[General] Snow Days

Nothing like meeting a slacker after work to go tobogganing down slick (and not so slick hills) on sheets of bubble wrap till you can't feel your legs.


[Microblog] Transient Thought

Meaning is over-rated, and everywhere.

[General] Tim Tam Slam, a Chocolately Blast from the Past

So I taught my fellow iaidoka how to Tim Tam slam the other day without actually eating any Tim Tams (their not being vegan at all).  It's probably for the best that I can't eat them, but boy did the delight on their faces shine. :D


[General] Time Unrelenting

A friend of mine passed away on Wednesday.  He was a brilliant, respectable man who I looked up to.  He had certainty and security about him.  I had the privilege of showing him and his wife the lovely city of Dunedin in 2009, and from that visit I have this photo,

While he is gone, I still feel his memory as a leading and reliable constant.

[General] Workflow

There goes my photography workflow.  It was so easy, so simple.
  • I take out my phone, I swipe to camera mode, I shoot. 
  • G+ uploads it automatically over my phone's (unlimited) data (thanks WIND Mobile!)
  • I go to a computer, to G+ Photos, click a set of photos I want to share, click Share, and I'm done.  (Well, usually I caption them as well.)
But now there's this:

Photo by phone
  • It does not upload photos instantly to the Internet.  
    • I have to manually download them to my computer via USB or SD.
    • Then I have to isolate the ones I want to upload
    • And then upload them
    • All requiring my laptop be available
  • It's 12MP instead of my usual 5MP, so they take up way more space
    • Oh, I'll need a bigger hard drive :'( or divide space over an external ;_;
    • Oh, I might end up needing a job to pay for more photo space on G+ ;_;
  • I need to get used to different tools to touch them up
    • well, I can actually wait until they're uploaded to still use G+'s tool
    • however, now I can use the GIMP or Shotwell or ImageMagick or exiv2 to fix what they're respectively best at.  Maybe even try DarkTable (like LightRoom but worse). 
  • I have to remove the battery to let it charge, resetting the clock
    • preventing me from taking photos in the interim
    • until I buy an AC adapter
  • I have to carry separate lenses for different types of shots
    • no optical zoom on the current lens
OK, I can't keep this up.  Those are supposed to sound like complaints, but really they're just complications I gladly accept and am happy to deal with them.  I love that this basically gives me many more options.
  • I still can take quick and dirty shots to share with my phone, of course
  • I already copy all my photos from my phone to my computer, so now I'll just do it earlier (e.g. each evening)
  • isolating photos to share locally is sometimes smoother than doing so in a web browser; way quicker to see it at full size to evaluate them
  • I don't have to shoot at 12MP.  I actually shot a bunch at 6MP which is still a vast improvement over my phone, mostly due to the much larger sensor size.
  • I used to have a 40GB hard drive and fought with that.  Then I had a 250GB HD.  Now I have a 400GB and it's already 73% full.  This trend is largely because more capable computers have enabled me to do more things that make better use of them; I've recorded 100x more video in the last year than the rest of my life before that (mostly for iaido and jodo, so it's purposeful too!), since my current computer (quadcore, 4GB RAM) and software (OpenShot (on Linux)) can actually handle video editing (at least the basic stuff I do).  Basically, it's nice to have a reason to use up all 400GB. 
  • Regarding web storage, it doesn't make sense to upload 4000x3000 images just to be viewed online (well, some people might want to save a high resolution copy?) so I can shrink them to something more reasonable, like 2000x1500 for 1/4 the space!
  • Using web-based photo editing tools are sometimes convenient, but often limiting; exiv2 is a command-line tool for modifying EXIF data, and is super useful when dealing with things like timestamps; ImageMagick also has a suite of command-line tools that allow awesome batch editing things for cropping, rotation, and everything else; the GIMP is the standard Image Manipulation program on Linux; Shotwell is, well, it has problems (why does its save button not work?!)
  • I already have to let my phone charge overnight, so why not my camera's battery? I can imagine it being annoying if I'm out for a full day and my battery dies with a few hours left; at least I can fallback to my phone when the battery starts to get low, though.  Someday perhaps I can afford a second battery!
  • Requiring separate lenses is something I hope to typically avoid; it's part of the reason why I did not acquire a DSLR.  Micro 4/3s seems like the ideal compromise for me.  I will probably acquire a lens with optical zoom at zoom at some point (I haven't had optical zoom in a few years since my point-and-shoot died; so I can deal with it for a while more).
  • I can finally take night shots again
  • I can manually control focus
  • I can actually modify exposure (rather than a software simulation of doing so found in smartphones)
  • I can do anything!

To see more, visit my showcase album

[Microblog] Transient Tracks

Google Maps has upgraded its imagery of my hometown!

[Microblog] Transient Economies

Malls are more fun when you can walk through them ironically with a friend, and silently know they see similar things to you.


[Microblog] On the Fringe

Finally watched the first episode of the fifth season of Fringe with Kbel.  A new era begins!  Anna Torv/Olivia Dunham is soooo cool!

[Microblog] Shredded wheat

[General] The Timeliness of the New Year

As mentioned a couple hours ago, I find the timing of the winter holidays to be excellent, right before New Years.  The changing of a year is a conceptual fresh start, but having the winter holidays preceding it allows for a contextual reset and changed perspectives, facilitating real change.  Go Christmas!

For me, it's a contextual reset because I leave wherever I am to visit home with my father.  Home is quite different from other places I usually am.  It's a tiny village of a few hundred, and everything is much like my childhood.  My activities, habits, demands and responsibilities are quite different while at home.  It's a good situation to contrast the previous year against, and a coloured lens to newly understand it in.

Consequently, I learn new lessons most years.  For the past two years, these lessons have taught me greater independence and detachment.  When I return to my previous context, I don't look at it the same.  It's like when I was living in New Zealand, and I felt a bit of a rut in my feelings towards Dunedin, but returned to Ontario for a few weeks for my brother's wedding, and when I returned, I saw Dunedin quite differently.  In that case, I appreciated it and the people around me much more.

Now I come back from my break and I see the people I'm in the habit of hanging out with regularly as less quintessential.  I find my regular activities less vital.  I'm not sure if that's good or bad.  I find more pleasure in defining new directions each day for myself, free of my recent conventions and traditions.  It's a bit liberating.  There's some change.  There's some progress.

Now, I'm not sure if this particular lesson is good.  The thought I had behind this post is that not all lessons are correct or good (for you functionally), but all lessons are good in that they've been a lesson and revealed a perspective on your situation that you previously weren't aware of, and I think reflect some truth of the world, even if the details of the lesson are wrong.  I find that change a kind of progress, and desirable compared to remaining inert.  So, I'm glad to continually step away from myself to rethink myself, and evaluate a new what matters to me.  Even if the consequences aren't the most friendly.

Thanks Christmas and New Years!

[General] Introspection

When I'm too busy, I don't have time to think.  I don't meditate or reflect, so I don't grow.  I'm inert.  One nice thing about taking a Leave of Absence for this semester is that I've given myself time to think.  See a previous post in the last four hours about spending less time on various obligations and more on myself.

I like the odd places in which I find time for myself to think.  I don't usually listen to music when walking, because it distracts me from my thoughts.  I love doing dishes because it's a necessary break in my day where I need to stop focusing on specific tasks, and my mind has nothing better to do but wander for a quarter hour.  When I lived downtown, I valued trips to the laundromat.  Essentially, whenever a mundane or domestic task interrupted my busyness, freeing me to take a mental breath.

Letting my mind wander and reflect allows me to create and be a real and meaningful person, and not simply a reactionary character in other people's worlds. 

To this end, I've enjoyed my temporary contract I've been working at.  I've had many programming jobs before, and one consistent benefit to sitting at a desk through a workday is the convenience of a nearby notebook to scribble notes in, observations, quirky thoughts.  I hope to reflect on them here eventually (but not tonight). 

Being me again is important.

[Microblog] Morality and Responsibility

I wish I could remember why I wrote it down, but I wrote "You get to choose your responsibilities.  Morality."

I think the context was to remind myself that I'm not responsible for everything, and I get to ultimately choose which things I feel responsible for.  It's not all intrinsic.  I can drop things and let things slide and miss opportunities, and that's fine.  I can only do so much.

[General] A birthday gift

I received these in a series of messages from my friend AKB on the occasion of my birth. :)


[General] Hosting

I like hosting, I guess.  For the 1.5 years that I kept an apartment by myself downtown, I quite hosted.  I kept a tidy house.  I had myself on display, through the art on my walls, through the Nintendo paraphernalia on my shelves, from my plants in my window to the stars on my ceiling to the canopy around me bed to the piano against my wall to the sword corner to the black Bristol board  silhouettes of birds floating all about to all the other things.  I knew my cupboards well, I knew my rice cooker, I knew my dishes and pans and kitchen exquisitely.  I could manufacture experiences I enjoyed, and others enjoyed having.  There were parts of my humanity that were complete, having a place that describe me as its own. 

I'm a transient.  I yearn for new things.  I like to discover and to adventure and to explore.  After a while, it lacked growth, I lacked wealth, and living this way wasn't building anything.  I moved on, first to living with my "Best Friend in Guelph", and then to a stranger's house.  I'm content in many ways, and I miss my "home" in many ways (it's the place I've stayed in longest next to my childhood home!).  I think a part of it was fear of stagnancy.  I was missing something else, and I wouldn't find it if I stayed put.  So I gave up something comfortable and warm for new chances.

But since, I've missed hosting.  I had that "Best Friend in Guelph" over at my current place today, which I share with my awesome landlady and another cool friend.  And that was nice.  On my birthday, I had just one friend over, and we made cake and tea and watched Sherlock.  The Saturday before, I hosted a birthday party, and spent half of it hosting from the kitchen instead of participating.  It's good.  But it's not fluid, it's not complete.  I'm myself a guest in this abode, it is not my own, it does not reflect me.  I am quick to point out that the many awesome things that adorn each room with character, the skulls, the bats, the plants, the dangling stars, the portraits of birds, the wooden furniture, are not my own.  They are not quite me.  I am lucky that they agree with me, these things; they're the reason I live here, for the many smiles and stupid grins they bring to my face.

I have been averse to finding happiness in Things or Concepts or stuff that can't relate back to me.  I prefer creating joy with other people (or animals).  I find it more meaningful when it's a reciprocal interaction.  But I think things and the unliving are more important than I've given them credit for.  They're a useful part of being OK and even happy with yourself, by yourself, without others, independent.  To fall in love with music, with chairs, with a sword, with tea.  These things do not love me back (at least not in a sense I feel like writing about right now), but like the Green brothers are two of my best friends who have no idea who I am, these things can also contribute to my happiness and help make life independent of others at least OK.

So, I hope to let things create an environment that reflects me again, and I hope to demonstrate myself to friends through hosting them in this personal environment.  To entertain and delight them, as they were back when I lived downtown.  As they are a little when they enter my tiny room in this antique house, and see the reduce collection of what it is to be Richard.

[General] Recent interests

I've recently found myself notably interested in fluid and heat dynamics.  Basically, physics.  I've always like physics, but I never realised how intriguing I found these particular dynamics.  I guess I have been a bit aware.

I like thinking about them in relation to everyday life.  How a bath towel will not dry effectively if it's folded in a way to trap the movement of the water molecules; how the trapped moisture will enable creatures to breed and make your towels stinky.  Of how plants can be over and underwatered.  Of how low temperatures and high temperatures dry things out.  Of how plates dry.  Of how having my tea flask filled with water by my bedside leaves me healthier.  Of how staying hydrated keeps you healthier.  Of how hot water helps cleaning.  Of how non-water fluids, like vinegar, can effectively interact with other molecules to remove them.   Of how putting dry paper in damp rubber boots will leech out the moisture, and how heat will cause the moisture inside to become airborne but the rubber will prevent it from escaping as it would in a canvas shoe.  (Damp boots lead to stinky feet, a fate worse than death.)    Of putting a little water at the bottom of a bowl of rice that I'll microwave, so that the process doesn't just heat rice leaving it a bit dryer, but heats and steams it, leaving it moist.  Of storing fresh bread inside a paper bag... inside of a giant plastic ziploc bag; a great balance of letting some moisture slowly escape (into the paper) while prevent it from drying out (maintaining near constant moisture within the plastic bag's atmosphere; a near perfectly navigated balance between mold and stale crust.

And heat.  Insulation.  Multiple layers.  I wear pajamas under my dress pants during the winter, I wear a fluffy hood that warps around my face and has fake ears to maximise the insulation of my head.  I take two pairs of gloves with me everywhere I go.  I have a favourite hoody, and I have a heavy trench coat (in a style that I can finally appreciate) whose density and length blocks winter winds and leaves me comfortable at even -18°C (though my beard at that point has crystalised).

I don't want to do a degree in these things.  I don't want to read a text book on them.  I just like observing and thinking and imagining how things might be.

[General] Wanting to be a writer

When I was a wee lad, I wanted to be several things; a cosmonaut, a scientist, a game developer, an AI researcher, a swordsman, a hero, a sailor, a turtle, a cookie, a stellar body, and a writer.  And other things.  I mean, I could enumerate all day.  I could enumerate the set of integers, but that's infinite.  That's not what you're here to read.  If you're here to read anything, I'm sorry.  But I'll write for you anyway, because you came.  Thank you for coming.  Please come again.

My iaido sensei is a writer.  He doesn't write young adult fiction (that's John Green, go read him), and he doesn't write software (that's me), he writes wisdom and knowledge, the stuff of budo that he's grasped.  He writes it down into manuals.  They're not the most technical manuals, or the fanciest formatted, but they're broad and specific and rife with meaning and information and his personality.  They're great. 

I'm editing a 90 page manual for him right now, on Tachi Uchi no Kurai.  I can't get over having access to his thoughts collected into one body like this.  It's why I like books, and why they're so much better than just reading short articles on the Internet.  He's documenting his experience and knowledge for future generations, so they have a cue, a hint, as to what to do.  They'll never understand Tachi Uchi no Kurai as he does, as he tries to convey.  Just as he does not understand it as his teachers did.  However, there are many signs and cues to share to help the next learner along to deeper theories of their own.  I really appreciate him taking the time to put this down.

So in some ways, I feel like I've accidentally started down a path of being a writer.  Right now, I mostly write meandering, incomprehensible blog posts about whatever hits my fancy.  In other places, I introspectively record my angst (outlets are good things, just not for sticking forks in).  I'm a bit of a cowardly writer, though.  I rarely dare to assert anything, to claim knowledge or understanding, even on matters that I've practised and thought about for over a decade (like programming).  I think that's alright so far, since there are many more capable people who are writing, who are disseminating and developing the knowledge base better than I can yet.  I have some observations, and I'm cultivating my own theories, and when my betters are dead, I'll start making my arguments (hopefully they'll all be made before me) like I argue in the seminar rooms and labs where I T.A. to students.  T.A.ing is a bit dangerous; I don't know everything (yet) but I'm expected to help guide younger students along a good path and not stray.  However, in some regards, they need someone, anyone to help them make sense of the overwhelming world of computer science, and while I might not be perfect or have the best answers, I have some good answers, and that will hopefully be better than nothing.

So I write here, quite pretentiously, imagining that someone other than my best friend and a few other close friends actually read this (or hopefully at least the opening paragraphs), but it's all just practise.  Practise for future papers, for future manuals and books that someday will be my responsibility to provide.  It's the privilege of the experience to spread their learned wisdom with those who have not yet had the opportunity to know the same things.

Also, I will write fiction.

[General] Sharing myself with me

A new year, a new perspective.  That's one good thing about the timing of the winter holidays, leading up to new year.  They change my context and allow me to see things different, break out of ruts if only temporarily.  Now I'm thinking about obligation.

I hosted a birthday party for a new friend the other Saturday.  My best Masters friend was there, who I haven't seen much of since she graduated, and she described me as someone who spends himself on other people, who will befriend someone not because it's in my interests, but because they seem like they need a friend.

This is indeed something I actively do.  There's the idea that sometimes I try to be too moral and am a victim of my conscience that a friend has brought up.  This all seems quite immodest, but I suppose it's due to connotations.  In reality, I do see people who I think need a friend and I try to be there from them, but it's a disingenuous and mean to them, as my interest in them is minimal or in some ways inauthentic, which leads to early exhaustion and then I disappear, which they don't need.  Being super moral is detrimental when you let it start to exhaust you or others, especially when the foundation of morality is uncertain; is it really inappropriate or undesirable to do this or that, or is there just a concern of that which is preventing something otherwise rewarding?  I don't notice the loss, as it's a habit, an addiction, so I can easily defer or decline things I would otherwise want, believing that I can substitute it with something else pleasant.  However, that type of denial can be a deprivation to others who don't prioritise the same things.

Of course, I also don't think I'm too moral, as I don't have an extensive framework of mores.  I just have a select few convictions that I was slow to adopt and would be slow to dismiss.  But I think the external effect appears the same.

A sense of obligation is what this all amounts to.  I constantly do things because I feel obliged to do something, because it feels like the right thing to do, I owe this person or that concept something, I owe them a part of me, and I am second to it. 
  • My sensei devotes so much time and care to teaching us, I owe him my attention and attendance and involvement.
  • My employer pays me well, treats me well, and is understanding.  I owe him my best effort, time and energy.  I owe him my initiative.
  • My thesis supervisor supports me, understands my personal obstacles, funds me, and is patient with me.  I owe him a completed Masters, a good thesis, and a positive result.
  • My father raised me, fed me, loved me, supported me, and still does all this despite not living at home regularly for a decade.  I owe him my love, my time at least once a month if not twice, my attention, and any extra money I might have to spare.
  • My friends, ...
  • GNOME, ...
  • etc.
These thoughts are all true in many ways, but as I once debated, we are finite resources, and risk spreading ourselves thin, like too little butter over too much bread [Baggins, B].  We have finite time, finite physical strength, finite attention, finite enthusiasm, finite sympathy, finite us.  I've been exhausted and I've exhausted others, and when you're completely empty, when you've stretched an elastic overlong, when you've left a plant unwatered for too long, when you've let a shirt dry too much, when you've been without breath for a few minutes too long, a threshold can be passed, after which things change.  The elastic won't pop back to its original size, the plant newly watered won't grow, the shirt fibres will be brittle, more air won't restore your former cognitive function.  There are limits within which we can stretch, and beyond which we cannot simply return.

My history of pushing my limits has hurt me and others.  It's deprived me of sleep, alienated friends, compromised my wahoo and fun and character.  It's stressed me out and burnt me out.  I've been better in some regards, but bad with others.  Stress is different now, it's not my violent enemy.  It's a warning sign that reminds me to change.  However, I've still spent much of myself on things I don't deeply care about, but feel obliged to invest in.

So, I'm currently spending more of me on me.  In fact, it's my goal to spend at least 50% of my waking wake on just what I want to do at that given moment.  Not even hobbies may violate this.  I hope to allocate 8 hours a night to sleep (56 hours a week), 8 hours a day, 6 days a week to obligations (48 hours a week), and the remaining 64 hours a week to me.  Ideally, 32-40 of those obligation hours will be connected to work to survive, and the other 8-16 will be dealing with uninteresting tasks, and this should leave me relatively productive and not over taxed.

So, perhaps I will make it to fewer martial arts practises (I don't always want to go) or attend fewer events with friends (I sometimes just want to be at home) or help fewer friends with their problems (I love helping, but I have my own goals).  But I don't think it's been good for me to be always busy and putting my own goals beside. 

Take care of yourself.


[Technology] E-mail encryption

In an ideal world, everyone would be able to make use of encryption in their daily life and communications. The other day, I had a mild challenge setting it up with a friend.  Basically, Apple Mail wants to handle encryption via S/MIME using certificates, which is typical of most enterprise usage.  Evolution can do that, but I'd prefer to do it via GPG/PGP using public-private keys.  The main reason is because I find that approach is more usable for personal use.  (Self-signed certificates are a bit annoying, and I find it a bit more involved to generate your own certificate.)

We finally settled on using GPG Tools for Apple Mail.  Next we had issues where I had to trust his key, which worked out, but left me wishing that GNOME had a better interface for handling keys.

Ideally to me, everyone would have a public-private key pair and have some concept of how it was used.  I'd be happy for roaming usage if they kept their private key on a tiny USB computer that you could plug into any other computer, and would have a partition the foreign computer could see, and a partition only the computer on the USB could see.  You'd drop content into the public partition and the computer would see it and sign it with the private key (which is on the private partition, so a foreign computer can't just grab it).   It could also handle data other than files copied over.  If enough software understood that there was a USB key providing a signing/encryption service, they'd have decent interfaces for requesting the USB key computer sign an e-mail or an instant message.  This (or some other solution to securely using a private key out and about) hopefully already exists. :)  (I'd imagine the USB key computer would have a button on it that you press when you approve of it signing/encrypting something.) 

Basically, I just want encryption to be easy for users and to reduce the chance of people compromising their keys.

But of course, with encrypted e-mail, there's the problem of how can you make use of webmail and its search services without allowing a third-party e-mail provider access to the plain text of messages?  I find the conveniences of Google generally worthwhile, and difficult to achieve without a large centralised infrastructure.  Hmm.


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