Bird Poo Smell

A little more than a week ago I noticed a bad smell in my apartment, but I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. It was a vaguely familiar smell, but wasn't any of the typical things you'd easily recognize (like rotting food or mold).

Then one day I noticed a duct vent outside my apartment and realized what it was:

Bird Poo

Some birds had been building a nest inside the duct and were pooping up a storm inside, so much that it spilled out, down my window. The duct connected to my clothes dryer as well as the oven fan vent.

Unfortunately this vent outlet is between the second and third floors, so it's impossible to reach without an extra-tall ladder. I called the maintenance crew and they were able to pull the bird nest out (there were no baby birds or eggs, luckily), and put a grate over it.

I think the birds must have pooped a whole lot inside of the duct (which didn't get cleaned up), because there's still a small lingering smell wafting through the apartment a week later. I'm hoping that the smell will eventually go away by itself, but in the meantime I have one of those plug-in air fresheners, which masks it so that you don't notice.

Posted on June 1, 2009
Filed under: General, Random Comments

Dryer Vent

The dryer vent on the roof of the apartment across the way from mine has been spewing out this weird looking red stuff all morning:

Roof dryer vent spewing weird looking red stuff

I wonder what they put through the wash?

Posted on January 3, 2009
Filed under: General, Random Comments

0 Day Delivery

The most amazing thing happened today: I ordered some stuff on Amazon this morning, and it was delivered before I got home. I was completely stunned and surprised, because I submitted my order with the standard 2 day shipping and didn't see anything about same-day delivery. I was also surprised that the package was just outside my door and they didn't deliver it to the apartment office in order to get a signature.

The package was shipped by some company I've never heard of, called Dynamex. I can't find anything about this on Amazon's website. I'm curious about whether this is a new standard, or if it is some sort of beta program being tested in select areas? What's going on here?

This is a big step that could really impact how I use Amazon. Typically, it feels like I get the desire to have a new book or toy on Saturday or Sunday afternoon, at which point I have to decide how much I really need whatever it is. If it's urgent, then I usually have to go to Borders, because if I order it on Amazon, it won't be shipped until Monday, and if I'm lucky it will be delivered on Wednesday, but it'll get delivered to the apartment office which will be closed when I get home, so I'll only be able to pick it up on Thursday morning on the way to work. With this same-day delivery, that huge wait time is almost eliminated (of course they probably wouldn't deliver on weekends, but still).

Amazon Same Day Delivery Order

Here's a picture of my October 13th order, actually in my hands on October 13th. The weird thing is that I had already looked through all the toy stores in suburban Seattle trying to find a Rubik's cube (apparently there's a "Rubik's Liquidity Crisis" going on, because they were all out). I had resigned myself to ordering it on Amazon and waiting a week, yet here it is and I have it on the same day. Wow.

Posted on October 13, 2008
Filed under: General, Random Comments

Grossly under-billed

For a while now I've been wondering why I only have to pay $1-2 per month for water. I thought it might have had something to do with all the rain that Seattle gets (lots of extra water, or something).

A letter came today which cleared it up:

I'm wondering how something like this even happens. How can you not notice that your revenue is ten times less than normal for an entire year? Granted, the error probably only happened in one apartment complex out of many, but still..

Posted on August 19, 2008
Filed under: General, Random Comments

Bathroom Norman Door

At work one of the bathroom stalls' latch broke, so they put on a new latch. They naturally put it on backwards, so now the door opens outward instead of inward:

Bathroom Norman Door Outside

There's no way to pull the door open, so you have to reach up and grab the top of the door. It's quite the Norman Door now, because the handle's still on the inside, where you have to push to get it open:

Bathroom Norman Door Inside

Worst of all, it's the handicap stall:

Handicap Norman Door

For some reason people were giving me funny looks when I was taking these pictures inside the bathroom.

Posted on July 30, 2008
Filed under: General, Humor, Random Comments

Stocking Up

Three Extra Copies of Windows XP

Less than one week left!

Now I'm starting to wonder: will three extra copies be enough?

Posted on June 23, 2008
Filed under: General, Random Comments

1.21 Gigawatts

Cool thing of the day: somebody in my building has a De Lorean and actually drives it to work every day:

De Lorean Car

Posted on June 2, 2008
Filed under: General, Random Comments

Still Married

When I got my new car a couple of years ago I didn't get rid of my old car right away, so I had to add the new one on to my existing car insurance policy. A couple weeks later I went to remove my old car from the policy, but the insurance salesperson said that there was "something wrong with the computer," because my new premium would be much higher after taking off the second car.

After I waited on hold for a while, she came back on and said she had found the problem: "With two cars, you're getting the married rate, but if you go down to only one car on your policy, then you're a single male so you would get a much higher rate." I found that sort of amusing, and decided not to take the car off of my policy. Ever since then, I've been insuring two cars.

Last week I turned 25, so today I went to the office to see if I could get a lower car insurance rate. Supposedly 25 is the "magical" age when you suddenly become much less likely to get in a car accident.

I inquired about removing my old car from the policy, but again discovered that this would increase my rate. This time I was able to get some specific numbers:

Cost to insure '84 Buick + '06 GTI: $277 + $560 = $837

Cost to insure just '06 GTI: $945

It's interesting to see that insuring a 2006 GTI costs 68% more if you're single than if you're "married." Apparently getting married is yet another way to instantly transform yourself into someone much less likely to get into an accident. The best part is that you don't even have to bother with the hassle of a wife: you just have to buy another car.

Now I'm wondering: could I reduce my insurance costs even further by adding a third car? I suspect not: clearly if I had three cars then I must have had a kid, and we all know how dangerous kids are..

Posted on May 27, 2008
Filed under: Car, General, Humor, Random Comments

Whole Foods vs. Safeway

Co-worker claim: Whole Foods is more expensive than Safeway.
Justification: They rip you off just because they can, and people are dumb enough to pay the higher prices.

My claim: That's BS! Their prices should be exactly the same.
Justification: This is what logical theory says. It's called Econ 101.

How to resolve this conflict? By doing an experiment, of course!

Here are my results from walking around in Whole Foods and Safeway with my camera-phone. I randomly chose different classes of foods, found products that were in both stores, and took pictures:

Banana Prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

Budweiser prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

Horizon Organic Milk Prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

Florida's Natural Orange Juice Prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

Honey Nut Cheerios Prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

Cheerios Prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

So what's the conclusion from all this? Averaging all of these products, Safeway is 4.3% more expensive than Whole Foods.

Result: We were both wrong. FAIL.

Posted on April 30, 2008
Filed under: General, Random Comments

Netflix Bandwidth

A random thought experiment that just popped into my head: what's the bandwidth of my Netflix "connection"?

Let's assume that Netflix mails me 3 DVDs per week, each of which is just a plain old single-sided single-layer disc with a movie on it. The bandwidth should be:

Netflix Bandwidth

The result surprised me: the bandwidth is 187 kbps! It's also sustained, full-duplex, and at 100% utilization (assuming I watch all the way through all the movies). The "download" speed is comparable to a low-end ISDN connection in the US. Switching to HD-DVD Blu-Ray would increase the bandwidth to 992 kbps, in which case the "upload" speed would actually be higher than my upload speed on my Comcast connection.

Of course, with an average latency of 2.3 days (201600000 ms), it would be pretty much impossible to run a protocol like TCP on it (unless the timeouts were really, really high). Just to begin downloading a simple HTML page would probably take several weeks, due to the SYN/ACK handshaking of the DNS and HTTP transactions..

Update 3/18: Fixed math error. Thanks Simon!

Posted on April 17, 2008
Filed under: General, Random Comments

No Candy

The best part about Valentine's Day is always going and stocking up on super-cheap 70%-off candy afterwards. Apparently the 17th is too late to do that, because today when I went to Target all the candy was already gone :(.

No Valentine's Day Candy at Target

Posted on February 17, 2008
Filed under: General, Random Comments

Speed Dating

So this evening I went to the grad student "speed dating" event at UW. It was not really what I was expecting, but it was still interesting nonetheless.

Before it started they announced that many more women signed up than men. This sounded like a good thing, but it didn't end up mattering since we didn't get through even half of the people.

It was set in a large room with long folding tables laid out in parallel. There were 20 men on each side and 20 women on the other side. Here's a rough mspaint rendering:

Speed Dating Room Layout

You were given 3 minutes to talk to the person across from you, at the end of which the women would stand up and shift down one place, looping around to the other end of the table. After you got through everybody at the table, there was a 5 minute break and then the females would all move to the next table (in theory at least).

This process worked well at first. When the bell rang, everyone would stand up and then all shift down one seat simultaneously. This broke down pretty quickly and eventually people were only moving one at a time, leading to a "bubbling" effect where people could not move until everybody else at the table had shifted down one, which often took more than a minute, cutting into the 3 minute period. As people tried to "make up" the lost time the problem just got worse and worse.

Unfortunately it seemed that the organizers of the event did not book the room for enough time, and we were only able to get through two "rounds". So while there were 180 girls there, I only met 40 of them.

On the tables were scattered "valentines" where you could write down your email address and give it to the other person if you were interested in them. The organizers did not describe the protocol for using the valentines (guy always offers his contact info first (or vice versa), guy asks girl for her contact info, etc), so it led to a bit of chaos as people didn't know what to do. The main problem with the system was that it was both awkward to ask the other person for their info, as well as offer your info to them. Shy people such as myself had difficulty doing either.

Other speed dating protocols don't allow communication between the two parties during the "dates", and participants fill out a list of people who they were interested in. When there's a mutual match, contact info is sent to both people. This seems like a much better system, at least for small groups of people where you can remember who the other people were. After meeting 40 or 180 people, I would have trouble remembering who was who, so that kind of system might not have worked too well unless you filled out the list as you went along.

During the 40 "dates" there were some good ones and some bad ones (most were just sort of awkward since it was obvious it wasn't a good match). Here are some examples of the ones that didn't go so well:

Her: So what are you studying?
Me: Computer Science.
Her: Ah, are you a hacker?
Me: Um, no.. not really.
Her: 'cause hacking is cool.
Me: Well it's not really as glamorous as it is in movies.
Her: Still it seems like it would be a lot of fun.
Me: You mean, like snooping on people's email?
Her: You can snoop on people's email???
Me: No, no, I don't do that.
Her: Why would you do that??
Me: Well if you were a hacker that's one of the things you would be doing.
Her: I'm not giving you my email address!
Me: No, no, I'm not saying I'm a hacker. I... uhh.. never mind.

Her: So what do you like to do in your free time?
Me: Uh, well I like to read-
Her: Ugh I hate reading.
Me: So what do you like to do?
Her: I like to drink.
Me: Like in bars?
Her: Yeah or clubs, wherever there's lots of alcohol.
Me: uh..
Me: ...
Me: Hmm, so 3 minutes is actually sort of a long time isn't it?

Me: So what do you like to do?
Her: I like to hang out with my ex-boyfriend a lot.
Me: Ah.
Her: He's like really the only friend I have.
Me: Uh huh.
Her: That's probably a weird thing to admit at this sort of thing, right?
Me: Yeah it is kind of a weird thing to bring up.
Her: Yeah I probably shouldn't bring that up.
Me: ...

Her: Wow, so you actually have like a real job!
Her: You probably have so much more money than everyone at this table!
Me: Uhh... Hmm well if they are all full-time graduate students, then yes I guess that is probably correct. But I don't mean to-
Her: Just like in terms of per-hour, you're worth so much more than us!
Her: Did you know that the average grad student only makes $13,000 per year?
Me: That sounds about right, I guess I didn't know the exact figure.
Her: That's as much as a McDonald's worker makes!
Me: Uh-huh.. yeah.. So how about that weather eh?
Her: Man it must be cool to have a real job.
Me: ...

Her: So how old are you?
Me: I'm 24.
Her: Wow, everyone here is really young. How old do I look?
Me: Uh, well I'm not really that good at guessing that sort of thing..
Her: No no you have to tell me! I want to know.
Me: Uh... 30?
Her: Ah how nice of you. I'm really 35.
Me: Ah... well.. yeah..

Posted on February 5, 2008
Filed under: General, Random, School Comments


I saw this in a university newsletter spam today:

If you’re SINGLE and want a “special” Valentines Day – Join us for a night of Graduate student SPEED DATING. Just in time for Valentine's Day! Come meet fellow single graduate students!

Who: Current single UW graduate students

What: Speed Dating

When: [redacted]

Where: [redacted]

Please RSVP to [redacted] to let us know if you are coming. (The sooner you respond, the better your chance of getting a seat!). If you feel comfortable please also let us know what table type you would like to be assigned to. There will be four tables to choose from: straight, gay, lesbian, and bisexual.

Note: this event is only open to UW graduate students; IDs will be checked at the door.

My initial reaction is "Ha, like that would ever work. Delete.", but on second thought I'm actually considering it, if for no better reason than curiosity. I have never been to one of these kinds of things - anyone have any idea what they are like? The Wikipedia page actually makes it sound somewhat interesting.

Being an engineer I naturally started trying to do a CBA on it, but the usual approaches aren't working too well. Here's what I have so far:


  • Pool restricted to just girls who are single.
  • Potentially lower awkwardness/expectation levels.
  • They're graduate students, so at least some level of intelligence-filtering has already been performed.


  • Potential for embarrassment.
  • Speed-dating == speed-rejection? [see: personal phobias]
  • Mail does not say whether free food is provided.
Posted on January 16, 2008
Filed under: General, Random, School Comments

UW Grading System

This week I got the grade for my Data Compression class and was somewhat surprised at the format. From my undergrad experience I was expecting it to be in the usual A, B, C format, but instead I got a "3.9" grade.

I looked up the University of Washington's grading system, which is apparently number-based and on the same scale as the GPA system. So 3.9-4.0s are "A equivalents", 3.5-3.8s are "A-"s, 3.2-3.4s are "B+"s, etc..

I'm a bit torn on my evaluation of the merits of this system. On one hand, it's much more fine-grained than the lettering system, and you can distinguish between students who worked really hard and got perfect scores on everything, and other students who just did the work required to get an A. The letter grade system doesn't really distinguish between people to that degree, until you start using the plus/minus quantifiers to the letters, at which point you've basically admitted that just using the letters doesn't quite cover all the information you need to convey. It seems that UW has solved that problem by just throwing away the letter system and replacing it with the number system.

On the other hand, I'm sort of miffed by this, because after all these years of school, it's become very ingrained in my mind that an A == 4.0 GPA. Now I have an "A", but my GPA is 3.9, which in my mind means "dang, screwed up and got a B in 1 out of 10 classes." Of course, in reality, a 3.9 is a perfectly fine grade and probably nobody will ever care anyway (how much to MBA/PhD programs care about GPAs? I am not really sure.. hrmm..). Still, grr :).

Now that I know how the system works, I can accommodate it if I decide I really need that 4.0 (which, honestly, I probably don't).

Posted on December 21, 2007
Filed under: General, Random, School Comments


Apparently my copy of 1984 restarts from the very beginning on page 43, meaning that it's missing about 40 pages at the end of the book:


If it was any other book I would have just chalked it up to incompetence, but since it was this particular book, I had to wonder if it was done on purpose, and if so, what did those 40 pages contain that caused them to get tossed down the memory hole? Perhaps a stinging revelation that the paperback-publishing industry is the root of all evil? If I asked about it, would the answer be that "1984 is missing 40 pages. 1984 has always been missing 40 pages"?

I found and read the rest of the book on the internet, and alas, it doesn't actually appear to be a vast conspiracy 🙁

Posted on December 13, 2007
Filed under: General, Random Comments


At work I made an apparently too-cryptic joking reference to the Total Information Awareness Program and John Poindexter, but nobody understood it.

I was quite disappointed - I had figured that most people would get it. I'm sure if it had been a reference to American Idol or Survivor more people would have understood it.. So sad.

Total Information Awareness logo

Posted on October 26, 2007
Filed under: General, Humor, Random Comments

Seattle Forecast

Looks like this week it is: rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, and rain.

Seattle Forecast

Posted on September 29, 2007
Filed under: General, Random Comments

Mr. Lightswitch

Mr. Lightswitch is angry because he couldn't get a parking spot today:

Mr. Lightswitch

I was hoping that the switch part would look like a mouth, but I don't think it really works.

Posted on September 25, 2007
Filed under: General, Humor, Random Comments

Destroyed Cup

One of my plastic cups fell down to the bottom of the dishwasher and was melted by the heat. It looks kind of weird:

Destroyed Cup

Posted on September 14, 2007
Filed under: General, Random Comments


My cousin is getting married tomorrow and today at the pre-dinner the most absurd thing I have ever seen at a wedding occurred.

After dessert we heard a loud siren coming down the street and there were several loud bangs that sounded like gunfire. I was afraid it was some sort of gang fight in the middle of this quiet little Everett suburb. Fortunately that fear was quashed when a gigantic pirate ship drove up to the back yard, firing its 'cannons':

Pirate Boat

The Seattle SeaFair Pirates all jumped out of the ship/truck contraption and 'captured' the bride (upper left, below) and all the bridesmaids and drove off. The groom and his friends hopped in a car with their plastic swords and chased after the pirates.

Pirates capturing the bride

At this point everyone in the wedding party and all of the neighbors were in total shock and disbelief about what had just happened, until somebody explained what was going on. In the end the pirates came back, returned the captives, and we all had a jolly good time with their pirate rum.

All in all, definitely the most bizarre experience of the weekend.

Posted on September 8, 2007
Filed under: General, Random Comments

Willows Lodge

This week I'm on another corporate brainwashing training retreat at Willows Lodge. So far the accommodations are a lot better than last year since we get catered food at a 5-star resort hotel instead of having to fight over cots and cook our own food.


Jacuzzi, bed, fireplace

Jacuzzi, bed, fireplace (this pic looks it's out of a brochure for some reason..)


Fold-out concave shaving mirror


Fancy sink


Shower with on/off buttons and temperature controls. What temperature water do I usually use? I had no idea until now


Some bizarre statues outside the window

Posted on August 21, 2007
Filed under: General, Random, Travel Comments

Zero stars

Whenever I see this apartment ad on the way to work I think, "wow, zero out of five stars, why would they advertise that?"

Fairwinds Redmond advertisement

Obviously they're trying to say that it's a "five-star" apartment, but in the age of Amazon starred reviews and iTunes ratings, the "outlined star" symbol has come to mean "empty star" or "missing star". Interesting to think about..

Amazon stars

Posted on August 8, 2007
Filed under: General, Random Comments


Today I finally got a "Thank you for enrolling at the University of Washington" letter, which was a bit of a surprise since I was expecting a "Thank you for applying" letter first, at which point I would decide whether or not to enroll. I guess they made that decision for me :). I'm sure the next thing I'll be getting will be a big bill.

Now I have to send in "proof of measles immunity". I'm sure I got the vaccine when I was 5 years old, so I have no record of it, and of course neither does my current health care provider (no doubt due to general incompetence, or laws prohibiting automatic transferring of my medical records without my consent or something like that). This will be fun to track down. I'll be mad if I have to get another shot, but sadly that might be the easiest thing to do..

UW Grad Student Registration Guide

Posted on August 4, 2007
Filed under: General, Random, School Comments

Wallmonster is all stressed out today

How do you pictorially represent a headache? I guess a lightning bolt to the brain works.

Wallmonster lightning bolt

Posted on July 10, 2007
Filed under: General, Random Comments

Denver Street Views

Google Street Views has patchy imagery of Denver, with pictures at lower resolutions than their San Francisco imagery. Even so, I was surprised to be able to find lots of pictures of familiar places:

My parents' house (obstructed by a tree):

Old school bus stop:

High school (shudder):

Old job (Sun Microsystems):

University of Colorado:

Across the street, my old apartment (not really visible):

Posted on June 16, 2007
Filed under: General, Random Comments



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