Saturday, February 04, 2017

End of Week 5 2017

Already a month into 2017. A glorious future where everyone is happy, or: Everyone is quite happy to be unhappy if given the choice. I really don’t know what to say that won’t enrage you, I would really love to say that no one has anything to worry about from the new way things are, but that isn’t true. However, it is really hard to believe anything, even if my initial reaction is rage my immediate follow-up is skepticism.

That is the way democracy falls, or even republics if you want to avoid anything with the letters “dem” in it. The more we can be convinced to be unreasonably outraged or not care is a win. The first is easy to crackdown on, and the second just lets them do whatever they want. Try to take a second when something strikes you as outrageous. Let the sweet feeling of indignation die down and try to get some corroboration rather than just believing anything you see.

In less divisive ideas: I am nearly a month into two courses. It is quite a bit of work, but I am enjoying my Computer Vision course and I am quite happy with the team I have for Databases. For the vision course I wish I had known all of the information that I know now and what I am about to learn last year at about this time, it would have really helped in the robot competition.

The biggest problem with the classes is free time. If I take too much free time, such as writing this, I am seriously procrastinating. Or even worse is finding a game like Avorion. It is a really well done little game (scales a galaxy), even though it is still in early access. But I should really just quit playing any games until the break, otherwise they will break me. That is a tough thing to write. Maybe in the future I will write about the games I play, though I suppose it might be boring. Just a quick search shows that there are already many people who call themselves “The Boring Gamer.” Weird.

If I can manage these two classes and get through summer and two more in the fall, I can graduate! Then I will have sooo much free time it won’t be funny. Then I can:
  • Write more
  • Join more things like archery and orchestra
  • Play games
  • Hang out with my wife without making her feeling guilty about keeping me from homework
  • Bird watch more
  • Travel
  • Run out of time to do things.
Yeah, that sounds great.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Phyton: Episode 4

Jeff sat down next to him and pulled out a stack of papers, of course they were all blank to Al, but he saw the glasses peeking out of Jeffs shirt pocket. “Aren’t you worried that even knowing that there is alot more information on this case might bias my ‘expert analysis’?”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way.” Jeff’s realization and maybe a bit of consternation showed. “But surely knowing that you could be biased would cancel that out, right?”

“I’m not a psychologist, but I already suspected that the agency wasn’t sharing all it knew,” Al shrugged, “Seems to be standard practice.”

“This is the first time I’ve been on a case like this. Have you seen it before?”

“Yes, back during the GMO ban, they used the same tech for documents back when I was part of a team investigating the relevance of the ban. They must have squirreled away a warehouse full of that paper so they could go back to after the secure entity tablets were removed from service.”

“Someone had the foresight.”

“Or the bureaucracy.” They both chuckled, someone near Al’s age was probably being rewarded for keeping the paper around when it had really just been a case of procrastination.

Jeff put on the glasses and started reading. Al watched the countryside flash by below, just a few more years and the cross country hyperloop would open, no more need for long distance flights across the continent. But by definition the hyperloop was a vacuum tube system, so there probably wouldn’t be any views during the journey.

“What do you know about the Fislers?” Several minutes had passed along with the Rockies. Al couldn’t quite read Jeff’s face, what did he know that he was asking this now?

“What the public knows?”

“No, how you know them.” Of course, but then the public probably didn’t know much about them.

“They’re both nice people. I knew both of them before they met. Bright, probably some of the brightest assistants I ever had. They had opposite scheduled days and near the end of the term there was a scheduling situation which brought them in together. They hit it off and it seems to be working for them. They were married a few months after that, quite remarkable the amount of talent between them.”

“They weren’t actually in your field though, right?”

Al nodded, “Gustaf, Gus, was studying to be a medical doctor, but could easily switch realms from human physio to plants in a blink of an eye. I would catch him doing homework in the lab. After the first few times I gave up asking him if he was finished since he was already done. I just gave him more to do.” He paused getting lost in remembering how smoothly and quickly experiments were put together and completed. “And Angela, she was a marine biologist interested in plankton, she also had such a dexterity with machines and programming. Entities that had slowly become useless to me were quite responsive to her. I was there when they met. To me it seemed they covered all the subjects in the world, coming to a consensus and yet somehow getting all the lab work done.”

“Did you attend their wedding?”

“Yes, it was quite the to-do. Lots of appreciative family, both were thought to be too driven to ever reach that point, and the families were happy to be proven wrong.”

“Did you stay in contact with them afterward?”

“Can’t say that I did, saw some posts on the usual sites, about them having a kid, what was that, three years ago?”

“About four and a half, actually.”

“Well time flies. From what I’ve been told, it seems they are doing very well for themselves. And with…”

“Edward, a pretty uncommon name these days.”

“Edward, no kidding, but he’s probably just about ready to go into kindergarten this fall, right?”

“It looks like it.” Jeff tensed.

Al sighed, “What else do we know about them?” He hoped to get a bit more out of Jeff, but it looked like he needed to catch up a bit on the “usual websites” before the Fislers picked him up at the airport.

“A bit.” Jeff glanced at the older man, and back down to the pages.

“Well I guess we'll just have to see, won’t I?”


The rest of the flight continued in silence.

**Next Episode**

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Manufacturing Coming to a Place Near You

It’s old news, 3d-printing, unless you just got a printer for Christmas.

The manufacturing hub newly assembled.
I have been following the advent of consumer 3D-printers for quite a while, and they’ve basically revolutionized how an individual (normal, not owning a fab-factory) can think about custom trinkets or replacement parts.

Other than the price why am I excited to get a 3D-printer? While watching them get better and cheaper, it really has to do with two things: Exposure to the tech at COS and a major failure almost exactly 10 years ago.

First a bit of panic about the fact that it has almost been 10 years since the end of my undergrad degree. I guess I am celebrating by taking two graduate courses: Computer Vision and DB systems… Ten years later. It brings up some interesting memories of how bad a student I was, and how my senior project suffered because I had no clue what I was doing. I needed to design a circuit board, get parts manufactured, and write a program that would all be part of a telescope system. Much too much work for one person period, and I was a mess as a human.

I could not stay awake and I was afraid of failing with my project, therefore I did nothing. I think the first part was either just being dumb with sleep patterns or a real chemical imbalance that extended a few years into my first job. My money's on bad sleep patterns, I’ve now found that 7-8 hours really helps me stay awake during meetings, rather than field stripping and reassembling pens just to stay awake. The second part has slowly been remedied, mostly through COS as I explain in an earlier post.

There was also a revolution that started quietly just as I was finishing school: DIY. After I left the project in shambles and had been working there was a proliferation of things like Arduino and other premade programmable circuit boards (I designed a terrible circuit board that wouldn’t have done a tenth of what Arduino can.) Exactly what I needed to design for my project, but prepackaged. And then 3D-printers, I could have iterated on designs for the hardware, not worrying (too much) about getting it right the first time.

My failure was all my fault, but maybe it would have been worse if I had fewer excuses, or I wouldn’t have been as frozen in indecision.

Either way I watched 3D tech getting cheaper and cheaper, and I really wanted to jump on the boat. When it was less than $1k I thought that it would be good, but still other things like life were in the way. Then I started at COS and Brian had his printer at work. I thought about asking to work on it for a long time, especially when another employee was printing quite a few things. I still know that I have a slight starting problem (Slight, ha) but I finally asked for a quick tutorial and started printing. Now I know what to expect and have an inkling of troubleshooting.

There were failures, but overall I am hooked. Now I’ll need to post follow-ups as I print pieces, once I get this thing properly calibrated.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Phyton: Episode 3

**Previous Episode**

“Good work Field Agent Devney, your new clearance will allow you to access information you will need in California.” Agent Flind pushed a couple of manilla folders across a clear space of desk.

“Sir?” Jeff Devney couldn’t help being excited, but he thought he kept it to himself.

“Well we can’t send out a ‘green’ agent, so you are promoted to a field agent. For now your AO is just for SoCal and surrounding region. There are a few standby teams that will provide back-up.” Flind leaned back in his ancient office chair, “If you need any other agency resources, let me know. And of course if you need any warrants we will have contacts for the appropriate jurisdictions.”

Jeff eyed the stack of folders and then picked it up, pretty weighty, despite the digital paper.

“Nearly four years ago I would have touched a button and cleared you to look at the info without all this paper, my desk was all but clear if you can believe that.” Flind motioned at the desk as though he wanted to sweep the stacks into the garbage can. “Any other questions?”

Jeff thought hard, he didn’t want to sound dumb, just after being promoted, “I guess Dr. Ingram must be getting help, how soon is that?”

“Dr. Ingram had two candidates in today that a consulting scientist and I have vetted. Hopefully he will take them, the sooner the better. Oh yeah, with the new clearances, you are actually cleared to know the case, obviously,” Flind indicated the folders, “It’s much more info than we gave the good doctor, but let him figure out most of it on his own. What we gave him will be marked so you know your talking points.”

“Shouldn’t he know too?”

“It might bias him at this point, and we really need a clear view by an expert. It is a touchy subject because we are dealing with the DoD.”


Jeff tried not to think too much about traveling through the airport, sure the flights were much faster than when he was a kid, Virginia to LA in two hours, but security had become less efficient, and certainly much less enjoyable with the removal of automatic security agents.

He didn’t remember the time before the tall gentle robot giants roamed the free-flowing, traveling masses, silently mixing with the crowd until they noticed something suspicious. A robot would confront the person of interest if they weren’t an imminent threat, or direct a blast of foam to envelope a possible suicide attacker. Jeff had seen a demo in school with a dummy and explosives being engulfed in foam, then the thud of the explosion and a slight distortion of the bubble. Foam was gone too, no one trusted a human to be able to differentiate as well as a well trained system.

Manual scanners now throttled the flow of travelers causing them all to bunch into lines, waiting for permission to get on their flight. The number of successful attacks had rebounded to pre-artificial intelligent agent days, the decade and a half that the agents had been in place had only seen three successful attacks on airports, mostly because a large rush of extremists overwhelmed the systems. The party in power poopooed the idea that there was a correlation in the rise of successful attacks and their ban on using learning AI agents.

Except everyone was an extremist these days, even the extreme normalist, or the extreme consideration-ist, one of whom tried not to have an extreme opinion on anything, or the one who would try to understand every single extreme they came across. Fortunately only a few religious extremist groups practiced violent attacks. Everyone’s views divided them into their own veiled worlds there were far fewer of the violent converts than 30 years before.

Jeff wondered about the Fislers, other than the nominal extremism, were they fanatics of a cause? Would it be a bad ending? He spotted the doctor and waved, time enough in the future to consider these possibilities.

**Next Episode**