Archive for February, 2008

A Car is a Vehicle…

Friday, February 29th, 2008

It seems that no matter what time I leave work, there is always a bus at the bus stop waiting to pick people up as I walk past it to my car. In reality there is a bus every 15 minutes on the quarter hours, and I just happen to leave at nice quater hour times. In any case, it makes me feel kinda bad to just walk past it and get in my car, when I could just as easily save some steps and hop on the bus. I took the bus for two months, when I didn’t have a car, and I still pay for a monthly T pass — I could hop on at no additional cost.

Today , I came to a new justification for why I bought a car a year ago, and continue to skip the bus in favor of it. The bus takes over an hour to get to the end of the subway line, which is about 20 minutes from my apartment on average. That is a long time. The car takes about 25-45 minutes, depending on traffic.

The car is vehicle, by which I can transform money into time.

It takes a whole lot of money and provides an hour a day or so of time which I can use to accomplish things that can not be done on a bus (there are additional morning time savings). That doesn’t seem very efficient, given the high cost of a car. But really, it’s very difficult to actually turn money into time. Other than increasing your travel speed, the primary way is to pay people to do things for you, like cook, clean, and laundry which is also expensive.

Anyways, I feel perfectly happy to purchase time at the exchange rate offered by a car. Thinking of it in those terms gets my mind away from the whole energy/pollution efficiency of mass transit. Rough estimates show that I spend about $28 a day on my car (gas, loan payments, upkeep, & insurance), which by rough estimates are similar to the value of an hour of my time (or less) — which is of course why I am perfectly happy with the exchange rate. I just thought it was an interesting thought, enough to share.

Las Vegas Trip Four

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Panormaic View from the Bellagio

This post is primarily a response to Chris’ comment on my previous post. Last week was the fourth time I’ve been to Las Vegas. Three of those have been in the last year (one before I started the blog, one this summer, and this one) for work. The other one was when I was 13, with my family.

So, what exactly did I do there. Well the work part occurs out in the middle of the desert and involves testing software with the actual hardware its designed for, its super exciting </sarcasm>. We stay in the podunk little town except for the two nights actually in Las Vegas that bookend the trip. There is one restaurant in this town, which sucks, oh and this part isn’t interesting.

When I’m in Vegas I usually hit up the strip, but I tend not to gamble. Gambling is one of the few activities that you can go out and do alone, but like most things it’s not as good as with a friend — to commiserate over your losses with. I can really only let myself play blackjack, given that I understand the odds involved with all the common games, and its so hard to find a $5 table, I have looked for them on occasion. The one time I did gamble (trip 2) I put up $60 for $5 blackjack, played for an hour and half and got up after I’d made it back to $65 and then lost the hand, breaking even. On trip 3 I saw a show instead of gambling.

This time I got in before dinner, so I grabbed a Chipotle burrito, part of my quest to use up those gift cards, and took it to the Bellagio, and ate it watching the fountains. This is a video of them from where I ate. It sounded like it might be the song from the end of Oceans’ 11 so I turned on the camera. I’m yet actually compare it, maybe you all can do that for me.

After I finished my burrito, which cost a whole lot less than they do here in Massachusetts (at least $0.25 less in Nevada), I walked around to the other side of the fountains and watched for a while. Taking this video:

They really are the best free show in town. These aren’t even the best two songs I saw. It’s of course hard to tell before the music starts playing what song it will be, and if that song is any good is even harder. They should announce the song name before it starts playing, to get people’s attention and provide the information. There is one song I’ve seen 3 times (2 of them on the same night on trip 3), Luck be a Lady, and wow that song is sub par. The fountain work is unimpressive, its long, and the lyrics get old fast. I know its the The Chairman of the Board and all, but its not so good. I do hope to one day see the show for Fly Me to the Moon, I think that is the one I would request of the songs they do, if I could.

After that, I just perused the strip and did some people watching, which is fun. It was cloudy and the moon was dimmer (through the clouds) than the light from the Luxor was shining on the clouds. This makes sense if you think about it, but it was neat. I park at the Bellagio because my hotel is about a block off the strip up by the Hilton. The Bellagio’s parking is great because unlike other hotels its not in the very back, its more off to the side, so its quicker to get in and out. On my way back to my car I checked out their conservatory display, which was themed for Chinese new year.

Year of the Rat, apparently.

After that I went back to the hotel watched some of The Office. I wasn’t feeling very well on the ending bookend in Vegas, so I pretty much just slept. I think I’ll be going back again this spring if I can get the next version of the software up in time and work out some of the hardware issues I had this trip. So what else should I be doing while I’m there, Chris?

A Night for Great Customer Service

Monday, February 25th, 2008

On Sunday I got a phone call, not all too common of an occurrence. I was at Amber and Aarrons’ place (of WND fame) to play some party games and it was Jed, who said he might join us, so I answered. I flipped open my phone, and much to my surprise the screen was black. It worked just fine, Jed said he’d be there in an hour or so. I fiddled with it some more that night and today, and nothing just black screens, unless I shone a bright light on it, then the faintest glimmer of menus and calendars. My backlight was broken.

So I went to the Verizon Store in Everett today after work, and after waiting for traffic to calm down. As usual when going to deal with customer service, I was ready to get stern if need be, and loaded up my arsenal of acceptable resolutions and reasons why they should fix my phone for me for free. Much too my surprise I didn’t need any of that, they took the phone and told me to come back in 30 minutes.

So I went to grab dinner at Chipotle. Upon receiving a Chipotle gift card for valentines day from my loving mother I realized that I now had 4 Chipotle gift cards of unknown values in my wallet. On my recent trip to Las Vegas for work I started to use them, and so tonight I continued. First with one, $5.76 remaining, then another $4.30 remaining then a third, which covered it. The cashier was impressed, and in her thick accent, she thanked me for being a “Chipotle Lover” and gave me a free bag of chips + salsa. I can’t complain about that. Maybe I should go to the old Everett Chipotle over the new, closer Davis one more often.

After finishing my dinner I went back and the Verzion tech’s had replaced my phone. That makes this the third Maxx Ve I’ve had, and I have to do the seem edits all over again. But it was free, and they transfered all my contacts and such. Anyways I’m pretty happy with my customer service tonight.

How I Met Your Mother

Friday, February 15th, 2008

I finished watching all that exists of CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother this week. It is yet another in the long line of shows that I saw once on an airplane and thought, “maybe this is a good show, but eh, not really worth it,” and then a few months later, Paul, who flies a whole lot less often than I do suggests that I should watch. For the record the only other show currently on this list is Scrubs, but I think that the list will continue to grow. It’s a good, fun show about young people in an apartment in New York. But it is a story of the past told in agonizing detail by a grown man to his teenage children. Obviously the story is of how he met their mother. There is a movie out now, Definitely Maybe, which has the same premise. And I would be seeing it tonight instead of blogging about it if I knew anyone who would go see it with me.

In the show, he started his story many, many years before he met his children’s mother. This seems like an excuse to tell all these self important stories about all the girls who might have been their mother and all of his other super cool youth antics. I’m not saying I’m planning to subject my kids to this kind of story. I was never subjected to this kind of story. But it is a good way to tell all of these stories that stay for the most part locked away by social norms. Telling the story is what appeals to me. In 10th grade religion class we had to write sort of an autobiographical spiritual analysis of out whole lives, and then read it in front of the class. This was scary, but people seemed to take it not as lightly as other religion class assignments, and though embarrassing details were in almost everyone’s papers, to my knowledge, none of them left the room. Anyways, this made me hit upon the idea that it’d be fun to, at some point, find someone else and do pretty much the same thing, going back and forth in parts. Vearing on side tracks often, but always coming back to the core story. This is exactly what the show does. Oh, and the show is hilarious, and the girls on it are hot; that all helps.

The good news is that How I Met Your Mother will return from the strike this season with 9 more episodes (for a total of 20, only 2 short of a normal season for them). The new episode will air on March 17th, so only a month or so to go!

More, More, More More, More

Friday, February 15th, 2008

I feel a bit like the title and tone of my last post, was more downtrodden on Hillary than the facts supported. Clearly, in such a lopsided congressional vote, her presence was not missed, and at least some of her supporters to look upon telecom immunity unfavorably. But this last week has been one of the most important battles for civil liberties of the decade, and she wasn’t to be bothered.

The House has recessed for the weekend, well looks like they are off until Feb. 25th. They left having called Bush’s bluff. The Protect America Act will expire tomorrow, for the good of the country, because the house did not cave they did not pass a bad law. They in fact did nothing when the only alternative was to do a bad thing. If you don’t agree with me yet, or if you just want to see a television pundit get all worked up about this issue you should check out Keith Olbermann’s “scathing rebuke of President Bush.” Just like my local peers and the Obama campaign, I’ve not seen any television pundit ever get so energized before in my life.

Too Busy To Vote, Hillary?

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Just when we needed another reason not to vote for Hillary Clinton, we get one. The Senate today voted down an amendment to the permanent Protect America Act replacement bill, which as you know really pushes my buttons. The amendment in question would have removed telecom’s retroactive immunity from the bill. And what does this have to do with Clinton, well she didn’t vote on it! The most important privacy related legislation that will be considered in the entire year and she can’t even be in Washington to vote on it! Now now, I know that her presidential campaign is imploding as we speak, but maybe if she actually did her current job well, then that wouldn’t be happening!

The vote was 69 against the amendment and 29 for it. That means two people didn’t vote. We know one was Clinton. We know that Barack Obama was one of the 29 people who voted for the amendment. Now here is a real kicker, at least John McCain showed up to vote on the amendment, I mean he did vote the wrong way, but he is at least showing up for work. I’m not sure who the other abstention is, apparently no one important. Now, 18 democrats are on the side of that 69 who voted for the amendment. We’ll have to get their names and beat them up on election day as well. The bill as a whole passed the senate later today in a 68 – 29 vote. This vote is filibuster proof, by 2 votes, so Chris Dodd’s promise to do so is of little help. The only hope at this point is that the House of Representatives, which passed a incompatible version of the bill, does not budge from its position. The House version does not include retroactive immunity.

Let me explain why this bill pushes my buttons so much. Not giving away get-out-of-jail-free-retroactive-immunities (isn’t
ex-post-facto banned by the constitution) would be a good start, but there is so much opportunity here. Lets look at what Bush is saying about the bill.

Bush has pledged to veto any bill without immunity, and he said Tuesday that he would not accept any more temporary FISA extensions. By midnight Saturday, when a stop-gap extension expires, Bush said he will get what he wants or do nothing to stop what he says are vital gaps in intelligence collection from re-opening.

Bush is throwing a tantrum over this, he will either get what he wants or he will take his ball and go home. That’s perfect! Well, only if you think that spying without warrants is bad. I can not be convinced that it is that hard to get a warrant. If the democrats give Bush something reasonable, then he’ll veto it, and we’ll be back to our pre-illegal-warrantless-wiretapping status quo. Democrats were elected in 2006 to, in part, return us to this status quo. Now, it may be political suicide to say, oh we’ll just let these things expire cause that is what we want to do. But there is a perfect opportunity here, to provide some reasonable additional powers which satisfy political needs to look “hard on terror,” and then Bush has said he’ll veto them, and we get the end result we desire without the political ramifications! Win Win! Lets hope the House is thinking just this. Come on Pelosi, this should be just your style.

Here are some more updates. Looks like the House democrats are standing up for a change! No matter where they found their spine, lets just hope it doesn’t break. Also in the link this choice quote from Sen. Kennedy:

The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retro-active immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he’s willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.

Note: that of course the president is flat wrong on the idea that we need this bill to avoid loss of life, we’ll still be plenty protected by what we had before he decided warrantless wiretaps were needed.

Closed Directed Walk

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

I was bored yesterday, and it was kind of nice out, so I found some reasons to go out and I took a walk around town. All in all it was quite successful at making me feel productive. Anyways, here’s the Google map of it. This walk differs from my first post in that it includes repeated vertices, other than the start and end point.

View Larger Map

Super Tues…. Mardi Gras?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

If there is one thing I don’t remember about Mardi Gras in Mobile, AL when I lived there, it was my parents voting in an election, but strangely enough politics and parades are colliding in Alabama today. The chaining date is, of course, one of the more quirky aspects of the holiday. Its 50 days before Easter, which, like my spring break when I went to catholic school, is determined by the phases of the moon — how archaic! I remember it being in early March once during a leap year and they held fantastic parades on the 29th. Of course the election process also moved this year, seemingly more than in the past, and today the two collide — oh I already used that metaphor.

Mardi Gras is by far the best holiday I can remember. We got a random Tuesday in February off school to go downtown and catch all kind of wholesome goodies: plastic cups (which I still use to this day, though the Mardi Gras emblems have faded), beads, candy, and best of all banana and strawberry flavored moon pies. Oh and my mom’s special Mardi Gras turkey, for lunch. I loved then, as I do now, going into the city for just about any reason, even though the city was much smaller back then. It was just so much fun, and downtown Mobile had this inescapable lazy Sunday French charm about it — very refreshing to imagine. Now, add to all of that election excitement, that would be a blast.

I learned too late last night, that Obama was here in South Boston at the last rally before the voting. I’m not sure that Massachusetts is the politically savvy state to hold such a rally in, maybe California would be better, but I wish I had known and gone. Although, i doubt they had moon pies, so I’d still rather be in Alabama last night, but that wasn’t on the docket — hopping the T to the convention center could have been. I guess he did goto Harvard Law School, and with all those Kennedy endorsements its not a bad place to be. Anyways, my part is done, it was quiet and rainy outside the firehouse in line. Not a long line, it took maybe 10 minutes. The sweet sounds of the rain, which woke me up this morning before I rolled over again for another few hours, was only broken by the sound of a car horn as it drove past the two girls standing holding rain soaked Barack Obama signs across the street. And then by their subsequent noises of glee, mostly shouting and giggling.

There weren’t any supporters for any other candidate outside the polling place. I did pass some Hillary supporters with their 4 sign tall posts standing in the middle of Davis square as I drove to work after voting, just like they were yesterday, when they were upstaged by the Ron Paul supporters, who left a small sticker on a traffic sign and departed to make better use of their man power. There were two similar Obama supporters holding one rain soaked sign each. Even after voting, I’m too excited for the results, I couldn’t avoid searching out news and writing this post. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, I have another video link; don’t mind that it is by Lawrence Lessig, whom I’ve already linked to as a supporter via xkcd. It makes a slow solid argument that you can self evaluate, as is appropriate at this stage in the game.

January 2008 Numbers

Monday, February 4th, 2008

No not the the poll numbers for the election, but the aim chat numbers. Everyone seemed to like them before, so why not again. Well cause now short term trends can be identified, thats why, but hey, its a slow news day, and the chart has pretty colors, so why not. Plus there was a 16% up tick in the total amount for the top 10 from December to January, and I like talking to you all. Yes I realize that is a correlation not a causation (just as with this interesting study on books using a data set mined from facebook), but I’m really not too concerned about that with this data. Its not like were trying to say that reading The Holy Bible will make you dumber or anything.

Rank Bytes Name Dec 2007 Rank
749239 Kelly
416461 Paul
103068 OSU Paul
75558 Josh
71797 Beth
41277 Jed
38823 George
27145 Zack
25370 Krishna
20439 My Parents