Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Wait, Prepare, Wait

What is probably the worst combination in the history of the world? Promising and procrastinating.

I do this all the time, I promise my wife I will do something, but if I don’t do it right away I forget, or just plain procrastinate. I would like to say that procrastination is doing other things while still having the thing that you need to do in the forefront of your mind, but then I think forgetting about things has just the same effect, although less stressful until you remember. Of course the disappointment in myself is pretty big, but that is dwarfed by the feeling of having disappointed someone else, especially my wife.

Right now, as I write this, I am procrastinating. Sort of. I’ve read through assignment 3 and I need to let it simmer. But I am also waiting for the peer feedback for assignment 2 to be uploaded so that I can get that done for the class. It doesn’t look good for “the drop” tonight. I am also using this moment to write, write “I” enough that I think I might need to edit this.

This is an okay equilibrium at the moment, because it has many layers of preparedness: I am early wanting peer feedback, I have read the assignment a week before it is due and it builds off of the previous one, I am practicing writing which is crucial for this class, and I will update my to-do list before going to practice my cello, then reading and then bed. Right now, everything is under control.

It’s a good feeling, but of course fleeting because this week is going to flit by one way or another.

So is this waiting any better than just getting things done at the last instant? It’s hard to say from this end. Is it temporary motivation that I am chomping at the bit? Have I finally begun to learn discipline? (Note: whenever I think this way I remember all the things that I would like to add to my disciplined schedule and how many things I have failed at already in terms of discipline.)

It’s going to be hard to say from the other end. There is something to finishing something all in one go. Something satisfying about having just finished, and it’s addictive (Wait But Why.) I remember one of my most exhilarating coding days, I knew I needed to write a user interface to test the new receiver in the telescope. I put it off until the day of, and finished, not well, that same day. Here is the description in passing. It made me realize that being an expert at a chosen technology can mean that you can get things out quickly. While that is an awfully nice thought, a better one is getting it done over the course of weeks, consulting with people, and being on-hand for the commissioning.

I still have a problem with discipline at work as distractions are plentiful, but I also can get quite a bit done just being that much more of an expert. Something about having worked for 10 years as of the 21st of January.

There is no perfection in my work. I strive to understand better ways of doing things, new things I come across, but I am much more confident. I wait quite a bit more, but on the other side. I find things to do, things that I should be remembering sooner, and things that may make at least one person’s job easier.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jumble

What do you get with “space bombers” actually dropping bombs on another ship? A terrible premise that falls apart before the movie even really begins. And then a low-speed chase? Anybody with a grain of sense would have just jumped out a few destroyers and then jumped back in just on top of the rebel fleet, knocked out engines or power, and let the rest of the fleet catch up. Rebellion over.

Though I am too “good” hearted to have been happy with that outcome, but really those are just the starting mistake and the rest of movie’s premise really just make it hard to suspend my inner-critic, or my disbelief at the very least; it just becomes hard to enjoy any of the rest of the movie.

I have almost no problem with saving Leia from the vacuum of space, except: Both the rebels and pursuers are burning fuel, and in space that means they are accelerating, meaning that Leia would have to react instantly to draw herself toward the ship, or be left very far behind. And she would have been shredded by debris if she wasn’t vaporized in the explosion, both requiring a presence of mind where she probably wouldn’t have floated out at all. The Expanse does it better.

Speaking of starship bridges, there are so many things wrong. Why is the bridge so close to the surface of the vessel? Does the retro style of Star Wars really explain large indefensible windows? And what is anybody doing on a starship that is so easily perforated without a pressure suit and helmet to hand? I guess it would mess with the flowing gowns the costume department insists on.

I don’t like the sharing visions, it just seems like a poorly conceived or explained way to cheat.

So if you kill a character, how fast do you replace him with another rogue? About half a movie, except this guy hasn’t bought in to the rebels, so maybe that is Episode 9? At least he is more interesting than most of the rest of the characters.

And the final jumble: Force balancing. The overall implication of force balancing makes this a very fraught subject. Does it mean, for instance, that Rey should kill all other “good” force users so that she is more powerful? Don’t train anybody? Maybe they will all end up stunted and she can be the most powerful. It’s almost Sithian.

Does having two equally balanced but supremely powerful force users mean that no others exist? Oh no that womp rat is a light-side force user, but only so far as a womp rat can be, but it means Rey is that much less powerful and unequal to Kylo Ren.

Basically they just introduced a philosophy for the world of Star Wars that is nearly impossible to continue without bending over backwards in order to explain it.

To summarize I give it full marks for getting deeper into a quagmire introduced in the Prequels,  full marks for a shiny but despicable cantina, almost full marks for imaginative action sequences, and far less than stellar marks for a plot line and any adherence to even in-universe physics.

Start 2018, Review Some 2017

What’s more disappointing than failing to do well in a class? Working hard and then failing anyway, at the last irreparable moment.

I didn’t actually fail, but C’s are no longer average and certainly not in a program with thousands of computer science students. I would like to say that I am a more well-rounded individual because I did other things that led to me not putting enough time into this class. That is unfortunately not the case. I quit orchestra, said no in several cases where the church needed help with sound, stayed home from small groups, sequestered myself from visitors, and relied on my wife’s good graces to survive and stay in an up-kept house. Really there were only two main (good) things that I got from this experience:

I came up with an effective way, for me, to study for an open-note exam. The fact that I didn’t fail it outright means that I must have done something right. Essentially it breaks down into how to go back over the lectures and the slides looking and listening for key pieces, noting them, and then having some recollection of it. This review took place for the week leading up to the exam. I didn’t do great, but much better than the test that prompted me to drop this class last spring.

And, amazingly, I learned about a few things that I would have liked to have known going into the robot competition last year. Go figure. So unless they drastically change the Computer Vision Course I would suggest giving yourself between 10 to 30 hours a week in order to get things done.

Not being one to dwell on past failures, except where it is due, I am looking forward to the next class quite a bit: Education Technology. This class is much more free-form, reading, discussing, and a project/paper. There are no lectures, but it looks like it will need a bunch more reading.

It will be challenging, but I think that if I use the resources at the lab, papers and interview people, then I should be on a good path to have a good path/project for this class. In fact I am starting a project that is all about tech and education, a bird quiz!

As the year is winding down I have been thinking of how I can improve a bunch of my processes. It is pretty hard to think clearly about life and homework while in the midst of it, especially in the Dark Playground. But now with more time, some hindsight, and a few good ideas there should be some subtle ways to improve.

Fortunately my positive goals are somewhat easy to accomplish: exercise, practice cello, write. Are these New Year’s resolutions? Yes and no. At the heart they are resolutions, however, they aren’t quite so nebulous as just those three things strung together in a sentence.

Before the new year began we had nine guests out for Christmas: my folks, my wife’s folks, my brother and his wife, my wife’s brother and sister, and her great uncle. Only one person had to sleep on a cot, and he wasn’t too bothered by that. Of course one major thing had to fail for it to be complete: The pellet stove gave out and therefore wasn’t helping the boiler to heat the house. The boiler has no way to prioritize domestic water and so we had no hot water for showers. We are remedying that this year, but I am glad it wasn’t the fridge or toilets or something else. It was great having a house full of people. We won’t do it again next year, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the future, especially when we finish the inside of the barn.

If all goes well 2018 will be the year that I graduate.

P.S. This year I learned about events, that is, remembering events is so much better than just buying a new thing. Avoiding the detailed discussion that I would love to have about that: I went to Brain Candy Live and paid the bunch extra to meet Adam Savage and Michael Stephens in person! It was totally cool, geek credentials are totally secure.

Also my wife took me to a Piano Guys concert in D.C.! It was awesome, if a bit loud. Both within weeks of each other. I am pretty happy with that, now just to write the next great American sci-fi novel, right? Okay, maybe I should focus on Homework.

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