/slap someone
Mood: tired
Posted on 2006-10-15 00:01:00
Tags: politics
Words: 222

First of all, I love getting the Washington Post in the mornings - it's a quality newspaper!

This passage that I read this morning (from this article) made me want to punch someone, though:

At 7 p.m. Sunday, evangelical leaders including Perkins and Dobson plan to broadcast a 90-minute television special from a Boston church to hundreds of other churches across the country in an attempt to keep religious conservatives from sitting out the election.

Called "Liberty Sunday," it will "highlight specific cases and stories where people's religious liberties have been threatened because of homosexual activism and gay marriage in Massachusetts," said Family Research Council spokeswoman Bethanie Swendsen.

(emphasis added)

Oho, so people's religious liberties have been threatened because of gays gaining rights? I know it's a good strategy to portray your group as being oppressed, but firstly, gays aren't saying you can't practice Christianity. Actually, that wouldn't be threatening someone's personal liberty, but gays aren't lobbying for a law to be passed outlawing Christianity.

Also, for fun you can spin most of the civil rights advances of the last century in this way! Weren't white bigots's liberties being threatened when blacks wanted the right to vote? Or people who didn't want interracial couples to be able to marry?

(I was going to continue on in this vein, but you get the point)


glad that's over with!
Mood: cold
Posted on 2006-10-13 10:21:00
Words: 97

When I got up this morning it was 34 degrees out. (not a misprint) The high today (58) is lower than Austin's low tonight (67). The overnight low here is 36 with, and I quote, "Scattered frost possible".

But, the good news is that winter can't possibly be any colder than this, so spring must be just around the corner!

(I'll post about netflix prize stuff when I have some interesting results - spent most of the last few days crunching many number to end up with an RMSE not as good as what I already had. Grr.)


quick hits
Mood: busy
Posted on 2006-10-11 13:29:00
Words: 130

- A good weight loss strategy: be in a building with no cafeteria. Bring your lunch (leftovers!). Have vending machines, but (and this is key) don't have any change or bills less than $20. Presto, no soda or candy bars! I wonder how long this will last...

- 2 day old Krispy Kreme donuts are still good. Not as good as on day 0, but good nonetheless. I think tomorrow may be pushing it, though.

- The new Evanescence CD is good, really good. I just love Amy Lee's voice. (in a "would like to hear her read the phone book"-type way...although I wonder what her talking voice sounds like)

- The Massive Attack CD with the House theme on it in is also good, although it takes a little more warming up to.

1 comment

progress on the netflix front
Mood: determined
Posted on 2006-10-11 08:39:00
Tags: netflixprize
Words: 493

So, although djedi's parents were here most of the last week, I managed to make some progress on the Netflix Prize. (probably at the cost of being a bit rude - sorry!) Most of the time I spent was building up a test framework so I could easily test rating schemes, so there wasn't a whole lot of note. The one big things was that I restored the data provided to us in a binary format, so it takes up 500 MB on disk instead of 2 GB, which means the loading time is down to 15-20 minutes instead of 40 minutes.

So the way it works is that there is a real set of ratings to be made that counts, and there is a "probe" set of ratings to be made. The "probe" ratings are all already known (they're included in the 500 MB of data), so it makes it easy to exclude that data, run your algorithm, and then see how good your data is. Last night was the first time I got to actually run some algorithms and see how they did on the probe data. The scoring method used is RMSE (root mean squared error), so lower is better. For comparison, Cinematch (Netflix's algorithm) scores 0.9514, if you get below 0.9419 (1% improvement) you can win $50,000, and if you get below 0.8563 (10% improvement) you can win $1,000,000. (here's the current leaderboard - note that someone qualifies to win $50,000 already!)

Just taking the average movie rating for all movies and applying that gives an RMSE of 1.13 or so. Taking the average movie rating for each movie and using that on a per-movie basis gives 1.05. The two other things I tried were first to take the average movie rating and average user rating and average them - this gives a modest improvement to 1.015. I then weighted them by the inverse of their standard deviation (since a higher standard deviation would mean there was more variability in that data and thus it would be less reliable), but that only improved it to 1.013.

So now I'm calculating the correlation between every pair of movies using the dot product. (I ran this overnight and it took around 7 hours, but I need to store the data in a different format so I started that before leaving for work). Once I have that data it should be fairly straightforward to apply that to all the other movies a user has rated and come up with a new rating. I think this might push me below 1.0, which would be really nice...and I might even submit that even though right now it needs to be below 0.9884 to make it on the leaderboard.

I also found a good paper that I'm reading through and I might try next, although it looks computationally really expensive.

Anyway, that's most of what's been on my mind lately. I like getting to play with raw data!


more netflixing
Mood: accomplished
Posted on 2006-10-05 09:35:00
Tags: netflixprize
Words: 152

So I submitted my first entry last night - it did poorly, of course, but at least I'm on the Leaderboard! (I'm "teamgreg" because I really didn't want to think of a name) Crunched some more numbers last night in support of my next submission, which I have to wait a week for. It's a little annoying that just reading in all 100 million entries takes, at a minimum, 40 minutes (not to mention any processing, but that's all been pretty quick so far), although it works decently if we're doing other things that I can start a run of that and then get back to something else. As long as that "something else" isn't WoW, because it really sloooows my computer down. :-)

I'm impressed one team already has a RMSE (root mean squared error) of .9571, which is within spitting distance of .9474, which is how Netflix's algorithm does on the data.


does the program exhibit the buddha way?
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2006-10-04 07:37:00
Tags: netflixprize programming
Words: 402

I was trying to track down a particularly odd bug at work yesterday and I suddenly realized I was effectively playing a game of Zendo with the program. I had my theory about what sequence of events made the bug show up in the program (i.e. what koan of events had the buddha way), and I pretty early on got a repeatable koan that always exhibited the buddha way. After some time trying to look at the code to figure out what was going on, I had my theory about what made a sequence of events exhibit the buddha way and I started trying to make it happen some other way. Just before I left I discovered something completely unexpected that seems to determine whether a sequence of events exhibits the buddha way based on something entirely unexpected. That's the thing about debugging versus Zendo - the rules are a lot looser! Anyway, I miss playing Zendo, but I guess I can have my own little game at work :-)

I spent some time working on Netflix Prize stuff last night - I tried to parse all the data but it ran out of memory, so I closed Firefox, tightened up my class that was representing each rating (12 bytes to 8 bytes makes a big difference...), and got it to successfully parse all 100 million+ entries. The only slight concern is that that doesn't leave a whole lot of memory to do any sort of analysis (I only have 1G, 800M or so of which will be used up by the ratings), but I think I can do just O(n) stuff in space and get by. Or, I could buy more memory (woot!), but the last time I tried to put more than 1G of RAM in my computer, bad things happened. Maybe I'm just being superstitious.

The other problem is that it takes around 40 minutes just to read in all the data. I had it calculate the average rating over all ratings last night and it gave me something reasonable, so I was thinking of writing some code to do the ratings on the test set and just rate everything the average and submit that. This would give me a good baseline - although they give you that baseline already, I think, it would be nice to have an official entry submitted, even if it's crap. So maybe I'll get to that tonight...


netflix prize away!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2006-10-03 09:09:00
Tags: netflixprize programming
Words: 162

Sunday I was feeling a little down, mostly because I didn't have a project to be working on and none of the ones I had on my long-term radar sounded very interesting (or possible). The very next day Netflix announced the Netflix prize, which is basically a competition to improve their suggestions engine (i.e. if you liked movie X and Y you'll probably like movie Z but not movie W). And they're releasing 700M worth of data to train on. I think I'll work on that next!

Since the amount of data is so massive, I decided to work in C++ instead of Ruby or Python - I'm a little worried about keeping all the data structures in memory, but we'll see how that goes. I got some basic parsing of the data done and hope to submit a very basic entry soon! (you can submit an entry once a week and it will score it to let you know how you're doing)

1 comment

Mood: bouncy
Posted on 2006-09-30 23:28:00
Words: 65

So I went to the game night thing I mentioned earlier - long story short, it was great. I played Munchkin with people who had never played before, and all of whom were relatively close to my age, and geeky, and friendly! Won't be there next Saturday because djedi's parents will be around, but I'm hoping we can make it at least the week after. Woohoo!


unexpected goodness
Mood: relieved
Posted on 2006-09-30 16:02:00
Tags: music car
Words: 485

So as djedi and I were pulling up to our complex yesterday and all of a sudden my Prius freaks out a little and puts up a warning light. No smoke pouring out of the engine, but I pull in to a parking space and djedi checks the manual. Some sort of brake problem, but it's not so serious that the car can't be driven. But it does say to take it in to get checked ASAP. "Crap" is the general thought, since we only have one car right now, so it being out of commission means no easy way to get to work. (and we're not sure what the hard way would be)

We get in and I call the nearest Toyota dealer, who says that they can maybe fit me in on Saturday, but Jeannie isn't in and this guy doesn't want to mess with her appointment book or something. Ooohkay. He tells me to call when they open tomorrow (8 AM).

Ugh...was looking forward to sleeping in, but we need a car! So I get up and call them. Nope, no way they can see it today. Great. So I go down the list of dealerships close to us. Get all kinds of "no"s and the occasional "we can't promise we can see it today but you can leave it here", which is just as bad for our purposes. I'm starting to get annoyed and a bit concerned when I make it down to the tenth one on the list (which by now is really not that close, but I figure it's OK to drive...). The guy is friendly and says I can bring it in, and to hurry. So I throw on some clothes, get directions and head out there.

40 minutes or so later I find the place, and again they're friendly and the guy at the desk says they'll diagnose it within an hour(!). I sit down to read (having planned to be there most of the day in the worst case) and start the David Sedaris book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, which is absolutely brilliant. Slightly more than an hour later I hear my name being called, and I rush out to see what the verdict is. Turned out they didn't find anything wrong: brake pads were fine, brake fluid was sufficiently present, and the code that set off the master alarm (that sounds like Apollo 13!) was nothing in particular, or something. The best part is that they didn't charge me anything!

So if you're in Maryland and need a Toyota dealer, I recommend Fitzgerald Lakeforest.

Some sort of crab-related product for dinner and then I'm going to another game nightish thing, all in the vain hopes of replacing the one we had in Austin!

Also, I have the theme song (track 3) to House irrevocably stuck in my head. I should buy that.


one week at a time
Mood: proud
Posted on 2006-09-26 09:08:00
Tags: weight
Words: 165

So I've been weighing myself every week for quite a while now, and the results have been kinda meh (staying about the same, plus or minus noise). So this past week I've been decent about food (not great, but decent), and really good about working out and lifting weights. I was unhappy when I weighed in the middle of the week and had gained a pound, which seemed completely and totally unfair. Anyway, Tuesday morning is my official weighing time, so I did it this morning not knowing what to expect....

Lost 1.4 pounds! w00t!

So I'm going to do my best to keep exercising. It actually has kept me from being as tired as I probably should be, giving the amount of sleep we've been getting. And maybe I'll stop checking my weight during the week...when I thought I had gained a pound despite all I had done I was tempted to just give up.

Long way to go, but I can make progress!


pictures, actually
Mood: accomplished
Posted on 2006-09-25 22:50:00
Tags: pictures
Words: 18

Yay pictures! My humblest apologies for the long delay. Here are apartment pictures, sightseeing-ish pictures, and Philadelphia pictures.


good times
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-09-22 23:06:00
Tags: math
Words: 636

Things I'm happy about:

- We went to game night tonight and had a lot of fun. We played three games, all of which are guaranteed to terminate! Although the proof for the last one was a little tricky to come up with. Here are the rules:

You start with a stack of cards. There may also be cards in front of you, and cards on the table (that anyone can access). On your turn, you start one of two ways:
a) Drawing two cards from the stack
b) Drawing a set of cards from the table (not from in front of you).
Then, you do one of two things:
1) Play one card from your hand to the table (not in front of you)
2) Play a set of cards from your hand to in front of you.
If you started your turn with b), you must end it with 2), and you must play those cards you drew from the table to in front of you (along possibly with cards from your hand).

Given these rules, can you prove the game terminates? (the game terminates when the stack of cards is depleted, or some other condition that isn't relevant here)

So I first tried to show that the number of cards in the stack plus the total number of cards in everyone's hand must decrease on every turn (which means eventually the number of cards in the stack will go to 0, which ends the game). This, however, is not true: if you pick up cards from the table then play them in front of you (with no additions from your hand), that stays constant.

So, someone pointed out that the flow of cards is unidirectional: they always flow in the direction of

stack -> someone's hand -> table -> in front of someone

(sometimes they jump around, but they always go from left to right). So you can formalize this by showing that the sum

N^3*(number of cards in stack) + N^2*(total number of cards in everyone's hand) + N*(number of cards on table) + (total number of cards in front of someone)

is decreasing on every turn for sufficiently large N. It turns out that N=20 or so is sufficiently large, since that's the most number of cards that can be played in front of someone in one turn.

- djedi seems to be happy about work, which is nice. I'm excited about the project I'm working on.

- I've been going to the gym every other day, and lifting weights at my computer the other days (we've been playing a lot of WoW recently and it's convenient to do during downtime). I gained some weight last week mostly due to a batch of delicious brownies that I ate in like two days, but I'm back down to the previous weight already. (and I had two donuts for lunch on Thursday...and then I discovered "cookie time"!)

- We're going to the Maryland Renaissance Festival (weird that they picked the domain rennfest.com, although renfest.com was already taken: why not marylandrenfest.com or something?) tomorrow, which should be fun. The weather has nice (if a little chilly at times) so hopefully it'll be a beautiful day and not rain like my forecastfox is suggesting.

random: Last year a Japanese company had Sotheby's and Christie's compete for the right to sell their paintings by playing rock, paper, scissors. Christie's won by consulting teenage daughters of an executive, who came up with the correct strategy. Note that they got around the usual "on 3 or after 3?" question by having the combatants write down their choice on a sheet of paper. (via kottke via girlhacker)

I have the top Google Images result for her extra legs. Awesome!

Also, I've been extremely out at work and there haven't been any problems and I feel pretty good about that.


security through...well, it ain't obscurity
Mood: bewildered
Posted on 2006-09-20 06:36:00
Words: 99

So on this American Airlines flight, a gay couple was told to stop kissing and being affectionate, then it was OK, then the captain said he'd have to divert the plane if they didn't stop arguing. ???

Now I understand this happened at a time where people were sensitive about plane threats, but somehow I don't think Islamics fundamentalists would pose as a gay couple. If you argue that a gay couple would enrage an Islamic fundamentalist, I thought that they hate our freedom - should we stop exercising that?

Security is important, but please be rational about it!

(via kottke)

1 comment

terror alert scale
Mood: amused
Posted on 2006-09-17 23:31:00
Words: 5


(taken from Boing Boing)

1 comment

newspaper irritations
Mood: irritated
Posted on 2006-09-17 14:38:00
Words: 140

Two things in the newspaper this morning that irritated me (riffing off of blamantin's post):

- Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq - I literally read the first three paragraphs and got angry. What the hell does loyalty to the GOP affect how well they're going to run a country? Maybe they wanted to start with the tax cuts already...ugh.

- Kid-Friendly Policies Don't Help Singles - I'm not sure what the point of this article is, but it starts out with a single woman complaining she doesn't get leave like a new mother gets right after having a child. Someone should sit her down and tell her the reason a new mother gets leave is she's staying at home caring for the child, not so she can finish a doctoral dissertation. This complaint seems really asinine to me.


that was unexpected
Mood: impressed
Posted on 2006-09-17 00:05:00
Words: 77

So I'm reading a little CNN before bed and I clicked on Analysts: Bush's clout thinning on world stage. I got to the following paragraph:

"I'm not sure they have changed their minds about to what extent to proceed unilaterally and how much to use military force so much as they have run out of options," said Richard Stoll, a political science professor at Rice University who studies foreign policy and national security.

Hey, I know him!


Victory over the MVA!
Mood: accomplished
Posted on 2006-09-08 15:57:00
Words: 745

(Texas:DPS::Maryland:MVA) So today was MVA day. The hope was we could both get driver's licenses and I could get my car registered and license plates and all that. We got going a little late (*wink*) and got to the nearest (as far I as I could tell) place that did that stuff, which is 20 minutes or so away.

Back story: To get your MD driver's license (fun fact: the state tree is the White Oak!), you need, among other things, two proofs of your new address. One of these could be the leasing contract with the apartment (check!) and the only other possibility we had for the other was a bill sent to our address. Well, most of the stuff this time around is in David's name, so he was set with a Comcast bill, but I had...less good options. So, to cover my bases and give myself the best chance of getting a license today, I brought:
- A City of Austin electricity bill (sketchy because it's not a local utility. Also, when I said "Swift Stream Place" over the phone, the woman entered "Swist Stream Place" without even asking if the first word was actually any sort of English word. So the address is off by one letter.)
- A Janus notification sent to my old address that I had changed my address to the new one (sketchy because it was addressed to the old address)
- An envelope that a Bank of America statement came in that showed it had been forwarded to our new address (sketchy because nowhere on the statement does it say anything about our new address)

So I wasn't sure I would be able to get a license, but at least I would be able to get my car registered and David would get his license.

I was a little worked up and anxious on the way there when David discovered that you actually do need a Maryland driver's license to register a car. Crap! So it's possible this whole trip will be wasted for me.

We find our way there and enter the separate building where the driver's licenses are being done. We take a number (A38 and A39) and stand around, for there are no seats (seats opened up 20 minutes later or so). The MVA is not a terribly interesting place, so I'll skip the intervening 2.5 hours(!) that we waited. Oh, and we were in a hurry so forgot to bring a book or anything to do. Whee.

Anyway, so it's 12:45 or so and finally I get called, and right afterwards David gets called. The moment of truth! I explain that I need a MD license to my clerk, a lady who is kinda slow-moving and talkative, but seems friendly enough. I decided to lead off with the utility bill since it's actually a bill. She looked at it and was confused at first, but when I explained it was an electricity bill she moved on. Yay!!

So we're going through the process, and it gets to the point where she's entering my Maryland address. Since we only have one copy of the lease, we're sharing it, and David's clerk is looking at it now, so she uses the electricity bill to enter the address. Uh-oh. Decision time: should I let this go and be doomed to a driver's license that has a slightly incorrect address, or should I point out that the address on the bill is wrong and risk her rejecting it as a proof of address? Thinking that she seemed pretty laid-back, I pointed out that the address was wrong, to which she replied that she couldn't use it. Crap!

I go to my second choice of address proof - the forwarded address letter from Bank of America, which she looks at and says is fine. So disaster is averted!

Anyway, the rest of it went fine, and I have a shiny new Maryland driver's license, which is awesome. We decided that djedi would go grab lunch for us while I waited in line for the title and registration. Anyway, the rest of that was relatively uneventful - an hour and a half later we had eaten lunch and I had license plates and registration for my car. So that's what we accomplished today.

Tonight we're going to the Games Club of America meeting here. Dinner's provided, which is pretty neat. I'm excited but nervous about meeting new people. We'll see how it goes!


some days, accomplishing anything is enough
Mood: tired
Posted on 2006-09-08 00:30:00
Words: 893

So today was the appointed day to get my car Maryland safety-inspected (so I can get Maryland license plates). Got up and got to the shop at 9 (because I had been told to "drop it off in the morning"), where the guy told me I should have dropped it off at 8. Anyway, it would be done sometime in the afternoon, and no, they don't have a shuttle or anything (djedi's car isn't up here yet).

So, fine. I had planned for this eventuality. Went over to Starbucks and read Thinking in Java for a while. Tried a Green Tea Latte - ewww! The Starbucks green tea has a tendency to taste a little like grass, and apparently making it a latte really brought out the grass.

Got bored and antsy, so got up for lunch a little early (11:15ish). Walked over to Qdoba Mexican Grill which I had been meaning to try. When I walked in...wow, it's a good thing you can't be sued for similarity to an existing restaurant, because it looks a looot like Chipotle, even down to the metal bins the food is kept in and the line system. Except it's not as efficient because they offer more things that sometimes have to be done elsewhere. I ordered a chicken burrito and it kinda got lost or something - the guy never came back and people started going around me. I wasn't terribly impatient (what else did I have to do?), but it was sort of awkward, because I was looking at staff people, and it was clear something was wrong and that they didn't have the power to fix it. The manager or some sort of management person (it was clear because he was tall, loud, and obnoxious - kept talking in loud short Spanish phrases in a jocular way to the staff because, hey, it's a Mexican restaurant! Jerk) finally noticed when the line behind me emptied and ask whether I had been helped. I said, well, sorta, but my meal kinda disappeared, and he apologized, took my order, and gave me free chips and queso. The burrito was decent but nothing spectacular, and the chips (which had that same sort of salt that Chipotle uses!) and queso were fine, but definitely not worth the $3.25 I didn't pay for them :-)

After that, I called djedi and ended up sorta arguing over stupid crap that he was right about, then walked over to see how my car was doing. The guy was vagueish but it sounded like it hadn't even been looked at yet, and it would be done "around 3:30-4". Great. Anyway, back to Starbucks after walking around in the nice weather a little (but not too much; my stomach was bothering me a little off and on from drinking too much Starbucks). After not too long, got a call saying that my car needed the rear brakes tightened and the alignment redone, both of which had been done right before we left on our trip here. Sigh, fine, whatever, just make it pass (this put the bill over $200 - just the inspection alone would have been $80!). Sat inside for a while, then outside for a while, then walked around some more when my brain was going to explode (the book is not exactly light reading).

Around 3:45 or so I went over to wait in the waiting room just to make sure I didn't miss the phone call or something like that. Sat down, and "Oprah" was just coming on after "Dr. Phil". It was a big episode because it was Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's first interview together as a couple, or something like that. The audience showed their appreciation by screaming a lot. Great. Wandered around a little outside and called djedi again to see how things were going back at the ranch (they were going OKish). The same guy I talked to in the morning and the afternoon was at the counter when I walked back in and said that only the alignment was left to be done. Super.

Sat back down and read some more, nearly finishing the book by skipping a lot about concurrency. Heard a lot of campaign ads (I think the primaries are this coming Tuesday). So the current mayor of Baltimore (O'Malley, a Democrat) is running for governor against the current one (Ehrlich, a Republican). Ehrlich ran an ad criticizing O'Malley for bad Baltimore schools. But he's the governor - isn't he to blame too? It reminded me of the Simpsons where Sideshow Bob aired an ad saying Mayor Quimby was soft on crime because he let Sideshow Bob out of jail :-) Also, it was neat to see so many Democratic ads (maybe only the Democratic primary is Tuesday? But I thought they were always on the same day...), and all of them were anti-war, anti-Bush.

Anyway, I keep reading, Tim McGraw (who is cute) makes chicken and dumplings, and I finish my book right about the time my car is done - 5:15. I'm friendly to the guy who checks me out, but I'm really just tired and frustrated with the world.

Luckily the evening was better, although I caused an almost wipe in WoW that I shouldn't have. Hoping tomorrow is way more productive, although given that it will likely involve the DMV, I'm guessing not so much.


Officially announcing auctioneer lookup
Posted on 2006-09-06 17:50:00
Tags: auctioneerlookup worldofwarcraft
Words: 30

Well, that wasn't too bad - I fixed the IE problem, so I'm officially announcing the Auctioneer Lookup page I mentioned in my previous post. Let me know what you think!


feelin' breezy
Mood: relaxed
Posted on 2006-09-06 15:44:00
Words: 529

So things have been going relatively well up here in Maryland (motto: "manly deeds, womanly words") - there are just a few boxes left around and the place finally feels like a "real" apartment. Which means I need to take pictures soon!

I've really been enjoying the weather up here - it's been cool, although somewhat rainy (which is novel!), so we've ended up walking around town some, even if only across the street to the mall. We made another trip to Baltimore today to see the National Aquarium in Baltimore (which we had planned to see on Sunday, but didn't because it was ridiculously crowded what with Labor Day weekend and all) - I'm not a big fan of zoos and aquariums in general, but it was quite impressive. Got some good pictures too that will go up at some point :-) Anyway, by the time we got done it was 3 PM, so we just headed back home for a relaxing afternoon/evening, which I'm now having! Before Baltimore we went to the National Cryptologic Museum which was very impressive as well - lots of important stuff there. There was even an Enigma machine you could use! They also had on display some of the computers the NSA used to use, including one that went into service in 1993 and had 64GB of RAM, which impressed me! (also impressive was the fact that it went out of service in 2000 but has apparently been declassified, which sort of makes sense: not a huge secret that the NSA has fast computers...)

Anyway, I'm really getting used to this whole not working during the day thing just in time for it to run out. But we did get most of the apartment setting up stuff done - the only major things are driver's license and license plates, which we might be able to squeeze in on Friday but we'll see.

Columbia's also starting to feel a little more like home - I know the layout of the town center decently and I'm fairly comfortable with the highways around here, and have found a few shortcuts that shave time off of trips :-)

I do miss human contact, though (other than djedi of course! It's been nice spending a lot of time with him) - the idea that we could just call people up and have them over/go out with them is sorely not available to us. There's a Games Club of Maryland that has a game night in Columbia Friday night - I'm making myself and djedi go to try to meet people. And starting work will help, too, but I'm trying to cast my net as widely as I can.

Ooh, pest control is here! Maybe our ant problem will disappear (although it's gotten a bit better in the last few days)

With some of my spare time, I wrote a little web app to query my Auctioneer data so you can find out approximate prices when you're not in WoW. I'm not ready to officially announce it yet (because it doesn't work in IE for some stupid reason...grrr IE), but if you're interested let me know and I'll send you a link :-)

Hope everyone's having a nice week!


makin' progress!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2006-09-01 20:18:00
Tags: moving
Words: 333

Yay unpacking boxes! There are still plenty of them around to be unpacked, but we've set up the computers, the entertainment center (TV, dvd player, etc.), a lot of pots and pans and silverware, and some clothes, which is pretty good progress. The funniest part so far has been when I was trying to get the TiVo to work - the video from the cable box wasn't showing up and I couldn't figure out why, so I went to the TiVo setup help. I was fooling around with the remote while David was working on some other things, like lamp placement. We knew that there were some switches in the main room that controlled a plug (for a lamp), so he switched one of them...and my computer turned off and went silent. I might have been irritated at the situation, had it not been so funny :-)

Slowly trying to get into a sort of routine - I'm trying to convince myself that it's...what's the opposite of "vacation"? Yeah, that. So hopefully I'll make it to the gym tomorrow and establish a good habit. We'll see...

We got hit by what was left of now-Tropical Depression Ernesto today - rain and wind but nothing terrible. Also went back to IKEA for the 3rd time to get some more stuff and tried to get my car Maryland-safety-inspected (try again Monday!) Were going to eat at the Cheesecake Factory but the wait was so long so we went back to formerly Pizzeria Uno (now just Uno), which was OK. (their pizza is good but I had a burger which was kinda meh)

I crunched the numbers today from the ridiculous amounts of money we've been spending (to be fair, the travel expenses will be reimbursed, hopefully by the end of 2006!) - we're a little tight on money but we'll make it until we start getting paid, which is nice to officially know.

Happy Labor Day weekend to those of you who it means something! One week until work starts!


world o' stuff
Mood: excited
Posted on 2006-08-31 21:21:00
Tags: moving pictures
Words: 103

As djedi mentioned, our stuff is here! I'm sitting in a chair now, which is very exciting!

Anyway, I took some time while the movers were hauling in our stuff to put up pictures from our move.

We bought an S-Video cable today. On the package, it says

For hook-up of a DVD player with an S-Video connection; carries video signal over two discreet paths

So, the misspelling of "discrete" is pretty funny in and of itself. But what does it mean, even without the misspelling? "Discrete" is the opposite of "continuous" (right?), so...what? It carries a signal over one path...anyway, I'm confused.


Home, sweet home(?)
Mood: confused
Posted on 2006-08-28 21:37:00
Tags: moving
Words: 374

So, we're in our apartment here! There's very little stuff, but we do at least have official internet (and not just unreliable mooching wireless), so gregstoll.com is up. It'll be down tomorrow when they give us new carpets (yay!), but back up for-goodish after that. I'll put pictures up...erm, sometime this week.

Last night we stayed in the guest suite, which was nicely furnished (including TV), so being in a nearly empty apartment is a bit of a step down. (but I do like having my computer up!) The drive Sunday went fine and we arrived here around 3:00, got the key to the guest suite and moved some stuff up, then mostly chilled out the rest of the evening. Checked in today and did our inspection and moved all the stuff up from the car, then papered shelves while waiting for the cable/internet guy to come. There are tons of cabinets and drawers, so we didn't finish, but it's a good start :-)

Finally found a Safeway and went grocery shopping (there's supposedly a Food Lion here that we want to see as well, but apparently went the wrong way and didn't find it yesterday) - got mostly just bare essentials that we should have in the pantry, and it cost $200! It seemed more expensive than HEB; I'm hoping Food Lion will be cheaper. Got a little lost on the way back when I realized I had passed the same landmark twice, but managed to find my way back :-) Then went out for dinner and stopped by IKEA to look at coffee tables (although we only had 20 mins before the store closed).

Tomorrow we're going down to DC to presumably see the National Zoo (pandas!) and International Spy Museum, and hopefully stop by IKEA on the way back.

I'm feeling kinda weird about the whole move - it doesn't help that my allergies/cold is mostly better, but my throat is still pretty consistently raw and dry. It's lonely being here - I'm trolling craigslist looking for...I don't know what. People or game nights or something. Anyway, I'm sure it'll pass. I wish I had work starting sooner and, after a month or so, two weeks off.

Bruce Schneier on what the terrorists want


Greetings from the most anti-gay state in the nation!
Mood: excited
Posted on 2006-08-26 21:13:00
Tags: moving travel
Words: 650

Ah, Roanoke, Virginia. So nice to end up in such a nice nice hotel as this. There's a nice whirpool with rotating lights (and two mirrors), big flat screen tv, and the place is huge. Will put up pictures when we get there :-)

So, the first two days: fairly successful in terms of driving. Today, not so much. Since things had gone well we decided to stick with the plan of the Blue Ridge Parkway. First problem - I-40 near the North Carolina border was down to 45 mph (fairly curvy road - it was in a national park, so makes sense). But we stuck with it and took it over to the parkway. Now, the speed limit on the parkway is 45 mph the whole way, which we hadn't realized. Also, the drive is kinda scary if you go 45 mph - there are tight turns, especially with changing altitude (think roller coaster!) Finally, for some reason they let bikers go on the road (it's one lane both directions with absolutely no shoulder, and usually the trees are very close to the road). Now I'm sure it's an awesome (but tough!) ride with the scenery, but this is seriously dangerous because you have to either slow to a low speed to stay behind them or try to pass them quickly, which is scary because the road is fairly narrow and on a lot of the turns you're lucky if you can see a second in front of you. So that was scary.

Having said that, the view was absolutely gorgeous - we switched off drivers so we could both see the scenery. There are lots of overlooks where you can stop and take pictures, which I did :-)

So originally in my mind we were going to take the Blue Ridge Parkway the whole way to Roanoke, then spend the night in Charlottesville (another 120 miles). This was right out, because the 45 mph speed limit meant we would get there at like, oh, 3 am or something. (don't forget, we changed timezones which cost an hour as well) So we took the first "exit" off of the parkway (which were few and far between - I was a bit worried about running out of gas!) and decided to take some roads to get back to I-81. Apparently "state road" in North Carolina means "nice mountainous road where speed limits are 35 mph for long stretches of time", so this took for freakin' ever. Finally we were going to stop before Roanoke in Wytheville, but the hotels I called were all full up, so we bit the bullet and drove to Roanoke, where we are now. Yesterday we averaged 58 mph for the day, including stops (500 miles in 8.5 hours) - today it was 45 mph (500 miles in 11 hours) which makes a huuuge difference.

Luckily tomorrow's drive will only be around 300 miles so we don't have to get up early or anything.

Last night we watched The Break-Up while in the whirlpool. The movie ordering system was weird - you had to tune the TV to channel 2, then pick up the phone and press the "movie" button (which was on a box also tapped in to the phone line), then use the remote to select the movie, then swipe a credit card through the box to pay for it. Seems unnecessarily complicated...

Random bits:
- This morning right before we checked out, a guy in the hall said "so, you're from Texas" (I was wearing my Texas ARML shirt). I said yeah and he asked where my Kinky for Governor bumper sticker was. I was surprised to hear this in Tennessee :-)
- At lunch today (Subway for the third lunch in a row!) the girl making my sandwich said I looked like George from Grey's Anatomy (which I haven't seen). After looking at the picture, I guess I can see a resemblance...

Columbia tomorrow!


Tennessee, our Tennessee
Mood: sick--
Location: Cookesville, TN
Posted on 2006-08-25 19:34:00
Tags: moving travel
Words: 277

Howdy! We've stopped for the night in Cookesville, TN. Had a good trip today - went just under 500 miles, so we're doing well enough. The only traffic we hit was in Nashville which probably cost us 20 minutes or so...

In terms of sickness, I'm probably a little better than yesterday, but I feel kinda feverish right now. Hopefully a stint in the whirlpool will at least clear up my sinuses. Speaking of which, do most hotels have rooms with whirlpools/jacuzzis nowadays? Because most of the ones here do, like the ones in Hot Springs. Maybe we've just never looked for that before, but we're totally doing so in the future :-)

Cookesville is a weird place - we've only seen the part right near I-40, but there are tooooons of hotels and restaurants (Jack in the Box, Wendy's, Chili's, IHOP, Ryan's, Steak and Shake, Starbucks, Subway, Outback are all within 3 blocks...and there are more I'm forgetting) right near our hotel. It seems like there may be a college right around here, based on the age of people at Wal-Mart and the conversation I overheard at IHOP, which might explain some of this...

One of the upcoming Alamo Drafthouse events we saw at "Snakes on a Plane" was the showing Chuck Norris movies with Chuck Norris himself in person, which looks awesome. I'm really gonna miss the Drafthouse.

Tomorrow is more driving, probably around the same amount (so our Sunday drive will be easy, especially since we have to get to Columbia by 5 PM), but we're gonna take the Blue Ridge Parkway for a while tomorrow which is supposed to be very scenic. I'm excited about that :-)


Go earlier/later

This backup was done by LJBackup.