Archive for February, 2006

Hello, Ian!

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Got to meet Ian for the first time yesterday. What an adorable kid!

Ian and Me III: I can see you in the corner of my eye

I’m going to miss that coffee shop . . .

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

Since the “You sound like you’re singing” girl has left, the other girl that works at the coffee shop has been a bit more talkative. a conversation from the other day:
girl: are you chinese or korean?
me: chinese
girl: really? you look korean.
me: yeah, i get that a lot. what is it about me that looks korean?
girl: it’s your style.

Style? . . . Style?!? this coffee shop is full of thing about me i’ve never heard before. I mean, i can honestly say that never in my 26 years have I been accused of having style . . . of any kind . . . hey everybody, I’ve got style!

ok, enough of that.

Oddly, later that night my cousin came down and asked me to teach him how to tie a full windsor.

Fork (Part V)

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

Disclaimer: this is the story as I remember it. very likely to be incomplete and/or incorrect, but a story nonetheless. Leave comments for corrections. oh, and tell me when i should stop.

So, the summer was once again fast upon us. I don’t know if John knew what he wanted to do with me at that point since I wouldn’t be around for the summer. Eventually, i found myself working on Calendar. v.0.1 this time. It was done in madsearch and looked nothing like a calendar (oddly, during the previous year in the now defunct Software Engineering class, i actually built a calendaring web app in php using mysql). It was around then that Sue had promised me an honorary degree if i could get it done. ah, what could have been . . .

otherwise there were changes afoot. CCIT was growing fast and we were about to welcome our first official intern corps: kevin eng, tony chow, rob kao, johnny li, and lenny volchock. Unfortunately, i wouldn’t meet most of the new interns until i returned for spring semester.

I don’t really know how to relay this next part of the story. My time at Intel was incredibly insightful. I learned a lot about working outside of ccit and for corporate america. Perhaps the one huge take away i got from those six months was confidence. It’s one thing to be plucking away in a fish bowl that services thousands of people. It’s an entirely new ball game to be making products that will live for 5 years and be used by millions of people. To make products that people rely on to run their businesses, teach their children, play video games, calculate their taxes, etc. And, feeling like i could compete with the CMU guys, the U of I guys . . . it was just really good for me.

but for all the industry experience and there was something missing, and, if i had to put a name on it, i’d say it was irreverence. at intel, there was no singing and dancing. there was no jukebox blasting all day long. I had the intel culture police in my cube on a daily basis. “Stop standing on your chair.” “You can’t hang christmas lights in your cube.” “Where’s your badge? You can walk around here without a badge.” Actually, that last one there probably did it in for the future of me and intel. I went downstairs with a couple of co-workers to get a cup of coffee and these security guys stop us and ask me where’s my badge. I tell them i left it at my desk and then one of the security dudes turns to my co-worker and asks him, “What’s this guy’s name?” Mother fucker didn’t have the decency to ask me what my name was. Just assumed i was going to lie to him.
Anyway, during those six months, i was also moonlighting for CCIT. I developed the study abroad database (the second longest living app in CCIT history!) with my night hours. the interesting thing about that was the fact that my account was terminated right after i left. And I was kinda taken aback by that. two years of devotion to the JLG and in the first day of a temproary hiatus, my account got nixed. Where was the L-O-V-E? whatever. At the end of those six months, I got the STAB database up and a pre-silicon unit test validator done. yay.

50% buys you nothing

Friday, February 24th, 2006

phone call from my brother today:

brother: i picked out all the colors for our house today.

so, let’s recap the no decisions:

  1. bathtub
  2. bathroom sinks
  3. bathroom faucets
  4. toilets
  5. bathroom tiles
  6. exterior paint
  7. interior paint
  8. the color of the walls in my room

I guess the only decision i made was to put myself in the land of no decision.

As a lesson to all you young people out there:

don’t buy a house.  it’s a scam.
don’t buy a house with a family member. you get scammed disenfranchised.


Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

so, i’ve been writing a lot lately. what can i say? it gets lonely at 5am waiting for results from torino.

anyway, i’m at a quasi stopping point, and, since i’m a bit fatigued, i’ll put up another poll up to see who wants to hear me mis-tell this part of the story. to be honest, i think there are others  who know it better than i better than i do. we’re talking the summer of 2000, here, and i  really wasn’t around for it.

regardless, i guess the options are a) stop b) talk about my days at intel c) hit the fast forward button.

alternatively, there’s option d in which those who were there during the summer and fall of 2000 take up the charge and write about it themselves because I’m sure everyone is tired of my poor grammar and writing style (and possibly of this story as well).

The Beginning (A.K.A. Part IV)

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

Disclaimer: this is the story as I remember it. very likely to be incomplete and/or incorrect, but a story nonetheless. Leave comments for corrections. oh, and tell me when i should stop.
We now arrive at the spring semester of 2000. Perhaps of most import to me was spring break of that year when i received a phone call from the kids at intel. It was an interesting period. I was looking for a summer job in the industry of my choice. I had applied for multiple internships at motorola, amd, intel, texas instruments, sun, sgi, etc. And the remarkable thing about intel, was a) they actually contacted me, and b) their first attempt was at my dorm number. except, i was on spring break and in california at the time. luckily, a man by the name of paul bulemi was kind enough to try me at my sacramento number.

The interview process for the intel job was nothing more than a phone interview, and either their standards were low or i did well, because by the end of it, i had a job offer for the summer. I tend to think the former was the case as it was made known to me that they were in a bind to find someone to fill the co-op (a position i would put them in again later). The only drawback was the length of the co-op, six months. It would mean missing a semester of school and graduating as a half-ling in february of 2002. It took a little deliberation, but in the end, i decided to go. I mean, the facts were that i was going to a non-reputable engineering school, surrounded by i-banking wannabes, and this was an opportunity for me to get some industry experience, spend time with the family and, more importantly, my nanny who was in declining health.

Slightly before spring break, there was a significant turn of events. John and Helen ditched me. Well, i guess i should be more discriminant and say that John ditched me. According to Helen, John just walked in one day and said “pack your bags, we’re moving.” Actually, ditched might not be the right word . . . well, actually it is. You all should give him grief for that. Thanks. Apparently, it didn’t take long for Sue to realize the potiential of one John Luke Grogan, and, in a large coup for The College at large, she annointed John as the new head of Columbia College Information Technology. There was, however, a need to leave a token of appreciation. Namely, me.

And thus, it happened one day. I walked into CCS and everything was gone. It was explained to me that John and Helen had left to start something at the College and it was the hope that I would continue on with CCS and help keep things in running order. At first, i was alright with it, but after a month, things had gotten pretty unbearable, and so i walked into eleanor’s office and told her i was leaving. Said something to the effect of being able to help more people if i went to go work for john. I have to say, she had a really sullen look on her face as i told her, but, hey, without john, there was no dynamism, no soul. no vision. I had to get out.

Interestingly, right after i told eleanor i was leaving, i walked over to 201 Hamilton (this was before the beginning of our subterannian life, and at the time, the college administration was housed where the current ugrad admissions office is located) to let john know i had flown the coupe and wanted to work for him. I was expecting a positive reaction, but, alas, expectation is merely the precursor to disappointment. Actually, i wish i had captured that moment on film. It was a look of fear on the man’s face. Something akin to, “uh-oh, big doo doo coming my way” type of expression. Apparently, the negoatiations of John’s release hinged in part on not taking me with him . . . oh, well.

And so, life began for me at CCIT. Since I had joined a couple months late, things had already been moving at a steady clip. The office space was being shared by two or three groups: CC-ops, CCIT, and the Dean’s Office. It was an interesting blend. CCIT itself took up two offices and a bullpen for all the interns. Helen had one office on the south side of hamilton and john shared an office on the north side with our newly hired Associate Director of Infrastructure, Jeff Woodbury.

I have to say, my first encounter with Jeff didn’t get things off on a good foot. I really didn’t know who he was or where he came from, and it would be quite a while before i was let in on “the big secret”. Anyway, our first encounter went something like “Who put this crappy music on?” and Jeff acknowledging it was him. Things would only go up from there.
The new office space was nice. It was closer to the girlfriend’s place which was nice and it was on main campus. The offices and bullpen, were probably the largest in CCIT history and will most probably never be equaled. Helen’s office was especially plush with the southern exposure and plenty of sunlight . . . when there was and sun to have appreciable light. A major upgrade from the corner cubby hole at ccs. I’d say the only draw back was the bullpen being filled with Windows boxes running Linux on VMWare . . . slow. very slow. Fortunately, i wouldn’t be spending much time in that environment.
Anyway, things were buzzing in the new office. Websites had to be made, hardware was being purchased, and interns needed to be aquired. In the meantime, i believe there were only two holdovers from the previous regime: Tony Chow and Lenny Volcheck. The rest, i’d heard, were victims of the reorganization.


Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

So, if i wake up late enough in the day, the owner of the corner coffee shop and who i think is her four or five year old daughter are in the store. The daughter is a cute little kid that usually runs away from me . .. except for today.

kid: you look like a monster!
me: a monster? why’s that?
kid: because you have those glasses on.
(i take off my sunglasses)
me: how about now?
kid: put your glasses back on!!!

On a side note, the girl who thinks i sound like i’m singing when i talk no longer works at the store. In her place is this irish dude. nice fellow. It turns out he used to be homeless and during that time, he’d make ~$250/day. I feel like i’ve told this story before . . .

anyway, at $250/day working five day weeks, that’s $65,000/year non-taxed!

The Summer of ’99 (A.K.A. Part III)

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Disclaimer: this is the story as I remember it. very likely to be incomplete and/or incorrect, but a story nonetheless. Leave comments for corrections. oh, and tell me when i should stop.

And so the summer of ’99 was upon us, and it was great. It was my first summer in NYC. I was living at the fraternity house for free, and living it up at $12/hour.

The lack of anyone in the Director’s office meant we could blast the music. Up until this point, things were on a muted level. whenever there was music playing, it was kept at a pretty low decibel level and often times john would drown it out with his singing. but now . .. now, it was a full on party with either kanga or roo acting as the jukebox (v.0.1 if you will) since leslie and helen were the only ones in windows at any one time, and, back then, the ole linux boxen couldn’t play mp3s. I believe that year the songs on the hit list included anything erasure, rubber duckie and c is for cookie. funny how some things never change. I’m sure somewhere around the office there’s a copy of the soundtrack as rob was kind enough to burn a copy for everyone.

To be honest, i really don’t remember what i worked on that summer. I’m sure it was important at the time and somehow contributed to the university at large as well as my development as a programmer, but it’s all forgotten now. What i do remember is the experience. getting into the office at 9am on a regular basis (probably having something to do with having a girlfriend at the time who had to wake up at 7am), the morning coffee train, and lunch from hamilton deli or the guy on the corner of amsterdam and 116th. back then the dude hadn’t yet upgraded to the deluxe cart he now inhabits, and would sweat it out all day standing on that corner.
The morning coffee train to IAB was a favorite of mine. It was the first order of business for the day. It was like a team huddle. A little sync action to get us ready to work. Every morning we’d wait for all parties to show up and then we’d march out to the coffee stand, then known as Cafe Cappuccino and not the blue java or whatever is it today. actually, i don’t think i’ve been back to the coffe stand in IAB since those days. Anyway, John and I would get coffee, Helen used to get espresso, and rob and leslie were all over the nantucket nectars.

Breakfast was also a morning tradition, usually a call made to hamilton deli for a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich. yum. And, of course, after the morning festivites, the work began. We’d spend the most of the day singing and coding. every now and then john would get up and do his cabbage patch dance or you’d here a “who’s your daddy?!?” comment from one of us. it was a pretty good gig.
Anyhow, at the end of summer, we gave birth to this. At the time, that rotating image was the bomb. i mean, the dynamic aspect was just soooo cutting edge. The navigation and organization of the site was all Helen, and she went through a whole boat load of lame meetings (the first of many) to get people to provide content and agree on what was to be. But, she was driven, persistent and determined to make something good, which, i soon came to learn were defining traits of Helen’s.

So, the summer ended, the site was launched, and the new academic year had begun. There weren’t very many things notable about that fall semester . . . we got a new director at ccs, elanor sanchez, and we also got owl, our first nt domain server which prompted us to get off of AIS’ services and run for the hills of more network storage and a novel netware-less environment.

Training for the Olympics

Monday, February 20th, 2006

Note to self to train for the olympics again in two years. The past two weeks or so has left me pretty decimated. I haven’t stepped on a scale yet, but i’m pretty sure rapid loss of muscle mass, lack of sleep, and long work hours would have taken a much larger toll had i not had muscle mass, sleep and hours to lose in the first place.

Also, a note to self to get my back fixed before the next olympics arrive as it was the one thing that prevented me from getting to a couple hours of fixes this time around.

Oh, and i’m already cooking up ideas for hopefully good things to come . . . if i remember. note to self: remember.

Alrighty, time to work off the tire that has found its way around my waist.

And now the reminiscence, Part II

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

Disclaimer: this is the story as I remember it. very likely to be incomplete and/or incorrect, but a story nonetheless. Leave comments for corrections. oh, and tell me when i should stop.

So, the summer of ’99 was fast approaching and things were looking up for the CCS IT Deptartment. In a mere week, we had doubled our size from one to two. Between the John and I, we could pretty much handle all the programming and infrastructure needs to keep the ship on an even keel, but John was never the kind to keep the status quo. We needed more (get used to this phrase).

I don’t know if it was John’s disdain for AcIS or their incompetence, but it was clear that we were moving in a different direction than what any of the other technology group on campus wanted to go. In order to continue, we’d need our own servers. Enter Eeyore.

Eeyore was the bees knees back in the day. A dual proc PIII 500 MHz Dell box with half a gig of ram . . . ! Getting him was actually a difficult task as John had ordered him with Linux installed by the factory. It ended up taking a few more weeks for the dell kids to figure out how to get it right, but by early spring we had our first server running RedHat 5.2, kicking up a storm in the corner of the office.

More important than hardware, we needed a new Tawana, because the lord knew that one thing John wasn’t was a designer. Enter Helen Chu.

I wasn’t there when she interviewed, but i remember walking into the office one day and John telling me, “We have a new Tawana.” To be honest, the magnitude of the moment was lost on me. Even my first encounter with Helen was a bit subdued. I attribute this to that awkward acclimation period of starting a new job. Or maybe I just didn’t know how to recognize wonderful people until I met Helen. Anyway, one thing I was in the office for was Helen’s first account on eeyore. weeee.

So, now there was John, Helen, me and eeyore, but we still needed more. Specifically, we needed more of that secret special sauce known as intern labor. This was easily remedied by a call out for resumes (we were working for the center for career services, after all), and a few interviews later, we had our first intern corps: Rob Esris, Leslie Hsiung, and myself. For that summer, Rob was to write a web poll program in c++ whose project name I’ve forgotten, Leslie was our web intern. You all remember those animated, cartoon lions that used to crawl all over our sites? Yeah. leslie. hand drawn. And myself? I was purposed for more MadSearch love.

And so we had a captain, a web mistress, three interns, and a server. Lots of damage could have been wrought with that combination, except we were missing actual computers to work on. Not a problem. One phone call to our favorite hardware provider and a couple weeks later, we said hello to pooh, kanga, roo, piglet and tigger. The Orginals. These bad boys weren’t pizza boxes sitting in a rack. They were dual boot windows 98/linux boxen installed by John himself(!) with 19″ crt montiors (19 inches! the good stuff!). yeah . . . those were the good days when JLG had not yet been swallowed up by redmond dogma. If i remember correctly, John took pooh, helen got kanga, i worked off of tigger . . . i want to say leslie had piglet and rob sat on roo. Anyway, significant as this was my first encounter with the penguin, learning to ssh and not telnet, playing with system administration, and finding my window manager of choice, WindowMaker. yum.

As I’m writing this, I’m suddenly realizing how crucial a period of time this was for us. And, although i keep using the pronouns of “us” and “we,” it really was john driving all of this change.  Well, as unleashed John since, in addition to Tawana leaving, the CCS Director had also left.  Yeah, as the selfishcrab has observed, turnover is quite high in the Lions’ halls. But there’s this chinese saying that the new can’t come until the old has left and the Director’s vacancy opened the window for another significant event, a need to appoint an interim Director. That lucky interim Director was Sue Mescher.