2012-06-30

Questions

It's strange when lines of communication break down, when you wish you could talk to someone or ask them a question, but based on previous attempts and the length of time since last you spoke that you can't, or respectfully shouldn't, imagine further ones being welcome.

Time to distract myself with more work!

[General] Strange calls, part 2

The strange calls to my old Vonage phone number from some Rogers-affiliated number stopped for a while, but then I got another one today around 3PM, and I'm beginning to wonder whether it's just someone with a calling card who doesn't have my new number?  On the improbable chance that someone reading is still calling my 3725 number, either look at my Facebook profile or my resume for my current one.

[General] Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Canada Day, will be a bit weird for me.  It bundles together some sorrow, regret, anxiety, sober reflection and delightful nostalgia.  People have asked me if I'm happy, and I'm not sure how to answer that or what it is to be happy.  I laugh and smile and adventure with friends a lot, but I can't say that this is the life I've wanted.  It has many elements that I'm keen about, like my AI research, open source work, a stronger connection to my German heritage, great satisfaction with Japanese iaido and jodo, and hopefully some progress as a person overcoming some faults.  But there's something that I've lost that I can't replace and, to be honest, the rest of life without it just doesn't mean as much.  So tomorrow will be a bit weird, especially as my plans for the day mirror those of last year's, heading to Riverside Park for fireworks, hopefully without any "not good" surprises this time.  Hmm.

2012-06-27

[Microblog] Je m'appelle Puppy!

Tonight I started using duolingo to start expanding my French beyond the single sentence in the subject.  It's all the French I ever wanted to know once. :)

[Microblog] Transient Bliss

Glen Hansard of The Frames is coming to Toronto again in September!  Glee!

2012-06-26

[Microblog] Transient Thought

Taking a break from work to lay in the grass and stare at the stars.

2012-06-25

[Microblog] Transient Thoughts

Haircuts from friends: now with 100% less snark and 100% more gratitude.  (From me.)

[Microblog] Pride

It's that time of year again: Pride (Big Picture's photo essay).  This year the parade is even on Canada Day.

2012-06-24

[General] Rainy Sundays

This weekend is Færy Fest, but it's also "Catch-up with school" weekend.  Sigh!  Still, I went there for a couple hours this morning to visit friends.
Richard, with dragon horns and wings, spoils in hand, and
a hat borrowed from my friends Benjamin and Madeleine.
More photos on my PicasaWeb/G+ albums, as usual. :)

[General] More on Duolingo

I'm curious how the social aspect of duolingo will work out.  So far I've discovered that I have a profile/stream that my friend Kevin has already mocked me on.  Something I've really enjoyed is its flexibility so far.  Something that's a bit awkward is the timing that they introduce some new constructs and words: you can see a word in a sentence before they have taught it to you, it feels.  (I might be mistaken.)  At the very least, there are definitely grammatical constructs (like plurals) that are appearing before the discussion of plurals even happens (but not too much earlier).  I think it's fine to throw in something new and see how people handle it and whether they can learn from the correction alone.  So far nothing hasn't been covered eventually.

Something I'm enjoying is that when you feel confident, you can go to the top right of a section and click to take a test to quickly master it and get all the remaining points.  Mwahaha.  Even though I'm conversational in German (finely demonstrated last August), I'm still going slowly through.  I find that duolingo's repetition and the audio presentation of words with their genders is really helping improve my knowledge of words' genders.  I suppose my auditory memory is more useful there than my semantic memory.

2012-06-23

[General] Whoa bear, whoa!

As promised, here's my long response to Brave (on an uncategorised post to control the spread of spoilers).

Whoa Bear, Whoa

The following contains many spoilers for Brave

Brave cut out of Princess Merida and her 3 brothers
I saw Brave on Friday for a friend's birthday, and here are some thoughts.

I saw it in 2D.  Since most movies I've seen in the last year were in 3D, it seemed weird watching it in 2D, as though some element was missing.  But, as I've observed when it comes to watching movies in 3D or 2D, on small screens or large, in high definition or not, I stop noticing the visual difference after about 5 minutes.  In 3D movies, I remind myself to appreciate the extra dimension by periodically removing my glasses and then putting them back on.

The movie has a strong feminist theme to it and deals with sexism and cultural tradition.  There are a few scenes and lines in the film addressing this that feel clichéd, and at one moment it felt as though the film was "Look at us! We're so innovative with our rebellious heroine!"  The relationship between the female lead (Princess Merida) and her mother (Elinor) caters to a bit of a stereotype too, and it's relentless problem-making made it the dynamic feel a bit shallow: like it must be immutable because it's an important plot device.  But I don't care.  It's great.  What feels clichéd to me will prove fundamental and novel to younger people.  I want something a bit richer and deeper than what I've already seen a dozen times before, this is a beautiful first time for someone else, and I want it anyway.  The context they put daughter and mother into also does a great deal to redeem the static first act of their relationship: it's funny watching the mother deal with it, and it's awkward watching the daughter handle her mother (though she doesn't seem to take it as seriously as I would expect any child to :D).  Also, best of all, she doesn't fall in love with anything but her freedom!  Perhaps there are other Disney films already featuring that.  I don't know.  It's a nice contrast to the complicated relationship brewing in The Legend of Korra.

I like that Merida comes fully developed as a strong female. I've seen a number of films where the first half or more are spent transforming a lady into a strong woman, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I like being able to devote the time to seeing how a strong female acts, where she'll go, what she'll do.  My two stories that matter to me both feature female leads, with Princess Afawnoly and with G21's orphan Video Eazy.  Both feature initial periods of building the character up, the princess becoming more self-sufficient and independent in exile, and the orphan being dropped in a wildly different world and having to protect her identity.  I barely know what they'll do once they're stable.  (Actually, I have a small idea :D)  Pixar's idea of a strong woman appears to be more than self-sufficient and also tomboyish.  She is physically active, deft at archery and horseback.  I think that would be a bad association to build, that to be strong you have to be a tomboy or assume male activities.  I'll accept this instance of it and hope it isn't part of a misguided trend.  I mean, tomboys are cool too. :)

So, overall, I like Merida.  A key point is her self-determination.  She wants to control her own fate and not let it be dictated by expectations or tradition or family.  As a guy, I'm glad her father King Fergus isn't the antagonist to her ambitions, but I understand the problem of casting mothers regularly as the problem.  Often it is men who create conditions that challenge women, and I've seen that in places I work.  Still, hooray for Fergus being a liberal oaf.  I like the hobbies she's taken up in particular: horseback, archery, exercise in nature, argument.  I will probably give up my aspirations of becoming a decent horseback rider (unless I could one day justify affording my own stable and care for a horse that could meet my standards), but I love the concept of having a symbiotic relationship with a large animal that binds you in physical endeavours.  I used to practise archery when I was in elementary and high school (never amounted to much except meeting one of my best friends) in reflection of Link, my hero.  I'm currently physically active and trying to embed myself as deeply into nature as my current situation and obligations allow.  I also enjoy her willingness to stand up for herself and not silently brood.  It's not only a dignity/pride matter, but also one of adequately communicating yourself and giving other people, like her mother Elinor, the best opportunity to understand how she feels.  She also has red hair, a weakness of mine since I was 16 and a family trait (I should carry one recessive gene for it), and is Gaelic.

The setting is wonderful.  I tried really hard to devour and remember the various landscapes they showed at the start, most/all of which come up again later in the story.  The landscapes there have a little in common with my beloved New Zealand.  The castles and keys and rocky cliffs and glens and forests and hooray.  More pleasing to me than any cityscape could be.

More than the physical land, there's the cultural setting too.  It's Gaelic Scotland and it's delicious.  To be honest, I'm a fan of too many cultures:
  • Japanese Samurai
  • European colonial naval (Horatio Hornblower!)
  • English and fantasy medieval (King Richard, Game of Thones)
  • Futuristic Space Opera (Firefly, StarCraft, Star Wars)
  • The Holy Roman Empire
  • Celtic and Gaelic naturalism
That makes it hard for me to incorporate any one into my identity, and different ones thrive at different points.  During my teens, Gaelic culture was rich, thanks to some forgotten television series about a clan of Celts roaming the highlands, thanks to Arthurian legend's connections to it, thanks to Gargoyles, thanks to the forests around my home and druids in random shows.  It's never really left, as I still enjoy its music, and I even used to wear a beloved ring with a Celtic design on it on loan from a friend.

One thing I enjoy about Celtic/Gaelic culture is its pagan spiritualism.  I enjoy the relatively loose structure and minimalist nature around cults (for certain value of minimalist).  In Excalibur Merlin comments that the old gods are gone, making way for the One God of man.  Later, after he himself leaves, he's brought back by Arthur's love, which led me to the thought that woodland spirits require interaction to exist and little more.  (I have a concept of general religion that tries to accommodate multiple perspectives from competing religions to magically justify everything: ask me about it sometime!)  So, I enjoy the Will-o-wisps in the film, I enjoy the witchcraft (more traditional than Celtic in origin), I enjoy the relationship of the kingdom to an animal, the bear.

One thing I actually don't enjoy is the relationship of the kingdom to their animal, the bear.  I mean, I like the concept of it, but I don't like how it's practised.  There's almost no respect shown for the bears despite it being on their family crest.  I know there's bitterness over Fergus's lost leg, but their solution is to KILL ALL THE BEARS.  Contrast that to the Starks in Game of Thrones adopting Dire Wolves as pets due to their connection to the family sigil.  I also hoped a little that someone would use the universal advice of going "Whoa bear, whoa" when encountering a bear and backing off.  I used to think that was specific to a place in Algonquin but I've since discovered that it's a common piece of advice, oft derided, even present in U.S. Department of Agriculture publications.

I also like the plot device of a potentially irreversible transformation based on a regrettable, naïve desire.  I like the moment near the end when the sun is rising and it seems like it's too late and she just doesn't know what's wanted of her to reverse the transformation and it just breaks her heart.  I liked that my heart broke with hers at the idea of her mother being irreparably transformed into a bear without a trace of her human self any more.  Dwelling on it even now breaks my heart again and again.

There's also some decent humour.  Merida's three younger brothers are delightful.  There addiction to sweets is delightful.  Their conniving is delightful.  There bear antics and adorable teddy-bear appearance is so incredibly delightful.  I don't think I actually laughed that much during the film, which is fine, but the scene after the credits when Merida's order of ALL THE BEAR WOOD WORKS had me cackling, and made me regret that my friends attending it with me had not remained for the credits.

Speaking of the credits, while watching them I could at least say I wasn't just waiting for the potential surprise after as the soundtrack and the pieces playing during the credits were awesome.  It was easy to close my eyes and imagine an orchestra in front of me.  It makes paying $14 for the tickets at AMC seem all the more worth while when you consider you get a nice concert out of the deal as well. 

I look forward to a sequel with a grand adventure for Merida.  If you've seen Brave, what are your thoughts?

[Microblog] Transient Taste

More on synthetic meat and in vitro meat:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jun/22/fake-meat-scientific-breakthroughs-research

[Microblog] Færy Fest?!

Last year the context of Færy Fest left an unpleasant taste in my mouth though the event itself was great.  I just realised its happening today and tomorrow, and I think I'll go anyway. :)

[General] a birthday to celebrate

This week was one of my best friend's birthdays, and to celebrate?  The ROM, a fancy vegan restaurant, and the film Brave.  The day started off amusingly great when I slept in, dressed in finery, and ran to the bus, only to discover a mutual friend was there (who was also leaving for the festivities later than expected) and the birthday girl herself was also running late.  We had to stall the bus to wait for her.

To Toronto

Watching a friend do make-up on the bus is an activity fraught with terror, so I tried to distract myself from witnessing the consequences of turbulence by doing school work on my nifty phone.  I'm quite pleased with how easy it is to read on my Galaxy Nexus, and could only want for greater battery life at this point.

After arriving, we hurried to the Eaton Centre and enjoyed some Urban Herbivore, a vegan eatery in the EC's basement Urban Eatery (where the fellow was shot, I believe).  UH's staff sometimes seems like they were cast for a movie, and they fit in so well.  I almost wish I could be all their friend.
Sizzling Tempeh at Urban Herbivore

The birthday girl A departed to finish her preparations for the day while the mutual friend R and I shared ½ an hour in the EC.  I don't particularly like the EC any more after working in down town Toronto for the summer of 2010.  Materialism and consumerism at its finest.  I don't mind visiting it occasionally though.  We visited Sephora so R could pick something up: it's an interesting makeup store as my friends S and K both rely on its supply, but they employees have the unfortunate symptoms of demonstrating their products on their faces beyond reason.  :)  Then we found a Nutrition House (a chain my family has a history with) to feed my addiction to Clif Builder bars (so much protein... and minty chocolate!).  I'm curious about the employees' practise of wearing gloves the entire time.

On our way to meet back up with the birthday girl A, we encountered a street urchin doing tricks with an acrylic antigravity ball and chatted briefly.  It's nice seeing someone so well practised in something that they can confidently do it without an error.

The ROM

After that we marched a long march to the ROM and were thwarted in our quest for vegan marshmallows for the day.  Once there, we joined up with more friends of A: O, who also uses duolingo, and J, who is a comic book artist that I like a lot.  I was given the task of navigator by the group, which is a role that is bittersweet for me, and guided us through the amazing dinosaur exhibits.  I hadn't been to the ROM in about five years, so it was nice to create new memories.  There was an abundance of turtle throughout the natural wildlife and dinosaur exhibits.  I found a dinosaur that looks like Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown, my role model), and I dragged people through the bat cave (inspiration for a spare room some day).  The bird section was interesting, as though I'm not familiar with too many birds, I was glad to recognise some New Zealand-based ones.  None of my favourite Piwakawaka though.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, one of the few birds I recognised whose photo turned out

Triceratops, my favourite dinosaur

Bats in the bat cave: rodents WITH WINGS




Turtles, my favourite animal



I feel guilty that I claimed the student rate ($8) instead of paying the adult rate ($9) where the student rate only applies if you're no older than 25 years.
Pachycephalosaurus, the Doc Brown dinosaur
Once we had only ½ an hour left, I separated from the group and left them to find their own way as I sought the Asian exhibits.  The Japan exhibit was relatively sparse and small.  I contrast it with what I remember from New Zealand museums and the Royal Museum of British Columbia in Victoria.  I can't remember if I visited that section in Ottawa?  It was still lovely to see authentic artefacts of an era of great interest to me.  The other month I spent a lot of time reading up on Japan's history after finishing the funky anime Samurai Champloo, and it was nice seeing the displays fit into that, and fitting into what I've learned from iaido and jodo.  I also ran up 3 flights of marble stairs to quickly catch a sight of the European exhibits and their suits of armour, none of which are as pretty as the Lannisters' from Game of Thrones. 
Japanese helmets in the foreground, a daishō with katana and wakizashi in the background

lovely suit of armour


Vegetarian Haven

After that, we went to dinner at a vegan restaurant: Vegetarian Haven.  I actually independently discovered this place last week when I layed over in Toronto for 3 hours while catching a bus to visit another friend last weekend.  I couldn't eat there at the time as my bus departed before I'd be able to finish a meal there.  I did realise it was on a Baldwin Street associated with Kenginston Market.  I fondly remember the Baldwin Street in Dunedin which claims to be the world's steepest.  This Baldwin Street wasn't steep, but it was delightful: pretty, creative, and filled with neat cafés and restaurants and shops.  So many sushi restaurants, too!
Singapore Seitan
I was given the role of navigator once more, and led us through the University of Toronto's campus for its beauty, inducing us to stop for photographs.  It's rare that I sit down at a restaurant and have a completely vegan menu where I can eat anything I see.  I ended up ordering the Singapore Seitan which was surprisingly spicy.  I also had a Cookie Monster Smoothie which had a weird touch to its flavour but was otherwise magical and reminded me of Mel's Diner in Waterloo (reopened!) and getting Cookies and Cream + Banana ice cream milkshakes.
Cookie Monster Smoothie
Two more friends of A (J2 and P) joined the party as one (O) left.  J's becoming a doctor and P's a communist.  R and I remarked a couple times about how strange it was to be with a completely vegan and vegetarian group of people all day.  Some of the best discussion I've had with strangers in weeks was held thanks to the confluence of so many disparate and friendly views coming together.  I regret every time I've let a spirit of argument corrupt conversation before, oi vey.

Brave

Afterwards, J2 left us and we walked R to the bus terminal, before the remaining four of us (A, J, P and I) went on to the AMC downtown to watch Brave on its opening night.  Before going in, I had an interesting discussion with P about the relevance of movie quality experience.  I'd rather go see a film at Rainbow Cinemas because I prefer the context an environment I'm seeing it in.  He'd prefer seeing one at AMC just because the screen is larger.
Brave cut out (archery is awesome)
As is my wont, I'd avoided almost all foreknowledge of Brave, skipping tumblr discussions between my friends R2 and D (... 2?) and trailers so only really it involved a fiery haired heroine (hooray!) and a celtic/gaelic/Scottish backdrop.  To avoid spoiling things, I'll leave these points here and then link to a fuller response later:
  • some of the social challenges and relationships they presented felt stereotypical, contrived and clichéd, even perpetuating misconceptions about corsets
  • however, the major theme they dealt with was historically and currently relevant and pitiable
  • I can't help supporting self-determination even while acknowledging the pressures that pushed against that historically
  • I really enjoyed the role of romance in the film
  • animated pastries are delicious
  • I adore the Gaelic setting and Celtic/Gaelic culture ever since I was a wee lad, and I'll go on about this in my fuller response
  • it's worth waiting until after the credits
  • there's a lovely animated short with a boat called La Luna beforehand that features one of my favourite icons
Overall, despite some reservations about how some things were portrayed, I really enjoyed it and would enjoy a sequel.

Slumber Party

We went to a late enough showing that it wasn't feasible for me to get home last night so A and I stayed at J's for the night.  It was an epic walk away accompanied by some epic conversation about racism in science.  I didn't contribute much because my mind was approaching exhaustion, but I did have a lot of thoughts on the matter as I heard other people talk.  It's nice to be able to be quiet and not have conversation depend on me.

A was physically devastated by the walk, a symptom I'm sensitive too after previously engaging in many long walks with other friends and initially underestimating the its impact on them.  She was a trooper and refused the services of a cab or a bus, though.  I'm pleased that I wasn't so oblivious as I've sometimes been to the state of others, though.  On the walk there, we helped a likely drug addict use a drug phone, I suspect, and we stopped off at a Super Fresh market which initially looks like a dodgy convenience store but inside even has a wide variety of vegan edibles, Tim Tams (does anyone know if the Dark Chocolate ones contain milk chocolate?) and ... Clif bars!

Once at J's place, I was delighted to enter it through a tight residential alley and a back yard to discover a neat basement apartment.  J has a fellow artist as a housemate, M, who was not there.  However, M's cat Loki was, and Loki truly was the God of Mischief.  I think Loki self-mutilates, but that's another story.   There was great conversation, embarrassing moments, great sleep, and more nightmares, which featured my elementary school, iaido class, old friends and arguments, as well as compromising computer problems and peacefully revoluting Hitler.  Ahem.
Loki eating human food
The morning saw a cat sleeping on me, a delicious breakfast from J, and more conversation, this time concerning ownership and rights of content creators (hint: I don't think that a copyright holder should be able to restrict future access to a work they've already released into shared culture, or edit one and deny access to the original).  Finally, though, I had to return to Guelph to work and live, and I departed happy.
J's breakfast for 3
The weekend was beautiful, the days sunny and warm, the subway and bus rides were peaceful with drool accumulating on my shirt (sorry).  I helped return a lost set of keys once back on Guelph's campus and enjoyed the fresh air and green grass, evening finding a beautiful moth newly dead.
beautiful moth
A birth to celebrate

Celebrating A's birthday was important to me because in less than a year she's gone on to become one of my best friends and perhaps my best one in Guelph (Guelph readers may feel free to contest this).  She's made a lot of my occasions easier and happier like my own birthday.  I wish I could celebrate all of my best friend's birthdays with them, but most of them live too far away.  So, if you're reading this, know that I'd love visit St. John's, Auckland, Vancouver or wherever you are and contribute to your day's happiness.  Maybe next year when I'm totally rich? :)

2012-06-22

[Budo] More Tachi Uchi

Last week we did kata 1-5 and this week we reviewed those and went through 6-10.  (There are only 10.)  I would write more but I've got too much to do today,
  • need to keep distance in mind, and not for the sake of the kata, but for the sake of it meaning anything at all
    • distances are safe (it takes more than one step to hit one or the other), one-hit kill (where you often wait a little), dangerously close (one of you are already dead) and deep enough inside that you're now safe
  • need to strike as correctly as possible; if I'm not swinging to make a good hit, the kata are pointless
  • know when I want to take control of centre and know when I want to move off centre
  • don't just memorise kata but try to see what they are: in theory you should be able to modify the situation or improvise a little and retain the core bits; e.g. sensei pushing a student's sword down with his hand (via the back of it) at one point
  • a lot of sword movements are like jo movements (and vice versa)
  • want to learn the names of the tachi uchi kata

[General] Week

Start of the week was all GSOC. Yesterday and today were school and iaido. More GSOC tomorrow. Work work work all the time while the humidity steadily increases. Life.

2012-06-21

[General] Writing and figment

I'm too busy right now to actually make good use of it, but I'll just note that one of my favourite authors, John Green (I like him most for his video blogs), has recommended figment.com as an online writing platform.  I will try to write my story through that in the future and will let you know how it goes. 

It's weird that writing platforms like it exist at all, given how relatively simple the problem is: give me a simple text editor and a file system to save my writing on!

[General] Learning languages and Duolingo

Kia ora.

A friend recently recommended to me duolingo for learning languages.  I've visited other language learning websites before like lang-8, but they didn't feel right to me.  I've discussed how turning things into RPGs with a friend could make them more fun and compelling and that's sort of what duolingo does for language learning.  They have a skill tree that is almost like different quests, and collect skill points as you progress and level up.  They have little grammar lessons for each unit (at the bottom of the unit's page: I wish it came first, but they choose to throw you into a series of randomly presented challenges).

They also have audio.  They teach you pronunciation and they have you practise the pronunciation too.  They let you translate portions of web pages for skill points and let you rate one another's translations.  The content also seems to progress at an appropriate pace and they have enough variation and repetition that I feel like I can actually learn without having to do extra practise outside of the website.  If you use it and you'd like to know some additional resources, there's dict.leo.org for a German dictionary and there's  always translate.google.com if you're stumped or want a second opinion.

It's targeted at English speakers and right now they teach German, Spanish and French. (Pretty euro-centric.)  It's really well done and it seems like it might prove an expensive endeavour, so for a website that doesn't seem to have a revenue model, I'm not sure how long it will be around for, but they've gotten this far, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Finally, I've spent an hour on it so far to start reviewing my German.  If you want to learn a language on it, please follow me as "aquarichy".

Auf Wiedersehen,
  Richard

2012-06-19

GXml-GObject Serialisation: Back to the Future

Hello.

Part of the past two weeks has been spent updating my system to a modern environment (Fedora 17) which mean development tool updates (like vala and gee) and updating GXml to support the changes there.  It took me a few days to correctly update the NodeList classes as they were Iterable and had Iterators.  One of which changed a little, and both now require implementing a Traversable interface, which turned out simpler than I originally thought it.  I'm not completely sure that I got the Traversable methods right, but I ended up realising that there were generic implementations that I can hopefully rely on.  GXml still passes its tests which seem sufficient.

Once that was out of the way, I could work on making serialisation code compile and base it off of JsonGLib.  (My first prototype was simple and stupid and built up strings that were then converted to a GXml Document :D.)  The current prototype has code that:
  • serialises to XML a GObject with properties (but not its member fields), similar to JsonGLib
  • deserialises from XML a GObject (assuming the type is known to the local system)
  • has an interface a class can implement to handle serialisation itself
Well, the third one probably doesn't work any more, as the first iteration of the JsonGLib-ish design that was using it was rewritten to work on whole objects right now.  Also, the serialisation and deserialisation of objects support most but not all property types so far (e.g. enums are skipped).

I've been documenting challenges I've been encountering under another category on my blog, #Technology.  Most of them involve bumping my head against Vala and figuring out how some things work in it.  It took me an embarrassing while to realise that GValue's transform and conversion methods will not convert strings to things like ints and doubles.  Whoops.

The goals for this next week are:
  • investigate options for serialising non-property fields (if any one has any tips (e.g. GObject Introspections) please note them in a comment :D)
  • get the interface into a happy state and tested
  • make the auto-serialising code more complete and eliminate compiler warnings
The current prototype code is available in GXml's git repository now.  I'm having severe difficulty bringing myself to publish code that's so rough, especially given the high standard I encounter in GNOME when submitting patches to other projects, and it kept me from sharing prototypes until now, but as I'm being reminded, it'll be more important to have it visible so that people who want to help can.

Cheerio!

2012-06-18

[Technology] Minimising copy and paste

I've spent much of the past two days discovering:
  • GValue does not have a means of converting or transforming strings to other values.  I'll have to parse strings of doubles to actual doubles manually.
  • Vala apparently does not like passing somestruct.somemethod as delegates into other functions (it complains that the struct is not a gconstpointer on the C side)
  • Vala does not like generic values as parameters in delegates.
  • You can't use a switch tree with GTypes as cases (e.g. case typeof (int64):)
The main reason is because after spending a week getting GXml working with the latest vala and gee and getting the serialisation prototype working on it, I would like to get rid of my massively ugly copy-paste if else tree.  The more I know.

2012-06-15

[Technology] Lessons

I think I've had a bit of a negative attitude to interruptions to my work flow recently.  So, now I'll have positive ones.

Lesson learned today: the order in which you declare you implement interfaces in vala matters.  So, if you've created a collection that implements Iterable and Traversable from Gee, you need to list Traversable first.

It sort of makes sense, but the compiler doesn't warn you, and when I go to execute code that lists them in the other order, it complains about Traversable not being implemented though I know it is.

At run-time:
GLib-GObject-WARNING **: cannot add interface type `GeeIterable' to type `GXmlDomChildNodeList' which does not conform to prerequisite `GeeTraversable'

I should file a bug or offer a patch perhaps to add some sort of warning?  The run time system cares about the order.

[Technology] Wasting time

A call in Vala to Type.from_name ("gint64") kept returning 0.  I'm not sure how much time I wasted trying to make it work.  And eventually it just did, and now I can't figure out why it did not work.  Sigh. :)  (I'm assuming I had a typo somewhere that I fixed when I rewrote it a couple times.)

One thing I would like is if the documentation enumerated the string names of the known types, at least the fundamental ones.  I'm glad to know that typeof (int64) at least gets you the same value as Type.from_name ("gint64") (that is, 40). 

[Budo] Seitei Iai and Tachi Uchi no Kurai

This evening we practised Tachi Uchi no Kurai and the first 7 (of 12) of Seitei Iai.  Tachi Uchi is partner practise with two bokuto (wooden swords). 

So, I've decided that these posts are almost entirely for me.  I don't know enough to explain concepts well to a general audience, and I need to explore some boring points for my own benefit.  Sorry! 

In the future they'll probably get more concise.  Who knows!  Important points that will be gone over below involve controlling speed and not rushing and understanding distance.

Tachi Uchi

The first technique in Tachi Uchi has 3 variants.  In the first one, your opponent is advancing upon you, you both have your swords sheathed, they draw striking for the knee, you draw and block, you match, and then you strike for their head, they raise their sword and block.  In the second variant, it's the same, but you do not match, you go straight from the block up and attack while they go straight up to block.  In the third, it's like the second, except the opponent steps to their right to avoid your attack instead of blocking.  I think they strike you (no actual contact) but I can't recall.  :)

The second technique involves you approaching one another as in the first, you block (sword in your right hand), but this time your left hand reaches over and grabs their hand (their right one, holding their sword) taking control of their hand and sword, you move your sword above theirs so you can with your right hand thrust it into them, your left foot (now forward) moves behind their right (forward) foot and your forearm goes behind theirs so your elbow is sword of behind theirs (between their arm and their body).  You take their balance by pulling their arm toward you while pulling in your elbow to drag them over your knee.   It's a bit awkward to practise at first when you're not familiar with how to move someone. :)

The third technique has you both drawing your swords into chudan, then into hasso with your opponent taking a step forward and you a step back, then you advance towards one another, you strike to the right side of their head first, then to left, with them stepping back and striking to catch your strike.  They think you'll strike a third time, but instead of that, you start moving to tsuki them in the "throat" (but we make sure to aim for the top of the chest pressing down to avoid manslaughter during practise).  They'll only have half-stepped back before realising this, switching feet, and taking a half-step forward again to strike your head.  You sort of do ukenagashi, where you raise your sword to meet theirs as you step out to your left.  They may strike only your sword, sparing you, and your sword comes around to allow you to strike them on the head.

I couldn't really get the fourth one today.  For that, you advance, you do something (match?  I've already forgotten!), then they step back into hasso and you go into waki kamae, sort of baiting them.  When they try to strike, you step forward with your right foot, moving off the line, and cutting into their arm pit.  (Normally, you'd go through their forearm and throat, but this is just practise, kids!)  I think I struck my sempai's elbow with my bokuto trying this a number of times. O_O

The last one we did was the fifth one.  They start in hasso and you gedan.  They strike for your head and you step under it, raising your sword to catch theirs.  Since neither of you can take control at that point (in theory you make an effort to and fail).  Then you both sort of try taiatari (like tsubazeriai but not at the tsuba since we're not wearing kote) and neither can get the advantage so you push off of one another both into waki kamae, left feet forward.  They try to strike, so you shift your left foot back bringing them together, so they miss in their swing, and you bring your sword up and swing down on their head (but of course, this is just practise). 

Things I need to remember is to react sooner get my sword up their when I'm trying to get under someone else's sword, like in the 3rd and 4th techniques.  I didn't do too terribly for the 3rd, but my 4th was consistently awful.  It didn't help that my sempai is notably shorter than I, so it is hard to swing from waki into her shoulder while still trying to bring my hands up sort of above my head (hence why I got her elbow).  The solution there is to react sooner.  But I am reminded that if you react too soon, they'll just respond by striking where you're going and not where you were. 

Another thing I have to improve is my sense of distance.  I apparently move in too closely, killing myself.

Iaido

The other week, we did kata 12 through 7 in Seitei Iai, so now we did 1 through 7.  I'm happy to go over 7 twice since it's my faaaavourite.  This past week I looked at The Manual again to try to remember how to do some of the later ones.  I have the general idea of the first half already, mostly because I practised 4 of them for the grading (+7).

The first one is Mae.  From a sitting position, you draw, cuting horizontally at an aggressor, then shift forward and cut vertically, then chiburi (fling the blood off) and noto (sheath it).  A comment for me was that it looked like my sword must be really heavy because you could see a lot of force in its movement.  I need to remember the principle of Jo-ha-kyū.  All through the rest of the night I ended up cutting without much speed.  I have a bad tendency to cut like a kid and try to go fast and hard, as though that will help me win a battle.  I was probably going too slow and softly to compensate, but it felt better.  Another point was that I should make better use of my saya when doing noto. If I do, I could even use a longer sword than my 2.6.  (2.6 is fine by me.)

The second one is Ushiro. It's like Mae, but you're initially sitting facing away from your opponent, you start to get an inkling they may attack, so you slowly rise, then pivot on your right knee 180° and basically do Mae.  I am remembering to raise my feet onto my toes while still on my knees, but I need to keep my left foot more central initially.  I'm remembering to not pull my iaito (sword) out of the saya and instead more pull the saya off the iaito.  Right before it breaks out of the saya, though, I need to make sure my right foot has finished pivoting around and is more square than it has been, so that when I draw, I can finally shift my left foot out of that central position it remained in without losing my balance.

The third one is Ukenagashi.  Someone is advancing on you as you sit from your left side.  You look, grab your sword, bring your left foot forward to your right knee and your right knee up while starting to draw your sword up (you're going to block their attack if need be).  You rise more, your left foot pointing 45° away from towards your opponent's direction, your right foot coming forward to join meet it, but aiming 0° towards your opponent.  You're just almost standing up and your right hand is holding your sword up raised a bit above your head to catch their attack if need be.  Then you raise it vertically as you bring up your left hand to it and then cut down (kesa?), with your left foot pulling back.  Then do a weird chiburi and noto.  I messed this up on several of those details.  My right knee wasn't off the ground, I stood up too straight (too tall with your sword above you and they'll cut right under your sword), my feet were in the wrong spot, and my cut didn't go all the way through the person.

The fourth one is Tsuka-ate and it's one of my favourites.  You're sitting in tatehiza.  Then you move forward to thrust the tsuka gashira (end of the handle) into their suigetsu (solar plexus), you draw your sword and horizontally thrust it into another attacker behind you before turning to face the first opponent and cutting them.   I often go too high, to their face, rather than their suigetsu.  I need to remember to actually look for my opponent behind me and back in front before thrusting and cutting respectively.  After thrusting into the one opponent, I have to remember to keep my tip down as I raise my hands to cut the person originally in front of me (as the sword has been thrust into them, it'll come out though :D). 

The fifth one is Kesagiri.  You take two steps forward and on the third you draw , actually cutting upwards along their kesa (into the lower abdomen of one side of their body and out between the neck and shoulder on the other side).  The cut ends with the sword vertical above you where your left hand comes up to join it for a second swing back down along the same line.  Things for me to work on are remembering to keep my feet and hips square to the opponent, and for all of us is to try wait to turn your saya: instead, start drawing on your third step and shortly before your sword exits the saya flip it slowly.   Part of the reason is because if you flip it first and then draw, your hand will be gripping it to draw which makes it difficult to cut easily along kesa.  You want to be pushing the sword out as you do in other techniques, and with a relaxed hand, closing the fingers on it as you've drawn and are starting to bring it up.  I also need to remember where hasso should be.

The sixth one is Morotezuki.  It involves walking forward, doing a one handed draw and cut forward, going to chudan, then tsuki into the suigetsu.  Then turning to cut a person behind you and then turning again to finally cut the first person.   I need to remember when I draw the sword to actually get it pointing out there before cutting down, and that the thrust is aimed at the suigetsu.  The two turns and cuts are slightly different in how you handle the sword.  For the first cut, the sword is initially sticking in someone.  For the second, it's sitting at the bottom of the slice you made through them, so the second one, the sword can come up as you pivot more directly.   There's an important distinction in how to hold the sword in each case, but I can't articulate that right now. 

The seventh one, my faaavourite, is Sanpogiri.  Here you walk forward and initially threaten to draw at the opponent directly in front of you, but once again, brave little you is totally outnumbered, so you first draw vertically and then with one hand cut the guy now coming at you from your right.  It involves a small step forward right which I need to remember.  The sword is consequently at a bit of an awkward angle coming down on them (stopping in their face) because you're facing almost 45° away and not square with them.  Then you twist your body to your original left and cut (no shifting of the feet, but pivot on the balls of them).  I need to remember to keep my weight in the right place to not lose my balance (back a little more than I do).  Then you finally attack the guy who was originally in front of you, by your shifting your right foot towards him, squaring up with him, and keeping your left hand in front of you (that is, you don't raise the sword, pivot, and then swing, you pivot and the sword follows as you advance and swing). 

Aftermath

And then we ran away and ate curry.

2012-06-14

[Microblog] Transient Query

I wonder why Blogger feels the need to represent some newlines as double-newline between paragraphs.  It looks awful, but in the editor's Compose view it all looks fine. I generally feel like Rich Edit controls and HTML should go so well together.  So mystical.

[School] GSA: Graduate Squirrels Assocation

A friend today proposed replacing S in acronyms with Squirrels.  It's brilliant.  Try it.  NASA => National Aeronautic Squirrels Administration ("and" intentionally omitted). 

I'm on the Graduate Student Association's board of directors for my department.  It's pretty fun.  I'm also on the board for Student Volunteer Connections as its representative from the GSA.  It's pretty fun.  Today was a rare day for our GSA board: we disagreed about something.  Despite having a few dozen representatives covering a diversity of departments, we actually agree on most things.  Today we voted on whether we should allow the Executive to independently take any action that might be construed as support for the Montréal protests before board directors have an opportunity to discuss it with their constituents.  The Executive wasn't proposing to come out strongly in favour but to create an opportunity for those who are interested in supporting it to do so on campus.  Ultimately, the board voted to bar the Executive from taking any action until the board could discuss it first with constituents.

I was against this motion, but I failed to take the opportunity to explain why at the meeting, and I regret that.  I suppose I didn't think it would pass.  It only passed narrowly.  What I wished I'd taken the opportunity to convey was that the issue is slightly time sensitive and waiting an entire month before the next meeting to enable any action reduces the effectiveness any eventual support could have due to the loss of timeliness.  I'm not even in favour of the GSA strongly supporting the move, but I don't object to the Executive providing a venue for graduate students to opt in to supporting it individually.

Ah well.  Another day, another battle, and hopefully a bit more alert.

[Technology] Documentation clarity

Hmm.

Today I had Gee documentation described to me as quite nice.  I raised my eyebrow at that.  I provide the documentation for the new Traversable interface as an example.

I'm not suggesting my own documentation efforts have done better, but having to work with lightly documented interfaces is helping increase my appreciation for well documented APIs.  I must remember to do better!

I'm not just complaining.  I have a local clone of gee now which contains some corrections to the documentation.  I'm not bold enough to really rewrite much because I'm having some difficulty figuring out what the interface in question wants.  Hopefully by the end of the summer I can make a meaningful contribution in clarity.   I'm trying to remember to be responsible to help improve sections of the development ecosystem that cause me issues.

I am grateful to the helpful people in #gee on gimpnet like flo, though of course many questions I have to find the answers to myself.

[Technology] Work flow

In GNOME 2, the desktop was more window-centric.  For instance, alt-tab switching behaviour would switch between windows. 

In GNOME 3, it's application-centric.  Alt-tab switches between applications.  Alt-` switches between windows of the current application. 

I was surprised when GNOME 3 went for an application-centric environment, because my work flow for many activities combines multiple applications working together.  For example, devhelp, firefox, emacs, and a terminal.  It makes alternating between two points feel like shifting gears in a car when I have to alternate between windows in two apps.

In fact, when I have multiple concurrent activities open at the same time, several of them often use windows from the same applications.  This makes it a bit confusing as trying to switch windows within an application or between applications will end up intermingling the two sections a bit as I start tripping over windows for other activities. 

Consequently, I'm finally turning on the extension to revert to classic alt-tab behaviour, after almost at least half a year of GNOME 3.  (gnome-shell-extension-alternate-tab, if you wanted to know.)  This gives me a simple most-recently-used list of windows, so I can mindlessly switch between windows of different applications used under the same activity.  I'm always concerned about relying on extensions, because I feel like support for them could disappear at any point.

What I really wish was that the desktop was now activity-centric.  I thought that there had been talk of that before.  Perhaps it seemed like too difficult of a design challenge.  Perhaps it was not Mac enough.  I sort of effect activity-centric behaviour by moving different activities to different workspaces.  A problem with that is that the GNOME 3 alt-tab behaviour violates workspace boundaries and lets you alt-tab to windows in apps on other workspaces without resistance (just a visual vertical bar which blends all non-current-workspace/activity windows together without further distinction).  Also, the workspaces have been simplified into a dynamic list rather than a well-defined grid, which prevents me from finely spatially orienting activities (e.g. top-right workspace is for school, top-left for GNOME, bottom-left for personal activities, etc.)

I hope that in the future we can have an activity-centric desktop.  I feel like it would help productivity by simply helping focus.  It would probably require applications to be able to separate states for different activities: the browser tabs and bookmarks I want for school are different from the ones I want for GNOME.   I think segregating activities is important to minimising distractions.   I am concerned that the current directions will prevent GNOME as a whole from considering it further, as for me it would involve giving up on some current directions and reverting to things that worked better (for me) before.  I suppose that happened with Spatial Nautilus, though, so it could happen.

So, I'd probably like grid workspaces with distinct window sets again.  It's weird feeling an increase in productivity in that regard when I use GNOME 3's fallback mode (which I need to use for using my second monitor with my intel graphics).  I will say that the minimalism in GNOME 3 helps my productivity.  It turns out panels with window lists and panel applets actually are distracting.

[Microblog] The art of argument

Sometimes rather than trying to compete on an intellectual level, it's better to substitute in a very blunt caveman to make your argument.

[General] Making sense of a mess

The world is quite overwhelming to think about.  It gets excessively complicated as soon as you have two or more people involved.  This post is another rambler.

I didn't completely get post-modernism in high school.  I was less cynical about it than others, though, and assumed that it meant something real to them.  I've often enjoyed unambiguous objective views of the world.  Focussing most on what's measurable.  But the perceived world differs widely between people, subjectifying even objective observations when the relative values assigned to the interacting factors differ between observers.  You can agree on the more fundamental facts but let them mean wildly different things between you and someone else.  Such that I stop seeing people as being wrong.

Some situations are too complex for me to say anything is really right about it.  Two people interact and they return with wildly differently reports of the interaction.  A student thinks their professor is a moron, the professor thinks the student is hopeless.  Both think the other is missing the picture because both are, as they're seeing different pictures.  Their history of experience biases what's important to observe and note and value.  Without common experience or perspective, they require at least good will to acknowledge each other's experience as potentially valid even if they conflict.  Truth dissolving into personal resolution of perceived conflicts.

Feelings are a black quagmire, difficult to synchronise.  Something very true for someone can seem like delusion to another.  Honest expression for one can be emotional blackmail for another.   The important concept of consent when entering the emotional space of another (often ignored in film), and its absence constituting emotional violence.   Emotional self-defense and constructions of reality to support it, no less valid than contradictory constructions (unless they prove internally inconsistent, incongruent with internal perceptions?).  Resisting emotional pressure resulting in emotion shaming.  Ideas of propriety in emotion and expression: when it is and isn't appropriate to share, what is right and wrong to share and whether what is shared is simply correct and incorrect, with or without basis.  It feels like even something as fundamental to human experience as the interaction of people on an emotional level, whether it's love or hate (or any more interesting dimensions) is hopelessly complicated, and will usually just result at people talking at tangents to one another, never quite to the point or riding the same line.

And for all the complexity and conflicting truth, how much of it is meaningful?  Especially the part where you try to make them congruent.  Some times you can try to reach an understanding, a mapping between two perspectives to allow productive conversation.  But then you can be reminded that time and effort is so expensive it's priceless.  Taking weeks to or months or years seems insane when you dwell on the possibility of not actually having weeks, months, or years.  Delicacy is too expensive.  A week that is taken is a week that will never come back.  Biding your time for a moment that might never come.


This Coca Cola commercial unintentionally did a wonderful job of demeaning all the considerations and complexity in human interaction for me.   I'm not sure why.  I feel like teaching pupils Carpe diem isn't as effective as unplanned lessons are.  If you want to tell someone something but it's complicated, perhaps just say it anyway.  Perhaps it's unfair to them, but perhaps it's not fair in the way that interactions aren't fair beyond the causal appearance of reality.  I suppose it's best when there aren't any hopes attached, no expectations, with expression.  No pressure.  Does that resolve any of the possible interaction conflicts?  Does it remove the blackmail from emotional blackmail, make pacifist the emotional violence, render unnecessary emotional defense, lift the shame out of having emotion, and render moot academic questions on propriety?

This is vague for no particular reason except that to go into unsolicited detail seems vain and pointless.  If anyone is interested, I can elaborate certain thoughts elsewhere.  (There's a fairly clear thought structure behind it!)  I suppose the point in writing is to articulate my own thoughts and feelings give me future reference.  It's a strange thing to feel indifferent to the potential for an audience, but it's just words, it's not like I'm going to run for political office where coherency is so valuable.

P.S. I feel like Coca Cola did a wonderful thing with that commercial.  Instead of going "So, why are you trading on happy moments to sell your wares," I instead think "Wow, thank you for sharing almost 2 minutes of happiness with me for but a few seconds of brand association, which is fare, as its your big corporate brand that saw fit to please me; now allow me to evaluate your product on its merits and decline you anyway." :)

2012-06-13

[General] Restructuring blog categories

Note: in the likely case that you don't want to read about stuff in some categories (like techy stuff) pay attention :D

I'm trying to blog more about coding I'm doing for the Google Summer of Code.  I don't want to spam Planet GNOME, and I don't want to spam regular readers, so I've made a few adjustments to the site.  #Development became #Technology.  (I also added #Budo for martial arts.)  I'm going to write in #Technology more.  In the top right of each blog page, there's now a floating box of category links.  (Formerly, they were just linked from the main page.)  Also, I'm now prefixing posts in categories with the category name.  That might get annoying for me in which case I'll drop it. :)

RSS readers

If you're reading this from an RSS reader like Google Reader, you might be subscribed to everything via just blog.kosmokaryote.org.  To make it easier to subscribe to just categories you'd like, I've put little RSS icons that link to the categories respective feeds.  Hooray!

Let me know if this helps, if something doesn't work, or if you have any suggestions.

[Technology] Empathy and IRC servers

I need to find out why Empathy fails 3 in 4 times to connect to IRC servers.  I'm supposed to in theory be available on one for GSOC but Empathy doesn't seem cooperative.  (Yeah, I could use another client, but in theory as the default client it should work.)  Whenever I sit down to debug it, though, it suddenly works. :|

[Technology] Vala and iterators

So for GXml last year I implemented a NodeList that complies with the DOM specs semantics for such a list.  Yay.  To make it usable in vala, I also made it iterable.  However, now the Gee.Iterable interface requires the Gee.Traversable interface whose documentation is minimal, leaving me a bit frustrated as I try to make GXml compile again on Fedora 17 so I can resume working on what I'm supposed to.  Sigh.

[General] Penguins!

Here is a photo of Linus Torvalds, the creator and leader of Linux, receiving the Millennium Technology Prize.  Take note that he is dressed as a penguin.  I think all good Linux users should aspire to own a classy penguin suit with tails.

[Budo] Jodo

Disclaimer: I've been doing this for less than a year and am stupid.

So, I've been meaning to start blogging about this for a while.  I've made mentions under my #General category before, but I figure this deserves its own.  I started practising jodo and iaido at Sei Do Kai in Guelph under Kim Taylor last year.  It's probably my keenest interest right now (contrast that to a recent post on motivation).  I'm quite lucky to get to practise in Sei Do Kai, so I feel like I should take notes or at least reflect on points I learn.  Initially, everything was knew and I was too stupid to know what to highlight.  Now I still am stupid, but I can name some things.  (OH GOD, writing the Japanese terms correctly will be hilarity.)

Last month was the May seminar, which is a big deal.  It's organised by our sensei and he flies Japanese hanshi and kyoshi over to Guelph to teach around 150 people who come from across Canada (and the US).  Consequently, there were a lot of lessons that we've been going over since.  Today, we went through the jodo kihon again.

Kihon are basic techniques with a jo that serve as the building blocks of the kata.  There are twelve in seitei. One of the things that amazes me is that there's almost always something new to learn about them or some new way to look at them for me, no matter how many times we go over them.  A two hour class can easily be spent on one fine point.  It's marvelous.  Anyway, enough babbling.

Use the Force


The concept of force vectors (think physics) comes up a lot in jodo, especially in explaining why you hold your jo the way you do for this or that kihon or kata, or how to move or hold yourself.  Don't allow force to be applied in a way that will injure you.  Use directional forces to subvert an opponent's strength.  It's all quite fun.

Some of the points from today include, in the first two kihon, Honte Uchi and Gyakute Uchi, to position ones wrists so that they're above the jo.  The point here is that the power comes up through your forearm, so if you have your wrists over your jo, if someone is pressing against your jo or you're pressing down on something with it, you want your force to be behind your jo so that it doesn't get pushed past your force, bending your wrists.  I'm not sure that makes sense.  Like, if I'm holding my jo with my wrists to either side of it, and I push my jo against something, the force ending at my forearms will be trying to push my wrist around my jo.  If my wrists are above it (behind it, depending on perspective), then the force comes up through my wrist, through my hand and through my jo, instead of pushing around it.  Hooray!

Awkward bendy

In the 4th and 5th kihon, Kaeshi Zuki and Gyakute Tsuki, you twist your hip and your foots pivot (on the balls of your feet) into a relatively awkward position.  It might seem awkward and unstable, but it allows you to prepare for a thrust while remaining outside of the range of the sword.  While your right foot (front) seems weirdly bent at first, when you step through with your left, suddenly your right foot is already in a great, strong position to push your body forward with.  The position of the legs also help prevent you from knocking your knees (your thighs won't allow it).

Centre of mass


We want lower centres of mass and stronger legs.  The Japanese were telling us that for iaido, but I think it applies to jodo too.  Even conceptually keeping your centre of mass low, placing it as low as our thighs, helps our movement.  We can avoid leading with our head when we move forward, and limit the forward momentum that could get you "killed" if a situation suddenly changed.  I think this relates to also generally moving from your hips, rather than rotating and pulling yourself around with your arms.  If you're pushing yourself forward with your hips, into your strikes, you're bringing more force from the rest of your body into it.

The Force Returns


For Kuri Tsuke, Kuri Hanashi, and Tai Atari, (kihon 7-9) force vectors are important to conceptualise again.  (They're important for everything, but anyway.)  In these, you've lifted your jo and caught the sword in mid-swing.  The sword can apply pressure down to try to make your jo give way.  The response is to push forward and up with your jo, breaking their force and treating them a bit like a pendulum.  You need to hold the jo properly like Zoidberg would with crabby hands so that they don't just push you back like a toy.

In Kuri Tsuke you drag their sword forward and lock it down against them.  It's important to hold your jo and body properly to be able to put your weight into and prevent them from just push your jo out of the way and swinging at your knees with their sword.  That means turning your hands in a little and closing your arm pits a bit so they can't lever your jo away.  Squaring up a bit towards them helps ground you so they're forced to disengage.

With Kuri Hanashi, it's useful/important to push forward with your right/front foot after you've caught their sword with your jo.  In this one, you're casting their sword away behind them.  If you push forward with your body first and then start swinging your jo (and their sword) forward, they're stuck going along for the ride and you're bringing your body into it.

It's all in the feet


For Tsuki Hazushi Uchi, foot placement was discussed.  Some people when they slide back align their feet one perfectly behind the other, but then when you swing down it's a bit awkward and less strong.  One sensei moves them back aligned together, but then moves their back foot out as they prepare to swing and then swings.  Another just doesn't align them, but just brings their left back behind their right but on its own line.

Smoothness

We then did the first koryu kata, Tachi Otoshi.  It's the 8th kata in seitei.  I forgot to ask if the two differed.  Whoops.  I'm a bit slow at the first strike, because the cross step is a bit weird.  I'm also slow at turning my jo around to catch the sword when it comes down for its strike.  My sensei's advice is "Don't be fast, be smooth".  I think I just need to get more comfortable with the motion.  I'm also slow after Kuri Tsuke changing into Kaeshi Zuki.  I think I'm concerned about hitting the sword side with my jo if they're not out far enough.  My sensei demonstrated it near the end with first threatening at eye height before completing the change. A jo through the eye would be scary indeed.  Practise => smoother and faster, hopefully. 

Pressure

Seme is a psychological pressure you apply by keeping your weapon trained on your opponent and threatening.  I mostly hear about it in iai class, but it gets applied to jo as well.  It feels like there are a million things to keep in mind all the time and I always forget one (or a hundred) trying to think of the others. Hehe.

Good night

[School] Amateur Opinion: Importance of things to focus on

So I saw some research today that involves comparing and evaluating the quality of a few goodness-of-fit smoothing techniques for scatter plots.

It makes me think about what I value and what's actually valuable to society at large and to specific groups.  I don't generally value things like graphs or lines of best fit too highly.  They feel a bit superficial.  I understand that they represent data to enable understanding, but I don't worry about the details too much.  The value of those lines are also a bit subjective.

The research in part considers the impact of adjusting a parametre α used by the techniques.  What is an ideal parametre.  Parametres like that bother me a little.  I don't doubt their importance and their necessity.  I understand why people often want to find a "best" value for it that can be generally used, but I suppose I feel it will never be completely true.  There can't be a magic value for parametres like that because they're often context specific.  Ultimately, you just want a value that results in an answer that feels best.  What intuitively is most useful.  The parametre can be "wrong" almost objectively: in this case, choose one of the extremes of 0 or 1, and you end up with either useless smoothing (that is, no smoothing, so no trend is illustrated) or total smoothing (a straight line, which rashly treats almost everything as noise).  So you want good correlation (r²) without just mimicking the data.

To me, I'd be more interested in analysing and understanding the algorithms and equations behind the two goodness-of-fit measures and articulating the contribution of α from there, using that as a way to determine useful considerations in selecting α.  Rather than recommending a default α or range for α, and letting users of the techniques pick one that feels "good", it would be nice to simply distill the meaning of α and what considerations a user should be making in picking one.  Give α real meaning that can be justified in the resulting paper, not just "we used this value for α because it worked when we tried it".  An acquaintance used a variety of software for their research and they're disturbed by how superficial their knowledge of the software and its parametres are, and the lack of guidance available for using them.  (It appears documentation for scientific applications can be ... sketchy.)

But it's true, society benefits from standardised visuals, when they're even constructed meaningfully.  My Experimental Design course last year emphasised the importance of properly selected and labelled graphing. The course did wonders for my appreciation for graphs.  They weren't just pretty objects anymore taking up precious space or displacing deeper understanding with a shallow paraphrase.  When done correctly, they were the deeper understanding succinctly demonstrated.  However, so many visuals and graphs are junk.  You look at them and they give you an idea, but many of them lack the most fundamental details to give that idea anything but superficial meaning.  And tragically it's often simple things like scale, units, names of axes, legends, titles.  It's ridiculous that you can be shown graphs even in professional material that lack these.  It's ridiculous that missing trivial but fundamental parts those is something I get to question right now.  I would rather question the absence of comparative data, I'd rather question the absence of sufficient context in which to understand the data in the graph more generally.  

When useful data is usefully represented in a graph, in an appropriate graph with appropriate form, graphs change from a communication art to an informational science for me.  (Disclaimer: I don't support the dichotomy of art versus science, though my words just encouraged it. :D)  Lots of magazines and infographics display meaningless pie charts or line graphs that just sky rocket into nowhere, and when I see them, I just assume "These are pretty and are supposed to convey the gist of an idea but aren't intended on actually educating anyone in a convincing way".  They have a limited usefulness in that regard.  They achieve the publication's minimum goal in using them.  The only thing worse would be to randomly generate data and then publish a crayon portrait of a horse by the editor's child.  (I think the portrait of the horse would actually prove more useful than the decontextualised data.)  I'd rather publications strive to only present information in a useful way.  Sure, even most of the readers don't need the detail I want, but I'm not asking for a giant appendix of tables of values, I just want a useful graph.  It's like error messages in software: sure, to most users "An error has occurred" and "Couldn't find /boot at dm-3.  Please check dm-1:/etc/fstab." would be comparably useful, but the second doesn't really leave the user any more confused than the former, it just provides them with an opportunity to understand, which is denied in the first situation (they could ask a techy friend to help diagnose their problem).  Similarly, a neutered graph denies interested parties the opportunity to properly understand the origin of graph.

So regarding the research, it seems strange to me because it seems concerned with arbitrary and subjective representation of data.  It's definitely useful because it will help people make better use of the subject smoothing techniques, but still feels like the focus is on something subjective and aesthetic rather than helping identify something 

2012-06-12

Motivation and Wandering

Today I pathetically characterised myself as a rōnin.  Rather than being "masterless" though I'm a bit more directionless.  I've noticed I don't have any specific long term plans at this point, just vague ideas.

Having a long term plan helps add momentum to pursuits in the short term.  I suppose I am stuck in the present and blind to the future.

I can list nominal long term goals that I have, but if I'm honest I don't feel them as I used to.
  • work for an open source-positive company
  • work on a significant project
  • work for myself on my own projects
  • complete a language-based project (like story generation or a personal assistant (Siri's got me beat there))
  • travel and work, living in many countries over the next few decades (which can be compatible with working with a single company, given opportunities to work remotely)
  • living near nature (in a cabin in some woods with a ½ walk to the nearest village/civilisation)
I still love the idea of them, but if I'm honest, I'm a bit fatigued of looking at a computer all day, and there are other needs in my life that need meeting before I can really invest myself in those again.

However, I still want to respect those I currently work with.  My thesis supervisor has been wonderful to me and he deserves a wonderful student, the professor for my last Master's course is wonderful and so is the course and it deserves a fair amount of effort (but not an Übermensch one :), and I gave my Google Summer of Code mentor a big enough headache at the end of last summer, and I just want to delight him now.  So I need to build greater motivation, even while I only see fog when looking into the future.

So, school and work are going OK, but they could go better.  Let's see some more enthusiasm here!  Even masterless rōnin have goals. :)

2012-06-11

Nuisance

So, my latest disturbance following my upgrade to Fedora 17 is having installed versions of vala and gee change.  I expected that.  Apparently they're installed in such a way that their version numbers are included in their package name in the autotool files.  That can be worked around.  Strangely, gee now has 0.8 instead of 1.0 installed (change in version numbering scheme?).  That's fine.  Unfortunately, it also has a new interface for collections, Gee.Traversable. 

Now I can't compile the new code for serialisation until I've updated GXml to handle that.  Sigh.   I need it to compile so I can push my first branch of the GSOC.  Sigh.  Sighs all around.

Things I Want

Hello.

Here is a petty list of things I would like in life.
  • technologically
    • a new power adapter.  Mine has connectivity issues.
    • more RAM for my computer (currently have 2GB, want 4GB)
    • a lighter computer.  Mine is currently 2.08kg, I would like something <1kg, though the 11.6" Asus Zenbook ultrabook and a 11" Macbook Air are both 1.09kg (neither of which are tablets, unfortunately).
    • longer battery life.  I get up to 2 hours if I'm conservative, my IBM Thinkpad would get 3.5 hours if I was conservative.  I'd obviously like something closer to 7 hours (while still keeping the weight close to 1kg).
  • food
    • a tolerable vegan cheese.  Daiya apparently has "believable" wedges now, though I can't find a nearby store stocking them yet.

2012-06-10

Transient Thought

"Funny how a melody sounds like a memory" is a line that comes from a country song that keeps catching my attention when visiting my father.

Energy conservation

  • It was over a year living in this apartment before I discovered that the base heater in the bathroom actually has a separate thermostat from the one in the main quarter. That explains why it seemed to retain heat so much better than the rest of the apartment.
  • I used to turn my mobile phone off when I'd go to sleep, but then I started relying on it as an alarm clock. However, it uses perhaps less than a tenth the power when I turn its radio (for cellular communication and wifi) off, so now I put it in aeroplane mode before I sleep. Bonus: people can't disturb my sleep, even if it's an emergency.
  • My DVD player gets hot if it's off but plugged in. Obviously drawing power, so now I keep it unplugged, along with other devices.
  • Alarmed to discover that the seal on my refrigerator door has failed. Contacted landlords. :|
  • I don't have air conditioning, so it's not that energy is being conserved, but my comfort is, when I close my curtains to block sunlight from entering my apartment during the warm summer days, which I spend mostly on campus.

#Development becomes #Technology

I'm renaming my label.  It's bugged me for a while.  It wasn't initially obvious to me how to rename a label so here are the steps I took.

  1. First use the search filter in the top right to filter only the posts with the label you want to change.

  2. Then use the "select all" box to the top left of your post list.
  3. Finally, use the Labels menu next to that box to add the label you want you to relabel things to and then click the label you want to remove (which will be on all of your selected posts since you filtered by it). 
Tada, old label gone, new label there.  A bit obvious, but yeah.

GIMP

Some neat changes in the GIMP image editor.
  • With single window mode, you get a cool strip of thumbnails along the top for all the images you're editing. 
  • To default to lossless editing, you now don't save to file formats other than XCF (GIMP's format which retains all the information necessary to support its features), but you can export to other file formats like JPG and PNG.  That's great, because now people won't accidentally work on JPGs and lose layers or slowly increase lossy compression noise over multiple edits. :D

June: a year in stress

It was a year ago today, in the month of June, that I came to understand the impact stress in my life was having on others as well as myself.  Façades had recently come crumbling down and I could finally see exposed the undisguised trauma I was inducing, especially as something significant and lasting, and no longer as ephemeral bursts of mutual frustration.  It was not just a personal pressure that was crushing me, but was hurting people around me.

Stress could have been a useful measure of the viability of my then-current behavioural practises, but rather than flowing with the pressure it applied to teach me what was working and what definitely wasn't, I simply resisted it and tried to force my way through, dragging others after me through the storm.  It left me exhausted and in emotional ruin, and others too.  I treated it like something temporary and situational, something borne of the context of my present that would disappear once I advanced further.  Bear with it, and I would be free eventually.  But because it was the result of my own behaviour, taking the best things in my world for granted while I struggled vainly in vanity, I think we can all safely say it would have followed me no matter where I ran to if I didn't recognise it and correct my behaviour.

It's not like there weren't excellent signs.  I suppose the signs all seemed a little muted to me in my condition.  They lacked the force and the clarity of consequence to guide my perspective in the situation.  I didn't attend to them carefully as I should have, like driving down a road, following your own GPS and ignoring the road signs that suggest danger, a cliff ahead.  I should have read those signs posted by others carefully.  I shouldn't have underestimated their gravity because they weren't in extra bold font or in bright red octagons.  Their magnitude was subtle but visible.

So, it was a year and a week ago today that I finally broke, when the consequences and untenability of my reactions became increasingly apparent and I could finally see and understand what was going on around me in terms of my long term responses to stress.

My solution to the stress in my life, that I called the Ottawa approach, came in several parts:
  • Devise a clear list of priorities in my life, and don't let lower ones trump higher ones, this to cure indecision stress
  • Allocate time every week to do nothing but reflect, and save my mind from being overwhelmed from constant stimulation.
  • Realise that if two options are sufficiently comparable in quality that it is hard to decide between them, then it doesn't matter which I choose, as I cannot predict the future: flip a coin and happily follow whichever (even for major life decisions) (I no longer need to flip a coin).  This helped me overcome my requirement for meaningful causality in.
  • If an endeavour in life is resulting in unreasonable amounts of stress, scale it down.  I want to have controlled ambitions that aren't self-destructive or harmful to others, so achieving an 80% in a course is preferable over a 90% if I'm happier under the 80%.  This helps challenge perfectionist tendencies.
While it's proved effective since, my solution came too late for the life I wanted to save.  By then I had depleted others' good will, neutralised sentiments which once seemed indefatigable, lost trust (a difficult reality to accept when being trustworthy is your ideal), left unintentional bruises (not physical), and exhausted them in so complete a way I couldn't imagine it beforehand.  Losing trust is hard, because with it I lose the opportunity to rectify mistakes and demonstrate change and my ability to react well to problems, relegating unexplored possibility to the haunting domain of nightly dream invariably accompanied by waking to the same immutable reality.  It's hard because it leaves one virtually powerless to address it.  And so it makes a good lesson, an enduring reminder and warning against the threat of uncontrolled stress and other, various past mistakes.

So hello June, once a month for untempered celebration and now a sombre reminder of what matters and lessons hard learned.  Welcome back, I suppose.  Let's have a kinder time of it this year, and ever more.

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