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Ugh, stop twitching
life Posted 2009-06-30 15:51:16 by Jim Crawford
So it turns out I've had astigmatism all my life. The optometrist said I “see very well for someone with [my] prescription.” (A funny way of phrasing it, because he was about to give me my first ever optical prescription.) Apparently, aside from the corneal deformation, my eyes are in great shape. It's never been a significant handicap, which is probably why previous optometrists have never deemed it necessary to take action.

I've been talking to friends who were old enough at the time to remember when they first tried corrective lenses, and as you might expect, the reaction was uniformly shock that there was this enormous band of information that they hadn't realized they'd been missing out on. I'm not expecting that kind of revelation, but I am looking forward to being able to crank up the resolution on my monitor.

And as you may have noticed from the occasional post about goggles, I'm a fan of having awesome eyewear, so I'm looking forward to that too.

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method acting
life Posted 2009-05-27 21:52:36 by Jim Crawford
Working through a list of Star Trek: TNG episodes I compiled out of top ten lists and recommendations from friends, since I feel like I'm geek-culture-deficient in this area. I probably know more Star Trek lore from jokes I've heard than from actual episodes.

I'd forgotten forgot how didactic Star Trek is. It's a tossup as to whether I'd've enjoyed it more as a teenager. At this point in my life I already know that time travel might screw up the present and that you should appreciate friends while you still have them and that androids-as-property is slavery, but on the other hand I also have a lot more patience nowadays with being told things I already know.

<pf> worf is really giving beverly the evil eye
<dw> yeah, he'll do that
<dw> he does the jaw grind thing too
<dw> i always liked that
<pf> being a method actor can't be good for your teeth
<dw> they're probably fake anyways
<dw> in ds9 he buys a ferengi tooth sharpener. it's a great sequence

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not-porn porn
life Posted 2009-05-11 00:37:50 by Jim Crawford
There might be an extant word for the concept, but I've been repurposing the word “porn” to describe media that people like for reasons other than that it's good. For instance, somebody might go see a movie simply because it has zombies or gun-kata or Natalie Portman in it. Somebody might listen to music because it has a lot of square waves in it, regardless of whether it's “well-made” or has “artistic value.” So when I say I've been repurposing the word “porn,” I mean I've been using terms like ”zombie porn,” “gun-kata porn,” “square wave porn” and “Natalie Portman porn.” These are a bit misleading, which is one reason I'm looking for a better word.

Another reason I'm looking for a better word is that “porn” has negative connotations. Which, full disclosure, is one of the reasons I originally chose it. But lately I've been wondering whether the only difference between the people who like “well-constructed plots” or “interesting character arcs” in their movies, and the people who like zombies in their movies, is their preference in bullet points.

Examining the kind of media I personally am snobby about, the consistent pattern I see is that its consumers enjoy it because it has a certain pattern, despite it being otherwise execrable. So while I love a good chip tune (for instance, this incredible 6/8 mixolydian chip rock porn), I'm irritated to see NES-nostalgics fawning over a song just because it happens to have square waves in it, regardless of the quality of the music itself.

It's becoming clear to me that my concept of “good” basically consists of patterns that I enjoy without knowing why I enjoy them. Which is not to say that once I've figured a piece out, that I stop enjoying it -- that might be the difference between porn and art. Art, you enjoy without understanding. Porn, you know exactly why you enjoy it.

And that's okay! Maybe I'll keep using “porn.” Maybe the word itself could do with some rehabilitation.
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how to learn
life Posted 2009-04-09 22:55:31 by Jim Crawford
I've never been able to pick up a new technical skill by sucking down a book; I need a project to provide a concrete and practical impetus to give me a reason to learn. But now that I'm older, the project itself needs to be practical. A toy compiler won't cut it. (Note that for my purposes, entertaining-to-other-people counts as practical, but by contrast, a toy compiler would be entertaining only to myself.)

For instance, I'm fascinated by Erlang and I want to learn it, so I've been trying hard to come up with a fun-yet-practical project to build with it. The closest I've been able to come is an OpenGL implementation subset, which fits the tool and would be a lot of fun to make, but fails the practicality test hard; the world so does not need another mediocre software renderer.

Still want to learn it. Still racking my brain for an appropriate project. ... maybe it would help if I had a seriously multicore CPU to take advantage of.

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life Posted 2009-03-29 22:28:56 by Jim Crawford
I've been going out jogging pretty much daily lately. It took less just a couple of weeks for it to surpass Dance Dance Revolution as my favorite form of exercise. I've been trying to suss out why, and though I haven't quite put my finger on it, I have enumerated the following virtues:
  • Exercise releases endorphins.
  • It's aerobic, so you asphyxiate, which is a natural high.
  • It's a repetitive motion, so you enter a meditative state.
  • You're constantly passing by new scenery -- I've been jogging in different places at different times of day to enhance this.
The odd thing is, I would expect DDR to provide all these pleasures plus the additional pleasures of playing a game. Perhaps the downtime of selecting a new song is enough of a negative to tip the balance.
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#weightedsixes: back and with more bots than ever
life Posted 2009-02-22 02:17:31 by Jim Crawford
<beek> oh yeah it sucks, i filed mine like early jan this year .. 700 back.. then i got mailed another fucking W-2.. fucking a.. that extra income puts me over some amount so now i'll only get 200 back.. but i already turned in my taxes..
<beek> so i have to file an ammended return!@# or risk audit! fuck i dont know what to do
<dpezoir> beek: Young budding virgin, fair and crystal is the quarrel will bear home that will not take this audit, take this reward; make merry, with the golden time I shall graff it with you, but are you come on; Trinculo, let us see: honest Master Page.
<limpu> beek: you keep your private life private, i was gonna go out tonight.. but when updating the matrix sparse for low order chains. i approach you silently from behind. candle are alight in all directions as you scan the room. you off.
<beek> hhahahahahaha
<beek> dpezoir: make out with limpu, i'm getting all hot and bothered
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focus and versatility
life Posted 2008-11-03 20:53:42 by Jim Crawford
It's striking how heavily I'm influenced, as a creator, by what my tool set makes easy. This is true in programming and music; I imagine it's pretty universal.

Right this second, I'm getting a little sick of the kind of music that FL Studio makes easy. I miss the sound I used to get out of Impulse Tracker. I don't think you can get the kind of effortlessly precise control of samples that trackers give you with any modern tool. But sample-based trackers are their own thing by nature and don't integrate well into the modern tool-chain.

I think the solution -- and it's not really a solution, just something that's important to be, I don't know, a well-rounded artist or programmer -- is to always be learning new tools. So you always know what you're missing out on.

But who has that kind of time? Somebody who's deeply focused on their field. In effect, to be a well-rounded artist or programmer, you can't also be a well-rounded human being. I wonder if you could also describe someone as a well-rounded user of a specific tool, like C or printf(3).

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functional body modification
life Posted 2008-08-26 23:27:52 by Jim Crawford
Quinn Norton's 2006 talk on functional body modification. She's one of the people who implanted rare earth magnets in their ring fingers so they could sense EM fields. The talk has me bursting with ideas. Some takeaways:

. . .

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demos again
life Posted 2008-06-17 01:43:51 by Jim Crawford
Uploading all those demos got me interested in the current whereabouts of the Green Grapes, which led me to zsazS's livejournal, which led me to gd's livejournal, the latest entry on which was about a mini demo party he was hosting in San Francisco on Sunday. I.e., the next day. So I ended up spending the bulk of Sunday hanging out with about twenty sceners.

. . .

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the future
life Posted 2008-03-01 21:11:26 by Jim Crawford
Charles Stross's recent blog post about an article in The Economist has me talking people's ears off about the technological Singularity again. This is, in part, because it provides me with another angle from which to approach the topic, for people who didn't understand the augmented and/or artificial intelligence approach. Viz:

Extrapolate the curve Stross describes. The current problem of the SF writer, that it's now hard to write plausible fiction set more than 15 years in the future, will soon be the problem of the venture capitalist, who will be unable to be able to effectively plan one year into the future. And soon after that, it will affect people trying to plan their day-to-day lives. Progress will just be happening too quickly.

People I've spoken to have argued that thinking about the Singularity as a tipping point doesn't really make sense, because it's been getting continuously harder to make good predictions about the future. In the past I didn't really have an answer for them, but I'd now argue that having difficulty making good plans for the weekend due to the rate of technological progress is a difference in kind.

Of course, what makes that scenario implausible is that like most things exhibiting exponential growth, human progress is limited; in this case, limited by the very cognitive ability we're using as a measuring stick -- how can you make improvements on something you don't comprehend? You probably wouldn't even be able to define “improvement.” I suppose that's where the augmented and/or artificial intelligence necessarily comes in. And that's where the caveat about the Singularity possibly not being particularly utopian comes in.

Those aren't really topics I feel like I can do justice right now, but here's some light reading on the subject if you're interested. Life is only the prologue to intelligence!

Me:“I'm going to go shopping. Frikkin' basic human needs. There'll be none of that shit after my consciousness is transferred over to Computronium.”
Danny:“I'm counting the days.”
Me:“Over 10,000 so far. If I hit 15,000 and I'm still flesh and blood, I'll be really disappointed.”
Danny:“Yeah really.”
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