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Aug. 23rd, 2015 @ 11:07 pm Paperworking Continues
Current Mood: calmcalm
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Housing acquisition process is less of a to-do this week than last, but there's still a lot to do.

I did get some quiet time this weekend. Made pasta a la farmers market, finished reading The Magicians (pretty good twist on the magical YA genre, though the protagonist is thoroughly unlikable), and played The Last of Us: Left Behind (really good story and gameplay, for those that enjoyed The Last of Us this is more of what made that good, well worth the price of the DLC). I do like games where I can get something complete in the course of an afternoon.

I also started on Shadownrun: Hong Kong, which seems to live up to its predecessors so far (like the previous Shadowrun Returns games, it's a standalone story, not a sequel per se).
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Aug. 16th, 2015 @ 10:31 pm Home Acquisition in Progress
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
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Made it through the "matchmaking on a place and a price" stage of condo buying. Now into the first of two "ungodly amounts of paperwork" stages. (Followed by handing over a giant chunk of my life savings, actual moving, and parenthood. Can't complain that my life lacks excitement.)

Also enjoyed a team-building day trip with my work colleagues (lunch on the beach in Provincetown) this week. Which along with home-buying chaos meant that the week was a bit short on work. Fortunately can expect that will be somewhat better in the coming week.

For all the stress, it's nice to get back to some simple pleasures that I've been overlooking for a long time. For me lately, that's watching anime (currently in the middle of the second season of Darker Than Black) and eating at Punjabi Dhaba (an Inman Square treasure for sure).
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Aug. 4th, 2015 @ 12:02 am Con-do
Current Mood: awakeawake
Drove out to Windsor Locks, CT for 9Pi-Con this weekend. Was really excited to be able to attend that again. Last year, they were on hiatus, the year before I had a schedule conflict. As always, it was a really relaxing and fun convention, good panel discussions, readings, parties, and games. Unfortunately, this one is to be the last in the series.

Last week, started a housing search. That continues this week. Hopefully won't be too long, it's really disruptive. We're working with a real estate agent, thinking of buying something of our own this time.

On an unrelated note, caught two movies in the past few weeks: Mr. Holmes was very good, Ian McKellen's performance as an aging Sherlock Holmes is brilliant. And Inside Out was great, well worth seeing in theaters. The advertising for that film looked pretty dumb, so I was surprised when it got such rave reviews, but it turns out that in addition to the visual humor and charming animation, it's a moving story with a huge amount of depth. It's a surprisingly high-theory movie for a family-friendly animated film. (One of the anthropromorphized emotions passes time reading from a shelf of mental how-to manuals, I wouldn't be surprised if that was an inside joke referring to some a shelf full of psychology textbooks sitting somewhere in the animators' office.)
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Jul. 21st, 2015 @ 01:30 pm Vacation Reading
Current Mood: awakeawake
Wanted to write a bit about what I read at Sandy and during all that plane travel:

Seveneves: My Neil Stephenson tome for the summer. It took me until halfway through the book before I realized how the title is supposed to be pronounced. It's not Stephenson's best, but I thought it was a good book, especially if you like your science fiction with a lot of orbital dynamics.

Theories of Translation: A set of essays on translating literature. I read the companion volume, The Craft of Translation, some summers ago. The themes are pretty interesting, but a lot of the essays cover the same themes (e.g. the great debate between literal translation that makes manifest the foreignness of the original text and artfully paraphrased translation that's the sort of thing the author would have written, had they written in the target language in the first place). A few of the essays are extremely entertaining, though, in particular José Ortega y Gasset's "The Misery and the Splendor of Translation" and Nabakov's "Problems of Translation: Onegin in English" (Nabokov has some very interesting and well-argued ideas about how he intends to write his translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, and his commentary on earlier translations is quite funny, though presumably not for the earlier translators).

Capital in the Twenty-First Century: Only made it through the first half, but was interesting enough that I plan to read the rest. Piketty does a little bit too much discussing literary or pop-culture examples of the trends he's analyzing for my taste, but overall it's mostly well-grounded and interesting historical discussion of the macro political and economic trends that are likely to define significant differences between the 20th century and the 21st, as the "demographic shift" (the effect of slowing population growth) continues to take its course. If you already have a strong opinion about whether it's the sort of book you'd find interesting, you're probably right. (Bill Gates's review of the book is also worth a read.)

Halting State: The first book in "a trilogy of near-future Scottish police procedurals about crimes that don't exist yet, written in multi-viewpoint second person". Really enjoyable pulp sci-fi. Unfortunately this trilogy stopped at two books because all the speculative elements have turned surprisingly realistic since the series was started in 2006.

Apex: More pulpy sci-fi. If you liked the first two books in the series, definitely worth a read. If you have no idea what I'm talking about and you'd like a sci-fi thriller by an author who's big into transhumanism, start with the first book.
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Jul. 21st, 2015 @ 01:19 pm Vacation Double Feature
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Vacation accomplished!

At Sandy Island Camp, I spent most of the time relaxing and reading and catching up with my parents (neither of my siblings made it this time). I didn't get out on the lake at all. It was beautiful, though, and I enjoyed reading on the beach.

Late in the week, I came down with the worst cold, like an Everlasting Gobstopper of disease, a different flavor every day! (Including some of the worst congestion I've ever had, plus bizarre symptoms like persistent hiccups.) And then Julie also caught it just in time for international travel. Got through it somehow, with a lot of cough drops and mint tea.

(My mom thinks I'm sick all the time now... it's just that when I'm under the weather I tend to take the time to write something in my blog.)

Despite being under the weather, the London trip was certainly fun. Julie's folks put us up in a really nice hotel, and it was good to spend time with family and friends. I enjoyed seeing the niece again, she's going through a shy phase but seems as cheerful as ever. (Hopefully we avoided this cold jumping to her or anyone else.) All the adults in the family seem to be spectacularly busy with work, though in a good way. We got in some London tourism that I had little time for on my first conference trip (Tower of London tour, viewed the city from the London Eye, climbed the Monument to the Great Fire, went on a pub crawl, window shopping at Harrods). We even got the chance to catch up with Xave and Sarah on their London sabbatical (in the moments before they headed off for a holiday in France).
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Jul. 3rd, 2015 @ 11:49 pm Family Vacation x2 Combo
Current Mood: excitedexcited
Going away for two weeks, starting tomorrow.

The first week I will be at Sandy with my folks and totally offline.

The second week I will be in London.
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Jun. 28th, 2015 @ 01:37 am SCOTUS Care
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Big news from the Supreme Court this week.

I guess a Scalia/Thomas/Alito dissent is as close to unanimous as you can get on any Supreme Court decision on legislation that's controversial along liberal/conservative lines.

Scalia is big on the Fourteenth Amendment working how those voting on it would have intended, but not so much for the Affordable Care Act.

Scalia's dissent in Obergefell, is pretty entertaining and completely histrionic. He he decries the decision as a "judicial Putsch" by a bunch of east- and west-coast lawyers, and all but exhorts the states to disregard the ruling. (Alito writes something similar, but more calmly. Roberts just wishes the Supreme Court was more conservative. Thomas doesn't think the Fourteenth Amendment protects a class of citizens from being excluded from receiving government benefits at all, only from being restrained or imprisoned.)
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Jun. 21st, 2015 @ 07:24 pm This Week's Recipe: Golden Egg Curry
Current Mood: happyhappy
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I've been meaning to get around to cooking more elaborate things from our large collection of cookbooks, and I finally found some time for that this week.

Golden Egg Curry

This week's recipe was Golden Egg Curry, from Naomi Duguid's Burma: Rivers of Flavor.

Choices and substitutions: I used sesame oil (peanut oil was also an option). I used store-bought chili powder rather than go to the trouble of grinding my own, as the book suggests. I substituted about twice as many serrano chilis for the green cayenne chilis, due to availability.

How it turned out: Awesome! This recipe is pretty easy, and it's as beautiful as the book makes it seem. (The hardest part is seeding and slicing the hot peppers, and that's not too much trouble.) It's a great contrast of colors, textures, and flavors. The boiled-then-fried eggs are a winner.

Other notes: A little fish sauce makes this not strictly vegetarian. But it's a tiny amount, you could probably sub in soy sauce without much change in the overall character of the dish.
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Jun. 15th, 2015 @ 11:40 pm More Likely Than You Think
Current Mood: excitedexcited
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Sonograph Photograph

From the photobooth last week.

So yeah, that has me preoccupied (Julie, too, obviously). And if I think I'm tired now...

I am trying hard not to do any chicken-counting (life is full of uncertainty), but if all goes well, 2016 will be an even more eventful year for me than 2015. I'm about as excited as I can expect to be about things that will change my life in large ways that I cannot control.
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May. 26th, 2015 @ 11:33 pm Summer is Stirring
Current Mood: awakeawake
Current Music: Sam Sparro - Black & Gold
I spent much of the weekend playing World of Geographycraft. Sunday, took a completely impractical trip to Mt. Greylock with Julie and Tim. The mountain is notable for being the highest natural point in Massachusetts and one of the landmarks on the Appalachian Trail, it would be an enjoyable place to hike if I'm ever there earlier in the day. On Monday, I was off work for Memorial Day, and spent many hours randomly wandering around Arlington.

There are lots of things I want to do more of. I want to get to some of the games on my queue, but I probably have a greater desire to do more writing (to get back to posting here more, plus I haven't written for ComplexMeme in months), reading, and cooking. (Not counting work and other important things. Those are going well, but the going well is very time-consuming.)

It's starting to get hot. A mockingbird has once again moved in near to my house, with the usual combination of talented repertoire and being obnoxiously loud at all hours of the night.

I got a (very short) haircut today. That avoids the scruffy uneven look and should be nice for summer, but I'm well into the hair-loss territory where I'll need to remember a hat or risk terrible scalp sunburn.
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May. 17th, 2015 @ 12:28 am Level Up!
Current Mood: happyhappy
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Another busy week at work!

Now that it's public within the company, I can say: I got that promotion! There were celebrations this week, a cake with my name on it and everything. Relieved that my hard work paid off, and that I don't have to contend with that process again for at least a few years.

I also made it to the top-eight in the office's M:tG block limited tournament. I'm really enjoying the new set and the twist it puts in the block format (a good way to transition to the new two-set blocks).

This weekend has been relaxing so far. Caught a bit of Porchfest (a Somerville-wide outdoor music festival) and did a bit of spring cleaning.
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May. 7th, 2015 @ 06:15 pm All Robot Stories for Some Reason
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Media I've consumed lately:

Existence by David Brin - Brin writes far future sci-fi with a lot of references to the present and a strong ideological bent (if you're familiar with his nonfiction or his blog, large parts of this book seem like an author tract). That said, this sprawling story about humanity's encounter with an alien message in a bottle is an enjoyable read. If you like Brin's earlier work (especially Earth) or sprawling multi-threaded sci-fi tomes like Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, give this one a try.

Ex Machina - A programmer is summoned to the remote estate of an eccentric software billionaire genius. He soon is told that his purpose is to play the questioner in thought experiment where the subject is an experimental AI. It's hard to go into more detail without spoilers, except to say that if that premise sounds good to you, you'll probably enjoy the movie. I thought it was pretty good.

Time of Eve: Another Act by Kei Mizuichi - This one is a novelization of the anime of the same name (trailer here). The adaptation sticks pretty close, but I think the movie is better, so I'll recommend that first. The story is Asimov by way of Japan, and if you like Asimovian robot stories at all, you shouldn't miss this one. It's brilliant.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: It's very entertaining!
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Apr. 25th, 2015 @ 12:35 pm Enjoyed the London Conference
Current Mood: busybusy
London was pretty cool.

I really liked the Google office there (at Belgrave House, accross from Victoria Station). Seemed like a really cool place to work, and the food was fantastic (including a juice bar with one of these nifty machines).

Was good to see Xave again. We spent some time wandering the city, visited the museum at Bletchley Park and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. We saw Tom Stoppard's The Hard Problem (broadcast in cinema by National Theater Live), doesn't hold a candle to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead but it was reasonably good. And we also saw a production of Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theater, that was a really good show and the staging was brilliant.

The European Lisp Symposium was a very interesting conference. I particularly liked the talk on Clasp, an LLVM-based Lisp implementation featuring tight C++ interoperability. (It's not quite there yet performance-wise, but some of the features excite me: Being able to write Lisp macros in place of C++ template libraries, being able to introspect C++ code in Lisp, being able to compile C++ modules into Lisp code and then use LLVM-based debugging and profiling tools that work across that boundary in a seamless way. Good stuff.) Also, the talk about the Woo HTTP server (a pure-Lisp implementation that beats Node.js on performance benchmarks) was impressive and full of interesting ideas. And I enjoyed my colleague's talk about debugging SBCL garbage collection.

I really enjoyed London, I got the sense that I'd enjoy living there as much as I enjoyed visiting. Wonderful food, beautiful architecture, friendly people, really pleasant to travel around.

My trip back was uneventful, after some annoying flight delays (a few passengers missed the flight and their luggage had to be removed, then another passenger had to disembark for medical reasons, forcing them to search the luggage again).

Work's been interesting. Lots to do.
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Apr. 15th, 2015 @ 03:17 pm Jetlagged to London
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
So I stayed up all night and moved over five time-zones just so I could get in to the office earlier. I can't sleep on planes, at all. But if I stay up until night again, I'll be fine, probably.

I'm in London! My first time in London (also, my first time in Europe). So far, pretty much all I've seen (airport and train aside) is one of the London Google offices. It's pretty cool!

About last week: PyCon was fun. I particularly enjoyed the talk on memory forensics using Volatility (Where in your RAM is "python san_diego.py"?), Gabriella Coleman's talk on Anonymous, and Guido's talk on Python Type Annotations.

And taking Porter Airlines to Montreal was surprisingly good. They're a little discount carrier that does hub-and-spoke out of a single airport (Toronto City), using fuel-efficient Bombardier Q400 prop planes. From the price, I was expecting a very "no frills" experience, but it was quite the opposite: Reasonably comfortable seats, snacks and drinks including complimentary wine or beer (with drinks served in actual glassware), a nice lounge on the layover (with complimentary snacks, drinks, and wifi). The history of the airline is a rather interesting case study.
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Apr. 4th, 2015 @ 07:11 pm Conferencecation
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Pasadena trip last weekend (a side-trip for Julie, on her way to Synberc) was really good. Got to play in one of the Ingress live events (a win for our team in Pasadena, though still an overall loss for this series). Enjoyed spending some time with Sean and Morgan (my sibs-in-law), catching up with some of Julie's old friends, visiting Caltech, drinking strawberry lemonade at the Caltech Athenaeum, and seeing some of the more touristy spots in LA. Was quite a shock to go from 20 degrees to 90 in the span of a week.

Got back to work in time to wrap up some end of quarter things before heading off to PyCon in Montreal next Tuesday. And I've made further conference plans to go to the European Lisp Symposium in London the following week.

Friday, I was struck down by a horrible stomach bug (or flu or something). The worst. At least it wasn't while I was travelling.

Today, I finally got around to seeing The Golden Compass, which I'd had out from Netflix on DVD for the last far-too-many months. I'll warn those who have read the book to not expect much depth in the adaptation and those who have not to not expect a lot of hand-holding on the exposition. Honestly, I think the movie is probably about as good as a movie that adapts that book into an under-two-hours pulp-fantasy PG-13 pic could be. The pacing is very tight, they have a very talented cast, and the visual style is spectacular. I enjoyed it.
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Mar. 24th, 2015 @ 11:52 pm Ingress Everywhere
Current Mood: energeticenergetic
Ingress has really taken over our social life this week. On Friday night, a group of players from our team organized to paint the town green, and Julie and I took a five-hour stroll through downtown (from 11 PM until well after 4 in the morning), with a stop for 3AM coffee and cannoli at Bova's Bakery.

This weekend, we're going to Pasadena for more Ingress and to catch up with some of Julie's Caltech friends. Then Julie's going on to Synberc and we're meeting back in Boston just in time to leave for PyCon in Monreal.

I should come up with some London travel plans, too, while Xave is there.

Busy busy.
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Mar. 15th, 2015 @ 11:58 pm I Once Launched a Shard From Nantucket
Current Mood: quixoticquixotic
Today, got my first chance to play the artifact game in Ingress!

Generally, the game of Ingress is a territory-capturing game. Players ("agents") capture locations ("portals"; real-world art objects, places of significance, and other landmarks) by showing up at the actual location in real life and interacting with it in the game. They link those locations together into triangles ("fields") to capture territory for their teams. Fields add to a team's score at periodic checkpoints.

But a few events have added a side-game of "shards" or "artifacts" that travel down links between portals in the network. The shards start at various locations all over the world, each team tries to navigate them to a different target, keep-away at geographic scale.

A lengthy Ingress story...Collapse )

Long story short, that's how Julie and I ended up making a last-minute day-trip to Nantucket this weekend. Was fun, and definitely a change of pace from my busy work-week!
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Mar. 12th, 2015 @ 12:39 am PAX East Highlights
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
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PAX East was fun. Spent almost all my time on the show floor this time.

Some highlights:

The strange favorite of the show was a game developed originally for the Ouya (Android game console) by a single developer, a 2D arena combat game with ducks aptly titled Duck Game.

Knight Squad, a similarly hectic multiplayer (eight player!) game, was also crazy good.

I loved the art style of The Magic Circle. Excited to see the finished game.

Invisible Inc. was awesome and challenging. I recommend this one if you like turn-based tactics (like X-COM or the old Fallout games).

I enjoyed playing the demo for Dreadnought, which was like Team Fortress meets Battlestar Galactica. Giant spaceship combat! It's awesome.

Fate Tectonics was the quirkiest demo, a bit like Carcassonne meets Sim City.

The demo for Moon Hunters made me really glad I funded their Kickstarter. Looking forward to the completed game.

For tablet games, the "air hockey meets the four elements" game Colliding Forces was interesting and fun.

The indie game section of the expo was huge and amazing this year. I thought I'd seen all of that section of the expo, but I didn't see half of the things here.
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Mar. 3rd, 2015 @ 01:10 am Games IN SPACE
Current Mood: happyhappy
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Intercon was this past weekend. My games were pretty fun (save for one which was cancelled on account of a cancelled flight). Plans gone wrong, angst IN SPACE, and one game set in a corporate-cyberpunk-dystopia version of the world of Game of Thrones. Plus an Iron GM game that seemed very put-together for having been written in a single weekend.

Next weekend is PAX East, which I managed to get passes to after all.

In only somewhat related news, Roll for the Galaxy (the dice game variant of the card game Race for the Galaxy) is at least as fun as its predecessor, maybe more. Good stuff!
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Feb. 15th, 2015 @ 09:37 pm Resume Workshop Surrounded by Snow
Current Mood: relaxedrelaxed
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After the snow last week, I got out to Olin for career fair, which was awesome! Also ran a resume workshop, which went really well.

I came up with a silly metaphor for my resume remarks, which I hope will stick in students' minds: A resume is like a cupcake, served upside-down.

You have the wrapper, essential but not exciting. That's name, contact information, what are you studying and when, and your summary of skills (useful, but that's a summary of a summary, so keep it short).

You have the cake, the main point. That's delicious work experience! Ideally, this section is the closest approximation you can muster to, "I did exactly this job, did it extremely well, and have the numbers to prove it." Prioritize discussing relevant paid work, followed by relevant close approximations of paid work and relevant projects that produced something concrete. Discuss unrelated employment if necessary, but more briefly. Use metrics to quantify your achievement (at least showing that you set goals and measured results, ideally show that your results were impressive). Estimate if necessary. On the job learning is a good thing to demonstrate, and that can be something to quantify as well.

Finally, you may want to add a bit of icing, some leadership position or award or hobby that makes you look cool or smart or interesting but isn't directly relevant to work. I don't think there's a real risk that the person who doesn't put any hobbies on their resume will be looked down on, but if you have something cool, it might help your resume be memorable and might help you have something good to talk about in interviews that have more social-skills-y "so tell me about you" sorts of questions.

The rest of the week was very busy, and this weekend is once again mired in snow. (With more scheduled for next Tuesday and then a significant amount next weekend.) I braved the snow to have Valentine's Day dinner with Julie at Cafe Artscience. We went out for brunch at Puritan and Co. and I made hot chocolate at home.

I'm glad to have the day off tomorrow.
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