ROSCon 2012 was a blast! Thanks to everyone who attended. It was a bit mindblowing to me to see something I've worked on reach the '-Con' Achievement Unlock.
ROSCon 2012 was a blast! Thanks to everyone who attended. It was a bit mindblowing to me to see something I've worked on reach the '-Con' Achievement Unlock.
We get three meals a day at work, which is a great thing in itself as our chef is awesome, but I like the photo above because it shows another fun thing about our work place. You'll notice at the end of the table is one of my co-workers (in Indiana) joining us for dinner via our telepresence robot. I love the idea that someday I'll sit down to dinner with someone far away, like my parents or my sister. We may not share the same meal, but we can sit around the same table.
There's a time I would have loved to see my work on Slashdot. Now, in a period of two weeks, the previous project I worked on gets on /. -- I have nothing to do with Siri:
As well as the stuff I'm currently working on:
And, in the weirdest twist, the same article that's referenced also gets posted to BoingBoing:
Really, we're on BoingBoing? That's still cool, right?
I've been pretty busy writing and shooting video for the Willow Garage Web site (in addition to my normal code monkey duties). The stuff we're doing is pretty cool so I thought I'd share some of that here. I didn't write any of the demos you see in the videos -- for stuff that's a bit closer to what I wrote code for, you can read these blog entries:
One of the reasons this blog has been quieter this past year is that I've been working hard to help build our communications framework and toolchain for our robots at work. At long last we have our first real release: ROS 0.4. It's a stable release, but we weren't quite ready for a 1.0 designation as there's a little more we want to add before we're ready to put a bow on it. Our code has been out in the open on SourceForge from the start, but we're ready to finally commit to an API now that we've got some real robots doing real tasks on a day-to-day basis.
It's crazy to think that about a year ago it was just Morgan, Eric and I coming up with a next generation version of his Switchyard framework. Then Brian from Player came aboard and now there's open source repositories of ROS-enabled code at Stanford, CMU, and TUM. There's a lot in between, including the contributions of many more people, but it happens so fast.
Sorry that this blog has been a bit stale. I've been putting a lot of energy into the cycling photography as well as my real job writing software for robots. I've also been working hard helping put together content for our new Web site: http://www.willowgarage.com/. I'm pretty proud of what we're doing -- we're essentially giving away software and robots to help advance the state of autonomous robotics.
I was explaining to my parents tonight a bit about we're doing and the conversation went a little bit like:
"What if someone tries to steal your software and get the jump on you?"
"Well, all of our the source code to our software is on the Internet. They can download it whenever they want."
"But aren't you worried that puts you at a disadvantage?"
"The robotics community keeps on writing the same code over and over again. Our hope is that by giving away all this stuff, we can all get to the cool stuff quicker."
So, what is zero gravity like? I've looked at other people's explanations and the consensus seems to be that the English language is lacking proper frames for explaining it. It's an entirely familiar yet wholly new experience. In fact it's so familiar that it ends up making normal gravity seem abnormal. Perhaps the most eye-opening revelation of zero gravity is not what zero gravity feels like, but rather understanding normal gravity for the first time in your life. The first time the plane straightened out again after zero gravity I remember feeling so heavy. It was hard to walk and I wanted to lay down rather than continue to feel the inexorable pull of Earth.
I have trouble deciding whether the familiarity of zero gravity is because it's some amalgam of experiences I've had throughout my life, or whether it's because it's a sensation I've felt before but only in a fleeting moment. I've thought of describing it as the instant at which you're jumping in the air and coming back down -- with that instant magically extended for 30 seconds. But that isn't right because you're entirely free. I pushed off a handhold and sent myself instantly spinning around the cabin. I also crawled around the hull of the cabin in a 360 and flew down the center with a Superman-like launch. There's no up or down and no control if you don't have something to push off of. I thought about doing handstands, then realized was no different from reaching up and touching the ceiling.
As for the Zero-G experience itself, it's best describe as organized chaos and total sensory overload. There's thirty people in the hull of a plane divided into three groups. There's some program to it all -- one parabola you do water, another M&Ms, another you do Superman -- but the reality is that there are tons of giggling adults bouncing off every surface for 30 seconds. You try not to hurt anyone else, but you will collide with people because there's no way to change direction without pushing off a wall or a person.
My favorite trick was eating the M&Ms, which surprised me. I wasn't expecting it to be that fun, but I was immediately enthralled the moment you see the M&Ms spinning like little jewels. I then felt like Homer in a Simpson's dream sequence, doing my best to guide my mouth towards spinning M&Ms as I floated down the cabin. Water is also fun as it immediately turns into little globes in front of you, but most of it will end up on your face instead of in your mouth. One of our groups launched 400 ping pong balls. I didn't get a good view of it, but it looked cool from a distance. I'm looking forward to the video.
I did get sick -- I wanted get rid of some extra weight for the weightlessness -- though I managed to get sick between parabolas and return immediately for the next. Others weren't so lucky and a much worse shade of green. They limit their flight to 15 parabolas because the majority of people won't get sick with that number and our flight seemed to back that up. What got me wasn't zero gravity, but gravity. You pull 1.8g in order to get to the top of the parabola and there's also the bottom of the parabola to deal with. This is fairly intense on your inner ear and they tell you to pick a spot on the ceiling to stare at. There's a couple of times when zero gravity will end, there's bodies that have fallen on top of you, and you find yourself doing a little more movement than you'd like under the influence of changing gravity.
But above all else, he was our hero, who led Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) with the same unflinching conviction and steady purpose as he did when commanding naval destroyers, cruisers and battleship groups.
Indeed, he was uniquely qualified for this assignment. He was an avid hiker, rower and outdoor enthusiast. As a non-smoker, Admiral Coady never imagined himself as someone at risk for lung cancer.
The rude shock of his unexpected diagnosis spurred him to investigate the disease, its treatment and the status of efforts to find a cure. He was stunned at what he learned -- especially the fact that few cancer research dollars spent by the Veterans Administration and U.S. Department of Defense were directed at lung cancer, even though it is the largest cause of cancer deaths among Veterans.
Admiral Coady immediately set to work and resolved to help permanently change public perceptions and public health funding for lung cancer research. He engaged Congress, Agency officials, national media, and business leaders on the need to increase compassion and support for the entire lung cancer community. He commanded attention – and got it - as just last week the first-ever lung cancer research funding legislation was introduced in the United States Senate.
Please consider donating to the Lung Cancer Alliance in his honor
I've been riding a stationary bike at work during the rainy months, but yesterday's Road Bike Review ride was my first time on the bike in a couple months. We spent about 3 hours on the bike on mostly flat terrain, which I followed up with a burrito, four tacos, and half a bag of chips -- the lady at the counter gave me two cups when I asked for a glass of water. Then I slept for a couple of hours. Then I ate some pizza. Then I slept for a lot more hours.
We pigged out at the delicious Alexander's Steakhouse to celebrate a friend's birthday. When it came time to settle the bill there were five Amazon credit cards. As it turns out, we all enjoy that post-Christmas Christmas from Amazon: the day the envelope of $25 gift certificates arrives.
Friday's rainstorm was quite a day: our roof at work poured water, we lost power at home for 12+ hours, two lanes of the highway were closed between home and work, and trees were tipped over on my commute. I also hear that Highway 17 was closed and an 18-wheeler tipped over and closed the Richmond bridge. Other areas suffered 80+ mph winds, but all of the damage in my area was from about 3 inches of rain. Go Cali!
I've been swamped, mostly by having to clear off all three my work computers of data I'd like to save before they're wiped. Foldershare has made the process easier, but there's no good solution for 1.8GB iTunes video files.
The main event for me today was my going away party. Strangely enough we only get company gear when we leave, so I at last have an SRI shirt, mug, and pen. I had been looking forward to the SRI mousepad -- the mouse was invented at SRI -- and was shocked to find that they were out. Who knew they were such popular items?
Of course a going away party is not about getting things but rather the opportunity to say farewell to everyone. Mine was made easier by the fact that I will continue consulting for awhile, so there were less goodbyes and more, "see you less often." At my new company I will be working with people I have not seen in awhile, and so even there the goodbyes did not last long.
July has been a busy month, as always. d and I are still getting settled into our new place, my sister just gave birth to my niece, I've been waking up at 5am every morning for the Tour de France, and Comic-Con is less than two weeks away. But that wasn't enough, so I had to throw in one more move.
In August I will start my new job as an engineer at Willow Garage:
Willow Garage is a research institution dedicated to building prototypes of autonomous devices. We have an autonomous car entry in the 2007 DARPA challenge, and are also working on building a boat that can sail autonomously around the world.
Many of you are aware of my fascination with robots. bp will recall my constant planning for building a WiFi robot while I was at PARC, which fell through due to cost and broken laptop. Now I get to finally build that robot, except it will be... bigger. And I will get to do it while working with some old friends from PARC.
Although the combined move distance for both home and work is only about 2 miles, this caps a month of big changes for me that leaves me extremely excited. After working for two historic research institutions in the field of computer science, PARC and SRI, I'll get my opportunity to contribute to a brand new research lab.
We just signed a lease on a house in Mountain View. We get to keep the location that we love but upgrade everything else: garage, yard, fruit trees, quiet, no smokers, and more rooms. I'm excited as I'll have more room for bikes (I've been eye-ing a new one) and we'll be able to fit some more bookshelves in for my double-stacked books.
Estate sales beware: d will be on the hunt for furniture again.
From m's post nearly three months ago, it should be a bit obvious that I'm a bit behind posting my processed photos of the Great White Shark at Monterey Bay Aquarium. Back when we saw it, it was just a little tyke. By now I'm sure it's proportions are worthy of a Jaws remake... probably not. Either way, you can see what he looked like several months ago. I didn't really have the right camera equipment, so I decided to get creative with the treatment.
After Hurricane Katrina hit, my company offered to match any contributions to the Red Cross. I thought this was a fantastic way for my company to encourage donation. Not long after my dad and I matched donations with one another for the holiday season.
This season I'd like to do something similar, but bigger. I thought, why not match other people's donations? That can be fun in itself, but I'm not super rich; I still need enough money to buy a Nintendo Wii to help... myself. Then I thought, what if multiple people could team up to match donations? The more that can be matched, the more that people can give. It also makes it easier on me: if two people team up to match donations, then I only have to match $0.50 for every dollar donated; if three people, $0.33; and so on... Thus came the idea of the Matching Donations Project. Thankfully, m has already stepped up to help out.
There are two ways to participate:
1) Donate to any of the charities below and send me a receipt (please indicate whether or not you wish to be anonymous):
2) Agree to match contributions and add your own charity to the list above. You must a) agree to match at least $250 and b) donate $50 up front.
Do I expect a huge number of people to participate in this? No. But I figured nothing bad could come of trying this, so why not?
FAQ in the extended.
I've managed to put the finishing touches on my computer setup, which just about covers everything I needed to do to get everything in order for the housewarming -- d's got all the other stuff covered. We were running out of wall space, so I was a bit worried as to where I was going to hang my biggest Comic-Con acquisition, an Usagi drawing by Stan Sakai, when I saw this nice big blank space on the side of my computer. A couple minutes later I had the setup you see here:
I'll get a better scan of the drawing (as well as all the other Comic-Con goods) when I have a bit more time.
Wednesday is set for the day of my move from one side of Shoreline Blvd to the other. A detailed plan of attack for each carload has been drawn up; it should be glorious.
A consequence of every move I make is that kwc.org goes into identity reassignment. In the past, I have sometimes temporarily transferred some of the kwc.org files to movabletypo.net. Now that I have separated out my mythbusters and cycling blogs, though, it may be too much of a headache to do the brain transplant. Also, with the Tour de France set to begin, nothing short of the real kwc.org will do for the torrent of multimedia blogging that is set to ensue.
If you happen to know of a spare static IP address and line in Mountain View/Palo Alto/Sunnyvale that I can borrow for a week or so to hookup this server, please drop me a line. If you know of anyone at AT&T/SBC that I can bribe to not take the week or so they normally take to turn a DSL line on, also please drop me a line.
Back at Comic-Con I had the motto, A fool and his money should be parted swiftly, not slowly and painfully. I'm reminded of this motto because the soda machines here at work suck.
Ignoring the ever-present post-it notes requesting refunds because sodas tend to get stuck halfway down, they have the very annoying problem that they make it difficult for you to pay. On my floor, we have Soda Machine I and Snack Machine. Soda Machine I seems to not want to take my dollar bills. Crumpled or crisp, it doesn't even bother sucking the bill in. Luckily, Snack Machine will and it will even change it into four quarters, which allows me to get enough change to buy a soda... except when it doesn't have enough quarters to make change. That's when I get to visit Soda Machine II downstairs. Soda Machine II likes bills, but it requires exact change because Soda Machine Guy didn't putting any change in its slots. Exact change might be possible if the sodas were sensibly priced, but every item requires quarters plus a single nickel to purchase: $0.80, $1.30, $1.80. I don't have exact change, I have two f'in dollar bills and the machines only make change in quarters, so I have to go to downstairs to Soda Machine II, make change, and then walk back to Soda Machine I and get my drink.
You may wonder why I've started blogging about work all of a sudden. Well, this is a very roundabout way of welcoming Adam's new work blog, where he will be talking about Sharpcast -- hopefully not about their soda machines. Adam and I worked in the same group at PARC back in the day and I look forward to seeing what he has to say on his blog.
At last my new workstation has made it to my office. It's a dual Xeon but it's virtually 4 CPUs. I ran a compile of our ginormous application while doing some photoediting in Photoshop CS2 and it didn't blink. I was still getting instant previews of filter effects on a 6 megapixel photo.I've forgotten how to fully utilize this much power -- clearly I've lost my edge. It has earned it's moniker Kilkenny already.
My new work machine is almost ready: 3.2Ghz dual Xeon with 4GB of RAM. Our desktops get beer names and I was asked to submit a list of names:
Kilkenny wins, not for taste, but for its many possible meanings. I also considered Maudite ("cursed"), but I'll save that one for an injury-prone Mac.
I had an fMRI brain scan tonight. The computer scanned me doing several rounds of simple addition and subtraction and was about to move onto a more complex series of problems, at which point it crashed. First, it refused to show me the actual problems -- they were appearing almost fully offscreen. Then it start to flash alternating black and white screens at me while the MRI machine buzzed away. The experimenters were forced to shut it down and only showed me Spongebob thereafter. I think it was afraid.
Read on for an semi-complete essay written in the spirit of silliness. It's an old draft I wanted to wrap up now that we are in the final countdown to entry 2000 (three to go).
Much in the same way that I was certain that I was the only person blogging the Comic-Con, Tour de France, and AAAI artificial intelligence conference, I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in the entire universe with a backpack (any object for that matter) signed by:
Not so coincidentally:
Which is to say that I now have tangible/wearable proof of the absurd nicheness of this blog. Allow me to congratulate myself. Now how is it that Bloglines lists other subscribers to this feed? If you've read this far, you're all as dorky as me.
I meant to wish everyone a Happy New Year and apologize for the flood of entries as soon as I finished writing that flood of entries, but it turns out there were quite a bit more than I thought. I sometimes get asked how I manage to get any work done and blog so much. My answer in the past is that blogging doesn't take that much time. You see a site, save it in a Firefox tab, hit copy and paste a couple of times, and add a snarky line or two. Or you type what you're watching on TV, hit post, and you've got yourself an episode summary. Or you write an entry about writing entries, if you're feeling self-referential.
Having recently succumbed to deadlines at work, though, my new answer is, "When I work eight hours a day, there is plenty of time to blog. When I work more than eight hours a day, there is not." Thank goodness for this Monday holiday. Here's to 2006.
This is post #1902. I will be doing another free dinner for guessing the post date of entry #2000 like I did with entry #1000, but I'll wait until things get a little bit closer before accepting guesses. I don't regularly make New Year's resolutions, but I notice that on entry 1000 I said that I would probably:
These aren't resolutions as much as predictions, which is perhaps more fitting with my pragmatist approach. I guess I have until entry #2000 to write that MTInNOut plugin and write up some new predictions.
Featuring my 11-month-old nephew and an 18-month-old girl.
Girl is playing with a toy. Girl offers it to my nephew, who takes it, shakes it, and is very happy. Girl is smiling ear to ear. Nephew offers toy back to girl. Girl reaches out to grab toy -- nephew pulls it back just as she lays her hands on it. Girl walks away dejected.
Apparently babies learn sharing somewhere between 11 and 18 months.
I'm happy because I have this all on video.
First place would have gone to a friend's 3-year-old toppling an entire Christmas tree by pulling on a single ornament (no injuries), had I actually witnessed the event or aftermath. My nephew can't walk yet, but I'm sure my sister and brother-in-law will use that story as a lesson for baby-proofing their house.
y helped me design a gingerbread house, but this is a case where she probably wishes that I minimize any credit. She designed what was the pretty side, made of hearts and sweetness. With some left over gumdrops and the remaining piece of Gretel's body I turned it into a grotesque caterpillar. She knows better now than to work with me.
The only bad news is that I bought the R/C car because it was on sale at San Antonio Hobby Shop's going-out-of-business sale. Their banner says that the owners are retiring after 40 years. I may have to make several trips there before they close, though the shelves are already starting to look pretty picked through. I should have gotten started on my kite camera project earlier as I don't know if there are any local shops that will be able to sell me all the parts I need anymore.
On Saturday I went on my third Shangri-La hike, an annual hike that Jed organizes that starts at the Squaw Valley parking lot and up the mountain to High Camp. There are many hikes that you can take that give you scenic views of mountains, trees, rocks, and lakes; this is the only hike that I've taken that combines those elements with a hot tub and bar at the top, as well as a cable car back down to your car.
On Sunday I drove back to the Bay Area to go to a wedding (congrats Steve and Heidi!). Weddings can tend to blur, but this one will always stand out for the musical roast the father of the bride delivered during dinner. Sadly I don't have the lyrics.
sidenote: it only took two and half hours to get from North Lake Tahoe (King's Beach) to Berkeley. I'm used to Tahoe trips taking 4-5 hours as I usually leave from the Peninsula. I think future trips to Tahoe (leaving from Berkeley) are in order.
As always, many pictures were taken, and as always, it will take me awhile to go through and select ones that I like. With the Shangri-La photos I can even compare the photos of trees and rocks to previous years' photos to see if the rocks and trees have weathered any. Maybe there is a geologist out there, somewhere, that might be thrilled. Or not.
My desktop still isn't at 100%, but most of my photo workflow is back online, which gives me a chance to post these photos from a Muir Woods hike we did over the 4th of July weekend. The parking lot was packed -- we ended up parking half a mile down the road, but once we got high enough up the trail is became fairly quiet once more, until we reached the Tourist Club with its beer garden and board games. The fog rolled in while we played Trivial Pursuit (rather difficult to answer questions from 1981), so I broke out my camera and snapped some shots.
I've been a bit busy the past two weeks. It would be nice to write about all of it, but then I wouldn't get the rest I very much need right now. There's a lot of photos I've got to go through and ship out to people, so that will probably be one of my main tasks this week.
Here's most of what happened the last 13 days (in approximate order of occurrence):
I'm going to be mostly Internet free until Monday. Laters!
I kept driving up Page Mill Road yesterday. I was intending to go to Russian Ridge, but the road was so much fun that I kept on driving and driving until we came across Portola Redwoods Forest. The park is only 15-20 minutes outside of Palo Alto and costs $6 to get in. We were extremely slow due to our picture-taking addiction and inability to find the trailhead, but there are some good 7 mile and 11 mile loops you can do there. It was also eery to listen to how much the super-tall redwood trees creak in the wind -- it's like hearing a door open.
On the way back we quickly stopped at Russian Ridge so I could get some shots of the foothills before they turn brown -- Palo Alto Foothills Park is already fully brown. The wildflowers were also in full force.
I found the afikommen for the second time in two tries. Two times in a row makes it a streak, and two-for-two means that I am undefeated, so by all rights I title myself an undefeated afikommen champion. I hope to defend my title in the future, but in the meantime my chocolate prize will help bring back good memories of a delicious meal.
With all this talk of accountability, it's time for me to come clean -- this entry is the only entry I've ever penned myself. The rest were outsourced to India, where one can purchase high quality posts for $0.01 per word. I can't afford those rates, but much like hair school haircuts, one can volunteer to have your blog posted to by a blog trainee.
Wait, I must confess some more -- I'm not writing this post either. It's the thought that counts, and a lot of thought went into the $1.00 I paid for this. Pity, a dollar doesn't buy very
If you get into a fender bender, even a very minor one, and the other person is an elderly old man, don't assume (out of respect for your elders) that the person is a kindly gentleman that will stop and exchange insurance information with you. In fact, be prepared to sprint after his fleeing vehicle and shout out his license plate number to your fellow passenger -- it might save you an expensive deductible. Of course, if you're like me and don't follow this example, you can take solace in the fact that the damage on his car looked much, much worse.
Update: let me emphasize, this was a minor fender bender, and the elderly person in question fled at an comically slow speed, giving me plenty of time to stand in disbelief, and giving me plenty to kick myself over for not getting the license plate number.
There are many ways this past weekend can be summarized. First, let me start at the end of my story and say that I am now a proud uncle. He's a big guy -- 10 pounds, 2 ounces, 23" -- and he's already got a head full of black hair and brown eyes, so it hardly seems like he was just born.
Everything turned out great this weekend, though it's not to say everything went to plan. On a states-travelled basis, my planned itinerary was:
As a result of unforeseen events, my actual travel ended up being:
When I was boarding the redeye plane out to Pittsburgh, I thought I was in a bit of luck as my sister had already been checked into the hospital and they had started inducing labor. When I arrived in Pittsburg, I got a voicemail message from my dad saying that they were sending my sister home (to be readmitted on Monday), that the inducing had not worked. The general reaction was, "they can do that?" We had assumed that inducing labor, even if "induce" is a weak term, was generally a one-way process, one that resulted in the mother holding the baby. The notion that they could un-induce (reduce?) was a new concept. My personal reaction had an additional element of "b-b-but, I'm only out here until Monday! They can't send her home! I want to see my nephew now!" My sister, of course, had the worst of it, as it meant yet another day that she would have to spend in the hospital going through contractions.
Instead of heading to the rental car counter to get a car to drive to West Virginia with, I turned around and went back into the airport to buy tickets to fly to DC, as no baby meant no mom/dad/dog travelling to West Virginia, and, so, a couple hours later I found myself stepping off a plane in Virginia, several hours east of my original planned destination.
Visiting with the parents went well, though there was a touch of disappointment that I was not going to be able to see my nephew, as I would have to extend my trip by two or even three more days. I had a return ticket to Pittsburgh on Saturday, though, so at least I would be able to see my sister with her big belly.
As my dad drove me to the airport early Saturday morning, disappointment disappeared -- my sister called to say that the baby was on the way, and with a fortunate choice of return ticket it turns out that I would be arriving for the birth after all. I had to pickup my mom at the Pittsburgh airport later that day, so I missed the first couple hours of my nephew's life, but I got to spend plenty of time with him, my sister, and my brother-in-law the rest of that day and the next, taking tons of photos (300+), and watching my nephew change: sneezing, hiccuping, crying, and farting -- all the things that made him more and more human in my eyes.
I just finished reading Curious Incident of the Dog at Midnight. It has a passage where the autistic main character (Christopher) talks about counting cars on the way to school: if he sees four red cars in a row, it's a Very Good Day, if he sees five it's a Super Good Day, but if he sees four yellow cars it's a Very Bad Day. The teacher asks him why -- when every other behavior of his is so rational -- he has such an illogical manner of judging what sort of day it will be. Christopher points out that his way of judging days is no different from other people who look out the window in the morning, see a sunny sky, and decide that it will be a good day -- what does the weather matter when they are going to spend all day inside the office anyway?
This is a roundabout way of me announcing that on the way to Caltrain today, I was walking east towards a clear sky with the sun shining, while rain sprinkled from grey clouds above, and behind me there was a beautiful double rainbow behind me, as if to say, I had a very good weekend, I will have a brief spell of Bad Day as I catch up on work, but the rest of my day will be a Super Good Day.
Home DSL on...
New digital camera is over in shipping and receiving...
May go to the TiVo talk tonight...
I got a drink bought for me, by a woman. It would have been nice if she had bought it to hit on me, instead of buying it as part of a round because she was hitting on a friend, but I'll ignore my pride and drink that beer happily, knowing that I did absolutely nothing to deserve it -- that only makes that nice, cold, free glass of Anchor Steam taste even better.
Not much time to post, but, with the generous help of friends, my stuff has now been moved to Hope. Thanks to all who helped. Apologies to pholist members who were not enlisted for help; it wasn't a slight against your skills -- I figured ten pairs of hands were already a bit much for what there was.
BTW: I continue to recommend Hengehold to anyone renting trucks in the peninsula for moving. They haven't screwed up a reservation yet, and they have good quality trucks.
They should give you nose plugs when a doctor uses a hot knife.
The tortoise-style move is progressing well. After three consecutive days of two-three carloads, I've managed to move almost all of my non-large-furniture items. The Incredibles bag I got at Comic-Con has been perfect for transporting everything from DVDs to books between the places. The computer is coming up in the moving queue so kwc.org will be moving to its temporary home soon.
Thanks to all those who have helped thus far and will be helping on Saturday.
I had a great Thanksgiving. As I am prone to do, I will be backposting entries describing some of the things I did in more detail, but, in summary, I got to do nearly everything I consider worthwhile: spending time with family, eat lots of mashed potatoes, looking at Impressionist and Modern paintings, watching USC beat up Notre Dame 41-10, reading, and taking lots of photos.
As it often occurs with my reading, there were many coincidences surrounding my reading choices. I have been reading Umberto Eco's Travels in Hyperreality, which is a series of essays that indirectly reveals some of the genesis of Foucault's Pendulum. My aunt, out of the blue, handed me The Da Vinci Code, which is, in many ways, a light/pop version of Foucault's Pendulum. As we discussed The Da Vinci Code, she brought up the Glendale/Forest Lawn Cemetary, which has a stained-glass rendition of The Last Supper. This rendition, as well as the cemetary in general, are directly discussed in Travels in Hyperreality. In a bunch of clippings she was keeping with The Da Vinci Code, she also had a clipping with a photo of the glass Last Supper, which made the Eco essay easier to understand. All-in-all, it was a convergence that made the material easier to appreciate, though my paranoia wonders why these convergences so frequently center around the Templars.
I didn't have time to visit the cemetary on this trip, but there will be future opportunities.
Apologies for the bad title pun, but parakkum and I just signed the lease for a townhouse on Hope Street (so long No Hope! The Curse is over!), about a block away from Dana Street Coffee. This location does present some problems, as the close proximity to my favorite caffeine dispensary may result in permanent tremors, and the close proximity to both new and used bookstores will leave me in literate poverty. Thankfully, the new Scientology center down the street can provide me with daily e-meter readings so as to correct any imbalances.
If you're hanging out on Castro Street in MV, give us a buzz.
I'm leaving tomorrow to visit my Aunt and Uncle. I shall return on Monday with photos from the Renoir to Matisse exhibit at LACMA and the USC/Notre Dame homecoming game -- my first USC home game, I'm looking forward to it.
I posted some of my Castro Street Halloween pics to my Flickr. You can witness the massive crowds, ln m's Incredible teammates, and tranquility. However, I think the best costume prize has to go to Team America -- they had the whole squad, even Kim Jong Il.
I have to say, given all the stories involving stabbings and puke and other bodily functions associated with Castro Halloween, things were pretty tame, though really crowded. I hear that the city took over control, and if so I guess I'll never get to witness the true splendor :).
Ken as Pepe Le Pew
Night three of three was completed for the Star Wars marathon. Thanks to all those who came -- you all made the movies far more fun and entertaining than George Lucas is capable. Thanks to bp and joy, whose sangria still has me a bit tipsy, and thank you all for witty, insightful commentary, and for stocking my fridge.
A little known fact: I fought the US all the way to the Supreme Court, but my appeal was rejected. Seeing "Kenneth Conley v. United States of America" brings back such fond memories.
I went to the first of two acupressure classes I signed up for in order to deal with my back troubles. I got this weird, mini-cane with this knobs all over it that I can now us to hit all my pressure points, which will be nice.
With all the benefits of the class, though, showing up to a class where everyone else is a 50+ year-old white female is a tad bit embarrassing, not to mention the fact that you have to see your medical problems juxtaposed with that of 50+ year-old white women.
I first had this idea after frequently driving past the vacant Excite @Home building on 101, but this idea received new vigor after Mike (ln m) pointed out the abandoned, never-used Inktomi building in Foster City. Spanning two towers, each eight stories tall, and with the interior consisting of the bare minimum of insulation and concrete, I can't help think that it would be a beautiful setting for office space paintball.
We pondered this idea for a bit as we loaded up on beer at the somewhat lame Foster City Oktoberfest. Not satisfied with mere speculation, we wandered across the street into the vacant building, hoping to get a glimpse of the empty interior. We got much more than we thought we would, as the stairwell access was unlocked. We were able to wander the building with impunity, snapping the occasional photo, checking out sight lines, brainstorming missions, etc...
The idea is simple: two teams, each armed with relatively weak paintball guns for an indoors setting. Stick each team in one tower, give each a flag to place on a floor of their choice, and let the teams have at it. The towers are connected by both a multi-story parking garage and a third-floor roof. The third-floor roof is difficult to cross as balconies overlook it from each tower, but the parking garage, with its numerous columns, is suitable for a well-staged assault. Three elevators and a stairwell provide access to each tower. One variation would be to stage this at night, with each person given a flashlight to selectively turn on and off.
Who needs Counterstrike/Rainbow Six?
I saw zealot for the first time in quite awhile on Saturday. She was a proper CD/DVD-shopping companion: while being responsible for instigating our trip to Rasputin Music, she also made sure that I didn't waste all my disposable income there by going through my selections with me and tossing anything I showed the slightest hesitation purchasing. None of this, though, stopped her from impulse-buying Knight Rider Season One at the cash register.
Quick tangent: sarah, Season One and Three of the TNG. Rasputin Music. $50 each. You know you want it.
Also got to see Jeff and Dave, yet again on Castro Street in MV. We hung out a bit before I rushed Jay over the airport, and then dropped in on Al's b-day bash. I will note that Al's team won the mini-golf tourney with Al wearing the yellow bracelet, a fact which will become important in a future post I am preparing.
As meta noted, we went to the Saddlerack in Fremont Friday night. It was a rather interesting place, as I would have never expected a country-western Bar of that magnitude to exist in the Bay Area. If you had taken a photo of the parking lot, one would think you were in Texas, as nearly every American pickup truck in the South Bay must have been parked there. This is not to say that the entire crowd was authentic; rather, the bar had to cater to both the authentic and ironic crowds, the latter mostly made up of Stanford students and what-not. The music would switch between live country and Outkast and the like, though each would run for about half-an-hour to give each group its appropriate amount of time on the dance floor.
meta rode the mechanical bull, as did several others. Sadly, jay wussed out, or perhaps he didn't want to deprive watching female riders. I, of course, can blame my invertebrate spine for my weakness.
1) I have officially forsaken my Virginia identity and have applied for a California driver's license.
I've given up on my previous plan to fly to Virginia, re-register my license there, and also register as an absentee voter, mainly because there may be tax implications of pretending to still be a Virginia resident.
2) My California DMV experience went really well. This is shocking. I've avoided (1) for three years because the bad stories about the DMV were endless. Cohen went there three times before he was successful; others went online to make appointments for dates 30 days in the future. I, on the other hand, went online, and was given an appointment for the next day. When I showed up for my appointment, I took a number, which was called promptly. I then discovered I did not have $24 in cash, as required, but the woman helping directed me to an ATM and let me cut back in line.
My only disappointment in the whole experience is that I got 100% of the questions right. Clearly, if there was any time wasted, it was studying for that test.
Not the movie, but the phrase, which means "Life out of balance." Granted, there's no Philip Glass soundtrack or fear of industrial development, but the phrase remains descriptive enough for how I've felt for the past several months, perhaps starting when I first injured my back, and then worsened by the complacency that followed. The environment we live in has such a strong hold on how we feel and how we develop, and in my most recent move I didn't feel that the pieces came together just right.
Using the methods I learned growing up as a military brat, I'm attempting to right things in the way I best know how, which is a long way of saying that I will be moving, again, in the near future (60 days), as will the rest of the house of 99.
This perhaps is a good time to advertise a wonderful house for you or anybody you know to move into. Those of you who have visited know that it is quite a spectacular house, with three bedrooms, a gigantic living room and kitchen, small basement, 2-car garage, very large backyard, and cottage, all totaling 3/4 of an acre I believe. I was jealous of the previous tenants when they lived there, and I'll be jealous of whoever moves in next.
My trusty stainless steel crown that I've had since I was eight or so finally gave out on me. I have a fancy new porcelain crown that was made using a $12K camera that captures a 3-D image of the tooth, and then some 3-D modelling software that generates an appropriate crown for the tooth, and finally a $100K dual-diamond bit cutter that mills the crown out of a block of porcelain (of the correct yellow hue for my teeth). I was rather impressed, in a dorky way, how computer technology is taking over the dentists office.
Went to the Small Brewer's Fest last weekend. It seemed smaller than in previous years; it appeared to me that although the tent was the same size, they spread the booths further apart, and there were a lot less small brewers, i.e. there were either not-so-small-brewers (Sierra Nevada, New Belgium), or restaurant breweries (Faultline, Tied House). If memory serves me right, even Anchor didn't show up this year.
A marching band performed, which was amusing, because it I got to see that band geeks do have a life after college.
Also went to a house-warming (jp) and a house-leaving (itinerant) party on Sunday. During the first we discussed orthodox religions and embroidered holes in sheets, and during the latter another person and I vociferously debated the existence of an army position that hasn't been held since WWII, which is of great importance, naturally.
I'll end with a small poll for gamers out of curiousity: which fighting game franchise is better, Tekken Tag or Dead or Alive?
I'm having a great Friday the 13th: * 8:30am: Dropped of my car to have the windows on the left side fixed (broken regulators) * 11:30am: Rode my bike to the dentist to have him look at my broken crown * 12:30pm: As I left the dentist I discovered that there was a staple through my back tire, so I had to have meta come pick me up * 1:30pm: Blew my only spare tube trying to fix the flat tire because I'm incompetent * 2:30pm: Picked up more spare tubes from bike shop, finally got back tire fixed on bike * 4:30pm: Picked up car from BMW, spent $700 on extending my warranty that expires in two weeks * 5:00pm: Discovered that my sunroof regulator may need to be replaced as well
Hmm, I'm hungry
We completed the move over the 4th of July Weekend from 1010 to 99, and most systems are go except for the all important DSL. Big thanks to all who helped (too many to list, as we had an army of volunteers). We have cable, which means I have been able to view the Tour de France uninterrupted, but without DSL I am unable to turn this blog into a complete TdFest like I normally do. I shall persevere to endure.
Despite all the busy-ness moving and unpacking, I did manage to see the excellent Spidey 2 twice. I can't think of any comic book movie that's better, though I've been told to re-watch Superman. My memories of that series are vague, though I'm inclined to give the edge to a nerdy, conflicted superhero over an alien that only experiences negative emotions when exposed to red rocks.
Drank at meta's roommate's surprise b-day party, Zeitgeist with rcp, ginfiend, and others, and at the Tonga room at the Fairmont tonight. With the exception of late brunch, everything I ate today was accompanied by alcohol. Perhaps that's why I'm tired even though I've only been up 13 hours.
All was good, though it seems that rcp had more fun at Cafe du Nord that we did at the Tonga room (cheesy pirate decor that's amusing once, but probably not twice, and with live music that doesn't aid the enjoyment).
Update: added two photos of the Tonga Room ambiance
Spent most of Sunday at Mike/Kitchen's party. It was a nice, relaxed party, filled with interludes of drunken skanking and an aborted viewing of Bubba Ho-Tep, and in honor of our host, I want to write:
Mike's calves are feking huge
really, really, feking huge
Grapefruits, cantaloupes even
I hope he doesn't kick me
This one's a relic. Back in college I participated in a startup called Storefront Media. About the only highlight that came out of this was that we made it onto the frontpage of the Wall Street Journal, above the crease. Granted, the article had almost nothing to do with us, but seeing the name of our company there in the WSJ allowed us to grin and state with certitude, "Why, we were mentioned on the front page of the Wall Street Journal."
I'm posting it here now because, as I was packing my stuff up for an upcoming move, I came across the paper, and the past four years have not been very kind to it as you can tell. I better post it now before I lose all proof of our claim.
I haven't been posting much recently, at least compared to my normal posting rate, mostly because I haven't been up to much recently, other than reading a lot of books. I restarted Quicksilver, and hopefully this time I'll actually finish Stephenson's monstrous effort. His next one (Confusion) is sitting on my shelf, so I better get cracking.
I also haven't been posting much because I've been hanging out more on political blogs rather than technology blogs recently, and, similarly, I keep getting drawn into political debates on an e-mail list. I've tried to avoid political stuff on this blog, which means I don't have much to post. I've narrowed my main list of pol blogs down to Daily Kos and Atrios, with Instapundit thrown in for balance, but it's still a lot to go through. If the Bush Administration didn't screw up on a weekly basis I would have much more time to post other stuff.
There should be a lot going on soon, as next week I go to Boston for the first time in a couple years to see my friends. I'm also looking forward to adding more photos to my Gehry collection. Then, in three weeks, I'll be heading off to Ireland and trying to share a pint with all the O'Connollys out there; I fear this might kill me.
I made my first trip ever to Japantown, which seems rather long in coming. There were a couple of stores that made it a fun visit, including the bookstore and the convenience store, but overall it was a bit of a disappointment. Japantowns across the US are suffering as there are only three remaining (SF, San Jose, LA), and all of them are in California. I read an article once describing the problem, and one cause that was speculated was that Japanese ownership in Japantown was very low; unlike Chinese descendents and Chinatown, Japanese descendents have not been strongly been interested in maintaining their presence in Japantown. Regardless of causes, Japantown just doesn't feel very... Japanese. There wasn't much there that I couldn't buy at my local Nijiya grocery store or at a comic book store. Perhaps someone who is Chinese will reply to tell me that Chinatown doesn't feel very Chinese either :).
I cool thing that meta did there was get her cellphone engraved by a guy who sits at a table in front of the bookstore. I've posted photos of this in the extended entry. It only took about five minutes, and now the front of her phone is covered with little goldfish and the back has a large tiger. Very neat. We're wondering if the engraver will also iPods and laptops. I might be able to get some cool dragons swirling around the touch wheel.
I've also posted some more attempts at pagoda photos in the extended entry.
I found the afikommen!
Another woohoo - for the second time in my life, I did my own taxes. Much easier the second time around with the tax program importing last year's data. I used TurboTax this year instead of TaxCut. I know that destroys geek cred, but I used TaxCut last year and it was a piece of crud.
Granted, TurboTax had the benefit of importing all of last year's TaxCut data to make my life easier, but it also seems that TurboTax does a real good job of marking stuff that you can skip over. TurboTax often marked pages with "these are not common," which was code-speak for "press next." This made things a lot faster and me a lot less paranoid when I had finished. Also, as far as I could tell, this years version had zero copy protection - no registration numbers, no nothing. My only complaint was that it took about an hour for it to download all of its updates, which was longer than it took to fill out my taxes.
I got my first raise today. It wasn't very large, and everyone else in the company got one as well. In fact, someone else more accurately summed it up the raises as a cost-of-living-adjustment, but the main point is, after two and a half years and two jobs after graduating from college, I got my first raise!
Anybody out there have experience with lucid dreams? I believe I've had lucid dreams twice: once over a dozen years ago, and another last night. In both cases, almost as soon as I realized I was dreaming, I immediately woke up, so I didn't really get to have any fun with it.
In my first lucid dream, I was racing around trying to escape from a fire. I raced around for quite awhile, unable to find a way to get around the flames. It then occurred to me that this was a dream, and that I could get out out of it by dying, so I laid down on the flames and woke up.
In last night's dream, I dreamt I was in a CD store and there was a Liz Phair MTV Unplugged CD. I picked it up to buy it as a present for meta and took it to the register. At the register they had another Liz Phair live CD, so I picked that up too.
As I was paying for the CDs, I thought to myself, "There's no Liz Phair MTV Unplugged CD," and I opened up both CD cases. Both of the CD labels said MTV Unplugged, but one was a little bit ephemeral, as if it didn't know what label it was supposed to have. As it dawned on me that none of this was real I woke up.
Anybody have more luck staying in their dreams?
As there aren't enough photos of me on this site, here's a headshot. You might be able to make out the retainer I used to have glued to my bottom set of teeth as well as a crown (left, bottom). My mouth was open so that you the vertebrae structure at the back of my mouth could be imaged.
I updated the protest sign entry to now include photos of the signs I mention.
This entry doesn't say much, so I will add the fact that this is entry #976, for those who are counting.
meta and I stopped by the Iraq War anniversary protests today (sadly, San Francisco didn't get a mention in many of the news reports). There were probably a couple thousand people in Dolores Park, but nowhere near the one million estimated in Rome.
Political commentary aside, this was a good opportunity to observe cleverness in sign-making, so I snapped several photos that I may post on Monday. We were too lazy to march with the crowd to the Civic Center, where the actual rally was to take place, so we had to make do with the creativity that could be observed close by.
My favorite sign by far was a man holding a sign that said, "I COULD USE A DATE -- BRING THE TROOPS HOME." That's like the Scrabble triple word score of sign making.
My second favorite was the seemingly ironic, "I HATE CROWDS." The irony was ruined when we saw the back of the sign, which said something like "So get Bush out of office so I can go home." I would have preferred the sign in pure ironic form, but this was a antiwar protest.
meta enjoyed the grammer-dorky, "WHO'S BEEN TERRORIZING WHOm," ('m' squeezed in as an afterthought).
There was also one hot dog vendor showing great business skills. Most likely in preparation for the protest, he had his menu printed up with the header "Dogs of Mass Destruction," with renamed menu items "Nuke Dogs" and "Scud Dogs." This was a smart recognition of his clientele, though meta pointed out that he would do even better had he added tofu dogs to the menu.
This is a rarity on this site (an image of me). I did this with a bit of plastic wrap, meta's scanner, and honeyfields iBook. Except for resizing, this is the original scan.
My commute to work this morning felt like a videogame.
Level 1: Acquire transportation
- Objective: Successfully navigate across 22nd Street, which has temporarily been renamed the 22nd Street River.
- Obstacles: Ankle-to-knee-deep water on 22nd Street.
- Mission status: Lost 10 health for water-soaked shoes.
Level 2: Maze
- Objective: Ignore parking tickets on car and navigate towards freeway.
- Obstacles: Flooded streets, in particular Cesar Chavez, which has been renamed Cesar Chavez River (22nd Street River has been renamed to 22nd Street Stream). Closed on-ramp at Van Ness (police cars). Closed on-ramp on Bryant (cleanup crew).
- Mission status: Successfully navigated to 280 on-ramp near 6th, or thereabouts.
Level 3: Low-vis driving
- Objective: Drive down 280 to 101 to Menlo Park
- Obstacles: Visibility intermitently shrinking to ~15 feet at points. Sudden stops on freeway at locations where the freeway is completely flooded.
- Mission status: Successfully navigated around several large puddles, made it to Menlo Park.
Bonus level: Deleting e-mail.
- Objective: Open up e-mail account and delete the 30 (and growing) e-mails because someone decided to open up a debate on gay marriage and social security.
- Obstacles: Potential for RSI from repeated deletion of e-mail.
- Mission status: ongoing
I think the cortisone is giving me insomnia. Haven't slept right in at least a week, and I'm tired in a way that's resistent to caffeine: the caffeine just heightens my disorientation. It's bad enough being tired but not being able to keep the proper caffeine/blood composition is too much, too much I say!
I got meta a copy of iLife/Garageband for Valentine's Day. Before you criticize my romantic nature, she did say that "the most romantic thing [she] could think of was a scanner and some midi composition software," and she already has a scanner.
Now I just have to figure out how to sneak my guitar over to her apartment, co-opt her computer, compose and record my demo, and launch my music career. I'm sure she won't mind, and I'll even let her perform on a track or two.
I got another MRI today. Supposedly they take 45 minutes because they figure that's how long they can keep you there before you become really annoyed. They get as many pictures as they can in that fixed time period.
Anyway, my real peeve is that if you're supposed to stay absolutely still the whole time, why in the world do they make the thing sound like an alarm klaxon? And not just any alarm klaxon. This one sounds like the type of klaxon. Hard as you try, there's this natural Pavlovian response to go into flight-or-fight mode the minute you hear it.
If they did something as simple as made it loud constantly, rather than the repeating alarm-style buzzer, it would go a long way to removing this rote response.
Apology to readers: I am hoping your visceral response to to the blinking red text will help you empathize with my meaningless rant. However, I do apologize: this is the first, and hopefully the last, time I will use the blink tag on this site. I will note, though, I can think of no entry for which it's use is more appropriate.
Got a bunch of MRIs from 1999 in the mail today. I was going to scan a bunch of them in, but after my first attempt I decided that I'll stop with this one as the scanner has a lot of trouble with the film.
MRIs work by knocking around hydrogen and measuring their spin. In effect, then, what you see with an MRI is water content, which is good for imaging the body, as we're so full of water. The whiter something is, the more water imbued it is.
This image shows my lumbar spine. The spinal column is the long white thing on the right and the horizontal pancakes are the discs. There's two things you can kinda notice in this. First, right before the spinal column hooks off to the right, there's three bumps in it where the discs are intruding. You'll also notice that those three discs are darker that the ones above them; hence, they have less water. The three discs were "fixed" in 1999, but the bottom of the three is the one that's been giving me trouble again.
I keep finding really interesting things as I go back through memorylane, and this one really freaked me out. I had known that I had written this story, and I knew that it was very similar to the Matrix, but I had written it in 1996 for English class, long before the movie came out.
Much of the movie the Matrix is based on pop-sci-fi, so to find that the two stories share the same "simulated reality" premise isn't striking, but I even called it "The Matrix." There were also some other interesting quotes:
"How was he able to see through the Matrix?"
"Dozens of tubes and wires ran in and out of his body. Nutrients still poured in and out of his body, and an I.V. continuously released mind-controlling drugs into his system"
The antagonist in the story is very different (in fact, I'm not really sure who the antagonist is), so in the end the stories share as many differences as they do similarities, but I find it remarkable that the only story of mine that I've ever written for more than just a school assignment would be so similar to one of my future favorite movies.
I don't recommend reading the actual story, unless you like really bad high school SF motivated by a desire to play with different fonts, all laid out against a background that makes it hard to read, but here's the link:
I'm still busy crawling through all my old backup CDs, which is my version of going through a scrapbook. I'm happy at some of the bits that I'm finding there, though I seem to be missing some old Photoshop experiments that I did in high school in college. I'm guessing these were on some old zip disks that I probably discarded :( .
I'm posting this entry because I found this old composition I did in high school, which was one of my first composition using Photoshop. I had just gotten Photoshop and had only used it for text graphics for Web sites, so this was the first time that I really played around with photos, feathering, and opacity. I submitted it to the school art magazine in order to get extra credit for my journalism course, but it was rejected.
I look at in now and go, "wow, I actually showed a bit of promise back then. What the hell happened?" As evidence (not of promise, but of lack of accomplishment):
Photo compositions in high school: one (not too bad for first attempt)though, in my defense:
Photo compositions since high school: one (also in 97, and not as good)
Art classes in high school: zero
Art classes since high school: zero
Anyway, I still like this composition, though I wish I could find the original Photoshop file so I could clean it up and fix some of the poorer elements. I'm still glad that I stuck with my current career path, though first attempts like this wish I had more attempts to follow.
I can feel my left foot. Needles in my spine rock!
As some of asked, here's a health update: I'm back at work now, and have been all week. I got a shot in my spine yesterday that's supposed to remove the inflammation, and I'll keep getting that shot about every five weeks. It's meant to treat the symptoms, but not much else. My doctor says that 90% of herniations heal on their own, but that the healing can take 9-12 months. Also, 'heal' doesn't mean that I'll regain feeling in the areas that are numb now.
Overall, things are pretty good, and I'm happy. I think I that my left foot today might even be a little less numb, though gauging level of numbness is a lot more difficult than gauging level of pain, i.e. IMHO, it's harder to tell how much something isn't there.
I have been expecting a reinjury like this for many years now, and now that it's happened, it's not as bad as it could have been. I think I'll escape this one without surgery, though I'm still uncertain as to which of my hobbies I'll have to give up. The snowboarding equipment is going to stay on the shelves for awhile, but I'm hoping to get on the bike soon as it shouldn't matter too much how numb my left foot is. Ultimate and racquetball might be a bit harder, as I haven't figured out yet how to train my muscles to react quick enough yet to the delayed sensations.
Last night I started walking for extended periods of time again for the first time in nearly a week. It feels nice to be released from the confines of my bed, though I'm still not used to walking around on a numb foot.
Thanks to all of you who have helped over the past week, and those of you who took the time to come and visit. My days have been rather boring and confined, so to have someone stop by a say hey was a big lift. Also, special thanks to pqbon and meta who have kept me from starving and rotting.
kwc: needles in my spine
kwc: how sublime
kwc: they do it everytime
metamanda: that almost rhymes
You'd think that now that I have all the time in the world I would be posting 100 entries per hour, but it seems that the number of interesting pages on the Internet is inversely proportional to the amount of time I have to surf the Internet.
TNH posted this entry comparing Lieberman to Palpatine. I still go for the Lieberman/Gollum similarity myself, though I guess evil emperor trumps gimp with severe case of multiple personality disorder.
As for my health, I'm no longer in any pain, but I can't seem to feel the left half of my left leg. It's rather disconcerting when all the spatial components of your brain know that your pinky toe is there, and your other foot can feel that your pinky toe is there, but there's only a slight tingle from the pinky toe itself. I did find out that the steroid that they're giving me is the same stuff Jerry Lewis was addicted to. Apparently it made him gain a lot of weight, so maybe I'll be really fat when you next see me.
I'm officially (in a technical sense) lame now. To follow the path of my gimpiness, here were the steps:
(1) develop sore throat
(2) sore throat turns into cough
(3) throw out back coughing
(4) pinched nerve in leg b/c of unhappy lower back muscles
So I'm currently laid up right now taking a bunch of pills...
I managed to throw out my back coughing. Spent the day listening to my iPod, catching up on my TiVo, watching Run Lola Run and part of Bend it Like Beckham, and reading/finishing Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which I will eventually do a short blog entry on (read it, you can even download it for free). Luckily pqbon came home mid-noonish, found me incapacitated and starving, and fed me some grub. Alyssa also stopped by to drop off my laptop so that I can extend my presence beyond the walls of my room.
While we were back in DC, meta showed me her Autobon mushroom guide that she had used to go mushroom hunting when she was 12 (yes, she was a dork even in those early years). She brought it back with her so we went with Tom and Steve to try and find some chanterelles (morels are apparently not in season). No luck with the chanterelles, but it was interesting to see how many different types of mushrooms you can see in a small area without seeing the same one twice.
Now that we're back meta is busy identifying the mushrooms and I'm watching Iron Chef: Battle Matsutake, which my TiVo has recommended I watch. Now THAT is technology. Hopefully none of the mushrooms she's identifying are poisonous...
Update: turns out that the mushroom I found is deadly poisonous. Go me.
Rather than write out everything that happened over the past week, I've summarized most of the holiday festivities/vacation in poorly chosen photos in order to drain your (and my) bandwidth.
Today was far too interesting of a day to pass up the opportunity to write about it. I knew it was going to be at least busy, given that I had three social engagements to go to, but I didn't know that it would provide so many interesting experiences as well.
The day started off on a weird note. In fact, it started off with a dream, and it wasn't even my dream. As metamanda tells it, she was dreaming about standing at a BART station, next to the train tracks, an appropriate dream considering her recent introduction to SF mass transit. The train was coming, but she realized that she was on the wrong side of the tracks, and, in a panic, she decided her best course of action would be to leap across the tracks before the train arrived. Unfortunately, she didn't make it.
Why am I transcribing someone else's rather mundane dream? Well, I recall it as well. You see, I woke up to metamanda standing on top of the bed, eyes open, body pressed against the wall, muttering "It's coming." Before I could converse with her to find out what "it" was, she turned and leaped head first off the bed, into the nightstand, knocked over a glass of water, and landed with a tremendous thud on the floor.
When she woke up in the morning she mentioned to me that she had fallen out of bed the night before. I corrected her use of the verb "fell" and suggested that "leaped" would a much better choice. She didn't believe me at first, but I then asked her about what her dream was. She recalled the train tracks, and then noted that they were lowered, in fact, they were lowered about the same height as the bed, and they were dimly lit just like the room. Also, in the dream, when she jumped, she landed on the tracks... right about where the floor would be. How odd.
There's more "interesting" stuff, to me at least, but this entry is getting long so you'll have to read the extended entry or watch the news if you care to find out what.
I don't have a tumor - but I did many years back. Why mention this now? I found this summary on NORD - National Organization for Rare Disorders Web site and I found this cool synonym for what I had: Adamantinoma. That's even cooler than having something listed on the rare diseases site.
has had a lot of flies. I mean, A LOT of flies. I think a bag of potatoes I bought at the market must have been a larvae bed for them. During my vacation time I've been spending ten to twenty minutes a day walking around with a spray bottle of 409 and a roll of towels and disposing of them. I would prefer to have an electric fly swatter, but they don't seem to carry those at Albertson's.
I don't know the exact data, but I have been roughly keeping track of the fly population in the house since I've become my vacation, and I've noticed the following statistics:
Day 1: 50+ flies disposed of
Day 2: 20+ flies disposed of
Day 3: 5 flies disposed of
This trend would tend to indicate that the flies are losing the battle, or they've begun to burrow into the walls where I cannot see them. I have also noticed that the flies I am disposing of are younger and more sprightly. Hmmm... I guess I'll have to wait out another pupal cycle to see whether or not I've truly won the battle.
Hey y'all - today's my last day at PARC. Next up: three weeks of vacation (inc. Maui), followed by my new job at SRI.
SRI International's Artificial Intelligence Center (AIC) is one of the world's major centers of research in artificial intelligence. Founded in 1966, the AIC has been a pioneer and a major contributor to the development of computer capabilities for intelligent behavior in complex situations. Its objectives are to understand the computational principles underlying intelligence in man and machines and to develop methods for building computer-based systems to solve problems, to communicate with people, and to perceive and interact with the physical world.
I had two fun years at PARC - the culture and the people there are really awesome. It may seem disingenuous to say, but I really wouldn't take back my decision to work there. In many ways I was spoiled with the fun I was able to have there, and I know that much of what I learned at PARC will help me in my new job. In the end, though, things change, you change, and you have to figure out where and how you most want to contribute, and for me that will be at SRI.
Aside from being out and about all weekend (you can read honeyfield's watching horses and Napa bike riding blog entries for more info), I had no Internet connectivity at work yesterday. The msblast worm apparently said "all your base are belong to us" and our network agreed. Perhaps this was all a result of my jealousy at the NY blackout. I mean, if the East Coast can get a day off due to power outages, why shouldn't California? Didn't we start that whole concept?
Took this photo of the water clock at Stanford yesterday:
The era of my current cell phone is nearing an end. The battery isn't doing very well and I'm inspired by all the little camera cellphones. In anticipation of a new cellphone, I thought I'd post a record here of the soon-to-be-old one.
To all of those that have 'accurate' voicemail messages, I highly recommend having a more obtuse message. It cuts down on the voicemail messages (though an awful lot of the ones you do get will start out with, 'Change your cellphone message !@#').
It's beautiful outside. The weather's starting to get good again. Take a look (click on "continue")
Today, for the first time ever in my life, I did my own taxes. I used TaxCut instead of TurboTax, and while I appreciate the lack of DRM, I wasn't impressed with it's import capabilities or usability (especially for state). And after all my hard work, I end up owning less than I paid for the software, so I can't complain, though I would have appreciated simulated fireworks or something of the sort to congratulate me (as I am so proud of myself).
Woohoo! I've moved offices - now I get to look across the courtyard to my old office. It's a whole new perspective.
Jay was in town for a conference so we met up at Brothers with Maggie, Cohen, and Jay's grad friends. We finished with a drink and poor service at the top of the Hilton.
I went to an art reception at Adobe tonight entitled "Love Show." Although I really wasn't a fan of any of the art, I must say that the Adobe folks have a good thing going for them, and what seems to be a pretty cool culture.
I'm learning disabled when it comes to cooking, but one thing that I have did manage to pickup (from my Japanese aunt) is that coffee grounds are an excellent spice when it comes to curry. And really, what isn't better caffeinated? Take caffeinated soap for example. Squeeky clean and shockingy refreshed at the same time.
If you really want to up the mix, throw it over some tonkatsu like I did tonight and you'll be in heaven.
My friends have turned on me - Bryan served me a subpeona to testify about a purse snatching we witnessed.
So, apparently someone was able to steal enough of my personal info to sign me up for a cell phone with AT&T Wireless. Even managed to call the bastard up, but we weren't able to get anything useful out of him. One of my favorite parts of the whole ideal was, after having a very long conversation with the AT&T fraud department, and everything was set back in order, I was told 'Thank you for choosing AT&T Wireless.'
Tasted some wines with Reichbach. He has a book with a step-by-step guide to tasting that teaches you all the important stuff about evaluating taste, color, smell, etc... For example, tipping the glass and looking at the shadow on a white piece of paper shows the maturity of the wine, and holding the wine in your mouth while breathing in across it lets you notice a lot more of the flavor.
Here are the types of wines we tasted:
- French Syrah
- Australian Shiraz
- Chile Cab (French Style)
- French Bordeaux
While I was helping El Jefe move I got to witness one of the best setups for a team first-person shooter (in this case, Halo). On one wall was a TV showing the first team (split screen), and a projector was setup to show the other team on the opposite wall. That way the players got to yell at each other, but not actually see what the other team was doing. There's also something cool about playing video games on a projection screen.
Last night was Amanda's housewarming at her Emerson apartment. She broke out her scrapbook from the 8th grade which was simply hilarious (including the Worf photo). The funniest part was these sheets of paper that she passed around her class for people to doodle and make comments on. I hope she scans these in b/c they are hilarious.
After living out here for a year, I finally caved in to the Internet. My assimilation was inevitable. I got my DSL account setup with sonic.net. It's the same price as Pac Bell, but I get 4 static IPs.
It doesn't seem like it took very long for the good will and spirit to disappate. Instead, we have families complaining about becoming millionaires, and people complaining about families becoming millionaires, and people complaining that their tragedy deserves a payout as well. We also have companies blaming every bad woe on a post 9-11 world.
I don't mean to be too cynical. I think America has better icons for heroes (FDNY). I think we've overcome our fears. But I think I know now what our country felt during the Cuban Missle Crisis: any day the chain of world events into a terrible war could be started, whether it be in Israel, China, Korea, or elsewhere. Americans as a whole have re-entered the world stage.
Saw The Swords Project at the Stanford Coffee House. Part Radiohead (Kid A), part Smashing Pumpkins, part something else. A lot of potential, but I didn't feel that they have learned balance yet. There approach is too much constant sound instead of progressions and movements, but what do I know? I'm not a musician.
Notable for (a) hitting Jeff in the right between the eyes with a bottlecap (his eyes were covered) and (b) Adam's Pope Joke (see adjacent entry)
Stories I hope to remember/tell some day (yes, Russ is in a lot of them):
Harvard bridge 10
House trip to the park (getting pulled over)
House trip to Drew's
Mehul and the culture show
Russ' play (Robots)
Chet's plays (Ibiza, Tartuffe?)
Apocalypse Now at James' swan song
Hogie and the bay hat
Jay, Alex's door, fire extinguisher, mannequin, bottles
Curse of Ebulboj
Russ and the deep freeze/closet
Russ and Rocky
Russ and the book
Trailer park betas
Jim, Jamaica, monkeys, Vietnam
Chet had the great idea of heading down to Foxwoods (my first gambling experience). Left with $469 off of $70 seed money, all of it earned at the craps table (some lost in other games like roulette).
"I learned my odds today!"
"It is possible to lose money at this game?"
This is what happens when you try to move out to the Bay Area during the housing crush of 2000. The initial plan was for me to come out a couple weeks early and search for housing while crashing at Dave's. Jay and the rest (5 of us in total) would arrive at the beginning of June, with everything setup for us to have a kickass apartment. Similar plans had worked for Jay and I in '98, so we thought we'd stick with what we knew.
We were foolish, of course. Instead of me finding an apartment immediately, I spent the end of May and most of June on the phone, futile-y trying to find a free apartment. As this continued to produce failure, we rented an RV to get some steadiness, and when we finally broke down, we paid over $4K/mo for a 2 bedroom apartment in Menlo Park.
This is a log of our summer.
6/2: Comfort Inn, Sunnyvale
6/3: Sunnyvale Inn & Suites (Jay arrives)
6/6: San Antonio Inn with "Coyote" (did laundry at Stanford)
6/7: Sj/Sarah's (spent the night driving around to try and find another air mattress)
6/8: Pacific Inn ("jacuzzi")
6/9: Sj/Sarah's (after being screwed over by Silicon Valley Inn)
6/10: RV at New Brighton State Beach
6/11-6/14: RV back in Sunnyvale in the Trimble parking lot
6/15: Fly down to Burbank, end up staying there after Hawaii flight cancelled
6/16-6/20: Make it to Hawaii and stay at the Aston Waikiki Sunset
6/21: Dave's (using a shirt as my only sheet)
6/22: Finally move into Menlo Park apartment, but there's no furniture
7/6-8: In Atlanta for Randy's wedding. Stayed at Randy's the first night, then at the Wingate, which is a story in its own right.
There are some cryptic notes and inside jokes in the paper version of these notes, but even I no longer recognize the meaning of some of them.
1 Rainbow, 2 Rainbows, 1 Rainbow
2 leis in water
1968 Valentine's Photo
Diamond Head silhouette
rays breaking through clouds to east
Jo Ann's poem
eulogies between family are short, because the feeling is clear
Running on breakwater
Halekalane: grandpa's favorite. drinks at sunset to live music, filet mignon dinner
More flowers in water from mai tais
For the amusement of my SFM brethren, I've chosen to blog this ancient entry first. My memory fails the finer details, but I came across these quotes that I had written down. The quotes are spread between a meeting we had at Yank-the-check to help broker a deal with 'Another Bad Idea' and a dinner that we had afterwards at Uno's with ABI.
Most of these quotes fall along complete dork humor, but there came a point where J and I just started having fun with them by throwing out terms an seeing what they would respond. As far as we could tell, the only roll of person E in the meeting was to try and translate all acronyms inaccurately.
"K: ...and we worked on triaging the bacdwidth to minimize the download time..."
"K: Triage the bandwidth"
"E: Oh, so you don't lose ergonomics"
"Them: What about object-oriented..."
"K: (lecture on OOP vs. Procedural)"
"J: Regardless you would have to change the same amount of code"
"Them: Yeah, object models are overrated."
"J: It's a matter of combinatorics."
"Them: Oh yeah, combinatorials."
"Us: Storage is cheap, processing isn't."
"Them: Yeah, pre-processing."
"East coast office - is that your bedroom?"
"So does Maya run on the Web server?"
"TCL... Tool Control, no ... Command Language" (inside his bag is Ousterhout TCL book with bookmark on first chapter)
"Yeah, like AMD is interested in sizing software"
"MEMs, micro... microelectronics... that's above nano, right?"
"In the future Jay may be the next Einstein"
"E: but Linux is more secure..."
"Us: Actually, BSD is."
"E: But that' security through obscurity."
"Us: No, BSD is open source."
"E: Right, but the Linux community has more eyeballs so it still security through obscurity."
"E: And D---, a guy without any credentials"
"E: So are we ordering dinner?"
"D: For you, nothing above $2."
"D: So what would you be looking for in a consulting deal?"
"K: I usually get an hourly wage."
"D: So what are we talking about?"
"K: For stuff I barely know, I get about $30 an hour, for stuff I'm an expert in, $70. You judge accordingly."
"D: But you're just consulting on your guy's vision."
"K: I think I'm an expert on that."
"No ice cubes in Sweden"
"So what do you think about Corel? I'm taking a beating on their stock."
"Like Bill Gates says, 'Everyone should have one.'"
"Us: No, MEMs"
"I met Linux Torvalds at Internet World. Shorts and sandals."
"J: You could put the test results in Matlab and do analysis on the data."
"K: Yeah, that's actually a good idea. You could run linear regressions, or maybe even quadratic regressins on it."
"E: Oh yeah, totally, statistics."
"K: I want something that's immediately liquidable... stock options don't buy food."
"D:So, do you want food stamps instead?"
I saved this e-mail that J sent b/c it's a wonderful of how much unbounded optimism we had about living in the Silicon Valley, unbounded optimism/naivete that was smashed by having to move around hotels for three weeks, an RV for one week, and then paying through the nose (~4k/month) for a mid-range apartment. The summer was still a lot of fun, but we got a firsthand lesson in Bay Area housing shortage.