Sunday, June 27, 2004

'Twas one of the worst exams ever (I love making blanket statements that are false, they're fun). A lot of it was from last year's exam, which would normally be good, except that there were no solutions, and last year's paper was equally strange. As I expected, overall it was a disappointing test of how much you could fit on your A4 sheet. By sheer chance, I fit some of the 5 mark questions there, but most of it was a toin-coss. One of the questions was on xload, a program to monitor system performace. This is literally what we were given in the lecture slides:

I kid you not. That's all the page on xload had.

I had to control my laughter during reading time, because, well, it was all so funny. This is what my life has become. Looking at graphs and writing about them in exams where I have to take in a sheet that's crammed full of stuff that has no bearing on anything. The lecturer meant well, I'm sure, but it just didn't work at all. It had the potential to be the most interesting subject this year, and indeed I thought it would be at the start, but it was yet another disappointment in my world of lowered expectations.

At times like these, you really have to wonder just what you're doing with your life. Nothing seems to have any purpose now if I have to spend my days doing this. xload exemplifies my failure - perhaps the graph is just a graph of my failure over time? No, wait, it would be my success over time, that would be more appropriate, seeing as how it gets really small towards the end. Success and happiness are but fleeting dreams to me now.

Anyway, for no reason at all, here's a stupid screenshot of my Linux desktop. It would have to qualify as one of the worst screenshots ever, but that's ok. Usually screenshots are so faked, the makers purposely have all these different "cool" programs open (a 100% of the time there is a Winamp open playing some strange MP3), so I think mine is much more realistic in comparison. Yeah, that must be it.

 Posted by Hello

This is what it has come to. Here's the first side of my notes for the exam tomorrow. Total nonsense. It seems it's just a test of how much you can squeeze onto your page of notes, not how much you can really understand of the topic. I think I spent a good three hours figuring out what to put on the sheet and then actually doing it as small yet legible as I could. Not exactly the ideal thing to do on one of those days when you question just what in God's name you're doing with your life. The questions in previous years are so nit-picky, the smallest details which (I think) do not test the higher level understanding of the topic as a whole. I guess that goes without saying for an exam that is 50% multiple choice? (not really, but I like hyperboles) Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 26, 2004

I must admit that I am a little disappointed with my Fedora installation. It does have its fair share of issues; just now it stopped responding to my keyboard, and all applications just locked up. Even better, when I rebooted, GRUB didn't even initialize. Sigh. It's my own fault, of course, going with such a bleeding-edge distro that has all the latest programs and utilities, not the tested and stable ones. I suppose it's good for a taste of where Linux is going, but it's not really (at the moment anyway) suited for serious daily use. Frankly, it doesn't seem to offer much benefit over XP, and if it crashes, then it's in fact worse!

I think I've had three weeks now of my anime exposure. I've got mixed feelings towards what I've seen. Let's see if I can muster the energy to blather on about them:

  • Cowboy Bebop - Now this one has been a disappointment. I say that because I have read a lot about how it's one of the greatest animations ever, the pinnacle of anime genius, and so on. The ones I've seen haven't been the great experiences I thought they'd be - sure, they were entertaining, but nothing deep, profound, artistic, or whatever else I expect of something truly great.

    The story hasn't really done it for me, and I think that's the problem. You get the feeling that the whole thing is very stylistic, and you can see the various influences that it brings together, but then you also see that there isn't too much depth to what's actually going on. Sure, it has it's fair share of humour, but there doesn't seem to be any character development, and the plot doesn't really seem to go anywhere. I think continuity of story is important, and the ones I've seen are basically unrelated. This means there is no character development, and so we don't really get a chance to feel involved at all.

    Now having said all that, the show is entertaining. I would prefer to watch it over a great number of shows on TV, because it's certainly not some simplistic kids' show. The style is quite nice, and parts of it are funny, so I would never accuse it of being boring. In fact the style is what would keep one going and make one want to watch more of it. I'm too easily influenced, of course, but it's interesting how they try to blend different genres into the different episodes. You can sort of see that this all has the potential to be great, and that's a good thing - it just hasn't done it for me so far.

    My opinion so far - not brilliant, but I can see it getting there.

  • Orphen - Lowered expectations give more enjoyment! Yes, I did not expect anything deep from this show, I expected some magic and a decent story, and that's exactly what I got, so I'm happy. There is something about this animation style that really captivates me - coupled with the music (which for some inexplicable reason reminds me of Japanese video games, even though I've never played any), it has it's own distinct feel.

    Story-wise, I've had to try to decipher the plot from the dialogue, and it is quite decent, although unfortunately I seem to have come in right towards the end, because next week is the last episode. Like I said, there's nothing altogether brilliant about it, it's decent entertainment, but I don't think it's much more (although I could well be mistaken, as I often am).

  • Trigun - Ahh now this one is interesting. Again, I'm very easily influenced by what I read, so when I saw reviews of this hailing it as a blend of philosophy and sci-fi, I think I was already convinced that it was great. Alas, I've only seen two epsiodes (the first week, I must admit I thought it was too silly, just judging from the opening credits), but I am hoping that it turns out to be what is promised. Already we have the morally strong (yet wacky) hero, whose reputation causes the demise of those around him.

    The death of one of the people in the last episode really stuck in my mind, I don't know why. It was interesting to see the hero getting blamed for the destruction he inadvertantly caused, and him accepting the blame too. A slight deviation from the typical spotless champion of justice who does everything right. To be fair, not something dramatic, but I notice little things when it suits my opinion...!

    High hopes of this one!

Standard caveat of course, being that since I've only seen three episodes of each, this can hardly constitute a review. It's more of a musing, much like everything else on this blog.

Friday, June 25, 2004

These crack me up, I don't know why -

"If you have skipped lectures all semester, you'd better study hard. If you are bludgy student, you'd better study even harder. If you write dodgy answers on the exam, you will get a dodgy mark".

"If you draw bogus boxes and stickmen, you will receive a bogus mark."

I love the tone, especially in the second one.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Jennifer Garrett?!? It's a sign, Gazza...
I'm a little miffed that there isn't a way to upload images to Blogger with Linux. Seems like Picassa's Hello works only on Windows. A quick Google hasn't revealed anything useful, but I'm probably not looking hard enough.

I find that my Linux system is by and large self-sufficient, with a few exceptions. Firstly, network browsing is currently not available, because I have to play around with Samba first. So when I need to get stuff of one of the other machines, I currently have to boot into Windows. Secondly, the print driver is currently quite awful, the resolution is useless. This is again trivial to fix probably, I just need to spend more time working on it.

Nowadays I try to use Linux exclusively, to give it a fair go. Whaddaya know, it's not half bad! It got me thinking how Microsoft can compete with it, keeping their current business strategy. Perhaps I've been influenced by too much open source propaganda, but it seems to me like Linux's strengths will keep growing and growing, and it will get more and more stable (as per the famous quote, "given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow"). As a desktop option, it has certainly seen an exponential boost in usability, the days of a pure CUI Linux are behind us, GNOME and KDE may not be perfect but hey, they're a heck of a lot better than what they were a few years ago.

Will Microsoft change its strategy and embrace Open source? Will it try to crush it altogether? If it does, can it succeed? I am filled with ominous anticipation. For some reason I find myself sometimes rooting for Microsoft. Reading about their business practises only has a temporary effect on me, in the long run I seem to forget it and continue my Windows-worship. I am still uncertain whether the downfall of Microsoft will bring me sorrow (or, for that matter, whether the downfall of Linux will bring me joy).

I think at the very least it will be good for MS to get some competition, although how they respond to it is another matter. I am not too impressed with the anti open-source campaign it has been trying out, since it seems to be spreading FUD rather than actual fact. Then again, this is the business world, so perhaps this is what businesses do. I can't claim to know.

On a tangential subject, I hate Linux zealots. Why not Windows zealots? Because I don't see many of them. Linux zealots on the other hand seem to be abound, and they irk me. Then again, what if their zealotry is because of the damning nature of the truth about MS? Heh I don't know.
There's a bit of a backlog in posts I intended to make, but exams have sort of got in the way. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before, these whimsical little posts lose their magic after a few days in my head, so I don't think I will post a lot of what I had intended.

There's lovely flaimbait to be found at Why Your Moveable Type blog must die. The author doesn't express himself too tactfully, and so it's quite easy to dismiss him as a troll, but he does raise the interesting issue of whether blogs are the scum of the internet. The rant is directed at MT blogs, but remarks on the inherent futility of blogs are abound. A related rant is this one, which offers more in terms of an semi-objective argument.

While many are quick to point out that there are good blogs out there, the argument is that the majority of blogs are a waste of space and so "must die", as the author colourfully puts it. The strongest argument against blogs is that they mess up Google. The claim is that most blogs simply provide links to a site and offer some pithy commentary that is usually quite trivial, and pretty much what everyone else in the world who is blogging is saying. This is of course greeted by cries of "too bad for Google!" by avid bloggers, who exert that it is their right to express themselves and that it's not their fault that Google gets confused.

One comment from the above site is "..people feel great after they post something on their blogs and they feel as if they have used their "right of expression" to the fullest..". Probably not intended as a generalization, but I thought I'd reflect a little on why I do this. I don't think it's the right of expression so much as the act of expression itself - there is a certain joy in expressing your thoughts in a concrete form, no matter how trivial they may be. I often treat the blog as a journal of my thoughts and experiences, from the facetious to the dead serious, so that no matter if no one else in the world could be bothered to read it, at least I can look back at what makes up my life at this very moment.

Being the introvert that I am, I am often consumed with thoughts, conversations and debates with myself, and opinions. In real-life I am non-confrontational and I think that by and large that is reflected in my blog, since I am always afraid of expressing my true opinion, lest someone else come and disagree. And of course, the act of expression is very cathartic when something is troubling you. I suppose we can deal with it in different ways. I tend to try and mull over it again and again in my head, so sometimes I try to express whatever haphazard thoughts I have in words.

As I have mentioned before, I originally intended this to be filled with truly profound stuff, philosophical exercises and the like, as well as anything related to programming. This was before I came to the conclusion that I am not really that bright, and therefore I can't really say anything meaningful on such subjects. All I've offered programming wise is "why I like C#", which is not quite I had in mind.

The second site actually has categories of blog authors. I believe I fall into quite a few of them -

  • Reverse Voyeur? Spot on. I delude myself in thinking that people actually read this and find it informative and/or entertaining, and would love for passers-by to comment here, because that would make me feel like someone is listening.

  • Tragically Geek? It's like you know me. I wouldn't call myself a (stereo)typical geek (I certainly don't know or don't intend to know anyone called "ph33rfr33k", for one), but the remarks on social skills are pretty much accuarte.

  • Aspiring writer? Not generally, but sometimes I think I kid myself into thinking that what I'm doing is serious writing and expression of thought.

I am aware of the irony of this point probably perfectly fitting the description of pointlessness and what have you, but there you go. I truly believe that if anything, my blog can become the epitome of failure among weblogs, much like I am the epitome of failure among people.

So I think I've concluded that yes, this particular blog is useless, a waste of space, and that I as the author suffer from delusion and social isolation. But I shall blog anyway, not out of defiance, not out of a sense of "I can blog, so I will, and if you don't like it, tough!", but just out of a need to feed my own ego, to make myself feel more important, as if I've actually accomplished something with spending time posting here. Reality may be otherwise, but delusion my friends is a far more powerful device.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

I wonder what it is about humans that we are unable to separate logic and emotion. Why do I consistently do the opposite of what logic tells me, instead following emotion? I especially love it when afterwards I sit back and reflect on everything, and basically end up where I started - having a perfectly clear idea, logically, of what I should do. But when the moment comes, say bye-bye to logic. Someone I know once likened it to how your intellect is a soft voice that speaks to you, whereas your body is this massive sea of emotions and feelings that totally overwhelms you. When the moment comes, do you listen to the soft voice? Or do you listen to the roaring sea? Interesting.

Of course, I don't mean that one should live one's life purely by logic, but surely one should not live one's life purely based on feeling. The answer must lie somewhere in between.

If we have a soul, can we lose it forever? When you sin, what happens? Does a part of you die? Are you robbed of the one thing that could make you immortal? Are you left to contemplate your actions and realize and what you've given up? Is there a universal notion of sin anyway? At some degree, moral standards are self-imposed, so sin would have to be a relative term in some sense.

What does it mean when you beg for forgiveness and then make the same mistake again? Does your word have any worth anymore? I don't think I can trust myself anymore, I don't think I know who I am! It's easy now to think "Oh but I'll never do it again". That's what I said two years ago, and now look at me. Simply pathetic.

I bitterly realize today that I am much the same person I was two years ago. I have not changed at all - sure, I try to act like I'm suddenly mature, but nope, I'm still a frightened, confused little boy on the inside. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I wish I could just snap my fingers and forget the past, but it's never that easy. Confusion, pain and sorrow are powerful emotions, ones that you can hide for a long time, but which sooner or later are going to turn up again.
Final batch of pics (in case you care, which you most certainly don't):


There we go. That's the lot. Posted by Hello

By the way, I'm making fun of myself, not the marker.

Hmm this thing isn't letting me send multiple pictures. Let's see now.. Posted by Hello

More pics. Posted by Hello

The remains of one of my INFO assignments, after I crumpled it, threw it to the floor, and wrote strange comments on it. Not funny at all, but I thought I might as well post it for posterity's sake. Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 19, 2004

When do you know that you hate a subject? When you intentionally drop your pen onto the floor so that you can pick it up, thereby giving you an excuse to spend 5 seconds not studying.

But for all the slack I give INFO, I gotta say, it's the only subject that has really made me realize how pointless existence is and that mankind is going wrong. I mean, the textbook actually uses the phrase "talk the talk and walk the walk". As someone once said, "That's not good".
Here are some of the things I've thought about in the last 4 hours:

  • Disproving well-established theorems that form the basis of mathematics

  • Making up new and wonderful theorems that allow you to solve an entire exam in a page

  • Becoming God, and having people worship me

  • Iron Maiden's The Wicker Man

  • Transforming into a professor from university

  • Becoming a rock star who sings gentle folky-tunes

  • The earth being ravaged by a foul creature of the night that is summoned by an evil magician

  • Various psychotropic substances

  • Burning down the house

And you thought sitting at home and studying was safe. Hah!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

I'm jealous of blogs that get lots of visitors. It's possibly because they have actual content and gifted people behind them who don't spend all their time musing on random things with no apparent structure.

Sorry, I can't resist a Seinfeld quote. I am like George in many ways I think. Perhaps I'll write about that someday?

"George: I'm sorry. I can't live knowing Ted Danson makes that much more than me. Who is he?
Jerry: He's somebody.
George: What about me?
Jerry: You're nobody.
George: Why him? Why not me?
Jerry: He's good, you're not.
George: I'm better than him.
Jerry: You're worse, much much worse."

Exactly what I was thinking when I saw someone's blog littered with random passer-bys commenting, "What's so great about his blog?! What about mine!?" :)

Historic post today, because I do believe it's the first time I've ever used a smiley. I think I had this notion that it detracted from the whole atmosphere of the place, or rather the pseudo-atomosphere that I've conjured up in my head, of this place being a hallowed place of deep philosophical reflections and what have you. But in reality it would be laughable to suggest that, and so I'll just hang my head in shame and embarssement.
Now that I'm a compulsive blogger, I wonder whether I will attribute the inevitable failure in my exams to this blog.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Gah, it's getting increasing hard to get anything done anymore. It's 5 now, and I don't feel like I've done anything. I want the exams over but at the same time I want more time to prepare for them!

In other news, I am typing really slowly now in order to try and get all fingers trained in typing - I am getting tired of making so many mistakes when typing, it's about time I did something about it. Let's see how this cruel experiment turns out. Currently, I tend to use four fingers in my left hand (excluding the weak little pinky, which only does the occasional Shift press) but only the index finger in my right hand. So although letters on the left side of the keyboard get typed fairly quickly, those on the right are usually the ones that cause a problem. But yeah, like I said, I hope to correct that. After using a computer for all these years, you'd think I would be a decent typist by now, but I guess not. Yet another failure to chalk up I suppose!
Yay, pretty much everything is working in Fedora now. The sound card was giving problems but I think I've solved that now, it can play OGG and WAV files, just not CDs. I suspect this is because I don't have the audio cable attached onto my soundcard, so I will check that out soon. But other than that, it's all good - wireless internet, printing, sound and full access to my XP box. Plus, I got to muck around a little with funky stuff like /dev/dsp and other cool Linuxy things. So nice to get your feet wet editing these weird and wonderful files.

Watership Down was coming on TV this morning. What a subtly beautiful story! I remember trying to explain it once to someone, but it sounded so silly and I felt embarassed. Once you say "there's these group of rabbits, see?", you automatically sound silly. Admittedly, that is something of a turn off, because it automatically draws up the idea of being a children-only thing (I suppose Animal Farm might be another thing that might come to mind? Hmm). Yet if one only read the book or watched the movie, one would (I think) be struck by the sheer beauty of it. I still get chills when the eagle flies in and takes away Violet, and then Fiver just says "Violet's gone" - it's hard to explain, I suppose it's another one of those things that has been buried in my memory and so is something I have built a strong emotional attachment to over time.

A pity I couldn't watch the whole thing today, especially the really good bits with the general, but I will try to make it a point to watch it by the end of the month (assuming it comes again, which it should).

I also saw Alien a few days ago. Amazingly enough, I was able to remember the plot quite vividly - but from the Mad magazine spoof of it! I don't remember it as being particularly funny too, it's just one of those things that stays with you, a memory burn as Seinfeld puts it. The movie isn't as scary as I though it would be, although I think the supsense is done superbly. Ridley Scott is obviously a very talented filmmaker. It makes me wonder whether there have been any genuinely scary/creepy movies made in the last 10 years? Nothing really comes to mind, but then again I'm comparing a pop-culture icon to stuff I see at night on Showtime, so yeah, my opinion is worth dirt. I rather unfortunately missed the sequel, but that's another thing on the "to-watch" list, which seems to ever-growing.

And the fact that it is growing is disheartening, because I have exams coming up next week, and I really should be thinking more about them rather than what movies to watch. I suppose I've never really been comfortable with the idea of relaxing too much during periods when it's fairly critical to maintain focus. But it is becoming especially hard to maintain focus with uni work nowadays. Have I reached the limit? Am I so totally burnt out that I simply cannot spend as much time on study as I used to? Or am I becoming a lazy slob desperate to cook up excuses? Does it really matter? It matters to me, for reasons that are no doubt strange in the light of cold reason. Reason and logic dictate my two areas of study (computer science and maths), yet I still choose to ignore them whenever convenient. I'm sure I have a bright future ahead of me.

Speaking of which, I came across some MSDN blogs and saw a few MS developers talking about tech interviews. As always, I became paralyzed with fear as I realized that I would probably not be able to do any of the sorts of questions they were asking. I am a terrible logical thinker and what's worse is I hardly ever do coding anymore unless it's for assignments - I simply don't have the time. What this means, essentially, that I'm probably going to end up with no job prospects whatsoever, or at least not at any major company like say Microsoft. "Ok, so maybe you're not Microsoft material, but that ain't so bad now is it? I mean, there are plenty of fish in the sea". But the thing is, if I ain't MS material, what material am I? A small software company that staffs 50 people? If so, is that what I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life, working in a small company? I suppose we all have the illusion of becoming rich and successful, but with me I can only see failure and everyone saying that I'm "wasting my potential", when in fact, no, I'm not, I'm utilizing all my potential, I'm just not good enough, that's all. "Ok ok, so maybe you won't be rich and successful, is that such a bad thing?". There's a question whose answer is worth recording. Of course the rational side of me says "money can't buy happiness" and other cliches, and I actually agree with that. But it's not the money, I think it's more the success side of it - I want to be successful, to fulfill this image in my head of what a good life should be. A good life should be successful would imply that a good life is a successful life, no? Is that right? Hmm.

I suppose the way to do anything about this (if at all there is anything inherently wrong with such a view) would be to try and think critically about things now and challenge my own ideas to see if I can put my mind at ease. But I'm far too scattered in my thoughts to do that. Hopefully this blog will help - I can try to continue and have conversations with you, gentle reader.

And one more thing, while I'm on a roll tonight. Do I want to do software for the rest of my life? What is my legacy? Creating software systems, essentially things that exist in the most abstract sense inside a computer? Is that something I should be proud of? Where is my mark on the world? When I die, what will I leave behind for people to remember me by? Do I want to be remembered in the first place? All very interesting questions, ones that I have thought about for a long time. Depressing questions too, because most of the time I am forced to conclude that it is very likely that I will merely fade away in the sands of time. Now, I don't think I am suggesting that software development is a "dead-end" field or anything. I suppose a similar argument could be applied to pretty much any profession there is under the sky. Bankers, lawyers, what legacy do they leave (unless you're the top of your field, of course)? Actually, a little reflection reveals that it is not ones' profession that I am questioning, but rather it is life itself. Life and ones' legacy, if such a thing is still possible in the modern world. Even greats of the past are eventually forgotten - off the top of my head, mathematical geniuses who came up with some amazing results centuries ago will soon vanish as individuals and remain only as names in theorems. What an unfitting end.

Mortality is one of the scariest issues that you can think of, and so I suppose I'd best leave it at that.

Wow, by far the longest post ever. Let's see how long before I get burnt out by over-blogging.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

I have to modify my template, it seems everyone has gone crazy with the template options, and so every blog looks the same. I have to make mine stand out, I simply must..
Well I'm typing this from Fedora Core 2, and I gotta say, I am impressed. Linux has definitely improved since I last played around with. When I first installed Linux some three years ago, it was quite simply a nightmare. There was no chance of any but the most basic hardware getting detected. This included my monitor, video card, sound card and mouse (!!) being for all intents and purposes the bare minimum models required in a computer system. I had to manually go in an edit files like /etc/fstab and run strange commands like xfree86config to get things to work, and they never really did.

But now, Fedora detects (nearly) everything straight off the bat, no problems at all - I boot to a beautiful Gnome desktop with 1280x1024 resolution in 32-bit glory, and I didn't have to do a thing. Gone are the days of guessing your horizontal and vertical sync ranges, and the warning that providing a wrong range can cause permanent damage to your monitor. Amazingly enough, with a little coaxing, it was even able to get my wireless network going. Although, I must say, Knoppix did a far better job in that I literally did nothing and everything worked. But still, compared to earlier Red Hat distros, the improvement is remarkable (well duh, it's been 3 years!).

That's all a good thing, right? Well, although it is nice, it sort of lessens the view of Linux as the OS of the true techie, in that you don't have to muck around anymore. Lots of things now have nice GUI interfaces and installers, and so the experience is a lot like Windows. Before, it was clear that you were in another OS - the dark console screen, waiting to see what tons of errors you were going to get, now that's an atmosphere!

Of course, you can still work at this level if you want to. I mean hey, they can't force you to do everything with a GUI, right? But once you're exposed to the ease of use (in most cases) of the GUI approach, it's hard to go back. Having said that, a fair few GUIs offer far too little control over settings, and so sometimes you'll be forced to get your hands dirty. For instance, Fedora can't read NTFS partitions, so if I want to read my Windows partition from here, I'm going to have to install a separate package and (presumably) muck around with config files. Sounds like fun!

It remains to be seen how the various dependencies for packages are handled by Fedora, because last time I used Linux it was a pain having to download a program only to be told upon compilation that it required three not-installed libraries to run, and those librarires would in turn require more libraries..I'm trying to think why this is different to the Windows case. I suppose the open-source nature of Linux means that there are a lot more freely available libraries, which means that there has been a lack of structure in the way they have been used, in the sense that there are many different libraries available and in many cases there isn't a standard way of doing things. Actually, come to think of it, I think that's changing (was it ever the case in the first place? Or more ignorance on my part?).

I guess it may seem like I am being totally contradictory, and in a sense I am. It's great that Linux is becoming more user-friendly, but I still would like to relive the Linux that is the rite of passage among techies, just for the heck of it. "Then why don't you", you ask? Because my first priority is to test out Linux and see how feasible it is to use it on a daily basis. Work (hah, what work?) first, play later, as they say.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

If you haven't played Morrowind, you're missing out. Not just because it's a great game (and it is), but because you will never have the joy of seeing a bosmer. To be more precise, a bosmer with a fur cap. I'll take a screenshot of one once I get free time (probably in another month), so stay tuned!
There's been a lot of speculation lately, so I thought I'd clear everything up. Iwmne's blog is not as good as mine. Mine is better. Thank you for your time.
I am stickman!
Son be an analyst, be an analyst,
You have the ability to solve problems,
Son be an analyst, be an analyst,
You have the ability to apply Green's theorem.

Friday, June 11, 2004

They kill babies in the crib and say only the good die young.
With nothing else on TV, I flicked on (as I rarely do) to Cartoon Network to catch Cowboy Bebop, one of the most popular anime shows around. And what can I say, it's got something - perhaps a little pretentious at times, but it does have something. It's hard to draw the line between artistic and pseudo-artistic/pretentious, but I think CB is planted on the former. The animation style is intriguing, like nothing I've seen before. But caveat emptor, because I've never seen any other anime in my life (excluding kids' ones like DBZ, etc.), and for that matter very little animation.

The story is impossible to judge without seeing more episodes I suppose. The episode I saw yesterday was a little simplistitc in the storyline - genetically enhanced man who goes psycho but when he sees an object from the past (a cat, no less) becomes terrified. But like I said, it would be foolish to judge the story based on one episode, because perhaps it has continuity and what have you.

Animation wise I found it most entertaining, although I suppose "like nothing I've seen before" sounds tacky. It is true for the most part though! I read a while ago that The Matrix was influenced by a lot of anime, and it doesn't surprise me given the action scenes from this one. Usually well choreographed with interesting visual techniques, although my only complaint would be that there was perhaps too much action. Then again, it's just one episode.

Now, some parts struck me as just trying to be artsy, but perhaps that's just me. The hero (Spike?) playing pool, for instance, where they have an interesting animation of the ball getting hit in, that was a turn-off because it seemed like they were trying to be too artistic, but then again, what do I know?

That was no review by any stretch of the imagination, but merely another musing. I should mention that I saw a bit of Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 and it freaked me out. There's something about animation with that old (80s?) look and feel to it that really scares me. The bit I saw was when three of these robot-knights (?) are fighting these strange things that come out of the ground. The barren landscape, the ruins, the dark sky, gah, all too much for me! I think it fills me with a sense of foreboding that plays very deeply on me, but at the same time of course, I feel like I must watch.

Oh and incidentally I have these things called exams next week. Think they're important or something.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

On the subject of remembering the essence of something without remembering the specifics, take Aldous Huxley's Those Barren Leaves for example. I picked it up with scorn, for some reason mocking something I saw on the back cover. Something about it being a comedy or something. Anyway, I never really expected it to be a serious read - it was originally something to pass the time.

But once I finished, lord! I was forever changed! Well, nothing as dramatic as that, but it did have a profound impact on me. It was another of those books that just seemed to speak directly to me. At the peak of my intellectual and philosophical search, reading some of Huxley's ideas were simply delightful. Yet again, I am ashamed that I cannot remember details. But the mood, the atmosphere, it was perfect for the time I was reading it. Sitting in my old house in Mysore, gazing at the pages of someone who thought about a lot of stuff I was thinking about. In particular I remember one of the characters musing about the various conceptions of his hand - physically, chemically, philosophically - I have often thought of much the same thing.

It's truly wonderful when something resonates, and captures a special place in your heart. I can think of other things apart from Huxley's novel. Plastic Ono Band. On The Beach, for some inexplicable reason. Coming Up For Air, as previously mentioned. A short list, to be sure, but one that I hold dear in some way. Perhaps they're not the cream of the crop, but they've got something special that I do hope I never forget.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Almost every blog on the "recently published" list appears to be a new one. Makes veterans like me really feel their age. Yep. 6 months of nothing to say. What an age we live in.
Lordy, there are so many foo's blogging (I'm one to judge, huh?). If I weren't completely mentally crippled, I'd reply to some of the brain-dead stuff I read on the net, but what's the point?

At the same time, if I were to read my blog as an outsider I'd probably think that I were a nutjob. You can't judge people till you've been in their shoes, I suppose. But that don't mean it ain't fun anyway!

I'm just fresh off a pseudo-Indian blog. Pseudo, because the person blogging totally contradicts my definition of Indian. Although he (?) is in India. I suppose it is because I am far too naive in my mythic conception of my motherland, I place it on a pedestal far above the rest of the world (don't we all?). And when I see something that goes against that image, I denounce it as "not Indian". Wonderful exercise, no? The particular blog I read seems to be a try-hard who wants to act cool. But at the same time, he's not some vapid fool, the man does think, only in a different way to me. Way to be accepting of different ideologies, huh? Just totally dismmiss them as insane if they contradict yours. Swearing, drinking and doing drugs are not cool, sir. I dunno what perception you have of the west, but I can honestly say that these last few months I feel like I'm drowning. Drowning, and I need to come up for air pretty soon.

Isn't Coming Up For Air such a lovely, albeit bitter, book? I sometimes feel like the a way, Orwell reflected my own thoughts about nostalgia and "home" quite perfectly. Some of it is just awfully tragic though, especially with the fish pond (if I remember correctly, it's the one he went to as a child). I'll be darned if I remember much else about the book though. I tend to get the overall flavour of books once I read them, but I have a really hard time recalling even general ideas about the story. I am therefore able to possess an almost instinctive record of the overall tone, even if details of the plot escape me. In many ways, it's the same thing with music albums - I might not remember the specific songs, but I will remember that I liked the overall atmosphere of the thing. That is as of itself not that bad, of course - if I am able to store the essence of something, there's something to be said for that. But of course, in daily conversation, it can look quite foolish.

And that's why I hate people.
It's funny, I've often posted nonsense here that no one will understand, as well as totally non-serious stuff that will probably alarm people. I never really expected that anyone would read this blog, but I guess if you're posting something on the net, you're bound to get some curious passer-by. And whenever I get a passer-by, I hold onto them like death itself ("which is not too far off, by the way").
I am not serious at all, you know. I am just very, very tired. I am not suicidal and I'm not a manic depressive. I'm just a little cooky, ya know? Just want to clear things up.
Should I transfer unis? Why not? I am a butterfly. One that will get slaughtered. Enough! May as well drop out altogether. And do what? Be. Simply be. Reflect. Live. Exist. No need to worry about money and jobs and security and people and places and life. Just live.
"Every living creature dies alone". Not me. When I die, I'm taking you all down with me. Oh yeah.

I could never bring myself to kill myself. Why? I just can't. Someone once said that. But who was it? Whoever it was, I agree whole-heartedly. I am tired of life, but I can't kill myself. Just talking about it is morbid. Ahh teen angst. Perhaps in 6 months I will magically lose such thoughts and become a mature adult. Who am I kidding, I'm gonna be like this for a looong time.

"I am a loser and a failure". Am I right or am I wrong (in which case I am right)? The loser paradox.

Are rapid mood swings a sign of the times? Actually that didn't make a lick of sense. How I've longed to use that phrase. Lick of sense. Sick of lens. Perhaps I do have a terminal illness after all. That's the right spirit. The spirit of the matter. An odd phrase, or rather a phrase which can be interpreted oddly. Free forming, free flowing Jazz like.
If you remember Maniac Mansion, this should provide a little bit of nostalgia. Works nicely on Windows, except that I don't know if I can readjust to the olde interface.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Sorry, I just can't resist. It's just too good:

In A.D. 2101
War was beginning.

Captain: What happen ?
Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
Operator: We get signal.
Captain: What !
Operator: Main screen turn on.
Captain: It's you !!
Cats: How are you gentlemen !!
Cats: All your base are belong to us.
Cats: You are on the way to destruction.
Captain: What you say !!
Cats: You have no chance to survive make your time.
Cats: Ha Ha Ha Ha ....
Operator: Captain !!*
Captain: Take off every 'Zig'!!
Captain: You know what you doing.
Captain: Move 'Zig'.
Captain: For great justice.

Who needs Shakespeare when you've got this?
If you're anything like me, you'd better kill yourself. But before you do that, that would mean that you've come across the problem of creating a PDF from a Word DOC file. Sounds easy, but unfortunately, it isn't as easy as it should be. As I understand it, you have a few options:

  • Get the full version of Adobe Acrobat and you're all set. Easiest solution of all, of course. Problem is, Acrobat costs money, and we all know that people like me are totally self-absorbed and so want large complicated programs that perform specific tasks at no cost whatsoever. That's just the way it was meant to be, ya know?

  • The open source Open Office can read in Word files, and what's more, it can export them to PDFs. So you get an intended replacement for Word that can produce PDFs too. Sounds good? It is - except that the filesizes it produces are a bit on the large size. If size is a concern, Open Office has a ways to go before it becomes your program of choice

  • The free CutePDF writer installs itself as a pseudo-printer which lets you "print" stuff as PDF file. Definitely very nice, and better file-sizes than Open Office too. Do we have a winner? Looks like it.

  • But what's this? Another free way that's just as good? Yes, it's true. You can in fact use the freely available GhostView and GhostScript to create PDF files. The idea is very simple - GhostView allows you to convert PostScript files to PDF files using its pdfwrite device. All you have to do then is make your Word file into a PostScript file. "How do I do this", you ask? Patience, young padwan. If you're lucky, your printer is PostScript compatible, and you've got it made. If you're not so lucky, then there's hope - Adobe has a generic PostScript printer driver for Windows, which does just the trick. Installing this will let you simulate a PostScript-compatible printer. In Word, you must convert the file to a PostScript file. Sounds even harder than making it to a PDF! But luckily, it isn't - because, you see, you can print a file's contents into a file in a format that a printer can recognize. So you just need to make this format PostScript. The way to do that is to go File->Print and check the "Print to file" box, which, if you're like me, you've neglected all your life. If you do this with your PostScript printer (or your Adobe PostScript driver printer), then you'll make a PRN file which is really a PostScript file. Open this in GhostView, click File->Convert, make sure pdfwrite is selected and off you go! Free PDF, fresh off the presses.

Once you're done reading my ramble, head off over to this site and hear someone who knows what they're talking about give it to you straight on how to make PDFs. Don't worry about me, I'm quite happy lurking in the shadows.

Monday, June 07, 2004

As if Python weren't enough, now I've gone mad and printed Common Lisp: A Gentle Guide To Symbolic Computation. As the title states, it's a book on Lisp. Now, you might well wonder, "Lisp?! Of all the languages in the world, why Lisp?!". Hype, mainly. To be more specific, glowing praise from certain members of the friendly GameDev community. There is also the fact that I am getting tired with C based languages - not tired, that implies that I'm getting bored altogether of it, but I just feel like learning something entirely new. After all, broadening one's horizons is a good thing, or at least that's what they say. Is functional programming all that? Can't wait to find out. As usual, I'm too easily impressed. I don't really know what I'm expecting. A sudden revelation that will change the way I think about programming? Ehh it's possible I suppose. Unlikely, but possible.

As for the book itself, I've heard only good things. I hope it ain't too gentle though, at least not to the point where it gets boring. Perhaps I ought to actually glance through books before I go around printing them (but where's the fun in that?). Another book of high repute (out of print) is Lisp-guru Paul Graham's On Lisp, yet another (!) book available for free online as a PDF. Apparently a bit advanced, so I skipped it for now, but if I really take a shine to the language or the paradigm, I might give it a serious look. Graham has impressed me with the articles on his site, especially the famous one about Bayesian spam filtering. However, some of the articles seem a bit elitist according to my fast fading memory. But what do I know, I'm just a imperative-worshipping infidel.

Incidentally, I love PDFs, they're so nice. I know quite a few people who hate them, but they're obviously crazy. In future, everything I do is going to be in PDF. Won't you join my tea party?

PBS interviewed David Crosby and asked him why he thought the music industry today is utter nonsense. An interesting read, although I can't really judge the validity of some of Crosby's comments. Darn hippies.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Actually, I was wrong as usual, there are PDFs on The Structure And Interpretation Of Computer Programs, you just have to take the trouble to find it. The most frequently linked one is this, which is a straight PDF off the HTML pages. Nice, but it has the hyperlinks at the bottom of each page, which is a minor irritation. Google for the filename, "sicp.pdf", and you get the wonderful TeXed version here. This one is a lot smaller too. My guess is that it's the PDF version that used to be on the MIT site, but I could be wrong. I doubt anyone else would be bothered to write the whole thing up!

What's with the whole functional language craze now? I guess I just wanna become a smug Lisp user. After all, it's been so long since I've felt elitist. A whole day, as a matter of fact. Simply unacceptable. Scheme or Lisp, though? Anything non-procedural or non-OO it would seem like.
I am ready to dive into Python (witty, witty), thanks to my shameless abuse of the university's print quota. Actually, it's hardly an abuse since they offer us a 1000 pages to print out whatever we want. But nonetheless, the act of printing out a whole book seems a bit excessive, and hence wasteful. Yet of course a book is worth far more than a tutorial sheet (let's see what I say to this come exam time - oh wait, it is exam time). Now I have no excuse not to read it - it's printed and just waiting to be read. Chances are of course that it will stay that way till the end of the year. Such is life.

But anyway, I wish I could print out The Structure And Interpretation Of Computer Programs. Also known as the bible of Scheme, and the greatest computer science textbook of the last 20 years. I can't quite explain my fascination with these sorts of books that are revered as being brilliant texts in the way of programming itself - the book, from what I've read, tries to use Scheme to push the reader onto the path of becoming a good computer scientist, not just a good Scheme programmer. Which is of course what we need today, texts that teach you more than syntax, that go beyond the details of a language and look at the high level issues that are arguably much more important.

A digression - are all Scheme programmers good? Or more generally, are all functional programmers good? Probably not, but they seem to be such an exclusive group that I'll wager that most of those who do program in such languages are really good. Just read some of the newsgroups on Lisp, those guys are crazy! After all, one must be reasonably motivated to choose such an obscure language paradigm - obscure in the modern day business sense. How many job offerings for Lisp programmers have you seen lately, hmm?

So is this all an attempt to apply the flawed logic of "If I were a Scheme programmer, I would be a good programmer"? Quite possibly, but I would like to think that I am trying to elevate my knowledge and understanding and become one, without the naive assumption that by merely learning Scheme I will magically transform. That ain't so bad, now is it?

On a related note, three volumes of The Art Of Computer Programming lie in a bookshelf in my house, never read once. Glanced at, yes, but never read. I wonder if I will ever be able to comprehend a whole chapter of this intriguing bible of computer science (everything seems to be a bible today). Knuth reminds me how little I truly know, both in mathematics and computer science. Is that a good thing?

Oh, why can't I print the book out, you ask? Because the chapters (and pages?) are individual HTML files, and the book is not available as a convenient PDF. It is available in printed form for US $75. A bit expensive, wouldn't you say?