Update for 3/26/2017

Project updates

  • Knowledge representation – I installed software for the three controlled languages I want to look at, plus Inform 7 because I’m curious how well an interactive fiction engine can be adapted to general KR, and I’ll probably explore some logic programming too, since it’s fundamental to most forms of KR. This week I’ll probably read some reference docs but mostly take a break to work on the code console.
  • Code console – For the coding guide I collected a lot of the links I’d found for documentation, and I’ll finish that section this week, along with relevant code in the console project, and work on the last section for this phase of the guide, configuration. After that I can work on the code console’s main functionality, creating a new project based on templates.
  • Beliefs report – As a context for thinking about my future religious activities, I’ve been starting to round up my current beliefs into an essay, an idea that comes to mind occasionally in church when I’m confronted with other people’s spirituality or exhortations about my own (in the form of sermons rather than personal advice). Last week a friend helped out by asking what I believe about prayer, so I’ve been working on my reply, and some version of that will probably end up in the essay.
  • Media
    • Books – I finished The Divine Conspiracy–finally, after many years of meaning to and starting and restarting it–and although I’d quibble with some of the details, I like its overall vision, especially its focus on eternity and its outline of a discipleship program. Since we’re still in Lent and I need more spiritual reading material, I would reread it, but I see it as more of a signpost than a destination, and I’d rather read something with more detail on one of its themes. Right now my theme seems to be prayer, so I’m moving on to Philip Yancey’s Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, which addresses some of my core issues.
    • TV – I’ve progressed in Iron Fist through episode 6, and I’m happy to report it does get better. I was able to relax into it by the fourth episode, and even Ward, my least favorite character, is growing on me.

Life updates

  • Car – This problem has been developing gradually for a while, but Sunday morning my brake pedal was consistently sinking to the floor when I pressed it, so I’m making an emergency trip to the mechanic Monday morning. My anxiety level was up Sunday morning, since I wasn’t sure how safe I’d be driving it even the minimum I needed, or how easy it would be to make my emergency arrangements, or how long the repair would take, so I made a worry list, got through the first couple of items, and felt better.
Posted in Books, Car, Code console, Knowledge representation, Life updates, Project updates, Spirituality, Theology, TV | 2 Comments

Update for 3/19/2017

Happy spring!

Project updates

    • Code console – I’ve posted the first iteration of my public coding guide, and the next step is to research documentation, document my findings, and apply them to my coding console, which I’ll work on this week.
    • Knowledge representation – I settled on three controlled natural languages to explore–Attempto Controlled English, ITA Controlled English, and object-role modeling–on the basis that they’re decently expressive and have ready-made tools for working with them, and now I’m installing the tools so I can study the languages and experiment.
    • Nostalgia box – I didn’t do much except start reading my Celtic design book, and I’m thinking for March I might just draw some practice designs rather than trying to make a book out of them, even a very short one. I still have to finish February.
    • Media
      • Movies – I saw Logan with some people from the geek meetup, a completely different branch from the one I played games with, and I had a nice time, though to be honest it’s a little awkward seeing a movie with strangers, but I’d hang out with them again. The movie itself was very good, and I think even if you aren’t into superhero movies, you might enjoy it.
      • TVIron Fist, the latest Marvel-Netflix series about New York street-level heroes, came out on Friday, and I’m three episodes in. It’s been an odd show so far, and it’s been hard to get a feel for what the characters are supposed to be like, though the episodes have been getting less awkward and inconsistent, so I’m mildly hopeful.

Life updates

    • Work – One of our biggest customers is going out of business, so last week the president held a meeting to tell us about our situation and the contingency plans we’re activating, which all sounded reasonable to me and not too painful (for me at least), and it reinforced my impression that our company is managed well. But it does mean our department won’t be going to PyCon this year, so the West Coast will have to wait.
Posted in Code console, General, Knowledge representation, Movies, Nostalgia box, Public coding guide, TV, Work | Leave a comment

Update for 3/12/2017

Life updates

  • Birthday – Tuesday was my birthday, and it was good, though a little surreal as my birthdays always feel to me now, since the attention I get from other people spikes just that one day. It was also sort of nice in a surreal way that I had to convince one of my online friends that I was actually 19 years older than he assumed from my picture, which was from a few years ago, but not that many. But the best part of the day was opening the March folder of my nostalgia box, which I’ll tell you about below.
  • Funeral – Wednesday the office manager from my previous job messaged me that our designer’s daughter had been found dead of an overdose the day before, which would be a shock in any case but especially because I’d met her a few years before and she was young–only 30, I later learned. I consider the father, as well as his family, a friend as well as a coworker, so I was glad I was available to go to both the visitation and the funeral. As usual, I found the service thought provoking and even inspiring, since she was a complicated person with a vitality that lifted up everyone around her and a faith that persisted even while she struggled with substance abuse, to the point that she befriended her atheist roommate in the hospital and led him to the Lord.

Project updates

  • Nostalgia box – I’m still working on February’s project, but I’d planned my March folder for my birthday, so I opened it that night and “discovered” that it contained a diary my mom had kept for a while after my birth and a set of encouraging notes from people in my teenage years, mostly around the end of high school, plus a Mad Lib-style booklet from an elementary school assignment where I described things about my life at the time. It ended up being a very good birthday activity because it gave me a sense that people value me and reinforced the desire I’ve had to work on my social connections and support people more proactively, so I recommend that people collect these kinds of messages and revisit them from time to time. I worked some on February’s project last week too, and I’m going to have to start over somewhat to simplify it so it takes less time. I’m also planning March’s project with a short time frame in mind, since ideally I’d like to take at most a week per month on the nostalgia box, mixed in with other projects so I’m not pausing everything for it.
  • Public coding guide – Other than the nostalgia box, I focused on the guide last week and got a decent amount written, but it turns out there was more to write than I realized, and I haven’t gotten it quite to the point of posting. But I’m simplifying this project too, at least its current phase, and hopefully I can post this week.
  • Knowledge representation – I’m supposed to be taking a break from KR to work on the code console/guide stuff, but I’ve been sneaking it in anyway, reading a little of my book on Object-Role Modeling, Information Modeling and Relational Databases by Terry Halpin, and discovering controlled natural languages, which are a way of restricting the way you write to make it clearer, either to other people or to both people and computers. It’s exciting to me because half my reason for studying KR is to find a more disciplined way to take notes, and I’ve been thinking along the lines of a simplified English, and happily I caught myself before I tried to create my own, and I researched and found these existing languages, so I’m reading about them to find and learn the most suitable one for my purposes.
  • Media
    • Books – I’m still chugging my way through Watership Down and The Divine Conspiracy and enjoying both and having thoughts provoked (my main purpose in life, it seems), but mainly I want to comment on TDC. Willard does a good job of pressing the main point of his interpretation, which is that in the Sermon on the Mount, rather than laying down laws, Jesus is illustrating the kind of person who has the kind of inner life that results in the actions he’s describing. It’s getting me to think again about how you’d become that kind of person, the kind who believes God and loves others, and right now I’m thinking prayer is a central discipline–prayer as a type of meditation on truth. Usually I don’t like prayer, at least intercessory prayer, mostly because it’s hard to come up with things to say and I’m always sure I’m not sincere enough and I doubt God will do much to respond to my requests and it feels like a waste of time, but maybe if I treat it as a project that I plan for the way I do with my others and if I approach it in a conversational, Immanuel fashion and wait for God to give my prayers their main content, I could get myself to do it and feel like it’s at least doing something for me, even if it doesn’t supernaturally change the rest of the world.
    • Movies – I’d had Boyhood on my mental list for a while, and Jeremy had seen it recently, so I took a couple of days to watch it so we could talk about it. It was surprisingly engrossing for a film about everyday life, and I found myself thinking about it afterward much more than I expected, so maybe boring old regular life is more interesting than I typically assume. One of the more interesting details was The Black Album, which is a real thing you can listen to, and I take its inclusion to illustrate the close relationship the director has with his actors. Mason’s life was pretty different from mine, but it seemed to be the story of the stereotypical experiences of an average person in his demographic, and it made me want to find similar stories about other kinds of people.
Posted in Birthdays, Books, Death, Knowledge representation, Life updates, Movies, Nostalgia box, Project updates, Public coding guide | 2 Comments

Update for 3/5/2017

Project updates

  • Code console – I looked into documentation practices a little more, but right now this project is on hold for a bit while I catch up on the next one.
  • Public coding guide – Writing helps me clarify my thoughts, keeps them moving, and lets me share them with others, so I’m documenting my process of revising my programming practices in a guide that I’ll post on the wiki sometime this week, a guide for moving from programming for oneself to programming for other users. So far I’ve written most of the introduction, and even though the code console isn’t in a usable state, I’ll want to post what I have on GitHub soon so I can link to it from the guide, since it’ll be one of the main ways I document my new practices. Once the guide has reached the stage of development I’m at in the code console, I’ll go back to working on the console, which is why I’m starting the guide now when that gap is small.
  • Knowledge representation – I’m almost done with the book’s lengthy part one, but I’m going to put this on hold too until I’m where I want to be with the coding guide.
  • Computer hardware – I got around to installing the new RAM into my desktop (8 G for a total of 14), which was easier than I expected, and it does feel zippier now, so it was a good idea. I also tried out my video adapter connecting my Surface to my desktop monitor so I can have two screens, and that worked well too, so now I have one less excuse not to stream.
  • Nostalgia box – I bought a long reach stapler, so now I can easily and somewhat cheaply make my own custom notebooks to use for experimenting, practicing, and making small projects for the box. I’m still on February’s project, which is an experiment with a very nonlinear presentation of a random concept map in a 16-page booklet–illustrated, if I have time, and I hope I do, because page after page of words in circles really isn’t that interesting to look at.
  • Media
    • Books
      • Algorithms to Live By – This book is about what I call transferable concepts, ideas from one field you can apply to others, in this case from computer science to everyday life–some of the ideas specific, like keeping a cache of recently used items so they’re easy to find, and some more general, like the need for good-enough solutions when perfect ones would take too long to find. It doesn’t really contain math, and I think most people could make use of its advice, but it’s probably easier to understand for programmers and mathematicians, since even as a programmer I’ll have to reread some of the explanations. I’ve wanted to write about transferable skills in programming, maybe not a book, but now that Christian and Griffiths have written this one, and much better than I could at this point, I have a lot of jumping off points for further contemplation and research.
      • The Divine Conspiracy – For some Lenten reading I’m starting with this book, which is an explication of the Sermon on the Mount with the aim of showing that the gospel involves actually following Jesus’ instructions and adopting the view of God and the world Jesus held that makes his instructions make sense. For me Dallas Willard is a mixture of important ideas I want to hold onto and annoying or odd supporting arguments I’d like to replace, and hearing the latter in this book is reminding me of how much I value detailed and nuanced philosophical discussion. Willard was a philosopher, but that wasn’t the purpose of this book, and I kind of wish it was.
      • Watership Down – I’d heard of this book in passing, but I always thought of it as a sappy sibling to books like The Wind in the Willows (which I also haven’t read because the just about only talking animal stories I don’t avoid take place in Narnia) until I heard my boss talking about it last week with my coworker, who got him into it, and he was marveling that anyone could think of it as a children’s book and was making serious remarks about rabbit names and warrens and dictators, so I was intrigued, and I started it immediately after Algorithms. I haven’t gotten to anything really dark yet, but so far it’s just a normal story, and I don’t feel talked down to or sickened by sentimentality, and I also agree with my coworker that the audiobook reader is excellent.
    • TV – Friday night I watched some of a video on YouTube from an old instructional TV program we watched in elementary school called The Book Bird, where a story was read to the audience while John Robbins drew a picture to illustrate it, which defined a large part of the way I’ve thought about artistic creation, as a magical unfolding, which is only reinforced whenever I watch skilled artists work. As I glanced through the related videos, I thought of one of my unsolved childhood mysteries, the identity of another show we used to watch about spacefaring puppets (but not “Pigs in Space”), and there in the list I saw title that sounded vaguely space related next to a show title I faintly remembered, “Vegetable Soup – Outerscope,” so I clicked, and there it was–a rickety wooden cone wandering through space, manned by puppets that were much creepier than I remember. And thanks to the intrepid cultural preservationists of YouTube, I can watch many episodes, along with the show’s other segments that I barely remember, if we watched them at all.

Life updates

  • Worship team – We’re out a pianist, so until our worship minister can work something out, I’m playing for an additional team, though during Lent it’ll probably be only that team, since we’ll be playing for both services and he kindly doesn’t want to overload me. I don’t really mind the extra weeks, since I’m hardly doing anything else at church these days and I feel pretty comfortable performing now, and even playing for both services isn’t too bad because the morning schedule has some natural breaks that give me a chance to work on things like this blog.
  • Birthday – It’s Tuesday, which brings me to a most inappropriate 39, since I still feel about 20, which I’m sure explains some things. I don’t have any plans yet except opening March’s nostalgia box folder, even if I’m not done with February’s, because I put some nice things in there with my birthday in mind.
Posted in Birthdays, Books, Code console, General, Hardware, Knowledge representation, Life updates, Nostalgia box, Project updates, Public coding guide, TV, Worship performing | 2 Comments

Update for 2/26/2017

Life updates

  • Jury duty – A few weeks ago I got a jury summons, and Monday night the website told me my number was up, so Tuesday I went down to the courthouse to see if I’d be called in for jury selection, and for about the first 40 minutes or so I watched the intro video, read the courthouse’s informative pamphlet, and read a bit of Political Ideologies to pass the time. Then my number was called for the second group, which turned out to be a murder trial, and I was the fifth juror sent up to the jury box, where the judge and the defense attorney asked me a few questions (in front of everyone, which was a little nerve-wracking), but the prosecutor moved to dismiss me without asking a single thing, so feeling slightly rejected, I made my way back to the jury lounge, where we were released for lunch, during which I took the opportunity to flee the building and get lunch from Chipotle, and after which I worked on my code console until they told us a little early that the courtrooms didn’t need any more jurors and we were all dismissed. I have mixed feelings about my experience, since the trial I was being considered for did sound interesting, but I expected that peering through a murky cloud of conflicting evidence to decide another person’s fate would be the kind of stressful burden I’m often grateful to leave to other people. Jury selection itself was stressful and left me wondering if we’d really found the best way to do it, partly because I ended up feeling like I was on trial to determine my fairness of mind (with two prosecutors and no attorney for my defense), but it also gave me a valuable image for looking at my life, since in the back of my mind I feel like I’m almost always on trial, being evaluated by the rest of the human race, not to mention myself and God, on criteria I have no hope of meeting, even when I’m clear on what they are.
  • Livestreams – Sunday my online friend Davgov taught me how to play the video game Terraria during his stream (and did a very nice job of it), and we voice chatted over Discord, so my voice has now gone out over Twitch. Unfortunately he didn’t have his stream archiving enabled, so you can’t watch the replay, but we’ll probably stream it again sometime. It was a nice way to dip my toe into streaming, so maybe I’ll procrastinate less on my own streams now.

Project updates

  • Code console – I’ve set up the Sphinx documentation skeleton, and now I’m looking at recommendations for documenting Python code so I can do it the right way from the start and not have to write a bunch of it later, which I can say from past documentation experience would lead to procrastinating and dragging my feet the whole way through the writing. I’m also planning to start a wiki article to help other programmers who are getting started on distributing their code, which I’ll post as a seed article this week.
  • Knowledge representation – I’ve gotten into a good rhythm of tackling a couple of chapters most days, skimming each chapter and noting the software it mentions so I can post links to them later and choose some for experimentation. The book is bringing up topics I’m looking forward to digging into, like qualitative modeling, which is exciting not only because it’s the kind of thing I think about already but also because the field needs lots more research, so it could give me something to pursue in grad school and afterward. Since the aspect of KR I most care about right now is the data structures involved in each method, after posting links and choosing software I’m planning to revisit Data Structures and Algorithms in Java and this time finish it (or maybe take a course for credit?) so I can ground myself in the basics better.
  • Creativity
    • Nostalgia box – The February folder had my childhood experimental literature projects and handmade books, with things like a split-page book, a branching plot book, and a puzzle book, and it was nice to realize that by now I’ve collected pretty much all my original inspirations for these projects, such as Graham Oakley’s Magical Changes and The Animated Thumbtack Railroad Dollhouse & All-around Surprise Book, Evening Edition, so I can study them to continue the experiments. Coming up with a simple project for this month has been a challenge, but I think I have something, so I should be able to do that this week. My musical accompaniment has consisted of my contemplative dusk playlist, my new Arnold Schoenberg Pandora station, and songs I extracted from the Little Thinker episode on outer space that I grew up listening to and bought in MP3 a couple of years ago. I’ve also bought the book Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko to explore some general creativity techniques to help me with these kinds of project ideas, though that’s just an excuse to get around to the topic of creativity, which I’ve been putting off for years–not that I’ll necessarily read it anytime soon, but at least it’s available.
    • Drawing – True confession time: Even though I want to work on creative writing this year, Instagram has been pulling me towards drawing too, specifically beginace inspiring me to learn perspective drawing, which seems to fit the way I think better than other approaches–treating everything as a 3D object to model rather than a 2D shape to trace–so earlier in the year I bought Scott Robertson’s How to Draw, which I’ll probably supplement with his How to Render because shading always vexes me, though that book is really overkill for my needs. I’ve also discovered bullet journaling via boho.berry, and although I probably wouldn’t use the system for everyday task management, I’m intrigued by the other creative visual ways people use these journals.
  • Media
    • Books – I’m in the middle of a book I recommend to all computer science or mathematically minded people, Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions, and I’ll write about it more next week. After I’m done with that one, today’s sermon made me think I should listen to spiritual books for Lent, so I’m thinking of returning to The Divine Conspiracy, which I’ve started a couple of times without finishing.
    • TV – I’m back to Arrow and The Flash, alternating one episode of each so I can watch them in broadcast order. I’m in mid-s3 in Arrow and mid-s1 in The Flash, and both of them are kind of exciting right now.
    • Web series – I made some progress cataloguing some creepy Internet fiction in my bookmarks, which will ultimately make it into a wiki article. I know you’re all looking forward to that.
Posted in Books, Code console, Drawing, Jury duty, Knowledge representation, Life updates, Livestreams, Nostalgia box, Project updates, TV, Video games, Weird stuff | 4 Comments

Update for 2/19/2017

Life updates

  • Work – Most of last week was taken up with finishing a work project that kept me there late a couple of days and had me working on the weekend. I did manage to work a little on my personal projects though, as you will see below.
  • Jury duty – I got a jury duty notice a few weeks ago, which means Monday evening I have to check the website to see if they’re calling me in; and if so, I have to show up the next day to see if they’ll need me; and if they do, I’m not sure what to expect, because it’ll be my first jury duty ever. But I’ve just watched Making a Murderer, so I’m prepared to think about a trial, at least more than I normally would be.

Project updates

  • Productivity – The Rotating Priorities Board has actually been helping me. I’m finding myself thinking about my most important projects much more, spending my spare moments on them, and trying to work on each of them a bit each day. I’m thinking of adding more projects to it, but I need to make sure I don’t overload myself.
  • Code console – I’ve been researching Sphinx (a Python documentation formatter) to decide on my default documentation setup.
  • Knowledge representation – I’ve been skimming The Handbook of Knowledge Representation collecting the names of software for each of the KR methods so I can find links for the wiki and decide on a tool to experiment with for each method.
  • Nostalgia box – I finished writing my fictional letters for January, a fun exercise I recommend, and this week I’ll open February’s folder.
  • Media
    • Books – Last week I listened to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and I enjoyed it and will probably listen to the rest of the series at some point, though in many ways it just followed the formula for this kind of story. I suppose it’s the variations that make the story worthwhile, such as the interesting mechanic in the story’s premise, and the writing, which I thought was good. I always wonder, though, why SFF writers make the point that the (real) world is an extraordinary place when it lacks the things that make their story worlds extraordinary.
    • TVMaking a Murderer was stressful but good, though I knew I was only feeling and concluding what the documentarians intended, but I didn’t mind too much. I read some articles afterward to get updates and other people’s take on the case, which I think is really how you have to approach a documentary. I’ll spoil that my favorite person in the show was Dean Strang because he looks at his job philosophically, the way I would, and I appreciated his comments on justice. The series certainly left me with strong feelings about the presumption of innocence and all the issues that arise from it.
Posted in Books, Code console, Jury duty, Knowledge representation, Life updates, Nostalgia box, Productivity, Project updates, TV, Work | 1 Comment

Update for 2/12/2017

Project updates

  • Productivity – After spending too much time on Saturday getting distracted while shopping, as I often do, I’ve started experimenting with the exercise of asking myself, “Is this what I’m doing now?” to use my time more efficiently. But the shopping was worthwhile, because I bought materials to make myself a Rotating Priorities Board (from Barbara Sher’s book Refuse to Choose) to remind myself of my main projects, which for now are the code console, which will let me easily create future programming projects, and knowledge representation, which applies to a lot of my other projects, both technical and creative.

    My new project board to remind me of my priorities.

    A photo posted by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum) on

  • Nostalgia box – After worrying that I wouldn’t find a short, doable, yet imaginative project, I decided to pick the simplest exercise in my Book of Surrealist Games and do some automatic writing (basically writing whatever pops into your head without trying too hard to make sense, which for me eliminates the dread of the blank page), specifically a series of fictional letters, since January’s folder contained old letters. I’ve written one, which actually gave me an interesting idea for a fantasy concept, so the project is already accomplishing its intended purpose, and I’ll write a few more this week and then close January’s folder … just in time for February’s!
  • Books
    • To Your Scattered Bodies Go – I started listening to this after watching The OA because from the premise it seemed to be about the afterlife, and I wondered if it could be another therapy story. It didn’t turn out anything like that, but it was interesting enough that I’ll probably return to this series, especially since the first book left large unanswered questions.
    • S. – So far I’ve been reading S. casually, letting the things I didn’t understand wash over me, but that’s gotten tiresome and I’d like a better grasp on what’s going on, so I’ve started taking notes. The book comes with a bunch of loose postcards and photocopies and such inserted into the pages, and I’m joining in and adding my notes as extra inserts. Here are examples.

      Adding my own inserts to Abrams and Dorst’s S. Here’s a table of contents.

      A photo posted by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum) on

      More S. I’m starting to keep track of the layers of conversation in the margins.

      A photo posted by Andy Culbertson (@thinkulum) on

    • 500 Handmade Books, Vol. 2 – In addition to mystery, books seem to be my theme right now–books as artifacts and not just as containers for information the way I usually treat them. I expect several of my nostalgia box projects to be about making book-like pieces, so I picked up this one from Half Price Books that I’d seen on Amazon, a gallery of artist’s books, which are books made by artists to be works of art, so as I flip through it, I’ll be wearing goggles to protect my eyes from the explosion of creative design ideas.
  • Socializing – Sunday evening I launched out on my quest to expand my circle of geeky friends, sparked by my desire to go to C2E2 with other people, by attending a game night with a local meetup group. I was somehow not nervous about going, maybe because I was basically familiar with this kind of event and I assumed the people would be friendly, and it turned out really well, even the Ultimate Werewolf game we all played toward the end that I initially resisted because I’m terrible at bluffing games. It was a fun night, and they’ll see me again!
Posted in Board games, Books, General, Nostalgia box, Productivity, Project updates, Social life | Leave a comment

Update for 2/5/2017

Project updates

  • Book feedback – [moved from last week’s update because it belongs here] I spent the first three days of last week on this, and then I delivered what I had to my friend, which he said he’d be happy with, though ideally I wanted to get through the whole book. But I’m glad I had a deadline, because otherwise I’d put everything else off for weeks and weeks until I was done.
  • Tea – I usually dislike tea, but a couple of months ago I decided since I was opening my mind to coffee, I might as well open it to tea as well, so I bought a couple of boxes, and then I was given some for Christmas, and last week I was running out of interesting things to drink, so I decided to break open the chai I bought and give it a try. The box recommended steeping the bag for 4-6 minutes, and since my complaint with tea is always that I can’t taste anything, I left it in for 6, and it turned out really well for both the chai and the tea my parents gave me, so that’s my new tea-making practice.
  • Nostalgia box – Even though it’s February, I did my January folder last week, and to go along with the epistolary novel I’m reading now (S. by Abrams and Dorst), it contained letters and notes and a story from my friend Calla (with a few notes of mine mixed in), which I read with tea and Lauridsen’s Lux Æturna. I grew up with Calla in junior high and high school band, and the letters reminded me of the fun we had, and also the many arguments (mostly religious, all of which I’m sure I instigated), but even on our debates we drew silly faces, and some of the letters were very kind and sweet, and most importantly, they were loaded with the random creativity that motivated me to include them in the first place. They also left me with questions, so I may be writing a follow-up Facebook message soon, and I might also look for some more fictional or non-fictional books of letters to read. In the meantime, my next step is to come up with something to leave in the folder for next year, which might involve making several things and picking one or more, since this project is new and I don’t know what I’m doing yet.
  • Computer – I have several hardware needs right now–a power cord that’s wearing out, an overburdened computer that could use some RAM, and a secret plan to try some livestreaming that would work better with two monitors, which would be possible with an adapter–so on Saturday I made a trip to Fry’s and got what I needed, and I’ll put some of that in place this week.
  • Code console – The livestreaming idea is partly to interact with my online friends differently and partly to motivate myself to get moving on my programming projects, so I might be getting back to the code console this week or next week, depending on how long it takes me to set everything up. If I stream, I’ll announce it on Twitter when I’m about to go live, or you can follow me on Twitch and get an automatic notification when I go live.
  • Media
    • Books
      • Lost Boy, Lost Girl – I finished this fairly short supernatural mystery by Peter Straub, and I liked it, but not as much as I’d hoped, mostly because the tone wasn’t nearly creepy enough, and although for some books I could blame the reader, who I liked in this case, I think for his book it was really the writing, which I also liked, just more for its psychological than its horror aspects. My discontent has gotten me thinking about the nature of narration and tone, which is good for my plans to write, but it also means I’ll have to rethink how I search to find the kind of menacing novel I’m looking for, something like the effect Lovecraft was aiming for, but less eldritch and more creepypasta.
      • Labyrinths – This Jorge Luis Borges collection arrived in the mail last week, and I finally gave myself permission to read “The Garden of Forking Paths,” an early example (or at least discussion) of hypertext fiction. I read another story before I ordered the book to make sure I wanted to commit myself, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the stories, which I think generally fit into the experimental category, but I’ll probably read them one at a time here and there. I like that Borges only wrote short stories, since I feel it gives me permission not to write anything longer than I think I could manage.
    • TV – Last week my boss suggested that since season 2 was coming up, now would be a good time to watch Making a Murderer if we hadn’t already, so since I was done with another season of The Sara Jane Adventures, I decided to interrupt myself yet again for this show, a documentary that investigates the convoluted case of a possibly innocent man accused of murder. I never thought I’d binge watch a documentary, and for the first couple of episodes I thought I was safe and spaced them out over a few days … but then the infuriating episode 3 happened, and thankfully the next episode ended on a hopeful enough note that I could make myself stop and go to bed (and yes, for me that counts as binge watching). Those two episodes pushed my buttons hard enough that I was halfway contemplating a career in law, but no, for me the better path would be to create a lawyerbot to fight corruption as my surrogate. It’s a good time for me to think about the justice system, though, because I possibly have jury duty coming up in a couple of weeks.
  • Narratology – I’m getting impatient to learn about storytelling because it’ll help in so many of my creative projects, so I’m going to start slipping this in where I can, starting with notes on Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s Story Structure Architect.

Life updates

  • Work
    • Security – Last week our company’s security settings were upgraded, and not only do our passwords need to be longer, but we get only five chances to enter them correctly within 30 minutes or we get locked out of our account for that long. I don’t mind the longer passwords, but for several days I kept getting mysteriously locked out by something happening in the background, and it took almost a week of finding possible sources and disabling wifis before I finally eliminated the problem. It was very frustrating, and I was tempted to start addressing the IT people as Mordac and copying files to my less-secure personal tablet to work on during my lockouts.
    • PyCon – Last week was budget week for my boss, and he got approval to take our little department to PyCon in May, which will be my first developer convention and my first trip to the West Coast, so I’m looking forward to it.
Posted in Books, Conferences, Hardware, Narratology, Nostalgia box, Programming, Tea, TV, Work | 8 Comments

Update for 1/29/2017

This week I blame naps and procrastination because I felt I had too many thoughts to collect.

Project updates

  • Nostalgia box – This seems to have been my major project last week, spending a few hours sorting through the old stuff I brought from my parents’ house and picking out things to put in each month’s folder. Each month I’ll open the matching folder, spend some time with what I put in there, and replace it with something else for the next year, probably something I make; and most months I’ll keep you posted about what I “find.” I’ll do January’s folder this week.
  • Code console – This is the new name for what I called my Python console last time (my code manager that creates projects from templates), named more generically now since I want it to apply to other languages too. I want to focus on this project after the book feedback and nostalgia box because it’s the gateway to a bunch of other programming projects on my agenda.
  • Media
    • Books
      • Area X – I finished this last week (awkwardly, since I waited too long to listen to the last 15 minutes and had to reborrow it), and my reaction to the series is ambivalent. I liked the philosophizing about knowledge and some of the character explorations, but the storytelling seemed to keep the mysteries even more confusing than the story required them to be. I think I’d appreciate the series more on a second reading, but I don’t know if I’ll get around to it. As for the audiobook narration, I had the same problem with Carolyn McCormick I had during The Hunger Games where half her sentences sound like pronouncements, I liked Bronson Pinchot for the most part and wouldn’t have recognized his voice at all if I hadn’t seen his name, and I’ll have to hear Xe Sands in something else before I decide if I like her style.
      • Little House in the Big Woods – The Little House books had been crossing my mind lately as a depiction of life’s rhythms back in pioneer days, and I wanted to explore the rhythm idea and see if I could adapt it for my life, so I listened to the first book last week. I’d read some of that series when I was young, and it was interesting to come back to it as an adult and ask my grown-up questions about it to get an idea of its context, and I could see some of why the books are so popular. They’re an interesting and cozy window onto a healthy family living in a very different, simpler time. I might come back to it in a while and listen to the rest of the series.
      • Experimental literature – I collected a few more links for my list. But this is on hold till I get through the code console.
    • TV – I finished The OA, and it impressed me how seriously it took its very unusual subject matter. It got me thinking about my profound questions (such as, what do I mean by a profound question?) and about the times the profundities break through the banalities of life and make you rethink everything. It also reminded me of a genre I call therapy stories, which offer fairly direct opinions on the meaning of life and how it works, movies such as What Dreams May Come (which is also a book) and books like The Shack (which is about to be a movie). Maybe I’ll start a page on the wiki to collect a list of these.
  • Firefox – As an example of the way I get completely sidetracked from my plans, on Saturday I opened Firefox and was greeted by a message from the developer of one of the Firefox add-ons I have installed (Tab Groups), saying he’s quitting his add-on development because major upcoming changes in Firefox would severely restrict what his add-ons could do and would require him to rewrite them in any case. This news pushed my buttons, so instead of the three other things I’d planned to do, I spent the next couple of hours reading about these changes and people’s reactions to them. But the time wasn’t completely wasted, because it made me aware of important issues to take into account when I eventually create the add-ons I have in mind and when I study Firefox for its add-on architecture.
Posted in Books, Nostalgia box, Programming, Project updates, TV | Leave a comment

Update for 1/22/2017

It’s Thursday, a record for lateness on one of these weekly updates. For the newcomers, the date in the title really just tells you which week I’m updating for rather than the exact day I’m posting it. Ideally I post the entry on Sunday, but in any case it covers the previous Monday through that day as “last week” and reports my plans for the upcoming week.

Project updates

  • Project map – I’ve decided to separate the map from the wiki guide, since they really have different goals, and separating them should help me think about each of them. The map is a higher priority for me, and my latest thought on it is that most of my projects are aimed at achieving some kind of enlightenment (more than just learning things), which feels like a significant insight.
  • Python console – This is the programming template project I mentioned before, and I started it a long time ago, but now I’m revising it to conform to my new programming project structure; and before I return to my other programming projects, I want to get it to the point of being able to create projects with the structure I’ve established so far, since I’ll be updating the structure as I work on them, and I want to record in the template what I’ve done so far.
  • Life maintenance
    • Housekeeping – The maintenance guy has fixed the ceiling, and from my conversation with him, he seems intent on finding and fixing the source of the leak, so that’s good news, though it could be annoying for a while.
    • Cooking – I did some, which always feels newsworthy–chicken tikka masala this time. Lately I’ve been cooking in stages over multiple days, so one day I cook the meat, another day mix the spices, etc.
  • Nostalgia box – Before the end of the month I’d like to start using this, so I’ll need to sort through my old things, pick out stuff to put in the folders, spend some time with January’s thing, and replace it with a thing for next January.
  • Media
    • Movies
      • The Revenant – I watched this at the beginning of last week, and while the cinematography and some of the music were beautiful and profound and the performances were impressive, the story was straightforward and simple and didn’t give me much to chew on.
      • Silence – I saw this with Tim on Sunday and found it much more satisfying, both beautiful and roiling with ideas. It was a grueling experience, however, watching almost three hours of continuous social and personal crisis. But it illustrated one way I’ve found that history can interest me, where I wonder how a situation got from one state to another, in this case how Japan stopped persecuting Christians, and in researching the answer I was helped by having watched this short, amusing history of Japan a while back (warning: strong language).
    • TV – My coworkers apparently want to talk about The OA, so I’m trying to finish that up this week.
    • Comics – On Monday I found out that a fan convention, C2E2, is happening in April, and it will include celebrities I’d like to see, so since I know about it before the day before, I’m starting to make plans to finally go to one of these things, which will involve finding existing or new friends who want to go, since it’s lonely and annoying to go to events by myself, so I might join one or two comic-related groups I found on meetup.com.
    • Books
      • Treasure Island – My N. C. Wyeth illustrated Treasure Island arrived, so my old book collection has begun! Back then publishers communicated a book’s publication information differently, and it seems the printing date is on the title page (in Roman numerals–thanks, publisher), which makes this one a 1924 printing.
      • Experimental literature – I’ve been having fun collecting web links based on the chapters in the Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature to post in an article on the wiki and to form the basis for a reading list. I’m collecting them as Firefox bookmarks, and at some point I’ll write a program that will convert them to a wiki article, and then I can post it. These link collections are easy to do and feel useful, so you’ll probably see several more of them this year.
      • Book feedback – A friend asked for feedback on a nonfiction book he’d like to release soon, so I’m going to try to spend most of this week on that.
Posted in Books, Comics, Cooking, Housekeeping, Movies, Nostalgia box, Programming, Project updates, Projects, TV | 2 Comments