It was the strangest thing. I experienced vertigo and a feeling of discomfort this morning. I felt so sick and basically laid in the lab sofa in nausea. Suddenly, the graduate program coordinators came bearing candy for Halloween. I took two pieces and suddenly about 10 minutes later, I felt better. Candy makes life oh so better!

As a result of that miracle, I couldn\’t help but eat candy anytime I found some…

A few moments from yesterday\’s famed Halloween party:

  • successfully convincing Ray to go despite a lack of a costume
  • finally getting to yank the hair of someone we had all abhored throughout the summer
  • bCrowe bothering me about not drinking again. and again. and again.
  • Terleski, Jack, Ben, Sam et. al taking (drunken) bites out of the bagel belt
  • Hamburgler and Ronald McDonald fighting it out in the food room
  • meeting the Robotics boyz
  • How does this compare with that of last year in the same apartment?

    One thing I learned is that I probably will never wear a Halloween costume that is meant for the purposes of \”hooking up\”. I don\’t do \”sexy\” witches, cats, or schoolgirls. Every year it\’s fun to look incredibly messy and dishelved. Unlike the quote from Mean Girls, Halloween is the one night a year that I can dress as a mess and nobody else can say anything about it. Woohoo!




    I watched Wonder Boys last night if only for the purpose of seeing Pittsburgh in an insider\’s eyes.

    Pittsburgh is a neglected city to outsiders, especially to those from larger metropolitan areas. I admit that coming here I thought everything was going to be run-down. But as I said before, there\’s a certain quality about this city that I won\’t find anyone else. The general belief that there is nothing here makes something so small (a small vegetarian store, a farmer\’s market, an independently owned costume store) so…special. When you have low expectations, little things make the difference.

    Strangely enough, Wonder Boys fully took advantage of its city. I don\’t recall that many movies that fully take advantage of their setting–always having it shot in more than two locations and using it different cities for effect. The movie is about a professor in a writing program at an unnamed university (filmed at Carnegie Mellon). What was interesting was whenever they drove through Pittsburgh, CMU was prominent in the background. The main scenes on campus were filmed inside CFA and Baker Hall. There were great shots of Margaret Morrison Hall. And it took advantage of other settings within the city–the area of Friendship and Swissvale. It\’s not like any other city can be filmed in its place. But the difference between this movie and other movies is that it was stating that Pittsburgh…was the very wonder boy. Pittsburgh is a city that flourished the most during the steel period, but floundered. Unlike other industrial cities however, it\’s growing still. The seven major colleges/universities and an artistic undergrowth is enforcing all of that…

    Apparently on recommendations for graduate school, they include a question on one\’s emotional stability. I didn\’t even know that. But why is it included? Will emotional stability predict how well a student does in a graduate program?

    Discount airlines have become so common that we start wondering why legacy airlines are still around. Why are the classic airlines still charging such high prices when Southwest and Jetblue can get the job done cleaner and cheaper? Is it because Southwest, for example, has open seating and does not serve anything on board besides a bag of pretzels and a beverage?

    Maybe there is something I am missing in the business model,

    So what about discount cruises? I have been on Royal Carribean and Carnival. Both were extremely pleasant experiences, where someone changed our sheets twice a day, left a mint on our pillow, with towel bunnies…us experiencing high class meals, views, and simply \”luxury\”. easyCruise just started earlier this year, based in the UK. Its cabins are completely minimalist and room service is extra (you have to pay for sheet change, etc.) Of course, now food is not included with the cruise price. The ship only sails during the night so its passengers can enjoy the day at each destination. It\’s geared toward a younger generation, that is willing to sacrifice luxury for an experience.

    But then, how much would I sacrifice for a low rate? Apparently, easyHotel is built around the same model. A room with no windows, no phone, no storage facilities. Simply a private bathroom and a bedrom (with only a bed). No desk. There is no elevator in the building. No daily change of sheets. No phone. Only two electrical outlets and an early check-out time. Hmmm…

    Murder in Lafayette, CA

    I have always complained about high school. But I never got to the point where I would turn against everyone, even though I felt rejected.

    Recently, in my hometown of Lafayette–an affluent suburb of San Francisco located 30 minutes away–a 16 year kid killed a housewife without an unclear motive (yet). This is the second murder in 10 years. The boy attended the same schools I attended through Stanley Intermediate to Acalanes High, all schools well-adorned with high rankings and winning sport teams. My parents moved my sister and me from Hercules for a better school district in 1990 for those very reasons, hoping in their minds that we would succeed in life.

    Yet, the question floats around the town now that teens are unstable. They really are though. It\’s hard to be someone without independence, with adults thinking they know what is right and at the same time, someone struggling with the meaning of friendships, and a developing self-awareness.

    People want to blame it on a lack of good social structure in schools. But it\’s not only that. Suburbia is disconnected. People move alone in their cars to the grocery store and to work. People don\’t stop and chat at the local cafe. Sidewalks are empty or like on my street in Lafayette, almost nonexistant. My house is located far from the street too, a long driveway to the garage. Trick-or-treaters never come.

    One of my friends said that living in the city is too fast paced, but in suburbia, it almost doesn\’t have a pace. We are all solitary, alone in our pods and in that way, we don\’t form the relationships sometimes we really need.

    Blog usability, who would have thought?

    After reading Sam\’s post, I had wanted to comment as well, but never gathered my thoughts until now (after having a terrible cold at the Grand Concourse today and sleeping for 2 hours)

    What I find interesting about creating the user experience is that it\’s not always about making it easy for the user. This is entirely contrary to Nielsen\’s point on web usability. For example, the store Diesel deliberately designs its store layout to confuse new customers. Customers walk into a store feeling overwhelmed and the customer service representative swoops down as a knight-in-shining-armor to \”save the day\”. Of course, this is more of a company-centered design where the marketing ploy pulls the customers in. Instruments, highlighted in the CHI 2005 conference, are meant to be difficult. Because we get pleasure from mastery of creation. How great would it be to create a symphony with a simple touch of the button?

    Perhaps, then this is the question of art vs. usability. How can something be created to portray an artistic sensibility while not neglecting usability?

    My favorite painting is Van Gogh\’s The Starry Night. But we certainly can\’t apply any HCI to it to understand the artist\’s intent. Art is meant to be a statement, to let the viewer interpret their own meaning.

    My blog violates at least 8 out of the 10 heuristics. I designed my blog for the purpose of having people read only the latest entries. If they want to read more, then they should read everything because I write the blog about me. My thoughts. My experiences. In some way, I don\’t write for people. I write to remember and to catalog. At the same time too, I create the blog for an artistic purpose. So by making it difficult for people to find what they want to know, they essentially experience one of my traits–that one must take time to know me.

    And why do I never use titles? Because I don\’t believe in them. It\’s the same way why I rarely include pictures of myself on my blog. It\’s because I don\’t want readers to judge the quality of a blog on the basis of a picture. I want the content of a post to force the user to read it all. This is NOT a library, folks.

    The way that Nielsen describes a blog is that a blog should be a wealth of information. Like a dictionary. Of course, we\’ll see when I actually have a job and a \”professional blog\”.

    But I still dislike xanga very much. The irony.

    For some of [the kids] it\’s hard to be in school; it\’s like hell. Sometimes they use that word, \’hell\’. And for others, it\’s like, great, it\’s never been better. – Gus Van Sant on Elephant

    After an idle morning, I watched Elephant which was on HBO\’s on demand comcast for the longest time. Although it seemed like a deliberate move to portray Columbine, it was a sweeping portrait, almost poetic, of how high school is like. How people are focused on their self-needs. How disconnected it is from reality. I was never that bitter about high school until I graduated and realized how little of the people I really knew. I didn\’t feel like an Acalanes Don. I was just someone who was shuffled through the system and spit out to fulfill the school\’s statistic of nearly 0% dropout rates and the top schools in the state.

    From time to time, when I want to prove that I have changed, I show the above picture. Here, I cropped myself out. Usually I have people try to find me. Most people cannot within the first minute. I have to point myself out, that I am standing alone. That day, they had us line up in the bleachers. I tried to look for my \”best friend\” (aka competitor), but she was nowhere to be found. So I tried standing next to people I sort of knew, trying to be part of the group. But they gave me a look, so I stood below them instead. The photographer was saying \”3, 2…\” I tried leaning to my right to be part of the group, but gave up. I simply smiled instead, a helpless smile trying to show that I really ok with being a loner. \”1.\” The photographer said at last and took a few more shots.

    Nowadays, people can\’t believe that I was like that. \”That\’s so sad,\” one of my friends said once, giving me a melancholy look.

    A few days ago, I received a facebook friend request from someone I did not know. I looked at her profile closer. A new CMU freshman who graduated from Acalanes last year. She also sent me a message filled with OMGs and a general excited tone. She asked me whether I had Mr. Hoffman, because he was her favorite teacher. And continued babbling about how great it was to find a fellow Don at CMU. The funny thing is that now more than 5 years later, high school doesn\’t matter. It\’s a fragment of the past. Forgettable and all that is left are the ties, the ability to say SNODOG!

    If nobody got it, snodog is the backwards spelling of go dons!