good post about it too.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Murning Ban

In five hours I will wake up, hop in the car, and drive for like 16 hours to a remote bit of desert, deliriously-tiredly set up a tent, and commence doing this "burning man" thing. I do not know what to expect. I am excited about this.

See you on the other side of Labor Day!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

So close...

So yesterday, I was riding my bike home, and I whizzed past, too quickly to even say anything and too quickly to be sure it was even actually him, Seattle mayoral candidate Mike McGinn! (you may remember my big plug for him a few posts ago.*) Then I whizzed past, again too quickly to say anything and too quickly to make sure it was her, my friend Diana who I haven't seen in ages. Boy, those are two unlikely people. Remember (last post) how coincidences involving David Byrne were happening in threes? Now all I had to do was whizz past, too quickly to even say anything and too quickly to be sure it was even actually him, the lead Talking Head himself. Alas, it was not to be, and I didn't run into Mr. Byrne at all. (except in my dreams...)

*so that was an okay punchline to end a post on, but I'm going to ruin it by talking about politics a little bit, which last November I said I'd stop doing, but it's pretty mellow politics so I think it'll be okay. Seattle primaries are "top 2", which means instead of "a democrat" and "a republican", we just pick the top 2 vote getters and send them on to the general election. Now, I think this is cool, but apparently a lot of people say it's dumb. Yeah, it's kind of dumb, but less dumb than the two-party system. Of course, we won't get really smart elections until we get ranked voting, or "you get 100 points to distribute" voting, but whatever. Anyway, McGinn and this other guy Joe Mallahan were the top 2. That's cool.

Monday, August 24, 2009

You can see this guy talk! He is a legend!

Does anyone want to see this guy (that is, David Byrne) talking about his new book which is about bicycles? Of course you do. It is in Seattle, September 28, and I will make it that much easier for you by providing this link that goes to the ticket-buying page. Yeah it's $30, whatever. It's David Byrne and bicycles! And books, which I guess I like too. Triple convergence!

In another unlikely triple convergence, I was just reading a book about why modern America is so screwed up (short answer: no communities), and the guy (in one chapter!) referenced Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, "The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing", and "Once in a Lifetime" by the Talking Heads (which video I linked you to before in this post). Wow! But then, talking with Daniel and Jared and Katie, I realized that me trying to explain this guy's book is just all over the place. The book is pretty scattered and I'm not a great unifier of points. So I won't talk about it any more.

Still, that's two triple convergences involving David Byrne in two days. As they are triple convergences, they must come in threes. I am excited to see what tomorrow's unlikely coincidence involving David Byrne and two other things I like a lot will be.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The New American Dream

This post starts as just a repost of a couple things from Good:

New Young People's Lives (if you only have time for one of these read this)

Is this just a cyclic thing? Our parents grew up and got big houses in the suburbs and lived private lives, so we want to grow up and get small apartments in cities and have a lot of friends? (you could certainly explain my opinions by that...) Will our kids want big homes on the range again? It is tough, as the article hints, to be 5-15 and think "well my parents are successful, someday when I am successful I will be just like them" and then be 15-25 and think "I can't live the same lifestyle as my parents, nor do I want to... what's next?" There are a lot of contenders that I've heard about, but most of them are either poorly defined or suck a lot:

- get a bunch of humanities degrees
- be a bankerman, let your I-banking job suck you up and spit you out a depressed millionaire, retire at 30
- join the peace corps, and then ...?
- be a nerdman, let your computer job suck you up and spit you out a burnt-out half-millionaire, retire at 40
- do exactly what your parents did
- get depressed or angry or something, drink a lot
- I guess party a lot? I don't know, a lot of people do that, right? And then join a rock band or something, and end up kind of burnt out or die tragically?
These all seem boring or ending in burned-outness, or both.

I mean, then there's the obvious answer:
- just live your own life, do what's reasonable, don't get burnt out at all, and don't worry about it so much, it'll be okay.
But that's very vague and hard to strive for. And it seems like the kind of thing that, if you don't plan, you'll just sort of drift until you're 40 and then be in a life you don't want and say, well I hate this, midlife crisis!

It might be easier if I had more experience with life. I don't know how people's lives really are. For all I know, everyone agrees that your 30's are the best decade of your life. Or maybe it just keeps getting better. Or maybe life only gets good once you move to a different country five times, or maybe most people are miserable most of their lives and only a few holymen have figured it out. I guess it's not been a problem for previous generations, because we have more choice than most of them. Well, this sword is double edged, at best.

Whoof. I'm all over the place. I swear, one of these days I'm going to quit thinking so hard about living my life, and start actually living my life.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What a peculiar day.

I worked for 14 hours today!

Now, in itself, working 14 hours is nothing to brag about. But I'm genuinely pretty happy about it, because the reason I stayed so late was because I wanted to. (I mean, if I didn't want to, I wouldn't have; the Goog is pretty utopian in that sense.) I was enjoying work.

I got to write code. Write-run tests-debug-write-run tests-debug etc. I didn't spend the whole time looking up documentation or wondering if this was "the best" way to be doing it or trying to comprehend some obscure production system. It was great! The limiting factor was that my eyes were drying out. Whew.

In other news... no, there is no other news. I am a boringman who goes to work and then comes home and sleeps. I saw a concert of YACHT and Bobby Birdman (I would recommend the second for sure, the first maybe) and a movie of The City of Lost Children (I would recommend that for sure too).

Friday, August 07, 2009

I have had a lot of weeks that have been better than this one.

Anybody know any good video games? (uhh, for a mac?)

Speaking of video games, if you have an iphone, I highly recommend Tyrian. If you have a computer, Jared recommends World of Goo (I haven't played it yet).

Low-commitment games would be nice, because I'll probably lose patience soon and then embark on trying to become a rock star or whatever, like I do. But for now, I am wanting to do something that is easy and fun and simple.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Why Seattle elections are great (and Dan's endorsements!)

There's a guy running for King County Executive named Goodspaceguy (just one name), who has a blog (note the title) in which he continually refers to himself in the first and third person.

That said, if you're in Seattle, you should vote, because then you can be self-righteous about voting. Who to vote for? I'll tell you, based on recommendations I can gather. (the "voter's guide" you get in the mail is useless.) If you disagree on anyone, let me know; I'm by no means well-qualified or very knowledgeable here. I read local blogs. Here's what I've gathered.

Let me also say that I think the biggest issue at stake is the deep-bore tunnel. We have a crumbling Highway 99, AKA the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The plan, as of now, is to replace it with a $4.2 billion tunnel. Problems:
1. it's way too expensive
2. it's underfunded (even at $4.2 billion)
3. will this be another Big Dig (like that thing in Boston which sucked)? Okay, nevermind, that's not a logical argument, it's just an attempt to elicit fear.
3. (most importantly) it makes Seattle car-friendlier. Furthermore, it makes it sprawl-friendlier by making it easier to get through downtown, without ever actually going downtown.

This is a big issue, because it's a lot of money. I'm afraid of getting mired in this plan for a decade, raising taxes higher and higher and cutting other stuff because we're so out of money for it. So my #1 criterion for a candidate in this election is "is he/she against the tunnel?"

And I'll put these races in ballot order, with bold if I particularly care. If you only vote in one race, vote McGinn for mayor.

King County Exec: Dow Constantine. Sierra club (and other environmental groups?), the Stranger, Cascade Bicycle Club, some Eastside democrats.

Court of Appeals, Division 1, District 1: Anne Ellington. Seattle Times, Stranger, and I don't care enough to dig deeper.

Port of Seattle Commissioner, positions 3 and 4: Rob Holland and Max Vekich (Stranger likes Albro but he has a lot of big-business donors). Stranger, Publicola, Eat the State (hard left group; I'm stretching here)

Seattle Mayor: Mike McGinn. (this is in big letters, for all you facebook readers) Publicola, Stranger, Hugeasscity, Friends of Seattle, and he's the most (only?) anti-tunnel.

Seattle Council position 4: David Bloom. Seattle Weekly, Eat the State, Publicola, and he actually said something in his voter-guide statement. This race is interesting. Apparently the Seattle Transit Blog hates Bloom, but the far-left loves him, and he's an activist. Dorsol Plants seems good too, and I like young people because I am one.

Seattle Council position 6: Jessie Israel. Cascade Bicycle Club, Friends of Seattle, Seattle Transit Blog. Apparently Nick Licata's been around for a while, and a pretty good standard lefty who votes "no" on bad ideas. But Israel seems likeable and full of good change ideas, and better for transit.

Seattle Council position 8: Mike O'Brien. A big "no downtown deep-bore tunnel" in bold letters sold me. If that's not enough, how about the Stranger, Publicola, Cascade, Friends of Seattle, and the Seattle Transit Blog? Thank goodness one of these races is easy.

Plastic bag tax: oh my god vote yes. Everyone agrees. Except the $1.3 million from the chemical lobby.

Seattle School District No. 1 Director District No. 5: Mary Bass. I guess. Publicola and Eat the State are behind her. Seattle Times isn't, but I tend to disagree with the Times, really. It's the newspaper for the suburbs. Publicola has a good point: if the schools are going to get shaken up soon (likely) good to have someone with experience there.

Discuss! You have a few days to convince me if I'm wrong on anything here, and then I'll mail in my ballot.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Je comprend un peu le francais

So, speaking of Al Gore and the Frenchpeople, I'm learning French now. Daniel and I debated at great length about whether to learn French, Russian, Arabic, or Japanese. We played the voting game and came out with a 4-way tie. In the end, they're all super-useful for getting around the world (maybe Japanese the least so, but Japan is cool); they're all very cool languages (maybe French the least so, whatever); and they're all apparently very difficult (except French).

The bit about difficulty tipped the scales. If it's pretty easy, it'll give us some momentum, and we'll be all like "hey this is fun let's do another one."

Oh yeah, how are we doing it? Audio tapes. (well, mp3's, really.) At some point I'll have to get some reading/writing/speaking-with-other-people in, or my spelling will be tres mal. But it's a start, anyway, I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Fair prices, Frenchpeople, and tennis

Well, tennis first. I saw a real live tennis match last night. The "Bank of the West Open" was going on at Stanford U., where I was visiting my parents (my dad was teaching in a "trial academy" there last week). My dad likes tennis a lot, so he took us to the match that was going on last night, which was a semifinal match. It's an all-women's tournament. The match was between Samantha Stosur (an Australian who beat Serena Williams the day before) and Marion Bartoli (a Frenchperson). We rooted for Stosur, because Bartoli is apparently kind of a jerk, and also a Frenchperson*. She lost, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.

*You should know that the Frenchpeople are out to get my dad. Their leader is Al Gore. It's like a gang of villains. Al Gore and the French. See, as bears are to me, Al Gore and the French are to my dad, in that they're things we hate and are terrified of, while everyone else thinks we're nuts. (I'll let you draw your own conclusions.) I should draw some cartoons about this sometime.

I had only seen a tennis match once before, I think. It was fun to watch. It's very different: everyone is quiet the whole time! I mean, if you made a loud noise, I guess you'd startle the tennisers. The stadium is pretty small. It's kinda genteel, but my game of "count the not-white people" actually turned out a pretty high number. And tennis itself has a lot of quirky rules and stuff, which is kind of fun. (for the record, I think I'd enjoy 43-Man Squamish.)

Also, I can't post a thing without linking a few times, so here's a Good article about fair-priced ipods. Would I pay more for a fair-trade ipod? Super yes. See, consumption is difficult nowadays (I mean buying stuff, not tuberculosis). Either you consider not only price and surface attributes but also all the effects of your purchase (which is hard), or you just add to the problem (which sucks). If you had the option to know that you're not adding to the problem, that would be really nice, and it would make buying things easy.

Which sort of leads into my Grand Theory of Economics, which is slowly congealing: markets are The Best, but you shouldn't be allowed to "cheat" (where I will define "cheat" myself in a bit). I mean, I believe a free market would give us the best mp3 player for the best price, and the best company would win. This is great. But then, if one company starts using sweatshops and another isn't, the sweatshop one can offer mp3 players cheaper, and they'll win, even if their mp3 players are worse. Eventually this will lead to everyone using sweatshop labor or else going out of business. This is bad.

What does "cheat" mean? Do something unsustainable to the environment or dehumanizing to people. Sweatshops: obv cheating. Using unrecycled paper when recycled paper will do: also cheating. Dumping toxic waste when a non-toxic option exists: cheating.

Okay, arguers: yes this leads to a ton of super gray areas. And no, this will probably never happen. I can't refute either of these arguments. But I will refute the "but poor people can't afford things if they get more expensive" argument here: people being poor is a separate problem. Things (and particular food, if you couldn't already tell that this was part of the argument) should cost what they cost to produce ethically, cleanly, etc. If poor people can't afford food, we should give out more food stamps or whatever; solve poverty separately from the food supply. If poor people can't afford mp3 players, tough.

I'm a little caffeinated right now (bought a coffee from an airport stand where "small" meant 16oz. what.) so my argument is a little jumpy and I'm a little idealistic; and I don't want to continue this post now. Just, you know, throwing out some sustainably-produced food for thought.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I'll vote 5 on "programming the voting game"

Hey you know how sometimes I don't ever do stuff? Sometimes I do stuff! Here's a stuff:
The Voting Game (yes you must sign in with a google account. sorry that's kind of annoying, but it's fun to play with the super-easy users API)
The Voting Game Source Code
The technology stack is like this: App Engine, Python, Django templates (I guess), and HTML forms. So if you know anything about App Engine or HTML forms, or simple web app programming at all I guess, I would REALLY REALLY appreciate your comments on the code. Really. I would like send you a nice thing or cook you dinner or something.

Also: people always stamp some kind of license on their code. I don't know from licenses. What's a good license for "I did this for fun, I don't ever want to make any money off it, please use it if it helps you at all (for fun or profit, whatever)"?

But even more importantly, always be happy to vote!

(for info on what the voting game is, ask beej, or read the README)

Disclaimers: yes I know the buttons should get grayed out if you've already voted on a thing. I don't know how to easily do this without passing dumb extra variables into the HTML template. It's not flashy. It's not really authenticated/access-controlled the right way (I could vote on your game and vice versa). There's no great way to tell if everyone's done voting. And if you don't know how the voting game works, it's kind of hard to figure out what's going on. Maybe I'll improve these things later. Don't hold your breath.

Side note: about App Engine. Things I like:
- the users API. I can use Google Accounts with like 3 lines of code!
- the datastore API. I can put data in a persistent layer by creating an object and calling put().
- I don't have to have a server to build a web app!
- the admin console and launcher are great
- 1-click deployment
- python seems pretty okay (you can use java too I guess)
- they have a host of features (monitoring, cron jobs, etc) that I haven't even touched yet

Things I don't like:
- how are you supposed to build a UI? HTML forms? HTML forms are kind of crap! For example, greying out the buttons if you've already voted on a thing is hard.
- if you get more than like 1000 things in a query, I guess you have to do some fancy paging or something. (but then, I guess if your query returns more than 1000 results, ur doing it wrong.)
- it makes web 1.0 apps easily, but web 2.0 apps difficultly. Hmm... I guess I could do it all with javascript maybe?
- python might not actually be pretty okay. I find it hard to organize my code. I guess I'm used to the java model; I shouldn't knock the python one until I actually try it.
- the datastore is actually rather tricky, when you have entities that have relationships to other entities. I don't know if I'm doing it right. I guess we're trying to get away from the SQL world and into the BigTable and friends world; it would be nice if anyone ever taught a class about new non-relational data models.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's a good thing Rian Johnson spells his first name with an "i"

because that way, I can remember it.

He's a filmmaker (writer/director I guess) and he made Brick and The Brothers Bloom. Highly recommend. The first one if you're in the mood for something serious, the second if not.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Internet says: our world is weird in our 20's

I mean, no kidding, right? I offer the following:

First link from a parenting blog I've ever posted here. About quarter-life crises.

I like this lady's blog (please please try to get past the fact that the second post right now is about Sarah Palin). I got linked to a post about how much she hates Tim Ferriss, so that's enough to get me interested right there. But anyway, this post about "what do you do?" is interesting on its own, and and and quarter-life crisis!

If there's a wikipedia article, it must be true.

And, semi-unrelatedly, here's an article about happiness I want to save to read the second half tomorrow, but I don't want to bookmark it, so it's clearly easier to post to the entire world.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Well, I bought a ticket to Burningman.

This ought to be interesting.

I guess I should start saying things like "see you on the playa" now.

In other news, today I am accomplishing very little, as part of my overachieving detox. I'm still itching and anxious, and I will probably be bugged tomorrow that I didn't do more today. Well, it's a step, anyway.

Music news recently:
First, I'm not twittering about albums. I have too much to say.
Second, here are some things I like:

Amadou and Mariam- Welcome to Mali. I was expecting another one of these world-music albums that I listen to so that I can be cool at cocktail parties but that I don't actually like, but then the synth kicked in and I was all over it. Sometimes it's in French. Sometimes it's in a language that I don't understand. Try "DJama", track 4. Sometimes it's in English, unfortunately. ("I follow you" at 12 is kind of comical.)

David Bowie- ... Ziggy Stardust...- I guess David Bowie is not like the Beatles, where after you listen to their hits and kinda go "meh", the deep tracks really surprise you and you love them. But I could still listen to "Suffragette City" and "Starman" all day. The concept is kind of fun, and "Five Years" as a concept album opener is epic! ("that's all we've got!") See also: "8.5 Minutes" by the Dismemberment Plan.

Eluvium- Copia- Recommended by my Uncle Jim who usually likes things that are longer and louder and stargazier than I like. But this is really epic, kind of weighty, yeah, but real movie-soundtrack stuff, and I can listen to it while I work, no problem. Why do I like, say, "Prelude for Time Feelers" (which is just a piano and a cello or something) but not most classical music? Discuss. And put this on in the background.

TV on the Radio- Dear Science- ugh, can I just let every other critic do the talking on this one? I'll say one thing: "Dancing Choose" is my second favorite song featuring the lyric "He's a what? He's a what?"

The Dodos- Visiter- did I not blog about this yet? It's Animal Collective meets Death Cab. ... meets... Dismemberment Plan? "Jody" is great for the more experimental of you, "Undeclared" is a great acoustic song.

Royksopp- Junior- okay, so I caught on to these guys about one album after everyone else, but they're excellent "electronic popsters" (to quote allmusic). And guest vocals from Karin Dreijer of The Knife! (the more music I listen to, the more often I just wish I were listening to The Knife.)

Shugo Tokumaru- Exit- This is some Zelda stuff. Fun to listen to once. The fifth time, you're like "are we in the clockmaker's house again?"

Air France- No Way Down/On Trade Winds EPs- straight off a p4k recommendation, they're the Broken Social Scene long lost relatives, except they actually finish songs sometimes and don't just play for 19847893 hours.

Telepathe- Dance Mother- it's like Tegan and Sara, but more grandiose and electronic. Devil's Trident wins for being the song that made me stop working and listen up. The sort of half-spoken word stuff I just adore (see: Cake, Dismemberment Plan, even various emo stuff I'd hear on the radio)

Junior Senior- Hey hey my my yo yo- These guys are so fun. Even though they already made their best song ever ("move your feet") I guess they've got another album in them. It's nothing deep, but pretty catchy.

Things I don't so much like:
Devotchka- a Mad and Faithful Telling- I love the Eastern-Europe sound, but I find I don't often like much of the music. Same reason I don't really like Gogol Bordello.
Robyn- Robyn- a blatant rip off of The Knife ("who's that girl") and a bunch of other pop that would be blasted by the same critics who love her, if she were American.
Dosh- Wolves and Wishes- never really goes anywhere. Which is too bad, because I guess he's responsible for Andrew Bird's "Fake Palindromes" and "Simple X"? Boy! If he made an album of songs like that... although I guess you need Andrew's dreamy voice, face, and whistle.
High Places- 03/07-09/07- weird and Unicorns-ey, I think, but a little high-pitched to continually listen to. Flighty and never that gripping. It's like the Luna Lovegood of albums.
The Tallest Man on Earth- Shallow Graves- just not my thing. I should have known after three seconds of hearing his grating voice and acoustic guitar.

I can't decide if I like:
Dan Deacon- Bromst

Fin for now. Anything you've liked recently?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

God DAMN it, cheesecake factory.

Cheesecake factory! God!

Point: it tastes good

Sorta-counterpoint: it kinda does taste good. But it's weird.

Sorta-counterpoint part 2: it's a lot of food

Flat-out counterpoint: It's god damn gross.

My counterpoint: God DAMN it! God! Who lets this happen?! What kind of ... what kind of brave-new-world-inspired bland-pleasure-dome is this? What the hell! Who runs this company? Who runs this world? STOMP STOMP STOMP aarrrghhh (pounds walls) who decided that their primary virtue would be BEING BIG?! garhg grr arrggh! Gaaaaarrrgghh!

For sale: $57.40 in Best Buy gift cards

$45 OBO. You paypal me or send me a check, I'll email you the codes.

And I have to know you. After getting burned by trying to trade a 27% Mara's for an Annihilus and having some jackass swoop through our trading site in the Kurast Docks and pick up my amulet, I'm not taking any chances.

Oh, also, you have to promise to use them someday. Because when you use a gift card, Best Buy loses. (when you buy a gift card, Best Buy wins. Sadly, they've already won from some of my relatives. But if you can find a use for them, then stick it to the big-box man!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

STP no longer stands for "Stone Temple Pilots" in my head

or Swords to Plowshares. And that's the second time I've used "Stone Temple Pilots" in a title line of a post.

I rode my bike to Portland last weekend! It's 202 miles away! It's not really that impressive, 9500 other people did it too. But it's kind of impressive. Whatever, I don't care whether it's impressive.

I'm not so good at thinking right now. Here are a few jumbled thoughts:

It was sort of fun. Part of the time was miserable, part of the time was just slightly painful, part of the time was pretty good. I went with friend Nick, acquaintance (I mean he's a cool guy but I'd only met him once before so I don't think it's fair to call him friend; what do you call people in this situation?) Kevin, and new acquaintance Andy. Kevin and Andy were fast, Nick was a little bit fast but I could keep up with him. This worked out well. And we all camped in Chehalis, about halfway there.

It rained overnight. That makes camping significantly less fun. Luckily Nick had woken up and put the rain cover on the tent, just in case. Also, my backpack is apparently waterproof. Hallelujah.

When you ride a long way, you eat EVERYTHING. That's kind of fun. Props: Dave's Killer Bread. It's quite good. Slops: Clif bars. Those things are just as fake as anything. It's like eating a plastic brick, but it tastes like a cookie, but not as good.

Now that I've ridden 200 miles, I could ride hrair miles. That's neat. Gives another boost to the idea of just going off and traveling someday. How cool would that be, just go off with a bike and bike from town to town (or town to field, camp, go to next town)?
Subtopic: screw Daniel Burnham. He's the one who's credited with saying "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized." As I was riding home today, I was going to make another big plan (ride across a continent for charity sort of thing). But when I make big plans, they tend to never come close to being realized. That's demoralizing. If I can't even make a big plan, I kind of have to start somewhere, right?

Sandals are great! I didn't get wet socks. I'm still not super-sold on the clip-in pedals. Seems like more trouble than it's worth. But I should have brought bike gloves...
oh, and another layer...

It was full of bicycle folks. I feel as out-of-place with them as anyone. It's so white rich male. I think I saw one black person the whole time. I feel like, after you get a certain level of intense, like the level where you must have clip-in pedals and drop handlebars, draft off other riders, and take ibuprofen to survive, it's not real anymore. It gets to the point where only white rich males can do it. (and not even most of them. see: ibuprofen.) It's like bodybuilding... lifting weights so you have muscles to carry things or whatever is cool; lifting weights for its own sake gets really weird. And damaging (see creatine for bodybuilders, or ibuprofen for bicyclists).

As a result, I never ever ever want to be in a bicycle race.