Lils was working in my cube the night we launched. She had her little cameraphone with her, took a shot of my mousepad, and blogged it.
In my old job, I used to sometimes fumble through the iTunes radio stations when I got sick of my own music. I listened to WEMU's jazz and blues a lot (music without lyrics can be less distracting when programming). Because of the time difference between CST and PST, I'd also listen to KCRW in the mornings so I could listen to NPR news. When that ended, Morning Becomes Eclectic would come on, but I'd generally not take an interest and flip the station.
But it's in podcast form now, so I loaded it up (two of my other favorites: Radio Economics and Feldman's weekly monologue). I started on the first one, today's episode with Of Montreal.
Holy crap I loved it. It was so Bowie's Berlin Trilogy. I love the Berlin Trilogy. But I never went on into Eno or anything.
I listened to the podcast three or four times, over and over. I then ordered their latest two albums from Amazon.
It was totally a butterfly-effect thing. Somebody tells Alex about the Morning Becomes Eclectic podcast seven months ago, gets into a band because of it, blogs about it, I read it, sign up for the podcast, then get into another band because of it.
She loved the analogy and started using the phrase in class.
The irony of this hit me very hard when I started, but I couldn't say anything to Jessica about it as the project was still internal. Of course, it's out now. So this morning, I have this this comment on the last post:
"Nice friggin' meatloaf, Nathan"
Here's to browser apps. And meatloaf.
That would be my project. I'm at work, hard at work. Something I did got Slashdotted. I'm so proud.
More info as time permits.
I think there's a song that goes like that. Or something.
On Monday, I interviewed to be a roommate in a house in Duboce Triange (a coworker is moving out and alerted me to the opening). As part of that karma kick I've been on, today, they called back and offered the room. I'm taking it.
I'm going to keep two places for a bit so I can move leisurely and have time to find a replacement for me in my current house.
Gets me on the topic of superstition. My similarly rationally minded roommate and I had a discussion on superstition. Something on television sparked it. I commented on how John Lennon thought that the number nine had followed him around in life. Me, I've found that the number twelve has done that.
Of course, my rational side recognizes this as bunk. The only reason I notice a pattern of twelves is that the pattern already exists, and if I spent my time searching for other patterns, I'd find something. Our noticing such things is exemplative of our psychological tendency towards superstition.
But still, I notice a pattern making up my good week. It's flawed logic, yes. But it's probably evolutionarily advantageous to make quick associations and theories of causation, even if they're often premature and wrong (yeah, so dancing doesn't bring rain. But eating the wrong plants can kill you).
There's something fatalist about reading into signs and patterns for deeper meaning—totally against my rational nature. But I still find myself doing it.
From Po Bronson's The Nudist on the Late Shift:
[There] are two problems of portraying Silicon Valley:Silicon Valley isn't particuarly pretty. It's a big flat part of the inner peninsula that was near a big city, had plenty of space to put in big ugly office buildings, and happened to be near Stanford. Yes, cool stuff happens here. But it happens in cubes and boardrooms. The constant churning tides of capitalism are crushing and surging different companies' fortunes, but you'd never know it standing on University Avenue. We, too, have to read about it in newspapers, magazines, and the web.
- There is very little there, there.
- What is is shrouded in secrecy
I oftentimes forget how boring it is here and spend my weekends hanging around the area, hitting up University Avenue or (Mountain View's) Castro Street, or, worse, putting in a few hours at work so I can grab some food and not cook.
This is stupid. In nearly every direction, there's marvelous beauty. To the south is Santa Cruz and Monterey. To the west there's a bunch of state parks and the gorgeous coastline-hugging Highway 1. To the north, there's the city of San Francisco and Marin County. And if you're willing to put in the time in the car, there's Tahoe and Yosemite within a reasonable drive.
When I have friends in town, it's a good time to play tourist. As I said, Ali's around, so we've been hanging out a lot. Last week we spent some time in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and the Marin Headlands.
I had decided I wanted to visit the famous Muir Woods (one for reputation, and two since Muir was a Wisconsin alum and used to live in North Hall where the political science department is today. The small woods between Bascom and Lake Mendota there are also called Muir Woods).
On Saturday, I called Justin and Ali, picked them up in Oakland, and headed back into the city and over the Golden Gate into Marin. I suggested we stop by to see Point Bonita (to which I've never been), as it's only open 12:30 to 3:30 on Mondays and weekends. The lighthouse is gorgeous, but it ended up chewing up a bunch of time. Justin wanted to be back in the city for the Chinese New Year, so we ended up just getting a late lunch in Sausalito and dropping him off in the city. Ali and I met up with a another Wisconsin alum and went to see Why We Fight. We then crashed at Ali's cousin's house in Oakland.
The next morning, we got out the door bright and early and headed right for Muir Woods. It was gorgeous. We ended up hiking all the way from Muir Woods to the Pacific Ocean at Stinson Beach and back, walking a huge loop and going covering elevations from 0 to 1500 feet and probably covering 10 or 15 miles. After a late lunch at Stinson, we took the less-traveled Matt Davis Trail back up.
When hiking, I have the unfortunate habit of ignoring when the sun sets. This is a regrettable attribute. At some point while laboring up the Matt Davis Trail switchbacks, we realized we were running out of daylight. We ended up coming down some pretty steep and dangerous trails with little light. We came out of Muir Woods in near darkness, without a flashlight. An annoyed ranger was there to greet us in the parking lot, wondering if the last car belonged to us.
What was did was pretty irresponsible. In the last few hundred yards, walking across the boardwalk in the short deserted touristy path through a patch of redwoods, I said to Ali, "You know, we're pretty stupid."
"Yeah, but just smart enough," he replied. A half hour more might have been real trouble.
As a kid, my parents had me listening to Tom Pease and Robbie Clement. They were local folksy children's artists that played in the area. We would go to concerts. I had all of Tom Pease's tapes.
Tom Pease used to play For All the Good People, so when I heard it again, it struck an emotional chord. The song was written by Ken Hicks, but was popularized by a folk singer from Chicago named Fred Holstein, who played in a folk club owned by him and his brother in Chicago.
The version played on Simply Folk was Holstein's. I remembered the name, looked it up, and was intrigued. I planned on eventually making it down to Chicago to see him play--take the Van Galder bus.
I went back to the website sometime during the spring of 2004, looking to see if there were any dates I could attend that spring. I was saddened to find that Fred passed away in January. I've regretted not going earlier ever since.
During my last year in Madison, I had built up a desire to get on a stage again. Ben and I made a pact to start attending open mics. We started with the Union, in the Rathskellar, playing occasionally to crowds that were largely disinterested in anything we played that wasn't flashy or familiar. We eventually lost interest ourselves and quit going.
But on a fateful night at the Mickey's, Ben and I found a newspaper with a listing of open mics in the city. Ben picked out the open mic with Stephen Lee Rich (which used to be in a little market near Tenney Park called the Urban Market and Coffeehouse. I wrote an entry about it before).
We attended regularly until I moved away. I decided to play For All The Good People the last time I went. The chorus is very simple, and the other folks in the audience sang along for each one:
This is the song for all the good people,
All the good people that touched up my life.
This is the song for all the good people,
People I'm thanking my stars for tonight.
It was really touching. Stephen Lee Rich was very happy to have heard it played and talked about seeing Fred perform it. Fred traditionally played it as his closing song.
I haven't really performed (excepting the opera story) again since I've moved, at least until last night. Ali's in town, and his cousin lives in Oakland near Justin, so we made plans to all meet the open mic at the Starry Plough (the same place I saw Robbie Fulks last August). I played a very slow and emotive version of Good Year for the Roses and a very fast and playful Rocky Raccoon. I was particularly impressed by the audience's attention during the slow ballad. The room was almost quiet, and I tried to focus all my emotional strength into delivering the lyrics.
It comes full circle, somehow. Serendipity determines who we meet along the way. Justin and Ali only became friends of mine by chance in college--I was fairly sure I'd never see Justin again after he moved out, nor did I expect to see Ali again after I moved. Ali used to come with to see me play at open mics in Madison.
On Monday, a CD arrived at my desk. It was Fred Holstein: A Collection. I listened to the whole thing through. The last track, appropriately, was his closer, For All the Good People. Fortunately, I sit behind a divider, so nobody could see my eyes water up when I heard it.
Anyway, Ali, Justin, Fred Holstein, and everyone else I've mentioned are just some of the people I'm thanking my stars for tonight.
-Utah Phillips 1977. Excerpt from Fred Holstein's "Chicago and Other Ports."
I've got more to write on this later.
But I saw this one this morning.
Bush urges end to cartoon violence
Not well written. At first, I was assuming he was railing against Warner Bros. cartoons.
Really, really cute. I've got snow at my desk.
I ran cross country in high school. I was always amazed at how I could be feeling like crap during the day, be forced to go on a run by Mr. Steve, and feel fantastic afterwards.
Not wanting to ruin my committment to running thrice a week, I sucked it up and went for a run over lunch. By the time I got back, I felt great. So much easier than my last run. I've been feeling great all day.
The run is mapped here.
Having showers at work is a great thing. They also promote bicycle commuting.
Update: I'm actually curious for feedback on the running log thing. A friend told me it was pretty slow, even on a faster machine. Usability problems out there? Does the thing on the left kill your browser when you load? There are workarounds...
I enjoyed it, but my curiosity eventually led me to other majors, as I didn't love it enough to try to make a career out of it (which is no easy task). I took the easy way out and studied practical things.
Anyway, the Google ski trip was last week (no, not all week). I was there Friday and Saturday. Friday night, we were in one of the convention rooms at the party. I, admittedly, had been drinking. On stage, there was an improv comedy group that had been hired for the evening.
From the stage, they announced that the next game would be an "improv opera." The folks I had been standing with knew my background and pushed me to volunteer. As nobody else in the crowd had a hand up, they called me up onto the stage.
At this point, I'm dressed in a plain blue polo and a pair of ratty jeans. I stumble up, and hand off my beer to one of the actors. I'm sure they expected not much more than a drunken frat boy performance.
The opera starts after somebody yells out "narcolepsy!" as a topic. The actors begin their warbly, quasi-operatic voicing of a scene where a young lady brings home her new narcoleptic boyfriend to meet the parents.
After a bit, I make up some throw-away lyrics, belt them out, and blow the room away.
Thanks so much.
At the airport, I was standing next to all the chauffers holding signs with names of businessmen on them. Ali walked out of the terminal and I walked up, saying, "Hello, I'm Nathan. I'll be your driver today." He laughed.
By the time we got his luggage and everything, it was a bit too late to get back to Mountain View for a Super Bowl party, so we just headed up to the city, dropped off his junk at the hotel, and headed for the Marin Headlands. We cruised up to the Golden Gate Bridge overlook.
An aside for potential San Francisco tourists: if you want a gorgeous view of the bridge, don't even bother with the rest area. Take the last exit before the tunnel, head right up into the park, and stop at Battery Spencer. Most tourists don't even realize it's there.
We then wandered around Sausalito a bit and grabbed a nice dinner. We caught the end of the game in a bar, but I was resigned to downing Diet Cokes, as my stomach is still recovering from last Friday. We parked the car in the Haight and wandered the neighborhoods down to the Castro (partially in anticipation of moving there).
It was nice to see an old friend again. We'll be hanging out more this week. We're going to try to hit the open mic at the Starry Plough in Berkeley on Tuesday and I'll play a few things. Justin will probably come with.
Doctor Awesome's New(ly rewritten) Running Log
Here's how it works. There's an XML data file that I export from ForeAthlete Logbook. That sits on the server. Two scripts, menu.php and run.php generate two (1, 2) quasi-JSON pages on the fly from that XML file. It ends up being a lot less data to transfer, and evaling is a lot easier and faster than parsing the same XML file client side. Of course, doing a server-side XML parse for every page and map load is a bit inefficient, but putting in caching isn't high on my priority list.
Pretty hot. Of course, there's only one run in there right now, so I've got to work on populating it (which just takes pounding the pavement). Keep watching, as I'll continually be throwing more features in (any particular ideas can be added in the comments). I'm eyeing putting in dynamically created client-side graphs of speed and altitude using some using VML in IE and SVG (or Canvas) in other browsers.
Also, if you'd like to use the code, go nuts. It's nothing special. Let me know if you want comments in there or something.
Update: I modified the constructor for Loader so that the map is passed in and the menu is optional. That allowed me to make a fullscreen version that looks at the menu data and always displays the latest one. That allows me to put an iframe on this page pointing to that URL. As you can see, it makes a nice little addition to the left-side menu.
I had to do a lot of proofreading too--try to catch obvious mistakes from getting up on the site (bad) or going off to the printers (really bad). This wasn't anything I saw as out of the ordinary. I had to write a lot in college.
I was a triple major, so, every semester, I had some combination of political science, economics, and computer science classes. At the end of the term, I'd have CS projects due, then I'd have to shift gears entirely and pump out a paper or seven.
I am, now, a bona fide software engineer. I go to work and I work with other software engineers. They talk to me. They send me e-mails. They send me IMs. They write comments in their code. And I'm constantly correcting their spelling and grammar. It drives me nuts.
For a lot of engineers, it's apathetic ignorance. Other than variable and method names, spelling doesn't matter in programming. I realize now that not everybody had to write extensively in college. That's kind of foreign concept to me.
Sometimes, I'm worried that I'm pushing the boundary of becoming a grammar nazi. I can't really tell if my coworkers' patience is wearing thin.
My interest in writing grammatically is appearance. Subconsciously or not, I know I judge a person's intelligence by his or her writing. Good word usage, flow, spelling, and grammar all convey to me that the person on the other end isn't a moron. As I don't want to appear a moron, I make a point of being careful when writing.
But a lot of the really crappy prose I get from people at work is from very smart people. I'm still getting over this fact.
This, I guess, is what happens when you turn a BA into an engineer.