Friday, August 26, 2005

I grok

Last year, the Stanford Daily printed a logic puzzle called "You Grok?" on the last page of each paper. (Also, these puzzles can be accessed from yougrok.com). As some who know me can testify, I became vaguely obsessed with these puzzles, recreating them on the public white boards for all to solve. Also, as Hoff knows, one of my favorite pastimes was to "grok" people.

(Oddly enough, I've never read Stranger in a Strange Land. I only grokked the meaning of "grok" through a CS 106A handout).

Around campus (mostly in the libraries), I had seen these lime-green mousepads that said "I grok" that advertised vaguely for a new sophisticated search engine/research tool called Grokker. So, I went to grokker.com and submitted a generic customer service form mentioning how much I loved the mousepads, and asked where I could get one. Within minutes, someone from Grokker replied and asked for my mailing address so that he could FedEx some mousepads to me.

And they arrived today. This guy is awesome. Eight mousepads, and a shirt that just says "grok" on the front. Thanks!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Eric's 21st, Good times, and Rumination

Yesterday was my summer roommate Eric's 21st birthday, and this landmark occasion warranted the purchase of some streamers and balloons and a cake from Coldstone's, with some margaritas and good company on the side. No, Eric didn't drink. In a sense, he's right - it's too clich&eamp; to drink on your 21st birthday. Still, I wish he'd have just one drink before the end of the summer. (Passover wine doesn't count - sorry, Eric). L'chaim.

Yesterday was a day full of good news - my replacement antenna for my cell phone came in the mail, my friend Trevor from Berkeley got home from boot camp, but best of all, the housing supervisor for Roble replied to my e-mail to let me know that I could move into Roble on August 31. Originally, for those of us living on campus this summer, we would have to move out of our summer housing by noon on the 31st, move into a different dorm for the day, since officially RAs don't move in until the 1st. Avoiding having to do two separate moves is spectacular for me and the other two RAs I'm living with this summer. Oh, and last year's Roble RA Kevin came by to drop off the DVDs he made for last year's Roble musical. While the orchestra sounds terrible in spots (ahem, trumpet), I was surprised in general at how great the overall product was.

Yet, there was some less euphoria-inducing news. In my capacity as a panelist in the Judicial Panel Pool, I've sat on four Honor Code / Fundamental Standard hearings this summer, all with unique circumstances, but yesterday's was one of the most trying. In some cases in the past, I've been delighted to impose a sanction upon the accused, especially when his or her crimes seem particularly egregious. In other cases, I've been more inclined to sympathize with the accused and have had trouble justifying the drastic life change that quarters of suspension, community service, or expulsion can place upon that person's life.

Yesterday's case fell into neither category, and while I can't really go into specifics because of confidentiality issues, the panel members and I were certainly aware of the drastic impact that any decision would have on not only the accused's academic life, but also that person's hopes for the future in ways that don't usually affect most students. Serving on the panel is certainly not for the faint of heart - it demands effective jurism and a conflict between individual sympathy and the responsibility to uphold the social contract of Stanford.

What a great experience to have the chance to be a panelist - while some cases have been easy, most have made me think for hours afterwards. Certainly, as time has progressed, I've been a much more effective and mature jurist, and yet there are times in which the responsibility with which I'm charged seems overwhelming. Yesterday was one of those times - I have no doubt that the panel reached the correct verdict, but the short- and long-term effects of our decision still give me pause.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

It made me chuckle...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I'd like to propose a toast...

Date: Wed, 10 Aug 2005 15:06:29 -0700
To: sumsess05@li..
From: John Giammalva
Subject: [SumSess05]: Alcohol Prohibited in Public Spaces

Dear Mirrielees Summer Residents,

Due to the extensive damages that occurred over the weekend, alcohol is no longer
allowed in any public location in Mirrielees House (including lounges, hallways, stairwells, and patios). This is the third week in a row that the building has been abused, and the inability of our residents and their guests to act in a responsible way has become totally unacceptable.

Anyone with alcohol in these locations will be asked to leave, either by an RA or by the police. Anyone who fails to respond appropriately to the RA and/or police will face serious administrative action, up to and including removal from housing and referral to Judicial Affairs.

Anyone found to have vandalized or damaged the building will be removed immediately from summer housing and referred to Judicial Affairs. Fall housing could also be jeopardized.

If you see anyone who isn't from Stanford in the building violating any policy, you should report this to an RA or the police immediately.

I regret that the behavior of (what I hope is) just a handful of students has led to this. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate contacting me.

Sincerely,
John Giammalva
Residence Dean


***********************

So, here's what I wrote on my thefacebook.com profile:

Mirrielees's new alcohol policy (no alcohol in public places, including lounges, stairwells, and patios) succeeds in exacerbating the already tenuous staff-resident relationship in Mirrielees by making RAs into agents of enforcement rather than trust. Furthermore, this ban encourages drinking behind closed doors, which runs contrary to the ResEd spirit of fostering an environment in which students who choose to drink are encouraged to do so responsibly, whether this be with open doors or in lounge areas.

While it is certainly the prerogative of the staff to try to combat damages caused in the lounge, the methodology that they've choosed to employ in this particular circumstance undermines the staff-resident relationship in ways that could become irreparable if a precdent is set for staff to police against alcohol.

Furthermore, I find it very unlikely that a Judicial Panel would ever find a student found consuming a beer in the lounge guilty of a Fundamental Standard violation without some other aggravating circumstance (such as property damage).

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Here's to stasis

Armed with a phalanx of CDs in my car (current CD holder has The Bravery (The Bravery), Hot Fuss (The Killers), Give Up (The Postal Service), Greatest Hits (Simon and Garfunkel; The Offspring), Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (My Chemical Romance), and Seventeen Days (Three Doors Down)), I made the sojourn from the sun-kissed palm trees of Palo Alto to the sun-scorched crabgrass of Davis on Friday after dropping a friend off at the airport. Along the way, I played a few songs over and over until I could sing them from memory. Very effective.

Sadly, very few people from my high school are in Davis for the summer. However, I was able to meet a blast from my past, my friend Aaron who just got back to California from his two-year Mormon mission in Dayton, Ohio. Although we wrote letters to each other a few times during those proselytizing-laden years, I worried that the friendship we cultivated in high school would be irrevocably changed by circumstance - he had spent two years knocking on doors while clutching the Book of Mormon, while I had spent two years knocking on wood, hoping to do well on finals.

Yet, I was pleasantly surprised. While the last two years had an obvious dearth of common experiences between the two of us, the words flowed easily; other than a blank stare when I mentioned thefacebook, there was no hint that Aaron had been gone for two years. Even better, I felt as though the time period since we had seen each other was no more than a week or two. Familairity's a good thing.

Conversations with old friends, combined with going home, often brings me back clichéed, rose-tinted airbrushed memories of high school. Flipping through the high school yearbook didn't really do it for me (although some of the things people wrote did bring back a chuckle), but a small photo album with 24 black & white pictures of the last week of high school brought back fond memories. Never forget to take pictures. And, despite all the changes that I've undergone between high school and college (hopefully I've become more mature and less judgmental), I'd still like to think that staying the same ain't half bad either. Holden Caulfield was on to something - in many ways, complete stasis is really attractive.

Oh man, keep me in college forever. Please. It's good to be home.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

What, no Britney Spears?

Earlier this year, my friend Jesse mentioned that he hadn't heard much pop music of the late 90s and early 2000s, so I set out to create a mix of the top 20 songs of the last 10 years to put onto a CD (not so cleverly titled "Nostalgia: 1995-2004"), with a goal of picking 2 songs per year.

(sidebar - I have no idea where the comma in the previous sentence should go. Kat, can you help?)

The goal of this exercise was not to pick the best 20 songs that came out during that period, but to create, in aggregate, an homage to the pop music that most people my age remember from middle school dances, from the radio when we were learning how to drive, and the MP3s we played on Winamp while filling out our college applications. The artists selected defined the decade; one-hit wonders like Kelis were excluded (except for one - it was a bad year). Different genres, from alternative to hip hop to boy bands, are included herein. The process was an educational one - I made a list of about 50 candidate songs and asked friends to choose the ones they thought belonged on the mix CD. After getting their input, here's the final CD that I came up with, arranged in chronological order by date of album release (Song, Artist, Album, Year):

NOSTALGIA 1995-2004
1. "Ironic," Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill, 1995
2. "Don't Speak," No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom, 1995
3. "Back 2 Good," Matchbox 20, Yourself Or Someone Like You, 1996
4. "Semi-Charmed Life," Third Eye Blind, Third Eye Blind, 1997
5. "Truly Madly Deeply," Savage Garden, Savage Garden, 1997
6. "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)," The Offspring, Americana, 1998
7. "Doo Wop (That Thing)", Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998
8. "I Want It That Way," Backstreet Boys, Millennium, 1999
9. "All The Small Things," Blink-182, Enema of the State, 1999
10. "Kryptonite," 3 Doors Down, The Better Life, 2000
11. "Hanging By A Moment," Lifehouse, No Name Face, 2000
12. "Drops of Jupiter," Train, Drops of Jupiter, 2001
13. "Independent Women (Part I)," Destiny's Child, Survivor, 2001
14. "She Will Be Loved," Maroon 5, Songs About Jane, 2002
15. "Work It," Missy Elliott, Under Construction, 2002
16. "Are You Gonna Be My Girl," Jet, Get Born, 2003
17. "The Reason," Hoobastank, The Reason, 2003
18. "Float On," Modest Mouse, Good News For People Who Like Bad News, 2004
19. "American Idiot," Green Day, American Idiot, 2004

You may notice that only one song appears for 1996; due to space constraints on the CD, I had to take off one song, which was "The Freshmen," Verve Pipe, Villains, 1996.

Some artists who made significant contributions during that timespan were not included on the list, notably, U2, Boyz II Men, TLC, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (whose seminal albums were released before 1994). Other artists were too similar to other artists on the list to make the CD (I lumped 'N Sync, Cristina Aguilera, 98 Degrees, and Britney Spears together with the Backstreet Boys; Franz Ferdinand and Modest Mouse's hit singles sound almost exactly the same to me). Other deserving candidates didn't make the list due to space constraints (Eminem, Jewel, Alicia Keyes, The Goo Goo Dolls, Barenaked Ladies, Linkin Park, The White Stripes, Outkast, Sublime), lack of mass popular appeal (Guster, Death Cab for Cutie), no more than one significant contribution to the decade (Incubus, Justin Timberlake, Five For Fighting, Eve 6, Ricky Martin, Coldplay [at time of the CD's creation]), or my own unfamiliarity with the artist (Almost every rapper, including but not limited to 50-cent, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, and all the ones I've never heard of).

The saddest omission of all is, of course, my own personal favorite song - "Mr. Brightside," The Killers, Hot Fuss, 2004 - which, while hugely popular, was admittedly not as big as "American Idiot," "Float On," or Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" from their self-titled album.

Comments about the list? I'd love to hear them. The one I hear most often is that "Back 2 Good" should have been replaced by "Push" from the same album.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The good life?

I remarked to more than one of my summer drawmates that we're all sort of living this spend-happy lifestyle for the summer since "You're indepently wealthy, and I don't believe in savings." (This isn't 100% true, but it'll suffice for the purpose of blogging, eh?)

So, newfound financial freedom (this is the first year of >$10K wages for me - none of it taxable!) has me spending money on things that my parents would sort of frown upon. (Poker, having a positive expectation, is exempted from the list of frivolous expenditures). That list, however, contains items which on their own sound reasonable, but in aggregate make me giddy with... affluenza? The main item on the spending extravaganza du saison is food. Palo Alto has a few restaurants where you can get a meal for under $15 - they are McDonald's, KFC, Taco Bell, and Jack in the Box. For all other purposes, meals are expensive.

And I thought not buying a meal plan would save me a lot of money.

Oh yeah, when did I suddenly care what the little logo on my polo shirts was? A recent trip to Macy's revealed the hierarchy to me. At the top of the financial spectrum is the Lacoste alligator, followed by the Polo... polo player, after which come the Le Tigre tiger, and then some unfortunate company has a rhinocerous as its logo for dirt cheap. (Google search reveals that it's Ecko). Then, at other chains, we've got the Abercrombie moose, whose value is much greater than that of the American Eagle eagle. Did I leave anything out? Probably. The whole thing is ridiculous, of course - but that doesn't stop me from noticing and buying accordingly.

The 19" LCD monitor (my new lover) was purchased, ostensibly, to allow me to view multiple windows at the same time for pecuniary endeavors that may or may not pertain to suited connectors and pocket pairs, which does seem somewhat wasteful. Yet, once you've set your sights on one of these derned things, you can't go back. It's beautiful. Now, emblazoned upon the screen, I have my entire AIM window on the right (I wonder why I can't dock it), iTunes to the left, this IE window in the middle, and peeking out of the corner is the desktop background that features Johnny Depp clad in a black top hat and looking very much like Michael Jackson.

The last of these somewhat suspect expenditures that I'll enumerate herein is the sparkling water. I remember my first run-in with Perrier when I was at my cousin's apartment in Hong Kong when I was 13. I almost spit it out; it was so bitter. Since then, though, I've developed a taste for the sparkling water. (Before this, most of my friends ridiculed me for refusing to drink out of the water fountain and instead imbibing only Safeway or Kirkland bottled water - never Aquafina or Arrowhead). While I'll still happily drink those, I've found the joys of conspicuous consumption in the form of San Pellegrino sparkling natural mineral water (bought in bulk at Costco, of course). Funny - nobody here really cares that much about the clothes or the electronics or whatnot, but the Pellegrino and the Grey Goose draw comments.

Is this all peer pressure? You bet your sweet ass it is. While my immediate circle of friends doesn't give a damn (although all have their own private spending indulgences), being a Stanford student - at least in the humanities - demands some items of necessity to feel adequate... the iPod with the ubiquitous white headphone cord (the in-ear headbuds work amazingly well, by the way), the messenger bag draped over a respectable looking shirt. While this shallowness is probably confined to people with severe insecurity issues, the wealthy, or those with keen powers observation (I'll go ahead and classify myself among the third group), it seems much more prevalent at Stanford than at Berkeley - although we're nothing compared with Harvard. Popped pink collar, anyone?

Summer update

Funny - this is the 2nd post ever. Maybe I'll actually use this derned thing on a regular basis the way other people do, but to it will take some getting used.

Summer brings me to Mirrielees, the apartment-style (and largest) dorm on the edge of the beauteous Stanford campus. I am rooming with Eric Mayefsky, who is also going to be an RA in Roble (the 2nd largest dorm) starting in September. While it's usually not that hot at Stanford in general, our room directly faces the sun, necessitating the purchase of several fans from Target... I even had to go to Wal-Mart to find one of them.

(Close your eyes sometime when you're inside a Target, and just listen. Silence... maybe the low rumbling of a shopping cart passing you by. Luxuriously wide aisles, too! Do the same thing in a Wal-Mart, and you'll hear screaming babies like Dolby surround sound before getting sideswiped by a frazzled mom searching for diapers).

Huzzah for Target.

The summer officially calls for econ research for 20 hours a week, which gives plenty of time for other endeavors, ranging from pleasure reading (but not Harry Potter), studying for the LSAT, practicing the piano (something I haven't really ever done before)... but also some non-nerdy pursuits (the frequent poker games in the lounge straddle the line). Almost every summer since elementary school, I was either doing summer school or working a 9-to-5 (last summer was more like 9-to-12 - gotta love that investment banking). While I had brief trysts with freedom and pleasure during these "future-oriented" summers, I haven't really had a summer with significant "me" time.

Because of the flexibility of my work schedule for the econ research, I'm able to take large chunks of time and devote them to hedonistic pursuits of self-discovery, or, as former Roble RA Neil Van Os would put it, "being a bum." The availability of a car allows me to get off campus often without having to rely on my tireless RA friends Shane and Eric for transportation.

While this "me" summer is, in some part, a response to MTV's depiction of the modern American youth as much more thrill-seeking and untethered than I, it's still nice to have the knowledge (or the illusion) that I finally have time to do exactly what I want when I want to do it, possibly for the first time ever in my life. Yet, quantifying exactly what I've done so far probably reeks of the mundane, so I'll spare you. Suffice it to say that I'm having fun.

I bought a 19" Dell LCD monitor. I love it very much.

Well, more will come. Who saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Now, that was a good one.