No alarms and no surprises, please.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday List of Top 5 Things that Suck

New feature. A weekly list of things that I run across that makes me think, "wow, that really sucks". Items listed in reverse order of suckiness.

5) Dancing with the Stars - Sorry Toast. This show is ridiculous. No TV show should be built around Penn (of Penn and Teller) dancing a cha cha. Or Adam Corolla. It's unwatchably stupid. The ballroom chicks are ridiculously hot, too, so I keep trying to watch it but can't

4) The New York Knicks - They've sucked for a long time but now they've entered the the home stretch that emphasizes the lamest part of the NBA - tanking games to climb the in the lottery. The NBA is the one league where having a high lottery pick really can change the face of the franchise. So the not-so-secret effort to lose games is in full force. At least it looks like they'll have a new GM to make that pick.

3) Jay Leno - Furious, Tart and Angelos agree.

2) George Fucking Will - He'd love to think that he's William F. Buckley's heir apparent to the mantle of right-wing pretentious pedant, but he's really just a dickhead.

1) Hillary Clinton - and she's gonna stay in the #1 spot until she sobers up and drops out of the race. Because this shit is ridiculous.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Top 5 Reasons it sucks to be an Engineering Student

From Wired's Science blog.

5. Awful Textbooks
Thick, dry, black and white manuscripts are rarely a source of inspiration and sometimes can cause loads of confusion. Often, the text is poorly written and interrupted by lengthy equations with symbols that are different from those used by the professor during lectures.

4. Professors are Rarely Encouraging
During each class, a professor that would rather be tending to his research will waltz up to a blackboard or overhead projector and scribble out equations for an hour without uttering a single sentence to create some excitement.

3. Dearth of Quality Counseling
College students may not have a sense for how to build their resume and they might be clueless about the variety of career opportunities that await them. Unfortunately, some academic advisers do little more than post fliers about internships and hand out a checklist of classes to take. They should make some projections about the future job market, learn about the interests of each young scholar, and offer them tailored advice for how to best prepare themselves.

2. Other Disciplines Have Inflated Grades
Brilliant engineering students may earn surprisingly low grades while slackers in other departments score straight As for writing book reports and throwing together papers about their favorite zombie films.

Some professors view undergraduate education as a type of natural selection, but their analogy is flawed. Many of the brightest students may struggle while mediocre scholars can earn top scores because they have a larger group of supportive friends to or more time to dedicate to studying.

1. Every Assignment Feels the Same
Nearly every homework assignment and test question is a math problem. Only a few courses require creativity or offer hands on experience.

Every one of these rings true for me. The core engineering curriculum (at least as it was in the 80's at RPI) is designed to batter your brain into a particular mode of thinking that's particularly useful when solving engineering problems. The thing is that it's stifling. For ninety percent of the questions you are asked, there is but one correct answer. What is the fun in that? It breeds orthodoxy in thought and I despised that. It's repetitive. I can remember thinking several times, "this is the same class I took last semester. Only the crib sheet of equations I get to take to the exam has changed."

The teachers can be awful. With regards to #'s 4 and 5, I recall one professor that stands out. His name was Marcelo Crespo Da Silva - Machine Dynamics. He seemed to hate us, well not me in particular. He liked me. Seemed to hate almost everyone else.

Reason #5 mentions bad text books. This "textbook" was probably the cheapest textbook I ever bought. I think it cost $15 bucks but I had to go to the copy department of the library, not the bookstore to get it. That's because it was a bound copy of Crespo Da Silva's long-hand written text and hand written drawings. The dude's handwriting was damn near impossible to read and the drawings were shit. The book was worthless. See, ol' Crespo couldn't get it finished and published in time. So we used his notes. Terrible.

Reason #4 is that professors are discouraging. Well, I'll never forget the day that Crespo walked into the class and said, "How many of you are second semester seniors?" About 2/3 the class raised their hands. He followed by saying, "That's very dissapointing. First, it's disappointing that we can produce engineers that cannot understand this material at a basic level. Second, I'm disappointed that I can't give you the failing grades you deserve because too many of you would fail and it might impact graduation." Not the most nurturing environment.

Note that this is not to say that other disciplines don't have tough/distant teachers. But, in as much as Engineers in general trend toward lacking social graces, their professors can be doubly so. The core curriculum is seen as a necessary evil or a bridge that must be crossed. It's too bad, because while they're beating this stuff into kids heads they're stifling creativity.

It certainly did me. Eventually, I had a meltdown, stopped going to class before I finally withdrew and went home. I felt that "I wasn't an engineer. It's just that I'm cursed because I'm so damn good at it." I worked in a restaurant. Then a factory. Then a pragmatic desire for good pay sent me back to school to finish the engineering degree. Still, I sneered at my chosen profession. When I graduated, I blew it off entirely and opened a bar with my Dad.

It wasn't until I jumped on the 90's computer bandwagon, which became the dot-com explosion that I really became an engineer in practice. It's not at all like engineering school. I can be creative and do my job, in fact, the results are far better when I do. There are a hundred different choices in solving a complex problem and there is no single "right answer" (of course, some answers I prefer greatly to others). Even so, it took many years for me to understand that I really AM an engineer and I'm not be disappointed in that. I'm an excellent engineer. I like being an engineer. I never would have imagined that during my junior year at RPI. That's too bad.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday Morning Potpourri

Man, life is a funny, funny thing. It's Easter Sunday Morning and my kids are 10 minutes away in a small house with their Mom and her deadbeat boyfriend. This, of course, should make me sad, no? Why doesn't it. Why is it that I'm cruising around my house, listening to my "Sunday AM" playlist and dancing with my labrador (not exactly. But, when I get my groove on, she gets excited and hops up and down)? I mean, just a few posts ago, I was whinin' like a wussy to you folks (Nice job, BTW). What's on tap for today? A little blogging, going into my office to wrap up some stuff and then back home for some laundry, slippers, beer and taxes. Why the hell would I be excited about that? Dunno. But today, life feels good.

So, here's a Sunday AM, feeling happy, brain and link dump.

  • Ok, someone needs to shake the shit out of Hillary and tell her that her campaign has reached a quixotic pinnacle of futility and it's time for her to step aside. I'm totally available for such a gig.

  • LOST hurts my head. I love it truly, deeply and completely, but it hurts my head. That bad dude is gay? Michael keeps having visions of Libby? Who the hell sniped those folks at the end?

  • Kinetic Typography


    Nobody fucks with the Jesus

    I am merely remarking on the paradox of asking a masked man who he is

    Inward Singing


  • P-Krug says "I was right, bitchez"

  • Ok, let's say, hypothetically you're going through a divorce. Then let's say you're maybe a bit lonely around Valentine's Day. So, ok, you may breakdown and sign up for eharmony, because they pummel you with those insipid commercials with disgustingly happy people that make you sneer (when secretly, being disgustingly happy seems surprisingly appealing). Ok. Let's say all that happens. This is what will follow. You're fucking inbox will be spammed with approximately a googol of matches(remember that 'googol' is a number? This was before Google hi-jacked it and Googolplex, misspelled it and decided to take over the earth). These ridiculously numerous matches will do two things: They will fist undercut the key marketing differentiator of "matching on 30 something different criteria" - can there be instantly 30 something matches for a person on 40-whatever levels? Bah! You will call "bullshit"! and b) they will reduce you to a gelatinous glob curled in the fetal position, hiding from your gmail and quietly whispering "mommy..." You see, you're not ready for this. Not at all. You have shit to take care of. A lot of shit. It's shit that's best handled in a nice, neat, engineering-style linear fashion. You're lining up this shit that you have to do into nice manageable shitty dominoes that will fall predictably one after the other until all the shit is done. You can't actually be considering dating someone before you take care of all that shit, can you? Of course not. But, the matches won't stop. There's no respite. They keep matching and matching until you spend an hour plumbing the depths of the site looking for the goddamn "off" switch. You'll find it and sigh in relief, but it's not over yet. You'll get emails saying "Pricilla in Darien requests communication". Ack! What does that even mean? You'll pretend it didn't happen because when in doubt what you did in 5th grade still works great today. Then someone who "requested communication" will "nudge" you. This will be terrifying. Because it doesn't just mean that they randomly clicked matches and said, "wtf, lemme request some communication from this dork". They went back, took a second look and said, "Dude. I requested some communication from you and you blew me off. What the hell?" You'll waver. You'll look at their profile. Maybe they're a bit interesting. Maybe they really could be ok with all the shit you have to do and you would have enough left over to share with them. But, you'll know that you really won't have enough to do both. You know yourself and will realize that you're really better off starting this kind of stuff when you have time to really spend on it. And right now you won't. I mean, maybe it's Easter Sunday for godssake and maybe you're going into work, even if there's a significant chance you'll get canned on Monday. But, perhaps the fact remains that your last relationship suffered in part because you decided to put too many priorities ahead of it. You won't want to do that again. So, you'll keep your focus on your dominoes of shit to do.

    Just a fair warning, people. That's what's gonna happen.

  • This is what makes South Park one of the greatest shows ever. Can a show be disgusting, chilling, funny and a biting social commentary? Yes it can.

  • Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    I could probably give you seven minutes

    if you don't move around too much...

    Because we love Memes

    Tart and Chemist have memes people. They're not prolific taggers, but I've never been one to be to shy to invite myself to a party.

    First up, found at Tart's (via Kona) is a middle name meme . As usual, it begins with rules:

    1. You have to post the rules before you give your answers.
    2. You must list one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name. (If you don’t have a middle name, use your maiden name or your mother’s maiden name).
    3. At the end of your blog post, you need to tag one person (or blogger of another species) for each letter of your middle name. (Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they’ve been tagged.)

    J ay-z has been dominating my iPod for a few weeks now.

    O f course I'd be forced to sell my house when the market is collapsing.

    H enry is my Dad's middle name and his Dad's first name. John is my middle name and my Dad's first name. Erik is my son's middle name and my first name. Son, don't you screw up the roll we're on!

    N asal passages. Mine are narrow and I get plugged up in the winter with colds and in the winter and allergies in the summer. Dammit.

    There you go. The rules say I should tag 4, but this meme ain't that cool. Play if you want to.

    Next, Chemist posts 15 things he's done that maybe we haven't. (Note url of link says 14. I'm confused).

    The original post he links to has just 10 things. So, I get the idea that 15 isn't required. Good thing because I don't think I can come up with 15(or 14 things for that matter).

    Here goes:
    1) I skipped the third grade.
    2) Until 4th grade I was one of four white kids at a predominately black school.
    3) I once shook hands with three people at one political rally at a truck stop in Pennsylvania who either were or would eventually be running for president.
    4) For part of my college life, going "home" for holidays meant hopping on a British Airways with flight attendants with the smokin' hot british accents and going to the UK.
    5) I once saw a man running down the street in the nude firing a handgun.
    6) I was once arrested for for disorderly conduct for "failure to disperse". Note: the semantics of a police report will not get you out of paying a fine.
    7) I once made a girl cry during a re-enactment of the John Adams - Thomas Jefferson presidential debates. I was Adams and she was pwned.
    8) As a kid, I had a dog named Boner.
    9) I got into every college I applied to, meaning I got shitty advice from my high school that I took.
    10) I've never broken a bone. Ligaments, cartilage and muscles? Not so lucky.

    had to stretch there for #10. Again, feel free to meme if you want to.

    Evil Empire Extends Squid-Like Tentacles to engulf NCAA team

    That's what Yankee haters might say about today. Of course, in reality, the Yankees did a nice thing today in bringing the entire team of starters (minus Matsui) to play an exhibition with Virginia Tech.

    In addition to this, evil George Steinbrenner donated a million dollars to the Hokies Memorial Spirit fund. Damn Yankees.

    FYI, Games being streamed for free at MLB.TV.

    Good Job Yankees. And kudos to the Boss for writing the big check.

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    This Blog Sucks

    Seriously. It does. Especially recently as I've had little time nor ideas to share with anyone who randomly falls down a hole in the internet and ends up here. What have I been doing?

    1) Getting a Divorce - This is a major pain in the ass. It's far harder to get a divorce than get married. Logic says it should be the other way around.

    2) Putting one of my dogs to sleep - Again, this sucked. Never actually did this before. At age 13, he was slowly declined and then all of a sudden, he began to decline very rapidly. I could handle the shaky arthritic back half, the vomiting and the accidents in the house. But, he began to de-compensate mentally. Cognitive dysfunction, the vet said, which basically meant he got increasingly senile and anxious. He was often disoriented and panicky. He really only calmed down when I was there. It got to the point where I was concerned for my kids and my other dog and realized that it was time. I miss you, buddy.

    3) Chaos at work - can't elaborate because my co-workers discovered this blog. Hey, there co-working folks! See you guys at the coffee machine!

    4) Planning the future for Fridge Infrastructure 2.0. Item #1 has caused a need for rebuilding. There's much to be done. More on this later (maybe?).

    So that's what I've been focusing on. As such, nothing original or interesting to share with you peeps (not that I had much before). Didn't even get to the enormous "anatomy of a championship team" roster analysis post I had planned for the Giants or a review of my Yankee off-season plans versus what actually happened. Probably never will.

    Anyway, people. That's my lame-ass excuse for not posting. What's yours for continuing to show up here?

    Monday, March 03, 2008

    This meme is awesome

    Now, here's a great meme. Manuel tagged me and I am happy to comply.

    Instructions: Look up 15 of your favorite films on IMDb and take a quote from each. List them below. When someone guesses the quote correctly, cross it off the list. Leave a comment with your answers. And NO CHEATING.

    Excellent! I love movie quotes. Here we go!

    1) To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women. (chemist)

    2) There's something out there. That... that witch in the cellar is only part of it. It lives... out in those woods, in the dark... something... something that's come back from the dead. (Mike)

    3) Tell me, who was it you left me for? Was it Laszlo, or were there others in between? Or - aren't you the kind that tells? (VMH)

    4) Greetings from The Humungus! The Lord Humungus! The Warrior of the Wasteland! The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla! (Toast)

    5) You don't seem to want to accept the fact you're dealing with an expert in guerrilla warfare, with a man who's the best, with guns, with knives, with his bare hands. A man who's been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land, to eat things that would make a billy goat puke. (chemist)

    6) We'd better get back, 'cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night... mostly. (manuel)

    7) Oh, it's all right. I'm sure that we can handle this situation maturely, just like the responsible adults that we are. Isn't that right, Mr... Poopy Pants? (Angelos)

    8) You see, I have no intentions of breaking down her prejudices. I want her to believe in God and virtue and the sanctity of marriage, and still not be able to stop herself. I want the pleasure of watching her betray everything that is most important to her. Surely you can understand that. I thought betrayal was your favorite word. (manuel)

    9) Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos. (chemist)

    10) I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.

    11) I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now, I'm very hungry! (manuel)

    12) I drink your milkshake! (chemist)

    13) Can I confess something? I tell you this as an artist,I think you'll understand. Sometimes when I'm driving... on the road at night... I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The... flames rising out of the flowing gasoline. (Tart)

    14) Bitch, you don't have a future. (chemist)

    15) I was thrown out of N.Y.U. my freshman year for cheating on my metaphysics final, you know. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me. (Mike)

    I tag: Toast, Senor Furious, All three of the Howards,
    Angelos, Chemist and Tart.

    UPDATE: Thanks for playing! Mike finished it off at 6:35 AM ET Best. Meme. Ever.

    This meme is too much work

    Here's a meme that Angelos described as more like homework than any other. Then he tagged me. Thanks.

    The Rules:
    1. Link to the person who tagged you.
    2. List 7 random/weird things about your favorite historical figure.
    3. Tag seven more people at the end of your blog and link to theirs.
    4. Let the person know they have been tagged by leaving a note on their blog.

    First of all, you know I don't ever let anyone tell me how many people to tag. Screw you. This is my blog and if your meme reaches an internet endpoint here then so be it. I may or may not choose to propagate.

    Second of all, I don't have a "favorite" historical figure. So, I had to find one. The best I could do was remembering how I read a book about Ghengis Khan when I was 9 (mostly because it had a wicked cool Frank Frazetta-esque cover) that I absolutely loved.

    Here goes:

    1) Ghengis Khan killed his own brother in a dispute over hunting spoils. His family was basically penniless at this time, but Ghengis took charge. This is how he locked himself in as head of the family at a young age.

    2) Ghengis Khan he founded the mongol empire, which was the largest contiguous empire in history. That's bad ass.

    3) It is thought that you can trace 8% of Asia's population to Ghengis Khan's DNA. That's also .5 percent of all people. Ghengis Khan's pimp hand was strong.

    4) Here is a picture of Khan's empire at his death. It's big.

    5) The Mongol Empire under Ghengis practiced Religious Tolerance.

    6) Ghengis tried to follow Taoist teachings for a while, until he learned that the monk teaching him didn't have a machine to make him immortal. Seriously, I think this is the right way to go with religion. If it can't do anything for you, why put up with it?

    7) The Mongol Empire under Ghengis practiced strict meritocracy. But, the exception was Ghengis' family. This is how you spread your DNA to 8% of Asia, people. Unnaturally select your peeps to be rich bastards.

    There ya go. Ghengis was a bad man. I tag only Manuel. Rules be damned.