Lately, I've started to realize that my vocabulary is shrinking and that my ability to succinctly express my thoughts is diminishing with it. It's the weirdest thing, to find yourself reaching for a word, to know the meaning of said word, to have some weird visceral muscle memory of what that word should feel like rolling of your tongue, but then find yourself completely at a loss. I think part of the reason behind this is that I don't read as much anymore. The only books that I read last month, were comic books and young adult fiction (which strangely, was a genre of books that I almost entirely skipped over in my youth). Most of the things that I read at work are the poor, misshapen productions of foreign born engineers, that require several minutes of mental gymnastics per sentence to be properly understood.
But I think at least some part of my language woes stems from my lack of frequent, lengthy writing, with which most of my life was marked by until I graduated college. The solution then, I think, is to reinvest my time into blogging. I know that I was never the most regular of bloggers. Throughout college and high school, I often bemoaned my dearth of free time and attributed my infrequent blogging to it, and sadly, now that I actually have free time after work or on the weekends, I choose to waste much of my free time reading reddit. But a return to even my pre-real-world blogging regularity would be an improvement over my annual posts (it's been exactly one year to the day since I last posted). And let's face it, reddit is a horrendous waste of time.
So we'll call this fifth of May my return to blogging. (Hopefully)
Also, on another note, I have a project in the works to make a simple, static HTML blogging platform, and then ultimately move my own blog off of wordpress.
I wrote this article about three years ago, but never posted it. So finally, here it is... (I should point out this Thinkpad has since expired in a fire.)
I was procrastinating on studying a few weeks ago (as usual) and decided to look at the going prices for refurbished laptops, and most especially refurbished IBM Thinkpads. I stumbled across cedarpc.com and noticed that they had refurbished x60 Thinkpads for around $350, and then a few days later, a x60s (sans battery) showed up Cedar PC for only $240. I thought about it for a while and decided to pull the trigger on it. Now lets follow the logic that allowed me to justify spending $240 on a refurbished piece of 4 year old technology...
I have a perfectly functional HP dv2910us laptop right now that I carry to campus almost every day now and despite the fact that it only weighs in at around 5lbs, I've found it to be rather tiresome to carry constantly. The problem is mostly that not only do I have to carry the laptop, I also have to carry the AC charger, a binder, one or two textbooks, and my lunch, and the weight adds up quite quickly. So I've been thinking about getting a lighter machine for a while now. A netbook would be a perfectly logical choice, but after spending an extended period of time trying to type on a 10 inch netbook, I found the miniature keyboard to be absolutely unbearable to use. Of course, I considered getting a new 12 inch light weight laptop, but discarded the idea quickly because I really can't justify spending more then $800 on a device right now.
Obviously, the ipad or any kind of keyboard-less tablet was out of the question (not just because I dislike Apple) but because I can't develop software on the ipad.
The x60s I purchased is by no means expensive, and at 3lbs its quite light.
Shiny Shiny Shiny
I hate glossy screens. Glossy screens are the devil. The glossy screen on my HP bothered me a bit when I first got it, but I was willing to put up with it since the price was so low. Unfortunately, over the past 18 months that I've had my HP laptop, I've discovered that unless I keep the backlight cranked up to over 95%, the glare off the screen under normal lighting is atrocious. And of course, with the backlight up so high, my battery life went from 2.5 hours to about 1 hour.
I'm sitting in a dimly lit corner of the library right now with my backlight set to 90% and I can still see annoying little glare spots from the ceiling lamp twenty feet away, and even more annoyingly, I can see the reflection of my moving fingers at the base of the screen. If I switch to my black background terminal, I can see my entire reflection in all its glory. The only time that this screen doesn't have glare or reflect back everything behind it, is when there are no other ambient light sources in the same room. With the smallest amount of ambient sunlight, my shiny screen turns into a 14 inch mirror, and if I happen to sit next to a window on a sunny day, my screen becomes completely unusable.
Yet for some reasons, glossy screens are the only option for most laptops sold today. Only the high end business laptops and expensive Macbook pros offer matte screens at a premium, which infuriates me to no end.
My HP has a bit of a problem. When its CPU temperature drops below 118 F, the BIOS decides to go nutty, and it revs the system fans all the way up for a split second, shuts them them down for about a second, and then repeats ad nauseum. This generates what is hands down the most infuriating noise ever.
Imagine if you will, you're sitting in the nice quiet library studying for your big test tomorrow when some guy sits down next to you and pulls out his laptop. He flips it open and immediately the following noise starts emanating from his machine:
wwwhhhhRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRhhhh wwwhhhhRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRhhhh wwwhhhhRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRhhhh wwwhhhhRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRhhhh...
Oh, by the way, that guy with the annoying laptop is me...
I switched DNS hosting providers for this website, moving from 1and1 to railsplayground (they're already my web hosting provider). In the past four or five years that I've been with 1and1 I've never experienced any problems with the qualtiy of their service or their uptime. But as it turns out, 1and1 had been storing my password in plaintext, a happy little tidbit I discovered after I clicked on the "forgot my password" link and they sent me my original password. So I've changed service providers, simple as that.
Storing passwords in plaintext is absolutely idiotic, and there is absolutely no excuse for any entity, especially a large technology oriented company, to be storing their passwords in a non-hashed format. (I've been salting and hasing my passwords with SHA-1 since I was 16.) The blatant disregard that 1and1 has shown for their customer's security infuriates me to no end.
PLEASE SALT AND HASH YOUR PASSWORDS!
I find my credit card statement extremely humourous. Most of the charges are for food (in terms of monetary cost, the majority of that is from eating out), and the rest is gas and the occasional random crap from Amazon (thank you Amazon Prime). A stranger looking at my credit card bill might assuming I was eating for a family of four.
For example, my crazy Friday night yesterday, involved watching one co-worker lambast and ridicule Gandhi in order to raise of the ire of an Indian co-worker (which resulted in us being even later then 'Asian-late' for dinne), followed by us ingesting giant bowls of noodles along with various side dishes, including thousand-year-old-egg, various kinds of tofu, and beef and tendon. After that we went for some boba and continue to discuss the merits of Blizzard games and of course the unpopular Mass Effect 3 ending, because that's what all the cool kids do these days. I finished my evening by going home, eating chocolate, and crashing happily full. All in all, a fairly typical night.
I've decided some time ago that whenever I go groccery shopping, I should try to buy the oddest combination of 2-3 items possible. Last month I did decently well, with a box of 50 cookies (for 5 dollars!) and 2 onions. Today, I did not fare nearly as well; I purchased a bag of meatballs and 1% milk (which thankfully did not come in a bag). I've considered buying items I have absolutely no need for, just to fulfill my weird desire. But then common sense grabs hold of me (with her big man-ish hands), and I remember that I cannot afford that luxurious 99 cent bag of veggie chips (because apparently potatoes are not vegetarian enough?) on my meager engineer's salary.
It's already been said, my apartment burned down a while ago. But I wanted to add in a few extra things.
I was looking at the pictures and I remembered something that I found intensely amusing when I was first allowed back into the building. (Me being me, I'm going to describe said event in an extremely verbose and roundabout manner.) A month before the fire, I had installed new batteries in my smoke detectors. (Nine cell batteries being surprisingly expensive, this was not a cheap endeavor. And the fact that nobody was in the building when the alarms went off saddens me somehow, as though my ten dollars had been completely wasted.) As I was surveying the wreckage of my apartment, I noticed that my two smoke detectors were lying cracked and badly broken on the ground. The areas where they had been previously mounted (up on the top of the incredibly high ceilings), had been thoroughly smashed in. I can only assume that after crashing through my front door and assuring themselves that no one was home, the fire fighters had proceeded to silence the blaring smoke detectors by bashing them in with fire axes. For some reason, this is amusing too me. I have no idea why.
Common responses to, "my apartment building burned down," include: "why did you burn your apartment down," "what did you do to start a fire," and "did you forgot to turn the stove/oven off." The idea that I was not responsible for the fire, was apparently not obvious to many people. Also, many people seemed to be surprised by the fact that I no longer live there (OK, so technically it's not completely burned down as it's still standing, but it has no roof, the walls have so many holes that the top floor might as well be one giant room, and half the building was about to collapse.).
If this blog was a child I would be in prison for gross negligence. During my absence, a few interesting things of note have occured. Firstly, my apartment building burned down several months back. Which has lead to me discovering three new things:
- I should have gotten renter's insurance.
- Exposing a hard drive to high heat, dropping a roof and bucketfuls of ash on it, and then dousing it with water, will do nothing positive for said hard drive's longevity.
- Eating pizza and relaxing in front of the dying coals of your burning apartment is a great way to meet the neighbors.
And now, a few pictures.
I consider myself lucky, all things considering, in that I (nor anyone else) was not hurt in the fire, and having not owned too much, I lost relatively little. Now as far as potentially life altering events go, having my apartment burn down barely noted as even a slight blip in my day to day life. The day after the fire, I was buying a new toothbrush and some clothes at Target, by the end of the week I had a new place to stay and was allowed to pick through the remains of my apartment, and within a month life had returned mostly to normal, save for the fact that I only owned one pair of jeans.
Although my hard drives gave up the ghost in the fire, the non-moving components of my desktop, choking in ashes, bravely survived for a few more weeks of operation before finally surrending to death with a high pitched squeal. So I salvaged what I could from "wolfgang" and built myself a new computer, based around an Intel Sandy Bridge Core i5, and named it "phoenix" (because it was reborn from the ashes). My trusty IBM x61s (aka 'archpad') also fell victim, although I was still able it's recover the hard drive. In a nice turn of events, I used the fire as an execuse to buy myself a gloriously large 27 inch monitor that now bathes my room with more light than the sun, and a mechanical keyboard (very) vaguely reminiscent of the IBM model M.
I've had quite a bit of time to dwell on things during my unscheduled sabbatical from my dearest web server, so this is going to be a doozy of a post.
On Graduating From College
I never really yearned for high school to end, but after three years of college, I began to grow restless of school. By the middle of my fourth year, every fiber of my being was screaming to be released from learning. I was tired of spending hours in the library studying things that seemed hopeless to understand, tired of 8 AM lectures on circuits, tired of long sleepless nights writing code, tired of worrying about grades, and just tired of being tired. It was a bittersweet relationship that I had with school; I loved UCLA and I knew that I would miss it after I left, but I was desperate for a break from learning.
I made my way through high school with a nagging voice at the back of my mind telling me that I needed to succeed in order to get into a good college. Upon entering college, that voice fell silent and I grew complacent. But I was soon spurred forward, partially by a true desire to learn and to a lesser degree, a niggling realization that a sub-par performance in school wasn't going to get me an even passable job after graduation. The fact is, I've spent most of my life working towards the moment when I would graduate from college, a goal that I always thought was far off in the distant future and therefore never considered the consequences of. So after I moved out of my apartment in LA, a new thought wormed its way into my mind, asking, "now what?" And its a question that I have yet to properly resolve to my own personal satisfaction.
Others brought up in similar scenarios as mine undoubtedly have the same thought running around in their heads. From this point in life, there ceases to be as many milestones set out for us, if any at all. The goal now (as I try to tell myself) is to live fully and pursue that which inflames our passions, refusing to accept the limitations ahead.
Finals week; that wonderful time of the season characterized by late nights, early mornings, hours of unbridled fun in the library, and most of all, incredible amounts of procrastination. I recently decided that every time I get too restless to study, I should get up and run a few miles. Monday turned out to be a particularly restless day, as I ended up running ten miles in the afternoon (two full perimeter runs (four miles each), and a truncated north-campus loop (two miles)). The end result was that I got very little work done and utterly failed at curing my restlessness, as each successive trek through the outside world only served to fuel my desire to be away from my studies. Obviously, I have since abandoned that failure of a studying technique.
But onto other more exciting news. My roommate started the process of moving out yesterday and so today I learned that he owned all the knives in our apartment. Which is why I made lunch today using nothing but a pair of chopsticks, and an ancient pocket knife. Presumably, for the next few days I will be eating a lot of instant noodles. Which is fine, because that was essentially my plan anyway.
I was wandering through the deluge of old data that I've accumulated on my disks and discovered a high school recording of me playing Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" piano concerto, accompanied by the community orchestra (which was, to put it nicely, not a very good orchestra). I was initially mildly impressed by the solid skill and slight bravado with which I performed, but then immediately became extremely depressed when I realized how much my piano skills have atrophied over the last four years.
I bought a new phone recently (Nexus One) and have been discovering the joys afforded by the marvels of modern technology. Perhaps the most shocking of its features (when compared to my previous phone), is that it doesn't lock up every time the screen is touched. The Nexus One, being a rather older model, superceded by various other phones including the Nexus S, was relatively quite cheap (only $260 unlocked and without contract), compared to the ~$600 it might cost to buy a current, unlocked, contract-free, top-of-the-line model. Nevertheless, $260 is still $20 more then what I paid for the stolid and trustworthy IBM x60s that I'm currently typing away at. There's been a lot of complaints on the tubes (i.e. from guys like ESR) about how American cellular providers are racking up exorbitant profits by locking consumers into unfair contracts that span several years. But the fact of the matter is, modern smart phones are prohibitively expensive and the only way most Americans are even going to consider buying them, is if they don't have to realize the full price of the product up front. Thus contracts that appear to partially subsidize the cost of the phone, but in reality simply act as a payment plan. Its the American way; buy crap you don't really need with money you don't have right now.
But I digress. Yesterday night, we realized that the window in our room opens. This idea, which has apparently been gestating in our minds for the past year, only to hatch a few days before we move out, was still quite welcome as it served to ventilate our every-so stuffy room.
I'll be doing undie-run tonight, despite the looming presence of two more finals in the very near future. But I figure it'll be worth it since I've never gone and this will be my last chance. Amusingly enough, they have yet to change the picture for the undie-run Facebook group in several years. It remains a picture someone took my first quarter here, containing a streaming mass of humanity with my then-roommate in the middle, wearing nothing but his underwear and for some inexplicable reason, a tie.
And with that, I return to other acts of procrastination.