the most useless species on earth?

The grad student. Lives off of the benificence of the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and Giant Evil Corporations. Eats. Sleeps. Carouses with undergrads, pretending they still fit in with them. Carouses with professors, belittling undergrads and pretending to be adults. Produces papers that will never be read or used by anyone other than other grad students.

This is my life. I felt particularly like a grad student today, having spent 5 hours working on a project, then realizing that all my work was based on an incorrect assumption. At Apple, when that happened, it was still sort of okay, because whether or not I was right, I was still making $35/hour. Now it’s just like my time flushed down the toilet. Time that could have been spent playing Grand Theft Auto. Now, in some abstract sense, this was a character building experience. I know it. But damn. Talk about frustration.

First test of grad school: 76/100. Should be good enough. The class has about 9 people on a good day, and since I say things in class I’m not too terribly concerned. It was also my last test of the semester. The goals are certainly different now. Instead of just doing endless problem sets, taking tests, and getting grades, now I have to solve problems that haven’t been solved yet, that might not even have solutions, all while trying to meet some obscure goal of impressing a professor enough to take me in at the end of a year. I guess it’s a lot like trying to do well anywhere in the real world, but it’s the first time I’ve tried it so it still feels weird.

Tomorrow should be a stay-at-home-and-work day, but it’ll be chopped in half by an outing to SF to see my parents and their parents. I’ll try to bring stuff to read on the train so I don’t feel like the whole day is thrown off. I guess I should be more excited about seeing family, but I got to see my mom on Sunday, and my dad’s mother is not my most favorite person in the world. But it’s family, and certain things you should do for family. Sigh.

Doug’ll be coming into town again this weekend, which should be much fun–a rave has been scheduled for Saturday. Now I need to go learn what a subdivision surface is so I can teach it to my splines class next week… (wow, what a classically self-interested, content-free blog post)


So, I’ve been excited about this new Grand Theft Auto game for a while now. Since February when it was announced, I’ve been patiently biding my time, pretending to be interested in working a job or getting a Ph.D., when in truth all I want to do is play the game. None of you suspected, did you?

The release date of the game is the 26 Oct. As it turns out, there was a leak of the game onto the internet a couple of days ago, and so inevitably I already have a copy. I would like to say I had moral qualms and heart palpitations before burning the DVD and popping it in last night–but that would be a lie. I would also like to say that I’ll run out and buy the game for $50 as soon as it’s available, but I’m afraid that might be a lie, too. Maybe Rockstar Games will find my web page and demand their just desserts–it would be only appropriate. But until that day perhaps I’ll just bask in the irony of having stolen Grand Theft Auto.

In truth, the sum of $50 is negligible when compared to the amount of enjoyment I derive from these games. I probably spent 80-90 hours playing each of the last two, and given that I spend $10 to see a two-hour movie or $65 for half on hour of go-karting, it seems like a true bargain. And I think that’s why in the end I’ll have to buy it. So much of what the giant evil media companies dole out is overpriced for what you get, it’s easy to forget sometimes where the value lies.

So, the video game companies can charge $50 for a game. I can accept that. But I’m holding fast to my upper limit of $7 for DVDs and CDs. Once they hit that mark, I’ll turn in my hook and peg-leg. I promise.

a bit of catch up

Let’s see… Leslie’s parents and sister arrive Wednesday. We relax, have a simple dinner and watch the debates. Thursday morning we head out early to Big Basin for a bit of hiking and crawling over fallen redwoods. We leave Big Basin and drive to Bonny Doon for wine tasting. From Bonny Doon we drive up highway 1 to Half Moon Bay, where we get a delicious lunch at the Flying Fish, a little hole-in-the-wall connected to a farmers’ market. Then we stroll around downtown Half Moon Bay for a couple of hours, then drive home to rest.

Friday morning Leslie heads to work, and I head to Berkeley along with parents and sister. We have a great tour of Berkeley, lunch at Intermezzo cafe, then drive back down to San Jose to see the last 15 minutes of Leslie’s Friday class, then hang out in her classroom for a while. Then we head to the Winchester Mystery House for what was a suprisingly interesting tour of a sprawling 100-year-old mansion built by a psychotic arthritic heiress. Finally, dinner is had in Santa Clara at Dasaprakash with the whole group + Johanna. We retire.

Saturday everyone else heads to San Francisco, but I stay at the apartment to try to catch up on some work. At noon Doug arrives, in town for the weekend for his Apple interview. We go kart racing in the afternoon with Phil, then hang out at Phil’s place for a while playing Katamari Damacy. Around 6 we head back home for the very end of the Aggie football game (what we were at Phil’s house to avoid), then share Aladdin over a bucket of fried chicken.

Sunday morning Leslie’s family heads out to the airport. Doug and I spend the morning cramming for the interview at Apple and discussing the relative merits of grad school and jobs. We take the train up to Berkeley for a short tour and a Delicious lunch at the Kurry Klub on Shattuck, drop by Amoeba, then ride home. Later we head to Phil’s for dinner–a wonderful coconut curry chicken followed by some sort of traditional Maylay dessert that I can’t remember how to pronounce.

I leave doug there and head home for sleep. As I type Doug is interviewing at Apple for my old job. Time to get cracking on all the work I’ve been ignoring since Wednesday…

clean apartment makes me happy

Let’s see… what’s new? I’m still a grad student. Still loving it. Pinch me. Et cetera.

Friday, Stefani came over for dinner and drinking. We had steak and shrimp, yum. Introduced Stef to the Daily Show, tasted wine (in quantity), and generally had a great time. I headed to bed just as a screening of The Princess Bride was starting. My loss.

On Saturday I went to Ironworks (the Berkeley climbing gym) with another graphics grad student, Ryan, and an EE grad student named Dan. We’d gone a couple of times before, and I decided this time to restart my membership. It’s $60/mo, but they now seem to be offering ashtanga as part of their free yoga classes, and that plus climbing a couple of days a week is worth it, I think. I wasn’t quite at the top of my game, but Ryan and I took the lead climbing test and passed where we’d failed the time before. That alone made the trip worth it.

Today I worked for five or six hours trying to…well. I’ll just say it. I was trying to display gradient vectors in a discrete vector field on a cow. I’m not proud of it, but there it is. It kind of looks like he has a beard.

gradient cow

The second half of today was spent in a much-needed and very satisfying cleaning of our apartment. I just don’t have the spare time for it that I did when I worked at Apple. Man, this being a grad student in a paid program thing sure is rough.

katamari damacy!

It’s been a while since I’ve plugged a video game on overt, but I just had to mention something about Katamari Damacy. Here’s the premise: the King of the Universe got high and broke all the stars in the sky. You, the 1cm-tall young prince are charged with repairing the damage. How? You get a little sticky ball (“katamari”) which you roll around picking things up with. You start with little things, but as you grow bigger things stick. Thumbtacks, erasers, candies, buckets, welcome mats, sand castles, babies, alligators, cars, airports, thunder gods. When you’re ball is big enough, the king tosses it up into the heavens to replace a missing star or constellation. If it seems silly and trippy, it is. And I love it.

In other news, it looks like overt has fallen victim to its first comment spam. Four new comments were posted at 2:01 last night, and they all had the same indecipherable message to deliver:

Hardcore young viagra samples here (Tons of amateur movies and videos) Monika Livinsky Playing Strip Poker HERE

Maybe I should consider it flattery that a blog spamming bot took it upon itself to befoul overt. Let’s hope it’s an isolated visit.