Saturday, August 30, 2008

And that reminds me...

It's raining like mad outside
and that reminds me that I need to write in my blog
and that reminds me that I walked home tonight
1 and a half miles
and that reminds me that I copied "and that reminds me" with ctrl-c
because I'll use it a lot
and that reminds me that I composed this poem while walking home
and that reminds me that I'm still creative
and that reminds me why I went out drinking tonight
and that reminds me that one of my great friends got fired today
and that reminds me that today is yesterday
and that reminds me that I recited the poem I'm typing in while I walked home
and that reminds me that I'm blogging after a night of debauchery
and that reminds me that I should be more cautious after I drink
because I am publishing this and I have responsibility
and that reminds me of this great XKCD comic
and that reminds me that CTRL-C allows me to repeat "and that reminds me"
and that reminds me that what happened to my friend was totally not fair
and that reminds me to polish my resume
because companies aren't fair, regardless of how cool they are
and that reminds me that someone could find this poem
and that reminds me that I don't care
and that reminds me that I was yelling this poem
soaking wet
while walking home
and that reminds me that I ran into two people while walking home
also soaking wet at the time
holding hands
and it was sweet
and that reminds me that people in this world are still honest and good
and that reminds me that I forgot half the poem
because I was drinking
and that reminds me that I don't care what I say
and that reminds me that I walk home which is the responsible thing to do when you drink
and that reminds me that my wet clothes are strewn across the apartment drying off
and all of that reminds me that I'm alone
and that reminds me that I shouldn't care
because I'm still known and cared for
and that reminds me that I remembered that people cared about me while I was walking home
soaking in the rain
and that reminds me that people are good in this world
and that reminds me that I have more to write in order to inspire others
and why does that reminds me that I've been drinking?
and that reminds me that I don't drink often, only during life events and social gatherings
and that reminds me how few of those events there are
and that reminds me of how honest I'm being
and that reminds me of how much I've lost
and that reminds me of how hard I'll have to work to gain it back
and that reminds me that I just walked 1.5 miles in the pouring rain to get home
and that reminds me of how sobering an experience that was
and that reminds me of how far I am from everyone that I love
and that reminds me of how fragile and short life really is
and that reminds me of how much harder I need to work
and that reminds me that my sister called me at 1 am to ask me what song that was
and that reminds me that my phone randomly dials people while I'm dancing
and that reminds me that I was dancing
to get my mind off of troubles, to get my mind back in focus
and that reminds me that I was also singing
and that reminds me that my voice will be sore tomorrow
and that reminds me of how many thoughts are wandering in my head right now
and that reminds me of how many thoughts were wandering in my head when I was walking home
soaking in the rain
and that reminds me that I work for a great company
and that reminds me that a great company can do shitty things
to good people
for bad reasons
and that reminds me that I really should keep my mouth shut
but I don't care
because I do care too much
and that reminds me that our lives are forever lived two-faced
to keep a dream alive, to tell the truth to a dream at the same time
in order to kill it
and that reminds me that i've been typing "and that reminds me" out after a while
because I want to feel it, because I want to feel life again
and that once again reminds me of how lonely it is to live alone
and that reminds me that I have a lot of friends that care about me
and that reminds me of my good friend who got fired today
who told me that the most powerful drug in the world
is Denial
and that reminds me that I need to figure out what my life is all about.

that's it. I'm going to bed. Talk to you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On walking...

Recently, BlogStamford had an interesting blurb on walking, and I decided to put in my two cents. As commented on his post, I live literally within 400 yards of everything I need to survive, and a lot of extra ammenities to boot. Even the library, mall, restaurants, and movie theatres are within walking distance. When I was working at my last job, I was within walking distance of that, and thus never needed to drive.
Therefore, when I first moved here a number of years ago, I decided on an experiment that started almost by chance and grew into an amazing experience. From June of 2006 to December 2007 I used my car as little as possible (there were 3 emergency times). I finally broke down after needing it for my new position (my commute went from a 30-minute walk to a 90-minute drive). But even though I'm driving a lot now (average $75 a week on gas), I still walk to most places, even if they're miles away. It definitely saves on gas and makes me feel better when I do so. Also, since I'm working from home 3 days out of the week, I'll use any excuse to be in a world filled with people every once in a while. While it doesn't bode well for the amount of money I spend for coffee, it does make it easier to socialize.
That being said, there is a huge issue afoot(sorry) regarding pedestrian safety in Stamford, and with my expertise I feel qualified and obligated to comment on it. I can recall several instances where I've almost been run over (once where the car stopped just fast enough to graze my shin) by cars. I arrived to the point where I actually disregard all signals and just look at the cars to see where they are going, due to safety concerns and in some cases insufficient walking signals. I've had cars actually honk at me when I'm in the crosswalk and I have the signal (more than once driving around me with colorful sign language). To cross the Bedford/Summer/High Ridge/Long Ridge intersection, you have no option but to jaywalk. To cross Broad St from Summer from the east side of Summer, you actually have to cross over to the west side of Summer before crossing Broad, because even though there's a walking signal there you'll never get the signal. Again you must jaywalk or go the long way around. And this doesn't get into the accidents that have happened in town in years back, the lack of lighting along Bedford, and the cars that love to dragrace down Summer (on a walk last night, I saw one said dragracer make some kids cry when startled by the racket from the engine).
I think the authorities are doing a lot already to help with pedestrian issues (the countdown signals are great even though they aren't plentiful enough, and there's a concerted effort to catch DUIs). However, I think that timing on some of the crosswalks would help issues (at least to make some of the streets crossable) and enforcement on the late-at-night dragsters that wake people up at all hours and scare the crap out of other pedestrians, jaywalking or no. Also, during the winter, it'd be nice if there was a bit more effort to make some of the sidewalks walkable instead of just plowing the snow over the sidewalks (I know that the traffic is more important but at least people should coordinate their efforts). Finally, it'd be great if there was some effort to educate the people who do drive in Stamford to be more respectful towards the walking set, as they do move a lot slower and are easier to dent.

In short, I do agree that Stamford is a great walking town. It'll just take a little more effort from the city to make it into a safe walking town.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Making some periodic life changes to break periodic behavior...

It's not as contradictory as it sounds. :)

So about the middle of August every year, I start to do an upheaval of my life from the bottom up. I realized this when I though about the last time I tried to enact life changes and it was about the same time as last year. It's like a second resolution phase for me. I think the most common reason is that this is when I realize that more than half of the year is up and I have a lot to do to keep pace. Oddly enough my August resolution phase is much more effective than my January one. I think that's because in August I know where I need to be for the rest of the year and am more motivated to take steps (motivation for me is much lower in the winter months).

I had wondered if this is the same for everyone as it is for me. Well, one of the most important lessons of life I've ever learned is that if you wonder about something and the answer can be looked up, look it up. So I did so, by googling for "most common month for life changes". I got three responses: most common month for weddings, births, and suicide. Those are some dramatic and disparate life changes.

Realizing that a month for life change probably hasn't been established (honestly expected it to be decided and that it'd be January), I decided to search for "most common month". This is the list of MCM's that I have determined:
  • Birth - October (by average) Source: WebMD
  • Weddings - June Source: ARA via
  • Suicide - April (but only by anecdote so I won't provide source)
  • Homicide - torn between June and July (again not agreed)
  • Poultry Food poisoning - December
  • Loss of virginity for teenagers - June
  • Car crashes - December
  • Arrested for DUI - October
  • Tornadoes - April
  • Pruning Grapes - March
  • Taking the SAT - June
  • Catching a cold - December
  • Catching the flu - February
  • Plowing (Ploughing!) - September
  • Lightning strikes in Florida - July
  • Divorce - January
  • Mating of Adders - April
  • Arson - May
  • Finding "crop circles" - July
And as far as resolutions? There are no stats. I guess it's a new field. There are actually a lot of "significant life events" that do not have an established month, and I guess that's good. Better for some things to remain random.

As for my life changes, the most crucial a bit too personal and I won't share them here. But one of the main ones is to consume food more healthily. I've depended too much on packaged food and fast food, and it's time for me to cook as many meals as I can, saving those meals where I eat splurgingly (spellcheck won't give me that word but I'll take it anyway) to be the meals I eat with others. Another is to get to bed at a more reasonable hour when I can (with work sometimes that is impossible). A third is to get into more social sports, such as baseball, tennis, and possibly handball, if the group that I'm organizing with will start moving on it.

I guess the key lesson here is to know when you're in a rut and try to break it, which I have started to do. Maybe if the world tried to do the same there wouldn't be a most common month for anything. I think maybe that'd be better for everyone involved.

Monday, August 11, 2008

At the airport...

Flying out of Stamford is a bit of a hassle. :) I try to reduce the hassle as much as possible. For those new to the city, let me review for you the choices you may have when leaving this fine city for JFK or LGA. (I disregard White Plains, even if it is more convenient. You simply cannot trust it to always be able to fly you where you want to go.)

In any event that you leave for JFK or LGA, plan to leave at least 3 hours before departure. The reasons will be most evident in a moment:

1) You can use the public transportation route to get to JFK/LGA. This is the cheapest route but the most time consuming. Both routes involve taking the Metro North to Grand Central. From there you can take a direct bus to either airport or use the public bus system to LGA or the subway to Penn Station/AirTran to JFK if you're really a cheapskate. Either route will take 2 hours if you get the express, 2.5 if you get the local. If you have a morning flight (<9 am) forget it; you won't make it in time.

2) Driving there yourself. This is a bit more expensive, and due to more exhorbitant fees for parking and the higher cost of gas, may not be the most economical for a long trip. Google lies and says that the trip takes 41 minutes for LGA and 50 minutes for JFK; however, traffic will double the length of time, although in the morning this is easily the fastest method.

3) Getting someone else to drive you. This is by far my preferred method. :) If you are without friends who will help you out (take the googled number in 2 and multiply by 4 and think again about asking a friend to drive that) then there are services that will drive you there and pick you up. I used to use CTLimo but now I use Red Dot because it's more convenient. Yeah it costs 60$ one way, but if you company compensates you this is a no-brainer, and it may be cheaper if your trip is longer than 2 days.

There you have it. The only ways to get to the major nearby airports guarantee that you will be travelling for at least 2 hours before you start travelling, or end up paying for the priviledge. Except for one amazing exception, I've never had problems with my flights. Feel free to send me whatever horror stories you have about your airport experience (especially if it was local so we can learn about it here :D) If I get enough responses, I may regroup them and publish for everyone to see, and in the process include my sole exception.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

On connections...

There are connections all around us! It makes our small world even smaller and more interesting. I'll now present two interesting anecdotes of this concept:

1) I have a new neighbor. Her renter's son's ex-girlfriend lives in the same complex and I used to work with the renter's son's ex at my previous job. After talking with her the other day, she told me that her second cousin also worked for the company that I work for now. My cubicle was across from his for six months and I had no idea.

2) Today the EPA rejected the bid by Rick Perry (Gov. Texas) to cut the ethanol subsidy. Ethanol is a curious connection between gas and chicken prices. Allow me to elucidate: Ethanol is used in 10% of gas, causing a drop in gas. It also causes a price increase in corn (heavily used in ethanol production), meaning that chickens (using corn as a food source) cost more for upkeep, meaning a loss of profit and a drop in the value.

James Burke is the undisputed master of such connections, and he had a series of shows (eponymously named) that dealt with these connections (if you haven't seen this series you must find a copy of it or look for it on PBS, it's really fascinating). He believes that the modern world would not exist without all these interconnections. There's also another cultural icon that relates to the concept of connections: six degrees of Kevin Bacon. The essence of this game is that through a series of movies less than six, link a named actor with Kevin Bacon. According to Wikipedia the game was invented by three snowbound college students, but the mathematics world did the same thing with Paul Erdos in 1969 and called it an Erdos Number.

The connotation that a connection usually "shrinks" the size of our perceivable universe is a quaint notion. I'm not sure how to prove it mathematically, because I'm not necessarily convinced that it's true. First we must define the domain of the problem. The closest concept to the "size of our percievable universe" is a diameter of a graph. A graph (our stand in for the universe) is a mathematical term for a diagram with vertices (points on a piece of paper, in our case people, places and things) and edges (lines connecting these points, or connections between people, places, and things). The distance between any two vertices of a graph is the number of edges in the shortest path connecting the two points. The diameter would then be the maximum distance between any two connected vertices.

Here's the crux of the reason why this problem (figuring the probability that a new connection "shrinks" the universe) may be hard. If you define that the distance between any two disconnected vertices to be infinite, the proof is trivial (and closer to human intuition), but this is a flawed assumption in an unbounded set of verticies (IE people, places and things will always be born, found, and created respectively, and new connections made between them, so the set of vertices between these "noun" vertices must be unbounded). It is more accurate to not consider unconnected people/places/things (vertices), meaning a new connection (edge) between them could concievably decrease the diameter of the universe (if the two people/places/things are already connected) or increase it (if the new edge connects two already well-connected "cliques" of people/places/things, such as the first contact between two cultures).

So keep in mind the connections that you make with other people. You may be making the universe larger or smaller as a result of your interaction. Whether or not that's a good or bad thing all depends on your outlook on life. Does it make you happier that we seem to live in a small world?

Edit: fixed an antecedent error in the first paragraph and removed an identifying marker.