Sunday, May 25, 2008

A long-awaited update

I have, despite all appearances to the contrary, been Up To Things for the past several months. They just haven't been especially interesting or blogworthy. But if I cram them all together, that makes everything more interesting, right? In no particular order:

My curtains finally got installed in mid-March, but it took two more visits by the "professional installers." In the first, they brought the curtains, strung them over the rod, put the rod on the brackets, and watch another one of the brackets fall out of the wall. After much discussion, they suggested putting them on a track instead, which required a second trip to actually bring the track. On one hand, I kind of wonder why they didn't just suggest that in the last time when they saw the brackets wouldn't hold. On the other hand, I do kind of like the way they ended up, and I'm relieved that I didn't have to deal with giant holes in my wall myself.

I finally changed projects at work last month. It took way too long to find something interesting that needed another engineer, but I am now on... Local Search Indexing! We're the ones who take the multitudes of business-related data and process it into the index that gets searched over when you look for a business on Maps. It's a very different kind of work, and I've had to switch from C++ to Java, but so far I'm enjoying it. (And yes, this does mean there's an entirely new realm of things that you can now blame me for. The plan is to still spend 20% of my time on Spreadsheets, so you can continue to blame issues with that on me too.)

I don't think I've mentioned it here, but I've been taking Mandarin classes at work for the past year. It's through Berlitz, so we've been doing entirely spoken work (no characters), mostly without a textbook. Then last month we got a new textbook, with pinyin dialogs! And instead of the Berlitz "here's five examples, figure out the rest intuitively" method, they actually have little sections about grammar! I'm very excited about it.

At some point, I finally signed up for Netflix. All the cool kids were doing it.

I saw a production of MacBeth at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, featuring Patrick Stewart. It's practically within walking distance of me, so I couldn't resist, especially after I missed out on Ian McKellen last year. It was a very creepy production, set in Stalinist Russia. The witches, for example, were dressed as nurses, but they still got all the good "cauldron bubble" lines, not to mention rather demonic red lighting. And Patrick Stewart is, indeed, awesome.

On Easter Sunday, I called my first quarter. It was ten extents of Plain Bob doubles. It reminded me of when I first started ringing on handbells, when there was one time when I wasn't able to compute 2+4 because I was so completely occupied with remembering my place and where I was going next. Well, conducting is kind of like that, except that there's just so much more I'm supposed to be keeping track of. (I'm supposed to try a quarter of Plain Bob Minor next weekend... we'll see how that goes.)

I went down to Pittsburgh for my brother's graduation from CMU. When I was applying to colleges, CMU was my first choice for a while. I visited it twice about eight years ago when I thought I'd be going there for undergrad, so a lot of the campus was vaguely familiar. The commencement speakers were better than I ever had: Al Gore, who was surprisingly entertaining and upbeat given that he won a Nobel for basically predicting the end of the world; and Randy Pausch, who did the whole "what you regret are the things you didn't do" bit. (I actually thought it was a bit awkward having him speak last, since commencement is about the beginning of your life in the real world and his speech was in some sense about the opposite, but hey, I'm not really going to begrudge him that.)

I went down early to make it to the ringing practice on Thursday night, and scored a quarter of all the doubles methods I could think of. I also got to do touristy stuff around the city with my family, but my main impression was that in Pittsburgh, it's always either raining or about to be raining. (And I forgot to bring my umbrella.)

I suspect I've become the North American record-holder for Plain Bob Cinques, having rung in 4 peals of it, out of 47 ever anywhere. There have never been more than 5 at any single tower (a record I suspect Trinity will surpass in the near future), but apparently at one of those towers the same person conducted 4, so I'm not the world record-holder yet. Ah well.

RAM is now so ludicrously cheap that I just ordered 2GB for $50. That's about a factor of 8 less than the best per-GB cost a couple years ago. How am I supposed to resist that? (I also blame Spaces for increasing the temptation by making it convenient to leave about fifty windows open at any given time.)

I volunteered to help revise the NAGCR web site. So, after three years of avoiding it at work, I'm finally having to learn CSS and Javascript. Fun fun.

I went out to Loew's Journal Square on a work "off-site" a few weeks ago. It's one of the old movie palaces from the 1920s that's been bought by the city and is being restored by a nonprofit group. Once a month or so they show movies there with an all-volunteer staff, including the projectionists. So basically, it's LSC, if 26-100 had a balcony and a gilded ceiling. (Though honestly, I think 26-100 has it beat on acoustics.) They took us on a tour of the projection booth, which still has the back room that used to be full of the dynamos to produce the DC to drive the carbon-arc lamps.

I suppose that's enough. Perhaps it'll be less than four months next time.