It Says Quiet Car for a Reason

April 28, 2007 | personal
I’m currently on an Acela bound from New York to Boston. The train’s unfortunately full, so I got stuck in the quiet car. I’d much prefer to be able to talk on my cell phone, but because the upper half of the Northeast Corridor is absolutely beautiful, I placed a high premium on getting a window seat. Choosing between facing backwards on an aisle with my cell phone or looking at the lakes and forests rush by at 120 MPH, I’ll take the latter. That said, I’m somewhat dumbfounded by how few people...

Everybody Dies

April 24, 2007 | personal, technology
I was extremely happy to discover today that Ambrosia Software has finished porting Introversion’s DEFCON to the Mac. DEFCON is a happy-go-lucky simulation of global thermonuclear war. Each player controls a collection of boomers (nuclear-missile-armed submarines), missile silos, aircraft carriers, and airfields in an interface highly reminiscent of NORAD as depicted in the movie WarGames. Over the course of the game—which can range from a few minutes to a full eight hours—players compete to...

Oh, Hells No!

April 20, 2007 | personal, technology
So Google already has my email. They already know what news I read and what hobbies I have. They have my essays, my portfolio, my photos, and even my encrypted bookmarks and passwords, not to mention my code, my data, my spending habits, and my readership. This morning, I log into Google, and discover that they’re now willing to track everything I do at any time anywhere on the internet and show it to me in a cute and cuddly UI. I’m getting to the point where I’m having serious trouble...

Switching Control and Caps Lock on Windows

April 17, 2007 | programming, technology
I’m a diehard Emacs user. When I first get into the office, I fire up Emacs, then check my mail in Emacs, then update all of my source files using either the built-in Subversion bindings or a Cygwin shell via Emacs, and finally get down to coding for the day in Emacs. Windows and Mac OS X at times feel like just the kernel that allows me to run Emacs. Productivity-wise, that’s actually a great thing. My work environment is basically identical no matter what machine I’m on, enabling me to focus...

Credit Card Numbers for Testing

February 21, 2007 | programming
One of the things I have to do on a regular basis is run a suite of regression tests against Copilot’s payment system to ensure that we’re doing basic vetting of invalid credit cards, such as those that do not have valid Luhn checksums. To that end, I was very happy to discover a list of credit card numbers that I could use for testing purposes. The numbers aren’t for valid cards, but should pass any basic validation check you have in a commerce site you write.

Smart Guys Date in Parallel

February 13, 2007 | personal, technology
There are few people in my life I admire more than my father. My father is the one who taught me how to swim, showed me my first BASIC programming, painstakingly explained algebra to me in fifth grade when I got annoyed at the confusing methods our my math teacher was teaching us, and demonstrated to me the value of problem-solving in high-anxiety situations when I was four by locking me in the child restraint seat and leaving me in the garage. I still turn to him when I’m in need of advice,...

The Q Train

February 8, 2007 | personal
In the process of writing my column on transit system maps, I got distracted by a Wikipedia clickfest, and discovered the answer to a longstanding question I’ve had. The Q can indeed go further north than 57th St.—to 63rd and Lexington Avenue, as it happens, where it would one day be able to hand off passengers to the mythical and deadly T train (the always-not-quite-here-yet Second Avenue line). When that happens, I’d expect traffic on the Q to skyrocket.

Maps and Simplicity

February 8, 2007 | personal, technology
Recently, on reddit, someone linked to a map of the US interstate system laid out “subway style.” Rather than including all the geographical features of the United States, the artist opted to realign everything on a relatively simple aligned grid, emphasizing the purpose of the system (“get me from here to there”) rather than the implementation (“via this bridge over this river, using this exit by this town”). The artist himself complains tongue-in-cheek about the complexity of the existing...

I'll See You in Hell, Pachelbel

February 7, 2007 | personal
I hadn’t even heard of Rob Paravonian until over the weekend, when I went with a friend of mine to wander around Duke, but I’ve become an immediate fan. Anyone who’s ever played classical music has developed an intense loathing for Pachelbel’s Canon in D. The song is highly repetitive, playing the same melody over and over, in a giant, musical circle of pain, with only the most miniscule changes over its multitudinous repetitions. It’s like a three-year-old’s take on Bolero. Combine that with...

The Where's-My-Subway-Pass Diet

January 10, 2007 | personal
I have discovered a new, guaranteed way to lose weight fast: lose your unlimited MetroCard. Last week, on my way home, I accidentally dropped mine at some point, likely because my ski jacket has a hole in the left-hand pocket (which unfortunately I didn’t know at the time). As a result, I’ve been walking to work every day—a trek that comes in at an even six miles a day round-trip. The downside is that I have to get up considerably earlier—my commute suddenly takes 50 minutes instead of 15—but...