Thursday, March 1, 2007

Gone native

So Max's is this local dive bar type place near campus. It's loud and small, and not really my favorite place to go hang out. Surprisingly, though, they host a trivia night every Tuesday, which I only recently learned about; being a huge fan of trivia and trivia games, I've been attending religiously ever since I heard about it. Now, I'm pretty good at Trivial Pursuit and usually do quite respectably as I follow along with Jeopardy, but I utterly suck at Max's event. Part of that's 'cause I don't watch Seinfeld, South Park, or sports, which are topics that come up with greater-than-expected regularity. And part of that is 'cause there's people there who take it much more seriously than I do, and more power to them. If I can win just once, though, and maybe take home a My Little Pony lunchbox as a prize, I'll be happy.

At last week's event, my friend E (who has been a frequent companion in suckiness at these events) made the offhand comment that I "didn't seem like someone who'd spent their life overseas." He couldn't really explain much more than that, so I'm not quite sure what he meant by it. I mean, what exactly is a person who grew up in Africa supposed to look like? Perhaps I should walk around in Khaki clothing, wearing a pith helmet and carrying an elephant rifle, and call all my friends "bwana" or something.

I mean, it's not like I hide it or anything. Hell, half my anecdotes start with "I was living in Ethiopia at the time" (which, by the way, is the ultimate excuse for lack of pop-culture knowledge. Try it sometime! Alright, maybe it won't work so well for you.). I guess I've just been here long enough (or I'm quiet and introverted enough) that that's just not enough anymore. Or perhaps I'm extrapolating way too much from a single data point.

On a completely unrelated note, I just read over a sketch of Cook's proof that Boolean satisfiability is NP-Complete. I can hardly claim to completely understand it entirely, but damn is that an awesome proof. It seems unlikely that any of you out there care, but the basic idea is to use a set of rules to encode a Turing Machine that solve an arbitrary problem in NP as a satisfiability problem (basically, a long conjunction of variables to which true or false values have to be assigned to make the whole expression resolve to a true value). I've known of the existence of the proof for quite some time, but only recently decided to do some research and figure out how exactly it worked. Nifty!


  1. South Park, Seinfeld and Sports? Sounds like my kind of trivia night! Maybe I can be your new 'E' whenever I'm back in town. But I, too, HATE foriengers and those living abroad. HATE THEM SO MUCH!!! But I'll let it pass for a good night of trivia.

    Actually Joseph, I just went to a colloquium on the P-NP problem. It was really interesting, not exactly my cup of tea, but it's fun to hear about what's going on in the math/theoretical CS world occasionally.

  2. Yeah, you would definitely be an asset in the trivia night escapades, Eric. Last week we had "What is Lisa Simpson's middle name?" ("Marie", which we actually got through pure dumb luck), "What is Kramer's job, from which he has been on strike for 12 years?" (apparently he worked for H&H Bagel), and "What is Stan's (from South Park) grandpa's name, and what does he always call Stan?" (his name is Marvin, and he calls his grandson Billy). Maybe these are easier than I think, but damn we suck at 'em.

    P=NP is pretty cool, isn't it? It's a weird little quirk of CIS that we spend all of our time talking about how long it takes to solve a problem, rather than whether it's actually solvable. It's like we figured out it's impossible to determine whether an arbitrary program will halt or not and we just gave up. We're slackers, is what it is.

  3. No! It's true. Though I don't know if I can explain it much better. I was really surprised when I found out you'd grown up overseas.

    Part of it is that you never cop a pretentious or 'more wise than thou' attitute. Nor do you use your anecdotes to make yourself the center of attention. I find that people who are well traveled tend to relish being the center of attention more, and you haven't struck me like that.

    I mean, I find it really weird in the states when I'm not a minority and people don't notice me all the time. Even in Tokyo, the white population is less than 1%, and when I was an exchanger there were less than a dozen whities within a population of 250,000. So it's made me very used to being center stage a lot.

    I don't expect someone who grew up in Africa to have an elephant gun or something stupid like that. but I guess the stereotype is more that people who spend their lives overseas are gregarious storyteller types. the type with loud confidence. I certainly don't think the stereotype holds true across the board, but perhaps that's where the comment came from.


  4. Hey, thanks for the thoughts, Kori. Makes sense.

    Actually, being the center of attention was one of the things I hated most about living overseas (I know that's shocking, given my outgoing and gregarious personality ;-). Mostly because a lot of places it was really unwelcome attention -- in Ethiopia, for example, a lot of the attention came in the form of kids yelling "Fuck you!" on the street to get a rise out of me or pestering me as I rode my bike.

    You're definitely right about the weirdness of not being a minority in the US, though. It was very disorienting moving from a place with this tiny little expat community (~200 people or less in Pakistan, I would guess) where everyone knew each other (even in the middle of a city of several million) to a much smaller city where my social group was much less well-defined.

    And maybe I will start carrying an elephant gun. I already have the pith hat and safari vest...

  5. You know, I tried to comment on this earlier- and then Blogger gave me some sort of incomprehensible error thing. So sad.
    Joseph, you've skewed my idea of what someone who grew up abroad is like. I have no idea how many times we've had this conversation:
    ME: You know, that thing. That pop-culture thing from the late 80s/early 90s.
    YOU: I was in Ethiopia/Pakistan/Jerusalem then. I have no idea what you're talking about.
    ME: Thunder, Thunder, THUNDERCATS!
    I wish I could join you at trivia night- the idea of getting 80's kitsch in exchange for useless knowledge seems to me like an awesome, awesome deal.
    You should totally wear around a pith helmet. But, if you do, you need to also have a dashing moustache. A bushy one that curls up at the sides. And say "Old bean" a lot, and talk about how imperialism is actually good for indiginous peoples whilst drinking tea. That would rock.

  6. In interests of full disclosure, Joe, and to defend my honor a bit, I did in fact know about the Thundercats when I was living in Egypt. I even had a plastic, light-up, Lionel sword. Oh yes, it was the coolest thing eevar.

  7. When we first met, I thought you were a foreign kid! I just couldn't figure out how you didn't have an accent... Then Joe explained things and all the pieces fell into place. Your mannerisms have changed a lot since 2000; mostly, you're a lot more confident. I don't think that many of us have a stereotype for "Grew up in an ex-pat community or three." We have "Grew up abroad" (read: foreign kid light). We have "Grew up with foreign parents" (read: secret foreign kid). And we have "Grew up foreign" (read: foreign kid). And I think the accent (or lack thereof) is what throws people off. What threw me off was how polite, well-mannered and reserved you were, but not a Mommy complex or Highlander baseball cap in sight! Normally reserved politeness in 19-year old boys is associated with some sort of intense dorkiness (c.f. Joe ::tee hee::). Or extreme shyness (c.f. Pete), from which you didn't seem to be suffering. Maybe you and the ten other kids who grew up largely in ex-pat communities ought to write a sit-com so that the rest of us can develop some sterotypes for quicker, more accurate New Kid Assessment.

  8. A sit-com. Now there's an idea. Or maybe a boy band. New Kids On the Embassy Compound. Alright, maybe I shouldn't be in charge of conceptualizing (or naming).

    The lack of accent thing seems to throw a lot of people (or rather, the fact that I have a Northwest accent). I learned English from my parents, though, and they have a Northwest accent (which is strange, I suppose, since my mom's from Florida -- I guess the Florida accent is sufficiently neutral to my ear's (and she hasn't lived there in so long) that I must just not notice).

    And re: my quiet, reservedness when we first met. I really was very shy, and a huge dork. But I'm glad to hear I hid it well, at least from you, Sydney. :-)

  9. Nhiều chị em thắc mắc mang thai ăn nghệ có được không vì nghệ có tính nóng có thể ảnh hưởng tới thai nhi, bà bầu nên tiêm phòng khi nào là điều cần thiết nhất trong thời gian mang thai của người mẹ, bà bầu bị sôi bụng có sao không vì có nhiều lý do và nó có thể ảnh hưởng đến thai nhi, bà bầu có nên ăn quả na không trong thời gian thai kỳ, vì na là một trái có tính ấm tốt cho sức khỏe, bà bầu có nên ăn dứa không vì dứa có chứa nhiều chất dinh dưỡng tốt cho cơ thể nhưng bà bầu ăn được hay không mới là vấn đề.