Ridiculous Account Requirements on SprintPCS.com

Posted in General, Technical on March 5th, 2008 by p14nd4

This is a break from my regular vein of [not] posting, but I’m livid enough that I need to write this. I’ve had SprintPCS cell phone service since 2003, and have been generally pleased with the service. It’s all subjective, of course, but I haven’t had real issues with dropped calls, and their data services (1xrtt, evdo) have been quite good to me. I log in to their web site regularly to check my account, pay bills etc, and it’s worked perfectly for the past several years. Apparently that was unsatisfactory for Sprint.

Read more »

Affiliate Summit West 2008 (part 1)

Posted in General, TechwareLabs, Travel on March 4th, 2008 by p14nd4

I got back less than 24 hours ago from the 2008 Affiliate Summit (West) in Las Vegas, NV, which I attended for the company I co-founded in 2001, TechwareLabs.com. Aside from being very tired every night after much more walking and standing than I’m used to, I was very pleased with the conference overall, and am optimistic about the upcoming months for my site. (I also happen to be pretty exhausted today, since my flight landed around 0030, which meant I got baggage around 0100, got home around 0140, got to bed around 0230, and then got up for my real job around 0730, since I decided to ‘sleep in’ an extra hour … but I want to try to get this down on paper the Internet while it’s still kind of fresh in my mind.)

Read more »

Fall 2006 Update

Posted in General on January 25th, 2007 by p14nd4

Introduction

Yes, I realize that’s pretty much the most creative title ever to grace the internet. I’ll give you a minute to let it sink in.

Anyway … a fair amount of substantial, major life change sort of things have happened since my last post, so it’s probably kind of important for me to update this (well, as important as writing on this blog can be). As you probably know, I completed my BS in Computer Science in June, which made it fairly clear what I had to do for the rest of the summer: waste time by playing through Quake 2 again, eat frozen pizza, sleep until 3 PM every day, and then at the last minute get a job and find an apartment. If you’d like the executive summary: mission accomplished. Feel free to stop reading now.

Still here? Fiiiiine. I guess I can keep writing.

July

My first week of July is covered in fairly excruciating detail in the previous post, so I’ll summarize by saying that I went out to Wisconsin to visit Keefe and see Summerfest. I actually had one or two phone interviews while I was out there, too, so it wasn’t entirely unproductive (despite my best efforts). Unfortunately I wasn’t clever enough to try to schedule an in-person interview with the company from Madison that was courting me at the time; oh well. I had another phone interview with that Wisconsin company the week after returning from Wisconsin, which went well. I was speaking with one of the other software engineers there (similar position to that for which I was applying), who asked me A. what my favorite language was, and B. what my favorite type/aspect of programming was (C/networking/sockets/etc), and he randomly happened to have the same favorites/interests, which I felt was a lucky coincidence and connection. For better of for worse, that became kind of a moot point late the following week.

On Tuesday, July 18, at 15:18 CDT, I received a call from the Minnesota director of software engineering at Electronics for Imaging (EFI) informing me that he had been authorized to extend a job offer to me. We discussed some of the terms/benefits of the offer over the phone, but had the formal offer package FedEx’d to me overnight. The biggest caveat was that if I wanted to accept the job, my response (signed acceptance letter) needed to be faxed to their HR department by COB Monday. It doesn’t seem like about six full days should be a huge deal to make this decision, but I was still in the interview phase with at least three other companies at that point … AND I was leaving around 0600 that Friday for the BWCA, not to return until late Monday. That meant that I actually had to complete everything before I went to bed Thursday night … one day after actually receiving the offer package, employment contract, etc.

Within about 20 minutes of hanging up the phone about my job offer, though, I was already apartment hunting. I knew there was about a 90% chance I would be accepting the offer, which meant I would be able to afford an apartment after all. I probably looked at dozens of apartments online (HousingMaps.com is a very cool site) that evening, and scheduled three apartment showings over the next two days. Only shortly before this, I had learned that my friend Matt, whom I had met in Physics 1302 in the fall of 2004, was interested in rooming with me for the upcoming year. While this obviously meant my search should be restricted to two-bedroom apartments, it had the added side-effect of requiring me to extensively photograph any place I toured, in order to be able to get some degree of approval from Matt, who was gallivanting around Asia and the middle-east for the summer. Other considerations included: proximity to light rail (my transportation method to my potential job), proximity to campus (Matt is still attending), cost, and perhaps most importantly, ability to move in ASAP. The job would start on Monday, July 31, and I needed to be out of my current apartment by Monday, July 31 at 8 PM, and I took my first tour on July 18, so … you get the idea. Expeditiousness ftw.

I picked up a few housing applications on the tours I took, and then had to head to my parents’ house Thursday evening, since we would be leaving for the Boundary Waters very early Friday morning. I packed my small bag of gear for my four days in the wilderness in approximately 8 minutes, which probably wasn’t the best idea considering the degree of isolation, but whatever. (It turned out that the only thing I was really lacking was a long-sleeve shirt to wear around dusk (mosquitoes suck), but I survived.) I spent much of the rest of that evening pouring over pages and pages of the employment contract I was given, and then finally around 3 AM (I think?) signed and faxed my job offer acceptance and my housing application to the apartment I had decided was the best option. I understandably slept a fair amount on the ride up, but we arrived, got canoes, and hit the water. Friday was the only day I recall being able to even faintly smell smoke from the sizable forest fire going on at the time, but it really wasn’t bad at all. We were supposed to have a ~10-rod portage followed by a little canoing and then a ~40-rod portage, but it turned out that someone had decided that canoing was stupid, so the poor excuse for a trail on the 10-rod portage just bypassed the small lake and connected directly to the 40-rod portage … probably making something like a 100-rod portage (and very hilly). The campsites on the next lake weren’t spectacular, but we finally put in on the second or third one we passed, and set up our three tents in very close proximity to one another (due to space constraints). Dinner was brats and beans (over the stove of course … they’re not too keen on campfires when there’s a forest fire already going), though unfortunately we didn’t get everything finished before sunset, and the bugs got pretty bad.

Saturday was good. Canoed, portaged, had lunch (summer sausage, cheese, pitas), canoed, portaged. Our final portage of the day was quite long, and I was sweating considerably by the end, so I went for a quick swim, which was very refreshing. We made camp (and even had a sandy beach … a rarity up there), had chili, and slept. Sadly, Sunday was not nearly as sunny as self-described. It rained nearly all day, and we had a lot of portaging, including some very poor conditions. We went through a chain of lakes and portages that didn’t really connect to anything and had only one path through, so it would seem they were infrequently utilized (which leads to poor trail/entry/exit conditions). The added bonus was the low water level, making a few entries/exits particularly troublesome. At one point I was up to my thighs in swamp/mud (with a huge pack on, obviously), and I guess my uncle had the same pleasure at another location that same day. We didn’t take a lunch break that day either, so the jambalaya we had for dinner tasted pretty fantastic.

Monday was sunny and calm when we woke up, and had clouded over for a while during breakfast and such, but got sunny (and windy, unfortunately) by the time we hit the water. We didn’t have any portaging that day, but were on a pretty large lake (Homer), so were on the water for a while. I got slightly sun burned that day, but it wasn’t too bad. On the drive back, we passed through some severe weather, but the canoe stayed strapped onto the car :). I took a shower moments after getting home, and probably made a point of eating something delicious, and not prepared over a small camp stove (though I don’t recall specifically what it was).

I toured another couple apartments the next day. One of them looked great on paper, but wasn’t going to work out, and the other had a very friendly building manager, good value, good space, and good convenience for me, but not great convenience for Matt, and the biggest problem was that I couldn’t move in until September (if I wanted a 2-bedroom unit). I signed a lease on Wednesday, July 26 at the place for which I had faxed in the application before leaving for the BWCA, and started to move things in that evening. I had another couple phone interviews with other places that week (despite having signed a job offer acceptance letter), and continued to make about one car trip a day with friends to my new apartment to move things in. I was out of my old apartment by Sunday night, and started work Monday morning, July 31.

August

August was my first full month in my new apartment, and I spent most of it sleeping on a pad on the floor, as I did not own a bed. While my back may have been a little stiff in the mornings after waking up, it really wasn’t as awful as it sounds. Waking up at 0630 M-F for work, on the other hand, was a bigger issue for me. Remember, I was waking up around 3 PM most of the summer, so this is nearly half a day earlier. Anyway, my first week of work was … interesting. I spent a lot of time reading documentation, and generally just trying to figure out wtf was going on, and what I would be working on. Occasionally I could contribute in the capacity of general technical knowledge, such as re-ghosting machines, or reinstalling Windows, etc. to make a few new base ghost images, but I didn’t get much opportunity to touch any code. At the end of that week, I went up north to Upper Gull Lake near Nisswa, MN, USA to the cabin of my friend Nick Jacobs[‘s parents], with whom I attended Kindergarten through High School. Nick, his girlfriend Courtney, his parents (including Jeff Jacobs, the mayor of Saint Louis Park), his two younger siblings, and Adrianne. It was nice to relax, swim a little, hang out, get some sun, etc. I don’t really remember anything else that happened in August, other than getting paid, and probably buying some furnishings from Ikea. After getting my first paycheck (er, direct deposit), I immediately went to Banana Republic to start my ridiculous spending habits.

September

I bought a bike from the Minneapolis police bike auction. It was more expensive than my bike that was stolen, but as Patrice (a former Trek Bike store employee) immediately pointed out [something along the lines of] well duh, it is a Trek. I did my best to get my money’s worth out of it yet that summer by riding to and from work (here is the route I take), which is over 11 miles each way. Fortunately, there’s a shower and [small] locker room at work, so I was able to just wake up, pack a bag, bike in, and shower and change clothes there, so I wasn’t sweaty and smelly all day. I loved the exercise, and also just generally like biking, so I think it was money well spent. I continued to get paid, and spend lots of money on my credit card at Ikea, H&M, and Banana Republic (and probably other places).

 

I’d say that pretty much wraps up my Fall 2006 update, considering I started writing this when it still was fall. Ooops. I have another couple updates in line (in my head), so there might be a little more activity in the upcoming month, too. I’m sure you’re all just dying with anticipation. Please … do hold your breath. (Let me know how that works out.)

Wisconsin 2006

Posted in General, Music on July 10th, 2006 by p14nd4

Summerfest

Depending on how long you’ve known me (or whether or not you know me at all, I suppose), you may recall that I have a tradition of heading out to Wisconsin every summer, around the 4th of July, to visit a friend and business partner (Keefe) and see some concerts at Summerfest. I believe this was my fifth summer to head out there, and I hope to go back again next year. I left Minneapolis with a friend from school (Matt) around 4 PM on Friday, June 30 after having to get up at 0630 to make it out to Eagan for an 0830, 2.5-hour series of interviews with four different people, and we were lucky enough to hit absolutely awful traffic between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. When all was said and done, I think we made it past Saint Paul about 90 minutes after leaving Minneapolis … a trip that should take only about 15-20. Despite that somewhat sub-optimal start, we made pretty good time the rest of the way, and I think we made it to Milwaukee around 2230 (10:30 PM, for those of you unfamiliar with 24-hour time formats).

Although a few good bands were playing Summerfest that evening, the headliners usually start at 2200, so Keefe and I decided that less than an hour of a concert probably wasn’t worth $15 each, and walked around an office building in downtown Milwaukee for a while instead. The Wells Building, as I believe it was called, used to house the Techware Labs server, so Keefe had a key for after-hours entry. Among other things, we were able to get out onto the roof, which presented a good opportunity to take a few pictures, only a couple of which turned out well. (Sadly, I didn’t make any other good use of my camera during the trip, though maybe I’ll grab a few other pictures that Keefe took and put ‘em up later.) I generally enjoy going onto roofs of tall buildings, so that was a pretty decent way to pass the time for free, in lieu of half of a $15 concert. Later, Keefe’s girlfriend (Jenny) ended up calling from Summerfest for us to pick her up, which is no small feat, to navigate dozens of half-blocked one-way roads with thousands of people roaming around to find their cars. Among other things, we passed the same intersection no fewer than four times, and unnecessarily (unintentionally) drove ourselves to the back of a huge line of cars trying to exit a major parking lot. We never did end up finding Jenny near Summerfest, and instead ended up picking her up from a bar about 15 minutes away from downtown Milwaukee. It was somewhat unclear how she got there.

I don’t really remember everything I did for the rest of the week (until leaving the evening of Sunday, July 09), nor do I believe it would necessarily interest anyone to read it (much less me to write it), so I’ll just try to cover a few highlights.

  • The Sunday before the 4th, Keefe and I headed over to John Chaillet‘s house for a huge barbecue/grill/cookout extravaganza. I guess that many hours were spent preparing food before the hours of cooking could even commence, including making a few dozen hamburger patties with onions and peppers mixed into the meat. Needless to say, it was quite delicious. It was also cool to meet havoc (John) and chillywilly of irc.havoc.org #havoc in person, with whom I’ve been conversing on the internet for nearly half a decade. I played volleyball there, too, probably for the first time since 10th grade gym class. I dominated everyone :P.
  • Monday, Keefe and I went to a client’s business to install a wireless internet subscriber module and wire it up to their network. This was a somewhat daunting task, as the antenna needed to be on top of the 2-story office building (with only ladder access to the roof), then have the cabling run to two wiring closets on the two floors, and then to nearly the opposite end of the building to reach the client’s router. It took several hours, involved a lot of time on ladders and awkward places in ceilings, etc, but we got the job done, and now Keefe gets to make some more money. I’m still unemployed :P.
  • On Tuesday, I spent the day with Adrianne (my girlfriend) at Summerfest, and saw Punchline, Lucky Boys Confusion, and Bowling for Soup. Despite the fact that the bands weren’t necessarily a perfect match for my main musical tastes, the shows were very fun, the bands had good stage presence and high energy, and that was reflected by the atmosphere in the audience. It was also really nice to get to see Adrianne for the first time in a week, though it’s been almost another week again, which may not sound bad, but it feels like a long time (I guess that’s a good thing, hey?). We later met up with Matt at a coffee shop, and again the next day for lunch at the SafeHouse, which was a decently cool experience in and of itself.
  • I had a job interview with Google (over the phone) on Thursday afternoon. It was somewhat brief, but they had already emailed me and I completed ~4 pages of problems/programs/etc. they had sent me the preceding week. The position is located in Mountain View, CA at their headquarters, so if they offered that to me and I took it, that would mean moving out to California.
  • Keefe, Jenny and I went down to Summerfest on Friday and saw about half a dozen songs from Yellowcard, a little Cheap Trick, Train and Big Wu, and maybe another half dozen songs from Styx.
  • We went to Jenny’s birthday party on Saturday, and then Keefe and I departed for Summerfest, only for his alternator (presumably) to fail along the way. We barely made it off the freeway, and with a little help of my pushing, we got Keefe’s truck onto a side street. After about a $150 tow back to Hartford, and much disappointment about not getting to see Panic! At the Disco (and my added disappointment for missing my friend Brian (of Savin Hill fame) and 30 Seconds to Mars), we headed to a local bar. Having turned 21 only the month before, this was my first time in a bar, and the Mike’s Ice Hard Lemonade I consumed was only the third alcoholic beverage of my life. I’m not an individual of particularly large build, and have no prior tolerance built, so the single bottle containing ~5.2% alcohol did affect me somewhat, but having no desire to actually get drunk, insistently refused Keefe’s attempts to buy me more drinks. Sorry Keefe, you don’t get any embarrassing stories to tell about me doing stupid drunk stuff. (No one shall have such an opportunity so far as I’m concerned.)
  • I headed back home with Matt on Sunday evening. Aside from the massive storms around Milwaukee around the time of departure (of which I saw only a few minutes of a torrential downpour and a few pieces of hail slightly larger than peas), the trip went quite smoothly, and I think we got back to Minneapolis in about five hours (not counting the one stop we made).

Music

Among other things, one aspect of this yearly trip I make that sticks in my mind is the music I hear while out there. I don’t necessarily even mean the concerts I hear at Summerfest (although yes, those are typically very good), but rather just the music I hear on the radio while riding around rural Wisconsin. While this experience probably doesn’t translate well for others, I almost never listen to the radio throughout the rest of the year, so when I’m out in Wisconsin with Keefe for a week, and we do a fair amount of driving, I’m exposed to exponentially more radio than I am otherwise. Over the course of the week, there are, of course, various songs that receive a considerable amount of air-time, consequently impressing themselves in my memory in association with that week. While some years/songs leave a stronger impression than others, I figured that since I went to the effort of making a Music category for my posts, I might as well include some mention of some of these songs. If you’re not a radio-hermit like myself, have some other decent exposure to new music, or have convinced yourself that you’re too cool to like popular music, then the following brief list will be of no interest to you. It will basically just be a snapshot of some songs off the top-40 list for July 2006, but it might be fun [for myself?] to look back at this in a few years to remember what was happenin’ back then … er … now.

So, without further adieu, the list of songs (in no particular order) that I will henceforth associate with my trip to Wisconsin, 2006:

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dani California. I actually started listening to this a few weeks before heading out there, having already picked up the album at Keefe’s recommendation, but I enjoy the song, and it got its share of radio play. There are some sections of the song reminiscent of Tom Petty – Mary Jane’s Last Dance, which I also like.
  • Angels And Airwaves – The Adventure. Apparently this band features the vocalist from Blink 182 (easily identifiable, to me, anyhow). It’s not the highest on my list of songs, but it’s worth remembering anyway.
  • Raconteurs – Steady, As She Goes. I’ll admit this song is fairly repetitive, but that probably makes it all the more catchy (kind of like another song we know). I may have heard it once prior to the trip, but I probably heard it at least half a dozen times over the course of the week, and it stuck.
  • Fall Out Boy – Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down. This song will mainly stick in my head as a result of Keefe’s repeated attempts to sing the song as performed by someone with a severe speech impediment. Apparently there’s some parody on the internet to that effect, which I haven’t seen, but shall forever remember regardless. Thanks.
  • Gnarls Barkley – Crazy. No, this isn’t like Britney Spears – Crazy (though I haven’t seen the video for this one yet, so you never know…). It has a little bit of an oldies feel to the vocal style, which I think maybe gives this song a unique appeal to a wider age range than most of these other songs. Also, with the name Gnarls, how can you go wrong?
  • Panic! At The Disco – I Write Sins Not Tragedies. I’d never even heard of this band, much less this song, prior to heading out to WI, but I liked it enough to want to see them in concert by Friday. I’m particularly conflicted about liking this, though, as they’re listed under the emo genre, which I tend to despise on principle. Also, the radio edit of the song censors god out of the refrain’s phrase shutting the god damn door, which is where I originally heard the song. I actually kind of like the sense of syncopation / off-beat emphasis the gap in the lyrics provides, but will manage somehow with the studio/uncensored version. This will probably stick in my memory more than the rest.
  • She Wants Revenge – These Things. The vocals in this song remind me somewhat of Depeche Mode, but to be honest, this song will just stick in my head because I heard the line from the song She’s in the bathroom; she pleasures herself. What more can I say?
  • All American Rejects – Move Along
  • Top 32 Songs @ 102.1 FM Milwaukee – July 2006 »

Some Updates

Posted in General on June 17th, 2006 by p14nd4

Updates

If you’re really masochistic and check my blog every few days hoping for an update, you may have already noticed a few subtle changes to the right navigation bar on here. I hope that’s not the case, though, so I get to entertain you with a brief walk-through of these changes, and how they relate to my recent life.

The first, and most obvious change, is the addition of a little blurb about myself near the top right. Although I still did kind of like the setup over at p14nd4.blogspot.com a bit better, there isn’t a good interface in WordPress (the software that powers my blog) to show this information, so it’s just kind of hacked in there at the moment. I think I’ve heard of a plugin to do something similar, but again, sort of a hack anyway. Most of you probably already know the info I took about a minute to put up there, but I might be getting a few otherwise unfamiliar visitors in here soon (more on that later, if I have time), so I thought it might be nice. Yes? No? Feel free to comment.

Moving down the list, there’s a new section heading … Pages, which contains a new … er … page, Projects. As the page itself also explains, I wanted somewhere to put some of the things I’ve worked on over the past year (at least, I think that’s as far back as any of the projects go so far). I hope to expand this a bit at some point to possibly include some other projects that, while less interesting for the general reader, could be immensely helpful to a few select googlers in the future. Admittedly, this section is virtually useless right now to anyone who isn’t at least slightly interested in computer science / programming. Sorry.

Continuing on, I’ve added one more link to My Stuff: TheLittleMan.net. A very select few of you may remember back to late 1999 when Chris Bates registered this domain for his freelance web design service, which I joined for a period as well. More importantly, though, this was the home of what immediately became my primary email address, so when Chris dropped his web design service and didn’t care to keep the domain name, I quickly offered to pick it up. Since about 2003(?), I’ve owned the domain for the sole purpose of keeping my email address, which I host on my own server, but had no web page there. I finally decided to change that late one night this spring, by making it a nice-looking portal of sorts, and a good place to hold my résumé. In addition to a .doc and .pdf copy of the résumé, I coded up an xhtml+css version, was actually pretty fun to make, too. I doubt many of you are as into xhtml/css/standards as I am, but I’m pretty proud of the results of both of these pages. Particularly with the résumé, I organized pretty much everything just as unordered lists (<ul>), and did fun formatting with css — this is my understanding of how xhtml and css are supposed to be used … organize content using the semantic meaning of various elements/hierarchy, and do all display/rendering configuration only through css. P.S. using a <ul> for an inline, comma-separated list is awesome :). (And yes, I know I’m a dork.)

Last on the list (literally and figuratively) is a new option to choose between different site themes. To be honest, I mainly added this because the syntax highlighting on some terms in the projects section isn’t optimized for a black background. The Classic theme seems to be the best for reading the code, but you’re now welcome to use whatever theme you’d like — for the entire site. (It remembers your setting in a cookie.)

My Life

As you should know by now (having read my info at the top right), I have graduated. <Monty Python>yay…</Monty Python> I ended up really surprising myself by having the best grades of all of college during my last, and most intensive semester (I’m rather proud of myself … please excuse me while I commence a little bragging). I was taking 20 credits (6 classes) of all upper division computer science (well, and inet, which is part of the computer science and engineering associate program), including a graduate-level course in Data Mining (csci5523 … the co-professors of which also happened to be co-authors of the textbook) and three different internet / networking / programming courses, and I pulled off a 3.75, which put me on the Dean’s List =D. (I also took engc3029w during May term … a three week, three-credit course that met four days a week for about four hours … and got a very solid A in there.) It was a good way to go out.

Since then (well, and somewhat before that), it has been my sole purpose in life to find a real job. Of all the programming I’ve done, I think I’ve decided that I like network/socket/client-server programming best, and my language of choice is C. If I were to use those two criteria to limit my job search, though, my options would be pretty severely limited, but a man can dream… I’ve probably sent out nearly a dozen résumés and cover letters so far, including my Opera application (eeeee!), and while I’d love to take a break and just wait for a dozen high-paying job offers to come rolling in, I’m not sure that’s the most appropriate course of action. (My lack of income is starting to hurt, as my [newish] bike was recently stolen, my desktop computer died and needs some replacement parts, I had a dentist appointment without dental insurance, and I still have to pay rent through the rest of my lease (July 31) … not to mention a new apartment after this lease expires.) Regardless, I’m confident that something will pan out … even if it means taking some underpaid support position for which I’m well qualified, but doesn’t utilize my expensive education. Bottom line, though, I can’t move back to my parents’ house once my lease is up … so it’s anything vs. joining the ranks of the homeless =P.

Anyway, that about wraps up what’s been going on with my blog and the last month or two of my life, and I have to shower and be ready to go about five minutes ago, so for all of you anxious blog-checking fans out there … until next time, enjoy.

‘Free’ University Services

Posted in General on February 20th, 2006 by p14nd4

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!

Ok. Breathe. I’m cool now. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this post is basically going to be a rant about all the wonderful free services my university (and presumably many other universities … I can’t confirm that) is proud to offer its students. The most recent of these gracious gifts bestowed upon the student body by the ever-wise governing bodies was a school-wide subscription (partnership) with Ruckus (press release), a legal/licensed p2p download program. Normally this appears to cost $5.99 (USD) per month for an individual subscription to the service (a decent portion of which theoretically pays for the licensing agreements of the intellectual property (music, movies, etc.) available on the network for the given month), so using the press release’s figure, the starting bid for this service would be $305,490 per month, or $2,749,410 per academic year (9 months?). While I don’t doubt that a lower rate is offered to universities, since obviously not every student will use the service, I have no difficulty believing that the powers that be were willing to spend $2 million per year of my money for this. Mind you, this partnership comes alongside an announcement from the university’s Office of IT (OIT) that during the past year illegal music downloads appeared to decline at the University for the first time (Office of the General Counsel – Annual Report 2005 (pdf)). Would someone care to explain the logic behind spending two million dollars on a service that statistics indicate is of declining necessity?

The obvious counter-argument against this specific instance is: But p14nd4, you argue that it’s costing two million dollars, but that’s split up between 51,000 students! It only really costs you $39! Ignoring the larger picture for a moment, while perhaps this single instance is true, that’s still $39 that I would not have otherwise spent on Ruckus, and would very much enjoyed spending on four trips to Perkins, or nine orders of pizza, or 218 cans of Mountain Dew, or a birthday present for someone. I pay the university for an education, not for a download service. While the university may have saved a few dollars off the subscription fees that a handful of students would have paid on their own, it is not their place to do so, and simultaneously force the rest of us into paying for a service we don’t desire.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end with this $39 loss. You have no idea how glad I would be, if $39 was all I lost to paying for ridiculous services through the university. My previous favorite instance of this was the university’s announcement that it has reached an arrangement with Microsoft to offer Windows XP Professional (Upgrade) and Microsoft Office 2003 Professional for free to all students. That’s 51,000 Windows licenses, and 51,000 Office 2003 Professional licenses… Again, I don’t have specifics on how much money the university gave Microsoft for this free service,, but Windows XP Professional OEM sells for $139.95 on Newegg.com, and Office 2k3 Pro runs at $314.95. I’m sure the University paid less than these figures, but since they’re all we have for estimates, that figure (a ceiling, if you will) would run $7,137,450 for Windows, and $16,062,450, for a total of $23,199,900 spent by the university in order to offer this free service.

Anyway, I’m cutting this post short, in favor of getting some work done. If I get ambitious (annoyed) again, I hope to complete this post with some addition related areas I feel deserve some mention. These other topics I hope to cover in a later edit include:

  1. Run-away / use-it-or-lose-it budgets
  2. Get an auditor, dammit!
  3. Eliminate half of the student employment positions
  4. Bottom line: spend on my education (not elite research facilities, not stadiums, not $400 office chairs, not thousands of dollars towards rebranding a building)

Back again . . . (for the moment, anyhow)

Posted in General on December 16th, 2005 by p14nd4

Yes, yes, I know I haven’t posted in quite a long time. I’ve been busy (well, on and off) since my last post, with work, moving, work, getting started in all my classes, doing all the work in my classes, and preparing for finals in my classes (in approximately that order). I ended up taking:

Overall, the schedule was pretty nice (first class was 6:30 PM Monday, 11:15 AM Tuesday and Thursday, 4:40 PM Wednesday, and 12:20 PM Friday), but when everything lined up, the three csci’s were hell. There were definitely weeks during which I only got to sleep about three times… :-/ But I have survived. That said, I have an algorithms final at 8 AM on Monday, operating systems final at 6:30 PM Monday, and program design final at 4 PM Tuesday. Needless to say, I’m not particularly excited about any of them, but I’m probably the best prepared for operating systems (OS), and least prepared for algorithms.

Despite being somewhat confident about OS, I still ended up getting rather screwed over by my lab partner (who I had never met prior to randomly selecting him as a partner for this class), to the degree of directly losing at least 8% of my final grade because of him (and I directly gave him at least 12% of his final grade), so I’m going into the final (worth 30%) with a very low B. I don’t really have anyone to blame but myself in algorithms, for doing rather poorly on the only midterm and a few homework assignments, which also puts me at a low B going into the final (worth 35%). Lastly, I’m doing the best in program design, with much thanks due to my lab partner. The last project and paper were worth 20% combined, and those aren’t graded yet, but I’m guessing I’ll be going into the final with a high B or low A. My nutrition course was an online course consisting of weekly papers and online quizzes, which I elected to take pass/fail (at least, I certainly hope so); I have about 77% going into the final, which is worth 25%. I think I only need to get about 50% on the final to pass, so that’s not weighing too heavily on my mind (now watch me fail :-( . . . ).

Among other things, I also have a new photo Gallery set up, which is part of my entirely new really awesome server (hosted by xlhost), which I have lovingly named ‘vaughn’ as part of my new computer naming scheme of Alias characters (firewall arvin, laptop dixon, server vaughn . . . more to come). Just tonight, actually, I finally got around to migrating my blog over to the new server, but I have to figure out how to get my old gallery URLs to work with Gallery2, so that everything out the on the internet linking to /gallery/ doesn’t break now that things are in /gallery2/. There’s hypothetically a way to make that work using mod_rewrite, but it didn’t work the first time I tried it, so I’ll have to sit down some time and get that figured out, so I can finally move the www.p14nd4.com address over to the new server (rather than just vaughn.p14nd4.com).

Speaking of new computer things (read: `While I’m on a particularly nerdy rant…’), I also got a new laptop. It’s a factory refurbished IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad T41 2373-5U2 (specs) (photos). To make a long story short, I had to give my old tiny Fujitsu Lifebook P-1035 back to my employer, which put me on a frantic ~month-long search for a nice, but relatively inexpensive laptop. I’ve been in love with the T-series of IBM ThinkPads for quite a while, so when I finally found this for $820 on eBay, I was thrilled. Having a fast, nice laptop with an incredible 1400×1050 14.1" LCD is really an unbelievable experience, coming from over two and a half years on the tiny, slow (though admittedly free) Lifebook. It has also been a pleasure to dual boot Ubuntu Linux (my first genuine prolonged experience with Linux as a desktop environment, as compared to the past few years of just using it as a server) and Windows XP Professional with 100% legitimate software (so far, at least). Additionally, since my laptop is no longer owned by alwaysBEthere, I’ve moved from using the screen name aBtL David to omega drh2 while on the laptop (so feel free to watch for me there). A few minor frustrations have come with the laptop, though:

  • Money — or more accurately, the lack thereof, after spending nearly a grand on this small piece of plastic and silicon
  • WiFi — it came with integrated WiFi (from the Centrino chipset, ipw2100), which:
    1. Disconnected every 5-45 seconds from a friend’s AP if I was using a lot of bandwidth
    2. Won’t connect to my 3com OfficeConnect Wireless 11g AP (3CRWE454G72), though it seems like this may be yet another problem with this AP
  • LCD:
    1. As you can see in the last few photos, there’s some weird aura/halo sort of persistent image visible around the edge of the LCD, but only from an angle to the right.
    2. I have difficulty reproducing this, but I’ve also observed occasional image persistence issues, where an image will still be visible briefly after it has disappeared (for instance, the IBM logo on boot-up, or a menu after it disappears).
    3. Lastly, the image will occasionally flicker (cut out) while adjusting the screen angle (closing or opening it more).

    I think I’ve seen a post about the second problem before, but I’ve been unable to track down any information about these issues during my ~15 minutes of googling. If you can come up with any information about any of these things, I’d be greatly appreciative.

 

Now that it’s 7:16 AM, I’m going to try to cram my remaining thoughts into a paragraph or so, rather than dragging this out for another page. As many of you are aware, we recently got about 10" of snow, and I’m rather confident it’s here to stay this time. I love the snow (mostly), and recently remembered that I’m a downhill skier, so I should really try to get out soon. Though, unfortunately skiing may rank below finals, as well as Christmas shopping. I still have to find gifts for my father, brother, and girlfriend (Adrianne) (since she didn’t seem as excited as I thought she’d be at the prospect of a heated bra; damn). In addition to having moved to my $70/month server (up from $0) having purchased the $820 laptop, and paying for school, housing, and food, my funds are particularly low because I’ve been putting in roughly 0 hours at alwaysBEthere. I’ve been toying with the idea of looking for a job on campus, but a combination of factors (leading the pack is ‘laziness’) has prevented me from landing a position just yet. When I’m not working on things for school, I’ve kept my spare time occupied with Adrianne or one of my many TV shows:

  • X-Files — finished all 9 seasons and the movie
  • Arrested Development — Got hooked compliments of Sweeney, and have watched the first two seasons, and the third as it airs
  • Firefly — Another show compliments of Sweeney, though admittedly only 15ish episodes and a movie
  • Battlestar Galactica — Yet another Sweeney drop-off, I’ve now watched the miniseries, first season, and the episodes of season two that have aired so far
  • The Pretender — I watched the first two seasons of this show, and have been on the lookout for seasons three and four
  • Alias — Season five has begun, and I’ve been watching those as they air . . . I hate to say it, but I’m somewhat disappointed by this season
  • Smallville — Season five has begun, and I’ve been watching those too. I’m actually rather pleased with most of this season, though.
  • Scrubs — I re-watched the first four seasons of this show, and anxiously await its return in January
  • Lost — Season two has begun, and I’ve been watching the episodes as they air. This season has not maintained my interest as well as season one, but I’m optimistic.
  • Dark Angel — I just started watching this (two episodes in), and hope to finish its two-season run before Christmas

Lastly, I feel that I should mention that my ex-roommate Brad (2) has finally given in to the pressure/fad/plague of blogging, and started up c0ldfuse.blogspot.com. Read with caution.

 

P.S. Reading is for wimps.

New Blog

Posted in General, Personal on August 1st, 2005 by p14nd4

I have a new blog (old blog was here, btw), now hosted on my own server. I set it up as a "fun project" while I was at work last week. I know it’s been a while since I updated, but as you’re probably aware, I’m fairly lazy, coupled with the fact that I’m also quite busy between getting up for work around 7 AM M-F, biking ~30 minutes downtown since my work moved to the Warehouse District in Downtown Minneapolis.

[Aside] I’m generally displeased with the move for a number of reasons.

  • My commute changed from a bike ride of about seven minutes to about 30 (this is particularly bad when it’s ~90° F outside).
  • I lost my private office, and now am not only out among annoying people, but my back is about 5′ from my boss’s office door.
  • I lost my free underground parking (there’s no parking by the building, actually; several people are probably paying a couple hundred dollars per month to buy a spot … great plan whoever decided to move here).
  • I lost my 24/7 building access. (While this hasn’t been a problem yet, I’ve definitely made midnight stops at the office to fix things multiple times in the past, so thils will suck.)
  • Three people bring their dogs in to work on a regular basis. One of them urinates, poops, vomits, and has diarrhea on the carpet on a regular basis, and no one seems to scold the dog in any way. On the contrary, they just take the dog for a walk after it messes up the carpet. Apparently they didn’t bother to pay attention to basic conditioning techniques in intro psych :'(. It’s incredibly frustrating (and disgusting). P.S. I’m allergic to dogs.
  • The server room at the new office is tiny, has very little power, no ventilation or lighting, and overall sucks compared to its counterpart at the old office.
  • Someone stole my LCD (flat panel) during the move. Now I’m stuck on a crappy CRT (regular monitor) at 1024×768. It hurts my head.
  • I think the closest Chipotle is slightly farther away than the previous location

On the other hand, there have been a few mild benefits.

  • My mid-day commute T-Th to and from class has been cut from ~35 minutes each way to ~15 minutes.
  • My commute from work to Adrianne‘s house is down from ~35 minutes to ~15.

But yeah, overall, not tremendously pleased with the move. [/Aside]

My class ends this coming week, so I have a final on Thursday. Right now I’m on track for a B, with which I would be completely satisfied. For better or for worse, the final is worth 37% of my grade, so if nothing else, there’s some pressure on my performance for it.

Anyway, I really meant to make this a really short entry. And while by my standards this still is unbelievably short, I need to edit and publish a ~6-page article for my web site before I go to bed. I kind of, uh, haven’t started that yet, and wrote this instead of working on that. Getting up at 7 AM sucks, mmkay? Particularly after staying up until ~2 AM on a regular basis. Oh, I get to move into Riverbend (2) in two weeks, which is pretty cool. It’s in the middle of campus, has a kitchen, my own private bedroom, air conditioning, etc. It should be pretty alright.

Bah, I’m getting more distracted. Make sure to check out my photos from my trip to Alaska, if you haven’t done so already. I’ll see y’all later.

I’m Baaaack

Posted in General, Personal on May 20th, 2005 by p14nd4

Well, I’m back for the summer. More specifically, I’m back living at my parents’ house in Saint Louis Park, MN, and I’m back working full time at alwaysBEthere. I can think of two notable changes since last summer, though: I’m not going out with Amanda any more (see the extremely brief explanation here), and I’m taking a summer class. I’ll elaborate on those later.

Move-Out

I moved back this past Saturday, which actually took considerably longer than I anticipated … but I’m glad that I made a trip of stuff home Friday night. After moving my stuff out and getting back to campus, Brad (my roommate) and I had about 20 minutes to de-loft my bed, try to put the screen back in the window, and clean the entire room (including vacuuming, washing the bathroom, walls, desks, etc.). We didn’t quite finish in the allotted 20 minutes, but our RA was flexible with our check-out, so we finished about 30 (more) minutes later, and I think we did a fairly good job (with a few exceptions). We weren’t able to actually get the screen back in the window how it’s supposed to go (believe me, it’s quite difficult … imagine the scene from Apollo 13 when they need to make the square filter fit in the circular hole … that’s how I felt). We ended up taking pretty much the same approach that they did in the movie: duct tape. Yes. We duct taped our screen into the window opening. And, on the subject of duct tape, Brad couldn’t get the duct tape residue off the door from something he had put up, but I’ll just make him pay, if we get charged for something that stupid (it is his fault).

Eh, anyway, after moving my stuff out, and cleaning the room, and helping Brad move a few things, I was ready to head home … though not having a car, I was in the same position as last year, of biking home. While biking from campus to my parents’ house is not entirely undesirable (I’ve done it on several occasions … only around 13 miles ~ 45 minutes), I didn’t even have my bike on campus, and it had been raining off and on all day. Anyway, my bike was at Adrianne’s new house in downtown Minneapolis, so I headed to the bus stop. Conveniently enough, it started pouring rain about a minute after I headed out, but I love the rain, so that wasn’t particularly bad, either. After busing downtown, and walking to Adrianne’s house, I caught her just as she was making a trip from the U-Haul to the house, and consequently ended up getting to A. meet her parents, and B. help move all her stuff from the U-Haul to the house, then from the dorm the U-Haul, and then again from the U-Haul to the house. It was tasty. Oh, and then I didn’t even end up biking home–her parents dropped me and my bike off at my house on their way down to Ikea. I promptly collapsed on my basement couch and proceeded to watch TV for about four hours :-).

Jumping back to the past semester…

So, basically I haven’t written anything on here for a semester. (Sorry. I know you’re all devastated.) I’m quite confident this was my most difficult semester yet. Between one particularly crappy computer science course (Csci2031 – Introduction to Numerical Computing), two crappy computer science professors (<thick Russian accent>Eugene Schragowitz</accent> was one, a senile eastern European man who hasn’t taught the course since about 1970, and was actually an electrical engineering guy, not computer science, and Victoria Interrante, a quiet middle-aged lady who can’t teach this stuff in a classroom, but admittedly made the class markedly easier than it was rumored to have been in past semesters), and the crappiest theater TA in all history (ah, Barrett, what a crazy bastard), it was … bad. Wednesdays became my night of no sleep, due to ~8-hour-long csci2031 assignments (the class was really math, just listed as csci) followed by weekly papers in my introductory theater course. Mind you, none of the other sections had these papers … only Barrett (my section’s TA) felt inclined to assign two papers per week, versus roughly one every four weeks for other sections. Despite my complaints about him, though, I did end up pulling my only A this semester in his class (it was a lot of work, though).

I started my other csci course (csci2021) off with >100%, so I was particularly stoked for that class, but kinda bombed the last coding lab, written assignment, and final, so only ended up with a B. I also feel kind of guilty, because the last stuff in the class is some of the stuff that’s probably most applicable to my future potential career (and is the content I learned the least well).

Film study was a pretty neutral course, as far as my expectations went. Per my general expectation for classes (and more so non-IT courses), I didn’t read the textbook, and pretty easily BSed the ~four papers and tests for an A- in the class. Some of the films we had to watch were annoying and painful (ex: Birth of a Nation), but at least my future film viewing isn’t scarred by my new knowledge, as they insisted it would be (don’t worry: I knew from the start that I would resist).

Spring Break / Breakup

Also, not related to classes, but still sticking with the sub-heading theme of the past semester, is spring break. While stereotypically a time for insane trips to some ocean beach, excessive drinking and partying, I was perfectly content to stay on campus. Amanda (my girlfriend at the time) was just finishing up a week out west skiing when the beginning of spring break swung around (yes, she’d skipped the week before spring break to go skiing), and was planning on stopping back on campus for a couple days, and then we were going to head to her house for the last half of break. She left a day early, which essentially meant that I couldn’t go with her.

While I didn’t say anything at the time (or to anyone since then), I kind of viewed that as the fatal mistake that was a make or break point in the relationship (for a couple reasons). First, I think we’d been growing apart somewhat before then … and had just finished not having seen each other for a week, and it felt kind of like she was saying "eh, I don’t really feel like spending time with you." Secondly, by then staying on campus for the rest of the week, I spent pretty much every day (well, "day" in the loose sense … 7 PM – 7 AM or so was my day) with Adrianne. It’s not like I decided during spring break, "Oh, hey, I’m gonna get with Adrianne," but it would be a stupid lie to claim that I didn’t get closer to her during that time. I think the week solidified what I really already knew … that Amanda and I weren’t the same as we used to be … we didn’t hang out as much, didn’t have much fun together, hardly talked, etc.

I won’t claim that I handled myself as well as I would’ve liked during the week after spring break. The first time I saw Amanda after she got back from break was late Saturday night; I’d been at a party with Adrianne and a bunch of that friend group, with whom I’d also been spending more time, and randomly had been wearing shorts without pockets, so consequently wasn’t carrying my cell phone. (In hindsight, this would’ve looked pretty horrible from Amanda’s perspective … she couldn’t reach me by phone, after calling half a dozen times, and then ran into me partying with another (intoxicated) chick. That part was just a crappy coincidence, though.) Anyway, back to my not handling myself well… It just sounds like I’m making excuses (in my head, that’s how this sounds, anyway), but I feel that I’ve always been pretty bad/uncomfortable/awkward at mixing different parts of my life … knowing how to act when two generally independent parties are present. So, I pretty much said "Hey" to her, and then continued to devote my attention to the group I was with. She later came back and tried to hang out with us (she didn’t know any of the other people) … she didn’t say anything to me … I didn’t say anything to her … it was … awkward.

The rest of the week didn’t go much better, despite my conscious decision to try to forget about everything else, and give us another chance to improve (note that I silently decided this, rather than talking to Amanda about it … gj David). Sunday evening I finally decided that it wasn’t a good choice to string the relationship out any further, so I talked to Amanda, told her how I felt about what’d been happening in our relationship, and said that I didn’t think our relationship was going to work out any more. I’m too professional/calculating with my speech, so it probably came out about the same as it sounds when management tells someone they’re being "let go" instead of fired, my wording was that the relationship isn’t going to work out any more instead of breaking up/dumping. She actually ended up keeping me there while she read a few more pages from some book before responding, which was (again) … awkward … then I left after a while. I felt like crap, and crawled into bed (clothed) and fell asleep for a couple hours, woke up, and posted the news on here … and started talking to Adrianne.

Adrianne

So if you haven’t figured it out by now, this mysterious woman of whom I’ve spoken so much has managed to really captivate me over the past months. Although I met her first semester, through a mutual friend, and she actually stayed at my house for a week during winter break (which did make it into my Blog, if you’ve kept up), we talked and hung out considerably more second semester (particularly, as I mentioned above, during spring break). She’s really amazing in more ways than I could say, but I’ll try anyways. When I first met her, she came off as being a fairly quiet person, but had the most beautiful smile and fun laugh. I tried to make an effort to get her to open up a bit more with fairly limited success, but at least she kept hanging around (though, I’ll never quite be sure if that was for the company or for the big-screen Alias :-)). After I got to know her better, she really opened up, and turned out to be tremendously energetic and talkative. On several occasions we stayed up all night talking about who knows what nonsense, but it was fun. I discovered fairly quickly that Adrianne’s nearly as indecisive as I am, but she pushes me to improve that little by little, which is probably good. When we were at school, at least, we could both generally decide on playing pool late at night easily enough, though. Despite her claims of being horrible, and my rocking, she manages to win enough times to leave me unconvinced. I fear that I’m rambling without focus, though, so I’ll stop that for a while.

Anyway, after hanging out and talking with increasing frequency, it was apparent one night, while we were playing pool (of course), that something was on her mind. After some prodding, she told me that she needed to make a decision by midnight, which was troubling her. She didn’t volunteer any more information about it, so I figured it wasn’t really my place to pry. After she missed her deadline, I suggested that I could try to help her make her decision, which actually turned out to be more than one decision. After some vague discussion, I felt that the situation might have something to do with me, though her unclear description of the quandary and discussion of a second individual confused me considerably (along with the fact that she had some decision to make about me…huh?). By that point, I knew that I had feelings for her, but <gasp> I doubted myself. (Well, I was unsure how she felt about me, which wasn’t helped by the fact that she presumably had to make some decision regarding me. "What kind of big decision does she have to make? Is she deciding whether or not she likes me? Wtf’s up with the second part of the decision? Is she picking between me and someone else? How bizarre…" These were the types of things that went through my head, while she was "deciding.") She finally decided (around 2 AM, I believe, although she wouldn’t announce the decision), and eventually suggested that we go drop the pool equipment off in my room, which we did.

After a brief elevator fiasco (yes, I’m calling it a fiasco), we dropped the stuff off in my room, and were interrupted by my roommate yelling something from his room. She seemed frazzled by his presence, so I suggested we go elsewhere to talk, which ended up being the men’s bathroom down the hall. She dropped a couple hints in the bathroom, but nothing came from that, other than some people throwing things at the window (from outside), prompting us to relocate yet again. I suggested her room (a single), to which she seemed agreeable. After we talked about nothing for a few minutes, I decided to just kiss her, but apparently revealed my musing state through my expression, prompting her question "what’re you thinking about?" After pausing, I decided to simply tell the truth about what I was thinking; she smiled, and we had our first kiss, in the early morning of April 10th (which I’ve unofficially decided to use as an ‘anniversary’ date).

Anyway, school’s out, but that’s ok, because she’s living in a house near downtown Minneapolis for the year. Last summer pretty much sucked a lot, but I think there’s a good chance that Adrianne being here will help make this summer considerably better :-).

This coming summer…

Unfortunately, I can’t just sit around in my boxers all summer (like I have been doing for the past week). I’m starting my fifth summer at alwaysBEthere (holy crap) as an IT generalist. I can never really predict what I’ll be working on there, but there’s a moderate chance it’s setting up various random servers. Most unfortunately, I’m apparently supposed to go back to the absolutely horrible method of time and project reporting, essentially translating to my documenting every single block of time throughout the workday, all of which must be associated with specific email-assigned projects, and must then be approved by the respective project managers at the end of each day, and approved by my boss every two weeks. I also turned down a considerably easier, less stressful, equally or better paying job because an unemployed friend guilted me into letting him have it (though he’s markedly less qualified for the position than I am) :'(. I feel like such a tool.

In addition to working, I’m also taking a summer class at the university (computer science … csci4011) three days a week, during the middle of the workday. To compound matters, I don’t have a car, which means I bus/bike to/from the class and work. Le sigh.

Lastly, I put in the request for time off for the Alaskan cruise I also was guilted into doing (with my family). I have to take off a week and a half from work and class to sit on a boat without internet, friends, girlfriend, and with my family. On top of that, I really want to make my fourth annual trip to Wisconsin to visit my friend and business partner there, and attend some of Summerfest, but that will be yet another ~5 days off work (and a week of class). Needless to say, in a summer of about three months, two and a half weeks is a considerable chunk of time to take off. Ugh.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s a tremendous amount that I’ve forgotten to include, and a tremendous amount that I have included, and shouldn’t have, but I’m going to wrap this up regardless. It’s currently 5:04 AM, Friday morning. I started this around 11:30 PM last night, after showering, and haven’t gotten out of my towel yet. (No, that’s not to say that I wrote for 5.5 hours straight, but I have been working on and off for quite a while.) I’m supposed to be up before noon tomorrow (er, today) to buy some shoes, and hopefully find something fun to do in the evening. I definitely have to go in to work on Monday, so I should wrap my lethargy up this weekend, and maybe even try to get on a slightly better sleep/waking schedule, since my work probably wants me in between 8 AM and 6 PM, not the other way around. Hopefully I’ll have a little time this summer to drop a few updates in here, and hopefully they can get back to the somewhat humorous roots from which they originated.

I’ll leave you with this closing exchange that sums up my feelings about the O.C. quite well, I thought:

<jidai> anyone get the OC season finale?
<Rob> EVERYONE DIES OMG
<p14nd4> thank god

:-(

Posted in General on March 27th, 2005 by p14nd4

I broke up with Amanda…