Showing posts from 2016

Parallel Dreams

I thought I was prepared for anything, but as the alien creature advanced on me I still sat in shock. It studied me as it came toward me, carefully stepping around what I supposed were the corpses of people I had known quite well. Its head was slightly elongated and sloping back with what looked to be extra eyes along the edges, a blue stripe connecting them.
Something shifted next to me and I saw that it was Todd, but he didn’t look too well. He perched on his seat with blue glowing things evident on his skin. The being’s attention was on him as well, then a surprise.
“You will not be like him, he is merely a breeding colony. Important but otherwise useless.” Its attention swung back to me. How did it know English? “You on the other hand, will be like me.”
Of course a smart remark right now might save me from a fate worse than death, but nothing came. The creature passed within a couple feet of me and plucked a blue-glowing orb the size of a pea from Todd who seemed unconcerned.
“Hold ou…

Revisiting Tolerance

I wrote about tolerance a while ago. These sentiments of mine are nearly unchanged, but I think I need to address the specific issue of intolerance and its danger to an otherwise tolerant society. Basically one of the few things we have to be intolerant of is intolerance.
It seems self-defeating, if we are intolerant of intolerance then we are hypocritical. But let’s observe it from a slightly different vantage. Let us draw a hopefully erroneous link between intolerance and violence and say that every person disliking another person to the point of hate based on ethnicity is likely to be violent toward that ethnicity.
If we tolerate their hate but stop them from being violent, what have we accomplished? If we are perfectly omnipresent and can stop the violence before it begins, will the world be better? But we aren’t omnipresent, nor are our imperfect criminal justice representatives, and on top of that there can be threats of violence that can impact a person’s life just as much as a v…

Unintended Consequences

“What am I charged with?” Dan couldn’t help but lean forward in the chair since his wrists were chained to the middle of the table.
“Terrorist activities and destruction of property.” The detective read from his notebook.
“I’ve done no such thing.”
“We found you standing in front of the property with materials that we believe brought down the building. Do you have anything to say?”
“I plead the fifth.”
“There isn’t much room for that amendment in this current administration, we could send you down with the ‘bad dudes’ and just forget about you for a while.” The FBI agent leaning against the wall mentioned as though commenting that shorts shouldn’t be worn in this weather.
“Is that why I haven’t had the chance to contact a lawyer? And you know that the truth value of whatever you get me to say will be suspect under duress or threats of duress.” Dan tried not to sound too smug, it would just get him in trouble. In fact that may have been too far now that he thought about it. He looked for sig…


Decisive? Derisive?

Right, I just want to say that I don't like the outcome of the election. How can it be that my optimism is always smashed? Oh, that's right, I am a realist and every time I want to be optimistic I get a reminder why I am a realist. Most people might call my realism pessimism, and I would agree sometimes.

I hope I am being hyperbolic, but I am with Scalzi even if I don't have lots of diverse friends. If anything I really hope that my story about future luddites really doesn't have any strong parallels to more people-like characters, or real people for that matter.

I guess I want to be pleasantly surprised, so I am being overly pessimistic, or at least I hope it is overly pessimistic.

In other less pessimistic news: I got the simulator running for the NASA Space Robot Challenge, but then ran out of disk space on my Ubuntu setup and couldn't turn the computer on after shutting it down to go deal with the windows partition. I guess that really isn&#…

Sets and Sequences

Or “I could mess up everything with two clicks.”
Maybe not quite that simple, but close. That is the way I feel about dealing directly with the SQL database. Why do I feel so much better about writing a script to go through species by species to fill in, asset by asset, the queue for people to draw boxes.
What are the differences? Despite not knowing Java that well it still generally reacts like a script and can go through each asset one at a time. I can check each asset to see if is a good asset. I can test this, have been asked to test this, and will look into unit-testing this somewhat thoroughly.

Also I have written 2,600 words for National Novel Writing Month. I think I might be a bit… ambitious. Two classes and 50k words in November? Maybe. It is also the second installment of my first NaNoWriMo novel, which I still need to continue editing.

Phyton: Episode 2

**Previous episode**

Al had just picked up his fork for the delivered plate of food.
“Al, may I sit with you?”
He turned and saw Jeff at his elbow, trying to let people go by in the tight confines of the diner’s aisles between tables. He shook his head, but said, “Sure” and set down his fork as Jeff slid into the booth opposite. Of course Jeff knew about the diner, Al came here every week after fencing on Wednesdays for the last 20 or so years. In fact Al tried to imagine a time when he had missed this ritual, only conferences, and always the same sunny-side-up burger even if it was late evening. The only change was the company, over the years people had come and gone, including Jeff for a while.
“I’m really sorry,” Al snapped back to the present as Jeff pulled out a manilla envelope, he did look a bit sorry, “but the boss said to have another go at you.” He slid the envelope over the table, missing the fork.
“What’s this?” Al felt like he was in one of those old spy movies.
“A bit more evi…

Phyton: Episode 1

** This is the first episode in a series. Also take a look at my other stories. **

“Okay, run this by me again, I don’t quite get it.” Dr. Al Ingram stood with his arms crossed studying the shorter man intently. He certainly didn’t need to have it repeated, except to hopefully lay his incredulity to rest. The man wore his dark grey suit, somewhat reminiscent of styles from earlier in the century, with a bit of unease and the unease transmitted itself through his movements.
“Alright,” Jeff ran a thick-fingered hand through his black hair and took a step back, as though he could retrace his words with steps. It also helped him to not look up at such an angle. “You are a recognized skeptic, outside of your own work…”
“And I am never complacent with that either.” Al cut in.
“Right, well we need you to work with the Fislers. We would like you to look into their advances. We believe that you are the best suited for this as it fits your field and you have the clearance.” Jeff finished and stared…

Short Story: Caught Speeding

*Note: This is not a new concept, but I am definitely practicing writing. Here are more short stories.*

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“What?” An automatic response to really any noise my officemate made, some exceptions.

“This is nuts.”

Not answering directly usually indicated that I should pay attention, but it did seem he was just saying things to be outraged over the most recent political scandal. However, when I looked up the chagrin on his face didn’t seem faked. He slammed his chair back and stood up, paced in the small office and then retrieved the chair . Sitting down he grimaced, and took a breath I recognized as his story-telling breath.

He beckoned me to come around to look at his screen.

He had what looked like a really badly done version of YouTube, yep, GovTube. Nobody watched GovTube unless they were told to. Maybe if the government had made one well-thought-out contract with YouTube more people would have used it.

“Watch this,” he nearly spat and violently slammed the space …

The Lab of O

I’ve started the new job at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology! Specifically I am working for the Macaulay Library and it is awesome! When I started my previous job at COS I really wanted to push them to start supporting citizen science, but that never really worked out. Now I am dropped right in the middle of a citizen science and machine learning project! What could be better? If you want to help out: edbird is where you should submit checklists and upload photos, and merlinvision is where you can box/annotate bird photos.
So other than the tons of paperwork that comes with switching jobs, it is pretty awesome. My normal commute now is a walk in through the woods, with binoculars, so I can bird on the way in and out, and sometimes lunch too. It certainly beats 30 minutes each way unless I got stuck behind a bus.
Of course I am still learning the stack after two weeks (I claim there is quite a bit of paperwork to do), but I am starting to wrap my head around how things are done and being r…


I decided to skip the update this week, it was much too disjointed and just felt blah. So rather than that I will write a rant, much more exciting, and outward focused.
In Elon Musk’s talk on September 27th he commented during answering questions that the first people to venture to Mars will have to accept the risk of death. A perfectly reasonable risk as they will be even further away from Earth than Apollo 13, but still possibly disconcerting.
What surprises me is that Elon Musk’s age, he is nearly the perfect age for some of the biggest psychological impact from the Challenger disaster. To put it into perspective he was a year or two younger when that happened than I was when 9-11 happened. A teenager dealing with a disaster that may have injured or scarred that generation watching as a teacher was going to orbit. It is possible that this group of kids, now grown, could be reticent to embrace risk for space travel, just as my generation is quite heavily scarred from the subsequent wa…