Wednesday, May 26, 2010


last night i went to pub quiz at Globe for the first time in a very, very long time. i love that pub's difficult, and the quizmaster is awesome. my team ended up placing in second, thanks in part to my awesome ability to remember the lyrics to "the sign" by ace of base.

(yes, i like a lot of really bad songs. this is one of them. in fact, it was the first song i ever sang karaoke. i was ten years old.)

however, i didn't recognise the picture of jenny berggren in the picture round. i am really ashamed of that fact. >.<

i'm finding it so hard to focus on anything today. i brought all my CCNA studying materials, since i'm working on that. however, i haven't gotten through any more than about twenty pages of my book yet today. my brain is in a constant state of "is it tomorrow yet? is it tomorrow yet? is it tomorrow yet?", given that i'm heading out to Detroit early tomorrow morning for DEMF. i'm really excited about that...i've never been before, and niteshad has been telling me how awesome it is and how i should really go to it some year since last fall. hopefully it's as awesome as he says it is. ;)

i'll be in Detroit from tomorrow until Tuesday, and then i start my job on Wednesday morning. i'm excited about it, but still kind of nervous. hopefully it'll go well, though. i'm so glad that i'll finally be embarking on my new career in IT. of course, my focus has been on IT and not on law for about a year now. but, it somehow feels more legitimate now that i'm starting an actual job in IT, as opposed to being some random unemployed ex-lawyer who was trying to gain enough of a knowledge base in computers to be able to find her first full-time, paying position in the field.

sorry this was all over the place, but my brain's all over the place today. you all get to deal. ;-)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

real life News Crack Smokers Can Use

good news: i passed my ham radio technician test! :D that means, as soon as my name has been put in the FCC database, i'll be licensed for amateur radio. yay!

the test was pretty easy, really...i recognized almost all the questions that were on it, and i passed it with flying colours. it's really nice that i've gotten that out of the way, so i can finally start playing around with radio, and transmitting stuff.

i did have a rather weird thing happen to me on the way to the testing site. i was on the last bus that i needed to get to the test site: the 354 pace bus, running from Harvey through Midlothian. i was minding my own business, listening to my iPod and firing up the GPS on my phone.1 this guy behind me taps me on the shoulder, and asks if he can pay me fifty cents to use my phone and call his boss. i told him he could just use it...i have free nights and weekends anyway, so it wasn't going to cost me anything to let him use it. he thanked me, told me what number to dial, used my phone to tell someone that he'd be off the bus fifteen minutes later than expected, and gave me back my phone.

after he handed the phone back to me, he starts telling me that he didn't have a phone because his nephew stole it from him, and he was especially pissed because his phone was new, and he hadn't had it for very long. i listened to him rant, and agreed with him that stealing his phone was a cruddy thing for anyone to do, whether it was his nephew or someone wholly unrelated. not having a phone sucks, and phones are expensive.

but, he then proceeded to tell me how he had acquired the phone that has been stolen:

"i just got that phone! some guy really, really wanted to get rid of it, so i gave him an eighth of an ounce of crack for it!"

i can understand trading crack for a phone. really, i can. if you had crack, and some guy had a nice telephone but really would rather have crack, it's a good trade for you. a phone is a lot more productive. you can use a phone to talk to your friends. you can use a phone to talk to your boss, if you're the rare employed crackhead. you can even use a phone to talk to your crack dealer in order to buy some crack to replace the crack that you traded away for that phone.

i can also understand being angry that the phone for which he had traded his hard-acquired crack had been stolen. maybe he would have hidden his crack from his thieving nephew better than he would have hidden his phone, so he'd still be able to gain use from his valuable commodity.

but, why in the world would you tell some random person on the bus that you got the phone in exchange for crack? how is that in any way relevant to the conversation? did i give off some kind of vibe that i'd appreciate the fact that he trade crack for a phone, or that i'd somehow feel more sorry for him because he was out a eight-ball of crack as opposed to the cash price of that "new Verizon phone"? did he think i'd commiserate with him by giving him some new crack right there in the back of the pace bus? who knows.

the moral of the story? the last time i checked, having crack was not legal. fortunately for him, i am not a law enforcement officer, and there were ostensibly no cops on the bus this morning. however, getting into the habit of staying quiet about any crack use, possession, and barter you engage in will make you less likely to talk yourself into trouble in the future.

maybe he just sensed that i was the kind of person who liked to write periodic blog entries about stupid crackheads, and was so crack-addled that he was enthusiastic about being the subject of a post here. if that's the case...well, he got his wish.

1 the only time i ever really fire up the GPS is if i'm on a bus in an unfamiliar suburb. google maps is really, really lets me see where the bus is, and how far it has to go, so i don't miss my stop. since some of the roads out in the burbs are poorly marked, the hit on the battery life is well worth not being stranded in a random corner of some suburb.

Friday, May 21, 2010

ham radio test

i should be asleep, but i'm not quite tired yet.

i should be asleep, since i'm getting up at 6am tomorrow to go take my ham radio technician exam. it's something that i've seen people having fun with and been curious about trying for a while...but, of course, you can't really do a whole lot with radios until you're licensed to transmit. i'm feeling pretty good about it...i've been knocking all the practice tests out of the park. the material on the technician test is pretty basic. it's electronics basics, radio basics, and ground rules for not pissing off the fcc. it's not hard material, and i've taken enough practice tests to be really comfortable with the format of the test.

the only problem is that they don't seem to offer ham exams in the city of chicago. all the exams seem to be out in the suburbs. most of the ones in the suburbs aren't all that convenient to public transit, but the one tomorrow is in midlothian, very close to a pace bus stop. unfortunately, though, it starts at 9am--and the way there involves a train, to another train, to a pace bus, to another pace bus. this is going to be my most epic transit trip since the time i used cta and pace to get to the ikea in schaumburg and back.

but, hopefully after all is said and done, i'll pass my test, and be licensed to start playing on the radio. :-)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

what, me employed?



yes, that's right! :D i just found out today that i got the data centre tech job that i have been interviewing for...i'll be starting in early june, when i get back from DEMF. i had done three rounds of interviews for it...a phone interview back in late april, a first in-person interview the day before scav, and a second in-person interview this past friday. i was keeping pretty quiet about it on the old blog just so as not to raise a false alarm in case i didn't get the position...but i did!

this means...i am finally going to be gainfully employed--and working with computers.


going to do a dance in celebration now. BRB.


Sunday, May 16, 2010


last weekend was the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt. despite the fact that i graduated six years ago, and the fact that lately i've been far more inclined to bitch about my postsecondary educational ventures than to laud them, i still love the scavhunt with every fibre of my being, and i still participate eagerly in it.

this year was my eighth hunt, and my third with GASH, the Graduate and Alumni Scavhunt Team. we're a fairly small team, which has only been in existence for three years, and we consist of a bunch of people who love Scav so much that we continue to do it, even after graduation, plus a few friends of alumni scavvies who want to go crazy for a few days and experience the Hunt. i'm so glad GASH exists, since not only would it be a little creepy for a 27 year old to scav with a team full of undergrads, i'd be basically teamless since my last dorm team, the Shoreland, doesn't even exist anymore.

i also get the feeling that GASH is really starting to come into its own. its first year, it was a great idea testing the waters. its second year, it was back...with a few new faces, but it still seemed to be mostly people who were class of '04, '05, and maybe '06. this year, however, felt like proof that it's here to stay. we not only had a lot of returners from the first two years of the team, but we started getting some younger scavvies--people who were undergrads during GASH's first year or two, and decided to come scav with us instead of staying with their dorm team for another year. that's not to say there's not still work to be done to keep the team going...we definitely need to recruit among upperclassmen [to join us after they finish] as well as among alums [to join us instead of continuing to return to dorm teams], but organizationally, this year was a really positive sign.

alright, enough about organizational stuff...that may have been a little boring, but they were thoughts i wanted to get in writing, more for my own benefit than anything. i know why you're probably reading this, if you're still reading this...crazy scavvie stories! :D and, yes, there were definitely those.

just as in 2008 and 2009, i went on the road trip. for anyone who's not familiar with scavhunt, even though most of the items are done in and around Chicago, there is always a road trip. each team sends four people (or, more accurately, up to four people--this year GASH sent four, but the last two years it was a rather grueling three-person trip!) on the road, and the only constraint is that the furthest point can't be more than 1000 miles from the UChicago campus. we also have to wear silly costumes.

this year, the road trip was horror-themed. the costumes this year were Vincent Price, Zombie Michael Jackson, the Accidental Mummy, and Skeletor. [i was Skeletor--the second straight year that i *clearly* got the most awesome costume in the bunch!] the destinations were in Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania. some of the highlights, lowlights, and miscellanies included:
  • writing a parody of "Hero of Canton" from Firefly. about William McKinley. and singing it. in President McKinley's mausoleum. right next to the stone crypt where his body is. (yes, this was a shoo-in for my favourite item on the Hunt this year. i haven't ever seen Firefly, but there's just something awesome about doing something silly that close to a president's final resting place--i know we went to Eisenhower's mausoleum on road trip two years ago, but nothing we had to do there was anywhere near this silly!)
  • disco-dancing in front of the prison from Shawshank Redemption.
  • learning the lesson that the roads in Scranton, Pennsylvania suck. seriously. don't drive in Scranton--especially anywhere near the Scranton Expressway--if you can help it at all.
  • visiting the creepiest place on earth--otherwise known as Ashtabula, Ohio. Ashtabula was the site of the Ashtabula Horror, a train wreck that killed 92 people in 1876. we had to visit the historical marker at the Ashtabula County Medical Center, an audio information site in front of the hospital that talked about the train wreck...and then go to Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Ashtabula and visit a mass grave where people in the disaster who were burned beyond recognition were buried. this all happened around 11:oopm. it was...quite creepy.
  • accidentally discovering another town in Ohio with another disaster-related mass grave--that the scav judges knew nothing about until i told them at judgment. we stopped at this little roadside rest stop in Fitchville, Ohio on the way home, and there was a historical marker outside the rest stop. i wandered over to read it, and it was about a fire at the Golden Age Nursing Home. the day after President Kennedy was shot, an electrical fire killed 63 people there...21 of whom were buried in a mass grave at the local cemetery after their bodies were not claimed. morbid, i know...but i was surprised that there were no items about it, given that it would have mirrored the Ashtabula items so well.
  • seeing Nick (one of my fellow road trippers) dressed as Vincent Price, skeezily hitting on this huge Whistler's Mother statue. between the bad puns and the absurdity of hitting on a stone statue, this was awesome.
  • seeing the smoke from the Centralia, PA mine fire. the fire's still burning, the smoke stinks...and it's kind of creepy to see it emerging from slate-covered hills. it was funny, though...when we went there for the scavhunt item, there were a couple of filmmakers there, making a zombie movie. it's a good place for's desolate, it's remote, it's unpopulated, and you don't need special effects to make it look like there's smoke rising from the ground!
  • getting completely shot down when i said something couldn't be done. after we finished all the items, when we were on our way back to Chicago, i was reading the list. one of the items involved getting a Stradivarius--either a violin, cello, or viola. i muttered that there was no way any team was going to do that. James, who was sitting next to me in the car, said there absolutely was...and then pulled out his phone to call his friend, who was an antique violin dealer who had an authentic Stradivarius cello for rent. he set up a time for us to take a judge to see the instrument, and sure enough we got that item. i was flabbergasted.
  • getting back from road trip when it was still light outside on Saturday! seriously, that does not happen...usually we get back at 2 or 3 in the morning, and we're all dead tired, and there's only time to groggily hand the photos off to whoever is organizing them, and try and sleep a few winks before judgment. not this time. we got back around quarter to 8pm. the rest of the road trippers helped take a captain and a judge to go see the Stradivarius, and i had time to not only get the pictures in order, but also to do a couple of other items [visit the Falcon Inn to take a picture of the Cholie's window, visit a few of President Obama's old residences, work on a warp-speed performance of "Do Re Mi"...] before i slept.
anyway, those are a few highlights from my Hunt. if you want to see pictures, i posted them on my facebook. i have video of other items, but i haven't put them online yet; when i do, i'll link them here.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

walk like a penguin

penguicon has wound down, and i am winding down with it. i'm sitting at i3Detroit, sipping tasty bourbon, and feeling good.

penguicon was definitely not like the cons i'm used to attending. i go to cons all the time, but they're always hacker cons. they have a specifically technical focus, and are full of a rather specific kind of geek, the hacker. penguicon was a totally different world. there was a rather small tech track, but niteshad and nullspace were totally correct when they described it as tech content bolted to the side of a sci-fi/fandom con. most of the culture there was sci-fi/fandom culture, and only a small portion of the talks were technical talks or hacking talks.

the con was also a lot more seat-of-its-pants than i'm used to. the hacker cons i go to aren't terribly regimented, of course, but there's a kind of structure to them. the staff can fairly readily communicate with one another. there's some level of feeling like most people there have half a clue what's going on...something i didn't really get from penguicon. it was a lot more hectic. the staff didn't have radios to communicate with one another. there was a little confusion or miscommunication about talk locations...certain talks that drew only a couple of people were in large ballrooms, whereas other talks that drew more people were put in rooms that were too small for the level of interest. however, despite my organizational gripes, i had a good time at the con.

both of my talks went well. i gave my arduino music talk on Saturday at 3pm. none of my demos crashed; they all sounded the way i wanted them to. i could answer most of the questions people asked me; this was a worry, since i've only been doing arduino for about five months. i didn't want to sound like an idiot, and i don't usually do talks on things i'm so new to. i remembered everything that i wanted to say, and there wasn't too much awkward silence. my only complaint is that i wish it had been located in a bigger room...they put me in this tiny dining room that held about fifteen or twenty people comfortably. every seat in the room was taken, there were standees, and there were people who didn't get to see it because there just wasn't enough room for them to come in and listen to me.

speaking of that...if you are curious about arduino music and want to see what i had to say about it, i have my slides posted on the presentations section of my site. one of the attendees recorded my talk and gave me the file, too, so soon there will be video of my whole talk on the site. i also have a page with the code of everything i showed at my talk, as well as other arduino music resources, on the arduino music section of my site.

right after that, i did a hackerspaces panel with Mitch Altman from Noisebridge and Nick Britsky of i3Detroit. that went really, really well. originally that panel was supposed to be in that same tiny dining room where my arduino talk was, but they realised that if it was too small for some goofball like me, it's REALLY going to be too small for a panel with me and Mitch and Nick. so, we were moved out to this large, open hallway where i3Detroit had already set up its projects, and they set chairs up there. i am really happy with how it went. all three of us helped start our respective hackerspace, and came from different enough perspectives to keep it interesting. the crowd at the panel was interested in hackerspaces and asked really good questions. as far as i know, though, no one videotaped it; however, if someone did, i'll post it on my site and let you all know.

the other big highlight of the con was Geeks with Guns. niteshad organized a trip to the shooting range on friday morning, before the con started. it ended up going very well! about twenty people came along, and everyone was really cool about letting others try out their guns, and giving shooting pointers to new people like me. it was a really fun way to start the con, even if my shooting muscles got really tired because i got the bright (ha!) idea of shooting 32 rounds out of niteshad's shiny new .40 caliber pistol early in the day. [i am SO not ready to shoot a gun like that...i should really stick with the .22 and the .38 revolvers right now, if i'm going to shoot handguns! that .40 was fun, though...] i did keep one of my targets, though...i can shoot the ruger 10/22 rifle pretty damn accurately. i should spend some more time with that one next time i go out shooting, though...try and shoot it longer and longer distances, and get some even nicer, tighter groups.

i'll stop here; otherwise this entry is going to turn into a book. i have a busy and awesome week ahead of me...i'm in detroit until tuesday, and then i have scavhunt thursday through sunday. i'm on the road trip squad again for GASH this year, so i am guaranteed to have a random and amazing time in parts unknown. also, for the first time in GASH history, we will have a four-person road trip, and not a three-person road trip! this will make it so much better for the people who actually drive...a three-person road trip is especially grueling when one road tripper [yours truly!] does not have a driver's license. the road trips the last two years have been epic, and i have no reason to believe that this year's won't also lead to all kinds of weird stories.