My favorite barber; fourteen years of haircuts and counting

I got a haircut today from Joe. Every two months (with one exception) for the past fourteen years since moving to Pittsburgh, I have walked down to Harry’s Barber Shoppe in Squirrel Hill, to take a seat and wait in line for my turn.

Joe Feldman doesn’t take appointments or reservations. You come, you stay, and depending on how many people are in front of you in line, you might sit around for up to two hours. In this fast-paced world, why would anyone wait so long?

A world of reasons.

Franklin before haircut

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When is something overpriced? 36 examples

Very often I hear people complaining that “X is overpriced”. I always listen carefully to try to figure out what they mean, because I’ve learned that the word “overpriced” can mean many things. I find that I learn a lot about people from how they use that word.

Here are 36 things people might mean when they say something is “overpriced”.

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Why I am not reading the biography of Steve Jobs

I have been surprised by how many people recently have been asking me if I am reading Walter Isaacson’s much-anticipated biography of Steve Jobs.

Cover of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs

The funny thing is that many occurrences of this question of me are obviously just small talk, because other than on my blog and to a few people directly, I have never expressed publicly my deep admiration for Steve Jobs.

My answer is a firm No, but I don’t explain why because it’s just small talk, after all.

Here are some reasons, outside of the confining scope of small talk.

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Open Spaces success at the Pittsburgh Java User Group!

Yesterday evening, the Pittsburgh Java User Group (PittJUG) for the first time adopted an Open Spaces format. The basic idea is that instead of having someone give an hour-long presentation on something, everyone gets involved in choosing topics of discussion and we all break up into small groups to sit in a circle and chat (more details).

If you have never been to an event with this Open Spaces format and philosophy, such an idea might sound chaotic and confusing. The first time I heard about the format, I was extremely skeptical. But the first time I went to an event adopting it, the first Pittsburgh Geek Out Day, I found it quite useful and am totally sold on its virtues.

This is a report on the two sessions that I attended. The PittJUG mailing list has some discussion already of the two sessions that I had to miss.

First Open Spaces at PittJUG

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RIP, John McCarthy; but Lisp will never die

(Updated 2012-01-16)

The legendary computer scientist John McCarthy died yesterday. So there goes another guy without whom my life today would be unimaginably different: Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie just left us this month!

In a way, more than Jobs, and more than Ritchie, McCarthy indirectly got me taking seriously the whole field of computing, and actually loving it.

Because I never for a moment enjoyed computer programming until I discovered Lisp, the programming language that McCarthy invented and what he will surely be most remembered for most, among his other contributions to computer science.

My story of love and hate in computer programming:

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Every day is Food Day

I found out only yesterday that today is Food Day. I looked up what it’s all about and it seems that October 24 has been designated Food Day, sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit watchdog group. I looked further, and saw that the Wikipedia entry is informative, noting controversies concerning the group, especially the vocal opposition from the restaurant, food, and tobacco industries, but from other sources also, including former CSPI members.

Anything concerning food policy in this country is, well, political.

I’m not here today to talk about the politics of food (I recommend Marion Nestle as one sober source about it), but about my personal relationship with food. Once upon a time, I knew very little about food, cared little about it, and rarely prepared it myself. But then things changed, and every day became Food Day for me.

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Paleo diet experimentation

Three days ago, I stopped eating my usual breakfast: steel-cut oatmeal topped with fruit and nuts and maple syrup. I’d been eating oatmeal almost every day for breakfast for about 15 years.

This is the beginning of a gradual experiment toward more of a Paleo diet.

What is this “Paleo diet”, and why am I doing it, and why now, and how?

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Happy 200th birthday, Franz Liszt!

It turns out that today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Franz Liszt, the always controversial pianist and composer of the 19th century in Europe. It has become a commonplace that Liszt was music’s first “rock star”. And there is always the debate over his importance as a composer.

These days, I don’t care much about such debates.

Instead, I’m here to share with you one piano piece by Liszt that I discovered and listened to today and found quite beautiful.

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One month anniversary of my blog

I created this blog one month ago, on September 22!

I have achieved my short-term milestone of creating at least one post every day. This has not been a trivial task, and there have been times when I felt pressed for time or tired or was not excited about deciding what to write about and then doing it.

But I knew I had to develop the habit, and overcome perfectionism, and just get going. I’ve known too many people who started a blog, posted to it exuberantly for a while, and then didn’t continue.

Here are some ways I have managed to go an entire month so far:

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Improving navigation on my blog

Today I finally got down and dirty, and made some much-needed additions to my blog. I had delayed this work because my priority since starting the blog a month ago was to write content. I took time off today from writing content, in order to improve the navigation on my blog.

Here are the main improvements I have made:

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