Sunday, December 24, 2006

Racism

My family is pretty political, so any family gatherings often end up talking about politics and values related to it.

I walked into the living room to hear my youngest sister declaring that there's nothing wrong with racism, that it's human nature. After being taken aback by this, I thought that it must just be a semantic thing. So I said racism isn't just distinguishing race, but having overgeneralized opinions about a large group of people (based on race, in the case of racism) where no amount of contrary data will change your mind.

I was absolutely shocked that she went right ahead with her position: "I'm proud to be racist. I don't like Mexicans." Even now, I still don't quite know how to phrase my reaction. What?? How??

I tried to point out that, sure, she didn't like the particular individual Mexicans she had met, but she'd only met a certain subset that probably wasn't representative of all subsets of Mexicans everywhere. She didn't care about such arguments. She doesn't like Mexicans.

How can an intelligent, educated person think that way? How can believing such a generalization seem acceptable? How can it not be clear that this is classic us-vs-them psychology — which, while human nature, we are capable of overcoming.

I know my family reads my blog, but I'm just so flabbergasted by my sister's opinion that I have to write about it. I wish my sister good, varied life experiences in the future, so that her opinion might grow.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fall 2006 Denny's Run

Disclaimer: The bulk of the text in this blog post is shamelessly stolen from my descriptions of each photo I've posted to Flickr. Edited here for better seamlessness. You only need to read this post, or the descriptions of each Flickr photo, but not both.

Among my group of friends, there is a tradition of going to Denny's the weekend before finals week. It must be post-midnight. We normally go to the "good" Denny's by the Madonna Plaza, but that block just happened to lose power last night. The "bad" Denny's, further down the road, recently closed (due to being the "bad" Denny's, I'm sure), so that wasn't an option, either. The next closest Denny's was in Pismo, so to Pismo we went.

Near the end of dinner, people with desserts started giving them "up for grabs" — and of course there were no shortage of takers. Mostly things went calmly, until Joe offered up his strawberry cheesecake.

There was much flailing of arms, which ended up with Forrest and someone else (Asian Ben?) playing tug-o-war on either side of Joe's plate, hovering it above the table. Jerry wanted some too, and the most obvious solution was to simply grab the remaining piece of cheesecake directly off the plate with his fingers. (See photo.)

Joe's knife had been innocently sitting on the cheesecake plate before The Cheesecake Conflict erupted. We discovered after the indignation to Jerry's solution died down that the knife had flown into Ilona's dessert, the cowpie. (See last photo.)

After the first knife photo-op documenting its travels across the table, we — being the mature college students that we are — wanted Joe to pose with the butter knife slitting his wrists. We plopped a bit of strawberry jam on his wrist for effect.

It was shaping up to be a good snapshot, until we added some liquidy strawberry sauce to Joe's arm. He jumped, not expecting the cold sugary liquid to suddenly be running down his arm. (See second photo for what I actually got to take a picture of.)

Ilona ordered the chocolate brownie dessert, which looked yummy although she says it wasn't actually. (Thus its only partially-eaten state.) Asian Ben began referring to it as "the cowpie," and the name stuck (as previously mentioned).

Also starring in this photo are the four ketchup bottles given to us by our awesome waiter, Jarrett. We were a party of 13? 14? so they initially brought us three ketchup bottles. But then we discovered that not only were they sticky on the outside, they were all mostly empty on the inside.

There are also photos on my Flickr account of all of us sitting around the table. However, they are marked as "friends & family only" photos because they have people's faces in them. (Jerry has said he doesn't care if his likeness is put online, so those photos are still public.) If the rest of you would like to be able to see those photos, get in touch with me so I can make you a "friend" contact on Flickr.

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Friday, December 8, 2006

Edamame Grossness

Edamame Pot

Unassuming pot, right? So you might think!

While I was gone for a week of interviews, Forrest did no dishes. This means that when he made himself some steamed edamame, he let the leftovers hang out in the pot.

Edamame Grossness

When I got home, he looked sheepish about the kitchen overflowing with dirty dishes and promised to do them soon. But while he was out doing errands today, I decided I wanted them done more than I wanted him to do them, so I just washed the sinkful of 'em. No big deal.

Edamame Note

That is, no big deal until I lifted the bowl inside the pot to wash it. There I was greeted with — horror of horrors, grossness of grossnesses — fuzzy edamame. I left Forrest a note for when he comes home. ;)

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Sunday, December 3, 2006

Interview Trip Update

Current status: two companies's "hire/no hire" decisions pending, one interview left to do, and one offer! As if I didn't already like BillMonk this much. :) Just a verbal offer right now and details may vary depending on how soon I can start, but the offer letter's forthcoming. Wootles!

(And here's me being embarrassed if the BillMonks actually know about my blog here and see me [virtually, anyway] hopping up and down. ;))

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ahhh! (Read: Busy)

This would be why my life feels so crazy-stressful-hectic right now. I've got class (blue), homework (red), work (orange), and appointments/interviews (green) all vying for my time.

Thursday and Friday are deceptively empty -- I'm in San Francisco then for some job interviews. I don't know how much homework I'll be able to get done, but that's what I'll be spending a good chunk of my free time doing those days.

Note that I don't actually stop my day at midnight. I'm up until 2 or 3 (or sometimes 4) in the morning, usually homeworking. Then it's up at 9:30 and do it all over again!

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Intuit Interview Questions

I thought to myself, "Self, it would be cool to document what interview questions you've been asked. For posterity or future interview-prepping or something." So, here's what I remember of my interview at Intuit.

(Interestingly, Forrest and I had the exact same three people interview us. Most likely because we were both interviewing for the Software Engineer position. And when we compared notes, it turns out that the people asked us variant questions, or, in the technical skills, different subsets. Forrest's resume mentioned his database experience, so he got some of those tech questions; I haven't done much DB work and didn't claim to, so she didn't even bring up the subject with me.)

Leadership & Team Skills

The first person I talked to, Paul of Payroll, was the "touchy-feely" guy (his words). He didn't ask me technical questions, but instead wanted to see what kind of leadership and team skills I had. His questions were more invitations to stories that demonstrated my abilities.

  1. Tell me about a time that you took initiative on a team project.
  2. Tell me about a time when you had some conflict with a team member. How did you resolve it?
  3. How do you deal with things like relocating to a new area? How do you deal with being new to a team?

Design Skills

The next person I talked to, Arun the Architect, wanted me to discuss the design decisions and structure of some complex project I'd done at school or during an internship. Alas, the last truly complex project I worked on was two years ago, so I really don't remember the interfaces and inheritance hierarchies used.

I did remember a simpler project, so I went with that since I figured it would be better to talk about a simple project concretely than to talk about a complex project vaguely. It's no fun trying to describe a system while you're actively dredging up details at the same time. The describing goes faster than the remembering, and you end up stuck saying, "And I don't remember what happens next in the story of this design."

He asked me for a different example, and I asked him to clarify that the problem with my first example was its simplicity. I don't quite remember the next question or two, but then we changed subjects and discussed what subfield I was looking to get into. I told him I didn't want to be pigeonholed into one specialty yet, because I felt there were still areas I wanted to explore before settling on one. He seemed content with that answer.

  1. Tell me about a system you designed.
  2. In what area of software engineering to you see yourself in five years?

Object-Oriented Programming Skills

The last person I talked to, Bindu the Senior Software Engineer, focused on explicitly technical questions. However, I thought her questions were pretty straight-forward -- this considering the fact that I haven't actually used C++ in about two years.

The only one I didn't know was the applet question, but then I was very upfront with her and explained that I hadn't worked with applets before. The answer she was looking for involved the security differences between them and what access they had to the host computer running the program. I'm sure that if she'd prompted me with a question about security differences between applets and applications, I would have realized what she was looking for. But with the open-ended way she'd phrased it, I got blocked thinking, "Ack, I don't do applets!" Oh well. I got all the rest of her questions easily, so I think I did pretty well overall.

  1. What methods do you get automatically in a C++ object?
  2. What is a virtual function?
  3. What is a pure virtual function?
  4. What is a virtual destructor, and when would you want to use it?
  5. What does it mean to have a static field? A static method?
  6. What does it mean to have a final field? A final method? A final class?
  7. What is the difference between an abstract class and an interface?
  8. What is multiple inheritance and why should you avoi-- use it sparingly?
  9. Is the return type part of a method signature?
  10. What is the difference between a Java applet and an application?

Compared to Microsoft's technical questions, Intuit was easy. We were told to expect a phone call or email within the next two weeks to find out whether we're getting any employment offers. Waiting! :)

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Shuttle to Intuit

Forrest and I got up early this morning -- that is, 10 -- so we could catch the shuttle to Mountain View. We both got interview offers at Intuit, so off we go.

Last year, when I interviewed for an internship position, we were driven up in a regular white van. This year it's a "campus shuttle" commuter van-bus thing. There's ten of us, presumably all CSC, but I only recognize one other person.

I'm a little nervous about this interview, because it's my first full-time position interview. I'd like it to go well, and I wouldn't mind having a job lined up for me after I graduate. I brought the Gang of Four (that is, the Design Patterns book), supposedly to read but really as more of a good luck talisman than anything.

I'm getting a slight carsick-type headache now, so I'm going to stop with the blogging now.

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Thursday, November 9, 2006

Interviewing for Full-Time Positions

Since I'm working on graduating this quarter (fingers crossed), I went to the career fair last month in a more serious mindset than in previous quarters. I still handed out my resume to just about anyone who wanted software engineeers, like I do every quarter there's a career fair, but this time I was really hoping one of them would actually pan out and line me up with a job upon graduation.

By the end of the career fair week, I had five interview requests: Microsoft, Intuit, Wells Fargo, Salesforce, and FactSet. The last, FactSet, I decided I wasn't all that interested in after all and thus declined their interview offer. (C'mon, when the company rep doesn't know that the term "client/server" describes his product's model, or doesn't know what X-forwarding is even in general terms -- well, let me say, not a strong selling point for "good, challenging place to work.")

Wells Fargo and Salesforce wanted on-campus HR screener interviews, which went well enough that they both are flying me up to San Francisco for on-site interviews at the end of this month. I'm working with their recruiters to combine the interview trips; I'd rather not miss more school than necessary, especially since I'm travelling to interview elsewhere too.

Neither Microsoft nor Intuit do on-campus interviews, or at least they didn't even ask to schedule one with me this year. I had interviewed for internships with them in previous years, though, so I guess that must still count. They just want to jump directly to the on-sites.

Plus, I have my current CustomFlix jobs, at least through this December. I don't know how my wandering in Mexico and then abandoning them in June or September will fly with them, but I'm still there for another month anyway.

So, all in all, I'm hoping at least one of these will provide me with a "real" income once I'm done graduating and catching my breath before I enter the Real World.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Planning My Second Trip to Mexico

Last winter break, I went to Mexico for three weeks by myself. Although Oaxaca is currently in political turmoil, I would recommend visiting the city once it's calmed down again.

The Travel Itch

So this winter break -- and college graduation! -- I've got the itch to get back to a Spanish-speaking country. Mexico's closest and thus cheapest.

Forrest and I had originally planned on driving down Baja California for the bulk of break, but this fell through for various reasons. Our winter break plans now involve visiting his family and mine, with side trips to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. I'll drag Forrest into Mexico some other time. ;)

Viajando Con Mi Madre

But I still want to hablar español. So I called up my mom and invited her to travel to Mexico with me this January. To my surprise, she agreed to a week of vacationing with me! We first looked at Chiapas, Oaxaca's easternly neighbor, where language schools are cheaper than elsewhere in the country. The Zapatistas had supposedly settled down in recent years, but now they may be rustling again in sympathy to Oaxacans' protests.

My mom definitely didn't want to tango with any politically unsettled states, so I suggested San Miguel de Allende instead. With a large American expat community and lots of middle- and upper-class Mexican vacationers, it should be a pretty safe place. Added bonus for my mom: there should be more English-speakers there than in your average Mexican town. I count this as a mild negative, but I'll manage. :)

The school we're looking at is Habla Hispana. Their classes are a little large at up to ten students, but they are considerably cheaper than the local competition (which has comparable class sizes, surprisingly). Homestays through the school run $18 a day for a shared room; three meals daily included.

We're researching how much extra an open-ended return ticket will cost. If it's not outrageous, I'm hoping to arrive in Mexico without a firm return date. I would really like to stay in San Miguel as long as I want (and can afford), or have the flexibility to wander to other areas. We'll see how this aspect of the trip works out.

Open Invitation

If any of y'all wants to meet up with me in Mexico, I'd love to see you! You know you want to... :)

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Monday, November 6, 2006

No NaNoWriMo

What with trying to graduate this quarter -- which involves a 15-page paper on my Apple internship experience, a senior project and accompanying report, my two regular courses, and a part-time web dev job -- I just can't afford to do NaNoWriMo this year. There's always next year, though!

Good luck to Lisa and Olya, though. Don't forget to kill off a Chris in honor of Baty!

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ask and Ye Shall Receive: Getting Back Homework Points

In some of the finance blog I read regularly, they've talked about asking for discounts or waived fees -- often, apparently, companies actually will if you just ask. My mom also taught me to ask for things -- "You never know unless you try" and "What's the worst that could happen? You'll be right where you are now" were common phrases from her.

I had those lessons in mind when I got back a graded programming assignment today in my algorithms class. I'd missed 3 points because I hadn't followed the algorithm in the textbook explicily, but rather done a (correct, but alternative) version found on Wikipedia. I'd ordered the textbook online and didn't have it when I needed to finish this programming assignment, so I had hoped Wikipedia's version would be close enough. But no.

Figuring the professor wouldn't take off more points just for talking to him, I told him why I'd implemented my algorithm as I had. He was sympathetic, so I asked if I could redo it for partial credit. He immediately agreed! No harm in asking, indeed.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Ethical Group Assignment Behaviour

The Way It Was in High School

Ever since I can remember, I've disliked group assignments in school. I was a straight-A student through high school, and this often meant that I had to do the majority of a group assignment myself if I wanted to get the kind of grade I was used to getting. The other students either didn't care enough or didn't understand the material well enough to be entrusted with a fair share of the workload.

So, my choices were either 1) to do most of the work myself, put the groups' names on the assignment, and get the A I wanted; or 2) divide the work evenly and hope the other group members would do high-quality jobs. Option #3, convincing them that it was worthwhile to strive for an A, wasn't socially viable in high school. I almost always opted for #1.

Generally Better in College

I was pleased to find group projects less common in general once I got to college. They still happen, but they aren't the norm. Even better, the people who get into college and work hard to remain in college generally don't need to be convinced of why trying for decent grades is a good thing. Sure, the students who take required support courses or GEs credit/no-credit often just do enough to get by with a C, but otherwise people try. This doesn't mean they all get the good grades, but at least they're making a more or less honest effort.

I feel a strong sense of duty to my group members (this was true even in high school of the free-loading group members). If I do a half-assed job on a solo assignment, only my own grade suffers. On a group project, I don't believe I have the right to pull down other students' grades. I will stay up later, fret more, study harder for group projects because of this.

But Still, Sometimes...

In light of college generally being better for group projects, the situation I find myself in this quarter is fairly unusual.

I've missed a couple lectures in my very early morning (read: 10 AM) class and skipped lab, making up the time at home. My lab partner had dropped class on the second day, so I was working by myself and thus had the freedom to do such things.

But this Monday, my professor emailed me to ask if I'd pair up with another student whose partner had also dropped. Of course, I said I would. We met next lab, but it turned out neither of us had read the sections of the book we needed to do the lab (which isn't due until November). We agreed to read up and meet again next lab.

Today, a third student was left high and dry by a lab partner who'd dropped. (Or at least stopped showing up -- which isn't a cool thing to do to your partner without informing them.) We were grouped into a team of three. The third guy didn't really seem to know what was going on, and it sounded like the second guy still hadn't read the chapter.

For example, there's this chart we're supposed to fill out before we start on one part of the lab. I started working on it, talking out loud about what I was thinking so my partners would have a chance to involve themselves or correct me if I was misunderstanding something. But they mostly said nothing, and generally verbally shrugged when I asked directly if they thought I was writing down the correct answers. It felt very one-sided.

So the point of this post was really just to say that I'm not sure what to do with the group project over the weekend. I think I may just do as much as I can by myself, and see if that will kick-start my groupmates next Monday. If they still don't get in the swing of things, it may be just like old times in high school...

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Recycling at CustomFlix

Taking a quick break from my busy schedule of classes, homework, work, and lots of procrastinating (heh), here's a photoblog entry.

I work part-time at CustomFlix as a web dev. CustomFlix, like many other software companies, is predominantly male. Not 100% male, though.

In the office kitchen, there's a sign above the trash and recycle bins, encouraging employees to recycle: "Real CustomFlix Men Recycle!" The fine print, adding afterward as you can see, reads, "Real CustomFlix women, on the other hand, consume their recyclables wholes. Yeah! Hear me roar! Err... crunch! I mean crunch! (;"

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Saturday, October 7, 2006

Reading About Religion

I've been reading quite a bit about religion lately (or rather, mostly things against religion). I bought Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion at the bookstore two weeks ago, and I've been slowly going through it (you can only read so much in one sitting in the bathroom, after all ;)). I read Sam Harris's short book Letter to a Christian Nation, which is more ranty than Dawkin's book on the subject. I discovered the bi-monthly magazine Foreign Affairs, and read the article "God's Country?" by Walter Russell Mead. I read part of the chapter "The creation myth: on the sixth day, God created fruit flies" from Ann Coulter's book Godless.

All this reading about religion is making me want to talk about religion with someone, but I don't know who I can talk to. Forrest doesn't seem like he really feels like discussing it much, Jerry's the choir, and my family parents seem to have become pseudo-religious since Bush (or maybe it's just since I've become strongly atheist as opposed to just agnostic, as I was in high school -- it's hard to tell which is the reason, since they were more or less coincident events). It's frustrating to not be able to really discuss a topic that's been bugging me and that I've been reading up on. Grr, I say.

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Friday, October 6, 2006

Plants Just Want to be Free

While at Home Depot, Forrest and I were trying to get to the potting soil that was blocked by a bunch of boxes. Forrest suddenly noticed that the boxes contained live plants! I pointed out to him on plant trying to escape.

Along with the potting soil, we bought a rectangular planter box and some daffodil bulbs. We have delusions of a little garden to keep my ivy company, you see.

We stopped by the grocery store and picked up a head of garlic and a red shallot -- less than half the price that Home Depot wanted to charge for putting them in a bag and giving us instructions on how to plant them. We don't know whether our grocery store foodstuff will grow (though I can vouch for potatoes, heh), but we figure it's worth a try and it might be cool.

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Thursday, October 5, 2006

This Is Not a Blog Post

No, seriously. This doesn't count as a post; this is an excuse for the lack of posting. School's started, work's started, peer pressure requires I socialize at least occasionally ;), multiple times per day I stop to eat, and the apartment still needs major cleaning. Sigh.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Boring Mod 45

Today in Algorithms, we spent 45 minutes discussing modular arithmetic. No, nothing fancy. This was basic stuff, dragged out into a mind-number three quarters of an hour. All we discussed were the congruence properties, which really should not need 45 minutes of repetitive "explanation." The last 15 minutes of class were devoted to a riveting discussion of greatest common divisors.

After the unpacking of the apartment is complete, I'm going to see if I still have my notes from last year's Algorithm and see what we'd covered by the second day.

Work was uneventful; mostly, I continued to set up my computer and finished reading the new employee documentation. I discovered that the office kitchen contains free hot chocolate mix. I may be using that to supplement my daily tea that I bring from home. I'd like to bike to work tomorrow, depending on weather -- it's completely overcast right now, but the forecasts call for another beautiful day tomorrow.

Work was less uneventful for Forrest, alas. He just found out that most of what he'd worked on and worried about over the summer has been restructured or canned outright because of business changes out of his control. As you might expect, he was pretty disappointed. :(

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Monday, September 25, 2006

First Day of My Last Quarter of College

If all goes according to plan, this should be my last quarter of college. I'm taking only two traditional courses, both directly major-related: Computer Architecture (despite having already taken all the courrses it's a prereq for) and Algorithms.

I was going to just quickly explain why I'm retaking Algorithms, but it turned into a multi-paragraph rant that I'll recast as a separate post for later. For now, suffice it to say that this repeat quarter with a different professor looks to be exceedingly easy by comparison. Whereas my first professor believed in your-programs-must-be-perfect, all-or-nothing grading, this second professor says he doesn't believe in asking us to learn picky details. There will be no midterm at all, only 5- to 10-point quizzes that ask purely "big picture" questions about what we've gone over that same week. So while I'm pretty confident I'll pass the class this time around, I'm still glad (mostly) that I took it with the first professor to actually learn algorithms in detail. I'd love to be wrong about my first day's impression, but then this second professor said himself he doesn't think people should have to remember details, even for testing purposes...

But I won't actually have as much free time as a two-class schedule might make you believe. I need to get technical credit for my Apple internship, which means a 12-15 page report on my experience. More significantly, I'm finishing up my senior project (which I'm less excited about now that competing projects have been released). Senior project is known to be a giant black hole of free time -- as much time as you have to spend on it, you can always spend more and still not be done.

Forrest suggested I ask my senior project advisor if he'd allow me to switch projects, since I'm no longer that excited about my original proposal. He suggested I do the Asha'ille tokenizing and parsing that I'd like to get around to doing. While that does sound cool, I'm not happy with the idea for two reasons:

  1. I'd need to submit a new proposal for my idea. The spec for my current senior project took a while to write; I'd need to come up with a new one within the week to have any chance of graduating this quarter.
  2. My advisor's specialty is compilers, which involves parsing. My methods of parsing (con)natural language would probably be primitive in comparison to techniques he's familiar with. That might translate into him evaluating my project less generously than if it were on a topic unrelated to his personal interests.

I'll see what I can find out about non-naive methods of language parsing tomorrow and determine whether I think I can do something worthy of a senior project on such short notice... :/

My schedule this quarter is rounded out by a parttime job as a web dev at CustomFlix. It's just HTML and CSS work with some spec-writing on the side, so I'm expecting it to be fairly easy work. Sixteen hours a week is doable, and it'll more than pay for my share of rent, leaving me with that much extra money to invest or otherwise save.

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AT&T DSL vs Charter Cable

So Forrest and I had signed up for AT&T's five-static-IPs package DSL. They turned on the phone line the 20th, and were scheduled to turn on the actual DSL service on the 22nd. After the deadline time of 8 PM that we were told, we still had no internet. We were able to ping our DSL box and the gateway it connects to at the central office, but their equipment wasn't letting our traffic out into the tubes of the internets.

Forrest called up tech support before they left at 9, hoping whatever the problem was could be straightened out over the phone that night. After eventually convincing them that he knew what he was talking about and that the problem really was on their end, they passed him through Tier 1 and Tier 2 tech support. The support number he was given, in case he was disconnected or wanted to call the next day to check on his ticket's status, is surprisingly high up the tech support hierarchy: the menu options ask whether you're a local ISP, a remote LAN administrator, or various other fairly serious positions. Let's just say that "CSC student running personal apartment network" wasn't one of the options.

After being on the phone with AT&T for over two and a half hours, he had gotten a ticket number and a service request in the system. The scheduled fix isn't until the 27th. At least we were assured that we would be credited the pro-rated difference between when service was supposed to start on the 22nd and whenever it actually does start.

Many Cables

The next day, Forrest and Jerry walked over to the neighboring apartment complex, Mustang Village. They are a huge college student complex, so when it's the week before classes begin, many many people are moving in to Mustang. Charter realizes this is an excellent opportunity to sign up new customers by being the most convenient option for lazy students. :) They offer same-day Internet installation of their cable option, with day-to-day service payment options and no extra termination fees. Sold!

So we're currently using Charter's cable internet service until AT&T can fix their problems. (Incidently, I think we won some geek-points with the two Charter technicians when they walked into the apartment and saw all the CAT-5, coax, and other assorted cables that we own.)

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Stolen Flowers for the Newly-Clean Table

Local Flowers in a Basket

In celebration of finally having the dining table cleared off, I snuck down the street and swiped some local bougainvillea and assorted greenery from the sidewalk plants. I must have looked weird to anyone who might have noticed: blue gloves and scissors, snipping at plants with a mini maglite in my mouth. Hehe.

The basket was given to me by Intuit when they were courting me for a summer internship.

In other news: omg, how is school starting tomorrow?? Gah!

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Unpacking the Apartment, and a House Guest

Unpacking the Apartment, 9/20 20h

Over at my Flickr page, you can currently see my progress at unpacking the apartment. Not all the moved boxes are unpacked; some had to be deferred, either waiting on their containing furniture to be set up or waiting on Forrest to go through his own things that I don't know what to do with.

Since, as you can see, most of the living room is now cleared out, I'll be spending today digging out the kitchen. Tomorrow will most likely be Hallway Cleaning Day.

Despite the messy state of our apartment currently, we will be entertaining a house guest tonight. Jerry, being the incredibly talented slacker and/or amazingly inept apartment hunter that he is, has no place to stay even though he is driving in to SLO as we speak. (As we type? Read? Hrm, asynchronous written content doesn't work well with that turn of phrase. :P ) He called me the other day to ask if we could put him up for a bit. He thinks he's too good for sleeping beside the railroad tracks, apparently; he wants to sleep with a roof over his head... next to the railroad tracks. Oh well.

Lucky for Jerry, we set the couch horizontally yesterday and cleared the floor space to get to the couch. (Unlike when he called.)

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Appliance Day, Etc

Today was appliance day. Also, International Talk Like a Pirate Day. But mostly I spent my time doing appliancy things.

Forrest and I are without a refrigerator at the moment, due to some miscommunications that left the fridge without power for part of the summer and allowed some old food to rot to the point of maggots. Needless to say, the fridge smells unimaginably rank (or so Forrest tells me), and we need to replace the damn thing. In the meantime, we were considering getting a mini fridge, which we'd later use in the upstairs bedroom-loft just for drinks and such. Eventually, though, we decided against plopping down $70-plus and will just store any food we need to in an ice chest until the real fridge is replaced.

We also need a microwave, since Tim ran off with the old one. We ended up in the Paso Target, where we picked up a decent microwave. The cheapest one also came with an iPod AM/FM docking station -- we figured, if the microwave needed to attach itself to the iPod brand to compete, we probably didn't want it.

Before we'd gone up to Target, we'd stopped by the SLO Goodwill to look at their mattresses. (My old queen mattress got moldy in the under-the-house temporary apartment I'd been living in last year. :( ) Goodwill's prices are by far the lowest -- $200 for mattress, box springs, and frame -- but the quality of their mattresses is similarly low. Costco's full mattresses are over $400, though, which is a hefty jump in cost. And they don't even seem to carry queen mattresses, the size we really want. We're still debating what to do, but we'll probably give Freecycle a shot for a while and see if we can't get a $0 mattress that's better than Goodwill's.

Back in Paso, we were hungry after Target. We drove past this restaurant, A Touch of Mexico, while driving through Templeton and decided to give it a shot. Service was medicore: we almost left right at the start, because no one had given Forrest a menu or water or a greeting by the time I got out of the bathroom, and it was nearly impossible to catch the waiters' eyes to get refills on our drinks. Nevertheless, the food was excellent and I wouldn't mind eating there again... next time I'm in Templeton, that is. :P

After we finished eating, I dropped Forrest off at CustomFlix and went downtown. I went into Starbucks to get a mocha and either find some free internet or watch Stargate. A group of knitters had commandeered the center of the Starbucks; I stopped and asked the nearest one if they were a knitting club or something. Turns out, the girl I asked was Felicia, a fellow Cal Poly student who took Japanese 101 with me two years ago. She said that yes, they were a knitting group that met there every Tuesday at 7 PM. I told her that I'd done a little bit of knitting a while ago, as had my boyfriend (who she knows as well as she knows me, heh, from Japanese class), and that I'd gotten my sister hooked on knitting. She invited me and Forrest to join them next week if we wanted. It could be fun. :)

No free internet was to be had at Starbucks, so I just ended up watching three episodes of Stargate. Afterward, I called up Forrest to see if he was ready to come home. He still had some work to do, so I went over there to play around on my (sadly internetless) laptop some more. Wrote this post, for example.

Tomorrow, the unpacking begins in earnest. Ugh.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Back in SLO, After Not Falling Asleep on 101

Forrest and I drove down yesterday from Santa Cruz. I didn't sleep well the night before, since Forrest was up until 5 packing and the noises woke me up about every half hour. So by the time we'd driven to Soledad (where it's happening, don't you know), I was nearly falling asleep at the wheel. Forrest's dad had driven ahead, helping carry down Forrest's possessions that didn't fit in his Del Sol, and I felt bad that we were going to miss him entirely if I napped. But if I did fall asleep at the wheel, that would obviously be, uh, worse.

So Forrest bought me some pan de agua, we drove to the Soledad Starbucks, Forrest went in to organize his MP3s, and I scrunched up to sleep in my very full car. I must say, I've slept better. I woke up after half an hour because it was so warm in the car, even with a breeze coming through the open windows.

I went into the Starbucks and tried curling up next to Forrest, on the only other comfy chair in the place. It wasn't big enough, though, so I grabbed a wooden chair to support my hips and legs while my upper body got the cushioned chair. Ironically, it got too cold in Starbucks for me. Plus, their music was turned up very loud, which also made it difficult to nap.

I wound up back in my car. I had cooled down enough to fall asleep again. After this last thirty-minute bout, I woke feeling more alert. I was still tired, but now well within the range of "safe to drive." Forrest finished up with his MP3s and we got back on the road.

We took Jolon Road and G14 instead of 101 between King City and Paso Robles. Very pretty drive in the twilight. We saw a family of black pigs -- dunno if they were wild or not. We stopped to look out over the coastal hills and watch the sunset.

So now we're back in SLO, without internet until the end of the week. Friendly neighbor Linksys network is nearby, but it won't give my computer its DNS info. It does work for Forrest, though, who has the same wireless card as I do. Frustrating.

Not that I have a lot of time to putz around on the internet right now. The entire apartment is boxes right now -- should get a picture of it -- and it needs to be unpacked before school starts next Monday. The fridge needs to be replaced. I have an interview in half an hour for a web dev part-time job this quarter. Forrest and I will also need to set up (and, inevitably, troubleshoot) our network once we get the DSL hooked up. So I'm busy this week, despite being off work and school.

Back to the trenches with me!

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Friday, September 15, 2006

My Last Day at Apple

Today was the last day of my internship for the summer. My manager took me out to lunch, then I packed up my cube and that was that.

On my way back from returning my library books and paying the $1.50 late fee (so low! yay me!), I stopped at Borders. I've been going to the Sunnyvale Borders at least 3 days a week for most of the summer, and I've become acquaintances with the café employees there. Yesterday evening I was also there and mentioned I might not be back. So I said goodbye to Stephanie and the older Asian woman then, and today I said goodbye to Nichole (who because drastically more friendly) and the most recent hire, whose name I sadly cannot remember right now.

Now it's time to finish laundry and packing, clean the bathroom and bedroom, and set back up my landlord's old wireless router in place of mine that we've been using for the summer. That last step means my server's going down until at least the 22nd. Rest well, arthaey.com!

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

WordPress: Should I Switch?

Problems with Blogger

For the entire life of this blog, it's been hosted with Blogger. Blogger currently lacks many features:

  1. categories
  2. more themes
  3. more add-ons
  4. comment feeds
  5. friends-only posts
  6. quick template changes

Is this just a rephrasing of "What's new in Blogger?" for the new Blogger Beta being rolled out? Nah...

Okay, so maybe it is. Blogger is promising to fix these things in their new Blogger Beta. But what new "standard" things will develop outside of Blogger, and will they be just as slow to adopt changes again? A specific annoyance with the Beta version is their support of categories -- "labels," actually -- do not allow for sub-categories, so far as I can tell. And I want to add a calendar navigation, which looks too "out there" for Blogger to consider adding.

Another Option: WordPress

So I'm very seriously considering self-hosting WordPress. I've heard very good things from the blogosphere about its customizability. People also rave about its available themes, though I'm a little less impressed on that front. I'm not afraid of rolling my own themes or significantly modifiying an existing one, though, so that's not a big deal.

The themes I looking at for starting points are, in order of my own preference:

  1. shiny rounded corners (I would probably change the color to blue)
  2. less shiny rounded corners (I would replace the red with something else)
  3. blue and gray, minimally rounded (I'd do something different with the banner)
  4. simple blue
  5. simple white (I would definitely be changing the photo)
  6. simple gray (I would probably change the color to blue)

Now accepting votes! :) If any of the above themes that don't resize well, I'd fix them so they do.

If anyone's got experience -- positive or negative -- about switching from Blogger to WordPress, importing content, or setting up WordPress on your own server, I'd love to hear from you.

When?

I'm holding back on switching until after I move back to SLO and get internet set up at my new-old apartment. But after that, you may see changes around here. If it doesn't happen before the start of fall quarter, though, then I can't give a reliable ETA on site migration until I see what my courseload is going to be like.

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Bloglines Doesn't Listen

A while ago, I wanted to read Olya's friends-only LiveJournal posts via Bloglines, an online feed-reader. I found some suggestions online and tried doing basic authentication by adding my username and password before the feed URL. I marked the feed as "private" in Bloglines, hoping that would be good enough.

Apparently, LiveJournal no longer supports that sort of authentication (if they ever did). And Bloglines doesn't support removing the entry!

I sent them an email explaining the situation and asked for them to remove the offending entry from their database. Three days later, they sent me their canned reply about how to claim a feed and delete it. I replied, reminding them that I did not control the feed but that it nevertheless did not really belong in their directory.

Four days after that, they replied again. Now they are telling me I must contact the feed publisher. They really are not paying attention to my specific situation, and I replied telling them as much. I'm annoyed that I've gotten two thoughtless replies and no help thus far.

To double-check my understanding of the situation, I even posted a question to LiveJournal's support system asking someone to confirm (or correct) my thoughts on the matter. Four hours, rather than four days, later, LiveJournal user isabeau confirmed that

this is something that Bloglines needs to take care of, rather than something that LiveJournal can change. The information that you need removed is part of the URL, rather than the contents of the feed itself, and so it's something that is entirely under Bloglines' control.

So the ball's back in Bloglines' court. Not expecting a fast resolution here, but I'll keep at it.

That said, I still use Bloglines multiple times a day to keep up-to-date on the sites and blogs I follow. I still recommend using them, but my impression of them has been tarnished some by this recent experience with their customer support. Good luck if you have issues that need thought to be resolved.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Interview Questions for Companies

Companies interview their prospective employees, and they always ask at the end, "Do you have any questions for me?" The interview tips lists I've seen recommend that you never say, "Nope, no questions." I agree, but I also don't usually write down my questions beforehand, either. I end up asking a couple good questions, but I'd prefer to develop some better ones.

This being the third summer I've worked in software development, I feel I have a better grasp on what things are important to me in making a job enjoyable and worth agreeing to. I've been taking notes for the last half of the summer; here they are, in no particular order:

  1. How large are your teams? Teams of one ain't gonna happen these days, and I think I prefer having teammates anyway. But if the teams are dozens or more people big, then I want to take that into consideration. You get little factions breaking off once you hit a certain number of people.

  2. How deep is the hierarchy? I find that I like knowing most of the people above me. Microsoft was huge, Apple's only big, but I liked Vizolution's flat tree best. I felt more connected and I cared more about my work because I could see that it would actually impact the company. Motivation is important.

  3. What kind of mentoring do you offer new-hires, or in what ways do you help them learn to effectively use your current tools and processes? Note that I explicitly decided against the question, "Do you offer mentoring or advice?" If they say no, that they just like people to dive right in, then I don't think I want to work for them. That may work for small projects or new projects, but if they have an established formula, I want to know how they expect me to work within it. I don't need hand-holding, but basic guidance is a good thing.

  4. What's an example of a project, tool, or process that employees complained about, and how did you improve the situation? Here at Apple, my number one complaint is that they use a bunch of tools that are not documented and do not work quite right. "Oh, if you save this file in this program, then you have to go in and manually edit out the things it adds erroneously." Great time-saving tool, guys. I want to see management trying to improve their work environment, not shrug and say it's good enough. If it doesn't cost an unreasonable amount to fix, then the expense should pay for itself in increase productivity and morale.

  5. Does the team socialize outside of work? At Vizolutions we hung out for lunch, went rock climbing at Saul's house, or arranged to see a movie together. I really enjoyed the people, and thus the work, more because I could relate to them as more than "that guy in the cubicle across the way." I miss that kind of connection at Microsoft and Apple.

  6. Is overtime expected regularly? What about at release time? How is overtime recognized or compensated? I definitely want to watch my "life-work balance," as they say. I want to have a life outside of work. So if they're expecting 60-hour weeeks all the time, I don't want to be there. (This probably means the video game industry's out for me, but I can live with that.)

  7. Why is this position open? Is it a brand new position? Did the old guy quit in disgruntlement? (Perfectly good word, that.) Did he get hired away by Google? Or is there some good reason that won't make me think twice about a job offer? (Question taken from Conducting the Programmer Job Interview.)

Also, for the next company I interview with, I'll be evaluating them based on The Joel Test. These items are more nitty-gritty, but they're important too:

  1. Do you use source control?
  2. Can you make a build in one step?
  3. Do you make daily builds?
  4. Do you have a bug database?
  5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
  6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
  7. Do you have a spec?
  8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
  9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?
  10. Do you have testers?
  11. Do new candidates write code during their interview?
  12. Do you do hallway usability testing?

If I were to judge the likelihood of a company with a 12/12 existing based on my past work experience, I'd laugh. But Joel Spolsky has a job board up now, and most of the companies posting their claim to meet 11 or 12 of the 12 items on Joel's list. Either they're all shameless liars, or there is hope of getting a good programming job. :)

Update, October 6th: Lifehack.org has a ten-point list of their own, if you're looking for more questions in a similar vein.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Cat-Fish and Moose

Cat-Fish and Moose

My sister asked me for a NaNoWriMo idea. This was my suggestion, in drawing form.

Thing 1: I need a nanowrimo idea!
Arthaey: moose!
Arthaey: and...
Arthaey: goldfish!
Thing 1: :/
Arthaey: moose wants to eat goldfish. goldfish doesn't want to be eaten. They
         stare at each other through the fishbowl. A tumbleweed drifts
         between them! Cue dramatic showdown music...
Thing 1: no ideas?
Arthaey: *pout*
Arthaey: that was fantastic, what are you TALKING about?
Thing 1: rofl
Arthaey: :P
Thing 1: you can make that 50,000 words? ;)
Arthaey: oh, you can draw out gun fight scenes indefinitely
Arthaey: :)
Thing 1: XD
Arthaey: especially if you throw in the side plot about the goldfish's affair
         with the tomcat from the bar that's the moose's bar's primary competitor
Thing 1: harr

Then I drew up an illustration for her NaNo story's cover, ready for its inevitable publication. I just can't understand her reluctance at my brilliant suggestion...

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Analyzing My Blog

Posting Frequency

Posting Frequency to My Blog

So, err, my bad? Note that there is no comforting horizontal line at the "1 post a day" mark on the y-axis. I had no idea my posting was that erractic.

Post Topics

Post Topics on My Blog

When I asked what topics you wanted to see more of, that list was the topics I'd like to write more about. Those topics are highlighted in darker blue in the graph. As you can see, I've been lousy about actually blogging the things I'm most interested in. After travel, random links-from-cyberspace style posts have been my post common topic. :(

I want to to clean up my categorization: combine programming with work, blog with internet, writing with NaNoWriMo. But most importantly, I want to focus my writing on the topics I'm actually interested in. And continue writing about my life and the crazy antics of my friends, of course. No blog is complete without "look what my friends did last night!" posts, right? :)

Top Commenters

Commenters on My Blog

Finally, just for fun, I tallied up how many comments my readers have left. Boyfriends past and present, you are sad commenters!

It amuses me that, after me replying to comments, my own mother is my most frequent commenter. Consider this in light of the Blogger help topic "What to do if your Mom discovers your blog". Let's go through each of Blogger's suggestions for hiding my blog from my mom. I already use a pseudonym that's unambiguously me through the entire worldwide web, which my mom has been aware of since the creation of "Arthaey." I already write some multi-lingual posts -- but she can sorta read Spanish, and Google is always at the ready with its amusing translations. Blogger's suggestion of adding a "nomom" subdomain is just silly for my Computer Science graduate mother; the word "subdomain" does not frighten her in the least. I disagree with censorship in general, so that suggestion's out too. Adding a "this blog is just fiction" disclaimer also doesn't jibe with my intent, and I don't want to remove my blog's listing from Google. So Blogger, you have no suggestions I'm willing to do that would actually keep my mom from reading my blog! Of course, since I've finally convinced her to sign up for Bloglines, I don't think keeping her from reading my blog is actually one of my goals. ;)

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Why Eclipse Should Autosave Every Minute

So guess who just lost power AGAIN. Arg! This time I did lose a bit of mid-refactoring work. And I was supposed to have a 4 o'clock phone meeting to discuss said work...

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Carnival of Personal Finance Submission

I'd recently heard about blog carnivals, so when I wrote up my net worth post I decided to submit it to the Carnival of Personal Finance to see what happens. My post was one of the 40 accepted and posted over at the No Credit Needed blog!

So, welcome Debbie and any other new readers who've stumbled over here from the carnival post.

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Looking to Set Up DSL

Forrest and I are looking to set up internet in our SLO apartment ASAP. I can't speak for Forrest, but I get the shakes when I'm living in a place without internet access. (In places where I don't expect internet, I'm fine; for example, I didn't even think about it while backpacking. So I'm not sick. Promise!)

There aren't many DSL providers in SLO. We're basically looking at AT&T, Digital Putty, and Charter. AT&T looked the best -- $55/month for 5 static IPs -- so I called them. Their site said there was a $250 technician installation fee, but we were hoping to get it waived. Alas, on the phone they told me the only way they waive that fee is if we sign up for $25/month worth of extra service on a phone line through AT&T. But this fee only exists for the static IPs; we can self-install if we get dynamic IPs. Because going to the router's configuration page is soooo difficult. Arg.

Forrest's giving them a call to see if he can get anywhere with them. Maybe he'll connect to a more reasonable person. Otherwise, we'll have to reconsider dynamic IPs, or go look at Digital Putty and Charter.

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Saturday, September 9, 2006

Saturday Mecca

Arcade and Lunch at the Mecca

Today was the actual arcade-visiting part of Mecca. I met everyone at SVGL (though not before going the wrong by second-guessing my memory of its location). I played two rounds of DDR Extreme -- 5 songs for $1, instead of 3 for $1 on the Supernova. I've played maybe once or twice in the past year, so I'm nowhere near as good as I once was. Even so, by the end of my second set I got back up to doing 7-footers (my comfort level when I was actively DDRing).

We eventually got tired of SVGL. Another Golfland in the area is MGL, which most of the group wanted to hit up as well. We decided to get lunch at a Red Robin in between SVGL and MGL. Highlights of the Mecca lunch:

  • Waffles ordered a chicken teriyaki burger medium-rare. The waitress had to explain that the chicken teriyaki burger was in fact made of chicken, not beef, and so they couldn't prepare it undercooked for him. He defended himself by claiming the "burger" in the menu item's name overrode the "chicken" part, so he was expecting beef despite the name. Sure, Waffles, we believe you. ;)

  • Forrest was telling me that Robert hadn't played WoW in over a year. (The year before that, he had failed a class because he couldn't stop playing WoW.) To confirm his statement, Forrest asked Robert, "You've been clean for a year now, right?" Robert immediately responded, "Yeah, I haven't played WoW for a year." I laughed that he knew exactly what Forrest was referring to. Robert explained, "Forrest and I had been talking about it a couple days ago. And it's the only thing I haven't done in a year." At which point we had no choice but to burst out laughing.

  • Bottomless steak fries! Stolen from Forrest, of course.

Eating often makes me sleepy; since I didn't feel like going out to MGL anyway, I drove myself hope and took a nap.

Dropping By My Mom and Sister

I had talked to my mom on the phone earlier, and she and Thing 1 happened to be in Los Altos at Full Thread Ahead to attend the Yarn Harlot's book-signing. When I woke up from my nap, I headed over there to visit with them while they waited in line (for hours!).

My mom had just finished the custom bra she'd been making for me (with instructions from a local teacher and Beverly Johnson's book). She brought it with her to Los Altos so I could try it on (in the bathroom, hehe). It being the first fitting, there were of course some minor tweaks needed. Unfortunately, the local teacher won't have time for another appointment until after I leave for SLO. Grr.

While waiting around in the book-signing line, we chit-chatted with the woman in front of us. We first noticed her because she was wearing a pirate sweatshirt. (As you know, Bob, my mom's online personal is Pirate.) We got to chatting with the woman, who turned out to be wearing a "natural 20" shirt underneath her pirate sweatshirt.

When I complimented her on the shirt, too, she deduced that I must be a fellow gamer (of sorts, anyway). She dug through her bag and handed me a square decal with a white triangle on it. She said her friensd had printed up about 1,000 of these; they were meant to be "calling cards" for gamers, creating a "Go Play" secret society of gamers. I thought she and her friends were just being overly optimistic nerds... but then I just googled for it, and it turns out there's a Go Play site! (It does look pretty small-groupish, though. Also found a forum thread asking "What's with this Go-Play thing?" -- oh good lord, that thread's got 54 pages! Found the original creation thread, too.)

Anyway. So my sister finally got to the front of the line to get her two books signed. The Yarn Harlot (aka Stephanie) was very tired at this point and her hearing was none too good. She seemed to be having a great deal of trouble spelling my sister's name, even after we spelled it out twice. Stephanie said she'd initial the misspelling and correct it; she even misspelled her own name on the second book! And when we walked away and actually looked at the books, we realized what the problem had been. She'd thought my sister had said her name was Allison! At least has three letters in common... ;)

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Ya He Ganadao Entradas a Disneyland

Update, December 10, 2006: While looking at Google Analytics statistics for my blog, I discovered an unexpectedly popular search term: 786-573-9571, and its variously punctuated brethren. A quick Google search shows that this blog post is the only place on the web (that Google knows about) to document this phone number.

So, Internet peoples, have you too been spam-called by this company? Does anyone have any more information on them?

My cell phone rang this afternoon. I didn't recognize the number (786) 573-9571, but I answered anyway. Everything in italics was actually spoken in Spanish, but I don't remember what they said verbatim, so I've written what they meant in English instead:

Me: Hello?
Recording: You have already won tickets to Disneyland! <lots more hype>
    To claim your tickets, press 9 to speak to an operator now!
Me: <press 9>
Él: Hello! May I have the pleasure of your name?
Me: <rolls eyes> Me llamo Catherine, pero... ¿hablas inglés?
Él: Do you speak Spanish?
Me: Un poco.
Él: Un poco... Well, we have to talk with you completely in Spanish.
Me: Okay.
Él: So. May I have the pleasure of your name?
Me: Soy Catherine.
Él: ¿Qué?
Me: Catarina? Catherine.
Él: Ah, sí. And your telephone number?
Me: Pero, ¿qué contesto? ¿Qué entradas a Disneyland? No sé...
Él: Yes, of course. Your telephone number?
Me: Uh... sin más información, no quiero darle _mi_ información.
Él: <click>
Me: I knew it!

Normally I hang up on these sorts of phone calls the instant I recognize them for what they are. But this one was in Spanish! Hehe. It was kinda fun, even though I knew the "prize" part was bull from the beginning. :)

Anyone know what this scam actually hopes to accomplish?

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3 comments:

Friday, September 8, 2006

Socializing With My Ex-Fiancé

Every summer, PolyBemani (Cal Poly's DDR club that my friends founded my freshman year) puts on an unofficial mecca. Whatever far-flung corners of the globe (or state, really) we happen to be in, we all gather at some arcade-heavy locale for a long weekend of socializing and geekery. I missed last year's SoCal one, so when we decided to host it 10 minutes from where I'm staying this summer, I definitely wanted to attend.

Awkward fly in the ointment: Tim is part of PolyBemani still, so he's attending, too. More awkward: everyone is staying at Tim's parents' house. I have excused myself from the socializing they're doing at his house. Since Tim was the "wronged" one (I did the breaking up), I have been playing by ear how to act around him. He hasn't made any move to become friends again; we remain polite but avoidant. So I'm missing out on the hanging out, but it seems the only option if I want to be respectful to Tim (and his parents too, who most likely don't want to have anything to do with me anymore).

But the group went out for dinner tonight. Forrest called me up to let me know, and I met them all at Applebee's. Tim is (finally! yay!) dating someone. Her name is Aurora, and she's a 17-year-old getting her AA in computers. Her age is sorta creepy, what with Tim being 21 -- just listen to Loveline any night to hear them talk about age differences when one is jailbait. But they seemed okay together. Lots of giggling and ignoring the rest of the world.

We were a party of eight at Applebee's, so we were split between two round tables pushed together. The first table filled up with Joe, Robert, Waffles, and Shay, which left me and Forrest to sit with Tim and Aurora. Not awkward, no sirree.

I was at the far end of our table, so I couldn't hear the rest of the group's discussions and didn't want to join in with Tim and Aurora. So for most of the time we were there waiting for our food, I kept scooting my chair closer to the rest of the group, trying to hear enough of the group's conversation to not be bored. Forrest looked at me weird -- perhaps he didn't realize how uncomfortable I still feel around Tim, who's never mentioned forgiveness or not-angry-anymore-ness.

Then, after dinner, they all decided they would go back to Tim's to play some boardgames. I went home, not wanting to deal with Tim's parents or be around Tim any more tonight. I feel left out but without recourse to do anything about it so long as they're hanging out at Tim's. Hopefully I'll enjoy the Flea and arcading more tomorrow.

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Thursday, September 7, 2006

Lost Power at Work Today

We lost power at work today. The simultaneous darkening of the building, the startled cries of some employees and the anguished swearing of others (the ones who hadn't just hit "Save") made for a very exciting environment. Everyone popped their heads up out of their cubes to look around at the mayhem.

The power tried to come back on, but it ended up phasing in and out, making the lights flicker like in a horror movie. We clustered around managers' or friends' cubicles to chat. My manager said this was the third time they'd lost power in 18 months; why a UPS is not standard-issue would be a good question for the Powers That Be. I argued the case for a friendly, productivity-increasing, noisy generator in the cube farm, but no one listens to the intern. ;)

Apparently other buildings had lost power earlier in the day. And from previous experience, they know that the power outage can last long enough that they just send everyone how. Suxor for deadlines.

Luckily, I can do my current task from home, so I won't actually be short-changed my hours/pay.

Update, 9/8: no power today, either. I worked from Starbucks instead. Life sure is tough sometimes. ;)

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Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Calculate Your Expected Net Worth

So you have some savings socked away (or not, oops), but maybe you're wondering how it compares to others of your age and income, or maybe you want to know if you'll be able to retire on that amount of savings. (Twenty-two-year-olds are allowed to think about retirement savings, right? :) ) I've done a bit of reading on the subject (though, notably, I've not read the recent "The Number" books out there). Below are two formulas I've found for estimating expected net worth.

My opinions of these formulas reflect the fact that I'm new employee in the workplace and thus my "expected net worth" calculations are very susceptible to certain assumptions made by the formulas.

A Very Rough Formula

I first came across the notion of "expected" net worth while reading The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. (The link is an Amazon Affiliate link, FYI -- full disclosure and all that.) In their book, they suggest the following formula to calculate your expected net worth:

expected net worth = (age)(gross income) / 10 - inheritance

(Normal mathematical precedence rules apply.) So they're saying that inheritance doesn't count, for one thing; your expected net worth is how much you have contributed, not how lucky you were that a rich relative liked you and kicked the bucket. Fair enough.

What I dislike about this formula, however, is that it's very wrong for youngins who haven't had a chance to earn much money yet. According to the formula, I should have a net worth of $44k by now. But I've only had 3 summer jobs so far! How in the world does it make sense for any 22-year-old but a college entrepreneur to have had a chance to amass that kind of net worth? Especially considering many college students will have a negative net worth from student loans and/or credit card debt until they hold down their first full-time job.

They don't give an explanation of how they derived this formula, so here is my own interpretation. Most personal finance books and blogs advise you to save at least 10% of your gross income. (The more you can put away, and the smaller the percentage of your income your can comfortably live on, the better.) So at 10% savings goal would explain the "(gross income) / 10" term. Multiply that by each year you've been saving, and don't count inherited money in the total. The formula overstates how many years you've worked and it doesn't take into account compound interest. Perhaps Stanley and Danko hoped the over- and underestimates would balance out?

To be fair, the authors do state that they have a super-duper fancy formula they use in their own research, and that this formula is just a quick-and-dirty version. Still, why do they not say "working years" instead of age? If I claim I've worked an entire year at my gross income (which I haven't), I'm suddenly above their "expected" value. If you're more like whatever their typical case is, then perhaps this formula may still give you useful values. (These shortcomings are also discussed on Old Niu's blog.)

A Better Formula

A second formula is presented by Marotta Asset Management via the blog Free Money Finance:

adult years = age - 20

expected net worth = (adult years / 240 + 0.1)(adult years)(gross)

Change the adult years calculation if you started working at an age significantly different from 20. I used the formula as-is, and the number it gives me still seems reasonable. YMMV. This second formula was also presented without an explanation of derivation.

For example, this formula says my net worth should be 0.217 times my annual gross income, or $4.3k. This seems much more reasonable for a 22-year-old to have accomplished. I have no sense of how much an older person with a higher income should be expected to save, so I can't comment on how well this formula or the Stanley and Danko one works for other demographics. (But do check out MSN Money's article for some median figures of different age groups.)

Note that, technically, the Marotta formula isn't meant to show your net worth. It's meant to say how much you should have saved by the time you retire (they assume at 72) in order to live off your savings at your current income level. Think of this number, then, as a minimum expected net worth; you may well have other investments and assets that push your total net worth higher by that age.

Conclusion

Neither of these formulas cope well with people whose income is currently in flux. Obviously, a more advanced analysis would be needed to take each year's individual gross into account. But if you're looking for ballpark figures, plug your age and income in and see what comes out. In any case, the end result will likely be the same: save more, spend less.

Update, 9/11: Based on a comment by Debbie, I've created an Excel spreadsheet that takes into account varying income levels per year. Suggestions for improvements welcome!

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006

What Topics Are You Most Interested In Reading About?

If I were to devote myself more to my blog, what topics would you be most interested in reading about? What topics have you most enjoyed in the past? When you check this site, what do you hope I'll have written about?

Brainstorming about things I have written about that I could write more about:

  • daily goings-on
  • life after college
  • the Internet
  • programming
  • book reviews
  • conlanging
  • linguistics

Or you might be interested in learning along with me, a beginner in:

  • personal finance
  • learning languages
  • personal development
  • health and fitness
  • drawing
  • writing

I'd really appreciate if your readers out there could respond, either via comments or email, whichever you prefer. Thanks!

Update, 8:42 PM: Additionally, it'd be useful to know what other sites you visit regularly. What RSS feeds do you subscribe to, if you're into that sort of thing?

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Friday, September 1, 2006

Getting Up To Speed on New Codebases

This post isn't a how-to, it's a question. When you start a new job as a programmer (whatever title you actually have), how do you quickly and accurately familiarize yourself with a company's existing codebase? In the complex systems of the real world, there's certainly not enough time to just read through everything, the way you can for school projects.

While you're learning the codebase but still required to develop and commit your own work, it seems impossible to avoid making mistakes that seem idiotic to everyone else, simply because you didn't know to look for Qux.doBar() when you thought Foo.bar() was the functionality you wanted. It's frustrating, and I'm hoping my fellow programmer-readers will have some insights.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Score! Red Hot Chili Peppers Concert

At work, an email was sent out to all iTunes employees asking if anyone wanted a free ticket to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert tonight in Oakland. It was very early -- the crack of 12:30 in the afternoon! -- but I called Forrest anyway to wake him up and ask him if he'd like to go to the concert for his birthday. His exact response was, "Fuck yeah!"

So I shot off a reply email, 3 minutes after it had been sent. I was hoping that there would be enough tickets, and enough people who don't have their email client checking once a minute ;), that there would still be tickets available. I mentioned that it was Forrest's birthday in my email.

Lucky I did, too, because Matt (the guy with the tickets) said that although he was initially giving out only one ticket per person, he'd make an exception for my boyfriend's birthday. Sweet!

So, at 8:30 tonight Forrest and I will be at the Oakland Arena, listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert. Who ever said working for a big company was all bad? :)

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Mocha? Put It On My Tab

I had almost broken my mocha habit, when at Borders one day I noticed they had a "Kahlua Mudslide" mocha flavored with Kahlua syrup. I tried it, and got myself hooked. So I'm back on the mocha kick. (Obviously, if I really did want to totally stop having mochas, I could do so. It's mostly that I make fun of myself for getting them as often as I do.)

Yesterday I was supposed to commit my code changes last night, so they'd be in for this morning's build. I was at work until 3 in the morning, when Eclipse up and stopped working on me. So after all that, I finally went to bed without checking in my code. :(

I got to work "early" (read: 9:30 AM) to see if a solution had been found. Indeed, someone had emailed me back this morning with a solution. Happy happy, joy joy. But what I really needed was caffeine. The Apple building across the way has an espresso bar, so I went there to buy a mocha to wake myself up. (My normal morning routine of decaf Lipton's just wasn't going to cut it, especially not psychologically.)

I ordered the mocha, the woman behind the counter made the mocha. I chatted with her about how late I'd beeen at work. She told me how she'd seen someone in her building hard at work before she'd even gotten in (which, she implied, was already early).

I handed her my credit card to pay for the mocha. She shook her head, smiled, and said cash only. Doh! I even knew this, but sleep-deprived and already-forgetful me had forgotten to bring cash. I scrambled to think of how to remedy my cashless state (borrowing from the guy behind me in line, or running back across the street to my building were my solutions). But the woman waved a hand and said, "Don't worry about it. Next time."

I sighed and smiled thankfully at her. "I'll certainly be back again," I assured her. I thanked her again, took my caffeinated goodness, and scampered back to my own building.

I wonder whether my chatting with her beforehand made it more likely that she let me "buy" the mocha on credit? Had I just said, "Small mocha," and silently waited for her to make it, would should have been as nice? She is human, after all.

One of those curious "what if" scenarios.

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Printing My Blog

In case you ever wanted to print something off of my blog, you can now do so while comforted in the knowledge that you will not use up all your blue ink. I've implemented a print stylesheet, which turns things mostly black-and-white (attention-grabbing text and images will still be in color) and throws out the sidebar and Blogger banner entirely.

Happy printing. 'Cause I know you were all just dying to print out my electronic life. :)

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Happy Birthday, Forrest!

It's Forrest's birthday today! (Technically, yesterday, but I haven't gone to bed yet, so it's still yesterday and thus his birthday is still today. Don't you tell me that's confusing and/or wrong. Not listening!)

We're doing stuff tomorrow, the weekend being a more convenient time to get together. I'm hoping whatever we do doesn't involve Long Island Ice Teas...

So anyway, this is your public "happy birthday," Forrest. *hug*

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Unnutritous Day

I'm watching my calories each day, as I've mentioned. But even on days when I'm under my "limit," it can sometimes be a hollow victory:

Item Calories
Breakfast
half a blueberry scone 230
non-fat no-whip mocha 240
Dinner
lemon bar 310
no-whip Kahlua mocha 240
Total Calories Consumed 1,020

I didn't go over my allotted 1,225 calories, but then I didn't really have anything nutritious, either. :( So I lose for today. ;)

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Why My Personal Blog is Public

My mom doesn't understand why I want to have my diary accessible to the world. Let me take a stab at explaining...

Many people advocate keeping a journal to help deal with life issues. They talk about how sometimes you might feel like you must present a happy, successful facade to the world, never admitting the other half of yourself. So they suggest a private journal, where you don't have to worry about others' judging you.

I worry about unlikely things; stupid, I know, and I'm working on it. Anyway, one such worry growing up was that a friend would discover my journals and laugh at me. To protect myself from my friends'(!) imagined ridicule, in elementary school I devised two simple ciphers to encode my journal entries.

By the end of junior high, my need for encryption had lessened. I worried less about my friends finding my journals in the first place. Furthermore, they were my friends, after all. I should have friends who like me for who I really am, I figured, so I shouldn't feel ashamed or embarassed if they read the thoughts recorded in my journals.

Today, this philosophy has expanded further. I feel that I am challenging my own level of self-acceptance by admitting who I am and what I think and feel in the "public" of the internet. I should be comfortable with myself; given that, what do I have to hide? It's true that sometimes I still grimace as I hit the "Post" button. But so long as I've honestly represented events, myself, and others, I view this as merely an opportunity to push myself to accept reality and myself. It's a test, so to speak.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hit On Already

One of the other books Jacqueline recommended, for wardrobe selection, was The Lucky Shopping Manual by Andrea Linett and Kim France. Not feeling like buying more new books, I headed out to the public library. I read through it (lots of pictures) and felt inspired to find outfits that were more "cute" and less "frump."

So I went to Goodwill, Saturday being 50% Off Day, and picked up some new(-to-me) clothes. Got some nice tops, skirts, pants (including comfy green cargo pants -- I'm getting the nicer clothes in addition to my normal clothes, after all), and a pair of shoes. That accomplished, I realized that at 8:30 PM I'd only eaten a banana all day. Borders has both books and cafe-food, so it was off to Borders.

At Goodwill, I had changed into one of my newly purchased outfits. Nothing terribly unusual, although the shirt and jacket together with the shoes are a touch nicer than the oversized, baggy T-shirts I normally wear with jeans.

Anyhow, at Borders, I was just sitting on the floor reading when this Indian guy walks up to me. He said, "Hi, I just wanted to tell you that you look really cute." I was, understandably, flabbergasted. I thanked him, not knowing what else you're supposed to say in such situations (having not been in many myself). He sat down next to me and we chatted for the next half hour or so, until closing. More accurately, he chatted and I was polite. He came across as at least one of overly confident, desperate, or clueless.

He is originally from India, which is where he claims he was almost killed by a tiger when he was 14. (Thus the strange bumps/marks on his forehead in the sketch I did of him later.) He does yoga. ("Would you like to join me some time?" Heh, thanks, no.) He once came to the rescue of an ex-stripper-girlfriend in LA when she was being harassed by some guys after work. ("I know some martial arts.") He wanted to know where I got my ring -- then didn't seem comfortable with my deprecating it by saying I suspected it was just made of silver solder, being $3 Mexican mercado jewelry and all. He took my right hand to read my lifelines or whatever, then declared very insightfully that I was a reserved, observing sort of person.

We got kicked out of Borders, and he wanted to walk me to my car. I'd parked in the front row of the parking lot, under lights and near other people leaving the bookstore. I didn't know how to politely tell him no, and it didn't seem too risky, so I agreed to let him. So we walked to my car. I opened my car door and was half standing in it, to make it clear that I was just about to leave and not planning on hanging around for another half hour. He wanted to know if I would like to meet him at the local park the next night. He didn't strike me as a particularly dense person, so why was he not acknowledging all the reluctance and polite-shrugging-off-ness that I was doing? I said I didn't think I would, and instead of taking it graciously he asked again, saying he would really like to continue our conversation. I'd already said no politely and didn't feel like just flat out saying "no," so I just didn't say anything.

Then things got creepy. He suddenly leaned toward my neck and sniffed! I instinctively backed away, but was mostly against the car already. He asked me what perfume I was wearing. I insisted that I wasn't wearing anything (which was true). He insisted that he could smell it "even from over here," when he stepped back again. I shrugged. Then he leaned forward again, closer this time. Fed up, I actually pushed him back and said, "Okay, I have to go now."

"So you don't want to meet at the park?" he asked one last time. Perservering bugger. This time I did flatly tell him, "No."

So that was my initially-complimentary, eventually-creepy run-in.

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