I can really be a nerd sometimes

29
Nov
2011

Perhaps it is because I have many friends that live outside the US, or because I am at heart an internationalist, but I often have to make quick conversions from Fahrenheit to Celsius when discussing things as mundane as, well, the weather. Since I have a lot of experience doing this off the cuff, I am usually pretty accurate to a degree or so. But niggling doubts nevertheless remain in my head, usually resulting in a trip to the weather widget on my dashboard, to change the degree type and reload to see how close I was. I have been thinking it would be great if there was a weather widget that displayed both at the same time, but I haven’t yet found one, despite a few searches.

So today I thought I would learn something about how widgets are made. I opened the code and found it really wasn’t that difficult to rewrite a few things, and voila! I give you the all-degree widget:

 

 

Btw, I was debating whether to use the term “nerd” or “geek” in this post title. “Geek” had a lot going for it as Wikipedia provides one definition as:

“a computer expert or enthusiast”

But when I saw that their definition of “nerd” was

“intelligent but socially awkward and obsessive person who spends time on unpopular or obscure pursuits, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities”

it seemed to fit better in this context (n’est-ce pas?).

Black Friday, indeed

25
Nov
2011

What can I say about the orgy of consumerism represented by Black Friday that hasn’t been said before? Watching the local news (and national news) is all about the state of consumer spending in this country. Every story is about retailers, and fat ass shoppers loading up on more crap that will fill our landfills in a few short months. Why can’t we see how unsustainable this is? Why do we as a culture want to buy stuff we don’t need today and won’t want tomorrow?  What void are we trying to fill with ever more stuff?

Other than that, and not to sound all gloom and doom, it has been nice being back in Indiana with my family. We have been hanging out, catching up, eating, drinking and making some merry. Tonight the gays (family and friends, there are a lot of us) will be meeting up for a night out on the town.

That time of year

22
Nov
2011

Josh and I (and the rest of the family, wherever they may be) are making our annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage back to the midwest today. It is always my favorite holiday, it really brings out the best in our family. If I don’t see them during the rest of the year, Thanksgiving is the one  holiday that remains inviolate. That said, I have seen my family more this year than any other since I left home in 1985. Not that I am complaining, I love my family — their warmth, their politics, and their quirks.

Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Gadget walk into a bar…

20
Nov
2011

…and they drink a lot. Well, I did. Honestly it wasn’t that bad, except for trying to find a suitable costume for my character (a gangster hit man posing as a gambler. No, really.) To be honest, the amount of characters and all the “clue” pages and background story were just too much to get a handle on with a martini or two in hand. I noticed that the crowed really divided into two groups: Those that took it seriously and those who didn’t. Guess which camp I was in, which made it a bit uncomfortable when people would approach me “in character” asking what I knew about the money or the body or the affair. And on a secondary layer, when you met anyone, you weren’t sure if they wanted to know your real name or that of your character. On the plus side, the food was very good, and most of the people were very nice, and the view from this apartment was spectacular. The oddest moment of the evening was meeting an honest-to-god right wing nut in the kitchen, who kept moaning about those no-good Occupy Wall Street people and how under Obama the country was careening towards “socialism”. I swear, he actually used those words. After berating him for a few minutes, I had to get out of the room he was in, or the night was liable to turn into a real murder mystery (minus the mystery).

Fear of a level 7 wizard

19
Nov
2011

Although I am admittedly somewhat of a geek, I was never the type to engage much in fantasy role-play of any kind. I was never into DnD, never dressed up as a favorite comic book character for Comic-Con, never wanted to be a blacksmith (or wench for that matter) at a Renfair. And with the developments of virtual reality and the internet, I have likewise never felt the siren call of Second Life and its ilk. Not to put too fine a point on it, but even in the bedroom I couldn’t be less interested in pretending to be a fireman or cable repair guy in some elaborate getup or setup. I kind of like interacting in the real world as myself, and feel a little silly when playing a role.

So it is with some trepidation that I agreed to go to some type of murder mystery birthday party this evening. I am not exactly sure how I got roped into it, to tell the truth. I was invited by a good friend of a good friend of mine to a birthday party and I RSVPd before knowing that there was anything special (or odd) about it. As far as I knew, I was just agreeing to come to a party on a certain date (tonight). Ok, maybe I didn’t read the original invite too closely, but let’s just say it didn’t become all that clear to me until I received an email informing me of my “character” and suggestions for what I should wear. This was followed in the mail a few days later with a secret letter (addressed to my character) that is not to be opened until this evening. Since this is some type of murder mystery, is it too much to hope that mine will be the character who has been murdered?

It is in trying times that you find out who your real friends are. I am grieved to tell you that I apparently have no friends. I was told by the host that I could bring someone along with me, but NONE of my so-called friends would agree to it after hearing the setup. Nurse me through surgery? No problem. Help me move? Check. Loan me money? Of course. Go with me to a wierd role-playing party? See ya.

Cum laude

18
Nov
2011

Pretty much everything I do on a daily basis I have learned how to do on my own. It stuns me sometimes that I earn my living doing something that was never taught to me in school, that I just picked up over the years. The pace of change and the ways that the internet and technology have changed our lives (mostly for the good, sometimes for the bad) have been so all-encompassing that we often fail to take notice.

But every so often, you have to step back from this modern world and say “wow”. I realize that a large part of the reason I have been able to live as I do, making my living as I do, is because there is a wealth of freely available knowledge out there. Recently I’ve been auditing a programming class at Stanford University. No, really. And it is absolutely free. Who would have thought that I, with my terrible grades in high school, would one day be taking courses at such a prestigious university? Or that any of the things I would want to learn about are just a few keystrokes and a little motivation away? I can take courses and ask questions of some of the best minds out there, and they respond, helping me along in my education. And I in turn try to offer help to those at an earlier stage of development than me. This free exchange of information is vital to a creative society. It is one of the reasons I am so concerned with the runaway laws pertaining to copyright and patents in this country. They are overkill and poison to a creative society. Copyright and intellectual property rights were meant to secure benefits to the creators for a restricted period of time, after which they should be public domain. It is only through the free exchange of ideas (in all realms) that a society, its arts and sciences, can move forward. The rise of the internet, when coupled with the extension of copyright in perpetuity, has a chilling effect on the ability of creative people and innovators everywhere. None of us stands alone, we are all bathed in the culture, and it is in relation to that culture, and on the shoulders of others that we are able to contribute to both our own and the general welfare. The recipe for progress isn’t a single ingredient, it is a mixture, timing, and refinement.

Fortunately, there are some wonderful responses to the problem out there, from Creative Commons to open source software to various universities and individuals in all kinds of fields that share their work without charge or after a short period of exclusivity. They set an example for how I want to live my life and  why I think it is important to give back. It is clear to me how I have been helped by freely available information, and it is clear to me how important it is to share what we know with others.

Church of the poison mind

14
Nov
2011

We (I think I was with my aunt, but I am not sure) were in a very old, impossibly large cathedral with an old sound system that was not working. There were many ancient, small wooden rooms on a kind of balcony level that people (including us) were staying in, and there were cobwebs over every thing that we were continually removing. This seemed like a place abandoned by a previous civilization, and the words that were coming through the sound system were being used to control people. What we heard were static-like voices, not very clear, but that were nonetheless keeping us in a kind of trance state, doing the bidding of the people in charge that were issuing commands about all sorts of things. Somehow, I discovered a way to fix the old system, and then people had control over what was playing on it, which consisted of very old recordings of music and speeches. At the same time this woke them up to what had been happening and brought them out of their trance state, freeing them from the control. Everyone was very happy, and then I woke up.

…und hallo, again

13
Nov
2011

Well that was quick. My friend Olaf called me from the airport to ask if I had deflated the bed yet and if he could stay another night, because his flight was overbooked and they offered him some nice amount of cash to take tomorrow’s flight instead. Knowing Olaf as I do, he prefers not to be rushed or crowded on a flight, and that probably also figured into his decision. It is all fine by me, and it will be nice to hang out another day.