Excerpts from my Kindergarten report card

The Cottage School, Boulder, CO. Spring 1986

  • "He sometimes has problems controlling his energy, yet is able to listen and follow directions well."
  • "Logan enjoys reading our Public Library books."
  • "Logan gets excited about doing art projects but seems to steer away from this area during free choice."
  • "He often tires about 11:30, feels puny and wants hugs. Lunch usually brings him out of this slightly torpid .. state."
  • "His biggest drawback is his tendency to desert one work for another, leaving a mess behind."
  • "Continues to be constantly curious and able to assimilate information with amazing ease."
  • "He has finally begun to respond to requests that he refrain from always blurting out the answers during group lessons."

Sound like anyone you know?

2011 in books

It is now March, and I have somehow never posted my reading log for 2011. Last year was a light one for my reading, and I’m not entirely sure why. The books below represent a thousand pages less than in 2010 (4794, or an average of ~13 pages a day).

See also 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005.

A Decade In Review

Tomorrow, it will be 2010.

Ten years agoNow
I was a sophomore at RPI, considering a double-major in Computer Science and Management.I am a developer/manager for a small company.
I lived in a tiny dorm room in the crummiest suburb (Troy) of one of the crummiest capital cities in the country (Albany).I live in South Boston in a condo I own. I have a patio and a garden.
I was dating my High School sweetheart, who went to college almost five hours away. I saw her about once a month.I'm married to my High School sweetheart. I sleep in a bed with her every night.
I stayed in my old bedroom at my parents' house every month or so.Someone else owns that house, and my parents live in an RV. They're currently in the Florida Keys.
I hung out with college friends, and once a month saw friends from High School.I hang out with college and Boston-area friends. I don't see my Philly-based and California-based High School friends often enough.
I'd had a handful of beers (sorry mom, it's true) but was not legally able to purchase alcohol.I spent a Benjamin on a bunch of champagne for tonight's New Year's Eve party.
I was programming mostly in C++ (both for school work and working on Science and Industry) with a little bit of Perl.I'm programming mostly in Java (work and Android app development) with a little bit of Perl and Python.
I ran a community website called WSVW1U.com.I run a personal website called Plutor.org.
I was planning the third iteration of a holiday I invented, called National Vacuum Awareness Day.NVAD expired after 2001. I still have dozens of shirts in my basement. Buy one?
I frequented Slashdot, Ars Technica, and suck.com.I'm active on MetaFilter, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr.

An anecdote from my childhood

My parents made a censored version of Raiders of the Lost Ark for me when I was young. Indiana Jones escapes from the tomb, blows up the plane, steals the ark back from the Nazis in the desert, gets on the ship with Marion, THE END. I was probably in my teens before I saw the whole version on television. I had never even questioned it.

Someone’s going to bring it up, so here’s another anecdote: When I was very young, my parents called the ice cream truck the “music truck” to keep me from screaming every time I heard it. I don’t know how long that one lasted, because I have no memory of it.

The earliest news events I remember

The first five news events I actually remember (and my corresponding ages) were:

  1. 1986-01-28: Challenger explosion (6 years, 1 month)
  2. 1986-02-09: Halley's Comet passes Earth (6 years, 2 months)
  3. 1986-10-27: Mets win the World Series (6 years, 10 months)
  4. 1987-10-19: Stock market crash on Black Monday (7 years, 10 months)
  5. 1988-11-08: Bush defeats Dukakis (8 years, 10 months)

One of the most interesting things I learned while looking up these events is how close together the Challenger disaster and the Halley’s Comet perihelion were. In fact, the Shuttle mission (STS-51-L) and the following scheduled mission (STS-61-E) had apparently been scheduled to observe the comet up close. In my mind, those two events were far apart. Along the same lines, the Mets won the World Series just a couple of months after my family moved to Connecticut, but somehow I suddenly became a Mets fan.

My grandpa

My grandfather was inventive; he built his own lawnmower using, in part, the transmission from a $50 junked car – and then sold the remainder of the car for a profit. He was a practical joker; he somehow once tricked my cousin into putting the seeded end of grass between her teeth, and then he yanked out the stalk. He was hard working; he built the house that my dad and his brothers grew up in, and even made his own cinder blocks for the job. He was handy; he built a car engine from two diesel-powered refrigerators, harvested a transmission from a pickup truck, and made a custom two-seater Maverick that, in his words, “could pull a Mack truck up a brick wall at 60mph”.

I can see a little of him in me, and he was everything I wish I was. He was independent and sometimes stubborn; and he fell off his roof last week, while fixing his TV antenna. At the age of 82. I’ll miss him.

Sea change

A few years ago, my dad was laid off from IBM, where he’d been working for more than 25 years. Two weeks ago, he quit his job at a local small-business tech-support place. Last week, my mom told IBM she was retiring at the end of February. Their plan? Finish the (until last week, somewhat languishing) work to their bedroom, sell the house and most of their belongings, buy an RV, and spend a year travelling the country. When my dad says “Everyone thinks we’re nuts”, he doesn’t count me. I think it’s a great idea and they’ll have loads of fun, and they’ll come home to a much simpler, calmer life.

I didn’t move to Connecticut until I was 6, but I consider Danbury my home town. It’ll be sad to know that a different family is living in the house that was built just for us. It also means I’m suddenly on the hook to stop using my old room as miscellaneous storage space. But I always knew I couldn’t hold onto the past forever. I’m behind this idea 120%.

Katahdin report

Mount Katahdin has rightfully earned its reputation as one of the hardest mountains in the Northeast. M and I hiked it last week, planning about a 7-mile day. We got up at 7 to read the weather forecast on the Ranger’s cabin, and hiked the 3.3 miles to the Chimney Pond campsite in the south basin. We dropped off our tent, sleeping stuff, clothes, and one of our packs. Around 10am, we started up Pamola trail. It was 1.3 miles and 2000 vertical feet up that trail to our first peak.

Katahdin map

What we learned is that the trail up Pamola is perilous, windy, totally exposed, ridiculously steep, and covered with pointy and scratchy boulders. We rock scrambled at a 45 degree angle hundreds and thousands of feet above the foothills for nearly three hours. Yes, that’s right, it took us three hours to climb a mile and a third.

At the peak, we reconsidered our options. We were tired. No, wait, we were exhausted. We agreed that it very likely had been the hardest hike of our lives, and it was shorter than the distance from our house to Boston Common. Coming up was the most notorious stretch of trail on Katahdin: the Knife Edge. It’s a rocky trail about three feet wide at parts the follows a sharp ridge between Pamola, Chimney Peak, South Peak, and the top of the mountain: Baxter Peak. After some math, we took the optimistic route: continue the plan.

We started heading to the opposite side of the peak, and then we saw it. Not just the Knife Edge, but the first hurdle on it: the Chimney. A 200 foot precipitious drop that we needed to rockclimb down and then the same on the other side to get back up. But we weren’t ready for it. We tried a couple different ways down, struggling against tired muscles. We sat staring at it, weighing our other options. It cut a deep groove directly between Pamola and the rest of the peaks, so we couldn’t go around.

We were beaten by Katahdin. We turned around, heading back down Pamola trail, and the whole way down we had to hope we wouldn’t fall off the pointy and scratchy boulders.



I decided I’m not going to regret not doing National Novel Writing Month this year. There’s no telling whether I’ll regret not winning (that’s what they call getting to 50k words). I’ll know that on November 30.

Official NaNoWriMo 2006 Participant

Update: I now realize that they way I said it above is more likely interpreted as "I'm not doing it", and the image just made it more confusing. I meant that I'm not going to regret not doing it because I am going to do it. I'm in.

Pitcher's Pub

On the side of a non-descript road in sleepy Cumberland, Rhode Island is a little bar with a tiny parking lot. From the outside, it looks like the kind of bar you’ve driven by a hundred times: dark, walls grey with pre-ban cigarette smoke, exactly three taps of American rice-heavy beer, NLCS playing on the fuzzy television in the corner. The name — Pitcher’s Pub — is even a beer/baseball pun. But despite its unassuming outward appearance, this bar is different. You sit down, yes, next to the Golden Tee game. You shout your order to the waitress over, it’s true, the Tom Petty cover band that non-traditionally includes a banjoist. But when you start scanning the twenty-some taps and realize you only recognize half of them, you’re willing to admit that your first impression might have been hasty. And the orange bottled-beer menu packed with microbrews, barley wines, and bocks makes you glad you didn’t judge this book by its cover. In fact, you realize dizzily, you can only think of one bar in Boston with such a broad offering.

I felt the need to opine this morning because there’s not a lot out there about this hidden gem. There are some moderately positive reviews on Beer Advocate that convinced us to give it a try.

Twenty Years in Connecticut

My brother and I may have moved to Boston, but my parents have lived in the same house in Danbury for twenty years. This photo was taken the summer after we moved from Boulder, CO:

And this photo was taken last weekend:

How time flies.

Fresh Plutor

Wait, what? That’s an outrage. I hope it was a sale. Update: Ah, jeez. It was a photoshop. I’ve been hoodwinked.

Back to Magic

Back in June, I came across a question on Ask MetaFilter about getting back into Magic: The Gathering and deck recommendations. I had honestly thought about it from time to time. I remembered the game being an interesting challenge, since you’re never sure what the other guy’s deck is going to do, and there’s no way to be prepared for all of it. I didn’t want to fall head-first back into spending hundreds of dollars on the game, but if there was some way I could enjoy it on a limited basis, I was interested. I noticed the poster was in Somerville, so although he wasn’t soliciting players, I posted a comment indicating that I thought it was an excellent idea. A couple of weeks later, he emailed me and invited me. Yesterday, I went.

It was a just as much fun as I remember. The pre-made “theme decks” they have nowadays make it really easy to spend $15 and have a great time. I got Code of the Orzhov from the Guildpact expansion, a black and white weenie/whittle deck. Some of the cards — like Agent of Masks — have effects that are really powerful in games that are larger than one-on-one. I also got two boosters for a booster draft and made a few tweaks to the deck after a couple of games, and I was really pleased. I went 3-2 with my deck, a couple of which were very close games. Not bad for it being seven years since I played the game.

The story of my new bike

I got a new bike, and it’s an adventure story.

Sometime last summer, on two separate occasions, we found two bicycles on the side of the road in Naugatuck with a free signs. Neither was in great condition: they were dirty, rusty, and had flat tires. For some reason, despite M’s insistence that we start biking, they were put in our garage and ignored. During her long period without school-work, however, she got them out and started cleaning and rebuilding one. The other was discarded. Before she could complete her work on it — or even put it all back together — we moved to Boston. We brought the bike, in pieces, with us.

She dropped the pieces off at Federico’s Bike Shop on Emerson St about half a mile away. She had called ahead, but they still were surprised and amused by (what they called) the “bike destroyer”. Our neighbor had warned us that they were slow there, and they were clearly quite busy, but it was okay; I had waited a year, so I wasn’t really in any rush.

My new bikeThey called a few weeks later to let us know that it was done and ready to be picked up. For something like fourty dollars, they put it all back together, degreased and regreased the parts that needed it, and even replaced a couple damaged pieces. I consider it a huge bargain. M was working on a beautiful Sunday, so I decided to go pick it up and maybe bike to City Point. With only a blank check and my phone in my pockets, I left home. Immediately I realized that I was locked out. After trying to break in through my own windows (I was unwilling to cut the screens) and thinking whether our upstairs neighbors could help (no, we haven’t given them a spare key), I realized my only option was two miles away saving lives.

It’s a really great thing that I had what I had, because I was able to pay for the bike and ride it to the hospital. It was a surprisingly smoooth experience, considering the fact that the bike wasn’t really sized for me (the seat was too high and the handlebars too low), and I hadn’t ridden a bike probably since high school. I had no bike lock, so I had to wait outside, hot, thirsty, and feeling stupid while M did vastly more important things. She eventually came out, deservedly berated me for my idiocy, and made me wear her helmet in punishment. I have a massive noggin, and she does not, so it looked sort of like a strapped-on fez.

Unsurprisingly, I suffered a flat tire on my way home.

Shenandoah National Park (National Park Service)

M and I just got back from a four-night trip to Shenandoah National Park in northern Virginia. I’ve been talking about it with people this week, and I’ve run out of positive adjectives. It was remarkably amazing in every way.


Most of our trip we spent hiking: 7 or 8 miles each day. Since we generally hiked from trailheads on Skyline Drive (the main 105-mile road running through the center of the park and the roughly along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains) to waterfalls, just about every single one of the hikes was down for several miles, then back up. Which was a strange thing to get used to. The trails were probably the best-marked ones I’ve ever hiked on. Every mile or so, there would be a granite post in the ground with a metal band around the top. The band would say what trail you were on and how far to other side-trails and destinations and whatnot.

The lodge we stayed in (Skyland) was great (and the view from the room was outstanding). And the “Early Bird” special package (for going before their busy season) was really fantastic. The weather could not have behaved any better while we were there. Move-related problems meant we didn’t have our digital camera with us, but the photos we took with film and my cellphone are definitely excellent.

I recommend this trip for anyone. The lodge meant you didn’t have to really be roughing it, but there’s more than 500 miles of hiking to a whole lot of great mountaintops and waterfalls. There’s 75 stunning overlooks along the road alone, so if you’re not even in a hiking mood, a drive through the park is also more than worth the time it takes.

Plutor, Homeowner

For those who aren’t aware[1], M and I are now homeowners and Massachusetts residents. Friday evening we closed on a condo in South Boston, and with the help of a dozen strong friends and family we moved in on Saturday. There are only a handful of pre-move photos up so far, since we don’t yet have Internet access. More are pending!

Update 23 May: Most of Brian's photos taken on the 20th and the 21st plus my dad's from the 20th are of the move and related activities.

[1]: I realize this is a set which is almost certainly mutually exclusive with the readers of this blog.


My wife graduated from medical school on Sunday. For the past four years, I’ve been continually humbled by her hard work, dedication, and her ridiculously vast memory. I suppose that will continue for at least the next three, and more likely for the rest of our lives. Here’s photographic evidence. My own pictures are still pending.

Update 1 June: Just a few photos came out.

Farewell, Priceline

After four different positions in three different groups and two cities in the past seven years, this its my last day working for Priceline.com. I’ve had an excellent time working here. The people are friendly and excited, and we occupy an interesting place between tiny startup and mega-corporation, which allows us to do some interesting and cutting-edge stuff.

I’m sad to be leaving, but I’m excited about my new gig at Texterity, as well as the prospects of owning a condo in Southie and just generally moving to the Boston area. May is exciting!

New York Loves You

I had the chance, possibly for the first time ever, to sit on a corner in downtown New York (specifically Whitehall St and Pearl St), eat my lunch, and just do some people watching. It didn’t take too long for me to realize how much public behavior — even in a stereotypically surly city — is governed by simple respect for our fellow people.

There’s the guy in the over-crowded and entirely enclosed news stand who can hardly get his arms out the little peephole to take your money, but is apparently unafraid of anyone stealing his wares. And the couple selling produce next to him even walked away for several minutes and no one touched a thing. Everyone seemed to know exactly where the polite little line at the hotdog vendor was supposed to be. (And as an aside, why is it always right next to the server, not across from him?) And there was a startling lack of honking car horns.

I was somewhat taken aback. I wonder how much of it has to do with downtown-Manhattanite post-9/11 bonding, and how much of it was always there.

Gometric is expiring

The domain GoMetric.org is expiring on April 24. Should I renew it? Does anyone use it? It averages fewer than 20 hits a day, and it’s unclear how many of those hits are anything besides robots.

Update 5 Apr - Fine, sheesh! I didn't realize people actually still used it. Gometric is now renewed for another two years, and I have some ideas for some updates and whatnot.

What music have you listened to lately?

In response to something Chris said last night, I’d like to try an experiment. I’d like everyone to tell me what the last three albums you’ve purchased or downloaded have been. I’ll do the same. I don’t know what the goal of this is, but I intend to listen to some of the stuff mentioned, and I hope you’ll do the same. I’ll start.

  1. Mogwai - Mr. Beast
  2. Madonna - Music (Yes, really.)
  3. Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis - Live In Swing City: Swingin' With Duke

Your turn.

Recent Desktop Woes

The biggest disadvantage to building your own desktop is that when things go wrong, you actually have to figure out what it is. A couple weeks ago, in the middle of a game, my desktop shut itself off. It would no longer get so far as POSTing, and sometimes the power supply wouldn’t do anything when I hit the power button. After some fiddling, I determined that it was most likely the motherboard, and since I had a three-year warranty, I sent it back to MSI for repairs.

When a different motherboard (of the same model) came back, it still wasn’t working. This narrowed it down to the (cheap) power supply or the (less cheap) processor. I randomly came across a great rebate deal on a 350W power supply at CompUSA, so I ran there and purchased it. I was lucky, and that did it. It only cost me ten dollars in the end, and my computer now seems quieter, too.

I only wish it hadn’t taken a month.

Interviews Done

M’s last medical residency interview was Friday. Her rank order list isn’t due until February 22, but she’s already separated the group into “desirables” and “less desirables”. Above the fold are Brown in Providence, BU and Mt. Auburn in the Boston area, and George Washington in DC.

Stay tuned for more developments as they happen!

Three Words, Five Minutes

I wrote Three words, five minutes this morning after about a year of procrastinating. It was initially going to be big and complicated, but since that was the source of the procrastination, I made it a single frameset with Writeboard as the writing interface. TWFM makes it surprisingly easy to just go and get a little writing exercise, and even if it doesn’t inspire something longer, then it was worth it.

Nomad has been ignoring work with it all day.

New Year's Resolution

Among my New Years resolutions this year is to resume writing. I wrote a lot of angsty poetry and some short stories in high school and college. It tapered off, though, and this year, my goal is to write a 1000+ word story every week. I’d also like to participate in NaNoWriMo in November.

If it’s not too terrible, I might post some of the stories here.