Projects and Other Stuff

Projects and Other Stuff

I’m coo-coo for XKCD!

I wanted to buy a ticket to Randy Munroe’s (author of xkcd) book tour (set for today) at the Brattle Theatre, which came with a signed copy of his new “What If?” book. I set my alarm early on August 12th, determined to get one.

At 9:00 am on the 12th (the exact minute that tickets went up), the website for the tickets had crashed. I tried refreshing the page repeatedly, but each time the page served me with an esoteric error.  
 
At 9:50 am, I was finally able to access the website. All of the tickets were gone.
 
It turns out that some people went directly to EventBrite (an online ticketing platform) and snatched them up, while everyone else had been stuck on a server that had crashed.
 
I was really disappointed. Had I known about the EventBrite page, surely I would have gotten the ticket.  
 
As a consolation prize, I placed an order for a signed copy of the “What If” book through the Harvard Bookstore website (without the ticket). Orders weren’t guaranteed, but I’d be damned for not trying.
 
I also decided that I would tune in to Munroe’s public Google Hangout session on September 12th. It wouldn’t be the same thing, but it would give me a taste of what his presentation at the Brattle Theatre would be like.
 
Today, I received an email from the Harvard Bookstore confirming that I had gotten one of the limited numbers of signed books. It was waiting for me.
 
At the same time, a person on reddit was trying to sell his signed “What If?” book and his ticket for $30. I asked the seller if he was willing to sell me the ticket separately for a lower price, as I had already purchased the book. I never heard back from him.

In any case, I made the trip to Harvard Square on the subway to pick up my book. I exited the train station and pulled out the GPS on my Android phone. Somehow, I managed to get further and further away from the bookstore by using it.
 
It was suppose to be a two minute trip from the train station. I ended up spending thirty minutes before I found the place.
 
During my journey, I manged to stumble my way towards Harvard University. There were a bunch of students exiting the facility all at once. Knowing me, I cut right through them. Of course, the bookstore was nowhere near the University.

I entered the establishment and headed towards the information desk.
 
"My name’s Austin Guiney. I ordered online."
 
"What are you picking up?"
 
"A signed copy of ‘What If?’"
 
"Sure. I’ll check the back."
 
"What was your name?"
 
"Guiney. G-u-i-n-e-y."
 
"I couldn’t find anything with your name on it."
 
I started sweating.
 
"It might me under my mom’s name. Heinen. H-e-i-n-e-n."
 
My sweating intensified.
 
"Here you go."
 
She handed me the book.
 
"Would you like a bag with that?""
 
"Yes."
 
I struggled to put the book in the bag.
 
"Thank you."
 
I was gleeful. I had finally gotten my hands on an enigma.
 
The trip home didn’t feel very long.

My signed copy of “What If?” by Randy Munroe, author of xkcd.

Added a comments section + other changes

I’ve decided to integrate this blog with the Disqus commenting system. Clicking on the title for one of my posts will bring you to a submit box at the bottom of the page.

This will allow me to engage with my readers on a personal level and receive feedback on individual posts.

I’m not particularly fond of comments sections in general, but I feel this is necessary in order to grow my following.

All comments will have to be approved by me in order to maintain a baseline of quality. I won’t be super stingy in deciding what gets approved, it’s mostly to filter out spam and low quality comments.

I’ve also hidden notes for this blog. You can still like or reply to my posts, but it won’t show up under the notes section. This change is purely cosmetic.

Lastly, I’ve starting using Google Analytics in order to gauge the traffic that this blog receives. I’m not entirely sure how to use it yet, so I’m going to tinker with it for a few days.

That’s it! I promise not to disappear again.

An Overtime Sensation

In this article, I will talk about the circumstances leading up to the current overtime format in the NHL (“National Hockey League”), attempts to change it, and how to fix it.

A brief history of overtime in hockey.

The concept of overtime during the regular season is not a new idea. Little known is the fact that overtime dates all the way back to the inaugural 1917-1918 NHL season. The very first overtime game was a 6-5 Montreal Canadiens win over the Ottawa Senators on January 5th, 1918.

Teams that were tied played an unlimited amount of “sudden death” overtime, which was played 5-on-5. Play continued until a player scored. There were no ties during this era. Teams did not receive a single (“extra”) point in the standings for losing in overtime1.

The NHL modified the overtime format for the 1921-1922 season. Overtime was now limited to 20-minutes of “sudden death” play. A scoreless overtime resulted in a tie for both teams.

This change held up for a few seasons before the NHL decided to limit overtime to 10-minutes of “sudden death” play for the 1927-1928 season.

The following season, the NHL removed the “sudden death” provision from the overtime format. This format was unique because it was the only time in history that more than one goal could be scored in overtime. A tied game at the end of overtime was a tie in the standings.

It’s interesting to note that the WHA (“World Hockey Association”) would use this type of overtime period during its brief existence from 1972-1979.

The NHL abolished overtime very briefly into the 1942-1943 season because of World Word II travel restrictions. This ensured that teams would be able to catch their trains after games. Games that would have gone to overtime were now considered ties at the end of regulation.

The last game that used the 10-minute overtime was a 5-3 New York Rangers win over the Detroit Red Wings on November 10th, 1942. The NHL did not re-introduce the 10-minute overtime period at the conclusion of World War II.

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I finally received my high school year book in the mail! This will be a huge time sink.

I finally received my high school year book in the mail! This will be a huge time sink.

Life Round-up

I now realize that the idea of publishing a new blog post every Friday is too ambitious and stressful. Sacrificing the quality of this blog in order to meet those demands is out of the question. Instead, I’ll go back to my usual routine of publishing content sporadically. Who’s counting, anyways?

Still, I’d like to compensate my readers for all of those missed updates. Introducing … the life round-up!

The Interview

I wrote about a possible job opportunity a few months ago.

I sent a cover letter to a contact acquired from my mother, in which I inquired about a paid internship for programing. Within a few days, I received a reply from the contact, who requested an in-person interview with me at his office downtown.

The meeting was scheduled for that Friday, the time anywhere from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Things didn’t go exactly as planed.

I left the house later than I should have. I was now at the mercy of the MBTA’s infrequent (and sometimes terrible) train service. I arrived at South Station at around 4:30 pm. Not knowing how to reach the contact’s office, I turned to my phone and pulled up Google Maps.

The built-in GPS on my phone proved to be the single most frustrating thing I’d ever experienced. I walk in circles for ten to fifteen minutes.

The mobile crowd walking to and fro intensified my feelings of anxiety. I was close to experiencing a nervous break down. Knowing that I would not be able to reach the meeting, I called the contact and rescheduled the appointment. The meeting was set for next Thursday, at 4:00 pm.

The same thing wasn’t going to happen twice. That Sunday, I traveled with my mother to the contact’s office so that there would be no possibility of getting lost. Who needs a GPS?

On the day of the meeting, I still got lost. I walked up a street adjacent to the one that I was supposed to go to. Those feelings of frustration and anxiety returned.

After walking up and down for far too much time, I stumbled across the building that the meeting was scheduled at. It was 3:59 pm. I rode the elevator up to the correct floor, and entered the office of the elusive contact.

The contact was one of those guys who utilize a standing desk. I never hopped on that bandwagon. He offered me a chair, which I gladly took.

The interview didn’t go so well. Well, it was awkward and disjointed, to say the least.

I didn’t have good questions to the answers that were asked of me. I asked him to elaborate on what he was trying to ask me more than once.

I told him about the “Cookie Calculator” program that I had created, in clumsy-like fashion. In my defense, I couldn’t exactly tell him what it did before explaining what the hell “Cookie Clicker” was.

He quite plainly said to me that my talents wouldn’t be utilized well as his company. However, he said that he would contact another company, which could utilize my skills. He would also send me an email with a “sample project,” even though he already told me that I wasn’t right for his company.

Suffice to say, I never heard back from the contact or that supposed company that would be interested in me. I’m not sure why he would even tell me that if it wasn’t true.

Meeting Famous People

The total number of celebrities I’ve met has recently increased by two.

In 2008, I’d met Mel Gibson on set of the crime thriller, “Edge of Darkness,” which was filming in a Boston neighborhood. It wasn’t really a meeting. It was more of a “quick glance and a firm handshake” ordeal, but it’s good for conversation fodder.

Fast forward to October 8th.

My family had gone to see “All the Way,” a political drama staring Bryan Cranston as Lyndon B. Johnson at the A.R.T.

After a stunning performance, a rumor circulated that Cranston would be signing autographs and meeting fans for an indeterminable amount of time. We hopped in line before it got long. We waited patiently and talked amongst ourselves, still aghast.

It didn’t take long for the man himself to arrive. We took a family picture with him and I received his autograph. I didn’t say much to him because it felt like I was on borrowed time, though I did say to him that I really loved his work.

I also got to shake his hand. Not nearly as firm as Mel Gibson’s.

A week elapsed.

On the 15th, my oldest brother went to a Barnes & Nobel in a shopping mall in order to procure the newly released autobiography of Bobby Orr, aptly tiled, “Orr: My Story.”

As fate would have it, there was a book signing scheduled at that very book store, to be held at noon on the 17th. When my brother relayed this information back to me, I knew that we had to go.

This led to a crazy sequence of events.

We figured that people would start lining up for the event as early as 5:00 pm on the 16th. Therefore, we had to do the same thing. We were going to be on the same level as the crazy people. Even crazier, perhaps. I prepared a backpack full of manga, books, an iPod loaded with podcasts, snacks, and my entire library of DS games. It was going to be a long night.

There was nobody lined up at that time. Not even close.

We couldn’t retreat, though. The crazies would start lining up at any minute. Leaving would mean losing our place in line. We stayed at the next-door Starbucks in order to spy on those crazy people. If they started a line, we would know about it immediately.

When the store closed at 10:00 pm, there was still no line. Did the crazies forget to show up or something? These were hockey fans. Boston hockey fans.

We had made it this far. Going home was out of the question. I had a backpack full of gear, after all.

We slept in a hotel near the shopping mall. By 6:00 am on the 17th, there was a line. A very short line. Eyes bloodshot, I entered the line as the 13th person. I said goodbye to my brother, who needed to go to work.

The line didn’t start to gain traction until 10:00 – 11:00 am. I killed some time by playing Pokémon Pinball: RS and mingling with the other people in the line. By 11:45 or so, Orr started signing copies.

There were no pictures allowed with the Great Number 4. I didn’t even say anything to him. What could I say? It was Bobby Orr. I handed the book to him and he signed it.

I shook his hand before leaving. It was very gentle. Gibson handles the whole “handshaking” department best.

The Short Story

When I last spoke about it, I was in the planning stages of “The Teddy Bear of Death,” a psychological horror short story that is heavily based on a nightmare that I had earlier in the year.

The good news is that I’ve finished the outlining process and I’m ready to begin the writing stage.

The bad news is that I’m at a loss for words right now. I’m working with an entirely new form of story telling (the epistolary story, in which events are told through a series of letters/diary entries) that I’m not quite accustomed to. It’s a very tricky thing to pull off — something that requires a level of care and attention to detail.

It’s something that every writer experiences in their career. I imagine that it’ll get easier once I start writing the story at a steady pace. I shouldn’t overthink these things.

Other Writing-Related Things

Elsewhere on the horizon is a pool of writing projects that I have yet to work on.

I plan on starting another short story after I complete “The Teddy Bear of Death.” This one will focus on loneliness and will be about a person who is immortal. This person is waiting. This person is constantly thinking. It’s all that he’s able to do. It won’t be told in an epistolary format, but rather as a series of thoughts in a 1st person limited perspective.

Other projects include an opinion piece on the frequently-criticized shootout in hockey, as well as a perspective on what means to have a good ending in fiction (this has been in the works for awhile).

Speech Therapy

I’ve talked with a lateral lisp for as long as I’ve been able to speak. This means that I have trouble pronouncing the /s/ and /z/ sounds because the air flow from my mouth protrudes sideward rather than outward.

This was the cause for relentless teasing during my elementary and early middle school years. Nobody seemed to understand why I talked this way. They simply knew that it was something to laugh at. There was very little that I could do about the taunting or the lisp.

For what it’s worth, my public elementary school offered regular speech therapy lessons. I took them until I switched to a Catholic after the 3rd grade.

The speech therapist would pull me aside during the middle of class. We would then walk down to her office so that we could work on correcting the lateral lisp privately. I was sometimes accompanied by another classmate, though I was often times alone.

I always enjoyed working with the speech therapist because it was a lot of fun (missing class is a nice bonus). The lessons amounted to playing language games that focused on correcting the /s/ sound. She would say a word that started with an “s” and I would have to repeat it back to her.

One game involved playing charades, in which I had to perform an “s” word and a classmate had to guess the word. The horror that came across her face when I wanted to perform “suicide” and I wasn’t referring to the popular children’s game played at recess. How it was to be an innocent child.

At the end of each lesson, the speech therapist would pull out a pyramid divided into several boxes. She would then color in one or several of the boxes to indicate a job well done. When the entire pyramid was colored, I got to take home a toy (this was my favorite part).

For all of that effort, the difference in my speech proved to be negligible.

None of the lessons really sunk in at all. In my mind, it was all fun and play. I thought my classmates were missing out because they didn’t get to attend speech therapy. They didn’t get to take home toys.

As I grew older, it became a point of frustration that I couldn’t clearly articulate words with an /s/ or /z/ sound. I wish those speech therapy sessions had worked out so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the lisp or about audibility.

So I’ve made it a point that I’m going to conquer this lisp.

The problem is, resources on the Internet are rather sparse. It’s pretty much impossible to find a speech pathologist that has a website or has made their contact information publicly available. The websites that do exist are often geared towards parents that have young children with lisps and are generally unhelpful. It’s as if there have been no significant advances in the field or increased awareness about the subject since I first started treatment some 14 years ago.

I’m still going to try. I’ve got a voice recorder app, a hand-held mirror, and the coaching of my mother. I’ll work at it and practice until I’m able to pronounce every /s/ and /z/ sound perfectly.

Programming

I haven’t worked on much since the “Cookie Calculator” program.

I’m reading a few books that should help me improve the quality of my code as well completing some exercises.

I plan on trying to tackle the Java Sound API in the not so distant future. The low level programming sounds like a pain, but I’ll learn a lot during the process. I’ll create an audio player at the conclusion of that.

hguiney:

While the rest of you are killing each other over Black Friday deals, my dad is killing me for sport! Happy Thanksgiving from the Guineys! (at Roslindale)

hguiney:

While the rest of you are killing each other over Black Friday deals, my dad is killing me for sport! Happy Thanksgiving from the Guineys! (at Roslindale)

hguiney:

Happy Halloween from my black cat, Oscar!

hguiney:

Happy Halloween from my black cat, Oscar!

My perspective while waiting in line for the “Orr: My Story” book signing.

My perspective while waiting in line for the “Orr: My Story” book signing.

My signed copy of “Orr: My Story,” which I gave to my dad as a birthday present. I camped outside Barnes & Noble on Wednesday night with Hugh so that I could be one of the first people in line for the noon signing on Thursday.
It was a really fun experience.

My signed copy of “Orr: My Story,” which I gave to my dad as a birthday present. I camped outside Barnes & Noble on Wednesday night with Hugh so that I could be one of the first people in line for the noon signing on Thursday.

It was a really fun experience.

hguiney:

Austin’s been in line for the Bobby Orr autobiography signing since last night! DON’T TELL DAD—the book is a surprise gift from us for his birthday. (at Barnes & Noble)

hguiney:

Austin’s been in line for the Bobby Orr autobiography signing since last night! DON’T TELL DAD—the book is a surprise gift from us for his birthday. (at Barnes & Noble)

hguiney:

You guys see “Homeland” last night? Carrie’s doctor is played by one of my dad’s best friends, Stephen Schnetzer. I watched the Bruins take home the cup with him!

hguiney:

You guys see “Homeland” last night? Carrie’s doctor is played by one of my dad’s best friends, Stephen Schnetzer. I watched the Bruins take home the cup with him!

Bryan Cranston’s autograph along with the ticket and program from his play, “All the Way.”

Bryan Cranston’s autograph along with the ticket and program from his play, “All the Way.”

The Guiney family with Bryan Cranston after seeing his brilliant play, “All the Way.”

The Guiney family with Bryan Cranston after seeing his brilliant play, “All the Way.”

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