Archive for March, 2007

Hootenanny ’07 Audition

So, we had auditions for Hootenanny ’07 this evening. The script and theme must remain shrouded in mystery, but I think we did fairly well.

It was only the second time the entire cast had run through the script together. To say that our schedules differ drastically would be an understatement. Things weren’t quite moving as fluidly as they could have.

Also, to quote one of the viewers, “That was the nerdiest thing I have ever seen.” Little does he know. A significant portion of the nerdy jokes in the script went right over the review board’s head. I sort of wish the board had had a CS major or two to appreciate them.

We’ll find out this weekend whether we got in or not. I think we made a favorable impression. They were, I think, slightly impressed that it was completely original. In the event that we are accepted, we will be making some modifications to the script in order to appeal more to the normal, boring, everyman.

Relativism in Sports

All sports operate on the principle of absolute truth. The guy scores, or he doesn’t score. One team wins, while the other suffers the agony of defeat. What determines this? Players bound to the tired old absolute time-space paradigm. As a subscriber to the relativistic worldview, I find this deeply offensive.

No, not really. Be quiet and keep reading.

So, relativism in sports. Did Joe really just make a slam dunk? I think he missed. My friend Mark-Anthony thinks it went in. What really happened? You decide! Place voting booths in the stands and let the elections begin! Hands on your buzzers, people.

It would be complete chaos. I love it. Televise matches and have digitally altered instant replays! Entropy would take it’s natural course, and games would degenerate into hockey-style fights on the field and in the stands. It’s part sport, part philosophical statement, and part WWF cage match!

For the final touch, we need only to pick a game. It helps if you get something fast-paced the audience thinks they know how to play, but in reality have no idea what the rules are or where to find them. I’m thinking Frisbee-golf. With a name like that, there have to be those sweet carts involved, right?

Seriously, ABC sports. Get your head in the game and get some good old relativistic Frisbee-golf tournaments going. I guarantee viewership will both triple and not triple at the same time.

English Majoryness

I know my declared major is computer science and engineering, but I occasionally ponder whether or not I’m really pursuing the right degree. Am I actually an English major in some parallel universe? Sometimes I wonder. I’ll make a list to double check.

  • I write stuff down. An immense amount. Scarcely a day goes by when yours truly hasn’t jotted something simply “because.” Over spring break, I wrote a letter or essay at least one page in length every day. Partially for personal entertainment and enjoyment, and partially because it helps me keep a perspective on things and observe my thought process. Actually, mostly because “they just happened.” You know, I only intended to publish one post today. In addition, regular scrawling helps me observe the lurking horror of my truly awful syntax, grammar, and editing errors.
  • I tend to think of life in terms of what a great story it would make. Waking in a panic at 7 A.M. because of roommate’s fire-alarm clock, running to class an hour before it starts due to early morning disorientation, and holding the door for a random female becomes a decidedly epic tale of betrayal (how could you do this to me, clock?!), plot-twists (where is everyone?), and chivalry (the handicap button totally counts). I would continue with more examples, but The World At Large is probably better off not knowing exactly how I perceive things.
  • On the flipside of simply enjoying life as it comes, I frequently attempt to direct and control it by composing sentences, paragraphs, and occasionally entire conversations in my head before initiating a join to normal socialness. These snippets of text frequently undergo revision a few times until I see it fit to release them into the wild. It *is* a jungle out there, though. There are nasty tribal people with spears who like to kill my fragile text and ideas, usually requiring me to reply shortly afterward. It’s tough to speak while mourning the loss of loved precomposed dialog.
  • Perspective has a habit of killing the excitement brought on by the previous two bullet points.
  • Technology interests me. Strongly. It’s the ideas of many people come together to better the world through communication, reason, and learning. Most of it is text-based. Think about it. It’s all currently about doing fantastic stuff with words. Connecting people, linking ideas, and creating new ways of thinking about information.
  • That reminds me, the ultimate killer app has not yet been achieved.
    • Basic word processing functions
    • Basic spreadsheet functions
    • No need to save
    • Simple file format, pretty much just a zip file with XML and whatever inside. Images, video, MP3s, etc.
    • Ability to export PDFs.
    • LaTex support! Teh maths, they need notes about them. Kformula has a wonderful system. Embed or fork that off, maybe?
    • Allows text windows. Position text anywhere, take notes on images, write notes in the virtual margins etc.
    • Dump any file into a note in-line. Drag n’ drop from a browser, file manager window, etc.
    • Completely brainless outlining. Tab, enter, and backspace are the only non alpha-numeric keys the user should need to make an outline.
    • WikiLike CamelCase linking
    • Very small and fast. Instant, if possible. If the user is coming up with new stuff faster then the program can process it, it’s too slow. Load time must be minimal, regardless of notebook size.
    • Open source! Cross platform! USB key compatible! Everyone could use something like this. Palm, Generic Windows boxen, MacBook, Ubuntu Laptop, etc.
    • Get a peer-to-peer note server going, while we’re at it. (low dev priority. SAMBA shares will hold users over in the meantime).
    • OneNote does a ton of this, actually. Tomboy does some of it. Basket is a nice example of the whole “dumping” concept. None of them are close to perfect.
    • I shall call it “MetaScribble”(TM), and development of a prototype will commence eventually using Python and wxWidgets.
    • Copyright FremLog, 2007.

Oh, right. Enthusiasm displayed over a detailed spec list for an obscure software product targeted at a decidedly niche market. I guess I am an engineer after all.

Condescending Attitude Toward Mac Users

Alright, I’m getting really tired of the general condescending attitude toward Mac users. This post was brought on by Ben’s thing here, (“We won’t dwell on the Mac users; they’re pretty much hopeless and demented anyway.”), but I’ve seen the attitude elsewhere also.

(a) OS X is UNIX
(b) Better UNIX then Windows.
(c) OS X *is* easier to get started with *and* maintain then Linux, even Ubuntu. More expensive, certainly, but much easier by an order of magnitude.

I would recommend OS X over Linux (even Ubuntu) for the average Joe who can afford it. More mainstream software is compatible, things “just work”, and it’s less hassle in general.

Don’t believe me? ‘Ight. Let’s play a word game.

  • MP3/DVD compatibility
  • 3D acceleration
  • Games
  • Microsoft Office
  • Photo manipulation
  • Power management

You can, of course, do all of these things on Linux. However, it is much easier to do them on a Mac. It’s stupid to expect your average Joe to search through a bunch of documentation to get 3D games working. Heck, even Ben hasn’t gotten 3D acceleration working on his laptop. MP3 and DVDs can’t be played by default on Ubuntu and require installation of an illegal (in the US) codec pack. That sort of thing is unheard of on a mainstream desktop PC. I understand this stuff is getting ironed out as we speak, but as of right now, they aren’t.

Photo manipulation with The GIMP still lags behind Photoshop. *cough* CMYK *cough*

Power management is another area Linux lags behind on. My Ubuntu laptop can hibernate, but it stopped waking up after a kernel update several months ago. I’m not alone in this either. Yeah.

As for OpenOffice.org, have you compared it to Microsoft Office 2007? The interface is vastly inferior. Even Office 2003 for Mac scores better in my book. Office 2008 for Mac should pretty sweet, if they do even a fraction of what was accomplished in the Windows version. No, really. I haven’t drunk any Kool-ade, I’m speaking as someone who has studied HIG. Office is bloated and the DOCX format is pretty lame, but it still pwns all competition. OpenOffice.org can’t even display two pages of the same document side by side. Sad, but true.

Also, there isn’t anything that comes even close to OneNote available for Linux. BasKet 1.0 is a step in the right direction, but as a OneNote user, I cringed and put it down after a few attempts to get work done. Tomboy, while a good substitute for the OneNote mini-pad thing, can’t compare to the full program. Ok, yeah, I know, no OneNote for Mac either, but y’know. At least they have notebook view in Word, we don’t even have that.

Really, I love Linux and it’s my primary operating system, but there are many good reasons to use OS X instead.

There Were Only Twenty-Eight Days In February This Year

Disclaimer: This is humor; many and most elements have been exaggerated (or fabricated wholesale) for the sake of hilarity. Reality is usually quite a bit more boring. There is no Harold. Thank you.

February 2007

In dorms, there are two classifications of rooms: clean and messy. I am the proud owner of the latter.

I would be perfectly happy to live undisturbed in my little fortress of clutter. It’s not like I bother much of anyone. Alas, it can never be. The college which I attend holds monthly room inspections. The committee that invented the policy had good intentions, I suppose. “This will motivate students to keep their living quarters spotless,” they said to themselves. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and who wouldn’t want that?”

The thing works in theory. In reality, the clean rooms are clean all the time anyway, and the messy rooms stay messy for twenty-eight days out of the month, to be cleaned in a frantic herculean effort on the twenty-ninth and/or thirtieth. This can be a problem in the shorter month of February. What ensues is a classic game of tactics and strategy, as resident and Resident Assistant match wits in a dramatic event worthy of broadcast television.

Consider the following scenario:
I stand amongst the heaps of paper and clothes littering the floor. Lightning flashes outside the window. The time is forebodingly close to the midnight inspection deadline. The RA appears at the door, clipboard in hand.
“Why is this room not clean?” he inquires, somewhat menacingly.
I attempt to explain the twenty-eight day game-play mechanic.
“What? That makes little to extremely little sense. Ok, listen. Either this is clean by Midnight, or you’ll be vacuuming the floor lounge tomorrow.”
Ah-ha! I spot a flaw in his plan. Vacuuming the lounge is totally easier then cleaning the room.
“AND you clean the room.”
Curses. Foiled again!

No matter. Harold, good old suite-mate Harold, is always nearby, always willing to lend cheerful assistance. “Clean it yourself!” yells Harold. I briefly plot his downfall before returning to the task at hand.

The primary issue here is paper. Old homework sets, class handouts, and essay markups. They are the only thing I have at this early age that could be considered my life’s work. I ponder vacuuming up my life’s work, but decide against it. The wafer-thin offenders are soon stacked neatly in a corner. The stack is a bit high, but as long as it doesn’t tower too loftily above the RA, I’ll probably be fine. RA is short, anyway.

Next are the clothes. They would be trivial, but I am now counting down the time until midnight in seconds. Behold; a vast expanse of unused space beyond yon open closet door! By T-39 seconds, my room is the prime example of cleanliness.

At inspection, the RA appears slightly suspicious. I attempt to remain calm and act casual. He makes unduly critical comments about the general safety of my newly constructed paper leaning tower of Pisa, the strange odor emitted by unseen waste, and how the aforementioned closet door has been mysteriously jammed shut.

Why do I always vacuum? It’s a conspiracy, I say.


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