Antisociology

Things I learned

Posted in Uncategorized by antisociology on September 6, 2011

Things I’ve learned about myself and (online) dating in the last four weeks:

  • I actually can get dates. Better yet, some of them are actually willing to go on a second!
  • It’s okay to go out with lots of people. In fact, it’s a great idea within limits.
  • People don’t always resemble their online dating profiles, in both good and bad ways.
  • Anyone you have a bit of emotional/personal/intellectual connection with is worth a second date.
  • Procrastination when it comes to sending the first e-mail or texting/calling after the first date is bad.
  • Short first messages seem to work better than longer messages.
  • Planning and scheduling are hard.
  • Take it slow, keep it fun, let ’em have some space.

Growing Up

Posted in Uncategorized by antisociology on August 21, 2011

I think I never really grew up. Sure, I can handle my finances and have built a career path for myself that has lots of great options. I can cook for myself and know how to take care of general apartment things. When it comes to interpersonal matters, though, I have a tough time.

I’ve been trying to keep my social calendar filled. I’ve been doing this partly as a way to force myself to learn these things and partly as a way of moving on from some unfortunate experiences that have been happening this year. Dating is tough! Between juggling work, time with friends, and possible dates… I’m exhausted! I think my limit is two dates per week MAX.

I have a social energy quota and it gets depleted pretty quickly.

The Future

Posted in artwork, movie, shortfilm, video by antisociology on July 15, 2011

Last night I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to see a preview screening of Miranda July’s new movie, “The Future” at the MoMA. I was actually in the standby line, credit and membership cards in hand, when someone asked if I was next in line and then shoved a ticket at me. Bonus!

For those who don’t know, Miranda July is an artist/writer/filmmaker. Her last feature length movie was “Me and You and Everyone We Know.” The characters and plots in her movies tend toward the quirky, outcast, and fantastical. If you’re uncomfortable with uncomfortable characters, her movies probably aren’t for you. Her film short, “Are You The Favorite Person of Anybody?” featuring John C. Reilly is actually available on YouTube:

July was there at the screening and answered some audience questions after the film. The coolest part was that she mingled before and afterwards. Standing a few feet away from her, I felt like what I think teenage girls feel when they’re standing by Justin Bieber. As it turns out, she’s just as quirky and adorkable as the characters she writes into her movies. Yes, I have a crush.

“The Future” is about a couple who realize that adopting a cat will tie them together in responsibility. Fearing that commitment, they take the month they have and try to live life without the burden of everyday cares. It’s a movie that is, on the one hand, about moments and, on the other hand, about the arcs and storylines that play out over our lifetimes.

The characters aren’t heroes; they’re flawed almost to the extent of being pitiable. It’s that quality, however, that makes their performances so good. We all have flaws. Life is tough and no amount of fantastical happenings can really change that.

The movie itself is beautiful, at times feeling like a very polished piece of performance art or a series of art photos. Props and music all seem to have been chosen deliberately and unnoticeably perfectly.

My one complaint about the film is that I felt it ran a little long. Scenes linger, and the character performances are slow… almost as if they were visually enunciating each beat in the plot. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to see it do well in general release.

Here’s the trailer for “The Future”:

Product Management

Posted in Uncategorized by antisociology on July 10, 2011

One of the really challenging things about my new job is that I’ve taken a role I haven’t really formally taken on before. In addition to learning all about a new and complex suite of products as well as a new company culture, I’m really learning a new job at the same time. To be honest, I wasn’t even really sure what a “product manager” did when I started interviewing (the product was just that interesting).

I’m approaching the role as sort of an internal entrepreneur. Once I’m up to speed, I expect that I’ll be dividing my time between looking for new functionality, prioritizing feature requests from the field, and doing a little project management in juggling requests. The goal is to make sure that products keep evolving and improving but in a way that is consistent with the current state and future goals of the business.

This is a lot different than my role as a software engineer. Although I was also responsible for keeping the product going, deciding which features to build was somewhat out of my control. I could decide how to build things, but what or when was largely decided by other people.

This has actually been a tough transition on a lot of levels. First off, I am used to having been the one to have built… well… if not everything, close to everything. Secondly, I am having to make a transition from thinking in terms of code, to thinking in terms of documents. There are simply too many issues to keep track of for me to get knee deep in code.

Morning

Posted in artwork, habits by antisociology on July 6, 2011

My new morning routine:

Heavy

Posted in Uncategorized by antisociology on July 4, 2011

Dear Reader,

I apologize for the lengthy intervals between my posts. Between work, matters of the heart, and my own laziness I’ve neglected this blog. So, here’s what’s been going on.

Over the winter I started seeing a girl I’ve had a huge crush on for a while. Unfortunately, the relationship ended. I’m still not completely sure what happened. From what I can tell, it may have been bad timing or, more likely, my own inexperience with courtship. Love seems sort of like credit to me. To get good credit, one has to borrow money, but to borrow money, one has to have good credit. Maybe that’s what dating is. Borrowing a small piece of someone’s heart for a period of time — a small enough investment to get you in the door so you can build up enough credit to say “I love you” and mean it.

An interesting observation about myself. I recently learned (via Facebook, natch), that this girl (as well as another former love interest) has started seeing someone else. This revelation stirred up a response I didn’t expect. I actually got jealous and sad and lonely. To be honest, it still smarts a bit. I’m not sure why this reaction surprises me. I guess I always thought I was the sort of person who would react more cooly and rationally about this sort of thing.

Earlier this year, I had surgery on my finger to remove a benign growth. The surgery was fine, and I recovered in a few weeks. My finger is shorter than it was, but I have full use of it and don’t really notice.

Two weeks ago, I left the company I joined three years ago and started a new job. There were a number of reasons for leaving, none holding greater sway than any other. There were a lot of reasons to join the new place too (a decision wholly separate from whether to leave or not). So, I have a new position (non-engineering), in a new company. There’s a lot to learn, and I’m excited about gulping it all down so I can start making a real dent in things.

It’s summer now. This is not my favorite season, but there are still moments when I want time to stand still so I can just enjoy the moment. I’m working on filling up my life, finding a good balance between work (which I care about deeply), and everything else. I’ve recently started trying to paint again and have been trying to spend more of my time with people new and old.

I hope we can keep in touch more as I settle into this next chapter of my life.

With love, John

What I care about in 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by antisociology on February 6, 2011

Usually, around this time of year, I’d write something about what I tried and liked last year (2010). This time, I think I’ll take the time to try and communicate what I’m caring about this year. In no particular order:

  • The NYPD “bike crackdown” —  The NYPD is currently strictly enforcing traffic laws for bicycles. I have no problem with such enforcement if it is applied equally across all road users (pedestrians are also road users). It is not. As a cyclist, I’m not asking for special dispensation… just equal consideration. Currently, the written laws, enforcement thereof, public attitude, and physical infrastructure are biased towards motorized vehicles and pedestrians.
  • Elected Officials — I have never been one to contact elected officials in the past. However, with the NYPD bike crackdown (and with an interest in promoting alternatives to single-occupant automobiles) I’ve become much more interested in actively voicing my opinion to my elected officials.
  • Life balance — To be honest, work is most of what I know. I grew up with life revolving around external reward and certificates of achievement. I’m hoping I can find a good balance between my own personal ambition, my professional life, and my personal relationships this year. I realize it’s something I need to work on, but I’m also really afraid of things not working out (thanks, laissez-faire capitalism)
  • Mechanical keyboards — I’m a research and development engineer. I spend my life at a keyboard writing software and research papers. A comfortable and positive typing experience is really important. Last month, I rediscovered the joys of a great mechanical keyboard and now I’m out to try as many different keyswitches as I can. I’ve gone so far as to order my own keyboard for use at my office.
  • Art — I’d really like to get back to making art. Last year I bought a bunch of painting supplies. I even prepared some canvases. Unfortunately, I never did sit down and start painting. I hope to rectify that this year. Perhaps I’ll even try and learn an instrument. Banjo and guitar are two instruments I’ve been wanting to learn. I’m also open to re-learning how to play the violin (I played for six years in grade school).

Given that it’s the beginning of the year, that’s already quite a bit. I’ll try and write more on each in the coming weeks.

Summer Project

Posted in apartment by antisociology on July 10, 2010

For those just tuning in, I moved apartments in May. While my new place doesn’t have as much character as my old one, it does have the benefit of receiving an enormous amount of natural light. This has allowed me to start growing some plants.

Being a geeky sort, though, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and decided to build a plant monitoring system as a way to learn some electronics. What I envision is a sensor package for each plant that measures temperature, light, and soil moisture. All of the sensor packs would plug into a central data display/logger unit. This main unit would allow you to look at the current readings, possibly scroll through previous readings, or transfer readings to a computer.

I ordered some Arduino starter stuff from SparkFun and have been messing around. Arduino is a small microcontroller board that makes it easy to get started with some embedded programming. A microcontroller is like a very very very small computer (in terms of size and power) that generally runs only one program, unlike your desktop or laptop that runs many programs. Microcontrollers are responsible for things like controlling your microwave, managing a car engine, or running an iPod.

Arduino board with light and temperature sensor prototype

The arduino board (bottom) and prototype sensors (top)

A few nights ago I started wiring up temperature and light sensors. It took a little doing, but I was eventually able to convert the raw readings from the temperature sensor into human units. I’m still working on figuring out how to convert the light sensor. For kicks, I let the sensor run yesterday while I was at the office. Apparently, my apartment warms up to 90F during the day!

The interesting thing to me is that you can clearly see two main events. The first is when I turn the A/C off and leave for the office. Almost immediately, the temperature begins to rise. The second event is when the A/C automatically kicks on (I set the timer to turn on the unit about an hour before I expect to get home).

It’s also possible to see how the “energy saver” mode of my A/C unit works. I have the thermostat on the A/C set to 77F and have turned on the energy saver mode. In the plot below, you can see how the unit maintains the temperature for a while and then shuts off. The temp slowly rises again, and then the air conditioner turns on again to lower the temp.

I wired up the light sensor too and can’t wait to see how light levels change throughout the day. It will also be interesting to see how interior temps fare once I get shades. Hopefully that will bring the peak temperature down and the A/C won’t have to run as long/hard to keep the apartment cool.

Sensor package prototype

The next step will be to design and build some soil moisture sensors and then figure out how to package the sensors up into a vaguely neat and attractive package.

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Tweedier: Bike Commuting in 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by antisociology on April 12, 2010

In the last post, I talked about stuff that bike commuting stuff that worked. One thing I didn’t particularly like about the One-Way, was the position it put me in. The position didn’t seem quite right for commuting and errand running. In addition, the drop bars limited my options for carrying cargo on the front. So, this past weekend, I cleaned up Rolly the Raleigh and installed a new front end consisting of Jitensha/Nitto flat bars, shellaced cork grips, Shimano flat bar levers, and a front basket.

The front basket replaces the Nigel Smythe Li’l Loafer bag I used to use and provides a lot more carrying capacity. I took it on an easy grocery run today and easily carried home some OJ, a bottle of olive oil (not that light!), bananas, coffee, and some peas in addition to my usual bag of stuff and my heavy-ass u-lock. The Raleigh’s low-trail fork made handling with a front load a breeze. The bars are wide enough to proved some leverage, but not so wide as to make it difficult to thread your way through the city.

After riding around on the setup for two days, I think I may need to raise the bars a little, despite my preference (a holdover from riding race bikes the last few years). The grips and bars just aren’t that comfortable with a lot of weight on them and my hands get a bit tired after, say, more than 30 minutes at a stretch.

While I had the bike apart, I cleaned things up a little and did a general look around inspection in addition to replacing the front brake pads. I found some pretty deep dings in the paint including some on the underside of the chainstays where the kickstand mounted. Before building the bike back up, I wrapped that section of the stays with hemp twine.

A few months ago, I replaced the worn out stock brake pads with a set of Velo-Orange squeal free pads. They were definitely squeal-free, but I could never get them set up. If I set them up to provide good power there would be a lot of fork shudder under braking. If I set them up not to shudder, then they wouldn’t provide good stopping power. In addition, the pads seemed to pick up a lot of tiny metal shards from the rims. They did remain squeal-free, however.

I moved the VO pads to the rear (which I don’t use much) and replaced them with the much heralded Kool-Stop salmon pads. These have been fantastic. Brakes that I had previously been thinking of replacing have taken on a new life. The pads provide excellent squeal- and shudder-free power and are easy to modulate. Two thumbs up.

Tried and Liked 2009: Bike Commuting

Posted in commuting, cycling, gear by antisociology on March 27, 2010

2009 was my first year of bike commuting. I purchased a 2009 model year Raleigh One-Way in January, which arrived just after my birthday in February. Racks, lights, and various bags were subsequently purchased. Here are some of the things I tried and liked (and some things I didn’t like) in 2009.

  • Brooks B-17 Saddle: Much has been written about the comfort of this saddle. I have to say, it doesn’t feel any more or less comfortable than my race saddle (a Specialized Toupe) when in a racing crouch, but it provides nice broad support when in a more upright position. The side skirts seem to be nicely finish and haven’t ripped up my pants.
  • Pletscher Master Rack: This is a relatively inexpensive rack from Switzerland. It has a spring clip, little metal loops that fold up and down for holding things in place, and a light bracket at the rear for euro-style bolt on lights. The mounting system is a little clumsy. It looks more utilitarian than pretty, but it is very very functional. I have seen great racks that are three times the price (I think I got mine for $40), but with half the functionality.
  • Cygo-Lite Dual-Cross Pro Li-On: These are the lights pictured above. So far, these have been great. They provide more than adequate light and I can use it for three or four days straight before I need to recharge the battery. The head unit is quite large, though, and the battery lead is short. Still, an excellent light.
  • Nitto M-12 front rack and Nigel Smythe little loafer bag. This has so far been a great combo for quick errands when all I need is a place to stash gloves, a hat, and maybe my phone or wallet. I’ve even used it to carry home stuff from a quick grocery run (lotion, some broth, cheese, and an apple or two). The rack has never given me any problems, and the bag keeps my stuff dry. Plus, I think it looks sharp.
  • Velo-Orange touring pedals and leathered toe clips: These are fantastic pedals. My shoes have only slipped when it’s been absurdly wet. The platform is wide and comfortable. The bearings seem smooth. Color me impressed! Leathered toe clips do indeed keep the toes of your nice shoes from getting scuffed up.
  • Showers Pass Touring Jacket and Club Pants: These have kept me toasty dry in the worst of rains and toasty warm in bitterly cold winds. The jacket has pretty good venting that is easy to adjust and the pants are articulated so as not to restrict movement. The jacket arms are weirdly long, though. They are so long that I have to do up the velcro when not on the bike or they just fall over my hands.