Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Solar Eclipse!

We made our way down to Kentucky and saw the solar eclipse! We did not go to Hopkinsville where there was two minutes forty seconds of totality, but we did see two minutes thirty seconds.

We got there quite early and were lucky enough to find a field that the town of Dawson Springs mowed and let us park on. It was close to the interstate and so we could make a quick retreat north afterward.

The seven foot triangular prism of cardboard is a pinhole camera that I made for a class, Computational Photography at Georgia Tech. It extends to reach 7 feet but collapses for transport or smaller images to 4 feet and a bit.

It could certainly be improved, but it was still quite fun to get all the attention of people near us. This has a few ideas on how to build one: Essentially the longer the tube the larger the projection.

Of course it was awesome to see the totality! Xkcd has a really good graph to show excitement: It is just mind-boggling how many variables align to make it so spectacular. Of course eclipses happen all the time:, but that doesn’t really matter because not all of us can travel to each one. Transits are much less common which might make them more exciting, for instance the next Venus transit isn’t until the year 2117. But unless you have some serious gear it really doesn’t have the same impact as a solar eclipse.

Not zoomed in…

It was just plain awesome, and then we drove back, managed to miss much of the traffic.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tolerance, Once Again

Do not tolerate intolerance, it comes from indoctrination or ignorance. My previous thoughts on tolerance: Progress Stunted, Revisiting Tolerance.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Integrated Memory and What It Means

Can we see the next thing in computing from here? I don’t mean just the next fastest processor or the next larger memory, but a true turn like smartphones were, now that we are living ex post smartus. That is the issue, will it be soft electronics? A totally new way of non-invasive interface that allows us to control the new technology that might be around the corner?

As an unpublished, except for this blog, science-fiction writer I have to say that it frustrates me at the same time it intrigues me. I have written stories about nanotechnology, others about genetics, especially AI, as well as space travel and the differences it may make in our lives, or how it might not be as drastic as we all hope or fear.

So let’s start with a simple, but gargantuan advance: Integrated memory. IEEE reported on a new technology that Intel is releasing soon. It is basically the RAM of the computer integrated into Non-Volatile Memory. Or to put it simply, the entire state of the computer could be saved in such a way that turning it off and then on again would seem not to have an effect.

Oh wait, off and on again is a good way of resetting the OS. If we take that away how will less technical people fix their computers? I’ll leave those implications for thought.

Focusing on the more positive aspects: If we can have one fewer piece to worry about in the computer architecture, or more likely: turning “RAM” into just a virtual partition of the “Hard disk” might mean a large simplification for internal networking architecture and the massive amounts of timing that goes into making a beast like the one I am writing on right now continue to function well.

But one of the major directions this has implications for is the next step of integrated processing. Essentially computers have a really hard time emulating the human brain for the main reason that its architecture is utterly different. With the innovations of potential 3d layering in this iteration and simplifying the overall communication architecture; maybe future innovations such as photonic circuits will allow a chip to be close to emulating a human brain with its integrated yet distributed properties.

This could majorly boost Artificial Neural Networks in that they could actually be physical networks of memory and processing. Where these new, or at least finally realised, ideas will take us, I don’t know. But what I truly wonder about is the technology that maybe only a few people know or are thinking about. How radically will it change the world?

Friday, May 05, 2017

The Odd Case of Charity Lending

I would ask what hole you are living in if you don’t know what micro-lending is, except you may see, soon, that I would like to join you. Basically micro-lending is set up like a charity where you give money to someone, but you know who it is, what they are trying to do, and you expect them to pay you back. This is so you can lend again, and again.

Let’s take Kiva for example: It has funders, like me, who put in $25 per person to fund an enterprise (farmer, banker, mechanic, store owner, etc.) Kiva takes this money and forward it to in-field institution, Field Partner, who is responsible for distribution and collection. The debtor pays this loan back and you get a portion back until the entire loan is paid. If you have multiple “investments” in your “portfolio” then you may get the $25 to relend sooner and be able to add to your portfolio.

This is great for a few reasons: you are getting capital investment to parts of the world that want to make things better and you have a tenuous but real connection to people around the world. But there are a few issues:

Kiva derives its funding from donations by the funding users. Essentially this makes it a charity, merely a way to funnel capital to other parts of the world. But this means that Kiva is always asking for donations, and if you aren’t adding money then you will at some point not have enough to make an investment.

Oh yeah, you won’t have enough money because you aren’t receiving any of the interest from these investments. It’s a charity, not true investment. Add to this that the fact a borrower can default, and then you lose the rest of the un-repaid amount. What happens to the loan? What does the Field Partner do, just leave it be? If there aren’t some strings attached, then every borrower would figure out the amount of a grant they need, get a loan and then default. Of course they can’t apply again, but a few thousand free dollars in a third-world country could certainly get you quite far, whether or not you are setting up a business for success.

So there must be something more that Field Partners can do to enforce a loan. But if we can consider the remaining amount as lost to us, the lenders, where does it go? I don’t like either implication.

And lastly by making people in debt to us, we are essentially spreading America’s idea of how to get ahead. Which is great in some regards, but really it’s just become how to get money for the things we “need” to buy, speaking as someone with a mortgage. We are in debt to many people, and as Americans are not as good about paying it off as the rest of the world. But let’s spread that idea to other people, so maybe we don’t feel as alone.

One thing that I have been wrestling with as a Christian is that we aren’t supposed to make money from usury, which is more specifically lending at unreasonable rates. So definitely not credit card lender… But what is an unreasonable rate? Of course we are not making an unreasonable rate from the transaction, but some of the Field Partners may be charging going rates in those countries, which by current American standards could be considered highway robbery. But back to who to lend to.

It really depends on the situation. With friends and family, unless you have a codified contract, in most cases you should only be ‘lending’ about as much as you would be willing to give away. And never co-sign. The idea here is that unless you are actually going to be a part of a business venture, you should expect it never to come back. Of course you don’t have to tell them.

Another case is absolute poverty, or extenuating circumstances. Lending money to a region that has no money isn’t going to help, how is the borrower going to pay back the loan if nobody else can pay them? War zones too, if someone can turn around and pay you back tomorrow you might very well get caught up in something very bad.

Now here comes the hard part, lending money can actually spur growth with the right business and in the right area. That is the idea of many of these micro-lending entities. The problem is how do you jump through hoops of actually lending money abroad without all the tax implications? You make it a charity. Good, but also not good. There is no way, as explained above that this will ever work out for you, the lender, other than just to feel good.

So I am becoming more convinced that we should be looking at traditional investing, idea investing like Kickstarter, and true charity rather than attempting to blend charity and debt. I would urge you to stay away from debt in general, but in some cases it can be useful to bootstrap ideas, or buy mundane possessions.

I would like to see something similar to Kiva except that we are actually investing and receiving returns, not just enough to lend to the next one, but enough to slowly grow the impact that we can have. Of course there are many regulatory issues with this, but it may be worth it, spreading a *slightly* better idea from the US.

Some links:
Kiva is not Quite What It Seems
The Joy of Pretending...
Wikipedia: Microfinance - 5/5/2017

And I might be a few years behind the curve. Hopefully not with my stories.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Another Attempt

Hairy Woodpecker taking off.

Or, I got really self-righteous writing an attempt at this post, or at least righteous.

So what am I doing now without two classes to keep up with? First, my wife is really happy that I am contributing more to chores. It is amazing how much she likes that, even with understanding just how much work school is. So if I don’t kill myself trying to do two classes maybe I can keep up more than just a token effort on chores.

And speaking of helping I was able to get her research back on track after five minutes of fiddling with the configuration files. It is nice that she can bother me without feeling guilty.

I really want to go fencing. This time for sure, no stopping me, we have all the gear.

More outdoor exercise, oh wait it dumped snow on us last week, just the walk to work was a workout. But the wife and I built a giant snow monster:

More birdwatching. Birds are coming to town! But it snowed and we’ve had some of the coldest weather of all winter. I am afraid that March regressed toward the mean, but it certainly didn’t mean that ski stores kept their supplies of skis in stock, I guess I’ve lived too close to real mountains to consider anything but mid-June to be the end of ski season.

Writing more: this, short stories, and my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel editing. Still learning. Blogging short stories has certainly not picked up a following at all. I need to be more consistent with those.

Learning Computer Vision. Wait, but didn’t I drop that class? Why yes, yes I did, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t resources like pyimagesearch.

3D-printing. It goes badly, two more failed prints, but I think I am having power issues because the power supply is so close to its limits. Fortunately I have an extra 500W supply just lying around from upgrading my desktop because it was right on the border too. With my electrical engineering knowledge I should be able to safely add the new supply, but we’ll definitely have to see.

And doing all these things I will still have time to spend with the wife, eat, and sleep. It isn’t weird how much time school takes up, but it certainly is a relief when it’s done.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dust - Expedition

“Whoa! She crumbled” Jared stared down. 

Of course he had to touch it, Elena thought, men can’t appreciate anything they can’t touch. “Didn’t I say something about not touching anything.” 

“I didn’t.” That sounded a bit plaintive even for him. “I just wanted to look at something on her skin.”
It was a good thing that her eye roll didn’t add a chorus to her already restrained sigh. She shook her head and walked back out of the house on the outskirts of a town that must be abandoned. Nothing moved, not even a breeze. Elena was glad that she had photographic evidence before Jared breathed it out of existence. “Come on, and try not to stare too closely at the art next time, however weird that it was in a tub.” 

Elena didn’t understand the grumbled reply, and frankly didn’t want to make a big deal of it. They were already tight on their schedule, so many new places to go with a new satellite making its way across the surface of the Sphere, they had five hours allocated to explore this town and make contact with its inhabitants, though that was looking less likely now. 

She turned on her mag-belt and willed herself forward, picking up speed down the slightly overgrown street. Elena resisted the urge to speed ahead of Jared, but came to a reasonable velocity and maintained it for the next two kilometers until they came into the town. No radio or any other signals hailed her as she sped along. 

She hopped up onto a sidewalk, and came around a corner and someone was in front of her, no time to dodge, not even the belt’s automatic system had time to redirect her momentum and she plowed right into him. Through him, him maybe. A dust cloud expanded around her as her belt brought her to a jarring stop. 

“Oh look who’s destroying art now,” Jared certainly looked ready to crow, she could feel it as she surveyed the damage. “You only left his feet from the ankles down. Ha!” 

It was hard to maintain her composure, but she managed to walk over and take a picture of the decapitated feet without throwing something. Shoes really, silver just like the one in the tub. They looked like an old type of shoe from the twentieth century, maybe the man wasn’t naked like the woman Jared had practically drooled on. And was it considered decapitation if only the feet remained? Essentially, she guessed. 

“Oh boss, it feels like we are being watched. Look.” 

She whipped around, expecting either a threat or someone trying to hide from them, but it was a street with many more people statues. All the burnished silver of the first statue, standing stock-still in very natural poses. Even the three story buildings lining the street had a few people in windows.
“Someone must’ve spent quite a bit of time arranging these, but they’re so fragile how do they survive the wind?” 

“If your heavy breathing blew away that statue then it must be abnormally still here. Or this happened very recently.” That brought disturbing possibilities to her mind, but the air quality sensor-suite still had no warnings, much less dire alerts. 

“The buildings and everything only look slightly neglected, so it must have been somewhat recently.”
“Let’s see if we can find a food store, or something like that where we might find some dates.” Elena suppressed a shiver, Jared would be upset to learn that she would want a full decon when they reached their hopper. 

“Good idea, boss, but do think it’s just because they have archaic architecture that they would have a…” history and vocab were not Jared’s strengths, “Grocery?” 

“Something like that,” She had to chuckle. “Let’s split up, you take west and I will take east.” 

They had wandered toward another statue down the street, so Elena back-tracked to go east. As she came to the first intersection again she couldn’t help but look at the decapitated feet again. Except they were no longer just feet, but calves as well.

***This may become a series, but for now enjoy!

Blogger and CSS

My wonderful audience may have noticed a few swaps in my blogger theme, something is really broken on my posts with spacing between paragraphs. Since I can't use tabs without tabbing out of the editing interface I use an extra line between paragraphs, pretty standard for lots of internet content these days. However, blogger's new "improved" themes broke this for many of my old posts.

I tried to edit '.post-body' css but it seems that I will have to back through by hand and edit the html, per post. I really don't want to spend the time migrating to WordPress, but it is looking even more likely now. I was hoping to do more writing and save my developing time for more fun side projects.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Phyton: Episode 5 - First Report

Previous Episode

Airports on the receiving end were just as nightmarish as the sending end these days, Al thought as he pulled his suitcase from an old fashioned belt.  Anyone could grab luggage if they wanted to. The security was terrible too. So many uniforms jostling to look closely at you, your bags, and a suspicious mustard stain if you had the misfortune of spilling lunch.

Back before the purge the entities had monitored from afar with others delivering your luggage directly to you, no mess and fuss of people crowding the belt. Now the security gap left by the entities felt unfillable, all of the personnel seemed frustrated by the number of people milling around and the occasional raised voices of people arguing over similar luggage or trying to convey just how important their lost luggage was to a harried worker.

Al found Jeff already in the crowd as he trundled his decidedly unresponsive luggage away from the chaos.

“You got yours, well that gives me hope. I’ll see you at our first meet. If anything arises, let me know.”

“Will do.” They shook hands and Al headed out to the taxi stand.

The study in contrasts always made Al smile, airports and their security had regressed where cars still were entities. Highly regulated entities, but entities nonetheless. The new government was crazy in its attempt to give more people jobs by scrapping 10 years of entity development, but it wasn’t hopeless, in some areas.

The estimated 20k to 50k people per year that didn’t die in car wrecks guaranteed that those entities driving weren’t going anywhere. Also they were the least quirky and some of the least human-like entities. Hence why they replaced human drivers. They were also still hooked into the info-grid which made arranging for one to meet at the curb extremely easy.

After getting in and telling the car where to go, Al sat back and closed his eyes. Although the fallback to old-style security made him anxious to fly, he was not less anxious after this flight. If anything he was more so. The Fislers knew he was coming, but he was coming in to investigate them. That felt like it was a violation of their trust.

He certainly didn’t want to find anything, and from what he knew they both followed rules very well, but the fact that the FBI and the DoD were investigating meant that something was happening. He just hoped it was a case of target misidentification.


The taxi pulled into the driveway of a large house with a xeriscaped yard. Other than a few lush green plants and a few palms by a small pond the yard was rock and cactus. He double checked the address on his phone and the one in the taxi’s navigation system. They matched, but certainly they would have a kid friendly yard, right?

Jeff sat in the sedan watching people pass, nearly everyone looked busy which made him feel like he should be doing something. At the moment he waited for Al so they could talk about any developments, but he also waited in general. His message inbox was clean, contingency plans for all occasions were stacked neatly on the desk back at the warehouse he was based out of, and his personal plans once done here filled his calendar.

Of course the agency had a much more glamorous image, many movies growing up depicted dramatic scenes where hero agents solved crimes despite vast odds while wooing or seducing the love interest. The only interest anyone showed was with their jobs back at HQ, no-nevermind love interests being more human than crime.

He spotted Al walking toward the car, and stopped fidgeting. The boredom and anxiety evaporated as the man who was the anticipated antidote knocked on the window. He unlocked the car and Al got in.

“How are things?” Al asked as he settled in.

Jeff paused, wondering if he should do the socially acceptable thing, but decided against it, “Boring.”

“Well then, let’s not keep you waiting any longer.” Al reached for his phone as the car started to move onto a predetermined route. “Though, I am not sure that the news is going to be very exciting either.” He opened a list on his phone, “They seem like a normal family as far as two high-caliber scientists can seem with a child. They are looking forward to Eddy going to kindergarten and spend plenty of time in the evenings working with him on things. During the day they work at the lab. Are you cleared for what they work on?”

Jeff nodded.

“Right, so they are mainly working on a moss-like plant that can be grown in the lungs without causing a pneumonia reaction. It’s pretty interesting since it works off of micronutrients in the lungs and the infrared heat from the body in order to grow and break CO2 back into oxygen for the host. But enough of me getting excited by their work.”

“Are they over protective of anything? A room in the house or lab equipment?”

“It doesn’t seem like it. This last week I’ve been working and living with them and they seem to have nothing to hide, no wariness around me once the DoD clarified my cover, they definitely understand that the things they are working on are quite sensitive ecologically too.”

“Any unknown people that they talk to?” Jeff interjected.

“Not that I have seen, but I’ve only been around for a week, and I can’t keep an eye on both of them all the time. On the other hand they don’t disappear for long periods of time without reasonable excuses, though I haven’t gone grocery shopping with them yet. They really care for Eddy.”

“Anything out of the ordinary about their parenting?” Jeff barely suppressed a squirm. He didn’t have a terrible childhood, but there were some events that he still wasn’t quite willing to confront. Asking about a child seemed to always bring up those feelings, maybe it was also the reason he never went on a second date.

“Other than seeming to be really attentive parents, no.”

“Are they anxious about him going to kindergarten?”

“Yes, but I think that is normal? Since neither of us has kids I don’t think we know, right?”

“I guess my parents seemed quite anxious when I first went to school. But after I told them about the first day they relaxed.” Too much, no inquiry ever, Jeff thought, it amazed him in retrospect that he had done so well.

Next Episode

Sunday, March 12, 2017

On Why Quitting is Terrible Failing

Cooper's Hawk just down the trail. Just using a point-and-shoot camera.
Many failures may precede success, but failing within an institution is just failing.

I am trying to suss out what is an acceptable level of failure. I grew up with the idea that failing at anything was bad: school, piano, that stupid cake-walk back in cub scouts, and many other venues. I’ll just say that I was so upset at the cake-walk they gave me some consolation pie. But back to the point: failure was unacceptable and very upsetting.

School was and is the prime place of failure being unacceptable. In some ways I envy the kids that don’t care when they fail, but in many others I don’t, since I would be very surprised if they are more successful than myself. Though I am certainly not a paragon of success, just very comfortable.

What does failing lead to within school as an institution? Retaking a grade at the worst save dropping out. I never failed in primary or secondary with my worst grade a C. This kept me from having a free ride through UW. The only fear of failure ever was on specific tasks, and really only on public performances. But also the schools were small enough and loose enough that there were definitely ways of working through failure that a teacher would consider equivalent.

College was much tougher for me. Fortunately I had skin in the game, money, debts, but it still was a very tough thing for me to finish. I had failures and retakes and then I graduated. Did I learn more? Yes, but as much as I probably should have? No. I would have done better in that case.

But that brings me to my master’s degree. I really like the computer science program that I can take online very far away from Georgia Tech. I will highly recommend the program to anyone looking at getting a CS MS. However, it should come with a warning: Gatech will punish you for failing.

Wait a second, of course they should, getting a bad grade because you didn’t understand the material or didn’t do the work or didn’t regurgitate the correct answer on a closed book test, directly leads to punishment, right? Sure, I have bad time management, better than before, still bad, but it’s not quite what I mean: Gatech will punish you for doing better a second time. This is much more controversial.

In the startup world there is a saying of “fail fast” that is, try many different things to see what sticks. In a good company failure is celebrated as a learning opportunity. In normal companies failure is grounds for firing. Not showing up to work? Obvious fireable offense, barring reasons. Trying an interesting project that flops? Should never be punished except when the repercussions can’t be absorbed or mitigated.

But in the world of academics it is a whole different animal. If you fail it goes on your record and that is it, always a mark against you. In some cases a permanent mark against you can be a good warning flag for employers or future institutions: “This person has done very poorly in this area.” But more often it is much more of an indicator of environment and what the person is going through at the time they get the grade. For those persistent folks out there who have perfect time management, I applaud you.

In my undergrad degree  the university had a policy of replacing the first grade with the second if it was better. Then after three attempts they started to average the grades. There was room for big improvements, but then it was tempered to make sure someone didn’t just take advantage of the system. I understand Georgia Tech’s system might want the grad students to be able to discern if they are going to pass the class, but this is nearly impossible when the professors don’t have a good idea of how the grades might be “bumped” or curved.

Either way I have dropped both classes. Failure is tough, freeing, but I can’t get over the fact that I spent money and vast amounts of time on these classes. Fortunately for Computer Vision I am pretty sure that I will be able to use/improve the code from the first five assignments that I did. I am not sure I will take databases again. I learned things, but I don’t want to learn it in a formal way, rather just apply what I need to do my job.

I will probably sign up for one summer course, one fall course, and so on. Very annoying, but at least it won’t kill me in the process.

It does free up time: travel, bird class, fencing, bird watching, archery. So many things plus more writing and actually adjusting and using my 3d-printer.

Failing sucks, and quitting is failing, it just feels worse.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Short Story: Dreams with no Prophecy

“How did we start talking about Joey?” My brother frowned. It was a bit weird I admit.

“Because we were talking about people we know, or knew.” I tried to adjust the flimsy plastic armor plate biting into my shoulder.

“Yeah, but she was a cat.” He leaned back against the netting of the seat and fiddled with the straps, some derision in his tone.

“My favorite.”

He chuckled and shook his head. I just smiled ruefully. A few more pallets arrived on an autonomous lift and were placed in the center of the hold. Neither my brother or I moved as the privates and corporals secured them. That felt weird too, but then we would have been in the way.

I continued, “I think it’s because she lived a long, full life.”

“Yeah, all 19 years. But do you really think so? You always could ‘reason’ your way through anything.” He focused on the tie-downs as the squad finished their work.

I felt a bit defensive, but took a breath before answering. “I was going to say that it really helped me.” I forced a laugh, “But I still can’t reason my way through this mess.” I waved my hand in a circle.

“No kidding. You’ve lived twice as long as that cat.” He didn’t continue down last night’s conversation. It was no use in raging about how in less than 2 weeks we would have a different administration, or in four months I would be too old for the draft. This president wanted to go out with a bang, just like when he came into office with scandals galore.

“Here comes the sergeant. Ready to go back to Texas?”

He grimaced. “Not to put down a riot. Not even just to visit in January.”

“Sirs?” Sergeant Hector stopped and saluted. It was nice that they gave both of us commissions after drafting us for our technical knowledge, but it felt like a dream, a bad one at that. I saluted and felt like I did it wrong. “We are just about ready for dust-off. Two minutes.” Idling engines spooled-up as if on his command. I nodded, and he turned to finish preparations.

“So many almosts,” I said as I pulled out my hardened tablet.


“Just so many things that I almost did.” I had to shout to be heard over the engines now. I attached the tablet to my knees so I could use both hands.

“We might get through this.” Strained hope at the top of his voice.

“Against violently celebrating, well-armed voters? So much for ‘great again.’” I hoped the well-armed part was a lie like most of the eight years. But I had to put politics aside and focus on the defense of the aircraft we rode in. If anybody hacked it, my brother, myself, and twenty-six other men and women wouldn’t even stand a chance to see a different world.


Dreams with happy endings,
Disappoint when awake.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Mostly Up, Some Down

This week has been a rollercoaster ride emotionally with school. I just finished the 4th project of 8 for my computer vision course, all about calibrated and un-calibrated stereo vision matrices. Fun stuff. I also got back a terrible grade from the other class, pretty sure that I have to get straight A’s the rest of the semester to get a B. I feel responsible, and between the problem of too many people in the class and the course instructor shooting down my plea to grade the part that we forgot, I almost quit.

I really need to talk to people about if this whole master’s is worth it for my career. Or would I be better off writing and living more?

I have been writing, not as much as I should nor in a great place (read: procrastination.) I have been working on the novel that I wrote 50k words for NaNoWriMo in 2015, mostly going through my wife’s comments and trying to make it read a bit better. The nice thing about waiting so long is that I can really have a critical eye. Nothing is spared. It feels far enough separated that I can be a bit ruthless with the story and the editing.

However, I read somewhere yesterday that a self-supporting, self-publishing author is writing and releasing a book a month. Craziness. I recently read a self-published book that had potential but it mostly felt awkward, and I am pretty sure that it took far longer. But I did pay for it, so I guess… I would like to write enough that I am able to actually release books, although I really want to release quality only. Probably means I will need to hire a real editor for a final pass on the NaNoWriMo book, which looks like it is pretty expensive.

At the moment this writing thing is a side-quest, mostly just to distract me, something like writing this blog. I practice, probably less than I should as with everything, and then I spend money to lose money. Just like writing this blog. Everything is vanity, dust blowing in the wind.

A few months ago I made sure to filter my analytics a bit better to take out the fake traffic, 333 two months before, 33 two months after. It is pretty bad. I think my main problem is that I don’t even have a small audience, and on top of that I am really bad at publishing posts on a regular basis. I do have another Phyton episode, but I am also rethinking how that is going to go.

To segue: working for the Lab of Ornithology is still really awesome. It has its issues, and I still have quite a bit to learn, but it is awesome how much people like birds. I will try to write a bit on the travails of learning Solr.

Even more awesome is how much my wife is into birding as well. We went down to the park by the lake this morning just to walk around and bird. In 25 degree, 40 mph winds. It’s not just that she loves me, which I definitely don’t discount, but that she is as interested in birding as I am. That make three activities that we can share, birding, fencing, and archery. There are actually more like hiking and more, but I just think it is awesome that my best friend is my wife and we can go out and do things together.

In many other ways we differ: I do not like seeing movies more than once in a rather long period of time. Same goes for TV shows. Is it my need for new things? Maybe, though I have started to read a few books that I have read before as I try to see how some of my favorite authors write, not just reading for the story. I digress.

Back to birds, it is so weird to be so interested in counting birds. There is something to be said for this obsession though, something about how different birds are. Not just from us, but from one another. Think about how many different mammals you see. For me in the last month: Coyote, Deer, Fox (or was that the month before), dead skunk, a martin perhaps, and stray cats. Six species, nothing particularly special. Compare that to March 1st of this year, just one day and less than an hour of birding: 21 species. If I add March 2nd I think I will be up to nearly 30 species. The diversity is huge, just go take a look at the bird photo search at And they are everywhere, maybe not in great numbers or sometimes very mono-species, but there is a good chance of seeing at least one bird soon.

Of course we also signed up for a Field Ornithology Course. When I am crazy and can’t get my homework done in a timely manner, what’s better than adding yet another obligation? Hopefully I live to write about it all.

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**

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