Archive for June, 2006

Thank You, Curt

It’s been a tough couple weeks for baseball fans in New England. Sure, we took 2 out of 3 from the supposedly best team in baseball, but the maulings provided by Toronto and the Yankees have been killer.

On Wednesday, Mike wore a Red Sox shirt in hopes of swinging the tide. When the game was canceled due to rain, Mike muttered something about how this was the best God could do for the team. Good news! They didn’t lose! They didn’t play, either…

That reminds me of camp. I went to Laurel Music Camp for three years. Twice as a camper and once as a junior councillor. It’s a frickin’ awesome place.

The reminder comes from the crazy Mr. Halloran. This man led us in the chicken dance each morning before breakfast. He joked with whoever was around during rec time. To me, anyway, he is the heart and soul of Laurel.

In addition to all of that, though, he was responsible for morning announcements. See, Laurel is held at a Boy Scout camp in the middle of nowhere in a town that’s in the middle of nowhere in the part of Connecticut that is generally though of as the middle of nowhere. Basically no one leaves the grounds during the week. So, “Uncle Jack,” as people who never had Mr. Halloran for middle school science called him, would give us the news during breakfast.

As the camp was in Connecticut, the news always included baseball scores for the Yankees, the Mets, and the Red Sox. Mr. Halloran was obviously a Yankees fan. He had little faith in either the Mets or the Sox. And at least once during the week, he would get to make his favorite joke, and every time, it would work.

“The Red Sox didn’t lose!”
[Various cheers from about 1/3 of the campers.]
“They had the night off last night.”
[Groans.]

Following yet more tangents along this train of thought, I just found on the website that an old friend is still attending (that is, as a staff member) Laurel. I spotted her picture among those from last year, and did a true double take. She was always such a sweetheart. She can hold her own though. The campers better watch out for her!

I remember after we got home from our first tour at Laurel, a bunch of us went over to her condo to hang out… or have a barbecue… or… something (it might have been a standard holiday weekend… Independence Day?). I had my Whatever and Ever, Amen CD with me, and we listened to that while playing volleyball and talking about how we would definitely go back again. I remember the volleyball especially vividly because I had a massive (and boy do I mean massive) mark on my arm from being bitten by a spider, and I kept punishing myself by bumping the ball properly.

Oh man, that sends the way back machine in gear… I totally tried out for the volleyball team my freshman year in high school. I was (and still am) a super-klutz, though, and didn’t even make the freshman team. It was good for me, though, because I met some great friends there, and learned how to properly bump a volleyball.

Too bad that spider bite was just in that right place.

By the way, that’s pretty much why I’m petrified of spiders. I actually managed to get a matching spider bite on the other arm in just about the same place the next year. Fucking spiders!

It’s a good thing I went to Laurel as a singer, rather than as a cellist. I don’t know if my arm would have been strong enough to hold up a bow…

Oh, Laurel…

What was I talking about? Oh, right, I was thanking Curt Shilling for salvaging the end of this past road trip. I’m sorry I lost faith early in the game when you gave up the third home run, Curt. You really did keep it together, and our offence finally remembered what it’s like to come through in the clutch!

I really did think this post was going to be about baseball…

June 9th, 2006 • 8:33 am • dinane • Posted in Life, Music, SportsNo Comments »

Gas!

Since I have to go to the western suburbs tonight, and I live in the northern suburbs now, I decided that it would be foolish to take the T south only to take it north only to drive south and then west. Seems like good logic to me. Lucky for me, the traffic was pretty okay. Route 1 was kind of sluggish, but at least we were moving.

I munched on my granola bar as we crawled towards the city. It was raining – hard. I had the windshield wipers on full blast, and the radio up to match. I’m not sure what song was playing, but I’m pretty sure I was singing along between bites of granola. (Really, if I wasn’t singing along, it must have been the deejays talking. I like to sing.)

As my car passed the big orange dinosaur, the traffic got a little bit less heavy, and by the time we got to the movie theatre, we were going along around the speed limit. (Of course, in MA, the posted speed limit is often considered to be slow…) My car bumped and thumped over the giant pot-holes and other road chunks as I approached the Tobin Bridge.

The Tobin Bridge is… well… the best way to describe it would be as a historical relic. It’s big, it’s metal, and it’s green. It has two decks of pot-hole-enriched fun. You too can drive it, for the awesome price of free! But only if you’re going northbound. Southbound, you have to pay $3 for the privilege at toll booths so old they have gates. Even for Fast Lane. It’s just like a trip through nostalgia, only decrepit.

It was just as I was watching the now foam padded gate (imagine they wrapped a gate with a yellow pool noodle) rise in front of my car that a rather loud “beep!” echoed throughout the vehicle. “What is it, Haley? What is it? Huh? Huh? What’s that girl? Timmy’s stuck in the well? No? What’s that light, then? Uh-oh…”

That light, the orange one on the dash (not to dissimilar in color to the earlier-mentioned dinosaur), glowed in the shape of an old-style gasoline pump. That’s right, folks, I was almost out of gas.

Anyone who knows anything about Boston knows these things. (1) Parking is hella expensive. (2) Fenway’s always sold out. (3)There’s no gas stations in Boston.

It was around this point that I started muttering to myself. I thought of all the times I’d driven past gas stations recently, thinking, “Oh, well, I can still get where I’m going today.” I drew a mental map of the area I’d be driving through hoping my brain would remember some gas somewhere. It didn’t.

I got off at the Storrow Drive exit, wondering to myself if I’d have enough gas to get to work and then get out to the first rest stop on the Pike this afternoon. I suddenly had visions of myself stuck in traffic on the Pike, with the needle on E, pulling off to the side of the road with the last few spritzes of gas making my engine just barely turn over. I wondered how long it could take AAA to get to me on the Pike during rush hour. I knew I’d miss my meeting if I was that foolish.

Then I saw a sign from above. Like, literally, there was a sign above the road. It told me that this exit not only went to Storrow Drive, but also to 28 North. I figured that I should just drive up 28 until I hit gas, because there has to be some… somewhere…

After getting slightly lost and whipping a U-ie, I was headed north on 28. My muttering had turned to desperate pleading. As I drove by the Science Museum, as I drove by Lechmere Station, as I drove by Dunkin’ Donuts… “Gas? Gas? Gas? I need gas. Gas?”

Then, glowing from the right side of the street, there it was. The gleam of the bright yellow scallop shell caught my attention. I cut someone off, and pulled into the oasis. My day dreams of happy thoughts were cut short by a bit of sticker shock, but I handled it well. That’s what credit cards are for.

I winced as the cost crossed the $30 boundary, but kept going, telling myself that it’s best to just fill it now, so you don’t have anything to worry about for a while. When it finally clicked to a stop, I put the nozzle back in it’s holster, and re-capped the tank. I nodded and smiled at the cabby next to me who had just finished gassing up as well.

The cabby got out onto 28 ahead of me, and I followed him to the left turn lane at the next light. I whipped my second U-ie of the day, and headed back south. Back past the Dunkin’ Donuts, back past Lechmere Station, and back past the Science Museum. I had a little bit of an adventure figuring out which lane to be in to get on Storrow Drive, but was soothed when I saw the markings in my lane telling trucks to get the fuck out.

I was quite proud of myself when I got off Storrow at the correct location, and knew exactly where I was. Left, right, left, left, parking garage! Amazingly, it was my best driving into Boston experience yet. I’ll figure this place out yet.

June 7th, 2006 • 9:14 am • dinane • Posted in Life2 Comments »

I Can Shoot Evil Aliens Too!

Okay, so I’m the only female employee at my new company. Whoop-dee-doo. When they asked me if I’d be okay with that, I just said, “As long as there are separate bathrooms, I couldn’t care less.”

In general, these guys are pretty good at forgetting what gender I am. My relative inexperience has a greater impact most days, and I’m working on that. But for some reason, these guys seemed shocked that I’d want to play our new video arcade game.

Yes, we have a video arcade game in our break room. You don’t? Well, that sucks for you. When I get angry because my project won’t build for the fourteenth straight hour, there’s always the opportunity for me to shoot at aliens. You have to go postal (apologies to the devoted postal workers out there) and actually shoot your coworkers*.

What game, you wonder? The ever so fabulous flash-back to the late 90s (yes, I know that isn’t particularly long ago): Area 51 – Site 4. It’s one of them shooting games, where you have a plastic pistol attached to a cord attached to the console. You shoot things, you get points for shooting them, you get points for accuracy, you kill the big boss, you win.

I may not have been allowed to hang out at arcades when I was younger, and I may not have had a Nintendo or Sega or any other video game machine in my house as a kid, but I still love me some video games. (Thanks, Mike!) I’ll be honest, shooting games aren’t my favorite. I prefer rhythm games and platform games, like Beat Mania and Shrek 2. (Hush, you.) But that doesn’t mean I’ve never played.

I did grow weary of the first-person-shooter games for the PC freshman year at WPI. I mean, seriously, how much time can you really spend watching someone shoot things. Perhaps if I had bought (or stolen, as was a popular thing to do) the game (that year it was all about Half-Life), I could have become a playa. But I didn’t. And my GPA thanks me for that.

But Half-Life this isn’t. There’s no deciding where to walk, there’s no looking around, and there’s certainly no strafing. You have a gun. The game moves you to where you need to be. You shoot the gun. The aliens explode. Next level!

But back to the other day. My lunch had been eaten, and I was feeling the need to do some alien slaughter. So, I asked the guys in the break room if they would like to join me in shooting aliens, and was met by perplexed looks. After I walked up to the game and picked up a gun, they realized I was serious, and one volunteered to join me in the battle, while the other turned off the lights that cause a nasty glare.

I’m not saying I was superb. But in several levels, I did have a higher accuracy rating than my coworker, and once I even beat him in kills. After several levels, he remarked, surprised, “Wow, you’re better than [other-coworker].” I just grinned.

As we approached the final level, a boss-alien complete with flailing tentacles of fire, our boss wandered in. (Our boss, by the way, is the one who picked this machine and had it ordered. The man loves toys.) “What are you, corrupting my new employee?”

Oh, yeah. I’m so corrupted. I’ve so never seen games with guns before. I don’t even know what this thing in my hand is? Oh! It represents a thingy that you use to hurt people? Oh no! Let me put that down gently and with grace!

*gag*

I am so not your average girl.

So my new goal, and I think this one is reasonable, is to compete at an equal level with the guys here at this game. And if that means getting in to work 10 minutes early to get in a daily practice, so be it. I will be more accurate than you. I will kill more aliens than you. And in that last level, I will save your tookus from the evil alien queen, you wimpy boys.


*Note: Shooting coworkers is not recommended nor endorsed by this website nor this blogger. In fact, this blogger recommends not shooting anyone real. Violence in video games is fun. Violence in real life is a tragedy. Don’t shoot!

June 6th, 2006 • 9:02 am • dinane • Posted in Life, Video Games3 Comments »

Nature Lover

Most every day, except for the ones when I try finding ways to shave 5 seconds off my commute, I walk along the side of the Public Garden. It’s a pretty good perk, really, as it’s a beautiful park. Occasionally, I’ve driven to work, and the ideal walking line from the parking lot I choose to work takes me through the Garden.

The Public Garden is a pretty famous place. Even people who’ve never been to Boston have probably heard about the duck pond. I’m sure you read Make Way for Ducklings when you were a kid. Okay, maybe I’m not sure, but you sure should have!

The Public Garden is home of swan boat rides, duckies and squirrels, playing children, no cycling, and plenty of very old trees. It’s a comforting place. I dare you to walk through the Garden with a scowl on your face. You couldn’t keep it in place for more than three steps. You’d crack a smile at the first sight of a family picnic, and be grinning by the time you reached a line of ducklings following their momma duck to the pond.

The Public Garden and it’s next door neighbor, the Boston Common, are the heart of Boston. They make the city a home. They make the city feel alive.

Anyway, most every day, I walk by the Garden. I generally walk slower during that part of my commute. I am easily distracted by pretty things and cute things. Trees and ducklings with such close proximity give me pause.

The sidewalk outside of the Garden gates is laid out in brick. Occasional bricks are missing, making it kind of an adventure to walk along without turning an ankle, but I’m okay with that. Every so many feet (maybe 12?) a purposeful gap in the bricks lets the trunk of an old tree out of the lumpy soil below.

Maybe on your walk into work, you nod greeting to the security guard. Then you make brief acknowledging eye contact with people in passing as you walk the hallway to your cubicle (or office, if you’re cool). You say, “Hello,” to the guy who sits by the entrance to your cube-land (or office area, again, if you’re cool). And then you sit at your desk and start your day.

For me, my nod greeting is to the guy who hands me the Metro (Boston’s free newspaper). Eye contact is out of the question on the T, but once I emerge and start walking along the side of the park, I acknowledge the trees. My hello is to the security guard, oddly enough, and I ride the elevator up to my office as generally the first one in.

This morning, something was awry. One of my tall green and brown friends was missing. Or, rather, the green parts were missing, along with a rather large portion of the brown. He was a stump. His life was sliced away, leaving concentric circles two feet wide standing alone up from the upset soil. My heart sank as I approached.

I sighed, frowned, and muttered, “Oh no!” My pace slowed, as I surveyed the damage. His roots had obviously been upset, leaving a mess of soil and lumps of wood, so dangerous that they had been surrounded with bright yellow caution tape.

As I went past, I saw the problem. Something had knocked into him. I originally suspected the evil wind had dislodged him from the over-soaked ground, but my theory was just a hopeful one to shoo the real reason to the back of my mind.

My friend the tree had been hit by a car.

I do so hope that they will plant a new tree in his place. He will struggle as a sapling under the weight of the responsibility of greeting morning commuters. He will bend with the wind and sag with the weight of the first winter snow. But his sheer will will keep him growing, aspiring to the heights of his neighbors.

June 5th, 2006 • 9:01 am • dinane • Posted in LifeNo Comments »

Old Bastard

Since starting this new job, I’ve had a hard time reconciling my ego with my actual knowledge. See, as it turns out, I don’t know everything. I know, it was a shocker to me as well.

At my last job, I almost did know everything. I was respected and people often came to me to ask questions about various things. This, of course, didn’t happen over night, but for some reason I have been having a difficult time remembering stupid-fresh-out-of-college-Diane.

I have to remind myself more often of the incident involving a water bottle and several thousand dollars worth of prototype electronics equipment…

But now I’m the new kid all over again. I was an expert in my old field, but in this new one, I only know the periphery. I know C++ like it’s English, but C# has some oddities I’m still picking up on. I know how to make things smaller and faster for the embedded world, but the whole “Enterprise system” concept is just barely attaching itself to my understanding.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I’m failing. I learn more every day than I learned in the last year at my old job. This job has been exactly what I was hoping for. But my poor little brain just jumped out of the small suburban park where it was king of the jungle gym into the Boston Common, where I don’t even know if I could find a jungle gym…

Okay, maybe that didn’t make too much sense.

It’s hard for me to express just how I feel about this. It’s frustrating. I guess that’s really just it. I’m frustrated, but encouraged by day to day progress.

Luckily, I’ve been listening to a lot of my iPod lately. I went through a Ben-Folds-or-Nothing phase during the last two weeks of my commute from hell, and I got a lot of comfort out of the lyrics of the song after which this entry was titled. The tune still lingers in my ears.

Why you gotta act like you know
when you don’t know?
It’s okay…
if you don’t know everything.

June 2nd, 2006 • 9:55 am • dinane • Posted in LifeNo Comments »

Snarl With Me: Say ‘Gnarls’

Anyone who listens to Mix 98.5 in the Boston area has probably heard the song “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. Many other people have likely heard it too, since it (is/was?) a #1 single in England. It’s a different kind of song, but I’m obsessed with it.

I was babbling to my friend Dave about it, since he does in fact listen to 98.5, and he made a very good point:

me: I told you I felt a babble coming on.
him: It’s OK, but wouldn’t this be better on your blog?
me: zing.

I got to work one morning, after hearing the song on the radio in the car on the way to the T station, and decided to look up the artist. This is usually the first step in my decision process to buy an album. I may be obsessive, but I’m also methodical. I found that the artist was Gnarls Barkley. A little googling and I was at the dot-com listening to the track “Smiley Faces.” I knew instantly that I was going to have to buy the album.

I started poking around the website, and saw that I had just missed by a day an appearance on Conan O’Brien. I did a couple searches for a recording and came up empty. My AIM away message for the day read:

Anyone who can find me a video on the internet of Gnarls Barkley’s appearance on Conan O’Brien last night wins a prize.

(Disclaimer: In the above, “wins a prize” should be replaced with “receives a heartfelt ‘thank you’ from me.”)

I also started reading the portion of the site that asks, “Who is Gnarls Barkley?” I started off kind of giggling at the obvious fakeness of this “hidden” man. But I wasn’t amused for long. I quickly became annoyed.

I was annoyed that I had been fooled. I was annoyed that some producers had invented a guy, gave him a name, and manufactured some tracks in a back room just for the fun of getting hype up for an imaginary guy. That’s what I thought anyway.

Wrong!

I kept searching the internet (mostly because my builds were taking eons, and I had some spare brain cycles), and I began to find live performances. So my perception of a studio produced voice diminished and I started to wonder for myself, “Who is Gnarls Barkley?” Yes, I know now that I was late to the party. People were wondering who he was before I knew that I should wonder.

I finally did find the real truth. Gnarls Barkley is a collaboration between Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green. I’ve heard some Danger Mouse mixes before, but I’m not super familiar with him. As for Cee-Lo, my exposure to the kind of music he normally involves himself with is extremely limited. (I listen to top-40 pop, please forgive me.)

Even without any other knowledge of the individuals, I know the value is in the team. These guys seem to feel a guy named Gnarls, as if he’s real. It really is a special kind of crazy, as even they said they were trying to “out-crazy” each other during the creation of the tracks.

My favorite tidbit of information came from an interview by Pitchfork:

[Danger Mouse]: Yeah, “Crazy” was one take, that was it. The first time [Cee-Lo] did that, he went out of body. I work with a lot of singers; one thing that always screws stuff up is trying to emulate a performance, but the first time you’re plucking at a guitar, when you’re coming up with it and it comes out, that’s the only time it’s real. “Crazy” was out the first time it came out of his mouth; it’s like he sang it on the mic and that’s why it sounds the way it does, I think. I remember afterward he was like, “What do you think of that, how was that” and I was like “Ohhh, that was alright!” (Laughs)

My jaw dropped at reading that. I am in awe at the talent these two have. I love what I’ve heard so far. I love the creativity, the give-and-take, and most of all the spirit in the music.

I’m obsessed.

Postlude

My good friend Tara, knower of all things internet, did in fact come up with that Conan appearance for me. She did receive her heartfelt ‘thank you.’

I found the performance to be amusing to watch, especially considering the attire (note that this was aired after midnight of the May 24th show, I don’t know if they were celebrating, but if they were, hats off!), but they slowed it way down, which I did not enjoy as much. It’s okay. I’ve always got the album recording.

Post-postlude

I have since bought the album, and I listen to it on the Orange line daily. I bob my head and mouth the words. I love it. My fellow commuters probably think I’m insane. I’m okay with that.

June 1st, 2006 • 8:09 am • dinane • Posted in Music4 Comments »
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