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July 29, 2003

(Continued NYC weekend visit entry from yesterday...)

On Sunday we had brunch at Veg City Diner which was good but not great. It was packed, though, and the vegan dessert cakes are awesome. We tried to catch up with some friends but it didn't work out - they weren't around (even though I told them I'd be there a month ago and they said OK, and then I emailed them a week ago and they said to call them when I got there...). So we punted and went to the Museum of Sex. It was interesting but after being on my feet for hours and hours I just wanted to sit down. Like, my feet hurt so bad that I was in a museum full of stuff about sex and I still just wanted to sit down. That's some pretty darn sore feet. But it was interesting and I'm glad we went. If you go, the free audio guides aren't all that interesting. I kept expecting them to be as cool as the audio cellhouse tour of Alcatraz but it wasn't.

We also saw some interesting graffiti / propaganda for America is Full. Gosh what an original idea, let's close the borders and keep the foreigners out. The justification is implicitly prejudiced, though (I don't want to say "racist" because the prejudice is applied to all races in this case). Basically the idea is that all our schools and hospitals and governmental services are full and we can't support any more moochers. But I think they're missing the fact that there are doctors, cops, teachers, and other potential contributors to the U.S. economy who want to immigrate too. It's not just a bunch of illegal alien migrant workers. The folks that sneak in anyway are the ones who don't have a career in their own country! So the more we lock down the borders, the more we restrict the people who do get through to the really desperate charity cases.

The semi-restricted H1B visa program just results in a bunch of underpaid skilled professionals who are indentured servants to their employer. If they complain or demand a raise they'll be fired and will have to scramble for a new job or face deportation, so they are in effect a captive labor market. I personally would rather compete for a job with a recent immigrant who has full citizenship, a nice car with a big fat monthly payment, a nice house with a big fat mortgage payment, a nice big family (who buy everything at local stores at U.S. prices) that he wants to go home to and to spend vacation time with, than to have to compete with some dude whose family is 10000 miles away in a place where $30K/yr is a great salary, who lives alone in a shitty apartment and who will take just about any job that he can get at any wage he can live on so that he can after a few years he can finally get his green card and move his family over here.

It really doesn't make sense. Let people in and let them build your frickin' schools and hospitals and roads and subways. Let them work at the stinkin' DMV and airline checkin counter and bank and the video store and all the other places where we don't have enough people behind the counter. Let them be the extra cops we need, or the doctors we can't seem to find, or the CEOs who run companies ethically. Let them put on a uniform and take a bullet for freedom, justice, and democracy, or oil, or whatever. Let them shop at Wal-Mart and Target and Home Depot, or at the mom and pop store. Let them be part of our economy, and of the tax base, and of the people who watch out for your kids when they're not at home, instead of making them send their money back home because their family hasn't snuck in yet and making them take pay under the table where we can't tax it and use it to pay for the schools and hospitals they're using anyway. Would that be so horrible?

July 28, 2003

We had a great time in New York this past weekend. Kim's cousin got married and I must say that it was probably the best reception I've ever been to. The DJ was a bit over the top; with the lights and super duper loud bass I got a sort of combination Who Wants to be a Millionaire / WWE vibe. But it worked - it got people to pay attention, and the music wasn't just the usual Chicken Dance and Macarena crowd pleasers for the over-60 guests. They played 80s songs and more modern clubby dance stuff too, and I've never seen that many people at a reception dancing at the same time. I certainly danced more then than I have at any other wedding reception. I got to hang out with Sal the bus driver since Steve and I were tasked with getting all the guests into the bus and making sure it didn't leave until certain people were on it. I think I was about the 100th person to think of the oh-so-clever idea of drinking lots of things with Bailey's in them because the groom's last name is Bailey. Har har ain't I hilarious. Oh well, I haven't had time to work on CocktailFinder so I guess it's my fault that folks have to fall back on lame drink selection tactics like that.

The most interesting part IMO was the "venetian hour", which I had never heard about before. Basically it's a coffee/dessert course that follows dinner, and man was this one good. I mean, holy cow, they had a lot of stuff. Cotton candy, pies, candies, chocolate shot glasses... I can't even remember all the stuff they had. But it was crazy. Awesome.

On Saturday we got together with Tero and Ailin, Pax and Andre, and Mike (no Kathy, unfortunately) and wandered over to Central Park for a picnic.

Before we went to the park we gathered at our hotel. Tero and Ailin got there first so we got to talk to them a bit. It turns out they're married! Well, this seems like the typical citizen/visa-holder wedding strategy now: get engaged and do the legal paperwork, then worry about the big poofy dress and ceremony and stuff later. Since I've been to about 5 weddings in the last year or so, I now know what a pain in the butt it is to arrange one, so I understand. The INS puts pressure on you to hurry up or face deportation, but for the ceremony and reception, lots of lead time is essential. Ailin seems nice but we didn't really have a ton of time before Mike, Pax, and Andre showed up and we had to talk about stuff like "where the hell are we going now" etc.

We bought some lunchy picnic stuff at a grocery store and then headed over to the park. We hung out at Cat Rock and Pax managed to hit an innocent little child with the frisbee. Yeah yeah, he was throwing it to me and I missed it, but I wasn't the last person to touch it. :)

We talked and stuff for a while, and then walked around looking for some "facilities" which was something of a challenge. We walked through a fairly large group of people dancing the tango and then through Sheep Meadow, finally finding some truly horrible bathrooms at the Mineral Springs Cafe. After a few months of therapy to get over that experience, we continued on to a field where we played frisbee some more until it got kinda dark. We walked down past Lincoln Center where Midsummer Night Swing was going on, and headed back to the hotel.

July 23, 2003

Today I went to SFSU for my transfer student orientation session. There were probably about 300 or 400 people there, including one girl from my CCSF Critical Thinking class. I learned some interesting facts, such as the fact that out of 4500 business majors, 27% were on academic probation last semester. Apparently they get office jobs and then neglect their studies. Personally I think they're just a bunch of hippie slackers.

They talked at us for about 3 hours, including a nice terrifying "safety presentation" by the head of the campus police. I betcha not one of the female attendees to the session had sex for the next 48 hours. I totally forgot how much emphasis there was on sexual assault prevention in college. I'm not saying that it shouldn't be prevented, but after hearing the campus safety guy talk, it's hard to avoid the impression that for a woman, college is just one big scary grope-fest by a bunch of drunk creeps who can't be left alone with a girl for ten minutes without trying the unspeakable. I sure hope that's not the case.

After the excessive campus safety presentation we broke out into groups based on what school we were in - creative arts, in my case. I think our group consisted of about 25 people, 3 of whom were music majors (including myself). I suppose my music classes won't be too crowded...

One final note: the first thing I saw when I set foot on campus was a table with a couple of hapless dorks handing out pamphlets for convicted felon / wack job / perpetual presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche. Of course.

July 22, 2003

Stoner security professionals? Or am I reading too much into the fact that a Pink Floyd quote leads this article? Either way, I really like computer security folks. The cool handles, the jovial attitude toward corporate PR bullshit, and the general combiation of technical expertise with not taking oneself too seriously.

July 18, 2003

The Associated Press says that A Handful Of Nuts Helps Your Heart. Not to be outdone, Reuters tells us that Masturbating Lowers Prostate Cancer Risk. (Ladies, I guess you'll have to find your own excuse.)

I think that the usability crowd must already know this; otherwise this (75K JPEG) wouldn't have happened to me today.

On a related note, Las Vegas Groups Protest Naked 'Bambi' Hunts. It's just so damned silly.

Finally, someone explains the origin of the slang verb, "to bogart". I was really wondering how that come about.

As if all that weren't polically incorrect enough to get you in trouble at work, definitely don't let your boss read For Best Results, Forget the Bonus.

July 17, 2003

From the "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" department: WOOHOO I GOT INTO SFSU!!!

Now you might ask, "Jamie, how did you get accepted to a school that rejected you just three days ago?" Well, dear reader, I picked up the phone and asked. When I had called SFSU's admissions office they told me to wait for the denial letter which would have the name of the evaluator on it, and that I should call them and ask to speak to that person for more details. Well, I got the letter yesterday, and called this morning. When I spoke to the evaluator he said "it's reversed, you'll get an admission letter." Huh??!? Great, but what happened? As it turns out, I'm teetering on the edge of having 56 credits. 56 or more makes me an upper division transfer student (a junior), which carries the requirement for that Oral Communication class that I don't have, which is how I got denied... again. Under 56 credits and I'm a lower division transfer student (a sophomore), with a different set of requirements (the same stuff a freshman applicant would have to meet, but I get to transfer in my college credits). Well it turns out that the combination of my transferrable credits and AP scores are open to some interpretation. The "maximize credits" approach makes me a denied upper division transfer student. But if things are read a bit differently, some overlap exists, some credits don't count, and I'm an admittable lower division applicant. I love bureaucratic gray areas!

This just goes to show (once again) that it always helps to just pick up the phone and ask for explanations and advice. When I was younger and I would get into a sticky situation I was either too embarassed or too stubborn to show my face and ask for help and advice, and to try and figure an easy way out of my mess. It's quite amazing how helpful people will be if you just ask (nicely - no need to kiss ass (I hate that proverb), just don't flip out and yell).

July 15, 2003

Kim sent me an article entitled Introducing the speedy bus - AC Transit project in East Bay aims to be subway alternative. I had no idea that buses were slow on purpose. The transit folks that were interviewed about the new line didn't think that people would like a faster bus! What planet are they from? No, we love the fact that it takes 45 minutes to go 3 miles. We love seeing a bus pull up and being told by the driver that he has to sit there for another 5 minutes because he's got to stick to a schedule. Waiting is the best part about public transportation! Come on. Of course people want it to go faster. I can't believe that they never tried this before.

Apparently marijuana is a bigger cash crop in the U.S. than corn, and the porn industry makes more than movie theaters make from ticket sales. Or at least that's what this article claims. Perhaps pot legalization would be a better economic stimulus than Bush's tax cut?

Charles Shaw wine, better known by the name Two Buck Chuck - if you're from California you've probably heard about it by now. No, it's not cheap because airlines can no longer use corkscrews. That's an urban legend. There's a story on and a story on about it.

July 14, 2003

A follow-up to my comment on the 5th about Microsoft sponsoring lunches at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention: a funny sign from Microsoft. Thanks to Jason for the link. (If you don't get the reference, read The Free Software Definition.)

This Slashdot post linked to You Don't Know Jack About Disks. That article named but didn't link to ATA versus SCSI: More Than an Interface. I had no idea that there were so many things that are better about the higher-end drives. I thought it was just basic performance(higher RPM, etc.) and some management fetaures. If you are a computer weenie this is a really, really interesting read - actually, both of them are.

I really like Jakob Nielsen. I haven't been to for a while and I needed to look something up for a colleague (Response Times: The Three Important Limits). After that I decided to catch up a bit, and found PDF: Unfit for Human Consumption. Preach on! Online PDFs totally suck.

One thing that I agree with Jakob very strongly on is the need for both web-based and non-web-based applications. (See his article, Does Internet = Web ?.) Recently, Tim Bray wrote about web applications and basically said that GUI apps were dead and that browser apps were the replacement, except for content creation. Really? I dare you to use Hotmail as your mail UI. No GUI email client for you. No games that don't run in a browser (oops, there go PC sales). No more video that doesn't run in a browser (ever noticed how totally sucky browser-basde streaming video UIs are?). Use the crappy browser UI for FTP, delete your SSH app and run an applet instead. It sucks! I could go on. GUIs rock. Dedicated apps rock. iTunes Music Store - the UI rocks, and it's native code (not HTML, and not Flash). Client-server is mostly dead but there are plenty of reasons to want to use platform-native GUI interfaces. There are also lots of reasons to use web interfaces. Web interfaces do totally suck for certain things, and they are very useful for other things; it all depends on the specifics of the application. And I might add, he brags about having worked at OpenText and how cool it was that their content management system was web-based. Well, at Viant our intranet document management system was based on LiveLink, and it was a failure, entirely because of LiveLink's limitations, some of which were inherent to its being a web application, and others were architectural (not inherent in a web application; just inefficient design). Ask anybody who worked at Viant about how much they loved Focus and see if you can get them to stop bitching about it in less than 10 minutes. So, let's not get too carried away about holding LiveLink up as a shining example of how great web applications are. Maybe But not LiveLink.

I'm trying to get into SFSU for the Fall 2003 semester. Until today, I had been checking the status of my application online every day. For a while they needed my AP scores and my CCSF transcript. Then my copy of the AP scores showed up (apparently they always mail a copy to the person who took the test at the same time that they send the scores to the school) and 2 weeks passed. I re-requested the AP scores and in the meantime my CCSF transcript showed up. So until yesterday I was just waiting for the 2nd set of my AP scores to arrive. Well, today the status of my application changed: Denied! Dammit! Not again.

I called the SFSU admissions office right away. The details strike me as quite ironic. You may remember that last December I wrote that I was denied admission to SFSU because I lacked a required performing of visual arts credit for lower division admissions. Well, after taking 4 classes this spring I'm an upper division transfer applicant, and now I lack a required oral communcations credit. Argh! Basically I need to take an oral communcations class between now and the beginning of the fall semester. That's kinda hard given that the summer is half over already. The person I spoke to at the admissions office mentioned a few local schools to check out, and mentioned offhand that Brigham Young University has a distance learning program, that he would recommend, except of course that it's a speech class so it can't be offered online. I checked anyway, and guess what: they have it! The Theater and Media Arts department has a Public Speaking course, offered online! And you can finish it in a minimum of 2 weeks... so this might be my salvation, which is appropriate since BYU is a Mormon university. (Get it... Mormons... salvation...? *sigh* sorry, I'm tired.)

July 6, 2003

On Friday (the 4th) Kim and I watched the fireworks & had a very SF style picnic (kickass SF-style burritos!) in Mission Dolores Park. It was nice except for the fact that the fireworks have moved this year so that they're somewhere over the Marina, due north, and were just visible over the tops of buildings. We had a great view of the ballpark area where they used to be... d'oh. Once they started, a horde of about 50 people who were seated too far to the left (and whose view was thus totally blocked by trees) moved to the right.

Afterwards we took a walk around the park the long way, mainly to see what the heck was up with the 100+ people seated on the lawn watching some kind of movie on a projection screen that had been set up for the occasion. It turns out it was We Interrupt This Empire. Irony: this anti-war movie featured lots of footage of people with "no blood for oil" signs, but while we stood there watching the movie, the generator powering the projector and sound system... ran out of gas. Someone quickly shouted, "More oil!!" which made us laugh.

In the process of looking for a good link for Mission Dolores Park I found this: The Dirty Harry Tour of San Francisco. Funny!

Brandon Bird's art is hilarious.

July 5, 2003

According to the eWeek rumors column, Microsoft will be sponsoring conference lunches at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention next week. Is it just me, or is there a serious security risk here?

Conventiongoer: Hmm, this ham sandwich tastes kinda funny... oh well.
(a floating holographic projection of Steve Ballmer's head appears)
Ballmer: Muhahahaha! You've just ingested nanobots that can kill you by remote control! All of you! Open source hippies, OBEY THE BEAST OR DIE!!! (floats off chanting) Developers, developers, developers...

July 4, 2003

I've been shopping for some basic home recording equipment on eBay. Sadly it seems that people are willing to pay full retail price to a stranger for used stuff that has no warranty. What's up with that? Oh yeah... people are dumb. I forgot that for a second.

I auditioned for a band today. Well, it turned out not to be a band, more like a guy and his buddy, and some other people that he knows that he's trying to get to be in the band. Anyway, he had sheet music written out, which was a good sign, and was one of the reasons I decided to go. (I bought the practice amp yesterday because I didn't want to schlep any more gear than I have to to an audition for a band listing on Craigslist, given the extremely low proabability that it would pan out.)

As it turned out, he had in fact written out sheet music, but there were so many mistakes that I had a hard time figuring out what he was really trying to get me to do. Examples:

  • The first song he put in front of me had a written-out bass line (as opposed to just chord names which I would write a bass line for). But the bass line started with the D that's written below the first ledger line below the bass clef. I had to tell him that basses & bass guitars don't go that low, unless they're the 5 or 6 string kind. The lowest note is E. I asked him "so do you tune down for this song?" He didn't understand why I was asking that. Given that he plays guitar and guitars are tuned one octave higher than a bass, I would expect a guitar player to know that since his instrument stops at E, a bass stops at E too, just an octave lower. Seems kinda basic. I guess not. See sheet music and hear music for this example.
  • He had a few problems with triplets. A triplet is a group of three notes played in the time of two. For some reason, people tend to think that any group of three notes in a row followed by a rest, or two short notes followed by a long note, are triplets. This is wrong. So the music that I was reading didn't match the music as he played it. I had to re-write it correctly, and then remember not to look at the music he had written for that particular part. See sheet music and hear music for this example.
  • The time signature that he chose was incorrect in a couple of places. In one song he had chosen 3/4, and everything was half and quarter notes. Part of it was three measures of tied dotted half notes... holding that note for quite a while, for some reason. I looked at it and played it, and he said "no it's like this" and played it about three times faster. A measure got about half a second of actual playing time. My guess is that the tempo would be about 300 beats per minute, but I don't have a metronome that goes that high so I can't be sure that's right. :) (150bpm seemed about right as half-time for this part.) I suggested that since it had a "ONE and a TWO and a THREE and a FOUR and a" that it should be written as 12/8 since 3/4 is more of a waltz feel, "ONE two three ONE two three" etc. but I don't think he agreed. This is all kinda academic until you realize that a part that should be four measures long was actually four staves long, taking up about a third of a page, and it was pretty hard to follow along with my eyes as I played... kinda like speed-reading music, and I can't read it that fast.
  • C#/A. Hmm. A C# chord has C#, E#, and G# in it. When you write a chord in slashed notation like C#/A it means "an inverted C# chord where A is in the bass". Except C# doesn't have A in it, so that doesn't make sense. In fact, A is a minor sixth interval from C#, so playing an A with a C# major chord would sound extremely dissonant. It's not even in the C# major scale. He said "oh sorry, that should be a B". C#/B? OK, B isn't in a C# chord (still C# E# G#). It's in a C#7 chord (C# E# G# B), so that's better. No, he said he meant B/A. OK, A isn't in B major (B D# F#), but it is in B7 (B D# F# A). But B/A doesn't work. I played the stinkin' A like he wanted, just to get on with it. Guess what? It didn't sound right. See sheet music and hear music for this example.

Well, he was a nice guy, and the fact that he could write music at all (even though he made some mistakes) put him in a separate class from most of the musicians I've met from Craigslist. But I also didn't really like the material that much, so no band for me. Back to studying and practicing on my own.

July 3, 2003

I just bought a Fender Bassman 25 practice amp. It's pretty small (about 16"x16"x16") and light (40 lbs) compared to my full rig, and I can carry it with one hand which is the whole point - bass in one hand, amp in the other, cables etc. in backpack, and off I go.

I also tried out the Gallien-Krueger Backline 110 and the SWR LA 12 combo amps at the same time. I was fortunate enough to be able to do a direct side by side comparison of all three, with the same bass (actually two different basses - a Warwick Corvette Standard, which sounded fabulous, and a Fender Standard Jazz Bass, which sounded like a Fender Jazz Bass is supposed to). The GK sounded pretty good but the Fender sounded great, and the Fender was only abut $30 more. The SWR sounded cheap and looked very flimsy, which was surprising given the usual extremly high quality of their regular gear. I would have liked to try out a Workingman's 10 but (a) the salesman at Guitar Center said they weren't made anymore (which is apparently untrue, or else SWR's web site is showing a discontinued product) and (b) the cheapest I could find it online was $400 which is out of my price range for a practice amp. The GK is 10 lbs lighter than the Fender but the Fender just sounded so good that I had to get it.

July 2, 2003

We sold the car; it's gone. Yay! One less thing to worry about, plus we got a chunk 'o change for it.