Friday, September 30, 2005

Lucky or unlucky?

The Diet Coke bottles in the vending machine here advertise that one out of every four 1L bottles will win a free 1L bottle. At this point, I have purchased 10 bottles of Diet Coke here and none of them are winners.

Assuming that winning bottles are randomly distributed, the chances of this happening (i.e., none of them being winners) is just under 6% (0.7510 == 5.63%).

I am starting to get a bit suspicious about this contest.

Maybe such contests are void here and they've "pre-voided" the bottles for us? That would be even sneakier...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Very windy in downtown Seattle today. This isn't normally something normally remarkable until I realized: I don't think I've felt the wind once in Seattle until now. (Ferry trips, of course, excepted.)

I'm now doing some web UI coding (dynamic forms and all that jazz) for the first time (beyond toy projects). A lot of folks hype this web stuff (XML, HTML, Javascript, etc.) as being the next step in technology. What they fail to mention is that it's a step backwards. If I misspell something in C or Python, the compiler or bytecode interpreter will complain and point out my mistake. Javascript and HTML? Gah, who knows who long it will go before something is wrong, happily passing null or undef values around.

And don't get me started on HTML, XML, SGML, and their ilk. Especially XML. It combines the power of Peewee Herman and the simplicity of a nuclear reactor with the readability of a Victor Hugo novel.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Back in Seattle. The worst week of my life is now behind me. I hope I never again have to console a mother crying, "They've taken my baby!"

As awful as funerals are, they can be very beneficial. It brought us to accept that Jane is gone. For many of us (myself included), the night after the funeral was the first night of decent sleep in a week. Certainly, there's a lot of healing left, but most of our ghosts have been dispelled.

Jane, you will be forever missed.

Jane Eileen Cuthbert

Monday, September 19, 2005

Thanks for all the messages of support. It means a lot to me. I'm still doing a bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one moment calm and placid, the next a bit of a basket case. I'll be better after the funeral (Friday) and the weekend are over, and there's a bit less media attention on my family.

Tam and I had an excellent time on Sunday hiking with , , and the Inimitable India, as well as their trustworthy canine companions Clyde and Shorty. It was nice to get outside on such a gorgeous day, and it was fun to get to know such like-minded (and very likable!) people. Thanks, guys!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Chicago Sun Times is full of assholes

"Maureen thinks she has an injured knee and injured rib," Martin McNicholas said. "She started to cry because people died on the train with her. She said she saw fingers, brains, and it looked like someone had exploded."

That "someone who exploded" was Jane, you jerks. The same Jane whom I was inner tubing with on a lake a summer ago. Whom I took to dinner on a trip out to Monterey a few months ago. Who got amusingly drunk with her mother at my wedding.
In lighter news...

You can now purchase the same dresses seen on the stars at the Emmys at Target:
Tess Smith at Emmy'sTapole Basics Yellow Gingham Drapes

Agency Blames Speed for Train Derailment

Associated Press Writer
Published September 18, 2005, 5:30 PM CDT

CHICAGO -- A commuter train was going almost 60 mph above the speed limit just before it derailed, killing two people and injuring dozens, the acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.

Mark Rosenker said the Metra train was traveling at 69 mph and should not have been going faster than 10 mph when it switched tracks at a crossover just before jumping the tracks Saturday.

"Sixty-nine miles an hour is very, very fast when you're dealing with a 10-mile-an-hour restriction," Rosenker said.

The speed information came from a preliminary reading of one of the train's three electronic data recorders, popularly known as "black boxes," Rosenker said.

Part of the investigation included an interview Sunday with the train's engineer, Rosenker said. The 41-year-old man had been on the job for 45 days after completing Metra's six-month training program, which included at least some training along the route where the derailment occurred. He also had worked for more than five years as a CSX Corp. freight train engineer.

The NTSB will also examine records of the train signals and radio transmissions from a control tower, Rosenker said.

Investigators have determined that nothing was abnormal with the tracks, which had just been inspected on Friday, he said.

The double-decked commuter train was headed into Chicago from Joliet on Saturday morning with 185 passengers and four crew members when its locomotive and five rail cars jumped the tracks about 5 miles south of downtown.

The train began to derail as it switched tracks, striking a steel bridge just beyond the crossover. Rosenker said that collision damaged at least one rail car and likely contributed to at least one of the fatalities.

The train and the track had just been inspected Friday, said Judy Pardonnet, a spokeswoman for Metra, the commuter rail system that services the Chicago area.

The train engineer, three crew members and dispatchers were all tested for drugs and alcohol, which is standard procedure, Pardonnet said.

The train's engineer is taking three days of paid leave for "trauma debriefing." She said no decisions have been made about his future employment, although findings from the NTSB investigation could determine whether he keeps his job.

A similar derailment occurred on the same stretch of track in 2003, injuring about 45 people. A preliminary NTSB report found that the train was going almost 70 mph at the location where it was supposed to switch from one track to the other.

Pardonnet said the two derailments may have been just a coincidence. "I don't think it's anything specific to this area, but it's still under investigation," she said.

Jane Cuthbert, 22, of Bourbonnais, died on the train, Pardonnet said. A 30-year-old woman died at a hospital.

They were the first people killed in a Metra derailment since it took over commuter rail services in the region in 1984.

The injured passengers were taken to 15 hospitals and 15 of them remained hospitalized Sunday, Pardonnet said. She did not have information on their conditions.

Train service on the Rock Island District Line resumed about four hours after the derailment, and the cleanup from the accident could cause short delays during Monday's commute, Pardonnet said.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I just found out that one of the people who died in this morning's train derailment in Chicago was my cousin Jane. She was 22.

September is not a good month for my family. My grandfather died in Sep 2002. Then my uncle Mark -- Jane's father -- died suddenly in 2003. Now Jane.

Not sure when the funeral or other services will be yet.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I think my office is telling me that I need to move around more.

Some background: Many (all?) of the offices in Amazon don't have light switches. Instead, there are motion sensors which turn the lights on for 20 minutes or so after detecting motion. Twice already this morning I've been motionless enough to cause the lights to go out while I've been diligently working. (Shocking: The "diligently working" part is true!)


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Seattle surplus

Mostly for my own reference, but thought I'd share the links since a few of you might be interested...

Mostly adapted from Bruce Lane's page

Boeing surplus
20651 84th St S
Kent WA 98032-1224
Electronic Dimensions
424 Puyallup Ave
Tacoma WA 98421
House of Science
825 NW 49th St
Seattle WA 98107
1565 Sixth Ave S
Seattle WA 98134
Seattle Laptop
7525 Aurora Ave N
Seattle WA 98103
Vetco Electronics
12718 Northup Way
Bellevue WA 98005
Call to confirm hours
Washington State Surplus (eBay)
2301 C St SW
Auburn WA 98001

Monday, September 12, 2005

Apparently, Meg Whitman got wildly drunk and woke up to find herself in bed with Niklas Zennström.

At least, that's the only explanation I can find behind the eBay/Skype merger that was announced today. Otherwise, I'm not getting it. At all.

It'd be like Amazon purchasing SmartCar to enable our customers to drive to a mall with an Internet cafe, so they can buy stuff from while getting the shopping mall atmosphere. After all, 0.0001% of our customers want to be able to do this...

I guess that I should be applauding this move, since Amazon is an eBay competitor in many respects. We love to see our competitors burn $2.6 billion as if there were no tomorrow. The only thing that would be better is if eBay bought $2.6 billion worth of merchandise off Amazon (and, sorry, but we don't accept Pay Pal).

Elevator moments

The scene: Elevator #5 in the US2 building, post lunch.
The dramatis personae: Six random Amazonians.

The six step into the elevator and punch in the floor selections (5, 7, and 8). Elevator doors close.

Then, oddly, the elevator hesitates and decides to clear our floor selections.

Amazonians start joking about how the elevator is not 1-Click enabled.


Friday, September 9, 2005

Today's Diesel Sweeties brings back fond memories of Animaniacs.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Don't read today's White House press briefing if you don't want to pop a vein in your neck.
I just got out of a code review meeting which I attended solely to find out what's going on elsewhere in my group.

About 30 minutes into the meeting I wanted to run screaming from the room: "Ok, I admit! I'm a fraud! I have no idea what you're talking about! You're using terms like 'recorder' and 'TOPPS' and I think you're talking about a musical instrument and baseball cards!" Fortunately, I managed to contain myself and sit silently.

After the meeting, I found out that I wasn't alone. Others who have been here for awhile had exceeded their level of understanding and started daydreaming or (if they brought their laptops) checking e-mail.

Whew. My secret fraud life is safe. Well, unless they read this LJ entry... :-)
For the physics/E&M geek in you (or how to visualize EE 151)...

Math, Physics, and Engineering Applets at

Found on Bunnie's blog (that's Andrew "Bunnie" Huang, Xbox and general hacker extraordinare).

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Best Overheard in NY quote ever:

Chick: Wait, I really did sleep with that guy? I need to update my Excel spreadsheet.
--Montien, 3rd Avenue
Overheard by: djlindee

Work is going well. Very well. My manager is excited about the results I'm getting -- I'm doing some data mining on our logs to find out why our bits are sometimes slow. I'm a tad nervous because he wants me to present this to some of the VPs, etc., at the start of next week, but I would like to spend a little more time thinking about the data. I have, after all, only been there a couple of weeks and could easily be doing something very, very wrong. Ah, well -- it's good to have a manager who is enthusiastic about your work.

Tam and I are starting to look at places to live. We've already visited Island Homestead apartments, over on Bainbridge Island, and really like it. Alas, we can't afford to buy a house right now -- it's taking a long time to sell our house in Pittsburgh.