So one of my best friends is from Britain, and she’s been living here in Berkeley for the past eight months or so. She just found out that the Department of Homeland Security, without any explanation, just rejected her application for a Visa extension, which used to be a routine procedure. This means that she is immediately an illegal alien and must leave the country in 3-4 days. Every day she stays from now on counts against her and could severely impact her chances of coming back to the U.S. So now she has about 72 hours to buy a ticket back to England, and leave her life and boyfriend behind. Naturally, they’re very distraught.

This just makes me furious, because a) it makes no sense at all [1] and b) there’s nothing I can do about it. This impotence is the most frustrating. Can anyone who supports our current immigration policies justify this? Aughghgh.

[1] She’s in love with America, and even majored in American Studies as an undergraduate in England. She is not milking any welfare or public services here. What’s the problem?


The new (and, by now, old) hot item in our office is Geosense, a great little game for improving your geography skills. (Click on “Visit”, then on “Play Alone”; you’re scored by a combination of how close you are and how fast you click.) Can anyone beat my officemate Dave’s record of 6300?


If you had to give up either listening to music or watching movies, which would it be? For me (and most people, I think) it’s a no-brainer: a movie is an immersive medium, in which the watchers essentially participate in the same experience, whereas music is more subjective: it augments whatever else it is you’re doing (or thinking about), and thus is somehow far more expressive and powerful. So movies would have to go.

However, Bill suggested a tougher question: what about music vs. fiction books? Books are still immersive, but somehow more personal (mutable?) than movies. It’s a tough call.


Speaking of books, I’ve been reading a couple on these cross-country flights. I was really looking forward to Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, simply because of his kick-ass articles in the New Yorker. Turns out it’s a bit of a letdown, consisting mostly of an amalgamation of already-published pieces, loosely tied together by a very suspect overall argument. The Mystery of Consciousness (John Searle), which I’m reading now, is far more convincingly argued, and in fact is one of the most lucid books I’ve ever read.

I also finally read His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman, after having it recommended to me by many people. The quality of writing wasn’t always great, and there were some plot holes that drove me absolutely nuts, but on the whole I found it inventive, bold, imaginative, and powerful. For a trilogy of “kids’ books”, it’s astoundingly ambitious. Definitely recommended.


I’ve come to the point where I’m no longer limited by opportunity, or money, or ambition, but simply by time: I just don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to do. Does this mean I’ve grown up? Because it sucks.


Once I was in a trinket shop with some friends, and we were looking at a Magic Eight Ball, a toy that randomly answers “Yes”, “No”, “Ask Again Later”, etc. when you ask something. One of my (male) friends — let’s call him Liverpool — asked it the classic snide question “Is AJ gay?”

The Eight Ball’s response? “In Your Dreams”. Haha — talk about a great backfire.


I just came back from Wing and Jen’s wedding in Boston. I can’t believe how many people I knew: from my high school, from college, and from work. Even the new people I met there were awesome. I seriously think that I’ll never attend another wedding — even my own — in which I’ll know as many people.

You might start gagging if I were to heap the appropriate number of superlatives on the bride and groom (they really do deserve it!), so I won’t. But it was an all-around wonderful experience.

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32 Responses to Injustice

  1. lastquestion says:

    Dude, the INS – I mean Department of Homeland Security – sucks balls. I’ve been waiting for my green card for almost 6 YEARS. And they keep on making me do photos (6 times) and bloodwork (3 times) and fingerprints (3 times). It’s horrible. I nearly couldn’t go to OOPLSA, either. And they lose things. All the time. It’s incredible how badly organized they are.

    I wish someone did something about it. AJ, you should run for president on that platform. All the immigrants would support you!

    • rwclark says:

      That makes me furious too. It’s the kind of thing where contacting your one of our senators might actually make a difference because there’s a personal angle to it. And the UK? What the hell? I’d hate to think what’s happening to the immigrants not lucky enough to be from one a western european democracy that led the charge to war in Iraq.

  2. awu says:

    On the other hand, if you stick to movies, you could just listen to movie soundtracks and get your (limited) music fix that way :)

    • aj says:

      Yeah, sorry, in the expanded version of the question, the rule is that if you wanted to listen to a movie’s soundtrack, you’d have to watch the movie at the same time as well.

  3. ratatosksv says:

    It’ll be a while until I get 6300 on Geosense. I played 5 times with the following results:

    for an average of ~3700.

    Not great, but probably still a wee bit higher than the average American, I bet… :)

    • aj says:

      Not bad. Don’t know what I started out at, but I definitely got way better with a little practice. My best is around 5800 and I’m averaging maybe 4900 or so. No doubt you can get there with a bit of time.

      It’s awesome when you start being able to pinpoint exactly where the individual cities are, even the ones in obscure countries. I think every kid should have to do this.

      My only complaint is that they should do a specific one for Africa.

      • snafuuu says:

        My only complaint is that it’s broken in Safari. I only saw the flags (no city or country names), so I was really confused as to why I kept getting everything terribly, terribly wrong. I was like, “Dammit, I KNOW where Canada is, so why does it tell me I’m wrong?”

        • aj says:

          Oooh, that sucks. You might want to email them about it. It’s all implemented in DHTML (no Java or Flash or anything) so I wonder where it’s going wrong.

          • works fine for me in safari. my first try was a 5251, but i haven’t broken 5300 yet. i think i’m averaging around 4000. i can do pretty well everywhere except in russia; it’s so damn big that you can’t just pick the middle of the country and hope for the best.

            which brings up an interesting detail. scoring should be based on how close people typically come on each city. so the radius where you get points for, say, petropavlosk should be bigger then the radius for new york.

            i did manage to be pixel-correct for new york and toronto, which kind of made my day.

          • aj says:

            Yeah Brazil sucks like that too. But you’ll learn them all, in due time (even Belem!). Eventually it’ll come down to remembering which part of Taiwan Taipei is in.

      • cychan says:

        yay! i nailed Boston, 0 miles off. this is kind of addictive. 6 games, mean: 3830, max: 4608. there was one game where i was an average of 1456.2 km off! stupid australia — you’re freakin’ huge!!

        • aj says:

          Yeah, it’s *so* addictive. After I posted this entry, I started playing again, this morning… now my average is up to 5400 or so, and I’ve cracked the 6000 plateau a couple of times. Haven’t yet mounted a serious challenge on 6300 though.

          My personal killer is Indonesia.

          Australia, haha, I’ve got down cold. I can probably list off all of the Aussie cities they ask for by memory: Perth, Darwin, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide. I think that’s it!

          Sometimes coming up with mnemonics helps, too. For instance, Auckland, NZ, is in that “awkward”-looking piece of land jutting out of the top, etc.

          • aj says:

            Okay, I’m officially retiring from this game.

            avg km off: 76.3
            avg time: 1.6s


          • Re: Okay, I’m officially retiring from this game.


          • jwscoleman says:

            Come out of retirement

            6427 106.3km 1.2s :)

          • aj says:

            Re: Come out of retirement

            Haha. I guess I need to invest in a mouse :)

          • aj says:

            Re: Come out of retirement

            6537 76km 1.3s
            And still no mouse :).

            I also had this nice round one:
            6522 100km 1.0s

          • jwscoleman says:

            Re: Come out of retirement

            6613 1.1 86.4 :)

          • jwscoleman says:

            No Mouse. In Class.

            6670 62.8km 1.3s :)
            Better start paying attention now . . .

          • aj says:

            Re: No Mouse. In Class.

            6808 52km 1.1s
            And please, no mouse. I actually think a mouse might be worse: you have to move a lot more, so there’s more room for physical error.

          • jwscoleman says:

            From now on . . .

            You can check the high scores for my best. ;)

            Actually, I think I’m done with the main game. At this point the main limitation is just the accuracy and speed of your input device, so it’s mostly luck and not as fun. There are also some inaccuracies and irrelevancies in the game that I don’t really want to get my subconscious-learn-on on. (Asmara is in Eritrea not Ethiopia; Kharkov is in Ukraine not Russia; and what’s up with including Sacramento and not Chicago, or Alice Springs and not Canberra?) But it’s still an -awesome- game.

            (Btw, do you remember Pass Attack?)

            But have you played scramble mode or experimented with some of the other maps? They’re so much better. Scramble is definitely the best. I got a couple of high scores there as well, including one of the scores of the month for the advanced world scramble map. You have to try them.

  4. ccho says:

    That sucks about your friend’s visa and situation. Was she there for education or on a tourist visa? Last time I talked to my uncle who is an immigration lawyer about the present situation in the US, he said they started making the laws tighter, which gives him fewer clients that he can potentially help. It seems like the US is severely limiting the amount of immigrants (maybe for a reason?).

    • aj says:

      She’s here on a tourist visa. Yeah they’ve started making the laws tighter in response to 9/11. Berkeley has a large number of foreign grad students and it’s becoming an issue… foreigners are slowly becoming less inclined to apply to the U.S., which sucks.

      • Anonymous says:

        my situation

        Not only am I not milking the system, but I brought thousands of pounds of English money into the economy (and plan to for grad school too, but not if they ban me from the country for 3 years, as they are threatening).
        I know, it really sucks for other countries much more tragically, however. It is supposed to be procedural, and it is just not. It’s completely discriminate. You can have all the right forms, follow the law to the letter, but (since the patriot act) the border immigration officials have the absolute power to turn you away (as a TOURIST!) if they feel like it. I spoke to 3 immigration lawyers yesterday – all saying different things. Or rather, former lawyers – they have all quit since the Patriot Act because they spent their whole time arguing with officials about cases that were absolutely fine, but they choosed to mess up. It’s a nightmare.

  5. wingerz says:

    heh, would be interesting to compute how many people at the wedding each guest knew – you definitely have an advantage since we went to college together, worked together, and lived together. we probably should have given you a prize or something. :)

    • aj says:

      Haha, well obviously the prize was already there: seeing all those people in the same place. It was awesome!

  6. jcliao says:

    wing forgot to add that you met all my sf friends last yr too so you knew them…:) i guess it makes sense that you know both of us so well since you matchmade us so effectively ;)

    the searle book sounds really interesting (i had been looking forward to reading blink as well but was too cheap to buy it – have you read tipping pt?). i loved the dark materials trilogy too – pullman is great (ruby in the smoke/shadow in the north/tiger in the well were some of my favorite books growing up).

    • aj says:

      Ooh, I haven’t read any other Pullman. I’ll add to my list!

      Reading fiction is so fun! Sometimes I forget…

  7. I think the only responsible for all this is that fucker Sven Goran Ericksson. If he’d done his job properly we all would be caring fuck all about Cannes, awards and shit like that.

  8. Mine was always a large red-colored bird on egg 17. As if you I made him wiggle, it was by attempting to make the sunset by rubbing lower onto him. Issue is I can not repeat it!! Driving me crazy. It should be a glitch with andriod version, there must be another thing on screen. E.g. the soundboard (because I have completed 15 eggs, (I’ve not had the soundboard or even the large beak one or even the large pig yet so assume the golden eggs will vary in comparison against a co-workers apple iphone for confirmation), but it is not there. Htc Desire Mobile Phone.

  9. OMG! He’s feeding the squirrel! LOLI’ m glad you have 2 person team – Mikey goes to the course you go to the salon and get 2 sets of pics! Love it!wonderful job on this wedding. I love the guys in their hats – hysterical! And the girls in their nets? too much!!!LOL!

  10. My sister is documenting both their lives as well as much of the family history. Sadly, dad’s been sinking into Alzheimer’s for quite some time now. A good day for my mom is when he remembers her name. Or even recognizes that they have some sort of connection.