August 20, 2006

Nine Point Eight Metres Per Second Squared

Last November, Bonnie received a birthday gift certificate good for one jump at Skydive Toledo, and has been waiting for the summer's clear warm weather to use it. July this year had been unusually hot, so she sent out an email to her closest friends inviting them to jump with her on July 29. I was the only one who accepted.

The two of us headed down two hours to Toledo, Washington, a sleepy little town you have no reason to visit unless you're skydiving. We registered, initialed and signed pages upon pages of disclaimers and waivers, then began waiting. After waiting for half an hour, I asked the woman behind the counter what the hold up was. Apparently we were waiting for the cloud cover to break. I really wished they had told us that there was a chance the jump would be cancelled before I forked over my non-refundable $200 (good for a reschedule). We hung around another two hours before giving up and heading home, vowing to return next week.

The next week, we made the same long drive. It was a hot, clear day, and we were certain the jump was on. We got there at our appointed time of 1:00 pm, and were told there was a two-hour delay. Apparently they had run out of fuel, and needed to have some more driven in. We decided against hanging around the hot hangar, and drove out to the nearby Lewis and Clark camp grounds for a hike.

We cam back to the site in time to see some people land from their jump. The skies were full of hooting and cheering, as the jumpers sailed down. The landings were as graceful as could be expected, and didn't look the least bit painful. Another hour went by, and we went out to the local burger shack for some milkshakes. When we got back, we got a basic training session by the owner on how to position oneself, etc. Basically, our job was to not interfere with the tandem jumper's ability to not let us die.

We were then informed that Bonnie's gift certificate, although good for $200, was not eligible for the same $200 jump I had bought. For reasons that remain mysterious to us today, her $200 gift certificate was only good for a 10,000-foot jump (about 3 km), while my $200 was good for 12,000 feet (about 3.6 km), and all sales were final.

At around 5:00 pm, we were ready to get suited up into our harnesses. Both Bonnie and I forwent the jumpsuits in favour of the clothes we were wearing. Just then, another round of jumpers had just landed. One of the tandem jumpers, a blonde surfer-dude type, ran in excitedly telling everyone how the chute and become twisted, and he had to cut it loose and use the reserve chute to land. His customer looked a lot less thrilled. He then introduced himself and told Bonnie he would be her tandem jumper.

I met my tandem jumper, a much more sedate guy named Mickey. He checked the straps on my harness, and declared us ready to go. We walked over to the tiny prop plane on the runway. This was easily the smallest plane I had ever seen, let alone ridden in. The four of us crammed in behind the pilot, and we took off. Despite what I said about Toledo having nothing to offer, it is truly a beautiful part of the country, especially when viewed from the air. The higher we got, the more pastoral landscapes and mountain ranges we could see. We saw Mount Rainier, Mount St Helens and Mount Adams, and even Mount Hood in the distance (here's a map to get an idea what I'm talking about). With every 100 feet we climbed, the more nervous I became. It seemed like all the moisture from my mouth was being sweated out of my palms. When we reached 10,000 feet, Bonnie's instructor strapped himself to her back, then the door opened. I was still strapped in by my seatbelt, but the rushing wind inside the plane made me feel like I might get sucked right out. Bonnie and her instructor positioned themselves with one foot each onto the step just outside the door, then they were gone. Just like that. My instructor told me to watch them fall. Cautiously, I peeked my head out the door, but only saw horizon. "No," Mickey said. "Watch!" and pushed me so my upper body was hanging out of the plane. Then I saw Bonnie and her tandem jumper getting smaller and smaller. It looked to me, in no uncertain terms, that they had indeed just fallen out of an airplane. Then Mickey pulled me back in and the door shut. Well, I thought to myself, There's nothing I can do for her now.

It took another few minutes to reach 12,000 feet, but it felt like an eternity. I just kept replaying the sight of the figures shrinking against cow fields in my head. Then, it was my turn. Mickey strapped himself to my back, and I put on my goggles. The door opened, and the rush of cold air hit me face first. I put my right foot on the step, and I thought to myself that this was my last act of my own volition. Everything after this step is in the hands of this guy strapped to my back. I had never been more scared in my life (I'm getting that same tingling in my palms just writing about it). Before I knew it, Mickey pushed off and I was falling.

It took a good ten seconds before I could regain my senses. During that time I was completely paralyzed, true sensory overload. I remember seeing the bottom of the plane, the flipping over and being it in the face hard by wind. When I did regain control, I was falling through the air, accelerating at 9.8 m/s2. The wind was rushing into my nose, and I felt like my heart had stopped beating. Then I noticed the incredible view. The world is a truly beautiful place, I thought. Too bad I'm about to die. As we fell, we passed through pockets of progressively warmer air. It was about 85°F (30°C) on the ground, and it seemed we were warming 10° at a time. After about 50 seconds of freefall, the chute suddenly opened, and I was yanked upwards with 3Gs of force (my crotch and armpits were sore for days after). With 5000 feet (1.5 km) left in the drop, we sailed leisurely over cow fields and dirt roads. I started laughing. I wasn't scared anymore, my adrenal glands having exhausted themselves 3000 feet prior.

The landing was as smooth as I could have asked for. We slid on our butts for a few feet, and that was it. Bonnie was waiting for me in the landing field, and I was sure to kiss her before kissing the ground.

It was an incredible experience, redefining my senses of fear and relief. For days afterward, I felt invincible. Suddenly crossing the street against the lights no longer felt like living on the edge. I had just upped the ante, and I feel great. People ask me if I would do it again, and I don't think I've ruled it out, but let's just say it doesn't top my list.

15:27 | Misc Rambling | Comments (2)

October 31, 2005

Recap Of Brotherly Visit

Yesterday I dropped my brother Matt off at the airport after his week-long visit to Seattle. My entire division had been given the week off for releasing the .NET Framework 2.0 (shameless plug), so I invited him to come hang with his big brother. This was his second visit to Seattle, so we forwent much of the tourist fare and just hung out.

I decided to rent a car for the week (for those of you who don't know, T and I have been living car-less for two months now. Seattle's bus system is good enough that we can get by without one, or use Flexcar for short trips), so we had mobility. I used to laugh at the people with tickets under their car's windshield wiper, parked directly under a No Parking sign. Well, Monday night I was one of those people. I had barely had the car for 3 hours when I got a ticket for parking in a zoned area without a permit.

Tuesday Matt and I walked downtown and checked out Pike Place Market. For a snack, I treated him to a Piroshky before we headed over to Queen Anne for Korean BBQ with friends. After eating more beef in one sitting than I had eaten all month, we stopped off at the Stumbling Monk for some good Belgian beer with friends.

Wednesday Matt and I jumped in the car and drove down to Portland, Oregon for a two-night stay at the fabulous Days Inn. Portland has a great downtown, and it's small enough to explore in a day. This surprised Matt who described it as fitting into one of the neighbourhoods of downtown Toronto. We grabbed drinks at Saucebox before crashing for the night.

Thursday we hit downtown again, grabbing a Greek lunch at the restaurant with the inflatable purple octopus on the roof. Our waiter also donned an octopus on his bald head, which we decided deserved a tip, regardless of the service (which, incidentally, was very good). We shopped at Powell's Veritable City Of Books (an entire city block of bookstore) and I picked up a winter coat for myself (to match my new hat... more on that in a future blog entry), taking full advantage of the lack of Oregonian sales tax. We shot some pool, grabbed some beers, and got soaked in the rain. All in all, a good Pacific Northwest night.

Friday we headed back home, making excellent time in our little Kia Rio (the Cadillac of rental cars). For those of you looking to rent a car in the near future, be warned that the Economy class car really lives up to its name. No power locks or windows. I even think this particular car was missing shocks, since we felt every pebble we ran over. I pulled over at one point, convinced we had blown a tire, only to realize it was only the crappily paved I-5 highway (ASIDE: for all you Washington voters, yet another reason to vote No on I-912!). That night the three of us had dinner at the Kingfish Cafe for some Southern soul food (Matt had their famous fried chicken, T had the pork chop and I had the catfish). We made a half-assed attempt at the dessert, which was an enormous piece of cake, the likes of which ye have never seen. We finished off the night with drinks at Cyclops in Belltown.

Saturday we got up late (big surprise). Matt and I walked to the International District for some sushi, but were disappointed that none of my favourite places were open for lunch, so we settled on dim sum. I showed Matt Pioneer Square and the harborfront before joining up with T. We caught a bus to the 74th St Alehouse before going to a Halloween party. We were the lame ones without costumes (having an out-of-town guest is a great excuse). It was a relatively early night, since Matt had an AM flight on Sunday.

I had a great time with Matt. Only in writing this blog post do I realize how much we saw and did (and ate). It was a great time and I look forward to more visits from family and friends.

23:27 | Misc Rambling , Seattle | Comments (2)

October 10, 2005

Can You Hear Me Now? Finally!

It's been four weeks, but I finally got my new mobile phone account switched from Cingular to Verizon and got my new phone in the mail.

Ever since I moved into my current apartment, I've been plagued with crappy phone reception (I don't have a land line); dropped and missed calls; and general phone service badness. I had originally signed onto AT&T Wireless before it was swallowed up by Cingular (which I expect to someday swallow up Verizon, making this whole effort moot). Teresa, on the other hand, always seemed to have 5 bars of mobile signal, so clearly my apartment wasn't situated in the Bermuda Triangle of cell towers.

I had been growing bored with my phone too (the Motorola MPx200). Originally it was such a novelty; it runs Windows Mobile OS, it plays MP3s, it syncs with Outlook (I feature I still miss), but it didn't work very well as a phone. Even in places where other Cingular customers had 5 bars, I couldn't receive calls. So to Hell with it, I thought. I'm going to look for a new phone plan.

T and I decided that since the majority of our time on the phone was spent talking to each other, we should get some sort of shared plan. Together we shopped around and finally settled on Verizon. T had been a 4-year customer with no complaints, and the coverage was great.

Week 1

We try to sign on through the website, but were unable to sign on to the plan we wanted. Granted, it was a little complicated: port my Cingular number over, get a share plan, move T's account onto mine, get an international calling plan and make sure I get my Microsoft discount (ASIDE: it's almost criminal how Microsoft employees get all kinds of discount at various stores and service providers while teachers like T get squat). All that, and I only wanted to sign up for a one-year contract. So I left feedback on the website, explaining what I was trying to do and how I couldn't.

The next day T and I went to the Verizon location in downtown Seattle, where we were treated very rudely by the staff. I asked her what the reception was like on a particular handset, and her answer was "Yeah, it's pretty good, I guess" Not exactly the ringing endorsement I was looking for. When pressed with questions about contracts, she got visibly irritated with us. She was rolling her eyes, running hand through her hair, and even walked away from us at one point!

So T and I tried a different Verizon outlet, where we had an awesome sales rep who answered all our questions, made us feel good, and finally told us he couldn't give the discount, and that we had to call the 1-800 number. Fine.

I called customer service and spoke to a very friendly and enthusiastic sales rep. He assured me that I could have everything I wanted, and only required I fax certain pieces of ID. I did so, and then began the playing waiting game, expecting my phone to be shipped to me in 2 business days.

Week 2

Two days had passed and no word from Verizon. So on the weekend I called to check the status and maybe get a tracking number. Turns out the phone never left the warehouse. Since it was the weekend, nothing could be done, but it would definitely ship on Monday.

Week 3

Monday came and went, so I called back. After being put on hold for half an hour trying to get in touch with someone who knew what was going on, I finally spoke to someone in the warehouse. He said the phone was being shipped out that very morning (what a coincidence!) and that I would receive my phone in 2 business days. He was right. There was a package waiting for me when I got home, so I excitedly opened it, admiring my new Motorola E815.

Inside the package were instructions on how to get my account set up. For starters, I needed to activate my account by calling an automated service. I had to enter numeric information like social security number, ZIP code, date of birth, etc. I got all the way to the last question, which asked me to agree to a two year contract. What the Hell, I only signed up for one year! I entered 2 for "No" and was supposed to be transferred to a live representative, but their offices were closed.

So I called up customer service to get this straightened out. The guy I talked to said his computer told him that I was signed up for one year. So we went ahead and activated my handset. Then he tried to do a conference call with us and the automated service. I got through half the questions when my phone died. What the Hell? Then it dawned on me that I was using my Cingular phone to make this switch. I tried my new headset, but since my service was not yet activated, I could only call the automated system! I was now locked out with no phone!

I borrowed T's phone and called customer service back. This time I got a clueless woman who said that based on the price I paid for my phone, I must have the two-year contract, and to call the automated activation service. No amount of pleading would get her to look up my account on her computer. Nope, the price of the handset was all she needed to know. Exasperated, I hung up. And that's when T got angry.

She called customer service, chewed this poor rep out (basically summarizing this increasingly rambling blog entry) and demanded to speak to a supervisor. After waiting on hold for 15 minutes, T was talking to her. Then the supervisor wanted to speak to me. I explained the situation, as she listened sympathetically. When I was done, I heard her type a couple things into her computer, then she asked me to try to make a call on my new handset. Lo and behold, it worked! And for our troubles? A $15 credit on our next bill.

Week 4

I've been using my new phone for about a week now and am pretty happy. No dropped calls, it's slightly smaller than my old phone, and has a camera. I figured I had put this whole mess behind me, when I got an email this morning from the Verizon website support, telling me they had finally opened a ticket for the issue I had emailed them four freakin' weeks ago! I replied that I thought that kind of turnaround was shitty and demanded it be escalated. But honestly, I'd be just as happy if I never heard from them again.

22:30 | Misc Rambling , Rant | Comments (2)

August 21, 2005


Since I have no photos to show, here's a brief summary of my trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina.

Teresa's parents had rented a boat house in Corolla, NC, on the Outer Banks Islands. They invited the two of us to stay there with them for a week, along with Teresa's sister, brother-in-law and two-year-old niece. Most of the days were spent the same way: lying on the beach, swimming in the ocean, getting stupid burn from that six-by-six centimetre spot on one's back that didn't get any sunscreen, etc. I'll try to highlight the more interesting events.


We left Seattle on Friday night, with a layover in Atlanta, GA, and arrived in Norfolk, VA on Saturday morning. Traffic was really bad, so we waited for about five hours for Teresa's parents to pick us up. We were pretty hungry after our flight, so we grabbed an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at the Freemason Abbey restaurant (their location in the airport looks nothing like this). It was by far the worst $7 breakfast I had ever eaten, but being the only restaurant open at the time, we had no choice.

After being picked up, it took us another four hours to get to Corolla, NC. There are no roads leading to the house, so we turned on the four-wheel-drive and drove for about a mile on the beach. The beach was all sand, and the houses were situated between large grassy dunes. There were two "lanes" for traffic, one close to the water where the sand was packed down (only accessible during low tide) and the deep sand close to the dunes. In between the two lanes was where the beach goers were expected to set up camp. It was a little unnerving to be in a vehicle swerving through the deep sand with sunbathers lying on our right side, and even more unnerving to be one of those sunbathers, as I was to find out.

We met Teresa's sister et al. there, unloaded the van. By this time it was late afternoon, so we retired to the air-conditioned beach house for dinner, drinks and board games. As soon as the sun went down, the mosquitoes came out, and those things were pretty vicious. Despite it being a beautiful night, we stayed indoors to avoid getting eaten alive.


Beach time. It was about 35°C (95°F) plus humidity, and no cloud cover. I got stupid burn on my chest, and got a lot of reading done (yes, I brought a computer book to the beach. You enjoy your vacation your way, I'll enjoy mine my way).

That afternoon we helped a Jeep Cherokee get unstuck from the deep sand. Apparently driving in sand is a lot like driving in snow, except without the skidding.


We piled into the van and left the beach to visit the Roanoke Island Aquarium. Although less impressive than the Vancouver Aquarium, this one had huge displays of local marine wildlife, as well as a "petting zoo" for crabs, rays and starfish.

On our way back, we stopped at a small family restaurant, and I caught a glimpse of the real North Carolina. Iced tea was offered as "sweet or unsweet", $5 barbeque was on special, and there were deer heads hanging on the walls. Having just come from the aquarium, the fish hoagie was looking good to me. The menu described it as being a fresh fish filet on a bun with lettuce and tomato. The waitress came to take our order, and the following hilarity ensued:

Me: "I'll have the fish hoagie."
Waitress: "The what?"
Me: "The fish hoagie."
Waitress: "The what?"
Me: "Fish hoagie."
Waitress: "Did you want anything on it?"
Me: "Like what?"
Waitress: "Like lettuce or tomato or anything?"
Me: double checking the menu "Um, lettuce and tomato are fine."
Teresa's Mom: "Make sure you get fish on that too."

The food was good (I especially liked Teresa's deep-fried okra), but it was a little disconcerting to be eating under the stares of the other patrons. I knew I was in unfamiliar territory when I saw guys my age wearing mesh baseball caps unironically.

Back to the house for more beach time. Saw another Jeep Cherokee get stuck, but declined to help.


At the beach all day. To combat the bugs, we set up a screen tent on the balcony. Thunderstorms that evening kept us indoors anyway.


At the beach all day. Tried boogey-boarding and got my ass kicked by some big waves. Saw a Jeep Liberty get stuck in front of the house. Took a nap instead of helping.

It was Teresa's sister's anniversary, so the four of us left the house, split up into couples and grabbed dinner in the town of Duck. After scoping out a couple places, T and I ended up at the blandly-named "Roadside Bar and Grill", which was actually a great restaurant. I had parmesan-encrusted halibut with crab sauce and crawdad-fried rice. It was fabulous. Teresa had duck (it seemed every restaurant in the town of Duck had a duck dish), with red pepper grits. She was also very happy with her meal.

That evening we were playing (yet another) board game when we heard a crash outside. We all rushed out to see that the small wading pool we set up for Teresa's niece had blown off the balcony and into the sand dunes. We retrieved it and took down the screen tent.


More beach time. Saw a Jeep Wrangler get stuck in the sand. Teresa's dad went out to help, but gave up when the people inside refused to get out the Jeep when he was pushing, and found out the driver had never put it into four-wheel-drive before getting onto the beach.

The beach was teeming with wildlife on Thursday. Pelicans were flying low over the water, dolphins were cresting 10 metres away from where we were swimming, and several times we were surrounded by schools of tiny mullet.

That evening we ate dinner outside and saw some wild horses grazing on dune grass behind the house. T and I followed them until they wandered into another house's car port. I snapped a few pictures, but decided to leave so the animals wouldn't felt trapped.

It was a beautiful clear night, and after slathering ourselves in bug spray, we sat outside and looked at the stars. The Outer Banks is relatively free of light pollution, so the Milky Way was visible, as were green shooting stars.

Late that night Teresa's brother and sister-in-law arrived. We stayed up to greet them, then went to bed.


T and I got up bright and early to see the sunrise. By the time we got outside, the sky was already illuminated, so we assumed the sun had risen but was behind clouds, so we went back to bed. Later Teresa's Mom would chide us about looking out for the "big red fiery ball" before giving up.

That morning, the four men (Teresa's dad, brother, brother-in-law and myself) left the house for a 18 holes of golfing. After a nourishing breakfast as Hardee's, we climbed into golf carts and teed off. This was my first time golfing, but luckily for me we were playing best ball.

I was absolutely terrible. When I actually managed to hit the ball, I rarely got it past the Ladies' Tee. But I did manage to sink a 20 foot putt, so I at least had a moment of glory.

It was a hot, humid, sunny day. Despite applying sunscreen after every two holes, I managed to get burned under my shirt. After four hours, we were done, and unsurprisingly, I was in last place. On our way home we stopped to pick up some crab which we picked and made Deviled Crabs with.


Got up early again and this time saw the fiery red ball. Said our goodbyes and got a ride to Norfolk Airport with Teresa's sister's family. We left at 1:00pm and arrived at the airport around 3:30pm. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 5:00pm, but was delayed by two hours. We landed in Cincinnati ten minutes after our connection (the last flight to Seattle), had left. We were put in a hotel for the night and given toiletry kits and two $7 meal vouchers each.


Caught our flight to Salt Lake City where we had a two-hour layover. Finally got to Seattle at 2:00pm, hopped on the airport shuttle to downtown, and grabbed a cab to our apartment. After about 30 hours of traveling, I was so eager to get home, I accidentally left my backpack in the cab. Inside was my camera (hence no photos of the trip to share), my iPod and my passport to name a few. After being jerked around by the cab company, I realized I wouldn't see this stuff again, so the feeling of relaxation I was supposed to have after a week on the beach was replaced with nauseating anger and helplessness.


I had a great time, and it's a shame the entire way home was so frustrating. Even though I have no photos to remember the visit, I'll always have the kick ass OBX bumper sticker I bought.

11:21 | Misc Rambling | Comments (0)

June 7, 2005

Oregon Coast Photos

As promised, select photos from our camping trip down the Oregon Coast.

We left Seattle Friday night, and drove straight to Nehalem Bay campgrounds, on the west coast just south of the Washington-Oregon border. From there we drove south, stopping in small towns and sandy beaches, until we realized we forgot T's cell phone at the campsite, and went back for it. But after that, it was all south to Beachside Park where we were lucky enough to see a sunset over the ocean (well, until the sun sank below Oregon's ever-present cloud cover).

Sunday we made a lot of stops along Oregon's less friendly shores. At Cape Foulweather (yes, that's what it's called), we saw the most beautiful tide pools teeming with sea anemones, sea stars and sea urchins. All the surrounding rocks were encrusted with mussels, which we tried very hard not to step on as we inspected the sea life. That night we stayed at Honeyman Park, which has about 2 miles of sand dunes between it and the ocean. I have never seen sand dunes this large, nor have I ever seen dunes surrounded by evergreens.

Monday we drove home with a stop in the fine city of Portland, and got home by bedtime, which was particularly sweet since it was the first bed we slept in all weekend.

Even though some of the campsites were crowded and full of screaming children and jocks blaring music out of their 4x4s, and even though our tent was within spitting distance of the car, we had a great camping trip.

21:26 | Misc Rambling

July 27, 2003

Vegas Vacation


5:00am my alarm went off. No problem, I was awake anyway. I slowly got up, showered and dressed. No, I wasn't planning on putting in a long day at the office. I wasn't planning to go to work at all. I made sure Josh (who spent the night on the couch), and Andy were awake and ready to go by 6:00. That was when Paul and the cab would be arriving to take us to the airport in time for our flight to Las Vegas, Nevada.

The flight was uneventful. Apparently this was also the weekend a graduating class decided to also go to Vegas, so we shared the plane with a bunch of frat boys who thought nothing of getting juiced on a plane at 8:30 in the morning. They turned out to be loud, but harmless (no emergency landing in Utah was necessary).

As soon as I stepped off the plane, I knew we were in Vegas. Slot machines with bright flashing lights greeted us at the gate as we entered the airport. I dropped in whatever change I had in my pocket, but didn't win anything. Little did I know, this was foreshadowing of the next few days.

We grabbed a cab to the Mirage Hotel, where we would be staying. Looking out the car window at the beige ground and bald rock hills, it really felt like I was a different world. The cabbie was a Russian with a thin moustache and huge sunglasses. He told us how he drove a cab during the day and dealt blackjack at night, then recommended some places to visit.

The Mirage is by far the largest hotel I've ever stayed at. They had a huge fish tank in the lobby and a mini tropical garden you had to walk through to get to the casino. They designed the hotel with the lobby at one end and the elevators at the other with the casino in between. I don't think it was by accident. It didn't take long before we were seduced by the flashing lights and the clinking of coins falling into metal trays. We bought some chips and set off to lose some money.

We grabbed a buffet lunch, then Andy and Paul went to the room to study a blackjack strategy guide they got on the Internet (it turned out to not help them much in the long run). Josh and I said nuts to studying and went straight for the tables. We unfortunately picked the dealer who never busts. He was making four- and five-card 21s, and really pissing us off. After losing enough money for one sitting, fatigue finally hit us and we retired to the room for a nap (hey, this is Vegas, you sleep during the day and stay up all night).

After my nap, Paul and I spent some time by the pool. It was easily the largest swimming pool I've ever been in, complete with waterfall and slides. It's the kind of pool that would not look out of place in a water park (but really stands out in the desert). It was about 45°C (115°F) so we cooled off in the water then sat in the shade of palm trees and drank piña coladas.

We grabbed dinner at a teppenyaki Japanese restaurant, then took a long sweaty walk down the Las Vegas strip. For those of you who have never walked the strip, if you plan to do so at night, I don't recommend you bring children along. Standing on the sidewalk are rows and rows of people with stacks of little cards. As you walk by, they flick a card from the pile, snap it between their fingers with a thwap and hold out the card in front of pedestrians. What's on these cards, you ask? Why ads for prostitutes, of course! As some of you may know, prostitution is legal in Nevada (but not within the Las Vegas city limits). So technically these ads are for women who are only strippers but come on, we're not that naïve.

When we got back to the Mirage, the other three guys (Justin, Saeed and Newman) were there. We all walked back down the strip to the MGM to go to a club. We got there around 2:00 am, and there was an hour-long wait to get in. We decided to gamble instead, and I won $10 on the slots, while everyone else watched Justin play craps.

We got back to the hotel around 4:00am, and went straight to bed.


We got up late and went for a buffet brunch. We then went downtown to try our luck at some of the cheaper casinos. We tried our luck at the Golden Nugget, with it's $5 blackjack tables. It was here I learned the meaning of "schooled". I bought $60 worth of chips and won ONE LOUSY HAND! Josh joined me and had similar luck. While I was playing there were two older women behind me watching me play, who, judging by their comments, had no idea how to play (when I was dealt a 12, one whispered to the other "Ooh, that's a good hand!", and when I was dealt two aces, they kindly recommended I double down).

After losing our money, we went back to the hotel, got dressed up and went for dinner at the classy (and expensive) Delmonico Steakhouse. Since I'm not the biggest steak fan, I had the rack of lamb, which was amazing. Most of the others got the chateaubriand, which they enjoyed immensely. I had a bite, and was sent to steak heaven.

After dinner we took a stroll down the strip, stopping to watch the various fountain shows put on by the hotels. The Bellagio's ode to America was most impressive, while The Mirage's "volcano" was lacklustre.

We returned to the hotel, not for more gambling (I was beginning to resent the blackjack dealers at this point), but to see the most flamboyant magic show Vegas has to offer: Siegfried and Roy. For those of you who don't know, Siegfried and Roy are magicians of the highest calibre, conjuring up white tigers and making elephants disappear. But they're more than just magicians; they have a story to tell. They said so themselves: "Don't call us magicians or conjurers--storytellers would be just right."

The show was a lot of fun. I have no idea what the story was supposed to be (something about a cobra-woman, beast-men and a giant mechanical dragon, all calling out "Siegfried! Siegfried! And ROY!" At one point Siegfried ran around the perimeter of the stage, shaking audience members' hands, including mine! "Glad you could make it," he said. Well, I was glad too.

After the show most of the group wanted to go to a club. Remembering the luck we had the night before, Josh and I declined and went back to the hotel. From what I heard, the $35 the rest of them paid to get into Studio 54 wasn't worth it.


Another late morning and breakfast at a deli. I'm always up for a Kosher meal, and the pastrami on rye and matzo ball soup were excellent. We shunned the casinos for most of the day, and explored the shopping centre known as The Forum at Caesar's Palace. There we saw an animatronic rendition of the fall of Atlantis, which was pretty lame, and did a little shopping.

We decided to hit one more casino, to see if our luck would change. By this time all of us were in the hole, Justin had lost his voice from all the yelling he had done at the craps table, but Andy and I had to try just one more time. Surprise surprise, it didn't pay off, and our wallets a little lighter, we left the casino. For the rest of the day we lounged around, enjoying drinks at the bar and relaxing by the pool.

That afternoon, the first group of us headed back to the airport to catch our evening flight home. While waiting in the terminal for our flight, I spied a 5 cent slot machine, and thought, what the heck, and tossed in a buck. That one dollar kept me entertained at that machine for over half an hour. At one point I had quadrupled my money (yes, four dollars!), but since I didn't want to carry around 80 nickels, I just kept playing until it was all gone.

The flight home was quiet and uneventful (my favourite kind of flights). I had a great time in Las Vegas. It's really a place everyone should experience once, if not to gamble, but to experience the city in the desert that never sleeps.

00:00 | Misc Rambling

March 5, 2003

From Mayfield to Microsoft: My University Career in a Nutshell

This is a brief summary of my experience attending the University Of Waterloo from September 1997 to December 2002. Sure there are a few things to bitch about... ok, a lot of things, but I had some good times too. I don't expect this account to be a guide for new students, or a nostalgic trip down memory lane for alumni, it's just the story of what one student went though to get a piece of paper with the word "Degree" on it.

September 1997: 1A

The week before classes start in September is called Frosh Week. New students (called Frosh) come to the university and are put into groups based on their area of study. From there they are further divided into teams and perform stupid activities and compete against each other. My team was called Fishbone, and I managed to keep in touch with most of them over my 5 years at Waterloo.

I was living at home in Caledon and commuting to school every day with my girlfriend Angela. Caledon is an hour's drive north-east of Waterloo, and I had 8:30am classes across the board. Needless to say, my performance at school suffered, since I was averaging 5 hours of sleep a night (yes, I realize that many frosh in residence get about that much sleep, but at least they got to party).

I have to admit, coming into university I thought I was some pretty hot shit. I kicked ass in my high school computer science classes and always had good marks. But 1A kicked my ass. I realized that my high school's computer science class didn't adequately prepare me for university CS. For example, at Mayfield, they taught us "C++", but I had no idea what classes or pointers were. This made for a difficult first term.

Waterloo has an excellent Co-op program, and students in Honours Computer Science (like me) were given the opportunity to have 6 co-op terms with whatever employer(s) would hire them. Remember, this was 1997, just before the dot-com bust, so Math majors had a 97% placement rate. I got a job offer from Corel as QA, and I was thrilled.

I didn't get great marks that term, but I managed to avoid academic probation. Some members of Fishbone weren't so lucky, and didn't come back for another term. I vowed to do better next term, and set off to Ottawa.

January 1998: Co-op 1

I moved into my apartment in Ottawa with my boyhood friend Ian, who, although not in school, decided to come up and live with me anyway. This was both of our first experience living on our own, so we made the most of it by staying up late and eating junk food (I put on 15 pounds in those 4 months).

We lived within walking distance of Corel, which was convenient since neither of us had cars. My first week at work I was put on the Asian language team as a tester. I found this odd since I couldn't speak or read any Asian language. I was testing Chinese and Japanese versions of Draw, on a team full of native Asian-language speakers. I didn't realize it at the time, but this was foreshadowing a future co-op job.

A few days later, Ottawa was hit by a huge ice storm, and the city was put in an official state of emergency. Work was cancelled for the rest of the week. Ian and I spent the time exploring the town in its ice-encrusted state.

The next week at work my boss decided it would be best if I switched teams. Apparently there was a Chinese co-op student who could read and write Chinese, who working on another team. We switched, and I became the HTML and Java tester for Corel Ventura 8.

I got an excellent evaluation for my work there, and was invited back in the fall.

May 1998: 1B

Back to school. This time I moved in with Ang, her friend and her friend's boyfriend in a townhouse in Waterloo. This was the first time I had classes in the summer, and I can't say I liked it much. At least campus wasn't too crowded. I did much better marks-wise this term, but it was a struggle. I took a French class, in an effort to restore my once-fluency. I had this Belgian woman as a prof, and she never passed up an opportunity to explain how her French was superior to Canadian French. She even went so far as to claim Belgian French was the "true" French, even truer than France's. Needless to say, I didn't have much respect for her, and she didn't care much for me, either.

Things got a little tense at home too: Ang and I weren't getting along with the couple we were living with, between the girl's whining and the guy's addiction to pornography. Yes, I said pornography. I found boxes of video tapes lying around the house. It felt like we were living at Pete's Porno Warehouse. He even went so far as to ask Ang to use her computer to surf for porn.

At the end of the summer, Ang found a new place, and I went back to Ottawa.

September 1998: Co-op 2

The Ventura team dissolved after version 8, so I was moved onto the Consumer Applications team, where I was QA for Corel Print House (a now discontinued product). I lived in the same building as before, but this time on the third floor with two roommates, Ryan, who also worked at Corel, and Mike, a friend of Ryan's.

Mike didn't know how to cook, and had little interest in learning. He was perfectly content with eating TV dinners all term, so Ryan and I proposed to cook for him if he washed dishes. He agreed, and made good on his end. But like any rational human being, doing dishes everyday for 4 months became tiresome, so Mike's solution: buy more dishes. By the time we moved out, we must have had two dozen plates and glasses for the three of us.

I got another excellent evaluation at work, and an interview to return as a developer. They liked me, so in May I would return to the same team, only wearing a different hat. Now I started to become concerned with my decision. By staying with the same company (a company that seemed perpetually in the red), I may be hurting my chances to get hired somewhere should something happen to Corel. Then again, with my 8 month experience in QA, I didn't feel I could make it anywhere else. So I agreed to come back.

January 1999: 2A

I moved in with Ang and 5 of her friends into what I like to call The House Full Of Girls. There was a mix-up with the room situation, and it turned out that one of the girls who was supposed to leave that term didn't, so I roomed with Ang. This wouldn't have been a problem, except that as a house, the girls decided to charge me equal rent all the same. Let that be a lesson to subletters who don't feel the need to write out a contract. I set up my desk and computer in one of the basement rooms colourfully referred to as "The Dungeon". It had everything but the shackles on the walls.

Living there proved interesting. One of the girls started dating an older man, who no one else liked. She told the rest of us not to mention him to her parents, in case they called. We didn't like being told to lie for her, and luckily the situation never arose. Regardless, her friendship with the other girls suffered and she informed us she wouldn't be coming back for another term.

School treated me to the worst professor I have ever had. The class was Linear Algebra 2. The professor was 10 to 15 minutes late everyday. He spoke so quietly that he needed a microphone, which took an additional 10 minutes to set up. You knew he got it working when his familiar "Can you hear me in the back?" echoed through the mostly-empty lecture hall. At the end of the last lecture he informed us that he did not have time this term to cover the final unit, but assured us it would still be on the final exam.

One of my worst marks ever was earned in that class.

May 1999: Co-op 3

Back to Corel, only this time I was a software developer for Corel Print House. Ian said he would come with me again, so I rented out the same apartment we had in 1998. He backed out at the last minute, so I was on my own (but he did pay part of the rent for the inconvenience).

At work, I was being eased into my new position very gently. Excruciatingly gently. My manager didn't trust my abilities at first (rightfully so), and denied me access to the product engine. So most of the work I did was to the UI and the Corel Co-op web page, known as SLACC, headed by Rafi.

About three quarters of the way through the term, my manager quit (he would be the first of many managers to jump off that sinking ship). Another developer was promoted to manager, and he had no problem giving me access to all the source code. When review time came, he ignored my previous 3 months work, claiming he could only judge me on the work he managed, so I ended up with a Satisfactory review. I wasn't too happy with that, so I asked for a chance to redeem myself. He agreed to hire me back for another term.

September 1999: 2B

I moved back into the HFOG, only this time I managed to get my own room on the main floor. Sure you had to go through the bathroom to get to it, but it was mine.

Courses were brutal this term. Introduction to Numerical Computation was the worst computer course I ever took. It's a course that's required for a degree in math, but isn't a prerequisite for anything, so many people leave it to their 4B term in the hopes that it will be phased out. The course was about spline interpolation, Fast Fourier Transforms, and a whole lot of other stuff I don't remember. Not many people understood that course, but lucky for us the prof gave us practice problems and gave an open book exam. The class brought their practice problem solutions to the exam, and were pleasantly surprised when we found most of the exam questions to be identical, or very similar, to the practice problems. I rode the bell curve to a very comfortable mark in that class.

I also took a film course: The Cinema of Science Fiction. You know you're in a bird course when you do a class presentation on The Planet of the Apes, and your final essay is comparing the slapstick comedy of Woody Allen's Sleeper with the dark tongue-in-cheekness of Stanley Kubrik's Dr. Strangelove.

January 2000: Co-op 4

Since I had signed a year-long lease at the HFOG, I had to sublet my room while I was gone. I subletted the room to a foreign-exchange student from China who signed his name "Geogre". Being from China, he didn't seem to respect women as authority figures, and when Angela asked him for his first month's rent, he refused to pay. Ang phoned me and I told her to have Geogre phone me as soon as he could. He never phoned, but apparently paid Angela in full once he heard I was angry with him. He never missed another payment, but I looked into eviction regulations just the same.

I ended up living in the same apartment that I had in September 1998 with my friend Brian and an engineering student, Matt. Like Mike before him, Matt didn't know how to cook, so we made a similar arrangement. He did dishes, and in return, Brian and I would cook something other than the case of Kraft Dinner Matt brought with him.

Corel, again. This time I was one of two co-op students on Corel Gallery. My previous manager had been promoted, so my direct supervisor was the only full-time developer working on the project. I was given a printout of a dialog and told to implement it. Ok, fine. The problem was, every week someone different would bring me a new printout, and I changed the design accordingly. I ended up covering my entire cubicle wall with these printouts.

In the end it didn't matter, since the project was cancelled. Too bad no one told the two co-op developers, who kept happily working away at it for another two weeks. I only found out it was cancelled by asking the lead QA why no bugs had been logged.

It was then I realized I didn't want to work at Corel anymore.

I got an excellent review, and with no regrets I told them I wouldn't be returning in four months, and wished them all luck. As far as I know, only one person I worked with at Corel is still there.

May 2000: 3A

Spring terms are usually the least busy term of the year. Most of our roommates in the HFOG were home for the summer, and didn't want the hassle of subletting, so most of the house was empty. We rented one room out to an architecture student, and Ang and I had the rest of the house to ourselves.

This was the first term since 1A that I went through the Co-op process again. I touched up my résumé and started applying. I got a few interviews, then, on a whim, Ryan and I applied to a year-long job in Japan for a company called AISoft, a subsidiary of Seiko-Epson. We were shocked when we both got interviews, and even more shocked by the interview questions:

The interview was topped off by a photo shoot, which I'm sure violates all sorts of Canadian employment laws.

Obviously we did ok in the interview, because we were both offered the job. About a week after accepting the offer, I got a letter form my academic advisor denying me permission to go. When I confronted him about it, he admitted to not having my file in front of him, and couldn't give me any reason why he denied me. After suffereing much embarassment (and after instilling much anger in me), he finally agreed to let me go.

We packed our bags decided to say konnichiwa to our future.

September 2000: Co-op 5, 6, 7

I said goodbye to Ryan as he left for Tokyo in September. Why wasn't I going? Because my visa, which had been couriered, didn't make it to my house. It went all the way from Matsumoto, Japan to Brampton, Canada, then they gave up and sent it back. By boat. The Japanese government refused to issue me a new visa until they received the old one, so I had nothing to do for a month and a half.

Fearing I would soon run out of money, I let my dad hook me up with a job at a meat packing company. There I hauled, cut and bagged various pork products until my visa arrived. On October 10, 2000 I arrived in Japan, ready to start my 10.5-month work term.

I kept a separate account of my adventures at Welcome to Matsumoto.

September 2001: 3B

I got back from Japan and moved into a two-bedroom apartment with Angela and our high-school friend Jen. It was difficult trying to readjust to Canadian lifestyle and especially difficult getting used to schoolwork again. Because I had the foresight to take a correspondence course in Japan, I only took four courses this term. I took three CS courses: Operating Systems, Algorithms and The Law of Information and a Japanese course. The Japanese course covered everything I already knew, so it presented little difficulty. Ryan and I teamed up for most CS assignments, since we were a term behind everyone else in our class. We pulled a few all-nighters worrying about memory management in our operating system, and I failed the Algorithms midterm spectacularly. But in the end, I did alright.

In December, in an attempt to procrastinate studying for exams, I used the 5 MB of web space Bell Sympatico gave me to start up a little website, then called Title Goes Here. From that little HTML acorn grew the mighty ranting oak you're reading now.

January 2002: 4A

Same living arrangements as 3B, and this marked my first eight-month academic marathon. Career Services sent me an unsolicited letter granting me permission to partake in another round of Co-op. This marked the first time the university administration did something nice for me (it wasn't quite altruistic of them; they were charging me $400 for the privilege).

In my absence the Co-op landscape had changed dramatically. Gone were the days of dot-com mass hiring, and profits-be-damned attitudes. Instead, employers sought the best and brightest students, experience be damned. Ryan and I figured we'd get more interviews than we knew what to do with, considering our vast experience compared to our peers. We were mistaken. I got only four interviews that term.

On a whim, I threw a résumé into the Microsoft bin. I didn't expect an interview, let alone a job there. Well I got the interview, and it went surprisingly well, so I accepted their offer.

On the school side of things, I took another three CS courses so my last term would be light. This was the last term the rest of our class was in school, so I bid my friends farewell after exams, and packed to go to Seattle.

May 2002: Co-op 8

After much complication, I got my passport and set up camp in Redmond, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. I had two roommates, Ted and Sam (not actual names), both Waterloo students. I got a ride in to work with Sam for the first few weeks, until he tried to rip me off.

Ted went to work early, and got home late, so I didn't see much of him, but he did leave plenty of evidence of him living there, including a bowl ground beef that after three months grew a new coat of fur and started growling at me every time I opened the fridge.

Work was challenging and exciting. I did plenty of activites, and even got to eat dinner with the big man himself, Bill Gates. At the end of my term, my boss told me that I did a good job, and that he wanted me back. I got on the plane to Toronto (via Chicago, of course) knowing that it wouldn't be the last time I would see rainy Washington state.

September 2002: 4B

I finally got to reap the benefits of taking three CS courses for two consecutive terms: I had one CS course and four electives. I furthered my foreign language skills by taking Japanese; tapped my creativity with a creative writing course; learned to design with Science, Technology and Values; and best of all, got to be lectured Economics by Larry Smith, perhaps the greatest lecturer of my university career.

I lived in a townhouse with Ryan, but not Angela, since she needed a year-long lease to complete her second bachelor's degree, and I would only need a place for four months.

I thoroughly enjoyed my last term at school. Partly because of the lighter workload, and partly because of the fact it was my last. I was stressed out about my Microsoft interview, however. I was flown down in November, and proceeded to bomb the interview. But all was not lost (obviously), they asked me back for another interview in January. That left me to study for my exams unencumbered by the thought of bombing another interview.

Exams came and went, and I packed up my stuff to move back to my parents' place to live until I started my career. The day I got back from my second Microsoft interview was the day I found out I successfully completed the requirements for my Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics in Honours Computer Science. It took just over five years, but I was finally done.


In January I went back to Redmond and came back with a job. I guess I can't be all that bitter about university, considering that without it, I would have never met the friends I did, never gone to Japan, never gotten a job at Microsoft, and most importantly, never gotten to do what I've wanted to do since I was a boy: get paid to play with computers all day.

So to Waterloo, I say thank you. It was a rough five years, and we may not have seen eye-to-eye on everything, but it was worth it, and I'm proud to have been one of your students.

And just in case you're planning to phone me to hit me up for a donation, let me save you the trouble: No.

00:00 | Misc Rambling

October 4, 2002

Me Write Newspaper Good

So let me reiterate why I decided to volunteer for Imprint, the University of Waterloo Student newspaper. Ever since my first term in September 1997, I have had a low opinion of the paper for several valid reasons. Their lack of proofreading (I once saw the word "student" misspelled), their blatant opinion pieces thinly veiled as news stories (especially stories involving government funding), and the general irrelevance of their articles.

One time I even wrote a letter to the editor to complain about how there were two stories (one by the editor himself) glorifying this artist/women's-rights activist who took her own life, and the life of her three-year-old son. I gently pointed out that killing an innocent toddler negates any good reputation she gained by painting watercolours or having the Miss Waterloo pageant removed from campus.

(I would include links to said stories, but the Imprint web site has a poor search engine, as well as a habit of not being updated. As a type this rant, last week's cover is featured on this week's online issue).

So what did they do to cross the line this time? What did they print to send me into a ranting fury?

Well, as I mentioned above, and in a September entry, I volunteered to write for the news section. My first assignment? Write a lead-up story describing the October 4-6 campus residence Survivor game. Even though Survivor isn't one of the shows I drop everything to watch, I agreed. It would involve a lead-up story, a description of the contestants, and eventually, a story on how it all went.

Well, here's the edited version of lead-up story they printed.

The article I submitted ended the 5th paragraph with this sentence:

"Survivor UW has 16 contestants from all residences, chosen from 55 as opposed to Survivor CLT which only had 13 people sign up."

For those of you too lazy to read the article yourself, this is what they printed (emphasis added to edited parts):

"Survivor UW has 16 contestants from all residences, chosen from 55 as opposed to Survivor CLT where only had 13 people participated."

In the print version of this week's issue, there are head-shots of the contestants plus a few lines describing them. Apparently whoever edited this, thought that "Business Major" was better spelled with two Bs.

Now who looks the fool for this butchering of the English language? My editor? He told me he was unaware of the changes. The head proofreader? It wouldn't be the first time he let something slip (notice how the first paragraph breaks in mid-sentence, and how the president of Wilfred Laurier Student Publications' name changes from "Field" to "Filed"). In fact, I have no idea who even altered my article!

Now the blame falls squarely on the writer's shoulders. They didn't even label me as Imprint staff, just "Chris Lyon - Special to Imprint". Maybe that way they have an excuse to blame me if the article sucks, since I'm not technically part of the staff.

The whole reason I volunteered was to try to raise the bar of quality for this newspaper run by student volunteers. Yes, I know they're not getting paid, and yes, I know they have exams and assignments to do. But so do I! And when I go to the trouble of actually running a spellchecker on my work, I don't appreciate having them add collections of letters that vaguely resemble words, but aren't really English.

So what's the moral here? Never volunteer for anything. No, that's not fair. I've had a word with my editor and we're going to work hard on making next week's issue better. And if things don't get better? Then I guess I'll have more to rant about.

00:00 | Misc Rambling

September 9, 2002

They Stole My Teeth!

It's been a long time coming. The removal of all 4 of my wisdom teeth. No, they were not yet coming though the gums, nor were they inpacted or painful, but since my insurance only covers dental while I am a student under the age of 25 I decided to get it done now. My brother's wisdom teeth got infected 3 months after he graduated from college, and had to pay the whole $1500 himself, so I decided I was better safe than sorry. It turns out I'm both safe and sorry.

My girlfriend Angela came to pick me that Friday morning and bring me to the oral surgeon. I had never had surgery that required a general anesthetic before, so I was a little nervous as I walked into the office. The receptionist asked Angela if she would be waiting there for me, or if she would be going out and coming back in an hour. Ang said she would be going out to run some errands, and just like that she was gone, leaving me alone. I heard a faint "Bye Chris" as the door closed behind her. Well, that's encouraging.

I filled out the necessary paperwork, then followed the dental hygienist to The Chair of Pain. She attached electrodes to my body and a pulse monitor to my finger, all the while cheerfully talking about Frosh week and complimenting me on my sandals. Then the good doctor came in. He also made small talk, but of a very technical nature. He asked about my work at Microsoft, how I enjoyed it, then out of the blue:

Doctor: "Do you know who invented the C programming language?"
Me: "Um, no. Sorry."
Doctor: "What about C++?"
Me: "That was Bjarne Stroustrup."
Doctor: "Oh, was he the guy who invented Linux?"
Me: "No, that was Linus Torvalds."
Doctor: "Have you ever used Linux?"

The conversation went on like that while the hygienist attached an oxygen mask to my nose, and inserted a needle into my left hand.

Doctor: "You're not going to fall asleep yet, but these drugs will make you feel a bit weird..."

The next thing I remember was lying on a cot with Angela at my side and a mouthful of bloody gauze. At that moment, I found it extremely important to find out two things:

What drugs did they give me?
A morphine substitute and a valium substitute. Delicious.
What did they do with my teeth?
Apparently what they do with all the teeth they extract: put them in a big ole bucket o' teeth.

I wanted to persue the bucket question, but I had to use the rest of my concentration to walk to the car without falling over.

Ang brought me to the pharmacy to fill out my codeine prescription. She wanted me to wait in the car, but I had other plans. Once in the drug store, I danced down the aisles to the muzak, while I picked out shampoo, razors, and other toiletries. I was feeling great. Apparently I was getting stares from the other patrons, probably due to the gauze hanging out of my mouth, and the fact I let everyone know of the euphoric state I had reached. I bought the items on debit (after only getting declined once), then we headed to Ang's place. I crashed on her bed and immediately fell asleep. Ang, the saint, came in every hour to change my gauze.

A few hours later I actually got up, the euphoria gone, but my face still numb from the novocaine. Ang fed me pudding and mashed potatoes and we watched TV, occasionally stopping to change my gauze and give me codeine.

Two days later, I'm swollen like a chipmunk, slightly bruised and almost out of codeine. I sent my roommate Ryan out to fetch me some more (at least he didn't charge me for the ride to the pharmacy). I'm still in a lot of pain, extremely tired (codeine wearing off every 4 hours makes a great alarm clock), but I'm sure I'll be fresh as a daisy for my 5.5 hours of class tomorrow.

00:00 | Misc Rambling | Comments (1)

August 20, 2002

What A Weekend


I should have known the weekend was going to be an interesting one when my boss took the team out for margaritas at 6:00pm on Friday. I lost count of the number I had, and when he brought me back to work at 9:00, I was in no condition to get any more work done. I also realized I hadn't eaten since lunch, which only added to my drunkenness. I goofed around at work, updated my blog, chatted online, then decided to walk home to help sober myself up. An hour later I got home, called Angela, set my alarm for 7:00 and went to bed at 12:30.


8:25am the phone rang. It was Bryant, my ride.

Bryant: "You ready?"
Me: "Give me 5 minutes."

I leaped out of bed, cursing my drunken self for setting the alarm for 7pm. I threw on pants, t-shirt and a hat, grabbed my jacket and was out the door. We met the other interns on campus. In total, there were 13 of us, each with bloodlust and the urge to hurt each other. Yes, we were going to play Paintball.

On our way out, we stopped at McDonald's for a wholesome breakfast, then drove about an hour South into the boonies. The place was called Hole in the Wall Paintball and spans several acres. We waited a good hour to get our equipment (we insisted on semi-automatic rifles instead of the pump-action ones). We were each issued a rifle, several hundred paintballs (marble-sized plastic balls filled with water-soluble paint), a camouflage jumpsuit and a mask. After a brief safety orientation we were sent out into the forest to kill each other.

We joined a group of obviously experienced people, and were split into two teams distinguished by the presence or absence of fluorescent green ribbons on our helmets. The experienced players scoffed at the number of "Walk-ons" (non-members) and likened us to fresh meat, ready for the killing. We took up our positions. The game was Elimination: kill all opposing team members. Last team standing wins.

We took up our positions at opposite ends of the field (section of forest marked off with yellow tape), and when the whistle blew, we each ran off in random directions shooting at anything that moved. That first round I mostly hit trees and the ref. He wasn't happy.

We played several rounds of Elimination and Capture-the-Flag on various fields before breaking for lunch. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they didn't price gauge us on the hotdogs, chips and pop they had. Considering we were in the middle of absolutely nowhere, they could have charged $5 a hotdog and we would have had to pay it.

We played for another few hours against some semi-professionals (one had a fully automatic paint gun), acquiring welts and bruises as we went. At one point I was in a bunker when an enemy came up behind and shot me on the tailbone. I now have a welt a mere 2 centimetres from the top of my ass crack. Add that to the ones on my knee, arm and shoulder, and I'd say I had a good day.

We went home around 6. I had laundry to do, and besides I wanted a good night's for...


I had actually set my alarm for the right time the night before, so I was actually dressed by the time Bryant phoned me. We met Shahaf and 8 of his friends at work, and we headed North to Anacortes, Washington. It was about an hour-and-a-half drive to the small harbour town. We met one of the other 3 cars there at 10:45. According to Shahaf's itinerary, our ferry was leaving at 11:00. When I phoned him, he told me he and his carload were in a grocery store buying lunch for themselves and sardines for the seals he assured us we'd be seeing. He didn't seem overly concerned with the fact he had 15 minutes to get to Anacortes, buy his ticket and board the ferry. The rest of us waited at the ferry terminal and watched our ferry sail off, and another one dock.

Shahaf et al finally arrived around 12:30, just in time to board the next ferry to Friday Harbour. The ferry ride lasted about an hour, and I kept myself from being bored by filling out a survey about Washington Ferries. I tried explaining to the survey woman that this was my first time on a ferry, to which she replied "That's ok, it's my first time too." Reluctantly I took the survey and joylessly filled out all seven pages. The questions ranged from the bland "How many times a year do you ride Washington Ferries?" to the tongue-in-cheek,

"If Washington Ferries did not exist, how would you have made your trip?"

  1. Drive
  2. Walk
  3. Swim
  4. I would not have made the trip

Yeah, like "Swim" is a viable option. I chose "d", because if I can't ride the ferry, dammit, I'm not going!

We made a brief stop at Shaw Island, where we played frisbee with a 7-year-old girl. She laughed when I dropped the frisbee, and at one point asked Bryant "What are you afraid of?" after he flinched at a throw aimed at his head.

From Shaw Island we headed to Friday Harbour. There we met the hippy who would be teaching us how to sea kayak. He drove us to the secret kayaking location, gave us a lesson on climbing in and out of 2-person kayaks. We then pushed off for open waters. Bryant and I partnered up, me in the stern, steering, and Bryant in the bow. We kayaked in the sea for a few miles until Randy (our hippy leader) told us to stop, and to line up our kayaks side-by-side in the "Raft" formation. Floating in the ocean like that, we saw boats travel past us, a bald eagle in a tree, and then the orcas, or "Killer Whales".

There were at least a dozen of them swimming around the area. We mostly saw dorsal fins, but every once and a while an orca would leap out of the water. It was incredible. The Hippy explained to us how to differentiate between male and female orcas based on the shape of their dorsal fins. The male dorsal fin is long and erect, while the female fin has curves. I'm not kidding, that's what he really said. At one point, a pair of orcas swam under our raft and surfaced a few metres off our collective sterns. It was a great experience.

After the orcas stopped surfacing, we decided to head back. As Randy drove us back into town, he gave us the skinny on his hippy life-philosophy, including political neutrality, environmentalism and pacifism. No big surprises there. Once we were in downtown San Juan, we checked the ferry schedule and found we had missed the ferry by about an hour. The next ferry would be at 10:30pm, and we would be arriving at Anacortes at 12:30. Great.

We decided to eat at the town's Mediterranean restaurant. I had the kibbeh which was described in the menu as "Ground lamb stuffed with onions and ground lamb". Who can say no to two scoops of ground lamb?

We finally boarded the ferry and amused ourselves for an hour, until one of us realized there was a meteor shower going on outside. We all lay down on the deck outside and watched the lamest meteor shower I've ever seen. I think I witnessed one meteor in the 20 minutes I was out there. We went back in and patiently waited for the ferry to bring us back to the mainland.


I finally got home at 2am, exhausted after such an action-filled day. It was probably the most exciting weekend I've had out here. I can only hope that I get a job offer at Microsoft, so I can enjoy weekends like this instead of sitting in front of the TV watching Law & Order marathons in my underwear.

00:00 | Misc Rambling

July 20, 2002

Dinner With A Billionaire

I boarded the Greyhound bus at 5:45 in front of Microsoft Building 16. There were only about 10 of us, and that's including two VPs who were invited. The bus left around 6:00, less than half full, bound for a church parking lot at an undisclosed location. The reason for this was to provide a security checkpoint where we were asked to empty our pockets before undergoing a hand-held metal detector scan. Cameras, backpacks and purses were forbidden, and any questionable items were confiscated by security, to be returned the following day at work. Luckily for me, I thought ahead and left my Swiss Army Knife key chain at home.

From the security checkpoint, we boarded smaller shuttles along with other interns who had arrived from separate parts of campus (there are about 35 buildings on main campus alone). These shuttles took us down to a waterfront neighbourhood and to a large wood and metal gate flanked by security guards. After radioing in the ok, the gate opened we proceeded down a long winding driveway. Dense forest surrounded either side, and we all looked out for the house. We could not see it. I did notice what looked like several skylights on the ground on either side of the driveway. The house was underground? Then we crossed a bridge (this guy has a bridge as part of his driveway!), turned a corner, then we saw the house. Well, some of it. It's really too big to get all in one eyeshot. The reason we couldn't see it from the driveway is because the house it built into the hill. The 1% of the house I could see was made of wood and the parking lot could easily hold two dozen cars.

We disembarked and dreamily wandered down a long flight of solid wood stairs. It must have gone down about 3 levels because I remember passing two washrooms, a garden and a TV room on my way down. And what a TV room. Dexter's Laboratory was playing on a screen that took up much of the wall. I looked around and saw a Monet on a large wall-mounted LCD screen. All the pictures I saw hung up were electronic. But I couldn't stand there and just stare; the interns behind me wanted to get in too.

Ok, maybe I should explain who was there and why. All graduating interns (in other words, interns who would have graduated come next summer) plus selected VPs. Since there were over 700 interns this term (to put things into perspective, Corel had 800 employees when I worked there), the BBQ was spread over 3 days: July 17, 18 and 30. There were between 100 and 150 interns present at the BBQ along with me. Now back to the story.

I walked out into the light of the setting sun (and its reflection in the bay) and onto grass so green and cut so short, I thought I had walked out onto a putting green. I was standing in a courtyard surrounded by bushes and security guards. Round white tables were spread out on the lawn as were buffet and drink tables. There was also a DJ mixing background music. I walked over to a drink table and asked for a Heineken. The woman there was all too happy to give it to me. I walked down a small set of steps towards the bay and found myself on a tiny sandy beach overlooking Seattle. Several motorboats cruised by, undoubtedly full of picture-takers (I'm only guessing since the glare of the water prevented me from getting a better look). On either side of the beach was a dock. Now imagine a bayside dock for a minute: old unsanded wood covered in barnacles, right? Not at Bill's place. Varnished wood with brass knobs. It looked brand new. A dock!

Unable to bear the sun any longer, I went back to the courtyard and met up with some other interns I knew. That's when the lids came off the buffet steam trays. What exotic, possibly endangered animals had been grilled for our dining pleasure? Beef burgers, marinated chicken breasts and veggie patties. I grabbed a plate and helped myself. There were several kinds of salads and every burger topping known to man. I know what you're thinking, "Even guacamole?" Yes, even guacamole. I returned to my seat and began stuffing my face when I noticed a small group of people huddled around the doors to the house. Then I noticed who was in the center of the donut of interns: it was Bill himself! And he was drinking a FRESCA! I like Fresca! I guess I'm not all that different from the founder of a multi-billion dollar software company.

I decided it best to finish my food before approaching Bill. He would be there all night, the food wouldn't. I guess I'm a pragmatist at heart. That, or a glutton.

The intern coordinator then ushered everyone back to their seats and Bill gave a nice speech about how much he likes the internship program, and how he wants us all to be hired. Good for the company, good for the student. Then they brought out dessert, and once again he was mobbed by curious interns. I grabbed some delicious cake and brownies and fruit and mousse. We were joined by a VP and he talked to us about his past experiences with the company. I was more interested in finishing my dessert and then joining the throng of interns, than listening to the VP.

With my second beer in hand, I pushed my way into the donut of Bill fans. I managed to get right beside him. As in mere inches from his 40-billion-dollar head. I could see sweat beads slowly roll down his neck. I know if I breathed too hard he would have felt it. I started to listen to him answer questions about the future of the company, his time at Harvard, how he started the company, etc. I also heard some people ask the most dumb-assed questions I could imagine. Here's a sampling:

"If you could be any kind of cheese, what kind of cheese would you be?"

"What is the dumbest question you've ever been asked?"

"Who do you think is the most influential person in history?"
His answer to this was classic:
"History is a long time. I dunno... Jesus?"

A server broke into the donut to offer Bill a cold fresh Fresca on a silver platter. Damn!

Bill was also asked some good questions about the future of computer interfaces and how he deals with spam. The answer: Microsoft Exchange rules, filters and an assistant. He apparently gets over 3000 a day, but only about 300 reach him. Man, I feel special when I get messages from Cron on my Linux box (CS nerd joke, in case you're not laughing).

The whole time I was in the Donut of Homage, I was desperately trying to think of a question that (a) wasn't dumb, (b) wouldn't bore Bill, and (c) I was actually interested in hearing the answer. By the time I had formulated a question, and was ready to say "Excuse me, Mr. Gates,", and announcement was made over a loudspeaker. It was the last call for the buses. I was presented with a choice: go home by bus, or get thrown out by security. I chose the former.

Walking back to the staircase, I ducked into a lavish washroom. For a souvenir, I grabbed a length of toilet paper (3-ply. This guy knows how to live!). I washed my hands, smelled the soap (lavender), the proceeded up the stairs (the elevator was full. Seriously. He has an elevator in his house.) I got back on the shuttle, and we headed back to the church to be transferred onto buses headed for the office.

All in all, I had a great time. I wish I had gotten my question out, but it was good to hear Bill talk anyway. He handled himself very well considering he was surrounded by punk kids trying to trap him with dumb questions.

By the way, I've ordered 10 cases of Fresca. I'm convinced that's the real secret to his success.

00:00 | Misc Rambling

June 5, 2002

The Old Ball Game

I've been to only three Major League Baseball games in my entire life: a Toronto Blue Jays game at Exhibition Stadium, another Jays game at the Skydome, and last week, a Seattle Mariners game at Safeco Field. It was only last week that I realized America's favorite pastime had passed its prime. To quote Homer Simpson, "I never realized how boring this game is".

Peanuts And Cracker Jacks

Not only were the tickets paid for by my generous employer, but we were each given a $5 gift certificate to be used on food or a drink ($5 doesn't go far in a stadium). They have quite the selection of foodstuffs: Hotdogs, hamburgers, pizza, even Asian stir-fry bowls. I didn't see any Cracker Jacks though.

Since I was at a baseball stadium in the United States, I decided to eat like an American: I ordered a hotdog. Ordering was a challenge. I had no idea the Americans took their hotdogs so seriously. There was the normal hotdog, the Minor League Dog, the Major League Dog, the Veggie Dog, and of course, the Kosher Dog. Since food was on the company, I went for the Major League Dog. It was a little longer than a normal hotdog, but about three times as thick. It had been a long time since I had eaten a hotdog, and as I bit into it, I remembered why. It was disgusting. It was extremely juicy (not a quality I usually like to associate with meat products), and the mushy inside tried to leap out of the confining hotdog skin and stain the front of my shirt. I gobbled it up quickly, not at all relishing the moment (get it? Relish... hot dog. Meh, you suck).

The drinks were even worse. Since the management is afraid of surly fans lobbing glass bottles at each other (or worse yet, onto the field) all beer is served either on tap, or in plastic bottles. Nothing says "class" like watery American beer in clear plastic bottles.

The Wave

I find The Wave to be a perfect example of how boring baseball is. Here are hundreds, nay thousands, of spectators who would rather watch other spectators than watch the game.

Announcer: "And it's a home run!"
Child #1: "Hey Ma, look at them there people standing and sitting a like human tidal wave!"
Child #2: "Oh no! It's coming our way!"
Mother: "Shut up and pay attention! It's almost our turn to stand."

Bottom Of The Ninth

We've all seen it before: it's the bottom of the ninth inning. The visitors are the lead, so people decide that instead of watching the thrilling conclusion, it would be better to pack up and leave to beat traffic. What other sport is abandoned by fans before the possibly climactic finish? Do you ever see soccer rioters pack up and leave when their team is down 3-1? Of course not. They want to stay for the bloodshed. Maybe that's what baseball is missing: full contact. Have the basemen take shots at the runner. Encourage the pitcher to hit the batter. To score, you have to tackle the catcher. We could call it XBall have it run by Vince McMahon... oh wait a minute, they already tried something like that, didn't they?

Mr. Baseball

Maybe it's a little unfair for me to rant so harshly about baseball. After all, baseball was the only bit of tv I watched in Japan that I completely understood. Well, besides reruns of Beverly Hills 90210 and various Learn To Speak English shows with contrived scenarios:

English student: "Can I bring a pet to live in the apartment?"
Japanese Sensei: "Of course. What is it, a cat or small dog?"
English student: "It's a 2m long python."
Japanese Sensei: "P-pp-p-python?!"
Sensei falls over, apparently fainting due to the thought of living with a giant snake. The other students point and laugh as the credits role. Another productive English lesson draws to a close.

But back to baseball: Japanese baseball plays with the same rules as American Major League, but with a third the number of teams and twice the number of errors. It seems the only games televised are games involving the Tokyo Yomuri Giants. And they always win, which I guess is why their games are televised. They have standard american-sounding team names like the Giants, the Tigers and the Hawks, but they also have less ferocious names like the Carps, the Swallows and the Bay Stars.

Well that's my rant about baseball. I know I'm not the biggest sports fan in the world, but I do enjoy watching an exciting hockey playoff, or the occasional basketball game, but somewhere along the way baseball lost it, and I fear it will never get it back. Unless Disney makes a movie about a homerun-hitting monkey. They could call it "Chimp Hitter" and star Emilio Estevez as the team manager.

4 stars!

00:00 | Misc Rambling

April 9, 2002

Citizen Lyon

My name is Chris and I am Canadian.

Or so I thought. It turned out when I needed to prove my citizenship, I didn't have any valid documentation.

It all started when I found out I got the summer co-op job at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington, USA. The working visa required I have a valid Canadian passport. I checked my passport only to find it expires April 30, 2002 -- my first day of work. I needed a new one.

Luckily for me, there's a Passport Office in Kitchener, so I had some passport photos taken, grabbed my old passport and headed into downtown Kitchener. Upon entering the Passport Office, I was stopped by a tall East Indian man in some sort of official-looking uniform. He asked me if I was here to apply for a new passport. I told him I was just here to renew my passport.

Him: "Ok, where is your application?"
Me: "Uh, I don't have one."
Him (handing me an application):"Ok, you need to fill out this application, get it signed by a guarantor, bring it back here along with your birth certificate, two passport photos and your chequebook. I mean credit card. Or bank card. We don't take cheques."
Me: "What about cash?"
Him: "Of course we take cash."
Me (holding up my passport):"But I just need my passport renewed. It hasn't expired yet, see?"
Him: "Oh, then bring that too."

Now I readily admit that I should have done some research first to find out exactly what was needed, but since I wasn't applying for a new passport, just to renew my still-valid one, I figured that was all I needed. Ok fine, I can come back. There's still two months before my job starts, I'll just come back later.

I filled out the application easily enough, but the whole "guarantor" thing scared me. A guarantor must have known the applicant personally for at least two years and must have one of the twenty prefessions listed on the application. Among them were doctors, engineers, notary publics and university instructors. "Ok," I thought. "I've been going to Health Services for at least two years. Surely a doctor there would sign my application." So I naively walked into Health Services asking to speak to someone who could help me. A few minutes later a nurse brought me into an exam room, opened up my file and asked me how she could help me. I explained I needed someone to sign my application. According to my file, despite the fact I've been coming here for four years, I haven't been seeing the same doctor for more than two years, so she couldn't help me. End of discussion.

Fine. I'll ask my CS Advisor. No luck there either. She stuck to the letter, if not the spirit, of the rules. Fine. So I brought it to Troy Vasiga, grad student, CS Advisor and instructor extraordinaire. He had taught me in the Fall of 1999 and was more than happy to sign the application for me. Ok, back to the passport office, with a month and a half to spare.

Back at the Passport office, I was again stopped by the tall East Indian. I showed him my completed application, passport photos and Québec birth certificate (I was born in Montréal). He seemed to find that last document very interesting. He stared at it, turned it over and fondled it for about half a minute before (quite rudely) shoving them all back into my arms. He handed me a ticket and motioned at the waiting area. Ok... I sat down and patiently awaited my ticket number to be called. About fifteen minutes later, my number was called and I confidently walked up to the counter. I laid out all my documents on the counter and told the nice lady that I wanted to renew my passport. She took one look at my birth certificate and face fell.

Her: "Oh... you have one of the old ones."
Me: "Uh, I guess so."
Her: "Sorry, we can't accept this."
Me: "Why not?"
Her: "The Québec government is no longer recognizing birth certificates issued before 1994. You'll need to apply for a new one."
Me: "What!?"
Her: "Until 1994 local parishes could issue birth and baptismal certificates, so the government never had a central database until now."
Me: "Ok, fine. But can't you just renew my old passport? I have everything else."
Her (handing me a birth certificate application): "Sorry. You'll have to fill this out and mail it in to the Québec government. Don't worry, it's in English. Come back when you've got it. Sorry."

Ok, so I filled out the application, including my credit card number and mailed it in. I even paid the extra mount to have it rushed. A month and a half before I leave...

Two weeks later, it came in the mail. A tiny, thin piece of paper bearing the provincial blue fleur-de-lis. Great! So I rushed to the Passport Office. There was a snowstorm that day, so my feet got soaked running to catch a bus (yes I missed it, thank you very much). I got into the Passport Office and found out I was the only customer there. Sweet! No lineups! The tall Indian still insisted on giving me a ticket. My number was immediately called, and the Indian thoughtfully pointed to the counter. Thanks.

Once again, I spread out my documents, making sure to point out my valid birth certificate. Ok, no problems, she told me. I asked her to rush the passport. It would cost an extra $30 on top of the $85. Fine. She had to know the reason I wanted it rushed. Could it be because I've been trying to get this passport for a month already? I told her I needed it for a working visa and I was leaving in less than a month.

Her: "Ok, that will be $85."
Me: "What about the rush?"
Her: "Oh yeah!"
Me (muttering): "urge to kill... rising..."
Her: "I'll have to cancel your current passport. I'll just throw it out..."
I must have made some sort of shocked face because she stopped in mid sentence.
Her: "...or you could keep it as a souvenir."
Sure toss it. Not like I had my travel records from visiting Europe, Japan and Korea on them.
Her (handing me my cancelled passport): "Ok, come back in a week."

And yesterday I returned. I was told to wait at Counter #1, and to not bother getting a ticket. So I walked into the office brandishing my pick-up slip. Instead of the tall Indian, there was some woman. I walked past her, clearly heading for Counter #1 when she called out:



Unfortunately the end of this story is quite anti-climactic. Less than three weeks before I have to leave, I got my passport. One and a half-months and $150 later, I can finally prove that not only was I born in this country, but that I'm also a citizen.

00:00 | Misc Rambling | Comments (1)

January 29, 2002

Blog Stalker

Blogs. Internet Web logs. Diaries layed out for the entire world to see. Friends, family, enemies and strangers alike are free to browse someone's account of a personal experience, or his or her musings on a subject. Rarely do people post private things they would rather others not see. Still...

Recently my friend Rafi (whose blog inspired me to get off my ass and make my own) asked me if I had read one of the blogs on his links page. Now I enjoy reading my friends' and family's blogs. I also have no problems reading strangers' blogs. Call it cyber-diary voyerism. But there's that group of people who you recognize, and have probably met, but aren't friends. They're barely acquaintences. Maybe you were introduced at a (twice-removed) mutual friend's party while you were drunk. Maybe you only know the other person's name because you heard other people mention it. My point is, the blog Rafi asked if I had read, belonged to one of those "acquaintances".

No, I'm not going to tell you whose blog it was, but I will tell you it belongs to a girl. Reading the blog of such a person, especially a female, makes me feel like some sort of stalker: I know lots of interesting tidbits about her life, but she (presumably) knows nothing about me. It would be terribly awkward if we actually meet each other for real and she starts telling me some story:

Blog Girl: "So then, I came running out of the fitting room..."
Me: "Yeah, I know, and your pants were on backwards."
Blog Girl (hesitant): "Oh, did <mutual friend> already tell you about that?"
Me: "No."
Blog Girl (confused): "Oh. Did I already tell you this story at <previous social gathering>?"
Me: "No, we've never actually met, but I do know a lot about you. I know your cat's name is Fluffles, you go swimming on Wednesdays at 7:00, you use Secret anti-perspiraaaaaaAAAAAAAAHHHHH"
Blog Girl returns pepper spray to her purse.

That's just one of infinite possible outcomes to me reading her blog. Of course there's always the chance that we'll fall madly in love with each other and run off to some remote island or something, but I find the former scenario a little more realistic.

Well, since Rafi recommended I do it, I did read her site. It was very good. Insightful, creative and contained no juicy private bits. I guess reading it doesn't make me some sort of creepy Blog Stalker. Her site even has a webcam where I can watch her every move from the comfort of my living room.

00:00 | Misc Rambling

January 17, 2002

And You Think I'm A Nerd

My name is Chris Lyon and I'm majoring in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. I wear glasses, I enjoy computer programming, playing computer games and even occasionally watching Star Trek. I may not have the best fashion sense in the world, and I may be able to count the number of girlfriends I've ever had on one hand, but if you think I'm a nerd, wait till you hear about some of my classmates.

Most Computer Science students content themselves with having debates about Microsoft's business practices or playing Magic: the Gathering with other tight t-shirt wearing, overweight individuals. Most of the men have long unkept beards, and most of the women... well, there aren't enough women in Computer Science to generalize.

This rant is about real people who I've had the misfortune of sharing Computer Science classes with at Waterloo. The nicknames are made up, but each anecdote is completely true.

Calculator Boy

The first of the nerds who got me so angry in class, I had to be restrained by my friends to prevent me from kicking his ass in the middle of lecture. This guy insists on answering every question armed with a calculator in his left hand. I think it may be permanently attached.

Professor: "Ok, let's fill up this data structure with some random numbers. Somebody give me a number."
Student1: "Uh, 7"
Student2: "3"
Professor: "Anyone else?"

Calculator Boy is waving his right arms wildly in the air, his calculator-hand, clutched tightly against his chest. He has the look on his face like he has something so terribly funny to say that he just may explode if he doesn't say it.

Professor (reluctantly pointing to CB): "You."
CB (snickering): "65535"
Professor (unimpressed): "Why did you choose that number?"
CB: "Because that will cause an overflow!"
Me: "I'll kill him!"
Ryan: "Sit down Chris."

Laughing Boy

Laughing Boy's super-nerd power is the inability to control to volume and intensity of his laughter during lectures. The professor would make the lamest attempt at a joke, and Laughing Boy would howl at a volume that was embarrassing to us all. He was in all three of my computer classes last term. My favorite incident occurred in my operating systems class taught by a Russian professor.

Professor: "The clock in the back of the class is wrong."
Laughing Boy (snickering): "Sir, what's that on your left wrist?"
Professor (confused): "It's my watch."
LB (snickering louder): "Then why don't you look at it instead of the clock?"
Professor (pointing to his watch): "This is Moscow local time."
Guy behind me (under his breath): "Shut the fuck up!"

Navy Boy

This guy is much less of a nerd than the others, he just really creeps me out. He's a Croatian, or something and he used to wear this blue-and-white striped shirt and has short hair, so he looked like a sailor to us. Then one day he started bringing in this green navy-issue blanket to class and wrapped it around him like a shawl. Then he started getting creepy.

He would always sit about two rows ahead of me and at least once every class he would slowly turn his head until he faced me. Still wrapped in his shawl, mouth slightly open and with eyes that could penetrate my soul, he made eye-contact for just a moment, before slowly turning his head back to the front. A few seconds later he would do it again, but this time, he turned his head the other way, again making eye-contact for a moment before turning back to the front.

Skunk Head

Here is a guy so smug in his nerdiness, I just want to punch him in the throat. I have to give this guy credit for having the balls to look the way he does. What makes Skunk Head what he is, is his hair. His hair is bleached platinum on the left side of his head, and dyed black on the right. Maybe this represents some sort of yin-yang, good-evil symbiosis or something. Maybe he's just a big nerd.

He was in one of my computer classes about two years ago. Then his hair was long and always in a black and white ponytail. I still see him around here and there. His hair is now short and still divided into two opposite hemispheres.


The only nerd in my list whose name I did not make up. Socrates is what he likes to be called. He's fat, has a huge black curly beard and wears a felt hat with a red feather in it. And not a little feather either. I'm talking a foot-long puffy ostrich feather.

I've never actually had him in any of my classes. Something tells me if I did, I'd have one hell of a story to tell.

Wall-Eyed Mike

This guy really gets on my nerves. He has this big head and round bulging eyes and never looks directly at you when speaking. He seems to focus on something to the above right of your head and stares during the entire conversation. He has a know-it-all attitude and lets everyone know it.

WEM is sitting in the front row of the class with no books open in front of him and his arms crossed. As the professor lectures, WEM starts scoffing, sighing, and chuckling to himself loud enough for the whole class, let alone the professor to hear.
Professor: "Is there a problem?"
WEM: "Well sir, it's just that what you're teaching is so simplistic."
Professor: "Why do you say that?"
WEM: "Because I read all this last night and found it really easy."
Professor: "Well why don't you sit quietly so the others who haven't read the material already can learn."
WEM, eyes rolling sighs deliberately.

Well, you've read my rant about my nerdy classmates. If you haven't felt sorry for me yet, just remember, for every Skunk Head and Calculator Boy in my class, there are dozens of others in the Computer Science club, probably masturbating to revealing pictures of Lara Croft.

00:00 | Misc Rambling