Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lonely?

You might want to consider moving to Syracuse. According to CNN, it's the 14th best place in the US for singles. While I was never technically single when I lived in the 'Cuse, it didn't really strike me a singles hotspot. If you're single and looking to move but don't think you can handle the fast pace and subtropical weather of Syracuse, don't despair - Marquette, MI came in 23rd place.

Even by the incredibly low journalistic standards of the top 10/25/100 lists that news organizations put together to drum up sales, this list is pretty weak. The article doesn't even explain their selection methodology. Apparently, it's the 25 cities in America with the highest percentage of singles and an "over-30 scene". I'm not even sure if the ratio of single men to single women was factored into their calculation (or the percentage of single homosexuals, for that matter).

h/t Hermano

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Stitch in Time


While playing a game of the nominally non-contact sport of ultimate frisbee yesterday, my chin met the side of one of my teammates' head. It didn't really hurt, but I was bleeding more than I would have liked. Three stitches later, everything is back to normal.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tapenade Rubbed Steak

I was looking for a good, simple grilling recipe on Sunday so I turned to the cookbook that has never let me down and found an interesting approach to steak. You take a piece of steak (in my case, a one and a half pound of boneless sirloin steak) and spread a healthy amount of black olive tapenade all over the meat. You then wrap it up in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. To grill it, sear it on each side for a few minutes then let it cook over indirect medium heat until it reaches the desired level of doneness. I cooked my steak for just under an hour and it came out medium to medium rare. The tapenade imparted a lot of flavor to the meat without overwhelming it. I'll probably try this recipe with some other meats since it came out so well.

Monday, July 21, 2008

When You're Here, You're Family

This story is a couple weeks old, but I couldn't resist commenting on it. The NBC affiliate in Providence did a story where they called the Rhode Island Department of Tourism's toll-free number and asked a variety of rudimentary questions about Rhode Island and discovered that the people answering the calls knew next to nothing about the state. For example, when asked where one could find a good Italian meal in Rhode Island, the operator recommended the Olive Garden in South Attleboro, MA. The calls were being handled by a call center in Kansas City, MO so it's not surprising that the people fielding them knew nothing about Rhode Island.

In defense of the Department of Tourism's outsourcing choice, the toll-free number is not designed to be a tourist hotline; its only purpose is to allow potential visitors to request a travel guide. That being said, they probably should set up a second level of support staffed by people with local knowledge to assist callers who had questions about their visit to Rhode Island.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Grizzly Adams

I found this collection of Sports Illustrated's most usual covers a while back, but I still feel the need to comment on this cover in particular. It was kind of shocking to see an SI cover story starting a discussion about whether or not it would be a good idea to deliberately wipe out the wild grizzly bear population of North America. Even if SI still deemed the outdoors a worthy topic for a cover story, I can't imagine that they would ever consider debating the deliberate extinction of a species. I read the article, and while the author takes an anti-forced extinction position, he views the eventual extinction of the grizzly as a forgone conclusion. Nearly 40 years after this article was penned, the grizzly has been removed from the endangered species list (at least, in Yellowstone National Park), so overall, the grizzly's future has been somewhat brighter than this article predicted.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wall E. Weasel's

I've read some reviews that have put Wall-E on the short list for best picture of 2008. While I wasn't quite that enthusiastic about it, I still thought it was a good movie. Like all good animation, it works on several levels. It's got fun stuff for the kids, not-so-subtle references to 2001 and other pop culture ephemera for the adults, and killer animation for people who enjoy movies solely for their visuals. Like most children's entertainment that is in any way creative or interesting, it has generated a fair amount of controversy. This is all pretty silly, of course. I think that the real message that Wall-E is trying to convey is the old adage about how the unexamined life is not worth living. All of the characters in the movie are forced at some point to choose between the comfortable status quo and the unknown. My one complaint is that after building up all of this tension, the ending is somewhat anti-climatic and unsatisfying. Perhaps they were just keeping the powder dry for the sequel.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Love Is

I've been using last.fm's "love" feature to flag songs that I love in order to inform their music selection algorithm about my tastes, but I've also been using it as a way to keep track of interesting artists that I've heard for the first time on last.fm so I can go back and explore more of their music at some point in the future. Needless to say, I was kind of bummed when I learned that last.fm doesn't provide a feed of your entire loved music history. Fortunately, a fellow named Jamie Thompson is hosting a little last.fm loved music feed service that anyone with a last.fm account can use to create a feed of their entire loved music history. Here's my feed. I've also added it to the right-hand side of this blog underneath the blogroll.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

For Eyes


As you can see (unless you need glasses), I have recently joined the those in need of corrective lenses club. I probably joined the club a while back, but I didn't get my eyes checked out until recently. I don't know when I first noticed that my vision was starting to degrade, but it was obvious by last fall when I was in China and my brother and his surgically enhanced eyes were able to easily read street signs that I could barely decipher (pretty amazing, given that he doesn't even know Chinese). Even though my vision is still pretty good, I notice a remarkable difference when I put on my glasses. Everything more than a couple feet away from me is noticeably sharper. It's nice to be able to see in HD again.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sandwich Artistry

I've always been a big fan of sandwiches, and I discovered a new favorite on our trip to Europe. I discovered it at the Schönbrunn Palace snack bar of all places. It's simple, a baguette with Brie a couple strips of green pepper, and a healthy amount of fresh cracked pepper. I was very hungry when I had it for the first time, so it's not surprising that I found it so delicious, but I've made it a few times since getting back home and it still tastes great. Bon appetit.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

LRU For Dummies

I needed a Least Recently Used data structure for some work I was doing so I went out to see what I could find in the open source world. I have used the LRUMap from Commons Collections before, but I was hoping to find one that makes use of generics. I checked out Google Collections, but they don't have any LRU data structures (yet). Fortunately, I check out the JavaDocs for LinkedHashMap on a hunch and was happy to discover that Sun already implemented an LRU algorithm in LinkedHashMap that can be enabled by setting a constructor parameter. They even provided a protected method that can be overriden in a subclass to create a fixed-size LRU map in fewer than 10 lines of code. The JavaDocs explain it all if you're interested.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Horror

I recently picked up Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I'm not entirely sure why I decided to read it, other than it's one of many notable works of literature that I've never read. I went to the library looking for a work of fiction, but beyond that, I didn't really have anything in mind. I enjoyed the book, but I had a few problems with it. The first was that I picked up the Norton Critical Edition, which clocks in at 420 pages. The story itself is only 70 of those pages. I failed to consult the table of contents before diving into it, so I thought that it was a novel-length story. I tend to read longer stories differently than shorter ones. I don't pay attention as closely at the start of a longer story since I figure that the first 20 or 30 pages are just going to start developing the themes and characters that will be fully fleshed out throughout the course of the book. Once I was 20 or 30 pages into Heart of Darkness, I was almost halfway through the story. I didn't realize how short the story was until I was about 2/3rds of the way through it, at which point, I had no desire to go back to the beginning and read it more closely.

My bigger problem was the extent to which the story has been woven into western culture over the past 100 years. It's hard to approach a work of literature from a fresh perspective after you've already seen it parodied on Seinfeld. While I didn't read much of the source material, criticism, and historical information presented in the other 350 pages of the Norton Critical Edition, that which I did read was in some ways more interesting to me than the story. I'd still say that the story is required reading for any student of the scramble for Africa.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Correction

I used to read letters to the editor pretty religiously, but I've all but stopped reading them over the past couple of years. I guess I used to find them mildly amusing, but I grew tired of the inane and barely coherent arguments that are the bread and butter of typical letter to the editor writers. Fortunately, I skimmed the letters to the editor in today's ProJo because I came across a surprisingly good and informative letter to the editor. It's a refutation of several of the great myths of Rhode Island history, including one that I've perpetuated on my blog. As it turns out, the law passed in Rhode Island in May of 1776 only repealed the requirement that all government officers swear allegiance to the king; Rhode Island didn't actually declare independence until July 18, 1776 when the legislature ratified the Declaration of Independence.

Independence Day

I finally made it up to Boston for the 4th of July this year. I've wanted to catch the fireworks in Boston ever since I lived there, but for various reasons, it never worked out. I wasn't sure if I could still be impressed by a fireworks display, but I have to admit that they take things to another level on the 4th up in Boston. They had fireworks that lit up the sky with smiling faces and cubes when they exploded. They had fireworks that slowly floated back down to earth on balloons. They had a grand finale so massive that the smoke from the fireworks that exploded at the beginning of the finale practically washed out the explosions at the end.

One of the great things about the 4th of July is it's a pretty low-key holiday. The only things that are expected of you are eating, drinking, and watching explosions. I was pleased that even in Boston, one of the few legitimate 4th of July destinations, everything is still pretty low-key. With the exception of the crowd, the "celebrity" guests, and the sheer volume of firepower on display, it really wasn't any different than watching the fireworks at a park in Anytown, USA.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Iron Man

After two unsuccessful attempts, we finally caught Iron Man last night. With the exception of the Batman franchise, Michelle is usually more excited about comic book/action adventure movies than I am. While we both enjoyed Iron Man, I definitely liked it more than she did. It's not a theatrical masterpiece, but it's highly entertaining and incredibly whimsical. I suspect that most people don't go into superhero movies hoping for whimsy, but as an unabashed fan of the 1960s Batman TV series, I have always loved superhero movies that don't take themselves too seriously and constantly wink at the audience. If that's not your thing, Iron Man still has enough explosions and high-tech gadgets to keep up appearances.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

West Side Story

Yesterday, I biked to work for the first time at my present job. It was actually the first time I've biked to work in seven years. This is the first job I've had in a while that has the facilities to support bicycle commuting (showers and bike storage) and is close enough to home that I can still make it to and from work in a reasonable amount of time when traveling by bike. I really should have done this a lot sooner, but it's taken me a while to find a good bike route across the west side of Providence. I figured out most of the route that I wound up taking last summer, but at the time, I felt like it had a couple of high traffic chokepoints that I wouldn't be able to make it through so I started looking for a new route that went up the more bike-friendly east side. After trying a friend's route across the west side that involved riding across Federal Hill, I decided to give my old route another try. After fighting the traffic on Dean St., riding around Olneyville Square suddenly didn't look so bad. As it turns out, the traffic on my route is not as a bad during the weekday commute as it is on a Saturday morning, since the most of the high-traffic areas are commercial districts that don't see as many shoppers during they week as they do on weekends.

Here's a link to the main section of my route. It goes from Park Ave. and Cranston St. to Branch Ave. and Charles St. I don't actually follow the route that I've mapped out between Park Ave and Webster Ave; instead, I follow the Washington Secondary Bike Path.

Hopefully, I'll be able to bike to work at least a couple times per week for the rest of the summer. It takes me just over twice as long to bike as it does to drive (40 minutes vs. 15). Unless gas prices shoot up by a couple more dollars per gallon, I'm not really going to be saving myself much money, but I should get some good exercise.