Thoughts of a geek

9 February 2013

2012 in review

Filed under: Lists, Me — Tags: , , , , , , — qwandor @ 10:47 am

At the start of last year I wrote out some objectives for the year. This is a bit late being February already, but now that it is 2013 it is time to review how they worked out over the year. So going through the list from that post:

  • See some more of the world: I did see some more of the world. I did the east coast trip, and caught up with Teresa, Jordan and Kirsten. Unfortunately I did not manage to see Dave or Carlton, or various other people further away. It was enjoyable, I saw some new things (Niagara Falls, museums in DC, Boston…), met some new people, and had some fun dances. I went to Poland and Hungary, which ticks off the two more European countries. Though I think my intent with this was to take two trips, so I did not quite do that. I toured around Scotland for 9 days with my parents, which was excellent (apart from the rain), and we saw lots of beautiful scenery and castles. The only new place I went in the UK other than that was down to the Isle of Wight with some interns and other Googlers, which was pleasant enough.
    • Visit the east coast of the US / Canada, and see at least 3 of the 5 friends I know over that way: 0.9
    • Visit at least 2 more European countries: 0.8
    • Visit Scotland: 1.0
    • Visit 2 more places in the UK: 0.5

    Overall: 0.8

  • Improve my dancing (and enjoy it): Dance-wise, I did a couple of workshops and a few classes in Balboa, but then did not keep it up or get practice much. I have not really done any in the last six months or so. I have done a fair bit of Lindy and blues though, including going to several weekend festivals (Blues Shakedown, Berlin Blues Explosion, Blues Baby Blues). I went to LSF again as well, though did not find it as good as 2011. I did a bit of Lindy in Wellington while I was back, and it made it along to one night of NZX up in Auckland as well. Getting friends along proved a bit more difficult. Oh, and I managed to find some Lindy or blues in Toronto, Krakow, and of course New York City when I was there (which were variable, but interesting nonetheless), plus a great contra in Princeton.
    • Learn at least one new dance this year (probably Balboa): 0.3
    • Go out for social swing (Lindy Hop) dancing regularly: 1.0
    • Take some classes / workshops to improve my blues: 1.0
    • Do some swing and/or blues with friends while I am back in NZ visiting: 0.8
    • Go to the London Swing Festival again: 1.0

    Overall: 0.8

  • Work out where I stand with God, and what that means: No progress on this one really.
    • Discuss more with some friends. Not sure exactly what: 0.2
    • Finish reading some of the books that are on my shelf, and write up some responses to them: 0.1

    Overall: 0.1

  • Improve my social life, and build and maintain a good group of friends with whom I regularly do things: I had a people over for a barbecue for my birthday. I cannot remember what else, maybe that was all?
    • Host at least 3 social gatherings (parties / dinners / whatever) at my flat: 0.3
    • Any other ideas I come up with: 0.0

    Overall: 0.2

  • Improve how I dress: I bought a suit to wear to Daniel and Sharon’s wedding, and have not worn it since. It felt awkward. Otherwise no improvements to my fashion sense or wardrobe.
    • Buy a suit, or at least something a bit more formal, for the odd occasion when that might be necessary: 0.8
    • Find other ways to improve in general: 0.0

    Overall: 0.4

  • Maintain other hobbies: I did some baking, but do not think I made stuff for other people as often as once a month sadly. I did not do any work on theQuotebook, Fridge or anything else, nor any further electronics projects.
    • Bake something for other people at least once a month, preferably more often: 0.4
    • Do some work on my existing programming projects such as theQuotebook and Fridge: 0.0
    • Do some work on electronics projects, such as the paper keyboard I started on last year, some kind of floor instrument, or something else based on the Teensy: 0.0

    Overall: 0.1

I have some ideas for this year as well (and have even started on one of them), but I will leave that for another post, and I think I will organise them differently.

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14 August 2009

Things I should do

Filed under: Lists, Me — Tags: , , , , , , — qwandor @ 10:59 pm

I have been a bit slack lately about getting much done. I keep thinking of things which I should do, but mostly do not get around to doing them. In the hope of improving this I list here some things which I should do:

  • Implement mDNS abstraction layer for stereo using Avahi DBUS bindings, sort out ant script, and get stereo head to a usable state on Linux. (Or, bug Stephen to do it.)
  • Write various blog posts I have been thinking about (last.fm client, friends, childhood memories, more to life, questions).
  • Work on theQuotebook, maybe look into Facebook integration.
  • Do more baking.
  • Catch up with various people I have not seen for ages.
  • Work out what to do for a chassis for the robot I am building, add the remaining wires for the motor controller, and filter capacitors.
  • Talk more to people about conceptions of God (relationship, hearing from God, basis of faith…), and maybe blog some thoughts and questions.
  • Organise a group of people to do the Skyline Walkway some Saturday.
  • Work out what I am doing with my life, what I want to do and what God wants me to do, where I am going in the mid- to long-term, what to do next year…

Feel free to bug me about doing any of these things. Or maybe other things.

30 July 2009

Juvenile humour

Filed under: Computers, Humourous, Lists — Tags: , , , , — qwandor @ 9:32 pm

It turns out that if you take the title of a book and append the phrase “in your pants”, the resulting title is often more amusing than the original. Here I present you some examples:

About the Size of it: The Common Sense Approach to Measuring Things in Your Pants
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Your Pants
All About Worship: Insights & Perspectives on Worship in Your Pants
Being Human in Your Pants
Calculus: A New Horizon in Your Pants
Computer Networking: A Top-down Approach Featuring the Internet in Your Pants
Computer Organization and Design: The Hardware/Software Interface in Your Pants
Coping with Controversy in Your Pants
The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer in Your Pants
Dick Smith’s Fun Way into Electronics in Your Pants
God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God in Your Pants?
The Snow in Your Pants

For some automated humour, I have just written a little script that will transform the titles of your books most recently added to LibraryThing in similar manner. Take a look at what it does for my books, or try it on your or your friend’s collection.

Oh, and on the topic of pants, if you have not read Star Wars pants quotes, perhaps you will be amused to do so. I cannot find the original site that I remember from years ago, but they are still funny. The premise is to take a line from Star Wars and replace one word with the word ‘pants’, thus improving the line.

Well, it is said that small things amuse small minds.

24 July 2009

21/100

Filed under: Books, Lists, Me — Tags: , , — qwandor @ 9:43 pm

This book quiz has been going around Facebook a bit, so here I join in.

BEGINS
The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions:
Copy this into your NOTES. Put an ‘x’ next to those you have read. Tag other book nerds.

[ ] 1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
[x] 2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
It was ages ago though; I could not remember very much when I watched the movies.
[ ] 3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
[ ] 4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
[x] 5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
We studied this in school, in year 9 I think. Or maybe it was year 11, I cannot remember. My English teacher in year 9 and 11 really liked books (and movies) about racism in the American south.
[x] 6 The Bible – God (the whole thing)
Well, most of it anyway.
[ ] 7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
[x] 8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
1984 and Animal Farm are the two books by Orwell that I have read. Did you hear about the recent controversy with Amazon deleting them both remotely from the Kindles of people who had purchased the e-books? Nice irony there.
[ ] 9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
[ ] 10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Total: 4

[ ] 11 Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
I think I may have started this at some point, but gave up on it.
[ ] 12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
[ ] 13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
[ ] 14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
[ ] 15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
[x] 16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
[ ] 17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
[ ] 18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
[ ] 19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
[ ] 20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

Total: 1

[ ] 21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
[ ] 22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
[ ] 23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
[ ] 24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
[x] 25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Again, I read the series ages ago (at some point while in primary school anyway), and so had forgotten most of it by the time I watched the movie of the first one. Oh, and there was the BBC TV version too. That had amusingly terrible special effects.
[ ] 27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
[ ] 28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
[ ] 29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
I think I might have read part of it, but not the whole thing.
[x] 30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

Total: 2

[ ] 31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
[ ] 32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
[x] 33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Yep, and the BBC miniseries or whatever it was. It was a bit funny having seen that and then seeing the more recent movies.
[ ] 34 Emma – Jane Austen
[ ] 35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
[x] 36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
Well, 33 → 36
[ ] 37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
[ ] 38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
[ ] 39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
[x] 40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

Total: 3

[x] 41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
[ ] 42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
[ ] 43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
[ ] 44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
[ ] 45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
[x] 46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
I think? I could be wrong. Again, a long time ago.
[ ] 47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
[ ] 48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
[x] 49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
I studied this in school too. Studying a book, reading bits over and over again, having to write essays about it, takes all the enjoyment out of it.
[ ] 50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

Total: 3

[ ] 51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
[x] 52 Dune – Frank Herbert
I read quite a few of the Dune series, despite finding them fairly dull. I may have been too young for them.
[ ] 53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
[ ] 54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
[ ] 55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
[ ] 56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
[ ] 57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
[x] 58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
I think I read 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 all around the same time, one summer, mostly while camping at the Mahia Peninsula. That campground no longer exists. It was demolished to build a subdivision of houses, but then the developers ran out of money or something, and they never got built. There are roads, some lamps, gardens and cleared land (they got rid of almost all the pine trees from the old campground and flattened it more), but no houses. I later read This Perfect Day and Logan’s Run, for a bit more along similar lines. (Well, Logan’s Run is a bit ridiculous. The movie is amusing, primarily for what it says about the time it was made.)
[ ] 59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon
[ ] 60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Total: 2

[ ] 61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
[ ] 62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
[ ] 63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
[ ] 64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
[ ] 65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
[ ] 66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
[ ] 67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
[ ] 68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
[ ] 69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
[ ] 70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Total: 0

[ ] 71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
[ ] 72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
[x] 73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
[ ] 74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
[ ] 75 Ulysses – James Joyce
[ ] 76 The Inferno – Dante
[x] 77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
I think? It sounds familiar anyway.
[ ] 78 Germinal – Emile Zola
[ ] 79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
[ ] 80 Possession – AS Byatt

Total: 2

[ ] 81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
[ ] 82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
[ ] 83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
[ ] 84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
[ ] 85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
[ ] 86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mxistry
[x] 87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
[ ] 88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
[ ] 89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
[x] 90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
I am not sure whether I read all of this. But I probably did.

Total: 2

[ ] 91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
[ ] 92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
[ ] 93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Apparently Iain Banks is Iain M. Banks, some of whose books I have read.
[x] 94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
[ ] 95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
[ ] 96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
[ ] 97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
[ ] 98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
[x] 99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
I never was keen on Roald Dahl, but I think I read this.
[ ] 100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Total: 2

Grand Total: 21

9 July 2009

On my mind

Filed under: Lists, Me — Tags: , , , , , — qwandor @ 10:48 pm

I think the things that occupy my mind at the moment, worry me I guess I could say, can be divided into four main categories:

  1. The future
  2. God
  3. People
  4. Girls

By ‘at the moment’, I guess I mean this year. And that order is not particularly significant.

Expanding a little.

The future — well, what am I doing with my life? For rather a while I had been very focussed on study, completing my degree. Well, I got the degree, I got good grades, I graduated, but what does it all mean in the end? Yeah, I got a job. A good academic record and work experience do help with that. But now, what? Was all the effort and stress and everything worth it? And what should I aim for now? Do I have anything to look forward to, or is it all downhill from here? I do not even know what I want, really, which makes aiming for it, planning, rather hard. I guess I like to have a plan.

Well, that was more about the past than the future. Some possible possibilities are:

  • Travel: But that would be expensive, for no clear benefit, aim or purpose. Where would I go? And with whom?
  • Work: Going where? Why? Though yeah, earning money is kind of necessary to live.
  • Further study — perhaps a Masters or even a PhD: But in what? I am severely lacking in inspiration (okay, this is not limited to study, but is particularly relevant to embarking on further study I think). At Vic, or somewhere else in NZ, or overseas? No option is really compelling.

Direction and purpose would be nice.
And what about God, in all of this? Apparently my aim should be to serve Him somehow. It is unclear how I should do that, what effect that should have on my decisions. Well, that leads nicely into my second category…

God — by which I mean faith and Christianity and so on. I am not sure what to say. God seems… well, distant, to say the least. Presumably that is my fault. Actually God is a bit of an odd one out on this list; He is not necessarily on my mind all that much, but He should be. I think?

People — relating, talking, spending time with people. What are friends, what should friends be? How should I treat friends, and what should I expect from friends? Who should I consider my friends anyway? Facebook says that I have 222, but I am pretty sure that it is lying (-;. People are hard.

Girls — well, girls are people too, with all the difficulties that that entails. I am not sure what to say, at least in this public context. I guess I will say nothing more.

There is of course overlap between all of these.

Soundtrack for this post: Simon & Garfunkel ‘Leaves That Are Green‘, Jonathan Coulton ‘The Future Soon‘, The Echoing Green ‘Suffer‘ (it can be found on The Best of IVM Vol. 1). And after that, perhaps some Apoptygma Berzerk. I have been listening to them a fair bit over the past week or so anyway.

10 May 2009

Music and me

I often find that I associate things in my life — events, feelings, and so on — quite strongly with music. Some songs remind me of particular times, places, emotions, happenings.
Here are some songs that have been significant over the past year or so.

Bottom of Yourself by The Anywheres was a song that I listened to quite a bit at times last year. There were times last year when I felt completely exhausted, drained, unable to go any further, and this song seemed to fit.

So when you get there
Let me know you’re well
I’ll be waiting for your call
And when you get there
Tell me how it feels
To reach the bottom of yourself

Oh, and it quotes Amazing Grace, which makes it even better. Definitely something to listen to during long walks in the middle of the night.

Lights of Sunday by Emerald Park is another fairly acoustic, indie song, which I have been listening to a bit earlier this year. Again, something to listen to while walking slowly, at night, to no particular destination. And again, I identify with it as reflecting how I have felt at times.

He’s tired of himself
I don’t think sleep will help
You’re weary and you sleep
‘Cause you’re tired of yourself
When you’re sorry for yourself
You push your friends away
And when you push your friends away
You feel sorry for yourself

Real Synthetic Audio is not a song but a podcast, playing 40 minutes of industrial, EBM and futurepop each week. Driving beats and angry Germans. I got into RSA this last year through my Ukrainian friend Cat, who would often play it while we were working in the lab late at night, night after night. I found it to be good music for keeping oneself awake through the months of 14–16-hour days that is honours.
It is also good for walking fast, or running. It tends to be pretty hard stuff, and there are some songs or entire episodes that I dislike, but I currently have 23 episodes that I listen to on and off. I probably do not listen to it quite as much as I used to, though just a few days ago I was listening to quite a bit.

‘Leaves That Are Green’ by Simon and Garfunkel is a song that I identify with a bit at the moment, feeling that I am getting older without really getting anywhere. Missing people, feeling opportunities slip away.

I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song.
I’m twenty-two now but I won’t be for long,
Time hurries on.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown,
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

Hello, hello, hello, good-bye,
Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye,
That’s all there is.
And the leaves that are green turned to brown,
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

My only gripe, though, are the lines “I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song. / I’m twenty-two now but I won’t be for long”. This does not make sense: how old was Paul Simon when he wrote those lines? 21 or 22?
More Simon and Garfunkel songs that I have lately listened to and thought about are ‘Patterns’, ‘Bye Bye Love’ and ‘The Sound Of Silence’.

‘In Christ Alone’, by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, reminds me of TSCF conferences.

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

The triumphant final verse is particularly good too:

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

I bought Stuart Townend’s album ‘There is a Hope’ at the the TSCF mid-year conference last year, I think it was, and there are quite a few really good songs on there, I guess best described as modern hymns.
Some more great songs on the same album, which I think I also remember from TSCF conferences, are ‘There Is A Hope’ and ‘Salvation Song’.

‘Lead Me To The Cross’ by Graham Kendrick (not to be confused with the Hillsong song of the same name) is another excellent hymn, which I remember from the 2006 TSCF midyear conference:

How can I be free from sin?
Lead me to the cross of Jesus
From the guilt, the power, the pain?
Lead me to the cross of Jesus

There’s no other way
No price that I could pay
Simply to the cross I cling
This is all I need
This is all I plead
That his blood was shed for me

The Flaming Lips (or at least, their album ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’) remind me of working at Innaworks the summer before last, as I first heard them there (thanks to Darren I think). At first I was not too keen on their music, but it definitely grew on me and and I listened to it a fair bit in Memphis last year.

Another song that reminds me a lot of last year is ‘I Am A Rock’ by Simon and Garfunkel. I felt that I could relate to it:

I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And the end, sad, defiant, but still not quite honest:

Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

It was something that I listened to late at night, alone in Memphis, anyway.

There are of course many more songs: stuff by Breaking Benjamin, Live, Lagoona, Apocalyptica, Nightwish, Switchfoot, Adiemus and others, and I am really liking The Cranberries at the moment, especially ‘I Just Shot John Lennon’ and ‘I’m Still Remembering’. But I think that will do for now.

Oh, one more: ‘Videotape’ by Radiohead. Another melancholic one, bringing memories of walking home in the dark, tired but not sleepy, dissatisfied. Perhaps it is raining a little.
It is hard to pick just one part to quote here, so do listen to the whole thing, but here is the beginning and the end:

When I’m at the pearly gates
This’ll be on my videotape
My videotape
My videotape

No matter what happens now
I won’t be afraid
Because I know
Today has been the most perfect day I have ever seen.

As usual, Thom Yorke’s voice is amazing in his unique way, and this sparse song demonstrates it well.

What songs are particularly significant to you?

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