alexr_rwx: (Default)
Just read Machinamenta: The Thousand-Year Quest to Build a Creative Machine by Douglas Summers-Stay!

It's not a long book, but it's got lots of interesting bits about the intertwining histories of augury, formal systems, games, creativity, language, art and artifice. In some of the most interesting bits, he talks about the very early interactions between approaches to fortune-telling in Africa and the Near East and early versions of the game Mancala. There were also great glimpses into the work on automata in Europe since the Renaissance, and early machine-generated poetry. And quick discussions about the relevant philosophy-of-mind and the various relevant approaches to AI, while grounding them in the historically relevant philosophical views. (ie, rule-based deductive systems are in a sense an outgrowth of the European Rationalist tradition)

He talks a lot about shifting standards of what counts as art, though this is sort of implicitly in a Western setting -- it would be interesting to talk about whether standards for what counts as "art" differed dramatically in different parts of the world. Or how about currently?

All in all, I'd say that this book is a good sampler of interesting things -- I wanted it to give more detail about any of the topics! Anything in here could easily be expanded into several books themselves.

And somehow, after all this, he didn't definitively put a box around what Counts As Art or Counts As Creativity, and source code for a Truly Creative Machine is not included with the book. Maybe that'll be in the second edition.

Links:
- Blog associated with the book
- Talk by the author on basically this subject matter
alexr_rwx: (Default)
For another ska resurgence.

4th wave, forthcoming! Let me know if you want to be in my ska band.

(tonight during dinner I was spinning this elaborate backstory for one of Lindsey's coworkers, whom I don't know very well, about how she's super into ska and always wears two-tone checkerboard patterns and clothes with enough freedom-of-motion so she can skank wildly at a moment's notice)

(I'm pretty glad Lindsey puts up with me)
alexr_rwx: (Default)
People are often like "ew, the South Bay". And there are valid reasons for that! But you know what kind of stuff is in the South Bay? The Digital Game Museum.

There is *so much* computing history around these parts, and the Digital Game Museum is doing quite a lot to catalog it and archive and preserve it!

I went to volunteer there tonight -- found out about the event through a local Meetup group -- and it was super interesting. There was the museum director and four other volunteers (and me), and they were all super cool people. We went through a few boxes of donations and cataloged everything in them. Mostly, the box I picked through was the game boxes from old 3DO games, which had been carefully flattened for archival purposes. There were some really strange ones, such as Shelley Duvall's It's a Bird's Life and Dennis Miller's That's News To Me. But also SUPER STREET FIGHTER II TURBO (did you know there was a 3DO version?) and SAMURAI SHODOWN (which *I* didn't know had a 3DO release).

We also went through a bunch of N64 and SNES game boxes, all of which had been nicely flattened! I sat down with a scanner and scanned all the pages of the manual for the first-edition "Street Fighter II" manual for the SNES.

The people there had all kinds of interesting interests; it turns out the director has this fascination with Korean culture, and she was talking with one of the volunteers about their favorite K-TV-dramas. Another volunteer was a university student studying history, and another was a programming teacher who'd formerly worked on AAA video games. (like the relatively recent Tomb Raider games!)

A few of the items that we cataloged, for your perusal:
https://www.digitalgamemuseum.org/collection/items/show/2665
https://www.digitalgamemuseum.org/collection/items/show/2660
https://www.digitalgamemuseum.org/collection/items/show/2655
https://www.digitalgamemuseum.org/collection/items/show/2651
https://www.digitalgamemuseum.org/collection/items/show/2645
https://www.digitalgamemuseum.org/collection/items/show/2642
https://www.digitalgamemuseum.org/collection/items/show/2643
https://www.digitalgamemuseum.org/collection/items/show/2636
https://www.digitalgamemuseum.org/collection/items/show/2634

I'll have to go back and look at the collection as a visitor, rather than as a volunteer...
alexr_rwx: (Default)
There's a repeating scene that happens at our house. The doorbell rings, and at the door is a youngish man, typically Black or sometimes Latino, and he's dressed in a suit or sometimes a baseball uniform. Selling magazine or newspaper subscriptions. And he's got a patter down; he says he knows that you don't need magazines or a newspaper on paper anymore, but won't you help him get commissions for selling them?

Today it was a guy saying he'd come from Valdosta, Georgia, and he wants to show his young son that he can *be somebody* by selling magazine subscriptions and *becoming a manager*. Sometimes it's a kid who wants to Get Money For College. Or the kid in the baseball uniform helpfully informs you that their motto is "accountability and responsibility now -- drugs and gangs never!!"

It's really super sad that this is happening, for a number of reasons. Firstly and most importantly, there should be good actual jobs in the world. Door-to-door magazine subscription sales has got to be all kinds of demoralizing. And demeaning. The racism inherent here is palpable; there's a script that these guys have to go through to ensure you, the person opening the door of a house in an affluent neighborhood in Silicon Valley, that they're one of the Good Ones.

One step out from that, it's all kinds of disgusting that dying media companies are exploiting under-employed people to prop up print media sales. I wonder whether this moves the needle for their subscription numbers. Maybe it's not the media companies themselves, but some smaller operators who've discovered they can do something that looks like charity for profits. Operating costs have got to be tiny.

What to do in the short term? What to do in the long run? I mean, clearly in the long run we need to head towards a more equitable and just society where people aren't forced to do stuff like this.

In the short term, of course, I don't need more sheets of paper being mailed to the house.

I have a problem: both physical mail -- not mail carriers -- and people knocking on the door really upset me. My goal, when someone knocks on the door, is to sneak up behind them. Ideally I'd be mysteriously on the front walk directly behind them with a scowl on my face and a steaming hot cup of coffee in hand, steam on my glasses. "Can I help you?" I'm actually a very nice person usually.
alexr_rwx: (Default)
As of this evening, I turned in another dissertation chapter! Now up to 4 of them.

This hasn't been a necessarily smooth or fun or rewarding process! But I'ma get it done.

Check check check it.

It's entirely possible that my advisor and actual-acting-advisor will have a lot of feedback for that chapter, but I already got, and responded to, quite a lot of it...

More than three weeks left in the sabbatical for cranking! I bet I can get two (or three??!) more chapters done before I go back to work!
alexr_rwx: (Default)
If I'm trying to work at my desk, and a cat jumps on the desk -- you know, to stomp around, head-butt my hands and walk back and forth in front of the screen -- then I pick up the cat, hold it like a baby, and do some squats. Repeat until cat voluntarily leaves the room :3
alexr_rwx: (Default)
So late this past summer, I had a hard drive fail on me. This was pretty upsetting -- I had all of my *code* checked in on github, but it still had a lot of files on it that I didn't want to lose, so I took it to one of those data recovery places, and they were able to get the files off of it. It was kind of expensive and something of a hassle, but I got my files back.

So in response to this, I got a little networked hard drive thing for backups (a WD MyCloud). Surprisingly affordable -- and what's neat is that it's just a tiny Linux server running Debian with an ARM chip on it. Most of the setup is through a nice little web interface, but you can also ssh in and configure it like you would any Linux server.

By default, though, it's not running NFS like I'd wanted it to. It's really not that hard to set these things up, but it's not obvious how to do that from the web menus. I just went with something like these instructions here, though.

And now I've got a cute little embedded Linux device sitting on a 6TB spinning disk, shared over NFS. This is an OK future in many ways.
alexr_rwx: (Default)
So it seemed like a good time to start a new blog. I used to journal all the time over on LJ ([livejournal.com profile] oniugnip), but somehow got out of the habit of that. My friends have almost all trickled away from LJ, and it's kind of sad.

I need an outlet, though, and I want to write about what I'm up to over here. I picked "rwx" intentionally -- I'll talk about what I'm reading, writing, and executing.

2015 was sort of a mixed bag, for me. I had a lot of success professionally -- and I really do love my job -- but felt like I didn't always take care of myself outside of that.

I didn't make a whole lot of progress on my doctoral work, which has been hanging over me for quite some time. It needs to get done.

My running wasn't all that great; I spent the summer injured, and while I've come back from that injury, I haven't been in super race shape.

I've taken some steps to make my social life better -- joined some meetups and played vidja games with people in person a fair bit -- but I still feel like I need better social outlets, both in person and online.

And I haven't had a lot of great intellectual or creative outlets. I need to produce weird side projects and/or art. I need to read more, and to reflect and write about what I'm reading.

Almost all of this will be improved greatly by finishing up my dissertation. I'm taking the month of January off from work (unpaid); I realize I'm extraordinarily fortunate to be able to do this, both from a financial standpoint, and from a job flexibility standpoint. But a month without getting paid is a nontrivial monetary hit, so I have to make this count. I want to get everything close to done, if not completely done. Gotta treat it like a job.

So for January, my goals are: dissertate hard. Talk to people. Read and write a lot. Work out all the dang time.

My life, on paper, is going extraordinarily well. But I've gotta get strong and happy and healthy.
alexr_rwx: (removal of signs)
You know what's undignified? Human bodies.

My left ear is all clogged up, and I can't seem to unclog it. Whenever I think about it, I just fume.

It's been like this since Sunday. I could feel it happen at the moment. It did this back in September too. Both my ears, actually, last time.

And this is so minor, as ailments go. But it's completely infuriating and embarrassing and nonobvious to anybody around me. But I can't hear people talking to me very well, and I'm like "WHAT? SPEAK UP", or just taking flying guesses as to what they said. And it hurts a little bit.

I've got ear drops (etc) and I took a hot bath yesterday and I'm about to stab myself. I did headstands. I've been constantly trying to pop my ears. I don't know how to fix this. Sooner or later, I should see an ENT.

Imagine what it'll be like actually having things to actually wrong for real. FFS I may not handle aging well.
alexr_rwx: (mascot bob)
Last weekend, Martin and I headed up to Seattle for the fightgames tournament!

I wrote about it at length on my tumblr (Day 1, Day 2), but the upshot is that we had a great time, and that Martin is the raddest for coming along and being supportive and asking questions. I think he finds this whole fighting games community hullabaloo fairly interesting; maybe in general, it's compelling to watch people who are excited and skillful and competitive do their thing.

This was a really serious tournament, especially for Tekken: Seattle has a very active, competitive scene, and pretty much all the greatest players from around the US were there. I played a bunch of really interesting casual matches against a bunch of players, and it was super fun.

When it came time to actually compete, I defeated the #2 player in Seattle, in the sense that he was scheduled to play me, but he didn't show up, so he got DQ'd! Then for my next two matches, I got thoroughly wrecked by some tournament veterans; two very strong Pacific Northwest players who ended up placing 4th and 5th respectively in our pool. I was sad about losing so hard for a minute, but then we got lunch and came back to watch the rest of the matches.

Also, the Seattle area is *beautiful*. It's so green and so hilly, and the water is lovely, and we had a great time exploring the city itself. We went to a rad bar/coffee shop on Saturday night, then on Sunday morning, walked all around the city, including going down to the water and the area around Pike Place Market.

I could totally see wanting to live there (or Portland) at some unspecified point in the future. Winters might be rough, just due to gloom and short days, but they couldn't possibly be nearly as rough as midwest winters.
alexr_rwx: (jacked in)


I, uh... I won Fitocracy.

Just wanted to document this before I log today's activities :D
alexr_rwx: (toasters)
My maternal grandfather, Stan Shaver (jr), who usually went by Granstan (his decision, and he sometimes spelled it with the camel-case!) passed away this morning.

He'd been suffering for a while -- he had cancer, and the chemotherapy had seemed to be working pretty well, but he was in his late 80s, and after a while he just got super sick and lost a lot of weight, and once he started declining, it was pretty rapid. I last saw him in October, and he seemed fairly healthy back then, all things considered. We went for a walk on the beach with some other family members.

He was awesome, and I love him a lot. I could talk about him a fair bit, how he played the accordion, how he liked to go on fun minor adventures (and traveled broadly with my grandmother, during their retirement!), how he was awesome at Jeopardy! because he read a fair bit and was a trivia sponge (this seems to be hereditary)...

But: let me tell you a story, the abridged version of which he told me over the phone, a few weeks ago. I never got the full version.

My great-grandfather (Stan Senior) was involved in some shady real-estate deals in pre-Revolution Cuba. One such deal was that, apparently, he was selling the rights to land that either didn't exist or that he didn't own on the Isla de la Juventud (which was then called "Isle of Pines" -- what GranStan called it when he told me this story), a big island just south of the main island of Cuba. At some point -- maybe investors discovered the scam -- he fled from Florida *to* Cuba to hide out.

This was very soon after the war, and my grandfather and his mother were living in Florida, wondering when (if?) Stan Senior was going to come back. So GranStan hops a flight to Cuba to find his father. And he searched Havana, asking around if anybody had seen his father, checking the bars and the US Embassy. Stan Senior was not trying to be found, was the thing.

But eventually, he found him in a particular bar near the embassy, having been tipped off by a woman whom he had an inkling his father had been seeing...

... what I don't know -- and maybe my mom knows -- is what happened once he found his dad. I know he came back to the US eventually (though he passed before I was born), but I don't know if it was just then...
alexr_rwx: (jacked in)
Feb 2015: a young man of Jewish extraction hops across the ocean with his German coworkers to meet up with their Japanese coworkers, in Tokyo. They will discuss various planned improvements to a computer program capable of translating between every single human language that has more than 100 million speakers.

His pocket supercomputer will immediately allow him to stay in contact with his friends and family, with no particular prior arrangements.

... this is an OK future, in a lot of ways.
alexr_rwx: (jacked in)
I have kind of a lot of miscellaneous feelings, and maybe writing about them will help sort them out. Or maybe I'll just free-associate for a while.

On paper, at least, life is going really well, and I feel guilty complaining.

But I've been unhappy in a lot of ways, and I need to fix things.

A lot of it is anxiety about my PhD, and honestly a lot of anger about how my doctoral work has gone. My experience at IU was not good, on the whole. When I finish it, it's going to be largely driven by spite and defiance, like "you think *this* was going to stop me? ..." [0]

... except that nobody really particularly cares about my research one way or the other. It's not going to help anybody; my advisor is about as checked-out as an advisor can be while still claiming to want me to finish. I strongly doubt that he's going to be able to deploy any kind of MT system for the developing world, like we had said we were going to; we had such big plans, and I wonder in retrospect how much I believed we were going to be able to accomplish.

It seemed so far-fetched, but then we did go to Paraguay and we really did talk with all those people in the schools and at the Secretariat of Language Policy. That was real.

But I feel stuck, in a lot of ways. I need to feel like I'm moving forward.

And kind of isolated, a lot of the time. I end up alone in the house a lot, at least when I'm not working.

As a related complaint: my online interactions haven't been great, and I don't feel like I have a good venue for complaining. I actually often don't feel like I'm *allowed* to complain. My problems seem insignificant, and isn't it my job to help people, rather than whinging?

I actually look at a lot of Twitters, and I think "Jebus, why are you griping about everything in public? STFU and do something worthwhile." ... and I don't want to be that person.

I need to get my thoughts in order, STFU, and make something worthwhile, or at least finish my doctoral work so that I can move on to making worthwhile things.


I recently read Bowling Alone, which is a sociology book about the declining stocks of "social capital" in the US in the latter third of the 20th century. It's super interesting, and I would heartily recommend it. But the book was published in 2000, and I get the impression, at least, the the issues outlined in the book (the gradual erosion of trust and community bonds, and the myriad problems this causes) haven't been reversing; getting involved in local politics, joining a bowling league, and even knowing your neighbors all still seem quaint and anachronistic. Putnam writes about how (at that point, in 2000) it's still unknown whether online communities are going to help kickstart a broader sense of community in the country.

From my tiny experience, I don't know whether online discourse is helping. My battle cry -- I say this in person a lot -- is that everybody on the Internet with any opinion is Literally Hitler.

The place where I see the best, most civil, thoughtful disagreements these days is actually G+. LJ has historically been really good for this. Twitter seems engineered for drive-by snark-sniping; I'm on indefinite Twitter hiatus, if you didn't notice.

In any case. Maybe I'll complain more here or on IRC. A good kvetch is good for you, right?

updates!

Dec. 30th, 2014 11:08 pm
alexr_rwx: (coffee)
Hey, I should write here more often!

I should write more often broadly!

Right now, I'm hanging out with the Kupers in Iowa. It's comfortable here, despite the fact that it's -4 F outside. We (Lindsey and Maya and I, along with their Grandma Annie) spent the day driving up to Minneapolis, to visit their grandfather Kenny, who's currently getting his pacemaker replaced and is laid up in the hospital for a bit, but is otherwise doing well. They're both still really sharp, though, and live in their own house.

Last week, we were in Florida, hanging out with my family! My little niece Penelope is growing and learning to be a person, and it's unreasonably rad. She looks at you with her little aware eyes and smiles and makes all kinds of expressive expressions.

Life is pretty alright. Although I'm kind of looking forward to getting back home and getting some work done, to be honest.

Time to finish that dissertation and/or get super fit. I want muscles and fast marathon times and a PhD. Oh, and better translations.

Better translations would be pretty cool.
alexr_rwx: (Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin)
US Airways flight 1829. We were about to take off, and the woman directly behind me starts saying, increasingly loudly, that she's feeling really sick and she's probably going to hurl.

I hand her a barf bag from the seat-back pocket. She's like "I'm gonna hurl! And I just got back from Nigeria! ..."

She's hustled up to the lavatory in the front of the plane, where she presumably throws up. I can't see from my seat.

Then silence for a long time. An asshole towards the front of the plane is repeatedly yelling that they should get her off the plane.

More silence. We're waiting for like two hours. There are periodic announcements that they're waiting for the "health department" (CDC?) to make an announcement and we all have to stay on the plane until then. At some point, paramedics come, which I can't really see. There's an ambulance pulled up along side the plane, and another truck.

This is all fine, sure. Gotta be careful!

Then they announce over the PA: "The woman who got sick has definitely not left the country recently. And she certainly does not have Ebola."

Later revised: "She has definitely not been to any countries recently that have had problems with Ebola..."

... that's pretty brazen. That's just a straight-faced lie. She saw fit to announce that she'd been to Nigeria immediately before hurling.

The delay, I don't mind so much. It's the lie. That's pretty toxic to a society. How are we supposed to trust anybody in a position of authority?
alexr_rwx: (happy robot)
This morning, I'm riding my bike to work, like I do. Along the Stevens Creek Trail, headed north.

And there's a guy going down the trail with sort of a weird running motion. And then I realize he's really tall. Like really tall.

My brain tries to work out the situation: Wait, no, he's bouncing more than he ought to! He's on springy stilt-things! Wait, are those like prosthetic legs with leaf-springs? ... with... running shoes attached to the end?

As I get closer: as best I can describe it, it was a guy of fairly normal height and apparently working legs, with pogo-stilts strapped on, with running shoes attached to the bottom of his pogo-stilts. Running down the trail at a pretty good clip.

Welcome to Silicon Valley! I'ma get an ElliptiGO and look relatively normal by comparison!

perks

Oct. 7th, 2014 07:37 pm
alexr_rwx: (coffee)
Really important discovery today at work.

During the time it takes the coffee machine to brew a cup of coffee, I can go up to the next floor and slide down the slide, which deposits me right back at the coffee machine.

Life is rough. (also the slide is really twisty, and dark inside.)
alexr_rwx: (jacked in)
http://alexr-fightgames.tumblr.com/

In case you're interested in my thoughts on Tekken, adventures in building/modifying joysticks, trying/playing/reviewing other games (there are so many!), the fighting games community, tournaments, possibly inclusivity and gender in the FGC...

Ha, oh man. Also I'm starting my new job on Monday :D :D :D

(and I still need to finish the dissertation...)
alexr_rwx: (jacked in)
In my office, because I'm a kind of messy, there is a black t-shirt crumpled up on top of my desktop machine.

Every time I come into the room, I see it out of the corner of my eye, and I think "oh! Andre1 is on top of my computer..."

... my friends, some of them, can look a lot like crumpled-up shirts.



1 Andre is a little2 black cat.
2 He's actually pretty big for a cat, just smaller than his buddy.
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