Monthly Archives: September 2011

Al’s Guide to Regular Expressions

regexRegular expressions always came up for me when I was minoring in Computer Science in school and even still when I was a Program Manager at Microsoft. I always wished I had a “cheat sheet” as a reference, but I never found one that I liked, so I figured I’d write a post that was actually “useful” for a change.

Warning to all you computer-y people: this will probably just be review for you guys, so don’t expect to learn anything new.

Definition: regular expressions –n;

Things people say casually at work that sound pretty normal and don’t get you slapped, generally in the context of software engineers.


  1. “Ship it.” – This means that you agree or approve.
  2. “Your bug doesn’t meet the bar” – This means that the priority of something was not high enough to warrant action.
  3. “What’s the high order bit here?” —  You’re asking what the most important concept is.
  4. “I’m not sure that that’s right.” – This is what you say when you flat out disagree with someone and don’t want to hurt their feelings.
  5. “We can certainly consider it, but…” – See both 2 and 4.
  6. “I think we have to look back to our goals” – Your proposal sounds like you pulled it out of your ass.

Examples of expressions that are not regular:

  1. “Let’s go dancing after work.”
  2. “I really enjoyed the smell of the people around me on the bus during my commute.”
  3. “Nah, I can’t play StarCraft. I’ve got a date tonight.”

Next up: Big O-face notation: Surprised smile

Tagged , ,

What’s a facebook? And why does everyone keep complaining about it???

If there’s one thing I know that I don’t appreciate in life, it’s change. That’s why I still sport a bedazzled denim jacket from 1987, and I wear burlap underwear, which was the fashion at the time in the 17th century when underwear was first invented.

So imagine my surprise when I find out that people are using something called “Facebook,” complain about it every time there’s a new update, threaten to stop using it, and then forget all about all of the changes and go about their business. I don’t know how people deal with that!

Personally, when I want to share my thoughts with my peers, I prefer to load up Word Perfect 7.1, which I actually converted to PDP8 assembly so I could run it on my mainframe, which is then interfaced with a series of bobbins which weave a tapestry that displays my blog. The tapestry is then distributed to my friends via carrier pigeons on steroids.

And how has this been working for me? I’m not going to lie. It sucks. Every once in a while, the punch card manufacturer that I use arbitrarily decides to change the material with which they create punch cards (wtf is “recycled product”?), and the pigeon handlers (aka “Pigeoners”) threaten to unionize.

Really, I miss the good ol’ days of wooden punch cards, carrier velociraptors, and no underwear.

Tagged , ,

A “return” to homework?

Many of you who read my blog may have been out of academia long enough that you don’t remember what homework was like. I’m here to describe it to you, based on my current experiences retaking General Chemistry.

  1. You log onto your class’s website to receive instructions about going to another site.
  2. You create an account on the other site with a completely different set of credentials, and you give them your credit card number so they can do whatever they want with it.
  3. The site tries to upsell you on the eBook. The eBook is the same as the textbook that you spent up to $150, but it’s more… uh… electronic.
  4. You spend a bunch of time learning a crazy language for talking to computers via plaintext <input> fields. For example, H2O is written as “H_2_O.” Superscripts, like in OH+, are written as “OH^+^.” It’s like a cat smiling at you!
  5. If you get a set of problems right, the site tries to encourage you:


But it does so sometimes in an awkward way like it didn’t expect you to succeed:


And sometimes it just says crazy ass shit:


Tagged ,

Wrong Subway Line Chicken

MTA_Subway_EastsideEarlier today, the roommate Mike and I were headed back to our apartment from Union Square. To do this, we’re supposed to take the uptown 6 (green line). However, I thought it’d be funny if I proposed that instead we take the N R Q (yellow line), which takes you to either Queens or Brooklyn. That’s when I realized that this was potentially a great game:

“Wrong Subway Line Chicken.”

How to play:

  1. On the way to the subway, one person proposes that everyone take a subway line that does not take you where you want to go.
  2. The first person to back out or insist on taking the right subway line loses.
  3. Bonus points for suggesting a subway line that takes you somewhere really shady.
  4. If the game ends at JFK International Airport, the game can be continued by proposing a flight. Bonus points for international destinations. Canada does not count.

Keys to the game:

  1. Having really low opportunity cost. This game favors people that are unemployed, single, and have nothing better to do than to drag their friends down with them in the name of humor/honor.
  2. Having low relative opportunity cost. Well, okay, having nothing better to do is a general good way to win points, but really, it doesn’t help you if your friends are also unemployed. If this is the situation you’re in, be sure to propose to play this game when you know that your friends are in a rush for some reason.
  3. Being completely oblivious as to where the subways take you. This makes everything feel like an adventure. Jamaica Center? That sounds nice!
Tagged , ,

Banquet TV dinners past and present

Can you tell what’s missing here:


Take your time.

Time’s up. The correct answer is: A SECOND PIECE OF CHICKEN.

The other day, I was at my local “supermarket” looking for “backup meals.” Back up meals are just a source of calories for when you may not have had the chance to cook and just want a quick meal without a lot of hassle. Good back up meals should have a low cost/calorie ratio. Naturally, I go to the TV dinner section thinking that Moore’s Law of Frozen/Preserved Meals should be yielding 10,000 calorie meals for only $1 (way more than when I last ate a TV dinner). What I saw instead were:

  • Stouffers – $6. These are surprisingly tasty and yield a fair number of calories, but it exceeds the “Cheap Chinese Food Barrier.” The “Cheap Chinese Food barrier” is the price of a cheap Chinese food takeout meal. If a frozen meal exceeds that price, I’d prefer to get cheap Chinese food.
  • Smart Ones – $4. These look like a pretty good deal at first until I realized that a box only had 230 calories and 11g of protein! At this point, I might as well have a protein shake for $0.75 (cost of protein powder+ milk)!
  • Banquet Fried Chicken – $1.50. I was pretty excited that these were on sale for 2 for $3, so I bought a whole bunch of them. However, I was really sad that they were missing the SECOND piece of chicken. Back when I was a kid, mother Banquet would prepare me frozen meals with a tiny scoop of potatoes, a tiny scoop of corn, and TWO pieces of chicken. Though it was still probably a pretty good deal for $1.50, it just made me sad. Oh how times have changed!

Oh, and here were a few other acceptable answers that have nothing to do with this post:

  • a spoon (a cha!)
  • most of the stuff you actually want in a meal (micronutrients, fiber, etc)
  • ketchup

Next up: Why does my Kefir have clumps in it?

Tagged , , ,

The Ramen Kit

I’m pretty excited today because my “Ramen Kit” has arrived in the mail. What’s a “Ramen Kit” you ask? It’s:


  • A 7” Bowl
  • A couple pairs of chopsticks (textured at the bottom for enhanced grippiness!)
  • A soup spoon (that I don’t really use, but the Ramen Kit would be incomplete without it)
  • ~40 packs of Chinese instant noodles

Often when I tell people about my Ramen kit, I’ll get a either the response of “oh. nice, I guess?” or “hey, for a guy that works out as much as you do, I’m surprised you don’t care more about what you put in your body” (cough cough, Andrew). To those of you that are thinking the latter, I’ve put together the following responses. (They’re kinda mutually exclusive, so imagine that if someone said it to me, I’d pick one of these responses at random.)

  • Hey, that’s a rather bourgeois comment! I’m a starving college student with almost no income (due to my love of beer, whiskey, and high-rise apartments). This is a solid number of calories for a fraction of a dollar!
  • There’s all this nutritional “voodoo” about how bad everything is for you and how one study shows this and another study shows that. Yeah, preservatives probably aren’t great for you, but worrying about it seems to be a second order problem compared to having solid health fundamentals like exercising a lot and making sure you’re getting your macro nutrients (protein, carbs, fats), which I’ll make sure I get across the entire day.
  • Yeah, you’re probably right, but I make up for it by having Tasti-D. Did you know it’s only 70 calories????

So that’s that for today. Next: my thoughts on how Banquet TV dinners have changed over the years.

Tagged ,

Preparing for a move: just the tip… that I give people.

I’ve had two reasonably crappy experiences with relocating to a new home recently, but there’s always been one fun part of it: finishing all of your booze so that there’s less to move. In today’s post, I chronicle what I’ve been drinking recently and  talk about how great drinking is in general!

1. Dalwhinnie


When I arrived in New York, Mike, Jeet, and I celebrated by buying a bottle of liquor that only I liked. Yay! Dalwhinnie is a delightful, slightly smoky single malt Scotch. I like to say that it warms the cuckolds of your heart, but Mike likes to remind me that the proper word is “cockle.”

2. Hoegaarden


Jeet and I were looking for some beers that would be good to drink while watching Jersey Shore. Since Jeet wasn’t really a big fan of beer, I thought I needed to introduce him to something that would be flavorful but not too heavy. I settled on Hoegaarden, a unfiltered and delightfully spiced wheat beer. Fun thing I learned about Hoegaarden: they are not fun to drink a lot of to make moving easier.

3. Woodchuck Amber Cider

woodchuck cider

Mike flat out does not enjoy beer, and any time he tastes liquor, he makes this awful face like a child eating broccoli. I set out on a mission to find something that he could enjoy. Cider is sweet and alcoholic! Mike is okay with this.

4. Pinot Project Pinot Noir


No idea what this is, but it was on hand, and it needed to be drank, so in the words of Putty, “gotta support the team.”

5. Mike’s Hard Mango Punch


I invited a bunch of people over to motivate me while I packed and offered to buy booze in return. When I saw that QFC had  Mike’s Hard Mango Punch, my reaction was, “Mike’s Hard has a new flavor???”

Ionno! Sometimes you gotta mix it up with something sweet!

6. Bitburger


To be clear, I like a good Bud Light in the morning, but I think pilsners get a bad name when people associate them with less flavorful, mass-produced American beers like Budweiser and Coors. Bitburger is a pilsner done right! It is best served cold while you’re sick of packing and kinda sitting and enjoying the summer air.

7. Le Fin du Monde


Le Fin du Monde is a flavorful abbey-style Belgian trippel. Its alcohol content is relatively high. I’m actually a bigger fan of Delirium Tremens, but La Fin Du Monde seems to be easier to find. This was another “hey guys, drink good beer with me while I pack” beer.

8. Columbia Winery’s Covey Run Moscato

covey run moscato

Any time I drink this, I make up some BS story about how it reminds me of a delightful spring night’s jaunt through the Italian countryside. Over the hills, you can almost see Hannibal’s war elephants traversing the Italian alps and heading for Rome, and in the brook to your right, Silvio Berlusconi is inner tubing with 5 Italian models/actresses. Okay, I’m not a wine guy. I just know that I like the Moscato (enough to tolerate the almost guaranteed hangover).

9. Other stuff

So I think I realized that I should probably cut down on the drinking when I realized that I needed an “other stuff” section to cover all of the other stuff I’ve had over the last two weeks that I’ve had to “finish” to “make moving easier.” There was sake, a box of red wine, and a bunch of other beer. So that said, I’ll just kinda sign off for now.

Tagged , , , ,

Al over the years (as seen by the man)


My name is Al, and for those of you who don’t know me, I currently look kinda like this:

al now small

I say “kinda” because that photo is actually more than a year old, but I pretty much still look like this. It’s hard to tell in this photo as my hair is normally invisible against the night sky, but I’ve shaved my head, and I’m not wearing glasses.

However, if you received an email from me at Microsoft over the past 4 years, you saw this photo in Outlook:


This photo was taken in 2006 during my Microsoft summer internship orientation. At the time, I was growing out my hair because it seemed like the “Seattle-ish” thing to do (or I was just kinda of lazy… not sure which it really was). I was a solid 20lbs lighter (though this girl at the ProClub thought I looked heavier in this photo), and I had glasses. The orientation folks took this photo, set it as my “profile photo,” and I thought it was too adorable to change over 40 years (even after I gained some weight, shaved my head, and lost the glasses).

Fast forward back to the present — I’m once again a student, and if you’re a security guard at Columbia and checked my ID, you’d see this photo:


This photo was taken in 2003. I was a senior in high school, and my college needed me to send in a photo to put on my student ID. This school, which I’ve come back to now, has such great record keeping that they’ve kept my student ID photo on file, preventing me from submitting a new photo. As a result, this is the photo on my student ID.

Aww! Old photos! Okay, trip down memory lane over.