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Jan. 22nd, 2015 @ 01:27 am Undersea Adventure
Current Mood: tiredtired
The MIT Mystery Hunt was last weekend, this time themed after 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It was an unusually good year for my team, we came in second (only 50 minutes after the winning team), so I finally got to go on the runaround at the end of hunt (which this year involved a sequence of challenges that took us from half-past-midnight Sunday until nearly 6AM, including a puzzle involving a giant word-search of previous puzzle answers and an awesome game of human pictionary in Lobby 7). I also helped solve some very clever meta-puzzles, a text adventure time travel puzzle, and a puzzle consisting entirely of anagrams of the word "random".

Spent the rest of the weekend severely hunt-lagged.

Still playing a lot of Ingress. Just reached level 8 (the end of the base level progression in the game). I never got into playing World of Warcraft because I figured any MMO would become a terrible time-sink, so should have seen that coming. At least a game that involves wandering around outside won't be as bad for my health.

I've recovered from last week's winter cold, but Julie still has a persistent cough.
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L33t
Jan. 8th, 2015 @ 12:36 am Cold Cold Cold
Current Mood: coldcold
Tags: , , ,
I was able to avoid getting as sick as Julie, but I still got pretty sick. Took a sick day Monday, still pretty brain fogged. Getting a fair amount done, but making very slow progress on the tedious process of wrapping up my current main project.

The temperature is dropping to extreme lows tonight. Tomorrow morning will be very windy and cold.
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L33t
Jan. 3rd, 2015 @ 11:01 pm Celebrations and Soup
Current Location: Somerville, MA
Current Mood: okayokay
Tags: , , , , ,
Our return to Boston was delayed, but managed to get in at the turn of the year by leaving from a nearby town. The flight arrived a bit after midnight, and we caught a glimpse of the fireworks show from the plane. Got home at 1AM and went out for late drinks. So missed the big party, but that was all right. There were also celebrations New Year's Day: Played Ingress with Tim and Co in my neighborhood, then went to The Buttery for their usual New Year's Day spaghetti dinner.

I still have a bit of time off before I resume work on Monday.

Julie has come down with some sort of deadly sore-throat cold. Not much I can do to help, but I've been doing what I can (making a lot of honey-lemon-ginger tea). I can feel the tell-tale tickle in the back of my throat that says I'm not escaping this one, either. Hopefully, if I get plenty of sleep, it won't be too bad.

Today, there are a lot of things I wanted to do entertainment-wise, but just not feeling that into anything, except cooking. Cooking was fun today. For lunch made sandwiches with tomato and egg and homemade pesto. For dinner, I made borscht, adding some fancy sausage to this recipe.
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L33t
Dec. 31st, 2014 @ 02:42 am Extra Day in Texas
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
I've been having a relaxing time in Lubbock with family and family friends. Julie's parents are wonderful hosts, as always. All her siblings made it into town, and Julie's uncle even drove down from Canada (!) to visit. Christmas dinner was delicious, and people got me and Julie really nice and thoughtful gifts.

I finished reading The Feminine Mystique. That was an influential book for a reason, and it's a very interesting look into late 1950s feminism. That plus The Two Income Trap (which I also read recently) make a very interesting pair of book-ends for the latter half of the 20th century.

Also read How Children Learn. Wonderful book, really interesting and optimistic stuff. I really wish John Holt had succeeded in more of his education reform goals, but I really need to read more by him and his cohort.

Julie and I saw two movies on the trip, Mockingjay - Part 1 (very well put-together, though I still think they could have made the book into a single movie) and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (I enjoyed it; while I don't think this trilogy is as good as Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, it certainly stands up as an entertaining big-budget cinema spectacle). Saw the latter film at Alamo Drafthouse, which really deserves its reputation as the best big theater chain. Wish there was one in the Boston area.

On Sunday, I got a terrible stomach bug (the only bad bit of my trip) and spent the day drinking tea and watching Psycho-Pass (a cyberpunk dystopian police procedural, in a somewhat similar vein to Ghost in the Shell; worth watching if you like the genre, the first season is up on Netflix).

We were going to return to Boston today, but our flight was canceled on account of some ice. We're now scheduled to get in tomorrow, will see how that turns out.
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L33t
Dec. 25th, 2014 @ 03:31 pm How Do I Hacked Portal?
Current Location: Lubbock, TX
Current Mood: relaxedrelaxed
I've started playing Ingress (a territory-capturing MMOARG game by Google's Niantic Labs). I originally tried the game when it was first in beta, but then didn't get into it until just recently. It's pretty fun, and I got Julie to start playing, too. (My username is Macrologist, my faction is Enlightened.)

Other things:

Olin Expo was awesome! Especially the Principles of Engineering projects (a "create a hardware/software prototype" class, which in my day was PIC micro-controller + PIC assembly or C, but now is a lot of Arduino or Raspberry Pi + Python using libraries like OpenCV). The tech available for hardware/software prototyping has come a long way in the last eight year. Olin's computer science curriculum is getting stronger, too.

Hanukkah parties with extended family and family friends were fun.

Wednesday, we woke-up super-early to fly to Lubbock and visit Julie's extended family for Christmas. I am really enjoying the vacation.
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L33t
Dec. 18th, 2014 @ 11:03 pm Family Time and Miscellany
Current Mood: happyhappy
My mom was in town this weekend, due to a lucky confluence of last-minute cheap flights plus both of her new grand-nieces in the same place. And me and Julie, too! Really enjoyed the visit. Was really excited to meet Stella (David and Abby's new daughter, one of my new little cousins). Excited enough to distract me from properly catching up with my older cousins. Sorry, you guys! But I think I'll see them at an extended-family Hanukkah party tomorrow.

Other things to relate:

My PS3 broke. I'm getting it repaired.

Postmates (yet another "the Uber of X" business, this time the X is delivery) is pretty nifty.

For Xave's tabletop roleplaying group, Andrew is running a round of My Life with Master, which casts the players in the role of villainous minions (like Renfield to Dracula or Igor to Frankenstein).

I'm going to the Olin Fall Expo tomorrow as a visitor from Google! First time I've attended that as a guest, so I'm excited.

Work was pretty productive this week. I'm looking forward to vacation.
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L33t
Dec. 11th, 2014 @ 10:57 pm Holiday Haircut
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Tags: , ,
The usual joke about "getting a haircut" (I got all of them cut) applies to me more than usual this week. My receding-at-the-temples baldness has turned into all around shaggy-patchy baldness, so clippers all around it is. The result is much shorter than I've worn in the past, but it looks at least somewhat reasonable, if still not completely dignified.

The Google Holiday party was today, a "winter wonderland" party with s'mores and scotch and dinner at the Charles Hotel. It was fun!

Work this week has been rough. Didn't get enough sleep last night, so heading to bed now.
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L33t
Dec. 10th, 2014 @ 12:03 am Wash Cycle
Crazy rain today.

There was a $50 coupon for Yelp Elite members for Washio, a new dry cleaning / laundry delivery service. The price wasn't too bad for door-to-door service, and the service was really good and very convenient. The offer came at just the right time because I had several loads of laundry and some dry cleaning queued up (winter weather has arrived for real, and it's going to get really cold in no time, so this is the last chance to bring things out of storage). They picked up Saturday morning and delivered today. I wouldn't want to replace my every-day laundry with that (it's not enough trouble to be worth the wait and expense), but it seems good for spring-cleaning sorts of laundry chores and it's a good option for dry cleaning (especially for those heavier items), since that can be annoying to lug around without a car.

I'm making some more beer bread for Julie's office party. I made some last weekend, too.
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L33t
Dec. 7th, 2014 @ 02:54 pm Year's End Impends Already
Current Location: Somerville, MA
Current Mood: tiredtired
Tags: , , , , ,
My mood is low this week. The news continues to be pretty damn depressing. Work is busy. Progress on my main project is slow, thought I'm getting a lot of other things done. Two more work weeks remain before the end of the year.

The reunion dinner last week was cancelled due to insufficient signups. It was merged into an all-alumni mixer instead. I didn't see any classmates that I knew well there, but it was cool to see a few old acquaintances.

I finished reading Cloud Atlas, and thought it was a good book. Also played a bit of Kentucky Route Zero (flavor in spades, but I'm not sure I find the plot compelling) and FTL (still fun!).

The trip back to Boston was uneventful.

Enjoyed playing Endeavor with friends on Friday. Did some cooking yesterday (fish, greens, pasta, more beer bread). Otherwise things have been quiet.

I have a new little cousin!
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L33t
Nov. 28th, 2014 @ 05:55 pm "Apothecia"
Current Mood: impressedimpressed
Tags: , ,
I really liked the sci-fi/horror short-story comic Apothecia, and now that it's finished, I can point to the whole thing.
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L33t
Nov. 28th, 2014 @ 01:05 am Not in Tune with Thanksgiving Break
Current Location: Shaker Heights, OH
Current Mood: okayokay
I'm in Shaker Heights for Thanksgiving (Julie, too). We've actually been in Cleveland since Sunday morning, but haven't gotten around to posting because... I don't know why. I feel like this vacation is getting away from me, though it's been really nice seeing the friends and family I've seen.

The train in was running super-late, so we didn't get home until 7AM on Sunday. The weather has been blustery and cold in turns, turning to snow.

My folks are doing well. I got some time to catch up with my siblings. My sister, Melissa, is freelancing and busy with tech week for a show. I got to see her and meet her boyfriend, Elliot, on Thanksgiving day. My brother, Solomon, started a new job at Crop Kitchen a few weeks ago, and our family had dinner at the restaurant on Wednesday (it's good!). Julie, Solomon, and I went to the Natural History Museum. We went out on the town with Markos and Co (including his new girlfriend, who's really interesting and nice and hangs out with a cool crowd). We caught up with Dan and Anne, who are preparing for incoming progeny in T minus some small number. I was also happy to hear from my Cousin Miriam, who called from the other side of the globe with some Thanksgiving well-wishes. Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful.

The national (and local, for Cleveland) news has me all out of sorts. I'll limit my commentary to this (which I've repeated a few times elsewhere): There's more to the systemic social issues surrounding race relations in America than implicit bias lowering barriers to violence in the moments before a tragedy. An 18-year-old getting in a fist-fight with a police officer or an unsupervised 12-year-old pointing a realistic-looking toy gun at strangers in a park in a neighbourhood with a high incidence of armed crime and gang violence, those are also things that happen in context.

I also want to share a few related links to things that have been impinging on my thoughts:My 10-year high school reunion is Saturday. It seems few of my high school friends will be there. I guess it will be interesting to see who else remembers me. I've changed a lot since high school, and I'm thankful for that, to say the least.
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Wings
Nov. 14th, 2014 @ 11:55 pm Stay Thirst-y
Current Mood: busybusy
Thirst Boston was last weekend. I didn't hear about it last year until it was happening, but from all the buzz among involved acquaintances on social media, it seemed like a cool event. This year I couldn't decide whether or not to go, but then Julie got us Saturday tickets last minute. It was a lot of fun, very interesting seminars/tastings, cool souvenirs, and really awesome after-party at Drink and Tavern Row. (I'm sure the rest of the weekend was fun, too, but the one day was a lot. But if I was to do it again I'd consider going for the whole thing and clearing my schedule.)

Got hit by a terrible cold and was down for the count Tuesday, but totally fine again by Thursday. At least it was brief.

On Wednesday, went to see Big Hero 6 at the new Assembly Row theater. Was my first visit to Assembly Row. While it does have that uncanny-valley "mixed-use development" feel, it at least has some good shops and restaurants, a more-luxurious-than-usual cinema, and a shiny new T stop on the Orange Line. (About the movie: It's awesome and you should see it.)

Work is very busy. I'll be in a new office next week (moving up two floors). Lots of people in the Cambridge office are shuffling to keep teams in proximity as the office continues to grow. It's a bit chaotic.

Tomorrow, I have some complimentary tickets (courtesy of Yelp Boston) to the Drink Craft Beer Fall Fall To Winter Fest.

In a week, I'll be going home for Thanksgiving break.
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L33t
Nov. 5th, 2014 @ 12:25 am Beer Bread
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Tags:
Last weekend was a lazy weekend, but featured a lot of cooking. I got my recipe for potatoes with lemon and za'atar to come out just right (by microwaving (instead of boiling) the potato before sauteeing), cooked leeks with radish, carrot, and fancy sausage, and made sandwiches with (among other things) Lake's Edge cheese, cider blackened pork, and homemade beer bread.

My first loaf of beer bread (on Saturday) turned out so good that I made another on Sunday. And it's really a remarkable bread-making technique (from here):
  • Mix 3 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 cup sugar, mix in 12 fl. oz. beer
  • Melt 1/4 cup butter
  • Use some of the butter to grease a loaf pan
  • Put the dough in the pan
  • Pour the remaining butter on top
  • Optionally top with seasoned salt or sugar
  • Bake at 375°F for 1 hour
  • Remove from pan, let cool 15 min
This uses a minimum of steps and dishes, the whole process can be done in 1.5 hours, with only about 20 minutes of actual work, including cleanup. The source suggests sifting the flour, but I skipped that step and thought the texture was very good, so don't know if that makes a difference.
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Junpei
Nov. 3rd, 2014 @ 09:36 pm Election Day Tomorrow
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Tags:
MA ballot questions and my positions:

1 - Stop indexing gas tax to inflation - strong NO

If you want to cut the gas tax, vote to cut the gas tax. There's some sense in a gas tax that's a fixed surcharge instead of a percentage tax, maybe it doesn't make sense for the tax to go up when gas in particular is expensive. But at whatever level, fixed taxes need some way of keeping up with general inflation, and having to pass tax levies all the time is not as smooth a process for dealing with routine maintenance expenses as indexing to inflation.

2 - Extend bottle deposit to all bottled beverages - YES

I can't think of any sane policy reason for having a 5-cent recycling deposit for beer and soda but not for bottled water or juice or energy drinks. And there is a big difference in overall recycling rates for bottles with the deposit.

3 - Casino re-ban - weak YES

Some part of me is against yanking the rugs out from under business owners after allowing them to make these plans in the first place. On the other hand, I was opposed then, I'm opposed now, and shouldn't they have seen this coming?

4 - Minimum paid sick time for employees - strong YES

Paid sick time should be part of the minimum standard of decency for how employers treat employees. Sick employees create a classic externality, if a sick employee is incentivized to work anyways and a customer gets sick as a result, the customer bears that cost and likely won't know the cause. This is also a pro-family policy, it requires that sick leave can be used to care for a sick child, spouse, parent, or parent-in-law.

(Similar reasoning from LJ friends here and here.)

The other electoral stuff is less exciting. MA governor race is between Coakley (a lukewarm Democrat of "losing to Scott Brown" fame) and some Massachusetts Republican (with a far-right running mate). (I could vote third-party, I guess.) And the Republicans are likely to win a victory (though we'll see what they do with it) in the Senate.
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Carpool
Oct. 26th, 2014 @ 11:03 pm Fall Family Visit
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Tags: , , ,
Julie's sister and dad and our niece made it to Boston this weekend for a fall visit. The weather earlier this week was cold and rainy, but we were lucky this weekend to have the most beautiful late-October weather, cool and sunny with only the tiniest bit of (beautiful!) late-afternoon rain on Sunday. We ate lobster rolls, walked from Boston Common to the Prudential Center, traversed some of the Greenway, and took Emilia to the New England Aquarium (it's really fun to take kids there, and I have very fond memories of the place from when I was really young). I love having out-of-town guests in Boston, there's so much I love about this city. I enjoyed catching up with extended family. And our niece is growing into quite a strong, energetic, and independent-minded kid (also unusually willing to help clean up and well behaved in restaurants). One of the strange things about having young relatives out-of-town, it's like time has gone in fast-forward every time I see them.

The Leadership Summit at work last week was tiring but very interesting. I'm looking forward to a productive week, so I'd better get to bed.
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L33t
Oct. 22nd, 2014 @ 12:04 am Inman in Transition
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Tags: ,
It seems the heart of Inman Square (that is, the block of Cambridge St. between Inman St. and Prospect St.) is in a major transitional phase. There are more closed shops than I've seen since I moved in. Inman Square Supermarket (a small convenience/grocery store) is now gone. The Cambridge Bukowski is closed for renovations (supposedly reopening in the fall, but doesn't look ready yet). Haveli (an Indian restaurant) is gone, to be replaced by Hops N Scotch (but that doesn't look like it will be opening soon). Christina's Spice Shop is closed in prep for a move further up Cambridge Street.

It seems like economic growth pains as opposed to economic decline, but it still looks like a painful transition.
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L33t
Oct. 20th, 2014 @ 01:02 am Extra Late Summer
Current Mood: tiredtired
Last weekend: BarCamp Boston (a tech unconference) was fun. Probably the sessions I got the most out of were a discussion of technical interviews, which prompted me to write this essay, and a workshop on public speaking by Eric Wei.

Last week: Work was very busy, but I made good progress on several things. I gave my presentation for QPX Training and got good feedback.

This weekend: Summery weather yesterday (the last for the year?). Had brunch on the patio at Neighborhood Restaurant and went to the Union Square Farmer's Market. There was a Yelp Somerville party at Brooklyn Boulders in the evening. Today, the weather turned cold. Broke my winter jacket out of storage and put some summer clothes away.

This week: Thursday and Friday I'll be attending the Google Cambridge Leadership Summit.

Next weekend: Julie's dad and sister and our niece will be in town!
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L33t
Oct. 7th, 2014 @ 12:34 am Apple Picking and Fall Cooking
Current Mood: fullfull
Tags: , , ,
On Saturday, Julie and I went apple-picking with Xavid, Sarah, and Leslie. Then we went home, visited the newly-renovated Savenor's (open again as of a few weeks ago, but just then celebrating their reopening), and cooked up a storm: Delicata squash with apples and bacon, pumpkin stuffed with kasha and venison, roast pumpkin seeds with espresso salt, and homemade applesauce.

Savenor's has redone their Cambridge location to really focus on what they do best. They've ditched the produce section (which had a hard time setting itself above and beyond Whole Foods and local farmers markets) and shrunk the selection of packaged specialty foods to something much more curated and interesting. Their display of meats now stretches across the store, they have a display cooler for dry-aged steaks, and their selection of cheese has improved, too (or at least is shown off more effectively). Wolf Meadow Farm was sampling their cheese at the grand reopening, and it was just incredible.

Today, we made cabbage pie (like spinach pie, vegetable with egg and feta in layered filo). Turned out delicious!

At work this week, I'm preparing a presentation for a training session that will be held next week. I'm looking forward to helping new colleagues with a feature of my project I know a lot about, but it's a lot of material to prepare in very little time.
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L33t
Sep. 30th, 2014 @ 12:01 am Common Ground
Current Mood: impressedimpressed
Two of my friends from high school, Matt and Dan, have started a political anti-debate podcast titled The Common Ground. It's a little rough around the edges (they still need to format their podcast feed correctly), but I think it's quite good. Check it out.
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Colbert
Sep. 28th, 2014 @ 02:31 pm Soylent Beige
Current Mood: okayokay
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My shipment of Soylent (Rob Rhinehart's crowd-funded future-food) arrived earlier this week, and I'm drinking my first glass now, as I write this post.

It's a little thicker than milk and just a tad powdery. Flavor is very mild, like milk with some sort of bland biscuit, mild yeast and vanilla. (Now that I think about it, it tastes really, really similar to rice milk, which is unsurprising, since the protein is from brown rice.) Not at all bad, but not super appealing, either. In culinary terms, it seems to be in the same league as other commercial protein shakes I've had.

It still could make a decent snack (or small meal) substitute for those times when I'm deep in the middle of some work and want something filling, but don't want either prep work or decisions. But I doubt I'll want to do the work required just to keep the stuff on hand. (Maybe if it's successful, they'll come out with a bottled version and work will stock it, haha.)
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L33t