Sunday, May 25, 2008

In which the protagonist's uncharacteristically brilliant planning is thwarted

So, when you're going to do something outside, you know how it usually turns out that if you forget to consider bringing extra socks or you think before leaving the house, "nah... I probably won't get that wet," you end up really wishing you had something dry to put on your feet? I have a theory - it says that if you bring N pairs of dry socks with you, in hindsight you'll always realize that the correct number to bring would have been N+1.

On Sundays, as long as it is not snowing and people don't have homework to worry about, a bunch of friends and I spend the afternoon playing soccer. Usually, after soccer, I am sweaty and covered with dust (or mud, depending on the condition of the field), however I only occasionally remember to bring a change of clothes/shoes so I can stay at work in clean and dry clothes for a while before I go home. Today was one of those rare days... anticipating a rainy afternoon, I figured I should bring a complete change of clothes so as to have something comfortable to wear for dinner and the return journey to my house. We played for two hours, and while the sky looked mildly threatening for a while it didn't actually rain. When I got back to my office I put on all my clean clothes to avoid being sweaty and smelling as bad as I otherwise would have. Then, I went out to dinner with some fellow soccer players.

Now, in some incredibly cruel twist of fate, it began pouring while we were at dinner (roughly half a mile from the building we work in and where I'd left my stuff) so my previously dry clothes got soaked on the way back to the office to retrieve my laptop and my soccer stuff. What's even worse is that the shoes in question were the my last pair of dry sneakers. My other pair were taken sailing on Friday and ended up completely water-logged... they're still damp. And ironically, the jeans in question had just been washed as they had also gone sailing (they smelled suspiciously like lake water when they got home). So, despite my best efforts, I had to come home and immediately change clothes anyway... and because it's been thundering like crazy for the last hour I will need to change again after I can finally take a shower. Gah.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A hypothetical question

I am not going to name names here, but I recently heard a story that was both puzzling and amusing. Say you work on some sort of science experiment that measures something. It measures it relative to a particular coordinate system, with some known accuracy, which one might want to transform into another coordinate system. The question is, assuming the transformation from the initial to the final system is non-trivial, do you need to injure yourself writing code to make the transformation accurate to 1/1,000,000th of the accuracy of your initial measurement?

While I understand that one needs to avoid introducing errors in the coordinate transform, I strongly suspect that making it six orders of magnitude more precise than the initial measurement is a waste of time.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

An account of a recent dinner adventure

This evening, confronting the possibility of having to a) walk to the grocery store or b) eat ramen for dinner I talked one of my roommates into going to the Greenbush Bar (otherwise known as the most awesome place to get pizza in Madison) for dinner. So we left our house at around 7pm. The events that followed are listed here, in rough chronological order.

7:10 - We arrive at the bar and are put on the waiting list (wait estimated at 15-20 minutes)
7:25 - We are seated, and get menus and water.
7:27 - Our waitress stops by briefly to say that she will be back to get our orders in a minute.
7:47 - We start to suspect that we've been forgotten.
7:50 - The waitress comes back and takes our order. She apologizes for our wait, offering the explanation that "people" keep showing up and buying the staff shots. She maintains that she's only had one. We're skeptical, but amused. She takes the menus, promises to bring us bread and more water, and leaves.
7:55 - The waitress comes back to take out order and apologizes for the fact that we don't even have menus. We point out that we've already ordered. We're still amused. She promises to bring us more water.
7:57 - We get bread.
8:00 - The waitress comes back and writes down our order again because she can't find it.
8:03 - The waitress will be back in a minute with our water.
8:15 - We get more water.
-- Intermission --
The people at the table to the left of me (same server) have gotten their bill and seem puzzled and somewhat annoyed. They ask the waitress to remove their beer from the bill because it never arrived. We begin to fear for our food. The waitress doesn't seem to know what to do and begins hassling the guy who pointed out that they were not going to pay for the beer that they didn't get. The host is recruited to mediate. He apologizes profusely, fixes the bill himself, and provides the manager's phone number to the aggrieved parties. The waitress continues to argue.
-- End Intermission --
8:25 - My roommate gets her salad. She asks for a fork.
8:35 - We get more bread. My roommate asks for a fork again. The people sitting to my right, who have been amused by our plight offer her one of their unused forks.
8:38 - Our waitress returns with napkins and silverware. We're slightly less amused.
9:10 - We realize we haven't seen the waitress for a while and start trying to decide what our chances of getting our pizza are. It occurs to us that if our waitress was on something to start with the effects of one shot might have been massively amplified.
9:12 - We spot our waitress as she tries to give a carry-out box to some people who haven't had and leftovers boxed. We decide that we're not going to leave a tip and debate leaving enough cash to cover the bill, without actually getting the bill on the theory that this will reduce the time we spend waiting for our waitress to not be distracted. However, I point out that this plan assumes we actually *get* our pizza. We are not amused.
9:30 - We ask the waitress for the table next to ours if she would mind checking on our pizza. She returns with a pizza with tomatoes and olives and asks if it looks right. We point out that we ordered tomatoes and *basil.* She offers to put the order in again - but we decide we mostly just want to eat.
9:32 - The neighboring table's waitress comes back with another, cold-looking pizza with tomatoes and basil. Apparently, it had been sitting around for a while, but wasn't labeled with the table number... My roommate explains to the useful waitress that we actually had our order taken twice, so maybe it was actually sent into the kitchen twice. The waitress laughs, leaves us the second pizza and tells us that we should make sure we only pay for one.
9:45 - Done eating, we ask the neighboring waitress to box up our extra pizza and bring us our check. She obliges. We conspire with the people at the table next to us to leave the tip at their table, to ensure that *our* waitress doesn't get it.
9:55 - Our waitress collects the bill (with my roommate's debit card) and promises to return shortly. We're skeptical... but she does manage to return in under 10 minutes and, amazingly, with the correct card and bill. My roommate puts no tip on the bill and we leave.
10:00 - We return to our house. I am slightly scared to go back - lest I have to endure the same awful server again. It's depressing, because the pizza is really good (the service is also generally very good). However, it seemed like all of the staff was pretty aware that there was a problem, so perhaps the waitress won't last very long.