Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Complete

Ah, c'est finis! Je .. thought .. .. okay, written French isn't a strongpoint. I don't know why I started off with that.

Done watching the first season of Ghost in the Shell - I am for now taking the series to be complete. I need to digest this - there was a lot going on by the end. As the series came out 5-7 years ago, I don't feel a great need to start throwing up spoiler alerts, beyond clarifying that I won't. I may discuss spoiler material herein, and also may not. The magic of this is that I haven't written any 'material herein' yet.

I'm not yet certain if the show I just watched had a lot of depth or just pretended to. That's a measure of my own lack of understanding regarding the subject matter, or of the skill of the people who made the show, given they crafted something far enough over my head that I can regard it as deep.

The show gets very fast paced toward the end, in the Complex episodes, and while interesting sociological, psychological, philosophical, and practical issues of various aspects of futurism were brought into the limelight earlier in the show, they begin to rapidfire and build one on top of another, along with an overarching political scheme, increasing character depth (not an exceptional amount, but enough to be attached), and literary references that I for one am not at all well versed on. It created a cool experience.

So I've come out of this thinking: First, I need to digest it and decide just what I think the show was saying, what can be derived from the concept of a copy with no original, of the concept of a ghost forming within an empty shell, of a mind's existence in the internet, of cybernetics in general - of a person's existence within a mechanical body, of the military-industrial complex's impact on all these ideas, and of course on the notion of strong AI. Once I've digested (hahahaha, oh my god look at that list I'm not qualified to think about that) all this, then I can spit out a few essays regarding my opinions, then read some of the literary works referenced (some Marshall McLuhan, some Salinger, some other things that just raced by) and reconsider while watching the majority of the series again, this time stopping to reflect as I go along.

Somewhere, a number of months (years?) down the road, I'll come onto the other side of this, and I'll be able to look back and determine the answers to some pressing questions:

1. Is there actually any material of depth being discussed?
2. Is the discussion worthwhile (i.e. does it contribute to the discourse)?
3. What is intended the overlying message of the show? (provided 1 and 2 are yes)
4. Given solid answers to the above, what can be surmised about the topics introduced above (the futurisim topics I said I'd have to think on)
5. ???
6. Profit (oddly late in the game)

Anyway, it's 4:15 AM and I have things to do tomorrow. Truly interesting - have to think now. ... And if it's not actually deep at all, I hope I realize it quick.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

So guess what guys

I am a verbal communicator.

Not that I can't communicate in other ways, but I've just been struck over the head with the realization of it. I definitively am a verbal person. When I think, I think in vocalized words. When I speak to people, I tell long, winding stories. When I think through things, I speak aloud about them.

.. but I can never remember song lyrics. Perhaps I'm simply particularly an auditory communicator...

Edit: I promise, I'll write something once this project is done. hrm.. java.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Oh yeah

I hate you, Chris Brown.

And your stupid freaking supporters.

You, and your music, are in no way related to Hans Zimmer. You are in no way related to the Gladiator Soundtrack. You are not related to The Insider, to ER, to The Lion King, Star Wars, John Williams, Yo-Yo Ma, or anything that had been going on in the relatively stellar results of Grooveshark's autoplay.

You just came barging in there with your stupid crap, and you ruined everything. This is the second, and god do I hope the last time.

So I stopped using autoplay for tonight and switched to StarCraft music. Take that. That is what allowed me to find this:

And I think it's kinda nifty. I've got one on here and on wammmr now, so woo.

I love wikipedia.

Java ing, Mini TED, Microsoft Small Basic

I don't think I should spend long on this, as I'm in the midst of writing some javas.

Well, I'm more or less doing setup at the moment. I've taken the example code we were given for this assignment over my own, because Professor Song writes fairly nice java despite his absolutely horrific specification documents. I've essentially spent the past few hours redoing earlier work: moving the Staff, Student, and Faculty classes into a hierarchy with Employee and Person. Since then I've gone a bit beyond and started throwing in little Javadoc hooks and comments all over the place, because I want getting marks to come easily - not be some panicked struggle atop a mountain. Like last time.

Big upside is that, at this point (well, once it compiles again, which will be very shortly - just fixing an error with the classpath) it's ahead of where it was when I handed in Assignment 2. Dates work perfectly because a class was provided for them this time, and everything is nicely hunkey-dorey.

I've been playing around with the idea of a Miniature TED conference. I think it's an idea that has wheels. That's a good thing for some reason. I hope to be developing it over the next few weeks... I'll probably contact the TED conference people and see if they have any suggestions, concerns, any response at all. I really think something amazing can happen if you gather smart people together with the express purpose of trying to be smart together. I'll report in with updates, I hope.

I downloaded Microsoft Small Basic yesterday, and gave it a dilly of a whirl. It seems enjoyable but it has a lot of room to improve. It tasted like python.

The interface is good looking and fairly slick, but the autocomplete seems to actively try to mess you up. If you begin writing a command and finish typing instead of hitting tab when the autocomplete box pops up, the box doesn't go away. At this point your command is complete, but the autocomplete box is still sitting there, waiting for some arcane ritual to grant it release. Tapping up or down just scrolls you through the list of autocompletable commands that wouldn't even make sense any more, because they are now just appended at the cursor. Hitting escape does nothing. You've got to click somewhere else or type more or engage in some bizarre dance to escape the clutches of this nefarious box. That was probably the largest of my issues, but I had others. Oh yes.

Programs take approximately a couple of millenia to execute. The application throws up a screensize Vista-themed lockdown-box that informs you: "HEY! YOUR PROGRAM IS RUNNING! CLICK END PROGRAM IF IT DOESN'T WORK RIGHT OR SOMETHING K" - in marginally more literate terms, and then you play the waiting game for the rest of your natural life. I must note that this is for a program which opens a console and prints "Greetings Earth".

Once the program is running, it responds quite fluidly. I think this wait must be caused by throwing code through the gruesome sieve that is .NET 3.5 and uttering the most unholy command, "Compile." Regardless of .NET being a fortress or an island or something crazy like that, I am certain that there is optimization able and waiting to happen here. I don't understand how the dev team and the testers managed to wait 35-40 seconds every time they ran a program, and not recognize that as an issue on the order of "showstopper".

Anyway.. That's about all for tonight. Ghost in the Shell kicks ass. It's going to make me finally read Catcher in the Rye.

Friday, November 7, 2008

4 Blogs and a Server

I tried to make a "4 Weddings and a Funeral" reference there, but it's pretty weak. Probably because I've never actually seen the movie. Yeah.

So this is the Kickass Home Base of my new life strategy (pretty exciting, hey?) - and I'm feeling good about it so far. It's essentially (as the title should indicate to you) about 4 blogs and a server. I'll give you the lowdown:

Blog One: Todo List. I'll set up the blog-by-email thing so that I can just tag stuff up and check my todo list on the fly without having to log into something. Also a good way to leave quick notes for myself.

Blog Two: Ideas. When I have a neat idea in the middle of the night or when I'm sitting at my desk or wandering somewhere, I often jot it down. Rather than storing it on a slice of a dead tree or in a multigigabyte folder full of .2kb text files, I can just plop it with a tag into a blog. How's that for Content Management?

Blog Three: Awesome. I always want to do things - like code stuff, write stuff, compose stuff, read stuff, but I rarely actually settle and do them. This is a measured effort to make that more possible, and it works in a few ways.
  1. By investing time into the ability to do things, I'll feel worse about it if I don't actually do anything.

  2. By documenting the process of actually getting started, and creating a vast support infrastructure (these four blogs) to allow me to get started much faster and be more organized about it.

  3. By allowing an incremental growth of projects by keeping them on an incremental style online medium (blogs) and making heavy use of SVN (revisions) so that I can invest a few hours into a project and have it mean something, rather than require large blocks of time before I even start things.

  4. I find a lot of the other reasoning difficult to verbalise. Some of it is (at this point) just momentum. A big plus of the blog format is that I get to show people if they're interested; and they could (hopefully) take useful things away from my experience.
Blog Four: Kickass Home Base. This is the 'standard' blog, which is more or less just a place for my more personal updates to go. That doesn't mean that this will be all about the things I did today (though it could be) - it means that this will be about whatever really needs to be said or analysed. I'm going to try to keep it tech based, but occasionally I might just post a short story or explain a Seinfeldian situation or something. We'll see.

Server: Woz. SVN and compilers and space and Apache and PHP and Python and Ruby and every tool a young hacker could want (or at least, the tools to get them; which is in a turingish way, all of them) will allow me to actually try to / do things that I want to do. All this infrastructure and planning isn't worth a pile of beans without the actual machines.

So that's my 4 blogs and a server plan. This is all in an effort to just generally be more productive. To write more, code more, think more, and do more. Up next is Step 4 of Awesome; where I decide what my first project is. Something small to start, I think.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I'm breaking a personal rule and telling a story now of what I've done over the past few days. Just because I can. In the past 72 hours (or at least, the 72 hours before I began writing this post) I've done more than a small country does in its entire life.

Alright that's an exaggeration, I've just done a lot for me. Let's see if I can't recount it quickly.

Tuesday: Awoke at 6:30 AM, showered, shaved, mad dashed, and missed the #10 bus downtown. Hopped the #55 with Melissa and had a touch of conversation on the way toward the University in a ridiculously packed bus (seriously, it was the most I've ever seen). Upon arrival at campus I disembarked down the Gordon hill and toward the River Run center. Absolutely gorgeous morning. Showed up just in time for the 'Moving Business Forward' conference to start.

5 speakers attended the conference: Mac Voisin, founder of M&M Meat Shops; Georgina Steinsky-Schwartz, a non-profit sector expert and President/CEO of Imagine Canada; Gerry Fedchun, President and a director of the Automotie Parts Manufacturers' Association; Pamela Wallin, O.C., Chancellor of the University of Guelph and former Consul General in New York; and Frank O'Dea, once a homeless alcoholic, now cofounder of Second Cup and founder of multiple philanthropic organizations.

My apologies to Georgina and Gerry, but their talks were not illuminating to the same degree as the others - in fact I believe that they may have been prepared for entirely different audiences and not modified at all for this event. I will not dwell on them - suffice to say that they covered (in depth) the statistics surrounding the nonprofit industry and the automotive industry.

Mac gave an awesome talk. It took the audience from the founding of M&M as a single store in Kitchener on a 28 year journey all the way up to 470+ stores and an ongoing expansion into the US market at present. Mac shared the core philosophies and strategies that made M&M a success; ideas like promoting service above pretty much all else, persisting absolutely, and optimism. He delivered with gusto and knew what he was on about. Absolutely fantastic.

Pamela's talk was stirring and thoughtful. It kept everyone engaged and interested and was absolutely inspiring. Can I remember what she was saying? Not really! But that doesn't matter for some reason. I can remember a story she told about a woman in New York, about the way that you can't plan things, and her advice, "Do Your Homework", which became a theme of the day. She noted that she meant it in more than the most obvious way.

Frank's talk was unbelievably long. I am a kindred soul with the man in that we both talk an incredible amount when given the opportunity. His stories were long and winding but well told; and inspiring to boot. He took us from the streets of Toronto to political campaign offices, to the first Second Cup, to Law Offices, to a Jesuit Retreat, to the beaches of Florida, to Africa - all over the world and always learning things and bringing lessons back. He told a remarkable story and drove home the message that one person can absolutely change the world.

The day was wonderful, and I enjoyed the talk immensely. Afterward, I went to catch the buses but just missed them, and so walked back to the University. I got to LoCIS and had just enough time to help an exec with an email sent to the Chair of the Department and clean up the horrific mess the roo was in, before I had to jog off with Robyn. He went to the CPES meeting that I missed, because I boarded a bus at 5:30 PM to go to Guelph Humber for Senate, that's in Toronto. We had a great Senate meeting (by which I mean relatively short) and got home for 10:00 PM. Then it was catch a bus home, hear that Obama won, and conk out due to exhaustion.

Next morning was pack and organize and clean because ... surgery! I finally had my toe fixed (I hope it's really fixed, *knock on wood*) and had to go under a general anesthetic for it because I'm allergic to topical ones. So prepared, went, waited a very long time there for it to actually happen but at last it did, and I've been recovering ever since.

It is with that recovery time that I have done such things as open blogs and help re-organize my life.

... A blessing in disguise? - I just hope I never have to have my toe fixed again!