Miracle on grass

My kickball team, the Somerville Land Pirates (yarr!) won our first game of the season at long last! We entered the playoffs last in the league with a perfect 0-8 record, having never led in a game. Our opponent had the good kind of perfect record, and had beat us twice already in the season.

Last night none of that mattered though (nor did missing half our team); we cruised to a convincing 6-1 victory over the number one seeded Stewie’s sexy party. Things looked good right away with a four runs in the first inning, and we never surrendered that lead thanks to some great defensive plays by Tom and Ander.

Don’t think too hard.

I haven’t flown since the whole liquid bomb scare, but my trip down here to visit Frank reminded me how inane these new anti-liquid guidelines are. In fact they’re so nonsensical that the page of prohibited items asks that you not try and make sense of them at all:

We ask for your cooperation in the screening process by being prepared before you arrive. We also ask that you follow the guidelines above and try not to over-think these guidelines.

I think that speaks volumes.

Remember this: gel bras ok, gel insoles, not ok.

Moving On

I’m leaving Oracle as of tomorrow. It was interesting having the opportunity to voluntarily leave a company this time :). I was only there for a year and month or so, but I learned a lot (though some of that will be useful nowhere) and got to work with some smart folks along the way.

I’m moving on to a startup called Zingku.

Shifty serving sizes

Shifty serving sizes

General Mills (secretly? sneakily?) altered the serving size of the multi bran chex I eat for breakfast. Instead of 190 calories per serving now its 160 calories. It just seems disengenuous that any food should be made to appear better for you by altering its serving size. Then again, does anyone actually eat just one serving of cereal? More mysterious is that the requisite 1/2 cup of skim milk factored in didn’t change. Do people suddenly like a higher milk to cereal ratio?

I see the benefit (to not eating too much, not so much the environment) of smaller individually packed serving sizes because there’s a certain mental barrier to opening another bag, but not the benefit of arbitrarily reducing the serving size.

My Naturalization Interview

I had my naturalization interview today. Scheduled for 1:30, but didn’t actually start until 2:40, then it only took 15-20 minutes at the most. Although I passed the tests of English and US history, a decision cannot be made yet – apparently my security check is still pending.

Some highlights:

  • The waiting room had a bulletin board that hosted the Association of Immigration Attorneys Essay Contest – from 1997
  • If you’re not into nine year old essays or terrible MSNBC anchor-bimbos you can always stare longingly at the official portrait of Michael Chertoff, head of homeland security. What is it about being a cabinet level leader that makes it so you want to have your picture hung all over the place like some kind of minor deity?
  • If anyone from homeland security or the NSA is reading this, let someone know that “naturalization” is spelled “naturlaization” in the middle of form N-652 “Naturalization Interview results”. Scratch that, I mentioned the mispelling on the phone earlier, so I’m sure the NSA already knows. Thanks AT&T;!
  • Writing the sentence “I like good food” is enough to prove that one has a command of writing the english language
  • Apparently you know enough about the principles for which the US government stands if you know the answers to the following questions: What colors are in the flag? How many stars are on the flag? How many states are there? Who was the first president? Who’s the president now?. What do we celebrate on July 4th? Pretty demanding!
  • There seems to be a delicious irony that one of the questions asked is about whether I am opposed to the violent overthrow of governments, coming from a government that started that way and keeps on doing it all over the world? Could George Washington have answered yes to that question truthfully? Let the record show I don’t believe in the violent overthrow of governments.
  • The sentence “You passed the tests of English and U.S. history and government.” seems to be pretty ambiguous to me

I hate being asked for information by anyone more than once, but that was how most of the session was spent – confirming the answers I had already given.

Now we wait.

Kickball is good: winning is better

My kickball team pulled out its first win of the season last night, and in exciting fashion. We were down 2-0 going in the bottom of the last inning – our offense was sputtering as usual, but we were still close. Eli steps up to the plate and boots a home run. That’s one in. Then Erica gets on base, followed by me with a bunt up the middle. Chip pops up, Erica gets home and I’m on third. Chris kicks one deep bringing me home for the come from behind victory.

Now we’re 1-2 with one of the losses a forfeit. Hopefully that explosive inning is a sign of more offensive output for the rest of the season.

Wisdom of Crowds and IBM

I’m working my way through James Suroewiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, which is excellent. I was struck by an observation about the difference between socialogical diversity and cognitive diversity in a discussion about the culture at NASA around the time of the shuttle Columbia disaster. From page 183:

What was missing most from the MMT, of course, was diversity, by which I mean not socialogical diversity but rather cognitive diversity. James Oberg, a former Mission Control operator and now NBC News correspondent, has made the counterintuitive point that the NASA teams that presided over the Apollo missions were actually more diverse than the MMT. This seems hard to believe, since every engineer at Mission Control in the late 1960s had the same crew cut and wore the same short-sleeved white shirt. But as Oberg points out, most of those men had worked outside of Nasa in many different industries before coming to the agency. NASA employees today are more likely to have come to the agency directly out of graduate school, which means they are also far less likely to have divergent options. This matters because, in small groups, diversity of opinion is the single best gurantee that the group will reap benefits from face-to-face discussion.

This paragraph immediately made me think of IBM. IBM has always been one of the leading corporations in valuing sociaological diversity, but the vast majority of its new hires are fresh collge graduates. In my (limited, since I was never a manager) experience, hiring a so called “experienced hire” was like getting blood from a stone, whereas there always seemed to me lots of money earmarked for college hires. In fact IBM seems to focus large amounts of energy on gobbling up as much of the latest graduating class as it can, particularly the top N computer science programs with internship programs like Extreme Blue.

I can’t knock the value of hiring under-represented groups like women and minorities into a company, but does that really give you a pool of diverse cognitive experiences if everyone went to the same schools? If a person is fresh out of a given school, I doubt their opinons on things will vary much because they’re male or female, black or white – given the same crowd a few more years to get some experience, see what works and doesn’t work; that’ll give you cognitive diversity.

Spring Fever

Last Friday after work I succumbed to spring fever (it was ~75 and sunny!) and rather than heading for the T and home, aimlessly strolled from my office in Cambridge down to the Charles, over the Longfellow bridge and along the esplanade, finally ending up by Hynes convention center. It was nice to see people out an about again, walking, running, riding and rollerblading. There even some boats out sailing (though I don’t particularly fancy sailing this time of year because the memory of that river being frozen is all too fresh).

Anyways, after that setup there’s a few things I noticed while waiting on Newbury street for Kristi to arrive for an ice cream rendezvous:

Newbury Street is lousy with girls walking down the street, one arm clutching a shopping bag and the other holding a phone talking to someone about how much of her daddy’s money she’s spending. I found it quite amusing that a group of dreadlocked semi-goth girls came walking down the street, making fun of the spoiled girls by all holding pretend conversations on pretend phones.

In a scene that tugged at my heartstrings, I watched this man discover that his bike had been mortally wounded while he was shopping. It was one of those chill cruiser bikes, like a 3 speed with metal fenders, and it had been chained to a sign with one of those “U” locks. Unfortunately, his ailing steed had either fallen or being pushed down, and then stomped on by some passing man or machine – but more likely man because it was on the street side of the signpost. So the man walks up to his prone bike, pauses for a second. He looks around, picks his bike up, releases the lock and drops the kickstand, then steps back. The rear wheel is grotesqely bent, and the fender and the tire are one. He consults with someone, hopefully a friend in this time of need, then after a what seemed like minutes of him inspecting the bike, proceeds to walk off down the street, wheeling his stricken transportation with the wheel dragging behind.

The whole time, it was like watching someone discover their pet had been killed – I wanted to run over and give him a hug.

I was amazed how noticeable the difference in air quality between the esplanade and by the convention center, over the mass pike – the river was cool and clear, but over the highway it reeked and my sinuses burned – and its not as if these locations are all that far apart. Of course I write this from Somerville which has the regions highest rates of asthma.

There were some great Boston scenes in this video. (seen here)

St. Patrick’s Day 5K

Kristi, <a href=stomatology James and Phil” />

Last weekend my girlfriend Kristi, my roommate Phil and I ran the 5K in Davis Square, where I live in Somerville. It was the first race I’d run in since my terrible cross country days in high school. My time from the race (~25 minutes, since the results are gun-time, rather than chip-time and it took a while to get across the start line) was probably not much worse than my times in high school ( I sucked then though).

Having never run in a grown-up race like this, and one where I may actually be faster than some non-trivial percentage of the competitors, I was suprised how difficult it was to move from the back of the start pack to a spot where I could hit my stride- the first mile was like driving in traffic, looking for little gaps where one clump of people is slower than the rest and squeezing through, with the occasional foray onto the sidewalk.

It was fun. As fun as running 3.1 miles with the temperature hovering around 38 degrees can be anyways 🙂 The free food and beer at Redbones afterwards helped too.

A fun race highlight was that when we were crossing a bridge over the train tracks, a passing Amtrak train tooted its horn at us.