Enjoying the Performing Arts

Well, it looks like I get to see some more plays and shows in the next couple months than I originally expected. I’m going to see Cabaret, put on by the Capital Playhouse in downtown Olympia, on May 22 for my girlfriend’s birthday.

We also have tickets to see A Night of Improv at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, also in downtown Olympia, on June 4. The show features the stars of the ABC (originally British) TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? (minus Wayne Brady, unfortunately, but including the other players — Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, Chip Esten, and Jeff Davis). Should be fun (to Stephen O.: neener neener).

Discrete Mathematics and Newton

The last week or so has been kind of hectic. Spent four hours tonight finishing off the discrete mathematics homework for this week, and I stand to work for several hours tomorrow on trying to get ahead in Java programming. What can I say, it’s week 5 — inevitably, that means midterms are lurking. Indeed, I get my discrete mathematics midterm this morning in class. It’s due in a week, but the faculty wasn’t nice enough to completely cancel the homework for next week — instead, he just shortened it and moved the due date to Tuesday. Well, at least it’s better than a full-blown assignment out of the book (that would take another four hours instead of the 8 hours it’ll probably take me to finish the exam and extra hour it’ll take to complete the smaller assignment..)

Life is really fun sometimes.

I was bombed after doing that discrete mathematics assignment, so I took a break. I was reading Linus Torvalds’ Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, and he talks a little bit about open source software. He indirectly quotes Issac Newton in his discussion, which inspired me to find the actual quote:

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
— Isaac Newton, Letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675

Every invention or idea builds on other ideas and concepts. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants no matter what we do, whether we write novels, invent new technologies, or simply learn about new things in school.Newton got it right the first time.

Politically Incorrect

You are Fascist

What: Fascism
Where: At the distant bottom-right of the political spectrum

How: Fascism supports total civil oppression, particularly for minorities, who were prosecuted. However, it does open up to a free market. It has been attempted and failed in countries including Italy, and socialist version of it called Nazism was tried in Germany.
What political extremity are you?

Ah, crap, there goes all hope I had of being somewhat liberally minded and a political free-spirit.

Why I Don’t Use Standard IM Clients

Wired posts this article about the instant-message wars. Let me just say that this is exactly why I use Cerulean Studios Trillian and the open-source IM client Gaim (both Windows and Linux versions) to access all my IM accounts.

Advertising is annoying. AOL Today is annoying. In fact, anything that pops up without your consent in an IM client is annoying. Fine, so Trillian and Gaim don’t have all the bells and whistles, but I don’t care about flashy crap, I care about functionality, ease of use, and accessibility. Ironically, these two clients actually have much better functionality in some cases than their rival IM clients distributed by America Online, ICQ, Microsoft Network, and others. It depends on what you look for. All I want to do is talk to people. Screw the rest of it.

When It Just Won’t Make Sense

“Suddenly, the idea of expected value doesn’t make sense to me.”

The second I heard that out of the mouth of our discrete mathematics faculty, who is supposed to know what expected value is and how to explain it, I got just a little worried. He did manage to explain it, but it was still quite odd to hear someone who carries a Ph.D in Mathematics admit that such a “simple” concept in combinatorics didn’t make sense.

(For those wondering, the expected value is more akin to the average value of an outcome — that is, it’s an expression of the value most likely to occur. At least, that’s my understanding of it. An example — if you roll two dice, you can calculate the expected value that the two die will land with a sum of seven.)

So, yeah. Watch out for Ph.D’s who suddenly admit that basic concepts make no sense to them.

Truth in Magnetic Poetry

“Be ugly though fast as tongues.”

Thus spake the magnetic poetry muses as I fiddled with the magnetic poetry set we have up in the Writing Center this afternoon. For some reason, I found this to have a very faint glimmer of truth, depending on how you interpret it. You can interpret it as being an ugly person, yet being able to run fast. This isn’t really the one I was thinking of. No, the interpretation I like is being ugly as in being truthful, yet being quick enough to realize the power of your words and work accordingly.

Okay, this may seem as if it is quite a stretch to some, but think about it. Words have a power over us that is undeniable — if used in the right way, they wield an enormous amount of influence. The issue at hand is not tact, but rather, honesty: we should be honest enough to say what we think, but careful enough to make sure we also say what we mean. This is a lesson a lot of people never truly learn.

To me, it is a valuable lesson, and guides my tutoring work at the Writing Center. I tutor knowing that honesty is the best policy, and I’m unafraid to tell someone that their work has problems or to discuss those problems within the framework of the piece. The trick is to do it in such a way that it comes across as an impression about the writer’s work, rather than a criticism.

My two cents about the work I do.

Programming Doom and Chaos

If you’ve never done any programming whatsoever in an imperative language such as Java, C, C++, and the like, this post will likely make very little sense and will not be funny in the least. I assure you, humor is intended.

An online friend of mine, Sean Paul-Rees, came up with this coding gem:


He made an interesting point — “doom” is a very subjective thing. Now, the way I see it, since doom is necessarily boolean according to its format in the if statement, you could select doom based on a switch statement on a specific constant value.

However, doom is subjective, so such a structure is relatively impractical. Nested if/else statements would seem to be the key, since we’re looking for particular conditions.

Now, what conditions do we test…? Well, we’d have to assume a specific definition for what “doom” means before we started defining the code. Do we see doom as something akin to Armageddon (in which case testing is extremely complex) or simpler (in which case testing is still extremely complex)? I suppose it depends on your political slant, religious beliefs, and whether you think simple things can be equated with doom. The example Sean gives is that simply doing homework can be attributed as doom, but my reply to that is that it depends on what you’re doing in life — not everyone does homework all the time, every moment in their lives…

An aside: for those wondering, Sean points out that the coding of the chaos() function is easy in a UNIX/Linux environment; just delink /dev/null. My two cents — it’s even easier in a Windows environment (I’ll leave the question of how to your imaginations).

Internet Taxes and Bus Service

Oy, not again. Why is it we just can’t seem to get it right on the issue of Internet taxes? Either pass a law banning them or enact them already.

Anyway, not all that much else to report. Spent the entire day watching more movies (is that really a shock?) and mostly just sat around. Stargate SG-1 rocks, yo. Someday, I’ll pick up Season 6 and do my normal, watch-a-disc-a-day routine. I’ll probably do the same with West Wing Season 2, Law & Order – The Second Year, C.S.I. Season 3, and, potentially, all five seasons of Babylon 5. Someday.

It’s odd, I’m not really the type that likes to get off campus. I don’t know, I suppose I’m more of a homebody. Not sure why I’m so adverse to getting off campus (which I will admit is incredibly ironic given that I’m looking to live off campus next year). I suppose it’s just that I don’t like being bothered to wait to do things. I’d rather be able to do them without taking a half hour or more on the bus on weekends to go the equivalent of about ten miles to get to Capitol Mall. Why Intercity Transit cuts service to the College via Route 48 during the weekends, I will never, ever understand — that’s when most students on campus want to get to Capitol Mall and surrounding area. Instead, to get there, you catch Route 41, either out of the Housing bus loop or the main campus bus loop and ride about 15 minutes to Harrison and Division, which Route 48 runs along during the weekends. See, it’s not that Route 48 stops entirely; no, it merely stops serving the college.

Gripe of the day.