2009-05-30

Blogging Theory

I suppose one reason why I don't blog more often is because I'm not too fond of Blogger's post creation interface. I'm not sure why. My complaint used to be its size, but now the text entry box is resizeable. It used to be how often I'd lose work if I didn't manually save drafts, but now it autosaves. It's rather quite nice. I suppose I long for some sort of ideal, common desktop applet like GNOME Blog. Sadly, it's gone unmaintained for a while. It needs to be updated to use Blogger's Atom API. I wrote a patch doing just that once and submitted it, but the product is neglected. Sigh. I'll note that the interface surely isn't the dominant factor in my blogging frequency though.

I think I'm given to making large multi-part posts, and that this is probably bad. I should probably instead make multiple, more focussed posts. Then, people would be less daunted to read any individual post. Hopefully, their amazing frequency helps keep people sufficiently riveted that they'll gladly afford the time and disinterest for particular topics to trudge through the tired terminology.

Evolution

I used to think more and less about it. I once lived with a good friend with whom it and alternatives could be discussed and debated. I didn't know much about it then, and I don't now, though I know more. Its propositions seem less controversial or questionable now. I don't really wonder about it's plausibility any more: I've had to code simulations of the principles of natural selection, genetic mutation and crossover. I've encountered case studies documenting smaller changes over more visible periods of time. The only thing that I don't expect I'll ever be certain of is whether it's how it all happened. My friend had pointed out at the time an event relayed by a fellow who even came to speak at our University, about a student asking for advice, and the details are gone now, but essentially, while the student thought that perhaps they could avoid explicitly making a decision, they in fact would effectively implicitly make a decision that would be reflected in their daily decisions that require assumptions of how things are. It might have been a story to question agnosticism, but I don't really remember. I still think that not committing to something important but uncertain, even if you have to act as though that something was certain sometimes. Some things are too important to get wrong.

I used to read some popular blogs about evolution and not-evolution and it's really silly. It's as ridiculous as modern politics. Non-physical battles are so ridiculous, I cannot believe we tolerate them. How can we respect people who behave as badly as those who engage in these most ridiculous arguments in government and in science/religion. Presently, though, I am reading a textbook, Evolutionary Analysis by Freeman and Herron. It's quite nice, but they make an effort to defend evolution against alternative theories and this defense feels misplaced. They don't dedicate enough time to properly introduce the alternatives or fully address them. That's alright, because that's certainly not the purpose of the text, but they probably shouldn't try to address controversy that they won't allow themselves enough time for. More importantly, they do spend lots of time on specific case studies, like Grant and Grant's study of medium ground finches on Daphne Major, on HIV, and on bees and flowers. I've only read their first three chapters so far, one of which discusses HIV as a primer, and one of which discusses the theory of evolution, explains it, and occasionally makes mild attempts to justify it.

I don't have a good mind for casual details anymore, it seems. I think I'm just too distracted by "important" things from work and previously school. I don't have time like I did with video games to be as observed. However, information from this textbook seems to be sticking better. So does information from the lectures I attend on campus. I'm quite pleased. I hope that my endeavours to sleep more (enough to wake up naturally on some non-weekend days, even!) are to credit. Anyway, perhaps the next time I get to constructively debate evolution with someone, I'll be better informed and better able to contribute.

Work

I've worked since last May for a company whose product is largely database driven. I left it for a brief time before returning on a contract which will be ending early soon.

One of two reasons include feeling handicapped by the lack of availability of coworkers for work-related tasks (e.g. sometimes I need access to a peer for information on a system, or a business analyst to understand what needs to be done given some development) for which, for half of my day, I have to wait until the next day to do. That's because, while I start at 7-7:30AM NZST, that's in the middle of lunch in Vancouver. There's usually about 3-31/2 hours of overlap when people are back from lunch before they leave in which I can interact, and it often finds me rushing to send of e-mails with questions before my lunch, hoping to catch people before they head out before waiting for tomorrow again. While I almost always have enough work to ensure I can still be busy and productive in the meantime, it means some tasks end up dragging on for far longer than they should (particularly investigation work where I end up with more time-sensitive questions).

It's also stressful a bit trying to ensure that I'm up at 7AM due to the winter season out here and relatively awful climate control in my NZ residence. The story goes that houses were built all over the north island where the climate is tropical, and then the same builders came to the south island and built all the houses the same, despite the fact that it's temperate here. So, sure, it doesn't get as cold as Ontario outside of the house, but it does get as cold inside as it does outside, which is still 3 degrees right now! While I have a portable oil heater in my room, that doesn't help heat the other parts of the house (kitchen, washroom, etc.) I enjoy waking up early in the day, but all the prep work for the day is an early shock to the body, and I've grown use to ... warmth! See my earlier blog entry on it!

The second of the two reasons I'm describing is feeling disconnected and isolated. There's one coworker who's online later than the rest often and who converses with me regularly. He's great and it's fun, but it doesn't prevent me from feeling like a boy who's stuck in a closet and given school work all day to do. I do not think that this is due to the nature of remote work, but that remote work enables it when you don't have a very good culture of interactivity electronically. I feel like if I could be more involved with my coworkers and team on-line, this wouldn't be as much of a problem. If we had effective forums where the administrator actually approved me, if we were all available via instant messenger, or actually used a common chatroom. I don't mean to goof off, either. Sure, there should be some of that, but more liquid communication could help productivity and involvement a lot.

I do hope that my employer doesn't go away from this contract with a negative impression of remote work arrangements. I think they understand some of the issues with the current one well enough not leave with that wrong impression. I hope.

The Brain

So what is a boy to do with his time? Find another job? Nay! say I. Who would hire a visitor for just a year? Someone, perhaps, but that would be such a gamble; I've had a few bad job experiences during my co-ops and I'd like not to repeat them in New Zealand. Instead, a Masters is the object of my eye!

Yes, I had considered getting a masters a while ago, but while in Canada, there wasn't anything that ended up being so compelling, and I was very burnt out of school after my last semester and wanted to escape. However, due to uncertainty of my contract originally, I did investigate options and found a professor here whose work is interesting. I've been attending his lectures, and it appears that he'd be willing to supervise me if I enrol. So, that's what I'm looking forward to now. A single-year research/thesis masters of computer science. It will involve the brain, you see!

I've read a lot of stuff related to the course and the potential Masters topic recently to understand it and whether it's something that I'd like to do. I think it is. The domain itself is exciting and fascinating to me. It's something I felt as though I took some of the wrong courses during my undergraduate to be able to study later on, but I appear to have been mistaken. Give me your basal ganglia now, please.

Employment and Employers

At some point, I want to write about challenges faced at the place where I am most recently working and some facets of employment that I think are important. I'll briefly mention one now though: attention to the development infrastructure and tools internally. It sometimes feels as though the existing infrastructure and the tools are not growing apace with the challenges of a larger code base or with what's available. I think it's useful to have someone specifically tasked (or at least part-time) with identifying all the resistance developers face daily and work to remove or minimise it. Like, improving the product is important, but improving the situation of the developers helps that goal, too.

Clarity, age, and crystals

It's strange, but some ideas have become clearer in my mind over time. I notice a lot of gaps in my memory, but new things are easier to generalise, categorise, manage, understand. Old ideas that were obtuse and always vague in my mind see to crystalise more easily. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with increased experience and a better conceptual framework in which to understand these old and new things. Sadly, there appear to be downsides.

With improved crystalisation and the growth of my interdependent conceptual framework (knowledge), my mind appears to be less malleable, even now, at 25. I wonder whether that puts me at risk for being able to contribute anything particularly novel to the Masters research I now hope to do. I hope that awareness and wariness of this will help me to not fall into traps of stale, stubborn knowledge.

The other downside is the removal of magic from my environment. Natural things in particular are now much easier to understand. I wonder whether someone my age who had avoided science and explanations would still feel a better sense of mystery, or whether it just degrades naturally over time. I've been expending effort recently, looking harder at beautiful scenes to feel their beauty like I feel I once would have. I am heartened that the professor I've mentioned before paused to remark on the glory of a magnolia tree in a courtyard we approached the other day. But then again, the CN Tower wasn't very impressive to me when I was younger, as I had seen greater things in video games, and it wasn't until mid-university that I came to appreciate the sight of it.

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I am aeronautical, vanship-style.  I am olympic and mythical.  I rest on my laurels.