The Domain of Steven Pinnacle of Paperless Perfection

26Apr/089

Two months of making perfection perfect

Microsoft came to campus some time ago for a recruiting drive. I knew that my odds were low but I wanted the experience, and no matter what the odds are, there is still a chance. Talking to the recruiter went very smoothly; I liked talking to him and he liked talking to me. He made notes on my resume before dropping it in and I walked away happy.

The actual first-round interview was not so smooth. It was not so much an interview as an interrogation. To be fair, the interviewer single-handedly had to deal with two dozen people over the course of two days, and as I was the penultimate, I was going to get the short end of the cordiality stick. I tried to establish a casual talking environment, picked up on every cue that was dropped in order to promote talking and build a rapport, but he was not interested in a rapport. He was there to weed out candidates and that is exactly what he did.

I felt confident that I did well where it counted, but it was not enough. I was not invited to a second-round interview, the multi-day affair where Microsoft flies you over to Washington and pays for everything so that they can subject you to a day-long interview gauntlet.

However, I am completely fine with not moving onto the second round. And that is because I already have plans.

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The plans looked a bit like this, hastily scribbled onto a piece of paper with an old Spanish homework. They was spurred into being by Chris, and dreamed up and laid out during one of my classes. It was the roadmap to an essay that, with Shelly's help, won me a scholarship.

My benefactor was a UK-based software testing company that was moving into Burlington, Massachusetts. They recently started a program that offered scholarships to BU computer science students, the winners receiving a lump sum as well as an internship.

The money was definitely enticing, but the internship was the much more valuable prize. Being very young and having so little experience, I would cherish any opportunity to build up my resume and gain momentum. The internship was originally scheduled to be in Burlington. Its actual status was up in the air for a few months until I was notified that no, there was in fact no place for me at their Burlington office, but they would remain true to their word and offer me an internship.

In England.

Exeter, England to be more specific. For two months I am going to be staying at the University of Exeter and working for a company generous enough to provide me this opportunity. I'll have two months to see whether the sky looks any different in Europe than it does in America and whether cars driving on the wrong side will faze me. Two months to collect as much foreign currency as I can, since it seems to be the most popular souvenir requested so far. Two months of a five-hour time difference from my friends. Two months alone being somewhere I never thought I would be compelled to be by myself.

But for you, my readers, it will be two months of posts and pictures, of pining and preaching. And for me, at the very least, two months of preparing for off-campus life next school year.

30Jan/084

A trophy -> rle,lzw,lzo,7z

I will admit that this is the first time my ass has been sore. Still, going 8-2 against the other fencing students was worth it.

Also, thankfully, rock climbing only seems to destroywork out my forearms and hands, leaving the glutes and lower free for fencing to mangle.

Filed under: General, Life, Riddle, School 4 Comments
26Jan/086

In Spanish + Burnett’s secret – 303 DirecTV

I went into this semester resolved to take a gym class of some sort. Not because there was some requirement, not to get extra credits, but just because the opportunity was there.

I had always had an interest in fencing, but never joined the fencing club that started up the end of my last year of high school. Maybe I liked the idea of poking someone with a blade, or I thought that fencers just looked really cool.

I'm taking fencing this term as an hourly class twice a week for one credit over at FitRec, and it's definitely as cool I imagined it. I enjoy the mind games that you have to play with your opponent to psych him out, to make him miscalculate, to make him become overconfident and set himself up for disappointment. I like the rising tension during the approach, and how time slows down as your mind speeds up during an attack. You're always thinking, always alert, judging your opponent's distance and reach in comparison to your own.

Which, I will admit, is usually an unfair balance for me. I'm rather short, and with short height comes short legs and short limbs. Compared to taller guys, I have little in the way of reach, and can cover less distance when retreating, advancing, or lunging.

Reach matters quite a bit in our first exercise. Before we're allowed to hold a blade one class from now, we're practicing everything else: footwork, right of way, and tactics. Instead of using a blade, we're using a glove. This is saber fencing, which normally allows any kind of hit above the waist. For this exercise, we loosely wield a glove and have to try to hit each other in the chest or back.

To exemplify right of way, a fencing concept in which an attacker's hit has scoring priority over a defender's hit, we take turns attacking and defending. The attacker is allowed an advance and a lunge, during which the defender can make up to two retreats. Once the advance and lunge are taken, the roles are switched.

There is no blocking allowed, and actions can be of any length, so you do not have to take a full advance or a full retreat. This turns the exercise into one primarily about tactics and distance. The two fencers start out a good distance from each other, and advance closer while taking their turns. The object is to get your opponent to misjudge the distance at which he can hit you, so that he lunges and barely misses as you are retreating, ending up right next to you. Once that happens, he's practically giving you the point, since you are now on the attack and can easily hit him.

In practice it rarely works out that way for me. Being rather short, I have a rather significant disadvantage in terms of reach and movement in this exercise. Since the attacker is only allowed a single advance, with their lunge not advancing them very far (only extending their reach), a defender with two retreats should actually be able to increase the distance between himself and the attacker, resulting in fencers drifting apart from each other if they take full retreats.

This is not so in my case; in fact, the taller people in the class can actually still hit me even if I make two full retreats, and I'm hard-pressed to hit them if they take two or even one full retreat.

I therefore have to be sneaky to win. I have to take my attack immediately after they finish theirs, to get them off-balance and to get them to make mistakes. I have to keep our distances under my control.

I want them to back off more than they should thinking that I'll advance, putting him out of reach. I want them to not advance as far as they should to hit me, thinking that I'll retreat.

Feinting to achieve those results is difficult, to say the least. It's absolutely thrilling and absolutely tiring. You're moving all the time, and if you're not moving, all your muscles are tensed, and if your muscles aren't tensed, you're probably going to lose the point. After a dozen bouts, you're caught up in a exhausted but focused trance where you forget about the half dozen matches around you and only see your opponent. All you see are his movements, his reactions, his responses to you toying with him and his frenzied attempts to try and outmaneuver you.

And just like that, it's over. The world rushes back to me and I'm smiling, being a good sport and laughing with my opponent about how he just barely caught me. We walk back to our sides of the room, take a slow breath, turn around, assume a ready stance, and the world slowly dissolves once more as we begin our approaches.

I'm not sure how I'll do with a blade in my hand, but I can't wait to find out.

Filed under: General, Life, Riddle, School 6 Comments
1Nov/072

Fireman’s hatchet variation + Penny

Unconsciously giving a Southern drawl to a West Indies plantation owner during a play reading in Writing 150 was totally unexpected but surprisingly fun once I realized what I was doing.

Filed under: Amusing, Riddle, School 2 Comments
5Oct/074

Mass. + Lexan bottle – Elle – ね

The good part about college? You can literally have no homework due for two weeks.

The bad part about college? All four of your classes have large homeworks due that day, two weeks from now. It's awfully hard to not start assignments the day before, but I'll find a way.

Filed under: Musings, Riddle, School 4 Comments
9Sep/073

Soñando, deseando, haciendo

Rising Stuyvesant sophmores used to be required to take Drafting 1, and were then required to take either Drafting 2/Honors Drafting or Introduction to Computer Science.

For once in my life, I went past the call of duty by not only taking Honors Drafting, but Intro to Compsci at the same time. To top it off, I took an optional compsci course at the same time, and followed both drafting and compsci course paths to full completion in later years. AP Compsci, both of the senior-level compsci courses, Technical Drawing, and Architecture were what padded out my remaining years at Stuy. Choosing to do the extra work and stick it out with both course paths turned out to be one of the smartest things I've ever done, because despite my major being computer science, I was totally prepared for both of my internships, especially my current one at JDP Mechanical.

Transitioning from CADKEY to AutoCAD was easier than I expected. I was already familiar with how CAD drawings are handled and manipulated, so all it took was a little experimentation and direction to find out which command I needed to enter to do what I wanted. CAD work is actually quite fun, and while I'm very efficient, I'm still amazed at how fast my dad can mold his drawings to what he sees in his mind.

Unfortunately, drafting is only half the battle, and the lower-paying half at that. The reason my father gets paid the big bucks (big = only slightly more) is because he is able to solve problems. The primary problem is that New York City is brimming with people, Manhattan in particular, and every cubic foot of space is precious. Given the choice between making the machine room comfortably big and squeezing out a couple extra hundred thousand dollars isn't really a choice at all. Landlords will always choose to make the extra money and hope that their AC and heating units will fit in the little niche carved out in the basement. And therefore, landlords will always need companies like the one my father works for. He coordinates with all the other contractors, trying to make sure that his water pipes can fit alongside the gnarled masses of the electrician's cables and the plumber's sewage lines, while making sure he isn't getting in the way of the gigantic ducts strewn across the ceiling.

My father is paid well because it is difficult to compensate for human error while minimizing costs and working on a deadline. It's a difficult job that requires an intimate knowledge of the industry and its conventions. From a purely practical standpoint, it's the best career for me to jump into. It is such a niche field that experienced, dedicated workers are far and few, which means companies are more willing to train and cultivate workers. I already have a great foundation of CAD knowledge, and I found that my mind easily warped to decipher schematics and reconstruct them in my mind. To top it off, I have one of the best draftsmen in the industry as a personal mentor.

But the best worker and father I've known also gave me one of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard: "Do something you love, because if you like it, you won't mind putting in the hours to become great at it." It summarizes very well the key to his success, but it also summarizes why I'm so hesitant to take up what would otherwise be a great opportunity. I know I could be good at it, but I don't know if I would be willing to put in the effort to become great. I remember happily spending hours coding up my first programming project, making a freakish monstrosity easily two or three times the size of everyone else's projects. At least a third had been handwritten during my free time between classes and on the train, without ever wondering or worrying about the amount of time I was putting into the project. Programming was fun, and still is. Debugging is frustrating but ultimately rewarding. Difficulties are exciting challenges, not hinderances.

That's the attitude my dad wants me to have, because while he would love for me to follow in his footsteps, he wants me to be happy most of all. My job is going to be somewhere I spend 8+ hours a day, so given the chance, I ought to spend all that time doing something I love. I want to keep being able to say that I love my life and have never regretted the choices I've made.

So I'm going to go for it. I'm not going to settle; I'm going to keep dreaming and desiring, so that one day I'll be able to do. If I fail, it is not going to be for lack of dedication. But if I succeed, it will be.

30Aug/076

“I just watched her make the same mistakes again”

Instead of writing what I would like to think about, perhaps I'll write about what I am thinking about. Which, in fact, is nothing. Nothing at all. I'm feeling more listless now than I have all summer. My mind doesn't think of quips, it doesn't think of comforting words, it doesn't think of conversation...it just doesn't think. It doesn't process information. It forces laughs when they're prompted, it forces eye contact when it's prompted.

And yet I'm not sure what triggered it. My first day at work was spent being excited, nervous, and cheery. I talked to each and every customer with my usual gusto, left work happy, and met up with friends. And sometime between shopping with them at Bed Bath & Beyond and getting home, a part of me just stopped trying.

Perhaps I'm just tired. I dealt with a lot of people today, and had to wrack my brain for solutions to their questions. I know that I have a low quota for social activity, and I often appreciate alone time after going out with friends. But this isn't quite a need for alone time, because not even watching TV or checking my RSS feeds provided me with any satisfaction.

I originally attributed it to loneliness. Playing with Bunnie vividly reminded me of the lack of physical contact in my everyday life. As strange as it sounds, I had never missed it before she entered my life. I had appreciated it but never felt a desire for it. She was the one who showed me what I was missing, showed me of the power she held over me. I know that simply by hugging me tightly and not letting go, she could make me forget about my deepest and most entrenched worries. Strange and unnatural for someone who relies so heavily on reason.

But now, there's no one to go to. This is one of those rare occasions where I actually don't know the answer to my own question. Perhaps there is an answer out there, but honestly, I don't even know if there's a question anymore. And there's no one to notice that I'm not there asking or answering. The freshmen here are looking for the easygoing friends that they can become lifelong buddies with. My sophmore friends are in their own little worlds, and I suppose I'm in one of my own. The difference is...I'm not so sure I want to be in it by myself. I may have people here with me, but I certainly don't feel like it. I feel too awkward to call attention to myself, feel embarassed when I do get attention, and yet complain that I don't get attention?

Maybe I'm not lonely. Maybe I'm just regretting.

5Jul/074

You + Palm Pilot/Pocket PC + て

Getting out of school a month before your brother does and three weeks before your summer classes start leaves you with a lot of free time. I tried new games and tossed them away, tried old games and tossed them away, used Flash to make text glint, started reading military science fiction again, and visited some friends while not visiting other friends. My chronic ennui reappeared on cue, as did its periodic remission. I'm not as productive as I could be, but the pace of summer gives me a wide berth to be lazy.

My summer classes are only a few hours every day, and are just enough to keep moss from growing on me. The teacher was literally hired the day before class started, and didn't have a syllabus for a week. He writes tests that have confusing wording and answers that are identical in everything but syntax. He sometimes teaches us incorrect material and refuses to correct himself. In fact, the only thing he is good at is avoiding our questions, especially during tests. I do not think Hunter will depose him, simply because they have no one else. Based on the uproar we received when we went over the test, I'm pretty sure that we'll get passing grades just to shut us up. Once the term is over, Hunter can put this embarassing course behind them and we can put our liberal arts requirements behind us.

My social needs are pretty slim, so I've been very content this summer. I:

  • saw Curse of the Golden Flower with no sound while loitering in CompUSA and then again at an outdoor screening
  • tasted appropriately expensive samples of restaurants on 46th street at The Taste of Times Square
  • made my practically annual trip to the Museum of Natural History
  • learned Mahjong and Cranium
  • had my first sleepover, and found that I could not masturbate as fast as girls who have had boyfriends
  • chilled out to watch Stargate for several hours while eating questionable beef but tasty shrimp noodles and pork
  • proudly walked into the Jacob Javits center as president of Steven's Selective Services in order to snag freebies
  • slept through most of the July 4th fireworks
  • became left-handed

In terms of actual productivity? I've set up another photo album, one I think is far sexier than Coppermine and reminds me of a certain mp3 player brand. It doesn't let me categorize, label, or search very well, but it's simple to view and easy to add and link to. Tip: once you click an image to view a larger version, you can press your keyboard's arrow keys to scroll through the rest, as well as use your mouse to drag it around the screen. Sexy and easy? Oh my.

I've got several great games lined up, but there will be more posts when I find myself on the wrong end of a rifle too many times. For now, look at the glorious pictures of my freshman year. (Too many to bother linking, but I'll do that in the future whenever I make a new album.)

14Mar/072

Impale – alcohol + Et Tu brut(e||US)

I've been an idiot for the past semester and a half, but I'm coming back to BU with a fresh batch of resolve.

(Even though I spent a little too long dallying with the last bit of the title.)

Filed under: General, Life, School 2 Comments
5Mar/071

Topics to discuss during office hours

From Always Excel: Campus Markers and the Purpose of Boston University

As students at Boston University, we are expected to learn many things before we enter that right of passage called graduation... Mathematics may be used to rob a bank; chemistry used to kill; penmanship may be used to forge a check; psychology may be used to cheat one's fellows.

Filed under: Amusing, General, School 1 Comment