Monday, September 27, 2010


This is wonderful: lolfoods.  It's so simple, and yet I bet you can't get through the whole page without cracking up.  Is it the particular misspellings?  The goofy fonts?  The fact that you're just viewing a page of pictures of food?  Whatever it is, it's so minimalistic, somehow I feel like we're getting close to one atom of humor here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Beertable, or, I will not pay honest money for furniture, dammit

Buying furniture makes no sense.  I'm moving in a year.  And yet, I need a place to put things.  My furniture doesn't have to be rock-solid or last forever or even look good.  So making furniture makes sense.

But it's hard to get tangible materials.  You can go to Home Depot and get a bunch of wood and drill it and screw it and stuff but that requires a trip to Home Depot and a lot of tools, which I don't have.  It's easy to get cardboard or paper, but you can't make a real weight-bearing thing out of them.  I want giant legos, but alas, they don't exist, and would probably cost more than a table.  So what do we have a lot of that is heavy and sturdy and cheap?

Beer bottles!  If you just stop recycling them, you'll probably be surprised how fast they accumulate.  So I made a Beertable.  (pronounced "beer-TAY-ble" or "BEER-tuh-ble", either way.)

1. Collect bottles.  Sort them by brewer.  (seems like every brewer has a different bottle size.  it will be easier if you drink a lot of the same brewer.  unfortunately, I like variety.)  Over about 6 months, friends and I saved the following:

New Belgium: 21
Hale's: 19
Sierra Nevada: 15
Red Hook: 12
Blue Moon: 12
Widmer: 12
Lagunitas: 12
Pyramid: 9
Dogfish Head: 8
Deschutes: 7
Great Divide: 6
Rogue: 6
Beer Lao: 6
Stone: 6
Reed's (ginger ale): 4
Flying Dog: 2
Victory: 1

2. Make them into pyramid shapes, like this:
Measure the table to know how many levels you'll want.  I used 6 levels here (9-8-7-6-5-4) and it was about 13 inches tall.  So add or subtract about 2 inches for each additional layer.  (check the width too; 7 levels would have made it a bit too wide.)  You'll probably want each level to be all the same brewer on both pyramids, or at least a very similarly sized brewer.  And alternating thin with fat bottles is necessary, starting with fat ones.  (if you start with thin ones, the fat ones on top of them won't fit.)  Finally, make sure you pick good beers, because people will judge you based on them.

I went with:
Bottom layer (9 bottles each, so 18 total): Hale's, a Seattle brewer with particularly good Kolsch and brown ale.
8 layer (16 total): New Belgium, as Fat Tire is the best plain ol' beer.
7 layer (14): Sierra Nevada, for a historical note, as they were frontrunners of the craft beer movement in America.
6 (12): Widmer, meh, I needed something to fill space here.  Could have gone with Red Hook, but honestly, I'm kind of meh about them too.
5 (10): Lagunitas, who makes beer that is more interesting than most 6-pack beer.  Hairy Eyeball and Censored copper ale made it into this beertable.
4 (8): Dogfish head, The Best brewery in America, as far as I'm concerned.

3. Gorilla Glue them together.  (this stuff is pretty magic.  the pyramids are solid like boulders now.  I can pick them up and not worry about them collapsing.)  Point the labels out on the sides so it's pretty.

4. Put a big piece of wood on top.  (I've used a door from my apartment's closet.  Ssshh!)

5. Marvel at how cool your table looks.

6. Recycle all the rest of your bottles.  Then stop collecting bottles.  Depending on how obsessive you are, this may be the hard part.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I don't think I can title this post better than:

The secret lovey-dovey world of web browsers.

Having worked on Chrome, I can say this is pretty much true.  There's a little bit of "oh man, Microsoft is making kinda fakey demos to make IE9 look faster than it is!" chatter, but it's mostly a really healthy competition.  I never got the sense that Chromers were bitter enemies with anyone.  The whole "if IE9 is awesome, that's great; we're just trying to make the web better" line is really pretty true.  Even idealistic ol' me was surprised: I thought at first that everyone was being politic, but I think it's what people really think.

And this writer goes on to mock Glen (yes, this Glen) and the rest of the "hippy-dippy love-in."  Really, if more business competitions were like the browser "war", I'd consider the business world (not to mention the internet) a much more palatable place.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cult of the Individual much?

Apparently they made some movie about The Facebook Dot Com, and it's a big old hairy intrigue-filled deal about the Rise of The Facebook Dot Com, centering (of course) around Mark Zuckerberg, Creator of The Facebook Dot Com, and they make him out to be a big old asshole who sacrifices friends for dollars.

And he wasn't really such an asshole.  Or maybe he was.  Whatever.  (you can skip those articles, there's not much to them, except that reading them will make my point stronger because you will have spent a lot of time reading about Mark Zuckerberg.)  My point is: we read a lot about Mark Zuckerberg.

Quick: name another employee of The Facebook.  Name another person whose blood, sweat, and carpal tunnel contributed to the six-year rise from zero to bigger-than-Jesus.  Name another factor, besides Zuck's cunning, smarts, and assholery, that brought it to fourteen quadrillion hits per day.  I'm guessing- and when I say "guessing" I'm being sarcastic- that there were a few.

But we're drawn to the human side of the story because that's just how we in modern America tell stories: we want one lone crusader to valiantly vanquish all foes in the name of Honor and Glory.  Or else we want one supervillain to slit the throats of all the good guys and spit on their graves.  Look at Apple.  It's not a company of 35,000 humans; it's a vehicle for one black-turtleneck-clad loony to "revolutionize" something-or-other by hawking new shiny things.  Forget Apple, look at our government!  We've pinned this last decade of pendulum swing to two guys named George and Barack.

Distilling megalithic systems to single people is apparently the only way we can understand and internalize these things, but it's important to remind ourselves that it's not true.

That's really all I have to say.  So, switching gears: Hipmunk is a new airplane search site, and I like the interface it provides to let you search for flights.  It's a hard UI problem, and I think they're doing it pretty well.  I got a Kindle, and it's adequate but not great for reading PDFs.  Decibel fest is this weekend, it's right near my house; let me know if you're interested in going to any shows, because they're always pretty good.  I'm getting more excited about grad school; I've found a bunch of great research groups and schools to apply to.  Most things are pretty good, really.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My scanner is not goddamn functional.

I have a drawing.  Pencil on paper.  I would like to scan it and have an image of any format that looks kind of like the drawing, and is emailable.

Try 1:
Press "scan" button.  Power is off.  Press power button.  Power remains off.  Hold power button.  Power remains off.  Unplug and replug, press power button, power turns on.  Press scan button.
Try 2:
HP Photosmart Studio opens, and then it opens HP Scan Pro, and scans in a picture that crops out the top and bottom 10% of the picture.
Try 3:
Scan again with HP Scan Pro, edit the selection boundary, try "save to file", it's 4mb.
Try 4:
Scan again with HP Scan Pro, edit the selection boundary, send it back to HP Photosmart Studio, it's somehow been rotated about 30 degrees.
Try 5:
Same as try 4.  This time it's not rotated.  Export.  (because I want to save it as a low-quality image.)  That asks me if I want to send it to HP something something, HP something else, Photoshop, Paintbrush, etc.
Try 6:
"Save As", instead.  There's no dial for image quality.  Oh well, let's try png.  700kb.  Meh.
Try 7:
Let's try jpg.  Still 700kb.
Try 8:
Let's try something els-- whoops, HP Photosmart Studio is frozen, and my computer's fan is spinning like crazy.  I'll wait for it to quiet down.
(wait a long time)
Dock force quit.
Dock force quit.
Dock force quit.
ps -A | grep "photosmart"
ps -A | grep "Photosmart"
kill 11810
Try 9: email a goddamn 700kb jpg.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Meditation and money, a year later

A year after Burning Man means a year after I first encountered Nichiren Buddhism means a year after I started actually doing some ritual every day.  For a few months it was chanting with the Soka Gakkai  (Nichiren folks), then it became me doing my own thing (silent meditating).  But at any rate, probably 95% of the past year, I've meditated or something for at least 10 minutes.

How's it going?

Within the meditating itself: pretty good.  I can comfortably sit for 15 minutes, it doesn't feel like a huge waste of time.  Every day, regardless of how well I'm meditating, at least I'm showing up.  The downside is, I don't feel like I'm in any better control of my mind or anything than I did a year ago.

Applying to outside life: No noticeable change.

But overall: maybe there's changes happening and I just don't notice it!  And one year is a pretty short time to be evaluating, especially with no real data.  I still trust that it's a good way to a better life.

And last year I published a big thing about how much money I spent, and apparently that was helpful to some folks, especially new graduates.  So here it is for September 2009-August 2010: $30,100.

The breakdown (numbers rounded for easy comparison):
Rent: $10,400
Android phone service: $900
Groceries: $1,700
Entertainment (aka "pretty much any optional stuff"): $5,400
Medicine/necessary things: $3,600
Travel: $7,100
Transportation: $500
Clothing: $300

I'm doing a little better than last year, in almost all categories.  Still it's a bit of a bummer, as I go for grad school, where I don't expect to get a $30,100 stipend.  (especially after taxes.)  A couple of notes:
- the medicine/things number is so high because for most of the year I was seeing a counselor who wasn't covered by my insurance.  D'oh.  On a smaller budget, I would not do that.  So there's maybe $3k I could save.
- travel is a big one here... but then, my family lives far away.  I only took one big extravagant vacation this year (Thailand), which was about $1700.
- I moved to a cheaper flat; obviously, it'd be nice to save even more here, but I really like my neighborhood and city.  If I move back to Seattle, or worse, Boston or San Francisco, I'll have to think hard about what's important in a living place.
- and y'know entertainment etc.; do pursue options besides going out for dinner or drinks!
- groceries are still lower than usual because I still work at Google
- transportation is mostly bike repairs and parts, and some zipcars.

Okay, I promise I'll stop talking about money now.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

things you do at Burning Man, reasons it was wonderful, and reasons I'm not going next year.

Last year I kept getting asked "what IS burning man?"  This year it was more "what do you DO at burning man?"  I don't have great answers for either, but as I tried to answer the first question last year, let me now tackle the second with a sampling of things I did:

- drink tea and do a henna design at a Persian-themed camp
- happy hour with couchsurfers
- soft serve ice cream, in the desert, for serious
- walk around a dome and mingle, everyone blindfolded, nobody talking
- draw fake money, use it to buy coffee.  (priorities.)
- listen to downtempo techno at a replica Black Lodge
- play with tons of legos
- talk and drink with folks who live on the road full-time
- get hypnotized.  it sounds like meditating.  and try to learn who I was in a past life.
- dodgeball
- mad hatter traveling tea party
- learn techniques to lucid dream, from someone who does it regularly
- flex my huge muscles in a strong man competition against two, shall I say, really buff dudes
- learn how to make fermented foods (dosas, tempeh, sauerkraut)
- look at very big art very far out in the desert

The next question is, "how was it?"  This is also difficult to answer.  It's like answering "how was India?" ... Burning Man is very much.  I'll dodge this question too, and just answer with a smattering of great things at Burning Man:

- lucid dreaming and hypnosis are the coolest things
- our campmates from San Francisco were super great, better prepared than we were, and a lot of fun to hang out with
- the dodgeball was the best dodgeball ever
- one beer had the amazing ability to transform your day from "argh" to "wonderful"
- our shade structure stayed up for six out of seven days
- when you sit down, 98% chance the person next to you will be interested in a chat; 80% chance it will be fun and fulfilling.
- costumes costumes!  I had, among other things, a Domo costume made of light-up EL wire. (an okay photo; I'm the one on the left)
- I jumped on a trampoline and learned to hula hoop; this is more exciting than it sounds
- I also had one of those rare super ecstatic moments when I totally get why people love dancing
- no internet for a week, and I didn't miss it a bit
- you get to drive through awesome the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-esque wild-west terrain
- I met so many great people once.  (sadly, only once, and I'll never see them again.)

The question nobody asks, maybe because they think they know the answer, is "are you going next year?"  It's a fair assumption; who goes to Burning Man exactly twice?  But the answer is: me.  I won't give a list of this, because I'd rather focus on the positive.  I guess it just doesn't really sit right with me- it's maximalist, you have a lot of stuff, you get enthusiastic about things, you dance all night.  I don't do these things.  Not to say it wasn't fun- the daytime stuff was a blast, and wandering the playa at night is super cool too.  But considering the effort, time, and money, the cons outweigh the pros.  At least for next year.

I better just publish this, because otherwise I'll take forever.  It's hard to write down, because like I said, Burning Man is very much!  But overall a great trip, and I'm glad I went.