Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bruegger's, Thou Hast Forsaken Me

So far this week I have been too busy to go to the grocery store, so I have been eating breakfast at Bruegger's Bagels. It seemed like my order (bagel, cream cheese, coffee) was a little too expensive, but it wasn't until today that I figured out what was going on. Coffee? That's just $1.59. Bagel? Only $0.89! But a bagel with cream cheese is suddenly no longer a bagel. It is a bagel sandwich, and a cream cheese bagel sandwhich is $1.99. $1.99! Now don't get me wrong, I am not trying to say that $1.99 is an unreasonable price to pay for breakfast but what bothers me is how adding cream cheese to the bagel more than doubles its value. What planet exactly are we living on here? From now on, I am eating dry ass bagels sans cream cheese and I don't care how long it takes to chew!

In other news, and since this appears to be a rant-style entry, my new least favorite development of the past five years has been what I will christen "Google Worth." "Google Worth" is when you attempt to convey the relative importance of a topic by typing it into Google and seeing how many entries come up (e.g., "if you enter 'wholesome family values' into google, the result is 60,000 hits, but entering 'baby-killing satanists' yields over a million results). While there is nothing wrong with discussing something's Google Worth in a casual conversation, when reporters use this it just screams laziness. I would argue that the number of hits that come up for a Google search have little bearing on how important the term is. Please go look at entry 1,000,567 and get back to me on how relevant it is. My guess would be, 'not very.'

A quick Google search (yielding over 13 million results!!!) proves that I am not the only one who feels this way:

Monday, November 27, 2006

Take Control: Climate Control

Okay, it's here!

Climate Control no longer exists. It was my band from high school. We recorded a few albums, and even sold a fair amount of them. At some point during college we recorded four final songs. We called it, "The Timely Demise of Climate Control," and we meant to record a few more songs and release it as a full length album. It never happened, and I litterally hadn't listened to the songs until today. We decided to release these songs to you for your own enjoyment. Start here:
Anyway, the recordings we made were actually pretty good. They sound rather rad, or at least better than I remember. If you find the lyrics to be full of angst, well what can I say. I was in high school. Also, if you listen to anything at all, listen to "A Long Long Time," and make sure you hear the harmony guitar solo that Rand and I layed down. We are so metal!

Anyway, hope you enjoy!

Music on the Way...

This week when I was back home, I saw my friend Jonathan. He was the drummer in my band in high school, and we decided that we should post some of our old recordings (what with modern techmology being what it is). I am currently in the middle of doing that, and I've already got all of the songs posted, but myspace is so sloooooooow that I can't put up the band pictures that I wanted to.

Hopefully tomorrow it'll be up, and you can jam to it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Thanksgiving Break

Catch a beat running like Randy Moss.Ah, Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year. As I was pretty busy over my entire break, I didn't bother to write anything here. This may seem a little strange since we do have the Internets in New Orleans, but something about being back home throws me off my rhythm and makes me not want to keep up with the usual parts of my life (Excercise, Blog, Guitar, Moderation).

Anyway, break was fantastic. Unlike my last visit home, where I went in expecting too much, this break I was ready and willing to have a very low key time, and I guess that without the pressure, good things ended up happening.

First of all, I don't think I have ever had as many oysters (raw, charbroiled, Rockefeller) in a one week period; two times a day at some point. I went out while I was home and saw a great collection of New Orleans friends and well-wishers without overdoing it. (Shout-outs to New Orleans transplants Alex and Caroline! Respek!) I actually did (some) homework. I went to a blues concert downtown and saw both the Saints and the Trojans win. Then, to cap it all off, I saw Outkast's Big Boi at Louis Armstrong International.

Now I've got a serious push leading up to the winter break. There is much work to be done; papers to be written, homework to be completed and preparations to be made for my first ever TA job.

And as if I didn't have enough to do before break, at the beginning of the semester I promised my mom I'd go on a recruiting trip with her to the Army/Navy football game in Philly. It turns out that this game is next weekend, thus ruining any chances of my doing work then!

Hopefully I can get everything done without ignoring my Pittsburgh friends, whom I then will not see for almost three weeks starting December 20th... sad!

Monday, November 20, 2006

I Met Het on a TV Show

Tonight's "How I Met Your Mother," was funny, until it got surreal...
But I can say that I actually saw this ending coming. I think it's because I've got Tiffany on the brain.

I'm gonna rock your body until Canada Day...

By the way, "How I Met Your Mother" is a great show, and one of the three shows (including "My Name is Earl" and "The Office") that I actually watch.

I found the full video for "Let's Go to the Mall" on YouTube.


Tomorrow I'm leaving for New Orleans for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Love Thanksgiving!

I'll miss you Pittsburgh...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Great Success!

As if we needed any more reasons to dislike UCLA, now their police are taser-ing their own students!

With that nugget out of the way, last night I did a little Shadyside nightlife experience, starting at Cappy's. It was their 25th anniversery, so we got a bunch of free junk and we hung out with my boss from over the summer, as it is his personal hangout. Since it was Cappy-oke night, I decided to indulge and sing "Goodbye Earl," by the Dixie Chicks; I somehow could not find the proper register in which to sing the song! It's normally too high, but instead of singing one octave down from the recording and being right in the sweet spot of my tenor voice, I think I was going 2 octaves down. It was very low... not a good sign.

Later we hopped over to the Elbow Room, hopefully not ruining my friend's date in the process.

Today I am going to Cleveland to visit my sister who is there for a month on trial! Sweetness.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Smart Football

Still hurting from the Saint's loss to the 3-6 Pittsburgh Steelers, I've got football on the mind:

While Gregg Easterbrook is not the funniest NFL columnist around (that distinction probably goes to's Bill Simmons), I am pretty sure he is the most intelligent. If you enjoy sports but think most sports writers are hacks, then I definitely recommend you read his "Tuesday Morning Quarterback." This week, among other things, he points out how according to NFL rules women are permitted to play professional football.

Just found this towards the end of the article I linked, thus proving my point:
The situation is very different in the developing world. The United Nations Development Programme just published its latest Human Development Report, one of the world's most important annual documents. (Tomorrow your columnist is moderator for the Washington unveiling of the report -- note the announcement is the first United Nations press release ever to mention

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ted Leo + Pharmacists + More

Body Double?Tonight was full of rock and roll music. A friend of mine bought a ticket for the Ted Leo/Phamicists and Death Cab for Cutie show but then was unable to make it, so I stepped in his place. The venue was a hockey rink 45 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. We stood on top of rugs that had been placed over the ice, which was rather amusing. It was overall kind of a weird place to see a show. The acoustics were pretty rough. I could hear audible slap-back echo made when the snare bounced off the far wall. Also the sound in general was a little muddy but they made up for it by keeping the overall volume relatively low; a novelty in this day and age.

Someone in our group pointed out that the drummer for Ted Leo looked a little bit like me. Upon closer inspection, I decided that he looked exactly like me, so much so that I was a little bit disturbed. It was like I was looking at Bizarro Nels, but then I realized, since he is more famous than me, that I was actually bizarro him! Wild! I tried to find a good picture of him, but I couldn't find one that I felt really looked like me. Check the image on the right, and if you can't tell whom I am talking about, well then maybe he doesn't look that much like me after all.

Oh yeah, Death Cab was pretty good. I didn't know too many of their songs, but I at least enjoy the lead singer's voice.

One more thing:
On Friday night we joined some of the members of CMU's Engineering and Public Policy PhD program. Now, after having been to several of their parties and meeting some of their most esteemed students, I have decided that the School of Computer Science needs to step it up. These guys party hard, and are putting us to shame. When we finally ended up leaving at 4:15, the party was still going pretty strong. I plan to organize a committee and address this issue post haste!

Finding more pictures of the drummer from Ted Leo:

Friday, November 10, 2006

Semi Good News

I have some decent news to report. I finished the first draft of my practicum today. For those of you out of the CMU ISR loop, this is one of two large reports that we have to write while we are PhD students. Although conceptually it seems very straightforward, in practice it always seems to take students a while to get it done and approved. Therefore, I don't have a whole lot to be happy about yet. This paper will probably end up looking very different by the time it works itself through the process. For now, though, I'm just happy to have most of my ideas down on paper.

w00t I say. w00t.

Thursday, November 9, 2006


So, big news to report. After months of hemming and hawing, stopping and starting, splishing and splashing, I finally got my act together, and purchased a ticket to this weekend's Saints football game! (For those of you outisde the loop, that doubles as this week's Steelers game since they are playing each other.)

There are two interesting aspects to this story (divided up into further subsections):
  1. Tickets to see Steelers' home games are expensive. When I saw that the prices of scalped tickets had fallen to only two and change times the fact value of the ticket, I just had to go for it. That is actually down from the five times face value that they were initially going for. I attribute this to:
    1. The general not-so-good-ness of the Steelers at the moment. I mean, if you had told me at the beginning of the season that the Saints' and Steelers' records would be mirror images of one another by the time this game came up, I would have believed you. But I never would have believed that it was the Saints who possessed the better record.
    2. The splitting up of pairs of tickets into singles. No one wants to go to a sporting event alone, which is why single tickets usually end up being cheaper. This brings me to my next point....
  2. I am going to the game by myself. This is not a usual thing. Going to a movie by yourself (I have done this) is bad enough, but going to a sporting event by yourself is so rare as to be mostly unconsidered. I am wondering if anyone out there has experiences like this. The fact that tickets are so expensive kind of prohibited me from just buying another one fom someone else, but now I am beginning to wonder exactly how lame I am going to feel at Heinz stadium when I roll up into the one empty seat between two separate groups of friends. Is there any precedent for this situation?
Well, in all honesty, I know I am going to have a good time. Plenty of people I know have never been to a professional football game in their entire lives, and I now will have the pleasure of saying that I have seen Saints games in three separate cities. Next year I will go for four (road trip to Cincinnatti, anyone?).

Wish me luck. Hopefully I will not be mauled by rabil Stillers fans... At least I'll leave a beautiful corpse.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Really Such a Bad Thing?

Asked if the party would consider legal action, state Republican executive director Scott Migli said, "We've got all options on the table at this point. We feel like the electoral system has been left up to computer technicians."

Monday, November 6, 2006

Win for Type Theory?

I have had discussions with friends in the past about the actual usefulness of the research that comes out of the academic community (in the field of computer science at least). While I don't often have good examples to point them towards, I think now I might.

LINQ, the name of the in-language SQL/XML/etc. query ability that will be built in to C# 3.0 is based upon a programming language technology known as monads, which are an important part of the programming language Haskell. Here is an interesting article on why it is neat, and why Java programmers should be worried (okay, I'm not to sure about that part).

Just nice to see some type theory escape to the larger world of popular programming languages.

CPS Conversion

Of the many things that I learned in Type Systems last year, CPS conversion was the one topic that was conceptually very simple, but for some reason extremely difficult to wrap my head around. Now, of course, going through Tom Murphy's thesis proposal, I realize that I don't understand CPS very well, and I am trying to go back and get a better feel for it.

As I said, CPS conversion is conceptually simple:
To every function we add an extra argument that represents the contiuation. This makes the control flow explicit, because instead of having to propagate the result of function application back up the stack to someone who knows how to use it, we have an argument 'k' that represents what we must do after the result of the application. It is somewhat analagous to passing a GOTO along with every function.

That being said, when I see the conversion rule for function application;
CPS(e1 e2,k) = CPS(e1, \f. CPS(e2,\x. f(x,k)))
my brain often begins to hurt.

So far I have found three links discussing the issue. The last one seemed to be the most helpful, but maybe that is only because I first read the other two.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Friday Night and Borat Movie Fun Time

Friday night, after much anticipation and after drawing the incorrect conclusion that it wasn't even playing in Pittsburgh, I saw Borat with some of CMU's finest. I have to say, I loved it, but you have probably heard that already. It has been getting pretty good reviews from the press, mainstream and otherwise.

But what was also kind of fun was the crowd there at the movie. The theater was packed, and it was full of 20 and 30-somethings; grad students, med students, and the like. The excitement was absolutely palpable. It was as if we had all been waiting for a really funny movie for a very long time, and we knew that Borat was going to be the movie. People were laughing at the credits! And they were not funny in any way. We were just that excited to be there.

I won't give too much away, but there was a scene where some fraternity brothers end up looking pretty bad. I think, but am not entirely sure, that they were labeled as being students of the University of Southern California. Clearly, however, they were from the South Carolina, as they had Gamecock hats on, and other such merchandise. I'm hoping I am wrong and that I just misread it, but someone else I was with noticed the same thing. If you go to see the movie, let me know if you see this.

After that, we went dancing at the Shadow Lounge where we saw this Brazillian band called Nation Beat. They were this multi-piece group, with some very large drums, guitar, bass and violin. It was terribly fun for everyone involved.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

I Went to the Doctor, I Went to the Mountain

"The Office" was at it awkward-humor best tonight. Some classic moments include:
  • Jim "the Big Tuna" and the other guy from the Stamford office drunkenly singing "Closer to Fine," by the Indigo Girls.
  • This sequence:
    • "What are you doing?"
    • "What are you doing?"
    • "I'm rejecting your kiss."
  • "Put on your Saris, it's time to celebrate Diwali!"
You really should get into it. I'm telling you all. I loved the British version just as much as any of you. But the American version is still the best comedy on TV right now.