This was by no means the first time he had been on ground once sacred to some great religion. He had seen Notre Dame, Hagia Sophia, Stonehenge, the Parthenon, Karnak, Saint Paul’s, and at least a dozen other major temples and mosques.

– Arthur C. Clarke, The Fountains of Paradise

Realizing I’ve visited all of those makes me appreciate life.


A coworker suggested we do a 30-day ab challenge together.  I learned a number of things:

  • It’s amazing what one can do when one puts one’s mind to things. I actually was able to finish the challenge.
  • Don’t agree to an exercise challenge from someone 15 years younger than you are. I was cursing my coworker daily for weeks. Yes, even on the rest days.
  • Agree to the consequences of success or failure up front.
  • I cannot easily detect someone (or at least this co-worker) lying to me by omission over chat (10 days undetected). I can very easily detect lying by omission in person (~1 minute to detection). In other words, it took me 10 days to realize that said coworker had given up.

30-day Ab ChallengeAnd yes… my abs look like hers… you just can’t see it as easily under my beer belly.


I think I’m at the point where the worst thing that can happen is that I fail. That’s OK.

Before that it was “be dismally unprepared and make a fool of myself”.

— Me, learning.

When Industry + Technology = Awesome

I tried Uber for the first time while I was in Boston. I look at the world as many geeks tend to… we wonder or wish that technology could be better applied to everyday life. Uber does exactly that.

  • Register a credit card. No cash changes hands.
  • Before your ride, you can see where cars in your area are and get an estimate as to how long it’ll take for the cars to get there.
  • You get a text when your car is a minute away.
  • The driver has a smart phone, and therefore a GPS, and unlike normal taxi drivers, is not afraid to use it.
  • Receipt is delivered in email.
  • You can rate your driver / see your driver’s rating.
  • Get a fare estimate online.
  • … and I’m sure there are a bunch more if I actually bothered reading their web site.

Really, if taxi companies want to compete with these kinds of car services, they should use technology instead of the courts.

Flowers for Mystery Hunt

The MIT Mystery Hunt this year started off as the 33rd Annual Conference on Maturing Young Scientific Theories: Emerging Resolutions for Yielding Heuristic Unphysics using Noncomputation Techniques, with an Abstract that clued “COMETOTHEHUNT”. We soon found ourselves in a Wonderland variant called Alice Shrugged (a play on the name of the winning team, which was [the entire text of Atlas Shrugged]). I managed to contribute to solving 1 puzzle (a logic puzzle wrapped in an end of curling, and no, being Canadian didn’t help at all). I contributed to a bunch of other ones, mainly by organizing spreadsheets, using formulas, and insisting that people use a fixed width font.

I’ve come to realize that participating in the MIT Mystery Hunt is like submitting to the operation they performed on Algernon (well, Charlie, but normal readers will be more likely to identify the meme through Algernon). My brain starts off slow, but accelerates at an astounding rate as I progress through the weekend, both making incredible leaps of intuition and reaching solid logical conclusions.

Back at work on Monday, all the challenges I’ve previously struggled with are child’s play. I reach my quarterly goals in a day.

By Tuesday, I can accomplish what used to be impossible for me. Only fellow hunters can follow my logic. Co-workers shake their heads and turn away, uncomprehending.

By Wednesday, I can accomplish what used to be impossible. I shake my head in pity that my insights can’t be understood by the world. Like really, our CEO hasn’t named me as his successor nor has the stock price tripled based on the sheer brilliance of my ideas. What gives? I consider quitting and searching for a cure for cancer. But there’s trouble in paradise (not to mention Wonderland). I feel like I’m missing something.

On Thursday, I stare at my notes for the cure and give up. I question whether I’ve actually accomplished my quarterly goals. I’m glad I didn’t hit “send” on my resignation letter. My co-workers regard me with a mixture of fear and pity.

By Friday, it’s back to the same semi-dazed Nick that everyone is accustomed to, who only remembers that he used to be able to actually think and do things (and to think you used to wonder how PHBs came into being).

Offline Shopping

Tried to do some  online shopping at a site called “a strip mall in the real word”. Unwieldy name, but I guess all the good domains were taken. Anyway:

  • No search function
  • …. no product reviews
  • … no product specs
  • … I couldn’t find the real-time chat-with-an-agent function
  • … their security was awful. If I looked around, I could see the shopping carts of other visitors to the site. I bet if I looked closely I could see their credit cards
  • … and all that was just at one store… when I changed tabs to visit another, I somehow got rained and snowed on.

Really, this “in real life” ambiance that they hawk at you is severely overrated.

What happens on Earth, stays on Earth.