Brandon Flowers

Posted on September 3rd, 2015 by Sammy

Currently typing this post via my phone because 30 day challenge but also Comcast outage projected until 1:45am and I need to go to sleep with my fur pillow amazon.

Last night Lehsah, Shanu, and I went to see Brandon Flowers at the Fox in Oakland. He was *so* good. I’m a huge killers fan but I hadn’t heard much of his new stuff, only a couple of songs by way of accident / Shanu’s recs to me on one of our playlists. His solo stuff feels like an extension of his Killers canon, albeit he didn’t play anything from his first solo album (his latest is best described as a new age / electronically influenced sound).

I totally had a moment last night. Between songs he had described growing up in a (conservative Mormon) household where “people who do bad things are bad,” and how he eventually figured out that the world was a great deal wider than that. The following song was “Diggin’ Up The Heart” —

And when you finally put the asphalt to the tyre
Looks something like sistine
Or a fire
Ripping through the dark
He’s digging up the heart
Digging up the heart
Digging up the heart
Well it ain’t that strange
Any boy can change
Digging up the heart…

I like to think “any boy can change,” it’s such an important thing to believe in a world where so many live steeped in ignorance. I felt so kindred hearing this, having too emerged from the soulless husk that is a fundamentalist upbringing. Knowing that I have and can change helps me believe that everyone else can too.

He tempers that idealism with “Only the Young” —

Look back in silence
The cradle of your whole life
There in the distance
Losing its greatest pride
Nothing is easy, nothing is sacred, why?
Where did the bow break?
It happened before your time

Only the young can break away, break away
Lost when the wind blows, on your own
Only the young can break away, break away
Lost when the wind blows, on your own

That song makes me wonder whether my parents will ever come around to my way of thinking regarding what constitutes kindness, justice, and a good life.

It’s easy to be angry at injustice and ignorance, but it’s between hard and impossible to stop loving your parents even if they believe terrible things. Ironically I still love them because I don’t believe people who do/believe bad things are necessarily bad — “Where did the bow break? It happened before your time…”

Still I feel jealous of people with functional relationships with their parents, people who can be proud of where they came from. I only feel like I’ve escaped.

I’m hanging on to the end of this rope
Somewhere on the outskirts of hope
Life without you not around
Another kid in Lonely Town

Three Weeks of Nexus 6

Posted on September 2nd, 2015 by Sammy

So I went and got myself a Nexus 6 last month thanks to my 2-year-old iPhone’s screen breaking, contract being over, and Project Fi invite coming in. General feelings:

1. It super sucks that I have to use GroupMe or some other messaging app to text Shanu just so we can see the same emojis. The emojis on iPhone are very different from the emojis on Android. This is weirdly problematic. Also SMS is horrible! I never realized how dependent I was on internet-based messaging, or why Kev has always used GroupMe instead of SMS.

2. Nobody on the internet seems to know where to get a car mount that fits the Nexus 6 + a case. I ended up betting on the iOttie Easy View 2 — turns out it works. I have this case and the holder fits fine. I used to have an iOttie one-touch I got for like $4 on a Slickdeal but at least this was $15 and not $100 (all of the suggestions people have online for car mounts are kinda pricey).

3. I have fairly large hands:

2015-09-02 14.34.52-1

…and using this phone 1-handedly is pretty difficult. This phone makes Shanu’s iPhone 6 look small.

4. I’m a bit nervous about switching to Google Fi because I’ve heard from numerous sources that if you didn’t buy your Nexus during the signup process you tend to run into more problems. I’m thinking about waiting for them to work out the kinks.

5. Ridiculous that I have to use a different launcher (Nova) to get what should be out-of-the-box features. Android camera design is not user-friendly: I don’t want all my shortcuts hidden away, I want them out so I don’t have to swipe to get to them (e.g toggle front camera, access taken photos, etc). It’s hard enough as it is dealing with the very noticeable lag from camera start, as well as iffy behavior of HDR+. At least on iPhone they give you all exposures used to take the picture — if your HDR picture came out worse than one of the composing pictures, you can choose one that’s slightly under or overexposed.

6. I weirdly miss iTunes. Podcast apps on Android aren’t quite as good, why isn’t there a free one from Google? GroupMe’s app on android is worse too.

7. Too many notifications. I understand I can turn them off but why are there so many more than my iPhone by default? Don’t send notifications on updates, just update me!

8. Settings *and* Google Settings!? …it’s pretty confusing. I’m not recommending this to grandma. Or mom or dad.

Other feelings:

9. Apple makes migration horrible. To get my notes, contacts, text messages out was all I really wanted (I already synced all my photos to Dropbox thankfully) but text messages were a no-go (don’t I own my data?!) and contacts for some reason were really buggy. Oh yeah, contacts app for Android can use some UI improvements. Maybe a faster way to edit contacts vs pressing them (risking calling them if you press the wrong place) and looking for a tiny pencil.

10. Qi chargers are actually kinda nice. I used to plug my phone in every day at work but it’s stupid how nice it is to just set my phone down on the desk. I know, wireless charging seems like such a joke / goofy / pointless but the fewer wires I have the happier I am, in general.

11. I’m a little annoyed this phone doesn’t have USB-C and I’ll have to upgrade fairly soon.

12. Passcodes on Android lock screens don’t automatically submit when you type in the digits, you have to press “enter” too. Using the pattern unlock on a phone this big means that sometimes my thumb can’t reach all the way across the screen and I inevitably make a mistake trying to unlock. Ergh.

13. I like that I can use all my work apps, which makes all of this pain somewhat worth it.

14. Audio jack placement feels awkward, I wish it were closer to a corner.

15. Nova Launcher and Google Now are both really awesome.

16. Built-in shazam-like functionality? Yes please!

17. Google’s voice recognition is next-level.

18. I wish we were as good at hardware as we are at software. I also wish we were as good at design as we are at engineering.

30 Day Challenge

Posted on September 1st, 2015 by Sammy

KP challenged Shanu and I to post on our blogs every day for 30 days. It used to be easy for me but it’s a lot harder to fit in now. Trying nonetheless! Warning: these will be logs of my thoroughly quotidian comings and goings.

Monday was really nice. Work wasn’t too busy, got home and went for a 1.68 mile run with Shanu, I felt safe because I just got my taser from so if someone tries to rob me I’m protected. We had a bi-rite dinner (mmmm), then I went into curriculum planning for my coming weeks.

Today was similar (1.5 mile run by myself after work), but I’m starting to work through Hal Daume III’s math for ml refresher.

Whenever I try to come up with a plan of “what to learn” I find myself swallowed by the pit of unknowing — realizing how little I know, how much I want to learn, and how much I’ve forgotten that I used to know.

Particularly I’m pretty depressed about how much math I’ve forgotten since high school & college. A lot of the subjects I’m interested in involve multivariate calculus, linear algebra, and statistics. I’ve earned (generally high) letter grades in all of these things at the college level, but disuse is a learner’s worst enemy.

I’ve settled for doing refreshers in multiple arenas: I plan on shoring up some of my more glaring math shortcomings this month and getting up to speed with a lot of basics. It’s pretty humbling but necessary if I want to continue diving into complex subject spaces.

Started from the bottom now we at brunch

Posted on August 30th, 2015 by Sammy

On Friday we had Turkish food for dinner w/ Lisa, KP, and Onur. Kev was out at a tournament. This was the first time since becoming vegetarian that I had lamb chops — soooo good. Got to bed at a decent hour.

Saturday morning we hit Mission Cliffs for an hour and a half of bouldering. Shanu had never been to a rock climbing wall before but she was naturally pretty competent. KP was the most experienced of us but often relied on pulling himself up by his arms (when did he get so jacked?!), and Onur was the most strategically oriented but suffered from the same problem I did (no baseline arm strength). I was definitely the worst, possessing no strategy, no arm strength, and no naturally-accorded climbing ability.

We all ended up sitting on the soft gym floor in envy of some girl who made climbing look like a casual beach stroll.

We treated ourselves to Universal cafe “brunch” (at 2:30pm) then Shanu & I went home and collapsed in exhaustion. Woke up, cleaned a bit, and messed around on the piano before dolling up for a party at Tailors’ Keep:


Today we’ve mostly been working on work and personal projects but are treating ourselves to udon for dinner & Straight Outta Compton at our favorite theatre.

Upcoming Concert Calendar

Posted on August 28th, 2015 by Sammy

09-02-2015 – Brandon Flowers @ the Fox
10-03-2015 – M. Ward, Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Felice Brothers @ the Fillmore
10-15-2015 – Dar Williams @ Freight & Salvage
10-17-2015 – Treasure Island Music Festival (+ Esther is visiting!)
11-11-2015 – The Menzingers & Mewithoutyou @ Regency Ballroom

One Year Later

Posted on August 28th, 2015 by Sammy

For me, writing is thinking and I haven’t prioritized writing for about a year now. It’s really been that long: my last real writing was in early September of last year, and it is now late August.

A lot of things have happened during this time, chief among them that Shanu and I now live together in San Francisco. Everything about it has been wonderful except for the fact that both of us have fundamentalist patriarchal christian parents; dealing with our fallout with them has really taken its toll on both of us but we’ve since adapted well and are quite happy.

I plan on writing at length about the transition sometime because it has certainly shaped my current beliefs (and some nights I wonder if it’s karma for the thoughtless conservatism of my youth) but not right this minute. It’s a bit late and I’m just restarting my old writing habit.

Tonight was nice: 2 mile run, bi-rite for dinner (I ordered my usual vegan hippie; Shanu loves their peach arugula salad, we had a baguette with olive oil and balsamic vinegar alongside it), then we discussed plans to jump-start our personal studies.

It’s been very difficult for me to find what I term “study time.” I generally wake up around 7am to catch either a 7:40am or 8am bus to Mountain View — long days at work keep me until around 8pm and after catching a bus I get home around 10pm. Even more normal days where I leave my desk around 5pm have me home around 7:15 or 7:30pm. At this point I’m exhausted and lucky to get in a quick run before bed.

The consequences of my schedule are: dropped correspondences, fewer personal projects, a writing-less year, and a few breakdowns out of frustration. But I’d like to start again working on personal projects and interesting MOOCs, and keeping track of things I learn and what I do.

Shanu and I have incrementally been finding our ways around our busy schedules (she freelances in addition to her full-time job) to do the things that satisfy us intellectually. I started by finding some good podcasts for the commute because I get carsickness if I try to use the computer, and together we have made exercise and sleep major priorities in our routines.

We already don’t watch much TV but I expect our total amount to decrease also as a result of our efforts to reclaim scattered hours in our day.

Our plan circa tonight consists of:

1. Running during the day. I’ll try to run at work — it’s slightly more efficient because I don’t have to squeeze it into the limited hours at home where it’s more likely to cut into sleep and exercising with an URBNFit Exercise Ball which works great indoors. Plus the sun is healthy.

2. Minimum 3 days a week of “study night,” where we work on courses we are taking or personal projects. This means I have to get home early enough to do study night 3 days a week, so late nights at the office are limited to twice a week. I have to be very careful about procrastinating and being efficient during the work day. This system lets me be flexible on really busy weeks, albeit by moving 2 of my study days to the weekend (or perhaps compressing it into one of the two weekend days).

3. Writing. We talked about how writing forces our brains to make multiple passes over the information, solidifying things into memory. And remembering everything about this good life is important 🙂

Things we do not plan on compromising on:

1. Sleep
2. Work quality
3. Each other

Random list of things from this year

Posted on August 27th, 2015 by Sammy

* Brewcade (a.k.a Shannon and I drive virtual cars for an hour and spend a lot of quarters)
* Writing my first postmortem
* Inhotim
* Outsidelands 2015
* Coachilla 2015 (Taking it slow)
* A date with myself (a.k.a trip to Costco because I’m a suburban mom)
* Tallest Man on Earth
* Asgeir
* The Barr Brothers
* The Preatures (part II)
* Catching up on the Mission Impossible Series
* Sundance Kabuki Theatre & Balcony Life
* Neutral Milk Hotel (& bumped into Christine Chan randomly there??)
* House Hunting in SF sucks
* Web reorgs are semi-fun

40 years later: Born to Run

Posted on August 26th, 2015 by Sammy

Springsteen’s critics misread his appeal. Absent from their analysis was class. The young heroes in “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run” are in flight from a very specific condition. Marsh recounts an interview in which Bruce explained, “I know what it’s like not to be able to do what you want to do, because when I go home, that’s what I see. It’s not fun, it’s no joke. I see my sister and her husband. They’re living the lives of my parents in a certain kind of way. They got kids; they’re working hard. These are people, you can see something in their eyes … I asked my sister, ‘What do you do for fun?’ ‘I don’t have any fun,’ she says. She wasn’t kidding.”

It’s been 40 years since “Born to Run” first captivated the popular imagination. In many ways, we’re living in a comparatively prosperous decade: Downtown Freehold has been restored to its original splendor, and the Asbury Park boardwalk is lined with upscale bars and restaurants catering to an upwardly mobile crowd. Yet Americans still grapple with the same concerns that animated a young Bruce Springsteen. The place and condition of one’s birth continue to define the outer boundaries of possibility. All of which makes the music as meaningful as it ever was.

Full article here

Common Abuse Team Photo

Posted on August 24th, 2015 by Sammy


Really love my team, great people! Getting close to 2 years now 🙂

Nvidia GTX 980

Posted on August 23rd, 2015 by Sammy

Got a new machine for CUDA programming!

Installing Ubuntu was a bit of a pain — graphics were mangled when I tried to install ubuntu desktop, and even though it’s 2015 my wireless didn’t work either. So I switched to installing Ubuntu Server LTS because GUI installers ftl. Graphics and wireless driver problems already?! It’s good to be back on GNU/Linux.

Solved wireless by sharing ethernet from my mbp, then

sudo apt-get install wireless-tools
sudo lspci | grep Network

Found out my card was a Broadcom 43142, so:

sudo apt-get install bcmwl-kernel-source

Damn, things are easier these days! Whatever happened to ndiswrapper and cabextract? Server-based wifi config is super easy these days too:

nmcli dev wifi connect 'ESSID' password PASSWORD

What, an abstraction for all that iwconfig stuff?! Awesome.

Then for GTX 980:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-346

Note: Do not use nvidia-current! It installs nvidia 340 drivers, which causes problems. Also using the package from the nvidia website requires a recompile for every kernel upgrade, it’s also a headache. Even though using this PPA for everyday use is discouraged, I installed it then removed the ppa from my sources.list. If it ever causes problems I can always remove it and do things more properly.

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