Monthly Archives: July 2013

HS Day [57 .. 60]

Some short posts, since I’m behind on blogging. Also because I’ve found there’s less to blog about on weekends. Maybe I should move to a weekday schedule?

HS Day 57: Dad Visit, Day One

Pretty much did nothing interesting on Saturday during the day – kind of a day off, feeling lonely after Greta left. My dad arrived for a visit around 7, and I picked him up at a bus stop in Manhattan, near Penn Station. It was cool out but not cold, so we took our time walking to the subway, back to Brooklyn. We ate at Nahm Thai Restaurant, which is just a few blocks from my apartment, and chatted about life, programming, my upcoming wedding, et cetera.

After dinner, I got a chance to play with my new Leap Motion, which I’ll post a review of on this blog eventually. We went to bed around midnight.

HS Day 58: Dad Visit, Day Two

My dad and I woke up around 10 and ate a slow breakfast at Dizzys, the jazz-themed ’50s style restaurant on the corner of the block my apartment is on. Good food, large portions, somewhat slow service. Took the train in to Manhattan, to the Museum of Math, and wandered around there a while. Since I had seen everything already with Greta, I didn’t have quite the same fascination with each exhibit that I did the first time, which I worry was to the detriment of my dad’s experience. We had a good time and both enjoyed ourselves despite that.

Afterward, we walked in light rain up a few blocks to the gaming store that Greta and I visited after MoMath, but it was closed – apparently it’s not open on Sunday. So, we kept walking, past the Empire State Building, to the 1 station at 34th street. ¬†We got off at Houston st. and ate at Chipotle. We talked about my idea for a game that I wanted to make. I’d been carrying my sketchbook around all weekend, but this was the first opportunity we had to sit down and discuss it. It’s a little single-player game for android, which I’ll be writing in Java over the next week or two. More details to come ūüôā

We took about half an hour to visit hacker school and fix my dad’s Steam account, which we’d been meaning to do for a while. Hopefully now he’ll be able to play the Steam games that I got him for xmas about two years ago…

We got coffee (tea for me) at a coffee shop near the bus stop, then he got on a bus and went back to D.C.. It was very nice to show him around my areas of NYC. (“It was good to see your NYC,” he said at the end of the trip.)

I spent the rest of the day working on various projects, playing StarCraft, and surfing the internet. I did get a potential freelance client, so we’ll see how that turns out.

HS Day 59: The Future and Android

Arrived at Hacker School around 9am today, to talk with Nick about Jobs. I’ve been contacted by a certain Golden, CO – based employer to do an interview, but I’m starting my job search earlier than I really should be. We talked for nearly an hour about jobs, as well as subway schedules (since he knows NYC a lot better). I’d include more about that discussion, since I’m excited about a lot of it, but I’m going to maintain silence about it while I’m still pursuing the aforementioned employer.

I started in on my Android game today, with little to no knowledge of what I needed to do. I downloaded Eclipse and read through a few tutorials. By lunchtime (Mahmoun’s Falafel), I had a working Android emulator which would load a skeleton app I downloaded.

I talked with Doron and Sunil for a while about Javascript – Doron is new to Javascript programming, and he was wondering the differences between Javascript, JQuery, and Node.js. I explained them, and he started in on a Javascript app – a multiplayer music sequencer which seemed pretty cool.

Later in the day, I helped Alex C. with an app written in Coffeescript, which I’d never worked with before. As far as I can tell, it compiles to Javascript. Neither of us spoke Coffeescript, so we were very confused, which was a lot of fun. He was trying to rewrite an existing app to send any input to a log. I ended up giving up and returning to my other projects, but it was cool to get a little bit of exposure to a new language.

After all that, I went with some other Hacker Schoolers to Jane Street, a quant trading firm. Derek and I chatted about my game on the subway on the way there. A woman with mental issues sat near us and made everyone a bit uncomfortable. On our way out of the station, Derek accidentially bumped into her, and they got into a verbal altercation (and almost a physical one – she punched him in the back of his leg.) It was almost surreal. The other Hacker Schoolers (there were quite a few of us) kind of surrounded Derek and walked away with him, while she shouted at him from the subway station.

Jane Street has fancy offices. They’re on the 33rd floor of a building overlooking where the Hudson meets the sea. Very posh. They had an on-site gym and massive glass-wall offices.

View from Jane Street Offices

View from Jane Street Offices

The talk was excellent. Stefan Karpinski, the author of the Julia language, answered audience questions while explaining the various features of the language. It seemed like a fast, fun language, and if I ever need to do data analysis, I’ll definitely check it out.

I took the R home and went to sleep.

HS Day 60: 

I missed my stop on my way in to Hacker School this morning, since I was engrossed in Malcom Gladwell’s “What The Dog Saw”, a compendium of his shorter articles for the New Yorker. Very interesting read, although reading that much Gladwell in a row, you kind of get tired of his formula. But what a great formula it is.

I spent most of the day working on my Java and Android stuff. Mostly Java – I figure I can write the game as an applet and port it to Android later.

I also helped out Alisa with a calculator project of hers – remember that if you’re using a large if-else or switch statement in¬†Javascript, there’s probably a better way to do it using objects. I’m planning on doing a write-up of this idea for this blog soon. Maybe I’ll give a presentation on this as well.

After Hacker School I hung out for a while and watched Innovation vs Maru, which was super amazing. I also played cards with some of the guys, including some alumni. I lost terribly but it was a lot of fun.

Afterward I watched some more SC2 and played a few games. Ended up heading back to my apartment around midnight, where I found a doughnut from Levi (he works at a bakery) sitting on my desk. I ate it, which was actually a bad idea, since I ended up staying up later than I wanted to. Watched more Starcraft, went to bed.

HS Day 51: Greta

Everyone in the apartment РIan, Levi, Nathaniel, and I Рwas wide awake and wandering the house around 4am this  morning. Ian had a flight to catch around 6am, so he and Levi apparently decided to just stay up and catch the flight after no sleep. I was up because I ate a sandwich at about 11pm and was full of energy. I played a bunch of Starcraft and finally fell asleep around 6am.

I woke again at 1pm and packed up all of my clothes, to take them to the laundromat. Nathaniel suggested a place north of our apartment, but I checked it out and there was no AC, so I went to the place I went last time, which had some AC and larger machines. I did my laundry – stepping out briefly to get a bagel at “Beygl”, a trendy bagel shop one block over.

I finished my laundry around 4:30 and took the¬†N to the¬†M60 bus to pick up Greta. She arrived about 20 minutes early, but it all worked out. I didn’t realize that you could use metrocards on the bus, which was nice to learn. We took the same bus back to the subway station, and rode some combination of¬†N, Q,¬†and R trains to get home. I kept getting us to try to switch trains to catch an express train, not realizing that the express trains weren’t running. It ended up taking us about three hours to get home. We dropped our stuff off at the apartment, then walked to the Target at Barclays Center to do some shopping (I had no pillows on my bed…) and ate a late dinner at Pepperocino, an Italian place on 5th ave – delicious.

Greta and I at Pepperocino

Greta and I at Pepperocino

It was very late after that, so we returned home and went to bed. I’m very happy to have Greta visiting. We didn’t have much time to talk or hang out or just be around each other after graduation and our engagement, so it’s wonderful to be able to spend some time with her now.

From Manhattan,


HS Day [47 .. 50]: Missed Blogging

I managed to not blog the last four days. Oops! Important events:

My good friend Ellie visited on her way home from Europe, where she had been presenting her findings on sunspot activity at a physics conference.

I freaked out about non-existent bedbugs (in my defense, the evidence was there!) and proceeded to nearly throw out all my bedsheets for nothing.

Played SC2, lazed around, and finally got Arch Linux installed alongside Windows 8! I was going to do a technical write-up, but the final round of installations went too smoothly and I had nothing super tricky to explain to the internet.

I guess I’ve been averse to blogging the last couple of days because I hadn’t really felt like I accomplished anything worthy of blogging. I’m going to use that to motivate me to do things worthy of blogging next week.

From Brooklyn,


HS Day 45 & 46: Arch Linux

On Monday, I decided I wanted to try installing Linux alongside my Windows 8 so that I could dual-boot. Turns out that’s a lot harder than I thought it would be.

I’ll do a full technical write-up tomorrow (since I have to do a full install from scratch … again).

Anyhoo – Monday at Hacker School was entirely devoted to working on my computer and trying to get the OSses to play nice. Then I went home… and tried to get the OSses to play nice. Javier was super helpful and actually knew what he was doing, which sped up my installation time quite a lot. I’m using Arch Linux now, which is much more low-level than ubuntu. I really like it though – there’s no preinstalled window manager, and it’s super stable.

Spent today – again – working on the computer. I ended up going to the Microsoft store in Manhattan to get a copy of Windows 8 that I could install with. They were very helpful, even though the process took about 4 hours.

Aaaaand I have to go back tomorrow, since the copy they gave me was 32-bit instead of 64-bit.


Not a long blog post tonight, mainly because it’s really hot here and I’m out of energy from working on linux stuff.

Addendum: Before I realized the Windows was the wrong version, I decided to celebrate, and what better way to celebrate than with a mojito? (There are probably better ways to celebrate but for some reason I really wanted a mojito). So I wandered around brooklyn for a while looking for a place that sold rum. All the liquor stores were closed, though, so I went to a bar called Union Pub or something – they only took cash, so I found an ATM. Then the bar didn’t serve mojitos. The bartender, though, told me that there was a place called Blueprint that was a cocktail bar, which would sell mojitos. He said his friend John was working there and that I should say that Keith sent me and that he should make me a “beautiful mojito”. So I went in, asked for John, told him that Keith sent me, and that I would like a beautiful mojito. That’s what I got – it took probably 5 minutes to make and was delicious. I drank it slowly, then paid and went home.

From Brooklyn,


HS Day 42, 43, 44: Role-Playing Games

Friday –

There’s no Hacker School on Fridays so we have our D&D games then, and we met today at 1pm to do just that. There’s construction going on at the old Hacker School place, and the new place has people from The Ladders who have to do¬†Actual Work, but we found a secluded area at the old space that didn’t have any construction workers and set up our dice and minis.

We played from 2pm until about 7pm – Martin, Matt, Alisa, Ian were there at the start and James joined us a few hours in. They were fighting a giant slime beast accidentally created by an inept wizard’s apprentice.

They didn’t manage to kill the giant slime beast in time, so we decided to hold another session on Sunday.

Martin and I went to get a burger a 5 guys. I managed to spill ketchup everywhere ( I tried to get a giant boat of it (about a handful) to bring back and it slipped out of my hand). The guy at the counter was super cool about it. I learned my lesson and just took a little, covered cup of ketchup.

I found Mary wandering around the Hacker School space and managed to convince her to help me out with the Space Adventure game for 20 minutes. I’m hoping to finish up the collision detection with her on Monday.

I worked on my game for quite a while longer, then went home. Ian and Levi were looking for something to do, so we played Counterspell, a game I designed (with the help of Daniel, Nathaniel, and others from Lawrence). We had a good time, and Ian pulled an amazing win by cloning a spell four times and managing to roll Levi as the target for all five copies.

I worked on my Space Adventure game for quite a while longer and finally fell asleep, probably around 2 am.

Saturday –

Woke up around noon. Did nothing all day except work on my game, eat chinese/thai food, and play StarCraft 2 / Antichamber / FTL.

Sunday –

Took the 3 to the¬†1 to Hacker School to pick up the D&D map, then walked to Prince Street and took the¬†N to Matt’s apartment in Astoria, Queens. There was a door that looked like a hotel, and another door that was locked. I called him and said the door was locked, and he came down to let me in – exiting through the door that looked like a hotel. His apartment was super swanky, which was awesome – he’s a super humble guy and I didn’t expect it. James and his long-time girlfriend Liz were there already, and we waited for Alisa to show up. I was about 30 minutes late, and Alisa was about an hour late – it was cool though, since we created an elf sorcerer for Liz, and transferred James’ character to an actual character sheet.

We played from 2:30 or so until 7, and had a good time. Ate pizza, etc. The game was a scripted loss for them (it was the first part of a longer campaign), and I felt bad having Liz’s first experience playing D&D be one, but that’s okay. They fought an Illithid with several Thrall – way above their level, and now they’re captured. All part of the plan.

Took the N home with everyone but Matt (since he was already home) and became dehydrated on the way РI drank a bunch of water, then passed out on my bed until Greta called around 11 on her way home from work. I was glad to be able to chat with her, and felt a lot better.

From Brooklyn,


HS Day 41: Peter Norvig Shirt Day

Peter Norvig, who finished up his residency with Hacker School today, wears amazing shirts. Apparently his wife makes them for him. We decided to have a Peter Norvig Shirt Day today to celebrate, so a bunch of people dressed up in Hawaiian shirts. I put on a brown short-sleeved shirt with flowers on it – sadly, the most Hawaiian shirt I have out here.

Arrived at Hacker School on time, after getting breakfast at Jazzy’s. I worked with Erik, Alex, and Matt to finish up the Risk AI – We had it done by 5pm, which was the deadline. Matt and I worked on a dumb AI for it (available online!) that was about 30 minutes of work away from being done at 5. So close. Lunch was at the Gyro cart across the street, which was surprisingly fresh and delicious.

Presentations went a bit long, even though there were only a few of them – pretty much everyone went over the 2 or 5 minute time limit. We demoed the Risk AI program with the AI that Erik wrote. After the presentations, The Ladders – the company whom we’re renting space from – held a party with TONS of beer and pizza. I had a beer and some pizza while I chatted with some people from the ladders (Including an Asian guy named “Ha”, which I didn’t catch and asked, “Huh?” to which he responded, “Yeah.”).

Joy, giving her presentation.

Joy, giving her presentation at The Ladders space.

Matt and I retreated from the noise of the party and finished up our AI – It turned out that the crash was caused by the server incorrectly telling us that we had a valid move when we didn’t. I had another beer with pizza while we worked.

I ended up chatting with Travis for about an hour about NYC afterward, and then left to go home. The two beers, plus my lightweightness, made it so I pretty much passed out in my bed at around 10pm.

I woke up from 1am to 3:30am and spent some time working on Space Adventure – which is really coming along.

From Manhattan (the next day)


HS Day 40: Bourbon

I started today off by sleeping in again, but, being the second Wednesday of the month, it’s Irresponsible Wednesday so that was okay. Matt very kindly messaged me to make sure I was okay. I arrived at Hacker School around 2:30 pm. Only five hours late…

I worked with Erik, Alex, and Matt on the Risk AI for a few hours – it’s working now, and by working I mean that we can get a couple of the AIs hooked up to a server, only to have them quickly crash because we built them without having a test platform. We got lunch at Getting Hungry, and chatted about Erik’s startup – Snowball. (Yeah, they’re website doesn’t say much).

We’re aiming to be done by presentation time tomorrow. I’m hopeful but not super optimistic. I’ll be devoting most of my time tomorrow to that.

After Hacker School was over at 6:30, I caught the 1 and rode it two stops south to a place called the Brandy Library, which was pretty much exactly what it sounds like Рa bookstore turned bar/lounge with hundreds of different kinds of alcohol.

My mom’s friend from graduate school, Sam Medley, was there doing a tasting for his Kentucky Bourbon – Old Medley and Wathen’s Single Barrel aged. It’s delicious and very smooth. Sam was giving a sales pitch when I arrived, and kept looking at me like, where do I know him from? I introduced myself and he remembered me instantly – I did some web work for him a while ago. We chatted for a bit, and I may have got some consulting work with the person who was helping Sam with the tastings!

Brandy Library. Sam is on the back in the left.

Brandy Library. Sam is in the left back corner.

I left after a bit so I didn’t get in the way of his sales pitches, but I the meeting was enjoyable (and great networking!).

Back to Hacker School for a bit afterward – I’m stuck on some collision detection for Space Adventure, so I’m hoping to pair with Mary on that tomorrow. I’ve updated the working copy at Basically it’s really hard to tell which direction you’re colliding with something in, especially on the corners.

Rode the train home, chatted with Greta and my mom, surfed the internet, sent some emails, and wrote this post.

I made an interesting observation while on the phone with my mom. I said, “I’m really excited for Hacker School to be over. Not because I want it to be over, but because I’m excited to be that much better at programming.”

From Brooklyn,


HS Day 39: Journey to the West

I started out today pretty tired, but made it to Hacker School on time. I spent the day over at the old location after check-in since that’s where the Risk AI people were working. As usual, the last 10% is taking 90% of the time – we’re very close on many fronts, but it’s probably going to take us at least until the end of the week to finalize everything. I also made some excellent progress on my Space Adventure game – I’ve updated the work in progress on It needs a bit of help in the UX department, but I’m happy with how it’s coming along. (Hit “3” then “1” on the screen where you’re choosing the attributes, etc. if you can’t get past that). Still, of course, a work in progress.

Lunch with Peter Norvig and a couple of Hacker Schoolers including Joy, Martin, Matt, and Erik today РDos Toros Burritos in the park. We mostly spent the time asking Peter questions about programming and stuff. He agreed that Python is a better language for AI than  Lisp, which, he says, was mainly chosen for AI because it was the most advanced language at the time, which allowed users to focus on the hard problems rather than implementing data structures.

When we got back, I worked a bit on projects, especially pairing with Mary, a facilitator, who wrote the Javascript engine that I’m using for Space Adventure.

I signed up for a 30-minute time slot with Peter, and asked him specifically about my school idea. I was pretty awkward about it, but he had some good things to say. I really just wanted his opinion on it, but I didn’t explain it very well. I’m still happy with the advice he had – basically what I already knew, but I think that’s good since it means I’m on the right track. The most interesting thing he had to say was that schools and online courses need to provide the ability for students to practice on their own, exposure to a community, and motivation to continue, either internally or externally.

He also wished me good luck and told me to keep him posted about it (yay!)

I think a lot of the people at Hacker School are a bit starstruck by him, which makes just hanging out and coding a bit awkward. I know tomorrow’s “office hours” list already has a backlog.

After a bit of work with Matt on a “really dumb” test AI for the Risk game, I took the¬†1 train to the Lincoln Center, where I entered the David H. Koch theater (yeah that Koch) and picked up my tickets for “Monkey: Journey to the West”. I grabbed some pics on the way in:

The entrance to the theater.

The entrance to the theater.

People milling around beforehand.

People milling around beforehand.

The upper floor of the theater.

The upper floor of the theater.

I had seen an ad for the performance a few weeks ago and bought tickets to the Tuesday night performance, since I figured I would have the best chance of getting good seats – and I did – third floor, fourth row, right in the middle. I had a very nice, clear view of the stage.

The performance itself was very well executed. It was the story of Xi You Ji – Journey to the West, an ancient Chinese tale about a group of characters who travel to India to retrieve some sutras – which stars a young, innocent Buddhist priest named Tripitaka, and a mischievous monkey king named Sun Wu Kong (“Monkey who is aware of emptiness”).

The producers were the same as The Gorillaz, which was what prompted me to go in the first place – the music was a blend of ancient Chinese instruments and modern synth pop, and the characters were all extraordinary acrobats – lots of jumping, flips, rope climbing, and aerial silks. The costuming was very well done, and the scene changes were covered by animation from the graphics side of Gorillaz.

The performance wasn’t perfect – there were a few slips, goofs, and underdone acting, but the overall impression was excellent, the humor was well done, and the visuals were stunning. The final act – featuring a massive statue of Buddha, was extremely well executed.

Also: the entire thing was in Chinese, with English subtitles projected above. (supertitles?)

Returned home after stopping at Hacker School to pick up my laptop (they were watching Firefly). Picked up a 5-pack of beer, a bottle of hot sauce, and some green tea on my way home at 5th ave market.

Played SC2 with Ian and now it’s bedtime.

From Brooklyn,


Day 38: Monday

Being a student at Hacker School, “Monday” is pretty much the best day of the week. Not only do you get to go back to Hacker School, but there’s a whole four days of Hacker School to look forward to. Mondays are also the talks by the residents, accompanied by dinner. Pretty much the best.

I was up late last night, probably until about two a.m., talking with Greta and Evan, and working on Space Adventure. Even so, I fell asleep with the window open, and woke up to a cool breeze and nice sunlight – perfect.

The building company has closed half of the Hacker School floor for reconstruction, so about half of us are in space donated by The Ladders, who appear to be some sort of job searching company. The space is nice – large windows, good outlet coverage, although a bit loud or overly quiet at times. I hung out for about half an hour before Alex and I walked back to the old space to work with Ian and Erik on the Risk AI.

I got a sandwich and black iced tea from Pret РI plan on drinking a lot more tea as soon as I can remember to buy some on my way in to Hacker School.  Worked on Risk interspersed with Space Adventure throughout the day. I have to watch a talk by Peter Norvig before I can talk to him, which I really need to do before he leaves on Thursday to go back to Google.

Paired with Sam and Julie for a while on a python sound generator – turns out an 8-bit sample doesn’t sound as good as a 32-bit sample…

We were getting close on the Risk AI when it was suddenly time to walk to the Tumblr offices, to attend a talk on Natural Language Processing by Peter Norvig. There was pasta and soda and beer, including Blue Sky Black Cherry Cola, which is pretty much my childhood.

Some pics:



Eating Dinner @ Tumblr

Eating Dinner @ Tumblr. From left to right: Mary, ?, Nina, Ian.

The talk was good, and technical – how to do spell check and word splitting given a giant amount of data (google’s n-gram lists). Basically, use probabilities to figure out what the word should be.

Stuck around for the Q&A, then took the N home and called my dad while walking from Barclays Center.

I did manage to leave my power cord at Hacker School, so I’m writing these blog posts with my screen at half brightness and my laptop on power-saver mode. I’m exited to see what happens tomorrow!

From Brooklyn,


Greta’s Grandfather

Greta’s grandfather passed away sometime Sunday night. I didn’t get much of a chance over the last 6 years to really get to know him except the occasional visit, and, of course, providing tech support. He was part of the old guard – won his house in a poker game while returning from the second world war. Had a predilection for hunting animals, prepping the meat, and making art from their feathers or skins or whatever. I was never particularly into that but when you’re engaged to a girl who’s shot a deer or six, you get used to it and at least learn to respect it. The meat was tasty, wholesome, and particularly preservative-free, and the art was rather spectacular.

Greta and I visited him sometime in the last year – I don’t remember what for – but I do remember the conversation we had while Greta wasn’t in the room. He was sitting on a short bench, his feet wrapped in gauze and tight socks and swollen to about twice their normal size. I asked him, “How are you doing?”

He responded with some disdain for the exercise bike he had just dismounted. “Getting old”, or something similar.

I probably said something ineffectual at this point, like “oh”, or “mm”.

I can’t remember the exact words, but he looked me squarely in the eye, and said, “I’m getting ready.”


“”I’m getting ready for what comes next. When you get this old, you have to.”

I think at that point he knew this was the last time we would see each other. I made sure to shake his hand before I left.

From Brooklyn,