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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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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