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16th February 2007

2:06pm: Global Warming
My friend dropped me an e-mail asking what I thought about a couple of articles presenting the side of the global warming debate that is general brushed off. Here's links to the articles, and my rather long winded response (you should probably read the articles first as I refer to them).

Will Al Gore Melt?
An experiment that hints we are wrong on climate change
My responseCollapse )

15th February 2006

10:20am: Obfuscation of Education
Why is it that in programming it is considered bad practice to use single letter (or otherwise indescriptive) variable names, yet in text books and journal articles it is considered standard practice?

8th January 2006

4:13pm: TiddlyWiki
A while ago I mentioned the need for some sort of tagging system to organize notes in a easy to use manner. It looks like TiddlyWiki is the solution. It's portable, easy to edit, and allows for tagging.
It can also be utilized for less mundane purposes, like Gimcrack'd. It's a collection of choose your own adventure style stories, as well as stories where you can follow or ignore the author's tangents. I'd suggest starting with Syncope by Chris Klimas. Chris also authored Blue Chairs, which you may recall me having gushed about earlier.

23rd October 2005

9:17pm: Call to Pants
I'm in some serious need of pants right now, due to a poorly capped sharpie and wear and tear. I seriously only ever wear one pair of cords, and some pants with a stretch waist that I will probably never need to stretch. My dilemma comes in with my hopes for being socially conscious and getting something that I know wasn't made by some doe eyed 5 year old that appears in PSAs and indie movies. Unfortunately the only safe place I know of, American Apparel, doesn't sell mens pants (those drawstring fleece pants don't count, so don't bother bringing them up. Though I do needs to get some of the unnecessarily short P.E. shorts).
The point is I propose we start a letter writing campaign to get me some pants. I wrote American Apparel back in the midst of the seventh month of the year, and they wrote me back saying their fashionsmiths are working hard on some cords, but have yet to solve the mystery of the zipper. Have they not heard of the button fly? Three months later what do I find on their main page, but a t-shirt for a dog! And it's not even for a real dog, but one you might accidentally sit on if it would stop yipping for five seconds.
It's time for action, people. Frankly I think we'd all be happier if I was wearing some pants (ok, we all know that's a blatant lie, but frankly I'm not coming out of the house without some pants on, no matter where they end up later).
Current Mood: belligerent

28th September 2005

7:02pm: Whoa. I just had a crazy good idea. I'm writing it down before I forget it. I'm posting it to the internet because I know I won't implement.

One thing a lot of people have trouble with when doing research is keeping track of all the important information they've gleaned from different sources. Of course it's fairly simple to actually keep track of where you got the information from. You only need to start your references section as you find your sources, and mark each one with an identifier, and then mark all of your quotes/notes with an identifier.

Now the tricky part comes in organizing those notes. Sure you can just make headings for all of the things you are going to talk about, and put your notes under the appropriate heading. Typically, though, you want something to go under more than one heading, and probably want a number of subheadings that you don't want to search through. The obvious solution is tags. If you could tag each note with a number of keywords, it would just be a matter of selecting a keyword to find all of your relevant notes.

I know that is a pretty obvious solution, but as far as I know there is nothing out there for this application.
For an example of a tagging system, see http://del.icio.us/

15th September 2005

1:58pm: C++ and word ladders
I just wrote a program in C for the first time in a while. In some ways it was refreshing to just sit down and pound out some code, but it also reminding me why I haven't used it in so long. C is just a pain to use. For my program I had to use a hash, and a tree, and C does not provide these structures in it's Standard Template Library. This is really odd since C is one of the most widely used languages, and trees and hashes are some of the most common structures in programming. Further, it can be a huge pain to incorporate other peoples classes (which oddly enough are had to find on the internet). Fortunately I found a good tree class, but I had to make my own hash.

The program I wrote plays Lewis Carroll's Word Ladder game. Here's a couple of puzzles for you:
And now a real challenge, change DECOYED to REBUKER in only 15 steps.

2nd August 2005

11:29am: PSA
I was recently introduce to Plaxo, an on-line address book. The cool thing about it is that it synchronizes information between your contacts address books. For example, if you have me in your address book, and I change my information, it gets changed in your address book. You can also register old e-mail addresses, so even people who haven't been in contact with you for a while can get up to date information for you.

I can officially recommend it as it now has a toolbar for Thunderbird, so I can keep all my address books on various computers in sync.

5th July 2005

9:21pm: FaCade
Rob Mosher Says:
July 5th, 2005 at 7:51 pm

Is there anyway to install Facade to another drive than the C: drive? My C: drive is dedicated to windows, and thus I don’t know have enough space on it.

andrew Says:
July 5th, 2005 at 8:15 pm

Is there anyway to install Facade to another drive than the C: drive?

Sadly, no, it became too much of a programming hassle to get Facade working on different drives other than C:. We require that Facade be installed to the C: drive. We apologize if that means you can’t run it. (Good thing it’s free…)

Ernest W. Adams Says:
July 5th, 2005 at 8:26 pm

Just a minute. You created one of the most important video games in the history of the medium — probably THE most important video game of the last 10 years — incorporating all kinds of new AI techniques — the basis for a PhD thesis, several articles and conference papers …

… and it’s too much of HASSLE to get it running on anything but the C: drive??!!!

Are you completely insane?!

It’s a one-byte variable constrained to ASCII values between “A” and “Z” for God’s sake!

andrew Says:
July 5th, 2005 at 8:45 pm

A bit more explanation — the installer can easily install to any drive, that’s not the issue — but the Facade architecture has various parallel process components that launch one another, yada yada, and it made our lives much easier to have everything live and run off a single drive. (You’ll find several little technical gotchas like this in Facade; like how pathplanning is quite imperfect, how you have to quit and relaunch each time you want to replay, etc.)

If the C: drive thing becomes a major problem, we can try to do more work on it and release a patch. We figured it was better to trim some stuff off our task list, and release only 2 years late. :-/

Thanks for the fabulous plug though, Ernest! We may need to quote you on that. :-)
4:55pm: Come on feel the Illinoise
I just picked up Sufjan Stevens latest release, Illinoise. It cost a little more than expected because it has already become a collectors item, due to a lawsuit from DC comics. Apparently retailers aren't supposed to sell it, but Flat, Black & Circular didn't seem to mind.

In other news Façade has just been released.

23rd June 2005

9:26pm: The Greatest American
I accidently tuned into The Greatest American to hear some woman saying "Ben Franklin admired smart women, he may have even been the first feminist." This made me want to shout out "What the hell are you talking about. Franklin admired loose women and whores. When he decided to marry he went after status. And when he was turned down, he went after a desperate girl who would have to accept his proposal. When she got sick he went on vacation and didn't return till she was dead."

22nd June 2005

7:09pm: Future Play
I saw an announcement on Grand Text Auto for Future Play. Suprisingly, it is being held at East Lansing's own MSU. I checked the website and and saw that they have a student discount for registration. The problem is the student discount is beyond a student budget. Plus there are only a limited number of student seats, so I'll undoubtedly decide to pay after they are all sold out.

Addimitedly I had no idea about this concference before today, but the fact that GTxA is talking about it means it is probably cool.

8th June 2005

11:40pm: Not Nietzsche or Why Does Ubisoft Hate Laptops?
I finished Michel Ancel's Beyond Good and Evil. Despite some flaws I really enjoyed it. The look of the game has a unique style that is beautiful at times. Unfortunately the cartoonish Alpha Squad and local guards detract from the seriousness of the game at times. And the game is pretty serious. At the start your home comes under attack from the DomZ. An alien race that has orphaned the numerous children you take care of. Your planet is under the protection of the Alpha Squad, that has been fighting the DomZ on other worlds, and aids your world in their fight. Though rumors circulate that they may not be as benevolent as they claim, and you are hired on by the underground IRIS network to investigate the motives of the Alpha Squad. And you do some actual spying in this game, spending more time sneaking around and taking pictures then fighting. Though there are a few action sections that are a bit of fun in their own right, and not so difficult to turn off players mainly interested in spying. Though there was an action sequence at the end where you had to deal with your controls suddenly switching to goofy foot, which slightly soured the experience of the amazing climax.

BG&E also has a fairly good story to go along with the game play, but unfortunately a lot of the details are left to the imagination. The cut scenes and dialog fill you in on most of what's going on, but I always had the feeling like there were a lot of little details, and personal aspects of the story that where missing. Despite that, it's still an excellent game, and you should definitely check it out. It actually makes me consider getting another copy straight from Ubisoft to support the game (I got my copy from eBay) as it sold poorly.

Another cool thing about the game is that the entire game is translated into five other languages, French, Deutsch, Spanish, Italian, and the language of the Nederlands. So after you play the game through once, you could play it again and learn a new language. Maybe. It's sort of hard to tell what people are talking about in video games.

On the subject of Ubisoft games, I have to ask why does Ubisoft hate laptops? As I've mentioned previously, BG&E had some audio sync bugs, and I had to download a hack to get it working. Recently I was also thinking about getting the last two Myst games (I know. You're thinking why the hell would you want to torture yourself with more Myst games. Though I was thinking I actually enjoyed most of the first Myst game, aside from the puzzles that involved discovering you could look to the left, and there are plenty of walkthroughs to get through things like that). After doing some looking around I discovered that Myst IV doesn't support any laptop video cards. Doesn't Ubisoft realize that more and more people are only buying laptops? Don't they realize that a lot of these people want to play video games on their laptops? And don't they realize if they don't want to get bought out by EA they need as large a market as possible?

6th June 2005

9:29pm: Truth & Lies
"...you gotta keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kinda catapult the propaganda."
--George W. Bush - Greece, New York, May 24, 2005

"Tell a lie that is big enough, and repeat it often enough and the whole world will believe it."
-- Joseph Goebbels - Nazi Propoganda Minister

26th May 2005

11:21am: Video games and some other things
I bought a whole slew of video games, one new, and some old, and feel compelled to tell you about them. Mainly because I can't think of anything else to write about.

I can't really begin to describe how good this game is. Which is unfortunate, because this game is really great, and if you're a video game fan, you should really check it out. It is the brainchild of Tim Schafer, creator of Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle. If you've played those games you should need no further reasons to check out this game, but here are some anyways. It has a great offbeat sense of humor, and an excellent story. The attention to detail seems more like something you'd see from Pixar, then from a video game. Characters actually use body language to give hints to their emotions. The game play word is incredibly unique. Most of the levels take place inside of someones head, and reflect that persons personality. When you're inside the head of a conspiracy theorist, there are cameras constantly popping out of the bushes to spy on you. When you're in the head of the artist, everything has the look of a black velvet painting. On top of this, the game play is actually good. It's a platformer, unlike Schafer's earlier work, though it's not overly difficult if you are more use to adventure games. Plus it incorporates some puzzle elements of adventure games as well.

Ok, that review was pretty weak and probably didn't convince you of anything. But consider that Psychonauts is number 1 on the Entertainment Weekly: The Must List . Here's some better reviews:

Full Throttle & Day of the Tentacle:
I've finally gotten around to getting these two classic adventure games. I was a little disappointed by Full Throttle though. It is definitely a very interesting world, with interesting characters. Unfortunately it was a very short game, and some of the puzzles were obnoxious, either because they involved action sequences where the interface was clumsy, or involved using something that wasn't very noticeable on the screen.

Day of the Tentacle on the other hand has great puzzles. They are all very intuitive, but not in such a way as to be so obvious that they are no fun to solve. Usually puzzles in adventure games can only hope to not be obnoxious, but these puzzles actually make the game fun.

Beyond Good and Evil:
I've haven't gotten very far into this game because it is suffering from an apparently very common glitch. In the cut scenes the audio and video don't sync up. For instance in the opening cut scene, the video will start lagging behind the audio, but then later it the video will switch to fast forward, and fly past the audio. With some settings, even the gameplay was way sped up, making it very difficult to not get killed. I think I may have found a fix, which I need to try out (which hopefully the future me will link to, and mention whether it worked or not). Okay. The fix (direct link) works. The cut scenes play almost perfectly now. There are still some lip-sync issues, but I think that has more to due with crappy lip-sync than technical issues. So far the game has been pretty fun, and I'll probably talk about it a bit more once I get further along.

The Longest Journey:
I'm a little frustrated with this one right now. Partly because last night I discovered my last three save games were lost wouldn't load, and I had to start over practically from the beginning of the game. Also during a rather long dialogue sequence there was a constant beat of load static that would play, making it a rather annoying sequence to listen to (though a patch fixed that, and hopefully the save game bug).

Aside from these annoyances, this game is really slow. Every character has tons of stuff to say to you, and none of it seems all that relevant. Though perhaps the drawn out back stories will come into play later in the game. Also, it takes forever to get anywhere in the game. Each screen takes a while to walk across, and though the backgrounds usually look very nice, there is never very much to do in one area. So a lot of time is wasted going between places. Also, it takes forever for someone to walk through a door, or make some unrealistic gesture, again slowing down the game. These were all very irritating when I tried to speed through the game to get back to the state of my lost save game.

On the good side of things, it has a fairly interesting story. I'll have to see if the good story, or obnoxiously slow pacing wins out.

The Last Express:
I haven't gotten very far into this game, but it seems pretty interesting. The game starts with a request from a friend for you to join them on the Orient Express. You do so only to discover they have been murdered. The rest of the game is spent trying to solve the mystery of the murder, and what the hell is going on since you are unfortunately ignorant of your characters past. The interesting thing is that everything is time dependant. So you might find a clue, or hear a conversation that would have been missed if you weren't in the right place at the right time. Though this could be obnoxious, you are able to rewind and fast forward time so you can fix your mistakes, and speed past things you've seen. One thing that could be obnoxious is it looks like there are a lot of red herrings.

I think I've mentioned this one before. It's Will Wright's procedurally based evolution game, were you have a great deal of control over your life form, and your enemies/friends are other peoples life forms, downloaded from a main database. If you've got an hour to kill, watch the newly releasedvideo of his GDC presentation. If you don't have an hour to kill, just skip through to the game play parts of the video. Unfortunately this means I will probably have to buy a game from EA.

I'm still eagerly anticipating this games release, which is supposed to be danged soon.

I've been reading Suburban Nation, on loan from Isaac. It is a very well written and understandable book on what's wrong with the way cities/towns are developed in America, and a more reasonable way of going about things. If you've ever been irritated by a suburb, a strip mall, or by your drive to work/the store you should definitely check out this book. It's also got me interested in looking more into how government subsidies are used to stifle new/good ideas while upholding damaging systems.

I started reading A Condensed History of Everything, and noticed something sort of funny.

15,477,303,002 years ago (roughly) the Big Bang happens. Either God did it, which means that you can stop thinking about it, or it came about through quantum machanics. The 'God did it' option poses a whole host of problems, not the least of which is "who made God?" And don't try to get out of it by saying "God's always existed" because it just doesn't work.

Hmm. So where did the matter and energy for the Big Bang come from since it couldn't always have existed? Once again, science requires at least as much faith as religion.

Edit (2005-12-22): I fixed a bad link to the forum bost about the BG&E fix.

13th May 2005

9:56pm: Why is the Heritage Foundation being used as a news source by google news? Especially when the article is an opinion piece.

28th April 2005

10:26pm: I just thought you'd like to know my fingernails are growing incredibly fast lately. Especially my right thumbnail. That, or I've lost all sense of time.

Also the new Marzipan's Answering Machine is awesome.
9:43pm: I so envy me at noon next Thursday
I just lost one major source of stress today. The final project for my pattern recognition class was turned in. I am very grateful that my group partner volunteered to write the paper, as I suck at those, and they take me forever to write. Unfortunately I have a 10 page paper for my Word Sense Disambiguation project. Not to mention the assuredly difficult final exam for pattern recognition.

The really annoying thing about having to write a 10 page paper for the project is that the teacher said we must conform to the ACL-2005 specifications. However the specifications clearly indicate that papers are at most to be eight pages. So we individual students who are just now being introduced to this subject have to write at least two pages more than the the longest paper by research teams whose entire careers involve them in the subject. It is evident that I am going to have to use an obnoxious amount of graphs and charts. I am also going to have to make my "detailed" description of my approach very detailed.

The good thing is I'm going to get a little break this weekend when I head down to Andrews to visit with the graduates. I've spent entirely too much time this semester in my office, and in front of a computer. I'm beginning to go a little stir crazy, and what little social interaction I have is hampered by the fact I am usually still in programming mode. It has been way to often that I've been in a group of people and ended up just standing there because my mind was a total blank on ways to begin conversation. And what conversation there was ended abruptly (can't anyone else hold up their end of the conversation?) It we be good to see familiar faces.

25th April 2005

3:24pm: A Message From Coach Tom Izzo

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to let you know that incoming freshman Kelly Peterson is the world's coolest person.

Tom Izzo

The Hell?

23rd April 2005

6:23pm: Every time someone commits a felony, a black man in Florida loses the vote.
What the heck happened to the weather? On Tuesday it was 80 out, and today it was snowing lightly. I know people will just say "that's Michigan for you" but I think there's more to it than that. Every year winter starts later and weaker, and sticks around longer and longer.

At least now I might be able to focus on studying. Though probably not. My one big project I have to work on is an Unsupervised Word Sense Disambiguator. I've already programmed the thing, but now I have to teach it that "burying" has a different meaning when you're "burying the hatchet" then when you're "burying your wife." Of course I'm not a linguist, and my success rates show that.

Thursday I took part in the regular ritual of cleaning my room instead of studying. I didn't get very far, but there are a few less clothes on the floor now. And I may be in trouble for the coming weeks. A while ago I preordered the Existential Sonnet Psychonauts. It was supposed to ship on Tuesday, but due to some unknown troubles hasn't yet. Word is that it will ship this coming Tuesday, likely arriving just in time to screw me over for finals.

13th April 2005

7:22pm: My laptop arrived today. It's a little larger than expected, but I suppose that was necessary for all of the features I wanted. My plan of not buying a new computer until my last one became horribly obsolete has paid off. This thing is about a billion times faster than my old computer, and I can go outside with it (which is where I am now). Unfortunately the warm weather that prompted me to finally get a laptop, so I could at least spend some of my day outside, is now gone. I'm going to have to hold off on putting linux on this until the semester is over, otherwise I will likely stop doing all homework (not that my Chrono Trigger ROM can't accomplish that on its own).

10th April 2005

10:24pm: I finally saw Hotel Rawanda. Seeing things like this, I can't help but feel like I'm wasting my life. Why am I spending my money on things I don't need? Why am I wasting my time on an education that cannot help in situations like this? And if I were to just drop everything right now, what would be the best thing to do?

Save Darfur

1st April 2005

1:11am: Abraham A? Isaac
I ran into the guy that used me as a barometer for whiteness again. Being reminded of the incident, I told one of my friends the story. She looked a little weirded out, and not quite sure what to do with the information. Later she understood, after she talked to the people backstage and found out he had been messing around with things back there, and apparently being a general nuisance. Later he approached me and handed me a flier for his music. I don't think he recognized me.

The sad thing is this guy is so eager to promote his music, and he has a typo in his web address. Fortunately for you, I took a wild guess, and discerned the real address: The Butterfly Ashes

3rd March 2005

7:55pm: Why is laptop shopping so hard?
I'm considering getting a laptop, and it's nearly impossible to find any useful information. I find lot's of previews of upcoming technologies (at the time of the article), but very few laptop and laptop component reviews, and almost no current reviews.  I was planning on going with an nvidia video card since nvidia makes better linux drivers, but almost all the laptops on the market seem to be favoring ATI (probably since the GeForce FX Go5650 sucked on benchmarks for HL2). Regardless of which card company I go with, every laptop seems to have an expensive high end card which I can't afford, or a useless low end card. Nothing in the middle. Then when I try to customize a laptop, I'm suddenly presented with an entirely different configuration that I selected as my base system, and can't change any of the key components.
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