Archive for the ‘My Life’ Category

Goodbye to the Emerald City

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

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It will come as no surprise to most of you who read this that I’ve left Seattle to return “home” to Los Angeles. With that, I’ve left behind my job at Expedia and my cool apartment on the lake. But what I brought with me is worth way more than that.

The last three years have contained some of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my life. I met so many great people, and made a handful of life-long friends. I gained so much experience and accomplished quite a bit while working at what I consider to be my first job — in the sense of my career anyway. Plus, finally being out of school and working for a travel company allowed me to travel more than I ever have before. And lastly, I got a chance to see and experience what is definitely one of the most beautiful parts of this country, the Pacific Northwest.

Many folks, especially those I know back here in LA, ask me if I left because I finally got tired of the rain. The truth is, that’s not why I left — although I won’t lie, that didn’t help convince me to stay either. I thought it was time for a change. As people we’re so naturally averse to change that it’s very easy for us to find a comfortable niche that’s working well for us and stick with it. But as great as our comfy niche may be, we’re not doing a ton of growing or learning after some point. We’re just wearing a hole in that comfy cushion.

You might say, if change was in order, why go back to what you already know? Why LA? First and foremost, the reason is family. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s Armenian culture, but growing up my family was a huge, fun, and important part of life and I missed having that, or as much of it as I was used to (with a million thanks to my family in Seattle, blood and adopted).

Secondly, the last time I could call myself a resident of this giant sprawling mesh of cities we call Los Angeles, and a few months before I started writing here, I was 17 years old. Some say I don’t look very different than I did but I sure feel a lot different than I did then. I’m curious what the city is like now, as I explore parts of it I rarely ever saw before, with my new perspective as my ever-present companion.

You only need to turn back a page or two of this blog, or glance through my photo albums, to see what a great time I had in Seattle. But now, it’s time for a new chapter and a new adventure. Stay tuned…

You Caught Me On A Down Cycle

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Last night we had a release night at work. Matt was working the “A-Shift” as we call it. I had gone to the Sonics and Rockets game, but afterwards I decided to drop by and see how things were going with the release. One hour turned into two and, before I knew it I spent the whole night there with everyone else that was working.

It is easy to get bored sitting around a conference room all night waiting just in case something goes wrong. So of course, Matt and I were exercising our “J Finger” in Google Reader. Matt pulled up a post on Lifehacker about some kind of vertical wall-mounted planter for plants. The following inadvertently funny sequence followed:

Matt: This is cool. I’d love to get one of these. If only I lived in a place that got enough sunlight to keep a plant alive.
Armen: What are you saying man? I have a plant at my place and it’s fine.
Matt: Dude, I’ve seen your plant and it’s not fine.
Armen: Whatever man, you caught it on a down cycle.

Well, he did. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, I suppose it’s only fair to show a picture of how my plant’s doing right now…

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Oh and I’d say it’s about mid cycle right now. :)

P.S. Thanks to my Mom who gave the plant to me as a birthday gift a couple years back.

An Ode to Waffle House

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

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To those of you who have never ventured into the southern part of the U.S., the words Waffle House don’t mean much. But to the people of the South, the Waffle House is an establishment; like Starbucks in Seattle or In N Out in Southern California. Yet I can’t really compare it to anything we west-coasters know because I don’t think we have any place quite like it.

For starters, there are a lot of them. I mean they are everywhere in the South. You can hardly go a mile in a city and not run into the distinctive giant yellow block sign. Then of course, they are all open twenty four hours a day. That makes it THE place to go after a night of drunken partying. You never saw a place as busy as a Waffle House at around two in the morning. Or eleven in the morning. And the food there is CHEAP. So cheap I did not believe it the first time I went.

I have a theory that there is some town, farm, or factory assembly line where they are churning out the people who work at Waffle Houses. I have been to one in at least three different states now and the people working there are like clones of each other no matter where I go or what kind of town the place is in. They say a picture is worth a thousand words…

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Since we’re talking about a restaurant I guess I should say something about the food. I can’t speak to the variety on the menu, although its definitely there. You can get breakfast, lunch, or dinner any time of day or night. I’ve only eaten one thing every time I’ve gone and its so damn good that I don’t know if I will ever bother trying something different: scrambled eggs with cheese, hash browns, raisin toast with apple butter (extra apple butter), and a side of country ham. That meal is probably a coronary served on a plate but I don’t know for sure and I don’t want to know.

As for the rest of the menu, I have no doubt it is great. How do I know without having tried any of it? Well that’s easy — Waffle House told me. In fact if you were to believe the signage at this place, you would think it was the finest dining establishment in the country. The claims made include, but are most definitely not limited to:

  • America’s Best Coffee
  • America’s Best Chicken
  • World’s leading server of REAL hash browns
  • World’s leading server of waffles

Hopefully that list gives you an idea of the important contribution Waffle House makes to enhancing America’s culinary reputation. I had trouble finding them in my copy of the Michelin Guide but I’m sure that’s because I have an out of date copy. It is amazing that they can serve such great food at such dirt-cheap prices. My meal of choice can be had for between $5.50 and $6.50 depending on the area and it is a big breakfast! Those prices put IHOP, Denny’s, and any other wannabe late-night breakfast-serving place to shame.

Oh yeah, don’t forget all the immitators either. For those times when the Waffle House is too pricey, fancy, or busy you are welcome to try your luck at the local Waffle King or Omelet House. These places lurk notoriously close to their Waffle House brethren. They also sport block-letter signs that look a lot like the Waffle House one. I haven’t been to these places but natives tell me they’re even cheaper and grimier than the standard-issue Waffle House.

Despite (because of?) all this, I have to say I love the Waffle House. I love the food, the hours, the cookie-cutter locations and people, and the kitschy small-town diner feel of it. I wish we had one on every corner out west just like back in the South. But I doubt we would be able to recreate them out here. I don’t think we have the people out here to run them and I doubt anyone would dare serve my cheese and eggs breakfast for anything less than $10 in Los Angeles. I guess my cravings for country ham will just have to wait for my infrequent visits to the South then.

Lunar Eclipse and Seattle at Night Photos

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

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A couple of weeks ago there was a total lunar eclipse. Fortunately, it was one that could easily be seen from the USA, clouds permitting of course. And when it comes to Seattle and clouds well, let’s just say that you better get friendly with them if you live here.

At the end of last year, I bit the bullet and repurchased a digital SLR camera

Thanksgiving All Over

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Last year for Thanksgiving week I took a trip out to the east coast and visited family and friends in Boston, New Haven, and Washington DC. I had a terrific time. Tonight I’ll be leaving on another trip to try and top last year. I’ll be spending a week in Cancun, then heading over to Nashville to spend Thanksgiving there with Matt’s family.

Expect some pictures of this trip, and some others I have been going on since I last posted, when I return! Happy Thanksgiving!

Backpacking Western Europe

Monday, August 6th, 2007

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Loyal readers will have noticed that I have been M.I.A. for about two months now. The biggest reason for that was the planning for, going on, and recovering from a whirlwind two-week backpacking trip across Western Europe. I had wanted to take a trip like this two years ago when I finished at Cal but, with my Let’s Go Western Europe book in hand, plans fell apart at the last minute. Now, two years later I had the vacation time, the money, and another chance to go on just such a trip — let’s take a moment to celebrate not being college-student-poor anymore. Add to that Ara was wrapping up his time at Cal and looking to go on a big trip before sinking the next few years into investment banking. Oh and add to that my buddy Anurag also wanting to join in on the European fun. The time was clearly ripe for a backpacking trip to remember.

So we spent mid-to-late June hightailing it across a bunch of places all over Western Europe including:

  • London
  • Paris
  • Amsterdam
  • Berlin
  • Nurburg
  • Munich
  • Barcelona
  • Girona

Overall the trip was great; we all had a ridiculously good time and I’ve got memories from this trip that I will cherish forever. As I sort through the photos from the trip, I intend to put up a series of posts, one for each country probably, with some of my thoughts on the places we visited and of course, some funny stories.

That point also brings me to probably the only low point of the whole trip. While in Munich, near the end of the trip, and after snapping 600+ of probably some of the best photos I have taken yet, I left my camera unattended for about 30 minutes and it was stolen. Although I didn’t write about it here, I had finally taken the dive into the world of SLR photography by procuring my own Canon 20D. I thought it was an awesome camera and I was having a lot of fun learning how to best use it to expand my abilities as an admittedly amateurish photographer. You can see some of the shots I was able to take with it in my photo gallery here and here. Anyway, the point is that although I will be posting a bunch of photos from the trip soon, I cannot take credit for taking the vast majority of them; that credit goes to Ara and Anurag.

Stay tuned for more Euro action.

Hacking It Up – Black Ops Style

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

A couple of weeks ago on a harmless April Friday, we held our first Hack Day at work. It was totally inspired by and loosely modeled after Yahoo’s Open Hack Day, with the notable exception that ours was not “open”. I think Yahoo’s Hack Day was a great idea and I was very excited to see us doing something similar.

Given the fact that I hadn’t done any serious programming for a while — sorry Expedia Dashboard widget, you don’t count — I was itching to enter the contest to stretch my coding skills a bit and, of course, blow everyone away with something so cool we had to win. Lucky for me I had some friends at work who were interested in doing the same. So armed with two rock star developers and two crazy program managers who code (“why would PM’s write code??? they say), we formed an elite black ops unit that began to meet and discuss the details of our project.

Hack Day came around and we hacked our little hearts out. I learned JavaScript tricks I never knew existed, we became intimately familiar with the Prototype library (don’t write JavaScript without it!) and writing object oriented JS, and we wore out the JS debugger and other tools in Firebug — the Firefox extension sent from the heavens unto web developers everywhere.

Working day and night through the weekend on our project (yes I know it was Hack Day but they said if we wanted to work all weekend, more power to us) took me back to the nights spent in Soda Hall on the Berkeley campus trying to finish up one of our many CS class projects a few nights before it was due.

Lots of lines of Java, XML, JavaScript, and CSS and three days later we had completed our vision for a next-generation travel shopping experience. We showed our prototype at the judging the following Wednesday and it was a big hit. Since the initial presentation we’ve been inundated with questions and requests for demos for various groups. Tonight we found out that we won and tied for first place. We had a lot of fun working on the project and I can honestly say I’m very proud of the work we did.

Anyway, if you were wondering why I had been MIA the last couple of weeks, now you know what I was doing pretty much that whole time. I can’t post screenshots or videos of our prototype here but if you know me and are interested in hearing more about this, get in touch with me. Hopefully someday soon I can point to something on the live site and say it was inspired by (or is!) our Hack Day project.

Introducing Fight Critic

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

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I have been busy working on a couple of other web sites. One of those is ready for the world and had its “grand opening” yesterday.

Fight Critic is a blog where I’m going to continue posting my thoughts about mixed martial arts news and events. The couple of posts I made here on C-Objectively were fun to write and were popular enough that I decided it was something I wanted to keep doing.

I hope my readers here that are interested in MMA or combat sports will give Fight Critic a shot. And tell your friends!

That’s How We Do It In Washington

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Last Saturday night we were out in Seattle and on our way to Joe’s Hot Dog Stand for our customary end-of-the-night hot dogs. I’m driving and we’re getting the usual Seattle sprinkling from the skies. We’re stopped at a traffic light, probably discussing how we need to make it to the hot dog stand before it closes, when all of a sudden I’m shaken and pushed forward. “Hmmmm… there is no way that Matt kicking the back of my seat would have made the whole car shake, so clearly there must be another… DOH! I’ve just been rear-ended.” Of course, it had been way too long since I had to deal with the annoyances of uninsured drivers, filing insurance claims, and shady body shops for the bump to be anything else.

I get out of the car to see a sloth of a car behind mine, a 1992 Cadillac Eldorado, with another sloth sitting behind the wheel. I ask the fool for his license and insurance information; a seemingly simple task. I end up waiting a solid three minutes in the rain while he fumbles in his dash and wallet, struggling to coordinate his fingers enough to pull the card out. He can’t maintain eye contact with me and he is a man of few words. Basically, he is drunk.

While I am standing in the rain jotting down the information from his half-legible, copied, and expired insurance card a couple of Seattle’s Finest happen to drive by and slow down to figure out why I am standing in the road. I tell them what’s up and ask them to come check things out. After spending some time talking with the both of us, one of the cops comes over to me and the conversation was as follows…

Cop: So what would you like us to do here?
Me: Uhhh, what do you mean?
Cop: Basically we can do one of two things: 1) We could write him up for a DUI; but he doesn’t look that bad and his eyes aren’t shaking much.
Me: And the other thing?
Cop: Or we could write up a report on the incident and that’s that.
Me: So you’re asking ME to decide whether that [obviously-drunk] guy [who-just-crashed-in-to-the-back-of-my-car] should get written up for a DUI?
Cop: Yeah.
Me: Isn’t that your job? I don’t think I am the one to make that call, am I?
Cop: What do you want from us?
Me: I just want your report in writing so my insurance company doesn’t second guess my story.
Cop: Okay. *walks across the street to his patrol car*

I am utterly bewildered at what just transpired and turn to Matt and Anurag to say so when the cop turns around and yells across the street to Me: “That’s how we do it in Washington; we ask you.”

Apparently that is how they do it in Washington. The question I’m asking the Seattle police is, “Why?”

Epilogue: Everyone in the car was fine and the bump wasn’t that bad so it looks like the damage is confined to the bumper of the car.

Research Catches Up With Me – Prescription Drug Ads Are Bad For You

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

Do you experience confusion? Anxiety? Feelings that your life is out of your control?

Televised advertisements for prescription drugs may be partly to blame, new research suggests.

The Annals of Family Medicine has published the results of a study that discusses the negative impacts of all the prescription drug advertisements we see on television. I discussed the same in a post I made back in November of 2005, “Here’s a pill, won’t you have another?”

On another note, Super Bowl XLI was incredibly lame. I did not follow the NFL season but I would love to know how the Chicago Bears even got to the national championship game with an offense that plays for the other team.