September 24, 2004


Heading to Wva to go white water rafting this weekend.

Camping out Saturday night.

A *lot* of IBMers are going.

Should be a lot of fun!

In General

Posted at 11:40 PM | Permanent link

September 23, 2004

On the search for the ideal study environment

Lately, I have been in search of the ideal environment in which to work and study. Since coming to the revelation during my junior year of college that I was on average five times more productive while doing work at the Starbucks on Euclid Heights than I was in my dorm room (henceforth known as the Starbucks Revelation) I have naturally assumed that a coffee shop atmosphere is the best place for me to work and study. Unfortunately, I'm finding more and more that the coffee shop environment breaks down when it comes to studying code, doing actual programming, or undertaking any technical endeavor that requires a focused period of intense thought.

I think that I am just becoming increasingly aware of the need for a quiet work environment through such beacons of light as Peopleware. So how is it that the Starbucks environment seemed to work so well for me? I think that it was, indeed, better overall than the dorm environment as it isolated me away from such distractions as my friends and the Internet (or is that redundant, hmm), but in fact suboptimal for highly technical matters. I suspect that I could have been even more productive in college had I spent more time programming in the library.

Coffee shops do offer some advantages over libraries - the ease of obtaining stimulating and relaxing beverages such as coffee and tea, the somewhat inspirational atmosphere of being surrounded by others who are studying (if one chooses a location wisely), and particularly the off-chance of having a random interesting conversation with someone new. Just last week as I was sitting in a Starbucks on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill when a middle-aged gentleman took notice that I was reading a book on ANSI Common Lisp and asked me out of curiosity why I was bothering to study Lisp in this day and age. Of course I explained to him my reasoning, and also had the opportunity to explain to him my take on the commoditization of software. Not only do such opportunities help get one's thoughts straight, they are enormously satisfying and have the potential to be educational in unexpected ways - well worth the sacrifice of a few hours of productivity.

What is needed is a combination of the two types of stimulating environments - either a coffee shop with quiet study rooms away from the main commotion or a library that has a more social area where one can buy coffee. Surprisingly, I actually found such a combo in the Birmingham Central Library in England. Alas, no such luck here, however. Just one of the many things that Americans (or at least North Carolinians) can learn from Europeans, I suppose. No such luck with the compartmentalized coffee shop either. About the closest one will come is a larger coffee shop, where it is easier to find a relatively deserted spot where one can concentrate (the Caribou Coffee in Chapel Hill is about the best I've found in this respect).

Lacking either of these ideal places, I am going to have to divide my time between spending time in coffee shops for less technically-intense activities and finding a quiet area for more technical areas of study. Reading books on general software development and meta-programming (such as Peopleware or Hackers and Painters or Joel on Software) are probably the upper limit of what the coffee shop environment will bear, with all other pseudo-technical and pleasure-reading included. These are the types of books that at a cursory reading tend to make one go "Hmm, that's interesting", or "Wow, good point, I never thought of that" that may lead to revelations and epiphanies later on as one applies the ideas therein and relates them to other concepts, but they do not require focused technical thought to grasp them at the moment. However, when one makes the jump to such activities as real programming and studying code in-depth, a higher level of concentration and therefore a quiet environment become necessary. I haven't yet decided where writing falls on the continuum. I am writing this essay in a coffee shop at the moment, but I suspect that a perfectly quiet area would actually be more ideal.

Unfortunately, finding a nice quiet study area proves to be a surprisingly difficult problem to solve at this point in my life. The home environment is not exactly ideal. Having a roommate with a girlfriend means that frequently there are people in the other room talking or watching TV while I am trying to think, and this leads to the temptation to want to go in the other room and hang out. Plus there is the constant calling of the Internet to want to be checked. Frankly, this environment is little better than the dorm environment that prompted the Starbucks Revelation in the first place.

Where else to look? The library? Unfortunately Raleigh's public library system more closely resembles a loose collection of branch libraries. There is no one large main library (that I know of) with a nice study area, and besides the libraries tend not to be open very late. A park can sometimes be an option, especially for reading, but only during the daytime and only during nice weather. Even then it is difficult to use a laptop outdoors. I also suppose that I could go into work and work in my cubicle on the weekends and after-hours when everyone else has gone home and things are actually quiet for a change, but this tends to be somewhat depressing after spending such an enormous amount of time there during the week. None of these places provides a reliable, pleasant solution and I am somewhat at a loss for other places to try.

I really wonder what the the libraries for the big three schools around here are like, whether they are open to the public or otherwise if I could find someway to insert myself into one of them on a regular basis. I will have to look into this. Anyone who goes to school at Duke, UNC, or NC State have any thoughts on this matter? Another option, I suppose, would be to try to rearrange my work schedule to take better advantage of the quiet times both at work and at home.

The quest continues. If anyone has any good suggestions on where to work and study in the post-university world, I would love to hear them.

In Matters involving the art of avoiding sloth

Posted at 12:32 AM | Permanent link

September 17, 2004

Paul Graham on Essays

Paul Graham is such a badass. I love his newest essay on essays.

In Matters that are otherwise worthwhile

Posted at 09:56 PM | Permanent link

September 11, 2004


I think that pretty soon I'm going to have to institute a moratorium on buying books. I'm buying books at like four times the rate that I can read them. Damn you, humanity, for writing so many interesting things to read. Damn you, Wake County Public Library system, for not having most of said interesting things. And damn you, George Bush, just for good measure.

In Matters that are otherwise worthwhile

Posted at 02:40 PM | Permanent link

September 09, 2004

Xanga RSS Fixer

Since switching to NetNewsWire as my feed reader software of choice, the RSS feeds for my friends with Xanga blogs quit working.

The problem, as it turns out, is that Xanga does not generate correct RSS for their feeds. It does not validate. This is quite unacceptable for a site as large as Xanga, and I've heard that they've been unresponsive to people pointing this out to them.

To fix this, I have written a Perl script that will fix up Xanga feeds to generate well-formed RSS. I'm running the script on my site and anyone who cares to use it is more then welcome to do so:


Running the script without parameters will present you with a prompt for a Xanga username.

Alternatively, you can pass the user parameter directly. This is the address you would put into a feed reader:


Naturally, we now get a nice happy validation message.

The sourcecode is available here:

I'm licensing this under the MIT license so in case Xanga happens to be reading this, they can use it to fix their shizit.

I have also created a project page here which essentially restates what this entry just said.


In Projects

Posted at 11:43 AM | Permanent link

September 08, 2004


I really liked this movie.

I think what people are finally starting to realize is that the action, while important is not in and of itself what makes a good superhero movie. The best superhero movies are the ones that give us a peak at superheros with real human emotions and demonstrate how one might really deal with "superhuman" qualities. This isn't new to comics in general, but it's a fairly new trend in Hollywood (beginning with Spiderman).

One of my most favorite scenes in this movie is the one where Hellboy is bounding around on rooftops, keeping an eye on Myers while he is walking with Liz, his "girl."

"She took his picture?! Damn! She took his picture... She took his picture... "

He then runs into a nine-year-old boy on one of the rooftops where they talk about women and eat cookies.

"Yeah, the old yawning trick... Watch his arm."

There was, of course, a lot of other typical comic book fair (y'know, saving the world from evil and all that jazz), but a cool movie overall.

In General

Posted at 10:34 PM | Permanent link

September 06, 2004

Labor Day


To celebrate the holiday, last night I made Bok Choi and Beef with garlic and pepper in the Didi He tradition. Don't know how close I actually came, but it was yummy anyway :)


Saw Garden State on Friday night. I really liked it, a lot. Looks like Zach Braff really has some potential. Of course, now I am totally in love with Natalie Portman's character in the film. If only things like that could happen in real life...but no.

I also totally need to get the soundtrack to this movie, which I thought was fantastic.

Will try to post more later.

Currently listening to:
Lazy Boy Dash from the album Bring Your Own Stereo by Jimmie's Chicken Shack

In Matters that are otherwise worthwhile

Posted at 09:51 AM | Permanent link

September 04, 2004

For Vasu

The video that Anders made for Vasu's service is available here:


This is beautiful, Anders. Thank you so much for putting it together.

I miss you Vasu.

In General

Posted at 05:17 PM | Permanent link

Musings on the Labor Day Weekend

Ugh, this past week was pretty hectic. A lot of things piling up at once, between working late (till 9:30 on Wednesday!!), buying the car, trying to get my laptop cleaned up and packed to shipped to my sister, and other things too...

No real plans for the holiday weekend. I'm just really glad that I have the extra day off to catch up on things and kick back for a change.

Hoping to clean the apt, catch up on some reading, catch up on some blogging, and add at least one major new feature to my website this weekend (I have a few in mind)

Whoever wrote Xanga's RSS generator was apparently retarded, and NetNewsWire (rightfully) chokes on Xanga feeds. Something must be done about this...

For those of ya'll who don't know what RSS is, I'm also planning on addressing this discrepancy soon as well.

Oh, by the way, I've added some more blogs to my blogroll ---->

It's nice to see so many people starting blogs nowadays.

Currently listening to:
I'm Money from the album Playmate Of The Year by Zebrahead

In General

Posted at 04:50 PM | Permanent link

The New Car

So I finally bought a new car: a Honda Civic EX.

It drives quite a bit different from the Jimmy (obviously), but I've been quite happy with it so far.

Got everything I wanted - front and side airbags, ABS, cruise control. Even got a sunroof.

But y'know, it's the little things like actually having air conditioning in 90 degree weather, and not having to get nauseous from inhaling fumes from the gasoline the car is leaking that make all the difference ;)

I'm also hoping it will save me quite a bit on gas each year (yay for finally ditching the SUV culture).

I actually bought the car from CarMax, which saved me quite a bit of money over what I would have paid at a normal Honda dealership (I shopped around). The downside is that I couldn't get the exact color I wanted.

The color is actually kind of funky. It's a really, *really* dark red, which almost looks black unless you look at it in direct sunlight. Kinda cool though. I'll try to snap a picture and update this entry next time I get a chance.

Karthik tells me that Starbucks chicks dig Honda Civics.

23:03:24 karthik007: have you picked up some hunnies in it?
23:03:34 joshstaiger: haha
23:03:37 joshstaiger: not yet
23:03:45 karthik007: come on, Josh
23:03:48 joshstaiger: not exactly a hunnies type of car I'm afraid
23:03:58 karthik007: at Starbucks it is!
23:04:11 joshstaiger: really?
23:04:14 karthik007: oh yeah
23:04:19 karthik007: is it manual?
23:04:21 joshstaiger: no
23:04:23 joshstaiger: automatic
23:04:36 karthik007: well, not quite as hip, but still pretty badass
23:04:51 joshstaiger: what makes you think that starbucks chicks dig civics?
23:06:45 karthik007: although the Starbucks goer, thinks of oneself as "on the cutting edge" (which you are, dont get me wrong), there is a tendency to think past "does Civic mean lame" to "Civic means dependability"
23:08:06 joshstaiger: ahh
23:08:07 joshstaiger: cool
23:08:14 joshstaiger: I like Starbucks chicks in general
23:08:27 joshstaiger: I guess I'll have to drop that into my conversations
23:08:27 karthik007: and everyone who's had a mocha carrabiata knows that dependable = sexy
23:08:33 joshstaiger: hahahaha
23:09:47 karthik007: yeah, when they ask if some motorcycle is yours, just give 'em the JoshStaiger laugh and say "Do I look like I'm that wreckless"?
23:09:56 joshstaiger: hahaha
23:10:24 karthik007: and when they say "Yes!"
23:10:41 karthik007: respond with "well, that's only because I'm wreckless with my heart, baby"
23:11:14 karthik007: "never with my fuel efficiency"

Well, I'm off to Starbucks. I'll see ya'll later...

In Matters that are otherwise worthwhile

Posted at 01:52 PM | Permanent link