Archive for February, 2007

Awesomeness waits for no man

February 21, 2007

I had some thoughts to explore, but I’ve been too, um, preoccupied lately to find time to post. So to buy myself some more time, I present you more awesomeness:

1. I spent a good chunk of Sunday evening writing software to implement a cool idea I had, namely, to show all the words between any two given words in a thesaurus. I wanted to use the tool to help understand semantic relationships between concepts, such as “Grace” and “Serenity”. Well after about three hours of programming, I chanced upon the Lexical Freenet, which does everything I wanted to do, and more. So I don’t get to be the next “Roget”, but I did find a cool tool. BTW Grace ← order → tranquility → serenity.

2. I never believed in the idea that Graffiti was a kind of tranformational urban artform, but the folks at Graffiti Research Labs make a pretty good case with their Giant Laser Spray Paint

3. Finally, to continue my electronic music obsession, check out How to Get Musical in the Kitchen. Impress your guests with this simple recipe.

4. Theo Jansen and his wind-powered kinetic sculptures “Strandbeest”. His work is the height of engineering art. I have a strong urge to build one and set it loose on the upwind side of the Sahara.

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I feel like an old man

February 18, 2007

This morning I finished seven games of Ultimate in HUC‘s third annual all-nighter tourney. We didn’t do so well, but I surprised myself by maintaining a reasonable standard of play. It turns out that most of the hot-shot young sprinters couldn’t keep running after 4am, so by the end I was playing just as well or better than some top-seed players. It’s nice to know all those all-nighters in undergrad paid off.

Also cool: walking home at 8am and feeling every muscle in my leg strain with effort. I can’t really describe the feeling, but the pain, the satisfaction of accomplished work, and the interesting little anatomy lesson made me feel pretty special.

Some Pics: (Not mine. My little digicam couldn’t hack it in the dim light)
ultimate allnighter 1
Ultimate Allnighter 3
Ultimate Allnighter 2

Snowday!

February 15, 2007

Yesterday Hamilton got dumped on by about 2 feet of snow. These kinds of opportunities don’t come very often, so I called in to book the day off. Then Grace, Rachel, Kevin & I went sledding! I haven’t had that much fun in months (even though my well-engineered cardboard & garbage-bag sleds didn’t last very long). Afterwards we made up big bowls of hot-chocolate (with chilli-powder) and Grace & I went out for a spectacular Valentine’s dinner. All-in-all a pretty life-affirming day. I’ll have to remember it when I go into work on Sunday to make up the time 🙂

Techno Music Technology

February 7, 2007

Where art meets engineering, cool things happen:

My Contribution to Science

February 6, 2007

Sweet!
While researching for the post below, I found the “paper” I wrote in 2001 calculating the forces on a Concrete Toboggan. What’s a concrete toboggan? Why it’s fun incarnate!

On Blogging

February 6, 2007

I started this site with the notion that it would contain everything that I was thinking about – A kind of clearing house for my highly-overstocked head. I wasn’t too worried about signing my real name since, with the breakup of my marriage, I no longer felt the need to justify my opinions to anyone. Indeed, to some extent I blamed my taciturn tendencies for the difficulties with Sarah, and saw this blog as an opportunity to get out of the habit. In that sense, the separation has been somewhat liberating. I haven’t been this ideologically independent since first year university (which, incidentally, was the last time I posted anything so personal on the internet – a sardonic little grocery list for the “perfect girl” which has thankfully expired from engsoc webspace)

I used to be a lot more cautious about this media. The web has a dangerous way of making your off-the-cuff remarks permanent (the aforementioned grocery list is available on http://www.archive.org for the dedicated). Any inconstancies in your historical opinions are easily cross-referenced and discredited. For example, Micheal Ignatieff arguably lost his chance to be PM because of the opinions he wrote favouring the invasion of Iraq. Prime Minister Harper meanwhile lost his party’s credibility in the environment portfolio thanks to a damning 2002 letter now posted on the liberal party’s website. One might argue that, as public figures, they were right to be held accountable to their published opinions. The difficulty arises when all opinions become published, regardless of their original intended audience. Take the example of the Delta airlines flight attendant who was fired for publishing a semi-fictional diary of her job as entertainment for friends. Though she took due care to protect anonymity by using pseudonyms for companies and people, A few photos of her in uniform were enough to convince Delta that she was harming their corporate image. To give a less malicious, personal example, I removed a section of a comment I made criticizing my boss because, while a legitimate “Thought Dropping”, our relationship might be harmed were he ever to discover it. Likewise, it wouldn’t be appropriate to post intimate details about my recent dating experience without permission from the lady in question. Though I would love to explore some of the revelations I’ve had.

On the other hand, I hold out some naive idealism that we ought to be able to freely share our ideas without fear of judgement or reprisal. My friend Sunir puts it eloquently: “It is the definition of oppressive to live in a world where you cannot fully express your own identity out of fear“. One may argue that complaints about one’s day at work don’t warrant the same protection as artistic creations or academic ideas, but where do you draw the line? I’m not trying to argue for any one extreme – I would honestly like to know where the line might be.

I’m tired, so I’m concluding without much resolution. It’s absolutely fantastic that the internet has given schmucks like me a chance to be published. But the freedom to publish also confers the freedom to be judged, and that’s a pretty big barrier. I wonder if society will change the way it reacts to published thoughts thoughts now that we’re all “public figures”.


Tuesday addendum: I can’t believe I forgot to cite ex-conservative MP Garth Turner, who was kicked out his party because the PMO didn’t like the political opinions he posted to his blog. I don’t think he regrets the outcome though, since today he was offered a plum spot on the Liberal side. It’s a good example of how the blogs are changing power structures by eliminating the ability to control information. I wish all politicians felt free to communicate so openly with their constituents. Unfortunately that won’t happen until attitudes change – We still prefer our politicians (and corporations) to have packaged opinions. From the last link: “[MP Turner] keeps jumping around,” said Karen Sinden, of Milton. “I have no idea what he stands for”. So much for Blog-Power.