Monday, July 27, 2009

Merits of young coconuts

I have recently discovered the amazing joy of eating young coconuts. You can buy them at grocery stores (as un-fancy as the Redmond Safeway) and you can eat them by hacking off the top, drinking the coconut juice, and scraping the insides to get at the coconut jelly. Coconut juice is supposed to be an amazing post-workout beverage because of its electrolytes. It is also supposedly very nutritious: full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, so it can't hurt to drink it in general either. Since first discovering the joys of eating young coconuts last Saturday, I have had a total of 4. ;) This must be love.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

MTV's 16 and Pregnant

There has been some hype about MTV's 16 and Pregnant, a reality show featuring 1-episode stories about pregnant teenagers from across America. They show clips from the teens' lives from the early stages of pregnancy to a couple of months post-birth.

I watched this show out of curiosity and because I wanted to make sure that it wasn't making pregnancy seem too cool*; I was satisfied to find the show to be interesting, somewhat realistic about the difficult aspects of teenage pregnancy, and not disgustingly voyeuristic**. I watched one episode: one about Farrah, a cheerleader estranged from her baby's father and one about Amber, a girl who moves in with her 3-years-senior boyfriend after discovering she is pregnant. Both girls commit to raising their babies; while this is not a choice I would make, perhaps especially because this is not a choice I would make, I found it interesting to see the preliminary execution of these decisions. The show satisfies my curiosity by seeming to do a pretty good job of conveying a (sensationalized, MTV-ized) sense of what it may be like to be 16 and pregnant.

Of course, 16 and Pregnant has the expected cringe-worthiness in that the footage is extremely edited to convey what MTV wants to convey. An example is that they portrayed Farrah's mother as "controlling" and "hot-tempered" for telling Farrah to get her life in order and for fighting with her about wanting a car while she could barely afford the baby. I had found her to be surprisingly supportive of her daughter's decision to keep a baby, especially one fathered by a boy whom Farrah found too immature to even inform of the baby's existence. I also found it amusing that she was fully made up for the delivery even though her water broke at 2 am. :o Despite this, it is still interesting to dig through the layers and imagine what these teens' lives might actually be like. As someone who went to a small all-girls school where I didn't know any pregnant teens and had a deep fear of teen pregnancy, sex, pregnancy, and the opposite sex instilled by even more fearful parents***, I find teenage parents' lives fascinating.

One interesting question is how much being on this reality show affects the lives of these teen parents. From the shows I watched it seemed like the girls, their families, and other people in their lives were trying hard to keep it together and be supportive; no doubt being on TV had something to do with that. Perhaps this helped set a more solid foundation for something with an otherwise tumultuous beginning.

Given that this is a reality TV show about pregnant teenagers and that it's on MTV, it is much less terrible than I initially anticipated. They have some of the episodes online, so if you find yourself in the same situation of wanting to watch something while ironing clothes, I would recommend checking this out.

* It seems that Angelina Jolie has made pregnancy cool. When I used to read trashy magazines in the gym, they would have at least one spread of pregnant celebrities. Teenage girls seem to think it's cool to be pregnant--in the extreme case there was that girl on Maury and there was the pregnancy pact.
** My threshold for what is acceptible is probably way too high, thanks to reality TV pollution of ambient voyeurism.
*** I used to wake up with nightmares about being pregnant or about knowing pregnant people even though I rarely even saw, let alone interacted with, non-faculty, non-family member males.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dangers of the cloud

Courtesy of Joe: a New York Times article on the downsides of cloud computing in terms of privacy etc. While I am more enthusiastic about the cloud than Joe is, I think it's important to consider these issues.

Top ten from college

I figured I now have sufficient distance to write about college with some perspective and sufficient distance that I should write thing down before I forget. Below I list a heterogeneous collection:
  1. Third Eye Blind at Yardfest ('07): singing along to every song with Dara Blume and others! There was Boloco and some substances involved. (Was this when they first released Motorcycle Driveby?) A close second is Ben Folds at Yardfest ('06).
  2. Senior week: everyone's existential angst manifested itself into fervent desire to drink and be merry. Six flags, senior soiree, last chance dance, and the booze cruise were all great times.
  3. Senior spring in general: all of my roommates were done with our extracurriculars and we spent a lot of time bumming around the room together, talking about everything, asking if we can still order late-night takeout from the Hong Kong and eat on the floor when we're 40 (or maybe that was just me). We also had the massive ambulatory parties that migrated from restaurant to cafe to bar, sometimes stopping by Berry Line along the way (or again, maybe that was just me).
  4. Not sleeping very much junior spring. There was a combination of taking Principles of Programming Languages (thank you, Norman Ramsey!), working with Yao*, and being a teaching fellow for intro CS that led to little sleep and much fun. There was a lot of CS, a lot of Yao, and a lot of Boloco**.
  5. Freshman week: wandering around meeting people; wandering around being lost; wandering around looking for parties in the quad. What fun!
  6. Interning at Google Santa Monica, summer 2007. There was a lot of beach, a lot of food, and a lot of reading. (Also a lot of playing with cool Google infrastructure, but my lips are sealed!) This is when I became a foodie and a beach lover. Also when I developed an admiration for and fear of the social power of C++.
  7. Foreign Cultures 48: The Cultural Revolution with Roderick MacFarquhar. What a class (what a core!); what a man. Professor MacFarquhar was possibly the best lecturer I've ever had: he is this awesome ex-Parliament member who had been a journalist in China during the Cultural Revolution. I fell asleep in this class once per class but I absorbed all the material anyway. A great part was trading my semester's notes for sushi with a friend, only to have the friend discover that my notes were dominated by ellipses from where I fell asleep. :)
  8. Robocup World Cup '06 in Bremen, Germany. This is when I fell in love with the German food lifestyle: grease and beer, mmm. It was also a fun trip with Kristina, Jie, Andrew, Geneva, et. al.
  9. PRISE in Boston, summer 2006. This is when I first started appreciating Boston; it's also when I first started running a lot. <3
  10. Annenberg, our Harry Potter dining hall where all freshmen eat and where visitors are forbidden to enter. Dinner at 6 was such a fixture in my life that I refused to schedule anything else around it; so many of my friendships started with meals there. There was also a while freshman year when I made my friends sit on one side of the table facing the door so we could people-watch, since it was the last time we could potentially see everyone in our class in one place. :)
As you can tell from this list, freshman and senior years were the most social and there was a lot of random stuff in between. :) On the whole it was a postiive experience.

* Yao Yu, the most fun CS partner I've ever had. She was taking operating systems, programming languages, AI, and another class at the same time while being a teaching fellow for algorithms, so she slept very little. Despite this we had a lot of fun staying up until the milk trucks came out (approx. 4 am), spending some of this time watching videos of Yevgeny Pleshenko skating and Yevgeny Kissin playing Rachmaninoff. (Love Russians; love Yevgeny's.)
** Boloco is an "inspired burrito" place. Without exception I would order a chicken teriyaki burrito, light on the teriyaki sauce, with hot sauce. On days I was feeling particularly good I would also get a mango smoothie. That was the life.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

On biking

I got a bike shortly after coming to Seattle and have been figuring out the deal about biking around. I've been biking to work and to the store; yesterday I took my first long bike ride on some trails (maybe about 22 miles; it took me an embarrassing 2+ hours)*.

After some thinking, some observation, and some more thinking I realized I am a public menace. First of all, I go on the sidewalk a lot, which is apparently illegal in most cities. :( Secondly, when I go in bike lanes sometimes I go opposing traffic, which is also a terrible thing.

Since I had started doing both of these things after watching other people, I wanted to share this in case you are also a public menace. :o

* I have two questions: 1) how do you prevent the seat from being extremely painful? 2) how do you deal with being hunched over for so long?

The food situation in Seattle

I haven't yet extensively explored the Seattle food situation, but a cursory investigation reveals that it is pretty good. In particular, the quality of the "bar food" and the diversity of their menus has been impressive. Some places I've been:
  • Barolo - a nice place to get a drink and eat some really good food. (Check out the menu on the site!) They supposedly have multiple happy hours where things are half-priced; when I took advantage of this it was pretty great.
  • Feierabend - a great German restaurant. You know how I'm a sucker for a nice German meal with beer. (Unfortunately I no longer eat red meat, so the German food experience is significantly less enjoyable.)
  • Table 219 - a great, well-priced place to eat and people-watch. I had a really good special: red snapper over cucumber salad with some sort of curry.
  • Elysian Brewery - a nice place to get a beer with some good (healthy!) bar food. I had a great mushroom reuben sandwich with a good chicken lemon grass soup; my friend had a great tofu salad on soba noodles.
  • Random Asian in Redmond - there are a lot of pho places and random Japanese/Korean places are here. I've been to a couple and they are pretty good.
Capitol Hill seems good in general for food; along Broadway (where Table 219 is) I saw many other restaurants that looked like they could be good. :)

This past weekend I attended Bite of Seattle, an annual food festival where local restaurants have booths. There was a really cool alley where you paid $10 and got to try samples from 7 different fairly nice restaurants (Salty's, Cellars, etc.); I am glad I saved room for that but the samples were not big enough to determine whether the restaurant was actually good. I also got to eat a coconut, which was really great.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Impressions of Seattle

Seattle has been really cool so far*: there is a lot of water and it is surrounded by "big" nature. (On clear days you can see Mt. Rainier in the distance, a pink cartoon mountain stencil in the sky.)

Here are some things I've done up to now**:
The one less cool thing is that I've been living in Redmond, which is a 25-minute bus ride into downtown Seattle, not counting the 20 minute to the bus stop (on weekends, since the bus doesn't stop everywhere), the time to wait for the bus, and the time to walk to the final destination. There is also supposedly terrible traffic on and around the bridge going over Lake Washington, which one must cross to travel between Seattle and Redmond. Life involves tradeoffs. :)

* I have been here for 3 weeks now.
** I owe most of these plans to one Ms. Jennifer Nan. <3 span="span">

Dublin in a nutshell

I was in Dublin a couple of weeks ago for PLDI (Programming Language Design and Implementation conference); what I saw of the city was the important landmarks (that you can get in any guidebook) between Trinity College and the Guiness brewery*. These are about a couple of miles apart, so it is a good day's walk to walk around Dublin between those parts. In between you'll pass by a bunch of churches, Grafton Street (the commerical district), some museums**, and some parks. Further out is the jail; I have heard it is cool and has lots of historical value. If I had more time I would have liked to see that.

I also got to experience Dublin pubs, which I discovered close fairly early (11 or 12) on weeknights. Late drinking supposedly occurs mostly in the Temple Bar, a neighborhood of bars.

It was cool to see the Dublin of James Joyce; it was also cool to discover that James Joyce is all over Dublin.

* This is actually a cool place; at the top you get a good view of the city, labelled (on the windows) with quotes from Joyce relevant to the landmarks (and generally relevant). The Guiness in Dublin is supposedly the best you'll ever have; I'd believe it.

** You see more museums if you take a somewhat meandering route that involves some looping.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Children (Voluntarily) Without Clothes

A cute New York Times article about when it is appropriate to allow kids to run around without clothes. While I think nudity should be more desexualized than it is in our society, it is currently the case that nudity is closely related to sexuality. Allowing children to run around naked could help desexualize nudity, but it could also leave the children confused and frustrated when they become too old and have to start wearing clothes. As someone who wasn't allowed to leave her room until fully dressed (and sometimes with 5+ layers!), I would have certainly appreciated more time to run around with fewer clothes.

Firefox, please

Courtesy of Joe: US State Department workers beg for Firefox.