- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
As someone on jury duty for almost a year, I can only say that you dodged that bullet.
Whoa, almost a year?? Was this a past year or now? I looked up news on the case I was being considered for, and it turns out the trial only lasted a day or two, with a guilty verdict.
Andy, I was so curious about your FB post I just had to read. Sorry to hear about jury duty – that sounds like a particularly un-appealing experience all ’round. I got jury duty last fall and had to drive back from Arkansas for it. Fortunately, they let me move my date a week early so I could make it coincide with a pre-planned trip back to Illinois. I sat around all day working from my computer and never got called. I was mildly disappointed because I secretly want to see what a real trial is actually like (compared to TV), but I was also relieved not to have to decide upon someone’s future and not to have to come back for multiple days.
Also curious about split-page books. Never heard of that before – though I loved choose-your-own-story books when I was a kid. I’m guessing that’s what branching plot books are? I might go look this up. Do they make these kinds of creative books for adults or just for kids?
Thanks for reading, Jessie! Yeah, I wonder if that ambivalence about jury duty is common, a mixture of curiosity and dread. I’m glad you were spared, especially since you’d have to come up from Arkansas. And I’m glad jurors are allowed to bring in their computers to work on while they wait.
A split-page book has each page divided horizontally with images or sometimes text that you can mix and match by turning each section of the pages. If you look up Graham Oakley’s Magical Changes on Google image search, you can see a really good example. One that does this with text is A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems by Raymond Queneau, which has ten sonnets split into individual lines.
Yeah, I was thinking of Choose Your Own Adventure and similar series when I mentioned branching plot books. I’ve seen one of these for adults, The Adventures of Whatley Tupper. Branching plot books are a subset of gamebooks, which can get pretty sophisticated. They’re like a complete roleplaying game in a book. Some of the best reviewed of these are by Dave Morris. I have his Fabled Lands and Heart of Ice, but I haven’t read (played?) them yet.
One type of creative books that show up for adults is doodle books. Amazon will give you a lot of results for that phrase. They give you a description of something to draw and maybe part of a picture, and you draw on the page. One interesting author who’s sort of in that category but who blazes her own trail is Keri Smith. I have her book The Imaginary World of ________, which gives you exercises for describing a world that reflects you. Another of hers, Wreck This Journal, is a more extreme example. If you follow its instructions, you’ll end up taking the title literally, but in your own, creative ways.