Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Favorite Commercial: Gears of War

Given that this was released nine years ago, and I still fondly recall it as my favorite commercial of all time, here is a one-minute trailer for the original Gears of War. By today's standards, the movement looks quite choppy and a bit too unrealistic in places (yikes, those explosions). However, I remember when I first downloaded this on my Xbox 360, and still get a bit of the same excited apocalyptic feeling when I watch it now that it incited way back then.

Maybe I just really love the song (I did in Donnie Darko too), and it's pairing with silent-but-violent action, but whoever put this thing together for Microsoft back in the day, kudos to you. The games were pretty decent too, but I'm not sure they'll make it into a one-day-upcoming post on my favorite video games of all time.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Put These Oysters On Ice

Some ten years ago or so now, I was a college kid at the PHL airport after a job interview with Lockheed Martin. I recall it all went pretty well -- notably, they picked me up in a towncar for some reason, then put me up at a fancy-shmancy hotel in downtown Philadelphia. However, that's all just prelude to my return flight back to ALB, where I found myself as a 21 year old with time to kill, and an airport bar just outside my gate.

After enjoying a few Miller Lites on my own, a couple of lively travelers bellied up to the bar, tossed the bartender a plastic shopping bag full of an eclectic mix of canned beers, and confidently told her, "Put these oysters on ice."

That's amongst the top ten best things I've ever heard in my life, and the reason I've been meaning to write this all down for ages (as of today, there are no google hits for this exact phrase; a travesty). These were simpler times back then, and you could apparently just bring your own booze through security to enjoy on the plane at your leisure. Perhaps it was a frowned upon practice, and it certainly didn't strike me as standard travel behavior, but these guys brought along something like 4 cans of Budweiser, 1 bottle of an IPA, 5 little nips of hard alcohol, etc with them on their trip. It's not like they stopped at the packy on the way to the airport and grabbed a cohesive six-pack; they cleaned out the back of their fridge and tossed it in a shopping bag for the road.

I don't recall anything that we actually talked about, but I remember hanging out with these guys for about a couple hours before our flights. At one point, I committed the cardinal sin of airport travel and left my bag unattended at the bar so I could use the restroom (the Miller Lites were flowing). When I came back, these guys admitted that they had opened it up and dug through all my stuff! They didn't actually take anything (though they probably would have if I had anything good), but I really appreciate the comfort level these guys exhibited by living life on their own terms. To this day, they remain the closest real-life representation of the main characters from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that I have ever met.

At the end of it all, as my new friends and I planned to go our separate ways, I tried to settle my ~$30 tab with the bartender, only to have my debit card rejected! I had given the card to the hotel desk for any incidental charges which weren't covered by LM, and it turns out they preauthorized something like $250/night on there when I checked in. Back then, I was getting by on something like an $80 bi-weekly Computer Science Teaching Assistant paycheck, which didn't exactly put me in a good position to absorb a $500 deduction from an account that probably had something like $300 in it to begin with. Thankfully, I had some time to call my bank and transfer over some my equally-miniscule savings account to pay off the bill. No way those two guys were going to help me out.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Eloquent Equines

I'm in the process of recycling a few old computers, and in doing so, have come across a few fantastic ideas that never made their way to the Internet. LOLCats were all the rage for a little while there, with their i can haz & their cheezburgers. Well, what better complement to those grammatically-deficient and spelling-challenged kittens than the refined musings of a stalwart stallion or steed:

Funny enough, eloquentequines.com is already a real website, and there's an @EloquentEquine twitter handle too. Unfortunately, neither of these are devoted to the horse meme that never was.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

My First Marathon

I can now say that I've run in a marathon, and that I've completed a marathon, but I can't honestly say that I've run a full 26.2. The San Francisco Marathon was a few weeks ago, and sounded like a good idea when I signed up back in January. At the time, work was pretty chill, I had been running more than ever before, and I was in the midst of committing to 9 months of alcohol abstinence (hi, babykins!). Seemed like the perfect conditions to see if my feet could handle the Pheidippides feat.

Fast-forward five months, to 4:45AM on a Sunday morning, as my alarm goes off, and I head out to the kitchen to make a peanut-butter english muffin before walking over to the starting line. I'm in Group D, with a punctual 5:52 start time, alongside thousands of other ~4-hour marathoners watching the sun rise over the Bay Bridge.

The training up to this point had been pretty enjoyable. I'd come to love RunKeeper on my phone, really enjoyed my 10-milers between AT&T Park and Candlestick, and had managed a pretty respectable 20 miles from our place down to lunch in Pacifica (well, that was the plan, but I made a wrong turn and ended up near Fort Funston). I invested in some respectable running gear, and can attest to the benefits of short shorts and a dri-fit tank top. I also learned how much better tasting Clif Shot Blocks are compared to Gu gel, and the trick of keeping them in the fridge and cutting the packages beforehand so you're not trying to peel plastic with a combination of sweaty fingers and in-motion teeth.

Running over the Golden Gate Bridge (about 6 miles in), the morning sun must have started heating up one side of my face, as the right lens in my glasses started fogging up pretty good. Half-blind, I made it to the turnaround point on the other side, grabbed a little water, and pulled the drink a little bit & dump the rest over my head move. This probably cooled me down a little bit, but also might have been a mistake, as my once foggy glasses were now both foggy and soggy. Heading back over the bridge in the other direction gave my left side a chance to fog up and round out the visual handicapping.

I finished my first half in 2:02, and realized there was likely no way that I was going to break 4 hours; though, I thought that I might be able to keep it close, as I heard that the second half was all easy downhill. The second half was actually a whole bunch of running around Golden Gate Park, followed by some pretty brutal downhills. So brutal, in fact, that I think that they were what killed my race, or at least certainly were the end of my "having a fun time". About 21 miles in, I came across a particularly steep decline, and my legs just weren't having it at all. I stopped to walk down the hill, and once I tried to get going again, the cramps began. My legs and arms both started to cramp something fierce, to the point that I needed to walk to the next water station, and then throw down a few cups of electrolytes and full bottles of water to get going again. The next 5 miles were a dragged-out combination of walking, painful jogging, and the fill 'er up bottle routine at each water stop. Up until mile 17, I was on about a 4-hour pace (checked in at 8:38AM, with a 2:44 time); I ended up crossing the finish line at a dismal 4:55:32 -- 10:48AM, more than 2 hours after I crossed the 17-mile marker.

As you can see in this picture that Jackie took as I was nearing the finish line, my mood at the end of the race was a solid two thumbs down. I finally crossed the finish line, grabbed another bottle of water and the best scone of my life, then walked through the sea of people to meet up with Jackie and Chris. Despite the grin here, I was certain that I was never ever going to do this again.

Here's my RunKeeper log for the race. I felt like I was taking it pretty easy for the first half, since a nine minute mile isn't too crazy for me, but maybe things would have turned out a bit differently if I went for a more even 9:30 the whole way -- who knows..

1 mi       9:21
2 mi       8:59
3 mi       9:04
4 mi       8:57
5 mi       8:55
6 mi       9:48
7 mi       8:58
8 mi       8:44
9 mi       9:09
10 mi     9:07
11 mi     9:05
12 mi     9:35
13 mi     9:49
14 mi     9:23
15 mi     9:58
16 mi     10:24
17 mi     11:01
18 mi     10:29
19 m      10:48
20 mi     11:19
21 mi     13:24
22 mi     15:47
23 mi     16:15
24 mi     16:30
25 mi     17:00
26 mi     15:06
27 mi     12:28

I've never "been a runner"; when Jackie and I met, my running workouts consisted of about a mile around the neighborhood, with breaks along the way. I'm a pretty good sprinter, but I don't think I really have the proper form or great body type for efficient long-distance running -- I suppose that's part of what makes it interesting. Later that day, after a little nap and a hamburger, I eased myself into a cold bath and thought "that was bullshit, I could have done so much better.. maybe next time".

Saturday, July 21, 2012

CIA & ICE: A Case for Paper in a World of Digital Health

With the third annual USENIX Workshop on Health Security and Privacy just a few weeks away, now seems like a good time to push out a copy of one position paper that didn't make the cut for the conference.

After leveraging my Microsoft and UW sway to get on the first-ever HealthSec program a couple years ago (peep the paper & rushed video here), my unaffiliated hobbyist paper didn't make it on the docket this time around. Granted, only 15 of 29 papers were accepted for the conference - all 15 of which come from academia, and certainly involved more than just a few weeknights' worth of work. I may have had a better outcome if I had done a better job identifying my audience (should I have done without the security primers?), and had been much more clear about my main point (simply put: I think many digital solutions to the emergency-access problem are wildly overcomplicated and prone to failure).

I'm not too bummed about not getting selected, but I do hate spending time on things without giving the results some avenue to be freed. So, maybe I'll try to sneak this into the Rump Sessions, or maybe just throw it out here on the ol' blog.

Abstract: As electronic healthcare systems and personal medical devices evolve, security researchers continually discover new ways to protect (and compromise) private health information. This position paper and short presentation will urge the technical health-security community to consider supplementing electronic health records with the very construct that many of these systems originally aimed to replace: paper.

Treat yourself to the full two pages here:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Paarthurnax, Spittin' the Truth

Who would have thought that a make-believe dragon in a video game would provide the spark needed to get another blog post up here? This past Christmas, Magoo gifted me a previously-played, parentally-stepped-on copy of Skyrim. I was a bit of an Oblivion addict back in the Summer of 2006, and Tom had lost interest in this latest Elder Scrolls installment somewhere around the tenth glitch and probably 20th hour of aimless horse riding. I haven't had a chance to really really dive into it yet, only chipping away an hour or two about every other weekend; though, I recently came across the sort of scene that makes this slow-paced, drawn-out game so enjoyable. About 13 minutes deep into this clip of ~17 minutes containing nothing but dialogue, the leader of the Greybeards drops some real knowledge:

Everything mortal fades away in time, but the spirit remains. Ponder the meaning of spirit. Where mortal flesh may wither and die, the spirit endures.

By pretty much all metrics, 2011 was the best and busiest year of my life. As such, I never really had a chance to stop and smell the roses, nevermind stop and type the proses. What better way to capture not only the memories, but the spirit of all this awesomeness than to do so in a digital format that'll almost certainly outlive me. Some day, I'll look back and be glad that I took a few minutes to churn out a post that'll last a lifetime.

Now, for the real shocker: turns out the guy that did this dragon voice was the same guy behind "It's-a-Me, Mario!!". Talk about versatility.