Chicago & Milo

So, early next month (April 4th to 12th), Elaine and I are taking a road trip! We’re going to rent a car, mosey over to Niagra Falls, Toronto, and finally Chicago to visit her folks.

So there’s that. But it also means that our new cat Milo will be lonely. I’m curious if any of my friends (hi friends) are interested and/or willing to either visit once a day to feed him and clean up his poop or willing to have him be a live-in cat for a week.

So let me know if that’s your thing. Else I guess we can do a pet hotel thingy. Or bring him, all hanging his cat head out the car window. 🙂

Valentine’s

I am usually as leery of Valentine’s as I am of Christmas. But I’m not immune.

So I wanted to give a shout out not only to my romantic interest (hi, Elaine!), but to my platonic loves as well.

Friends of mine, you are awesome. I am blessed by a wonderful circle of friends with whom I can be the analytical jerk that I am without censure. And for whom, I would totally punch a dude or engage in petty theft, if asked. Please don’t ask.

Family members, you also rock, but in a less immediate sense. You usually rock from afar, but are always supportive of my various life efforts, always willing to throw down in a game of Pinochle or a marathon of Lord of the Rings, and always willing to pick me up from Boston and then feed me.

I love you guys and gals.

Mahjong

A while ago, Elaine and I played Mahjong with Matt and Jessica. I was admitted to the Mahjong club by virtue of dating a Chinese lady. 😉

So I asked for a Mahjong set and mat for Christmas. And got both!

The set is very interesting. I really like it, but it confused both Elaine and Matt. It’s a black set, with Chinese characters only. That is, it’s not for Whities (you need to know Chinese digits — which is good! I specifically wanted this, as I didn’t sit there on Wikipedia memorizing them for nothing). But black is an unlucky color to True Chinese.

So I’m not sure of the intended audience. But it looks nice and I’m looking forward to play with it. Thanks for it. CL, and for the mat, ST!

Matt and Jessica, Ben and Jen, Dave and Meg, or any other friends that may be interested (it’s not a team game, you don’t need to come as a pair), I’d be interested in playing/teaching it. A bit of time spent on Wikipedia will tell you all you need to know. Look over the Chinese characters, and ignore most of the optional rules that Wikipedia is at pains to enumerate. It’s basically a bigger form of Gin Rummy. Maybe tomorrow, while it snows all around us?

Update: I only specifically mentioned those couples because they earlier expressed interest. Anyone is welcome!

UDS Next Week

Just a reminder that I’ll be in California next week at the Ubuntu Developer Summit for Jaunty Jackelope! If you want me to pick you up something Google-branded, now’s your chance.

Finally, Windows Installed

Man, I thought Linux had the bad installing reputation. It took me literally three weeks to install either XP or Vista. I tried all sorts of stuff, sometimes getting it to install, but never boot. I burned many coasters.

Turns out, I had to mark the installed-into partition as ‘bootable.’ This told Windows that that partition would be the C: drive. For some reason, it can’t boot off an arbitrary letter drive? It would have been nice if the installer had told me or changed the flags itself. Ah well, now it works.

So this means, my friends, that I have a working install of TF2 and Civ4. W00t!

Vacation

Elaine and I went down to Maryland for Boccefest 2008 and to spend a few days on the beach at Ocean City.

Bocce

Bocce was good. Like last year, we didn’t prepare at all, but still managed a reasonable showing. Though, we didn’t hold a candle to any of the serious players.

We stayed at Huggle‘s new apartment, which was nice enough, but infested with little punk kids that like to break into cars. The night we got there, I left our car unlocked (yeah, yeah) and got Elaine’s GPS, my laptop, and all my petty cash stolen. QQ

Ocean City

Ocean City is the best. It’s this resort town on the coast of Maryland, whose claim to faim is this very long stretch of beach and boardwalk.

The great thing about it is the high quality of beach. Unlike our crappy New England beaches, this beach is not made of sharp stones. It’s all fine sand, very clean (not trash-ridden), without rocks. The water itself is also clean and without rocks or seaweed on the bottom. It’s sand all the way down. The climate itself is warmer than up here and was very good the few days we were there.

Point is, Ocean City, despite being a tourist trap, is a very pleasant beach destination. Does anyone happen to know of any beaches closer to home that are so clean?

NYC Daytrip

Elaine and I went to NYC yesterday.

We went via Lucky Star/Fung Wah buses which were nice and cheap ($30 round trip). We then went to Planet Hollywood to buy New York Passes, which I highly recommend.

The deal is that you pay $70 for this pass which gives you free access to a bunch of touristy things as well as lets you skip the lines for many of them. Seeing as most NYC tourist sites are $20 to $30, this makes a lot of sense very quickly.

Nothing we did was exceedingly notable, but I did want to warn everyone away from visiting the Empire State Building past the hours of 11 AM. The place is a trial balloon for a new circle of hell: one where you just wait in lines until you fall down. Then, they prop you up in a chair and wheel you into the gift shop.

So, we came to the ESB. There’s a huge line around the edge of the building. But we have our trusty New York Pass! We ask an attendent, he suggests that the best way to advance is to go in a side entrance, go through the New York Skyride event, and then we’ll be able to go to the observatory. He made it sound like the skyride was the first half of a shortcut to the observatory.

So we go up. We get free tickets to the skyride because of our pass. We go wait with a group of people for skyride to start. The skyride, I should say, is shit. It’s supposed to be a little movie about New York, in amusement-ride form. But it’s so bad.

You sit on a platform that can rock. You watch a helicopter flyover of NYC on a screen so small you can never be very immersed. The whole thing is narrated by Kevin Bacon with a sprinkling of freakin’ James Doohan! Occasionally your helicopter will encounter some crazy Blue Energy that makes it go all crazy and rocks all the seats. Very silly, stupid, and uninformitive.

When we got out, the exit led not to some super s3krit elevator access to the 86th floor, but rather the same lobby we entered from. We were sad.

Next, we got some 3rd and 4th opinions about how to use our passes to get to the observatory. No attendents seemed very sure. We finally got inserted halfway through the line for tickets (we were promised by the pass to not have to wait in that line). Then, with tickets in hand, we were told to go to a line for elevators and say, brandishing our tickets, “we have already been through skyride.” So I guess the skyride did help, but god damn, it’s not clear it was worth it.

After we queued up for the elevators, it was another million hours until we saw one. They shoot you up onto the 80th floor, where you get the unique opportunity to either walk up 6 flights or queue further for elevators (said queue goes by a sales desk for one more chance at buying the audio tour or $8 map of sights from the top).

After getting to the 86th floor, it’s a madhouse at the top. When you’ve had enough of being run over by strollers, you can get in line to escape. You must wait your turn to go back down to the 80th floor, where you are let off into the gift store. You must find your way out of there into the 8th line for elevators you’ve been in so far. Since you go down the same elevators that people are coming up in, it’s just as slow as all the other lines, even though all you want is to go get the hell out.

Pretty much the worst experience ever. Not to mention that, although the view is plenty nice, it’s predictably nice. It’s a bunch of buildings, people-as-ants, some water, and some stuff fading into the distance. Which is very pretty and enjoyable. But you can guage before you go up exactly how nice you typically find such things and then decide whether it’s worth the skyride+queues.

Alright, enough ESB. If you want to go on the NBC studio tour at 30 Rock., make sure to sign up as early as possible. They get booked fast.

Lastly, although I’ve heard so much about how the NYC metro system being awesome, I just found it amazingly confusing. There are many lines, and each one has all these exceptions about “on odd days, this train runs on a different platform 30 mins ahead of its normal schedule” and such. There were fliers up all over the place explaining this week’s errata to the schedule. Very difficult to figure out what you needed to do to get from point A to point B.

Back from UDS

I just got in from UDS. It was great! I’ll blog more about it later, just wanted to say that I got back safely.

I seem to have lost my cell phone in Prague. So don’t bother calling me for a bit until I can confirm it’s gone and if so, buy a new number. 🙁

I may be going to New York tonight/tomorrow, hopefully I’ll write about Prague on Monday.

Canonical, Prague

So I’ve been working at Canonical for a few days now, and it’s been pretty great. It’s really nice to be able to work with the tools and processes that God intended for software development.

One excellent perk of the job is getting shipped out to the biannual Ubuntu Developer Summits (UDS). There’s one in Prague next week that I get to attend. So, that’s where I’ll be for the next week. I leave Saturday, come back on Saturday.

Hopefully I’ll be useful, but at least I’ll be able to place some names to faces right out of the gate.

Life Changes #2

Three years ago, I quit my programming job, took a summer off to teach and work in open source, and then moved to Boston to work for Exa doing proprietary development again. It’s been a good two and half years, but I’m excited to announce that I’ll be joining Canonical, starting May 13th.

I’ll be a UI and Application Engineer in their Mobile Solutions Group. This group is a consulting arm of Canonical that customizes Ubuntu for small devices like netbooks. I’m super pumped about it; I’ll finally be getting paid to do what I’m most passionate about.

In other super-pumped-about news, Elaine and I will move in together in August. We found a neat apartment complex right in Arlington Center: The Legacy. Which sounds like a retirement home, so that’s a bonus. It’s very nice, although our apartment is one of two handicap-friendly apartments in the complex, and I feel a bit guilty for sucking that up. But on the plus side, the bathtub has hand rails.