2011-01-30

Streamlines/Blogger

I have a writing project called Streamlines, but this could apply to Blogger as well:
I don't want to manually fish for context.

I don't want to spend 10-20 seconds for each item that wants context fishing for an appropriate link and image to thumbnail in my writing/post.  For instance, in the preceding post I went and got the links to the Wikipedia pages for Breath of Fire II and Orphen and attached them.  I was tempted to also find images of Orphen I could include on Google Images.  While I feel like it would have added a lot to the post, it's not really worth the hassle for what was supposed to be me sharing something quickly.

It would be nice if Blogger/Streamlines had a Add Context feature to words.  It's something you often want to do in a blog, and it's something straightforward.  The top Google result would often be appropriate, usually a Wikipedia entry or a company website.  The option to pick an image from the top results of Google Images would be good too.  Having Google search only for those images that are freely usable (e.g. Creative Commons-licensed) would be a plus, too.

I reckon improved natural language capabilities will help in the future, making it easier for your software to know what you're writing about, knowing the context you mean already, suggesting that you might want to add this or that like an editor.  Hmm.

Pleasures

I have watched some of Orphen on Netflix recently.  It was a good distraction the one evening when my sickness was particularly debilitating.  It is mostly great, but I'm partial to its similarities to Breath of Fire II.  I wonder which influences the two share.

Operating Efficiency Restored to 82%

Pressures when sick

The world needs to handle sickness better.  Employers and schools really should encourage quarantining and accommodate the quarantined.  Instead there are mixed messages: medical professionals say: stay at home and rest and don't spread it.  Half of work and school say that, and then there's the practical half that says: work needs to get done/you can't miss too many lectures/deadlines.  People need to be expected to get sick, to usually be unavailable for around a week, to be able to work remotely (where possible), to be allowed to recover and not be pressured into endangering the health of their peers.  And not to have to go out and about for hours when sick to go "I'm sick" to a doctor and have them just agree for the comfort of your supervisors.

Duller details of my own demise

It's unusual for me to feel like my health has improved drastically over the course of a day when sick.  Usually I go to sleep and the next morning my symptoms have changed for the day.  From the start of yesterday to the end, though, I gradually felt better.  I am almost well today, spending most of my time feeling normal except for the odd hack cough.

I usually feel like my nose suffers the most under a cold (like that historic cold under the purview of which I commenced dating Olivia); I've never identified myself as much of a cougher (excepting that time in 1st year when I had a throat infection and didn't realise it for 3 painful, sleepless weeks, infecting probably a thousand people on campus by my unrelenting cough).  This one, though, was an interesting and diverse cold, from Monday through to today, I had a soar throat, a bought of nausea, a terrifying constricted throat, extreme prolonged nausea, greatly increased need for the washroom, and only then came the more familiar flood of mucous and coughing.  I won't mind if it's the only bout I have this year, though a steady diet of mushroom soup was memorable.

Last year I fared well against the cold.  I felt ill on a number of occasions (likely a result of stress and poor sleep), and felt a cold coming on once, but mostly spent the last year and a bit cold-free, which is an achievement I hope to earn an Oscar for.

Static Typing vs Python


Small to large Python applications have a bad reputation with me, especially whenever they involve a GUI.  I generally anticipate that "Oh no, it's in Python, it's going to run into a Runtime Exception when I click a button."  And sure enough, it almost always does.

The latest victim is Transmageddon, a transcoding application which hopes to transcode my video files.  I am amazed at the run time exceptions it encounters, especially after looking at the code.  "How could this be missed?!" I wonder, but I know.  Python is interpreted and dynamically typed, so a lot of a programme's correctness isn't verified in a compile step, quickly alerting the developer that something's amiss.  When someone tells me that dynamic typing allows you to write code faster, I now think "Well, faster doesn't matter if the result is wrong" and "I could write C code faster too if I just made the compiler accept garbage."

(Note: Transmageddon is not garbage and bug reports exist, it was just an example of a programme where I expected to have an issue at run time and did.)

(Note 2: perhaps it would be nice if more people used pylint or something like it.)

2011-01-26

Death Imminent

I'm just being melodramatic in the subject, which is sort of inappropriate, as an uncle of my girlfriend just passed away.  However, my cold that I began to suspect on Sunday and feel on Monday has made headway, and is now choking me to death with a constricted throat.  Never mind the stuffy mind or bowel complaints.

Tragically, I can't see much relief in sight from all my obligations this week.  I have to finish my literature review still, and tomorrow I have to give my presentation.  Is it alright to pause and say "Please hold, I can't breathe?"  It reminds me of the old joke "If you're sick, you'll need a doctor's note."  Really?  Should someone who is sick actually go out into the world, head to a doctor's office, wait around still more sick people, and go to a doctor and go "I'm sick" just so he can confirm that you're sick (and stupid enough to risk worse) for the comfort of a high school teacher?  Ha ha!

I also have TAing to do.  I have a lab to administer, and I love giving my lab.  I also have an office hour (all this on a Thursday) and two classes to sit through.  I say it cannot be done!  My obligations tell me it must be done!  Let me die!

Society is really bad at exception-handling, I tell ya.

2011-01-25

Blogging can be habit forming (also I am ill)

Having blogged a little more recently, I now end up with periodic compulsion to write more. Unfortunately, this contends with my desire to work earnestly.

Time Zones

Up until right now, my blog's times were for the NZDT time zone, not EST. I haven't been in New Zealand for over a year. Oops!

Laboratory

The CIS*2750 lab on Thursday went better than the lab the week before. I gave better examples, and it felt great. I also gave cookies. James was able to come into the lab a little early to make sure the computers were going to work this time. There were lots of questions, and I felt more helpful than normal. Hooray!

Cookies

I had baked cookies to pay a debt to my sushi hero. They were delicious. My usual recipe + mint chocolate.


TA Meeting

The TA-professor meeting didn't go as smoothly. I didn't think to print the test plan I had generated in advance, so the professor had to during the meeting. I still had a lot of questions about things, so they got sorted out there. The professor had asked earlier why I felt the need to see the internals of the programme to create a black-box test plan. It's true that I shouldn't need to, that I should be able to go straight from the spec. However, the spec would have just remained an abstract concept in my head in this case, especially when trying to help students understand their problems. Also, having my own partial implementation has helped me test the automarker (which implements the proposed test plan). In the end, all is well.

Peterborough and Algonquin

My girlfriend and I went to Peterborough for Friday night. How I can justify the time is beyond me :D Actually, I had planned to do some work from there, but it marked the second time I visited someone from Algonquin who didn't seem to have Internet. Strange fact: there are still some young, non-impoverished people in the world who don't use a computer or the Internet much.

My girlfriend had worked in Algonquin over the summer and made many friends and acquaintances. In this case, we ferried three others along with us in a car pool who were coming from Guelph. The evening was spent among perhaps 18 people talking, eating snacks, not eating non-vegetarian food, eating dessert, and going to an Elliott Brood performance which was very loud. The band before them, The Avenue (I think), suffered from that all-too-common problem of "too loud for the speakers so the sound goes to static". I did a neat thing twirling my straw in an empty cup, but I don't think anyone noticed. People banged ladles against pot lids.

Afterwards, there was pizza from The Night Kitchen. I strongly recommend this pizzeria to anyone near Peterborough. I got a slice of pizza that had hot peppers and tangerine slices (or some similar citrus). Wow.

In the morning, we ran to The Planet bakery which might be vegetarian-only, which was wonderful. The food was a bit slow coming, but then there were 10 of us. The food was also fantastic. I had a spicy breakfast burrito. The Firefox spell-checking dictionary doesn't recognise burrito, or Firefox. Most people enjoyed a French toast stuffed with brie cheese. $2 was spent on parking on a day when parking was free, hehe.



Afterward, there was more conversation among Algonquinites and the observation of frogs and cardinals. After that we went to the Riverview Park and Zoo, a free attraction that featured yaks, lemurs, a bobcat, a cougar, servals, a tiny type of monkey, turtles!, snakes, a camel and turkeys, among a few other things. It was exciting. OH, and seals.



From there, we went to meet others for a film, True Grit, but my girlfriend, an Algonquinite and I defected from the trend and went to see No Strings Attached which ended up being surprisingly enjoyable. (I didn't expect it to be bad, mind you.) Thereby I drank a recommended wild berry smoothie from Yogen Früz which was surprisingly bad. (I had expected it to be enjoyable, mind you.)

Then, on to Matsu Sushi after some coordination difficulties. What magical sushi they had. There were a few vegetarian varieties I had never tried before, as well as one that featured BANANA. What?! Afterward, the group finally separated and we went our separate ways, only bringing one Guelphite back home with us.

Sunday

Work work work. Work on the automarker and other stuff. Did some Google Reader reading.

Monday

Feel sick. Work work work.

Tuesday

Feel sick. Go to school anyway. Have issues with software for a course. Find out I have more work to do this week than I thought. Dote on my sicker-than-I girlfriend. Mushroom and vegetable soup all week!

2011-01-19

Dodge a hammer

Technical Communication and Research Methods

This week I arrived on time. We talked a lot about how to effectively present. A lot of which we've been exposed to before, but good practises always bear repeating :) Last Thursday involved introductions (which I missed) and a seminar on LaTeX, which I'm thankfully somewhat comfortable with already.

Being Helpful

One of my favourite things to do is to be of help to others. I got to help a classmate diagnose part of a problem, though I'm not sure if it was the fundamental problem for their project. Good luck to them. It unfortunately took a lot of time I needed for something else, though.

Graduate Student Representation

I feel like a very ineffective Graduate Student Representative so far, mostly because Graduate Students are far flung. There was a department meeting which was full of funness, where I discovered a Grad Info day was happening yesterday night (for undergraduates who are considering graduate studies at Guelph). I went about and harassed some undergrads, enticing them to come on short notice with the promise of free pizza.

Neural Networks

Neural Networks was enjoyable. We got dates for our projects now, which I should really enter into my calendar before I forget. A lot of it is familiar from Computational Intelligence and from the course I sat in on in New Zealand, but I try not to take knowledge for granted here. I've made that mistake too many times in the past :D

Grad Info Night

After class, I waited for Liv to be done her blood donation, but timing was confused. I ended up being of use at Grad Info night and was there talking to students for two hours, and I enjoyed two slices of pizza. I even secured a slice for dear Livi. Nom nom nom. Attending department meetings and this event helps me understand the scale of CS at Guelph. I mean, the numbers for a year are in the dozens, and at any given time for the whole department, a few hundred perhaps. This in a country of over 33 million. (Yes, I should reduce that to the population for the relevant demographic, but oh well.) Things operate on a more individual level than I thought.

OCUS and dodging hammers

Afterwards, I checked what time the dodge ball game was going to be. (I'm on an intramural team for OCUS, the union for off-campus students.) It turned out it was going to be at 11:30PM! I thought I might stick around and work, but a movie was playing in the lounge, "Dinner for Schmucks.' I only saw the last ½ hour, but it was less painful than I would have expected. After that came "The Hangover," so I decided to go home for a snack and see Livi.

I made it back to campus in time to practise a bit for dodge ball, and that's when I remembered I sucked. We ended up walking to the Athletics Centre in shorts and t-shirts, which was amusingly cold. We had to meet a female quota, and initially we weren't going to, but then magic happened. Also, some creative aliasing went on. We ended up playing about 5 matches and I only went in on two, since we have too many guys, and we had to switch out, and I lack confidence.

However, those two matches I played were glorious, I say! No hammer could hit me. Except for those that did. I even managed to hit a couple people out and catch a ball aimed right at me. It was great. Afterwards, I walked and talked my way back to the UC and waited to finally be ferried home.

CIS*2750 Software Systems Development and Integration

This is the course I TA. I was hoping to have a test plan done for the automarker I have to write Real Soon Now, and have it done for Monday. However, I ended up spending all of Sunday celebrating my birth instead. So, I spent Monday working on it, but due to car troubles, I didn't have as much time as I needed, and Tuesday (as described above) was quite busy (as evinced above). So, I'm trying to finish it today. Yay!

Natural Language Processing

I really wanted to smooth out the issues with my implementation before this semester really got under way. Sadly, that may not get to be. I am going to write a post about its development at some point, though, and then perhaps updates on it. One of the latest things I added was a display of the correct derivation of a sentence as though it had been parsed from a model. I now can find sources of error where certain actions are scored with a probability of 0! I next need to find out how valid, observed actions can fail to be learned by the model, resulting in p(a|b)=0, grr. Hopefully there's another small bug I get to fix.

Now

I've just had a pleasant morning working from home with Liv about. Now to go be a TA and hold office hours, though.

2011-01-17

Tianjin Eco City

I might move to Tianjin Eco City if it ever gets built.

Blogging Every Day

Birthday

This weekend was my birthday. I got to spend it in Flesherton again. I think I've rarely missed the chance to. I've at least visited Flesherton within a week of almost all my birthdays. It is typically idyllic. I describe it as such a lot. The snowy weather was wonderful, even if it impaired Liv's car from starting. I organised a small event in my honour, having a couple people over, making our own pizza, eating Liv's heartcakes, playing Dutch Blitz (favourite card game) and watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (favourite film).

NLP project

My interminable school project has made great progress. I was able to diagnose a few subtle but important bugs that have re-enabled progress. The optimisation work I did the other week has helped me test a lot. I reduced the time a phase took from multiple minutes to a second. Hooray! Tips: avoid using lots of String operations in Java. If the data can be predefined in an Enum, do so! Also, using the ^ operator for custom hashing seems to work really well, especially when you want to use HashMaps to cache already-seen values to avoid duplicate re-calculation.

Also, sometimes it's very worth losing some bit of local information to simplify a problem. I was building trees from a file and then analysing them in a simple way from the bottom up. However, because each node knew about its parent, the node could not be easily recycled in another, similar tree. So, now each node does not have a reference to its parent, and the trees get analysed from the top-down, which was less straightforward for my algorithm, but greatly reduced the amount of memory used.

My implementation has some issues at the larger scale. It remains imperfect. I hope to figure out why over the course of the next week. Yikes.

Apartment

I now own my own rice cooker. It may be too large. I originally bought a $10 Bon Appetit rice cooker from Zellers and it came pre-dented and scorched (previously abused?). I was then going to replace it with a $20 Proctor Silex one, and perhaps I should have, but after much debate, I went for a $30 Black and Decker one. In large part due to nervousness about quality. I like going lofi on a lot of my possessions. I even buy refurbished computers. But I don't want to replace my rice cooker any time soon. In some ways, the smaller Proctor Silex (8 cups cooked) would have better met my needs than the Black and Decker (16 cups cooked), but the latter comes with a 2 year limited warrantee, etc. Yes, I am talking about material possessions. We also acquired a small, attractive microwave. It thankfully fits our plates. I remember once before being somewhere where the plates were too large for the microwave. HA.

I am sad to hear that many Zellers will be converted to Target. Strange, my attachment to some brands.

School

Right, a new semester has begun. I am taking a Technical Communication and Research Methods course and a Neural Networks course. I was going to take three, but there's an Experimental Design course in the summer I want to take instead. I am also TAing a busy course, CIS*2750 Software Systems Development and Integration. My first lab for it went alright. The lab situation is not ideal in the room we are in. I am also displeased by changes to our computer systems since I was an undergraduate at Guelph. Grr.

More importantly, I talked to my supervisor about changing my thesis, my subject of focus. He is amenable. Hooray.

Which Breath of Fire II character am I most like


I am the Ranger, Ryu! Who are you?
Take the 'Which Breath of fire II character are you?'
quiz to find out!
Quiz by Casey

Here was a random quiz that classifies you as a character from my favourite video game. I am pleased by my result, as the character is a role model of mine.

2011-01-12

Hosting

Hooray! Kosmokaryote is back online. It's previous web host, webschwerver, shut down at the end of last year, and I migrated a little late to my new host, ANHosting (midphase). The migration was fairly simple and straightforward, and ANHosting allows me almost all the same features for a similar price: yay! They also seem to appreciate geekiness, hooray! The longest part of migrating was having my domain name change registrars, which took about a week. Yikes!

Hello 2011. Good bye 2010.

Bon Appetit Rice Cookers from Zellers

They come pre-dented!

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