Friday, October 29, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Villains are great in fiction. They act as the antagonist and give the protagonist (often a hero) someone to measure up against. In a created universe it is easy to paint a villain as either one-dimensionally bad or maybe just seriously misguided. I think that we are too quick to apply the label of villain in the real world. There may be some who actually deserve it, but I feel like almost all groups make villains in order to either have antagonists or scapegoats.
I really started to think about this a while back when I was looking for LDS films on Netflix. Eventually I found States of Grace. A more familiar description of it to most mormons would be God's Army 2. Richard Dutcher, the director, pioneered modern LDS commercial cinema. I have not yet seen States of Grace, but I found the first film thought provoking and fairly well done. It was definitely hyperbole, but that's Hollywood.
I was a little shocked to discover he had left the LDS church a few years back (letter announcing his departure, second follow-up letter, interview at the beginning of this month). Like God's Army, a lot of what he said stoked my brain. In particular I enjoyed his apology of Thomas Marsh from the second follow-up letter. Thomas Marsh really is reduced to a one-liner Sunday School lesson. There has to be more depth. He was the chief apostle, after all. A similar apostolic example is that of Judas. Do you think Jesus would pick him just so he would be in a position to fail? That is not very charitable. I think Judas must have been a valiant disciple and good apostle, at least at the start. I have heard that Jesus Christ Superstar deals with this theme more, but I have never seen or heard it (but I did wiki it).
Continuing on the mormon theme, what happens when we apply this line of questioning to characters in the Book of Mormon? While I think the order of Nehor, the King-men, and the Gadianton Robbers, are difficult to justify, the Lamanites are often painted negatively. Especially in the beginning of the book. There are times, when this depiction is obviously unjustified. Jacob calls the Nephites out by pointing to the fidelity of the Lamanite husbands. The sons of King Mosiah lead an extremely successful missionary effort about midway through Nephite history. Numerous dissenting Nephite groups are accepted and embraced into Lamanite culture. I propose that the issue is all are about how the Nephites looked at their Lamanite brothers. Nobody likes being viewed as ignorant villains.
One of my favorite scenes from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (the movie) is when Faramir turns over the fallen Southron and says:
The enemy? His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he comes from, and if he really was evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home, and would he not rather have stayed there... in peace? War will make corpses of us all.In other words, he ponders if the Southron is really a villain, or if maybe the Southron even viewed the men of Gondor as the villains.
The last aspect I want to touch on is that of politics. The modern political scene in America is a horrible example of vilification. Each side of the aisle tries to make the other look like the bigger villains, while neither seems to care about actually making progress. Television ads, news stories, campaign debates, and strategists/pundits all focus on talking points and slander instead of the actual issues. People are fed up with this behavior in Washington, with the unfortunate result of a bunch of crazies (the TEA party) gaining a foothold. See! Even I can't help it. I made them into the villains.
I'll end with a clip from this past Monday's Daily Show about the firing of Juan Williams:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|NPR Staffing Decision 2010|
Monday, October 25, 2010
On to the point of this post: New England's Best Movers. The fellow who picked up my couch used the opportunity to give me some business cards. He has recently started a moving/removal/delivery/anything company called New England's Best Movers. The emphasis in the name is on moving, but it sounds like they'll do just about any job.
I have not actually used their service (yet), but the guy was nice and I thought I could express my gratitude for taking our couch away by giving a little shout out. They are based in Revere, Massachusetts.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
The Navbox template is a fairly slick way of grouping articles in the midst of a fairly flat structure. I would propose that anyone wanting to make nice looking wikis needs to learn about templates or at least understand them enough to use them well. They are used extensively for navigation, which is important for a hierarchy that continues to grow.
A good place to start with getting templates on a wiki is the Navbox template talk page. At the top of that page it has a description of what you will need to get going, including a link to HTML tidy. It even points to a deprecated version in case you can't get the current one to work. I have found that wiki development is like HTML development: easiest way to learn is to learn from examples. Wikis have pages for copying templates from one wiki to another.
Finally, a few notes about installation. Installation is more-or-less straightforward, although you need a number of pieces. It is all freely available for download. Installing on Fedora is fairly easy. You can even get going with yum install mediawiki.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
- OAuth - One approach I hope we take with privacy is to limit the amount of private data we store. We still want to have access to people's social media, so for that we should use OAuth. OAuth allows a site to access private data without having to reveal your password to the site. My understanding of OAuth does not extend much beyond the introduction of a beginner's guide, but Twitter, Facebook, and Google all have OAuth interfaces.
- Open Social - Open Social is Google's suggested (and open) API for web services. I do not think we will be creating web services, but we should definitely follow this if we do.
- Friend Connect - Google's social overlay for sites. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have legs. Sometime soon Google will make an announcement about social that will either replace or revamp this.
- Facebook Connect - Our website uses Drupal for its content management system. A plugin exists for putting Facebook Connect on a Drupal site. Facebook Connect is basically Facebook's version of Friend Connect.
- PayPal - I have generally stayed away from this site because when it first started it had some privacy/security issues. They seem to have ironed them out now and are a very easy resource for setting up payments.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
C'mon people! Stand up and be counted! I actually understand why the follower left: I probably got too geeky for them. While I hope to have a heavy tech bent on this blog, for a while the only things I blogged about had to do with my involvement in the LDS church. I even briefly changed the name of the blog to "Mormon Yankee Hacker." I have now refocused on tech, but there is a button on the right to my mormon.org profile. I also reserve the right to talk about whatever I want to. It is my blog after all.
The point of this post is to ask for you to follow me on Google friend connect. Then subscribe to my feed. I know everything I write may not be gold, but every once in a while I hit something good!
Sunday, October 17, 2010
- Best Mac software - I have used the PC version of a lot of these and they are great
- Best open-source Mac software - open-source may not mean much to you non-technical folks, bit it is cool
- Best free software (Mac and PC) - With these programs you get way more than you pay for
- Get the free version - Shows a piece of popular software and a fee program with similar functionality
- Open-source iPhone software - It is not for Macs, but it's related
Friday, October 15, 2010
Anyway, this programmable computer idea that Babbage thought up never actually got built as he thought it up. A hundred years later we had the first computers, which used electricity and vacuum tubes. Nobody has actually built an Analytic Engine, the name Babbage gave to his mechanical programmable computer. That's right: mechanical. As in powered by steam, not electricity. There are two Difference Engines, a mechanical calculator he thought up, but no Analytic Engines.
This week on TWiT, John Graham-Cumming explained how he has just started a project to build Babbage's Analytical Engine. He is looking for funding and has elected to attempt a grass-roots collection effort using pledgebank. If 50,000 people commit to $10 (or £10 or €10), then he can get started. He estimates that the project will take about $1,000,000 because of the necessary compilation and research regarding Babbage's notes. He worked on the design throughout his life, so there is no single blueprint to use.
I committed to give $10. Please pledge to give. If you need some more explanation then you can contact me or listen to TWiT or both. You are, of course, welcome to donate more. Leo Laporte pledged to donate $1,000.
I should mention that even though the Analytic Engine has never been built, it was programmed by Lord Byron's daughter: Ada Lovelace. That is where the name of the contemporary programming language comes from. It is speculated that she may have helped with the design of the Analytic Engine as well.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I also am intrigued here by the apparently successful efforts of a former fellow grad-student. He now works for lolo developing iOS apps. The apps look pretty cool (I do not have an iPhone or an iPod touch): lolo burn lite, lolo burn, and tempomagic. I do not know how their apps are doing, but they look impressive to me (I'd buy lolo burn if I had an iPod Touch).
Here are the steps I took to download the SDK and get it installed:
- Go to the Android Developers website. I found myself getting a little bit of that "Christmas morning anticipation feeling" when I went there, but that might be due to my download of the latest KNOPPIX I have going.
- Click on the "Learn more" link under Download to get the SDK!
- View the system requirements and then download Eclipse (triple check to make sure I get the version I want). Install Eclipse by extracting the zip file into the Program Files directory (or wherever you want it).
- Download the Android SDK (more exciting than the Social Network, I know). Unpack it somewhere (I unpacked it into Program Files too) and then add it into your PATH. Do this by right-clicking on your computer (either on your desktop or in the taskbar) and then selecting properties. You then want to get in the advanced system properties and select "Environment Variables." Edit the path variable to have an additional semi-colon and then the absolute path to the Android SDK.
- Use the ADT instructions to install Android Development tools in Eclipse.
- Install all the "extra stuff." I am not sure what I need, and I have plenty of space, so I just installed everything. Yay for free software!
Android is a trademark of Google Inc. Use of this trademark is subject to Google Permissions.
Monday, October 11, 2010
I am by no means a job-finding expert. However, it has worked really well for me a few times. By the end of my undergraduate degree and then by the end of my graduate degree I could pretty much get an interview with almost anybody I wanted. Of course, about half the time (or more) I then proceeded to bomb the interview, but that is a separate post.
This roommate has been searching for a little over a year, and he asked me for a bit of help with the social networking aspect of things. I got my current job through Facebook and am a big believer in the power of social networking. I think it applies better to some fields (like mine) than others, but it can help everybody.
Just a few quick thoughts on social networking:
- Don't overlook your family and friend connections. Let everybody you know keep an eye out for you and help you. It may take some humility to open up and ask for help, but if you don't ask you'll never know
- Always collect contacts. Even if you have a job, collect contacts. Put it in a file somewhere so that you can pull it out when you need it. Cool jobs you see, recruiters that contact you, people who move on from your company. Everyone. Keep email, addresses, and web pages.
- LinkedIn and Facebook are your new BFFs. Learn to use them and love them.
- Spend an afternoon or so one day bolstering your web presence. You can make an on-line resume that includes everything you've ever done. It does not need to be limited to a page. Update your profiles to be resumes and portfolios. Make sure some contact information is available (get a Google Voice number if nothing else).
- Think creatively about jobs and your experience. Some jobs just need smart people who can get trained to do something well. Some jobs just need trusted people. Some jobs just need creative people. Not every job needs 5+ years experience programming in C++.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
You young 'uns may not understand the idea behind these badges. Everybody on the web gave out and collected badges back when the web was new, connections were slow, and browsers were boring. This was before the analytics of a web site were well understood. It was also before Apple's comeback and re-instantiation of elegance in design. This was even before Google got big. In this formative state, people valued badges as identification of quality.
Of course, most of the sites that my Grandpa awarded these badges to are laughably bad by today's standards of web design. However, they still have great content. Take a look around! If you happen to see one of those badges while surfing and I do not know about it, please let me know. Thanks.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Okay, fine. That's not even close to true. However, over the last year I have had a few experiences on Twitter where I tweeted back and forth with famous people. Alright, people famous among nerds.
A little over a year ago, the TWiT network started a new show called This Week in Google. Since I was already a Google fanboy, I subscribed and started listening. At first, one of the panelists got on my nerves because of how often he promoted his book. The panelist is Jeff Jarvis and his book is What Would Google Do. So I voiced my opinion over twitter:
The grotesque self promotion of @jeffjarvis was pretty thick on TWIG 7! We get it, you wrote a book. Talk about something else! #twitI import my tweets into Facebook, plus I wasn't sure I had gotten my point across in that tweet (140 characters is very limiting), so I clarified what I wanted:
I want to see if @jeffjarvis can go the entire episode of TWIG tomorrow without saying "WWGD" a single time. I bet he can't do it. #twitI then felt a little bad shouting out into space about someone I barely knew and who probably wouldn't have the chance to defend himself (plus he had just undergone surgery for prostate cancer). So I tweeted:
Lest you think I'm a hater: I actually like a lot of the ideas @jeffjarvis shares and am glad his surgery went well http://bit.ly/2UZpCNWhile I knew it was a possibility he'd read it, I did not think he would respond. Well, he did read it and he did respond. I do not have his response saved, but here is what I said in answer to his response:
@jeffjarvis Sure. I would normally expect a little self promotion. I just think you went overboard with it this last week.I also said:
@jeffjarvis It was probably just a function of @leolaporte mentioning @audible_com saying to plug other books besides yoursHe then responded saying the more complaints he received, the more he would keep on doing it. So I said: Leo did it for him when he found out Jeff wasn't going to, but Jeff did not do it any that week and was much better about it in the future. So I ate crow:
Finally got around to listening to TWIG. Props to @jeffjarvis for not plugging his book any this week! #twit
Needless to say, I feel more loyalty to Jeff now that he responded and changed because of my (and probably other's) comments. In a later podcast he mentioned "the ethic of the permalink" and a couple articles he had written about it. I asked him for the references to the articles:
@jeffjarvis Excellent articles. Thanks for the response. RT: http://bit.ly/2uxxqk http://bit.ly/3uFcOo
The reason I write about this now is that it happened to me again a couple weeks ago. This time I found myself getting disgruntled listening to This Week in Tech. Kara Swisher was on for the third time. The previous time she was on I found her grating against the TWiT flow, and the same thing happened again this time. So I tweeted:
Not really a big fan of @karaswisher on TWIT. She's obviously good at what she does, I just think she doesn't mesh with the TWIT feel well.Kara co-hosts and co-produces The D Conference, which basically makes her a journalistic goddess in the tech industry. This is one of the reasons I was confused by both my dislike of her on TWiT and her response to my tweet:
@karaswisher I've been trying to put my finger on what I think is off. Maybe you are just different and come on less often, so it is jarringI did eventually figure out the difference. I think most panelists on TWiT are nerds and geeks first and journalists somewhere after that. Kara, on the other hand, seems like a professional journalist first, and she covers nerds and geeks. It makes her less of a "buddy" on the show.
My wife and I recently watched Notting Hill. I think the theme of that movie applies to my experiences with Jeff and Kara. We tend to put these people up on a pedestal and consider them other-worldly. However, they really are normal people. Sometimes they read our tweets. Sometimes they respond. Even though they are normal people, it still made my day every time.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Fast forward a couple years: Super Mario Galaxy 2.
I actually found this game to be a great improvement on the original (which was pretty good to start out with). The original game has 242 stars, but the second 120 stars are just repeats using Luigi instead of Mario, and the last two are just glorified cut scenes. Yes, I got all the stars. A couple weeks ago I got all the stars in Super Mario Galaxy 2 as well. However, the second 120 stars in that game are hidden in the levels and thus not as redundant as in the first game. Also, the last two stars come from a "Grand Challenge" galaxy that is easily the hardest level in the game.
Here's proof of all 242 stars in Super Mario Galaxy 2:
Full disclosure: I did not beat either Super Mario Galaxy game by myself. During both games I had my wife helping out as the second player. This helps immensely. I may have eventually been able to beat all the levels without her, but I more likely would have given up and moved on. During Super Mario Galaxy 2 I had my kids watching and helping too (that is actually helpful when we looked for the hidden green stars).
Friday, October 1, 2010
os.system('lookAtStuff.pl')Awesome, no? Alright, that was not really the script. I have used perl as my scripting language of choice since High School.
My current manager has been trying to convert me to python for many months. The problem has been that I only use a scripting language when I want to do something quick, and if I want to do something quick I do not want to learn a new language before it gets done. That is kind of lame excuse, but it is all I have.
There are really two powerful features in perl that keep me coming back. Yesterday, I dug around and found out how to do those features in python.
- Regular expressions - I spent a summer writing regular expressions to tag corpora for Kurzweil Applied Intelligence (right after they were sold to Lernout & Hauspie). Since that time I have used perl's regular expressions extensively. At first glance, python's regular expressions are a bit clumsy and awkward, but at least it has them. I found the official documentation very useful. The main tricky points being the "The Backslash Plague" and using search instead of match. I think they did that just to be ornery. Python has to "compile" the regular expression before using it, but I am used to that from C++.
- System commands - I normally use my perl scripts to glue together other programs or batch runs together. I have perl call these other programs directly, and sometimes I pipe in the output as a file. Python can do that to, but (like regular expressions) it feels a bit clumsy and awkward to me. The official documentation is useful. For my little script I used listdir and popen. I expect I will use the system command in the future.
That's my $0.02, and my journey in the world of python has officially started. Know of any quality, free, online, and concise references for Python?