Posted: June 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

I might have found an escape.

And it’s to a metropolitan area smaller than the one I’m already in. (So the Winesburg analogy wasn’t perfect. That’s okay.)

I’m driving up to the Quad Cities this weekend for a job interview, then will visit a job fair while I’m there. Am I nervous? I sure am. Am I hopeful? Even more so.

Details hopefully to come.


A very well meaning kid

Posted: April 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

This past weekend, I played in a local chess tournament. Between rounds, I saw a player I know explain to a younger player how he sees his opponent as an enemy and tries to find a way to crush him. The kid kept insisting, “But God says to love your enemies!”

I thought this was cute.

A trip to Davenport, Iowa

Posted: March 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

I’ve had the opportunity to do a bit of travel the last couple of months – I went up to Minneapolis two months ago, I had the chance to go to Oklahoma last month, and this weekend, I was offered a ride to Davenport, Iowa for a chess tournament.

Davenport is part of the Quad Cities area (which is apparently actually made up of five cities, according to Wikipedia). I knew the area was kind of rough and blue collar, but it was more so than I expected. It may partly be the area that the chess club here is in (it’s downtown, about four blocks from the Mississippi River). There are crumbling buildings, seedy-looking liquor stores (and oddly enough, I’ve seen a couple of seedy looking bowling alleys here in town), and many vagrant people.

The club itself is in a small brick building with cracked windows with halfway visible, faded “Now leasing” lettering on the front. Serving as an unmistakable contrast is the front sign, which says “Gentlemen’s Chess Club”, with a picture of a pawn wearing a bowler. It’s a fairly small but comfortable enough room with a tiny room in the back to go over games, but in a loud area – there’s a fire department one block away, and several ambulances came racing out of it during today’s tournament, and there are also train tracks three or four blocks away, along the Mississippi. The tournament director was kind enough to supply ear plugs, though I didn’t use them.

Davenport very much reminds me of St. Louis – or at least the part of town I’ve been in. Both are along the Mississippi River, have crumbling old factory buildings and other dilapidated looking facilities, etc. Honestly, though, I find this city fascinating – it’s certainly more interesting than the safe confines of suburbia. One of the streets near the chess club has fading pavement in the center, but old bricks on both sides of it, where people can park.

Incidentally, when I was driving through Iowa a couple months ago on my way to Minneapolis, at one point, the only radio station I could find was Iowa Public Radio, and they were talking about a heroin epidemic that had struck Iowa, and was particularly bad in the Quad Cities area. Apparently it’s very unfortunately situated along multiple lines of trafficking. I know a lot of times people in the Midwest like to joke about how it’s the “meth capital of the world” or whatever.. but these kinds of drugs really do have a devastating effect.

A shameless plug

Posted: January 7, 2012 in music

I’m pretty much in love with Spotify. They don’t have every song, but they have the majority of stuff that has come out on record labels. The commercials are something I’m more than willing to put up with in order to listen to things on demand (and to check out recommendations for similar artists). Sometimes the recommendations can be quite odd (for some reason it keeps thinking I want to listen to Nikki Minaj), but for the most part, there are good artist comparisons available.

I had another interesting subbing experience last week – working at what was basically a school for a group home for troubled children. I spent two days working with eight elementary age kids. While I had no idea why they were there, all eight exhibited behavior at some time or another that I would not have expected in an ordinary school. I found it striking how they could act sweet and compliant one minute and the next, lash out toward each other (or even me) with language one would never expect to hear from a child that age. There were even a couple of incidents at recess where kids attempted to physically attack a peer.

Fortunately, I was not alone. The facility had ample staffing with well trained adults who knew how to handle the kids. It was still quite a tiring experience, and quite an eye opener. It was also rewarding – these two days reminded me of past experiences I have had in alternative education. Notably, I have subbed in the juvenile detention center. Overall, I’ve found alternative education to be the most rewarding place to sub. If I can, I would really like to go into that field full time.

Customer service

Posted: August 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

The other night, I accidentally spilled a glass of water on my nightstand, soaking my smartphone. I ended up putting it in a sealed container with rice, and it looks like I’ll be able to get it back, but in the meantime, I needed a working phone, so I borrowed an old phone from my mom and called Sprint to transfer my account over to that phone. It took me four different phone calls, in which I came into contact with four different customer support representatives. One sounded like she had a really bad cold; one was a clearly southern lady, and another was a guy that sounded like he was from Texas. (In my head, I envisioned him sitting there wearing a cowboy hat.) Part of the problem was that one of them was giving me wrong advice, making the problem worse.

I know that people are rude to customer support people, so I try my best to be as polite as possible. I know they put up with a lot of unjustified frustration for what is clearly not their fault, so I didn’t see a reason to be rude even if the quality of the support was mixed at best.

From now on, though, I think I’ll put a cup with a lid on  my nightstand.

The supercomputer on Jeopardy

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

I was reading an article about the supercomputer that has been appearing (and winning) on Jeopardy. I realized that I was going for the humans, because the idea of a computer being able to beat us seems scary. (I also remember going for the human when they were having the human-computer chess championship a few years back).

However, what’s really so scary about that? We’ve long been okay with the fact that computers can do math problems faster than we can. Even though answering Jeopardy questions is a different type of intelligence, it’s not “real” intelligence and is completely dependent on what’s plugged into it. The computer can fail spectacularly.

I wonder if some people are worried that computers will develop minds of their own and try to take over the human race, but I don’t see that as plausible outside of movies/books. It makes for a nice science fiction plot, but I see no reason to think it would ever happen.

Either way, I’m irritated at myself because I forgot that was going to be on TV tonight. I’ll have to record it tomorrow night and watch. This also reminds me of my lifetime dream of appearing on a game show. I did appear on a quiz show that aired on local TV in college (and won it), but I’d like to go on a national game show. Maybe someday…