Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Need A Dictation Machine

I keep planning on writing things down, truly expressing my thoughts in a rage of invective. And then I fall asleep or get done driving and when I actually approach pen and paper or keyboard and blog, I'll be damned if I can't put the thoughts together with the same vim and vigor. Which is why I need a dictation machine. It would certainly make this blog more interesting. And hopefully my own life more memorable. I mean, I'd certainly live more extreme if I knew I was going to have running commentary on everything I did. Hmm... How much does it cost to turn your own life into a reality TV show? Of course that doesn't necessarily have your own commentary running over it. Anyways, first step: dictation machine. Here's hoping on Santa Claus.

Thoughts On The New Year

I've got two main, and somewhat conflicting desires towards for the New Year, and the future in general. Be warned this next bit is mainly me psychoanalyzing myself.

Firstly, well, I'd like to be more successful. To be interested in what I'm doing and good at it. For a good share of my life that's generally been the default, but since coming to college I've gotten a bit off track there. I'm nearly (hopefully) graduated from Stanford and setting myself up to be a software engineer for the immediate future. I'm not sure I'm completely happy with this. Since coming to Stanford, well, I haven't programmed anything for fun like I did in high school. I'm not sure why that is, but it's certainly not a good sign considering I'm setting myself up to spend the next few years programming 40+ hours a week. Coding is something I've stopped being interested in for its own right, and just something I'm doing to get somewhere, and that doesn't make for a happy career.

Now, of course, I never expected to want to spend most of my life being a code monkey, but I didn't quite expect this. I know a lot of people at Stanford who enjoy working with code a lot more than I do, and quite frankly are better at than I am. And I don't like that. I don't want to set myself up for something I'm only passable in and have to force myself to do.

To be fair, I've always wanted to move beyond the programming and work at higher level stuff Of course, I have to master the lower level mechanics and put in that hard work, but I still feel off track. After the years at Stanford, well, there's not that much foundation level that I really get into anymore. Software, math, econ etc. What am I left with? A couple of sociology and philosophy classes?

I'm trying to figure out why this is. It could still be getting used to competing at the level I'm required to with the Stanford folk, that things just aren't that easy anymore. A fair bit of it could be the stress brought on by that. Then there's the chance that a good share of what's going through my head at the moment is mild depression related stuff. Of course I've already been diagnosed with that once and am a good bit better off than I was then. But beyond that, still need to find some project or goal for that drive bit. And then maybe the additional bits of better caring for the house, getting out of Palo Alto more often and not sleeping all day will come along.

Which brings me to the other half of my New Year's goals, that I should chill out and worry less. As my friends keep telling me, chill the fuck out. An example of me worrying excessively about something is the first half of this post. Also relating to the first half of the post are the mild depressive symptoms such as worrying about the world to the point of sleeping to avoid it, avoiding my email, etc. A lot of my friends say they don't imagine me stressing that much, but there's a lot I'd like to get rid of. Hmm... not near as much to write on this topic, I suppose it's fairly self-explanatory.

Well, there we go making some progress to having more concrete New Year's resolutions.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Err... Yes, It's Been Awhile

Finished with what is hopefully my final fall quarter at Stanford, I figured I'd return to writing some stuff.

Sadly, the hope that after working for a year and a half I would return to school with the discipline to sit down and work eight hours every day on my homework was a bit misplaced. I quickly returned to the old time stand-byes of violently oscillating sleep schedules, periods of binging of work followed by avoiding it and the like. This led to me crashing one class, getting a bit burnt out and having a few of those depression symptoms I thought I'd largely shaken. You'd think I'd learn to avoid that. Ah, well. Life continues. Now on vacation and trying to clean up after that. We'll see if I can avoid/postpone future problems of a similar sort through New Years resolutions. Ah, and goodbye to Kira, a girl who added a lot to the keeping me sane.

In the background of all that, of course, watching the interesting times we've been living in. Quite happy with Obama winning, though somewhat miffed at some of his cabinet appointments. Hopefully his going somewhat moderate is more a sign of his 'ruthless pragmatism' than a sign of the direction his presidency will go, but we'll see. Though with my political views, I suppose I'll never be perfectly happy with a President in America. I keep hoping for another Sixties style sea-change in American political culture. On the other hand, I wasn't alive in the Sixties and really have no experience what that was like. And I'd like to avoid the riots and assassinations.

Adding to that possibility of sea-change and interesting times is the economic collapse that's been going on. We'll see how that affects my ability to get a job in the next, but fortunately it doesn't look like the software industry will be too badly hit. Of course, I'm still not really sure what I want to be doing for money, but software engineering is certainly the default option. Good luck to my friends with English majors and the like. Anyways, with the world being overturned I'm generally in favor. The world needs a shake up. I'd like to avoid protectionism and agricultural subsidies and worse, but we'll see.

But all in all, that's the world I'm facing as I try to get out of college and move onto the next stage. Going to have to throw myself into the unknown sooner or later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Whatever Happened to In Depth Computer Simulation Games?

I feel like back in the 90s and up until the early '00s, we had games that did their damnedest to elegantly simulate real world behavior. Games like SimLife, SimCity, Civilization, Creatures, etc. True, we've got Spore that came out recently, but I feel that Spore and Sim City Societies and the exceedingly few other similar games that have come out in the last few years are further removed from functioning as realistic simulations and have become more abstracted game play.

This is not to say that the games that came out in the 90s were not abstracted game play, but they hewed closer to attempting to model the real world than games do these days. What is more with the increasing computer power, I would expect to see more and more detailed and accurate simulations.

I want to see a game that is built on top of a detailed accurate simulation of the world. I'd love to have a Civilization game that I could also use to simulate alternate history scenarios, with layers and layers and details that a casual game player would never have to look at if they did not want to.

Is this accurate? Did I just misinterpret the games I played as a kid, or have I just not played enough computer games since going to college? Either way, those are the kinds of games I would like to see; extremely detailed Civilizations, SimLifes, SimCities and the like. Or hell, break out new things we could do these days with the computing power available. SimGovernment or SimEconomy or a game that involves training/building an artificial intelligence. If no one else gets on this, I'm going to have to think about doing this on my own.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Been A While

So, I haven't updated this blog in awhile, starting to think this blog idea might be on its last legs. But who knows. Now that my life has settled down, I might get back into it.

Since my last post, I've been to Burning Man, left my job, bounced around the country a bit, from Texas to Oregon, restarted school and also in the middle of that started dating someone.

Burning Man was awesome, by far the most well executed camp I've been a part of. Spent a fair share of the last year helping to organize a group of around 60 people going out to the desert and it paid off. Again, like the previous two years I went, most of them were Stanford Band folk, with a few accessories thrown in. Unusually, based on my past experience, almost no calamities were had, I didn't wake up in a hospital, we didn't have our car nearly break down before we got there, it went incredibly smoothly. With the large number of people we had, and the experience of some of those people, we had basic utilities that I'd never seen before such as showers and a kitchen. That, and we were a theme camp that put us right near the Esplanade. It was a fairly unmatched experience in my third year of being there.

Of course, I felt the art was a bit worse this year and the weather was a bit worse, but ah well.

Beyond that, leaving my job and going back to school has been great. The flexibility and current free time is a huge bonus. We'll see if that view changes when the money starts to run thin, when assignments start to come due, and when I start looking for a job again for when I graduate in six months, but at the moment it's great. In the future I really need to get a job that involves more reading philosophy, having a number of different things to focus on, having large, flexible blocks of open time and allows me to do half my work from my own room.

What else? Oh, yeah, the dating someone. Haven't really done that in years. Not quite sure how that's all supposed to work out. I suppose I'll see.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Been a bit busy this last month finishing off a project I've doing at work. Getting Telus Radio onto the Savard, Telus's version of the Instinct. It's our fist all touchscreen device, so had to tweak a good bit of things there.

That and Burning Man. Two and a half weeks to go and we are, as expected, behind schedule. So, I'll be putting all my free time into that over the next two weeks. This year is going to be damn amazing, considering that I'm helping to organize a theme camp of 65 people, and they put us at the 7:30 Portal, so this should continue the exponential upward trend of Burning Man intensity.

Other than that, I've generally just been spending my time getting angry at politics. Oh and girls, as usual. And still waiting to hear back on the financial aid so I can know if I'm going back to school in the fall.

We'll see what happens this weekend when Tynan talks about turning some of my ideas into a startup. Somehow he got the ear of some high-up at Yahoo. Ah, Tynan. Awfully good at knowing people.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Doom and Gloom

Haven't managed to write for this in a while, been a bit busy and lazy. Now that I'm back to writing on this again, I suppose I'm in a fairly pessimistic mood. Perhaps it's the continuing bad news with regards to the economy, the environment or our government, but I've definitely got the feeling that I should be writing more letters to my Senators and Congressmen.

This is somewhat unusual for me as I tend be pretty damn optimistic with regards to the future, but after having a friend spend hours at a party telling me that the US is degenerating into a police state, with Obama voting for that damn FISA bill, watching the US financial sector melt down, and while the Wilkins Ice Shelf is melting, Congress is spending its time banning clove cigarettes. I suppose articles like this are a pretty good expression of what I worry about.

There is a place for paranoia. I'm generally optimistic about humanity's ability to adapt, but the last seven and half years have given me no faith in our government to do anything but make the world worse. I hope this election changes that, we're going to need a huge shake-up in the system. The Democratics won't do it just on their own. Don't get me wrong, I despise the Republican party, but the Democrats aren't exactly a bastion of well executed policy.

So, I suppose I should get around to yelling at my representatives about the budget deficit, farm policy, drug policy, tax policy, energy policy and civil rights, and hope that it doesn't have to get worse before it gets better.

More detailed thoughts to come later, but for now, sleep.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Active v Passive Information Consumption

One problem I've had with the Internet over the years is that I've tended to be a very passive consumer of the information on it. Of course, that's one of the reasons I've set up this blog, in order to make sure I'm putting some thoughts back out there and doing some actual thinking. Now, don't get me wrong, the Internet is far less passive than, say, TV. The Internet is even less passive than books. However I feel that I get more into ruts with the Internet than I do with books. I'm not sure why that is, but I have definitely gotten into the habit of reading the same websites, looking up the same news, lurking on the same forums, and I need something to jostle me out of it. I feel like I go through a lot of the same content without it really making an impact on me, without really remembering it, it's just a means of spending time, not that different from TV.

Perhaps part of the reason I never commented on forums was the complete lack of personal connection. Which makes me want to expand my idea on unifying every username on a public system to one public social profile so that there would be more personality behind forum posts. Of course a lot of people wouldn't like that idea and would try to encrypt and make themselves untraceable. But for majority of people, some IP address queries, some linguistic analysis, maybe even studies of time of input. Or even simple comparisons of usernames. That of course would take all sorts of computing resources, but I imagine it would be doable in not to long. Of course I should take some classes on machine learning and search before claiming anything like that. That's more just something of a dream at this point, though I would love to see it.

There are a lot of benefits to a more social or active approach to gathering information. We buy books so that we can communicate with others about those books, or simply that we can impress other people that we own those books. I feel that at this point the Internet is so vast and specialized that there is less chance of overlap with your peers. Therefore you are generally isolated in the specific field that you're interested, and less likely to branch out from that. You are also less likely to communicate about what you are interested in, and therefore less likely to think about it.

Another benefit of having people's communications combined into one social profile would be to cut down on the number of stupid things people get away with post anonymously on the net.

Of course, there are other means to encourage people to think about more things more deeply. You could add a question/testing program if you wanted some sort of auto-teacher. Not sure teachers would be happy with that, but fortunately for them, I think creating programs able to teach and understand what one is thinking are even more difficult to make than a system that would combine all of one's contributions to the Internet into one profile.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reputation Markets and Other Ideas

Money is a pretty amazing invention in that it take the value of an enormous variety of goods and reduce that value to a single simple number. Of course the system isn't near perfect, monetary price often doesn't perfectly match the value of things, what with economic externalities. We have governments attempt to deal with that issue through subsidies and taxes, but that is largely an imperfect system. I would love it if there were a decentralized market based way to more accurately value externalities. Well, it doesn't have to be decentralized or market based, so long as it were more accurate from the current system, I just imagine that when we do get a better solution to that problem it will be along those lines. I've got some ideas on that, but then I'm getting off my original thought.

The idea that prompted this post was that it would be great if we could find some way of attaching a simple number to other non-economic things, such as someone's social reputation and all the subdivisions thereof. Or other than social reputation, if we could attach a number to someone's intellectual contributions to society or their environmental impact or even happiness.

My reasoning behind wanting this system is that the simple number money attaches to things leads to it being the primary counting system for success in a lot of people's lives. People are very competitive, and though those other items I mentioned are important to people, because they're very subjective and arguable, this gives more weight to people fighting over their income levels. People need income to live, but I see a lot of people fighting over income simply for status. If we could reduce other important items of our lives to simple numbers, then I think people strive for them a lot more.

Now, of course that to a certiain exent is quite silly. Things like reputation, intellectual contributions and happiness are all subjective and non-fungible. Environmental impact slightly less so, but that does depend on how one values the environment. However, the various things money measure are fairly subjective as well. One number system can compare how willing I am to write code for an hour and how willing someone is to give someone else a loaf of bread.

Creating such a system would not be easy, but I imagine something similar to it might happen. After all, I'm hardly the only the person with this idea. Cory Doctorow's Whuffie system in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom for example, is just such a system for personal reputation. The Internet tells me that someone named Tara Hunt is even writing a book about it. I've thrown around a few ideas on how it might be possible to get such systems off the ground, and would like to do more with them in the future. I certainly feel the modern computer aided recording of everything will certainly be a necessary component of it. Now to just tie all that information together.

Quite Happy With the New Roommates

Getting these two new roommates in El Dorado has shaken things up more than I've seen in a while. Cleaning and new furniture and new people at Bar Night. Hell, we even had a sit down breakfast this morning. I suppose there's something to be said for not living as slovenly bachelors. Or at least, slightly less slovenly bachelors.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What Can Be Done With

I like, there's a few things I'd improve with it, but a good system over all. I'm quite happy to have a system that will record all the songs I play through my iPod or iTunes and give me stats based on that.t

As for what I'd improve on it, I'd like it if counted the length of times I spent listening to my songs as opposed to the number of songs I played. It just skews things when you have one band you listen to with one minute thirty second songs and one band you listen to with twenty minute songs. Also, I'd like it if it would update the weekly total more frequently. That can't be that hard, just some database operation... but then I don't have the greatest experience with their system, so shouldn't really talk. Also, I'd like it if they had some graphing software built right into their system, instead of having to rely on third party apps that never get back to you.

Anyways, I want to see all the personal dating recording stuff combined with similar stuff with Amazon and eBay's recording what you buy, Facebook noting your interests and similar stuff. Has someone added something to Flock that does a like thing that records all the websites you visit? And then just wait until everyone has iPhones that record wherever you go and can correlate all that data.

Now, why do I want this? Well, in part because I have very little concern for privacy, or hiding my personal behavior. I've been told that's a bit odd. But there's also several practical benefits beyond the having a good easy to read record of your own life. There's the obvious one that and Amazon already do with the recommending things to you. I imagine things like this would be much more accurate if they could compare different aspects of your entire life.

But beyond that, there's the science. We could finally get real time data on a host of sociological, economic and polical variables that are only hinted at these days. I'm tired of public policy bieng decided with no basis on factual experimental evidence. And I know that in politics most people don't give a damn about what actually works, but I would love to see a change along those lines. If we could simply see who everyone's friend were, what they read, what they watched and what they bought, we would have so much more insight into what was actually going on in our society.

Eh, this is getting a bit radical, I should probably go back and revise this entry in the morning, but the idea remains. I know a lot of what social networks currently do is tell you things about your friends that you already know. For example, with Facebook, I don't need it telling me who everyone in the Dumbrella group at Stanford is. I already know this. They're already all my friends. I don't need Facebook's Compare People app telling me my sister is hot. I've got a roomate who tells me that most every day. It's damn annoying.

But there's so much that could be done with tying all these social networks and information gathering systems together. Just off the top of my head, you could look at the music people listen to over time, compare this with their friends, and see who has the most influence over their friend's musical tastes. You could see what social networks were spreading musical taste and so forth. Of course this brings to mind the idea that we should unify all the social networks, and define friends or social contacts with not with personally chosen friend lables, but base them upon who was emailing, IMing or calling whom. Eh, but that's for another post.

I assume the end goal is to be able to give people more insight into their own lives, to give scientists and policy makers a better insight into the world, and I suppose, in the long run, create a wufi like system.

Ah, I need to expand upon all this to not seem like a drunken rambling techno-utopian. Expect a revision in the morning.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blogs vs Twitter

My friend Tynan was telling me the other day that he has a policy against reading people's blogs. Interestingly to me, he loves following people through Twitter. I was wondering why this was. The main explicit difference between the two is that Twitter limits entries to 140 characters, but I don't think that's the entire story.

I think that though between the two of them, though both are completely visible to the public, Twitter seems to many more like a conversation with friends akin to text messaging, and blogging feels more like publishing to the world, despite the fact that most blogs are written as journals and only read by close friends. If anyone. I mean, I have no idea if anyone pays any attention to this blog here.

But that does make me wonder about what will come next. We've got status updates on facebook blending in to status updates on IM services, blending into Twitter posts and blogs posts, and it's only going to keep becoming more fine shades of gray. Maybe we need a better map of who's reading what. If we could note the social networking pages people visit, the people people are following on Twitter, what blogs people read, what music and tv shows people are watching and then combine all that...

Well, I'm not sure that deals with the original question about the distinction between blogs and twitter at all. It's probably just feeding my desire to collect and analyze lots of social information. But it would shed light on the flow of information and communication in our society.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's Been a Busy Week

By busy week, I mainly mean parties as the campus folk have all finished up with classes. Album release party, Century Club, various other excuses to drink. Some of them turned out better than others for me. Regardless, I have definitely fallen behind on several of my todo items, such as writing this blog, exercise, cleaning and generally keeping my life together.

Well, it's Friday now. And oddly enough that doesn't mean the partying and then sleeping it would normally mean. I don't get either of those. Taking it easy tonight. Good to get a change of pace. Going in to the Stanford Pain Labs tomorrow for medical experiments. Yay, selling my body for money/science. Hopefully that's fun. Or at least not horribly painful.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Hanging with Tynan this weekend and he convinced me to sign up for Twitter. I'm not entirely convinced of the use of this product, but we'll see how it goes. It seems like something I'd like to unify with my Facebook and gTalk status. Actually, I'd certainly like to unify my Facebook and gTalk status. I should see if someone's got a plugin for that. I feel Twitter status might be used to display a different sort of information, but we'll see about that. Get used to the Twitter culture and all that...

Hmm... Also, it's funny that my friends on Twitter are very specific subset of my friends. Damn, but I can't wait for social networking services to get good enough to provide useful information about my local social graph.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Web Browsers and Non-Linear Thoughts

I'd like it if there were a better way to track down non-linear thoughts. Generally when I'm thinking to myself and writing things down I become a bit irritated at how our writing system is very linear. True, when writing, one can branch off on various topics, but it gets messy and hard to track the flow of ideas.

I'm not sure what the best way would be to deal with that with regards to outputting information, but I was thinking of ideas that would improve the recording of this with regards to gathering information, along the lines of a plugin for a web browser.

With regards to surfing the net, I often end up bouncing from one topic to another, and it would be nice to be able to look back and see some history of what I was looking at. I'm not sure what this would tell me, but it might yield some interesting results. On Firefox, it'd be nice if you could look up a history, where each page you had visiting would be displayed as an icon or thumbnailed screenshot, say the earlier ones you'd visited at the top or left, and subsequent pages that you had linked to would be displayed connected to the initial page. When opening other tabs the parent node would have multiple children. When within a single tab but going to a page not linked from the initial page, such as using a bookmark or the search bar, it could link the parent to child node with a dotted line or something.

Maybe I'll look into this when Firefox 3 is finalized. Or I should go look at Flock. I've been wondering why there hasn't been a for browsers before. Well, I should see if Flock has something for that.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


A fairly good day today with getting things set up for Burning Man. By that I mean we did our first tangible work outside of the people organizing the camps meeting and filling out paper work. Four hours buying EMT conduit and working in a metal shop, but it feels good to start on that. It'll be a busy two and a half months doing everything else, but we've made a good start. Also, good to see the various people in our camp who don't know each other start to meet. Good people in the group. Any group of people willing to spend months of effort for one week out of their skulls in the desert has got something going for them in my book.

Hard Work

Damn shame about hard work. Seems just about everything takes more effort than I initially think it's going to. Not that that's a surprise at all, but you'd really think I would have learned that lesson by now.

I suppose I was thinking of this when thinking about what I wanted to do with this blog. At one level I'd just like to be working on writing, but tossing off a few paragraphs at a time is about as effective at that as doing 10 minutes of calisthenics everyday is for an exercise program. It's better than nothing, but not impressively so. The blogs and web comics I read are generally the products of a lot of hard work, either in the fields of software or political and economic thought or minds more humorous than my own.

Hmm... Well, that line of thought is rapidly becoming depressing. What I was trying to say is that I shouldn't be biting off more than I can chew. Man, some blogs out there like stuffwhitepeoplelike seem relatively easy and are pretty damn impressive for what they are.

Bah, but I'm not writing this for an audience so much. I'm writing this to have some record of my own thoughts and to prod myself to keep producing thoughts. And I suppose that's the answer to that.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I feel quite good

I originally wanted to write that I feel moderately good, but then Icepick is always telling me I use the word 'moderately' too much.

Ah, I still want to figure out what to do with this blog. Part of me wants to use it to write about politics and technology and various software ideas of mine, but in the week I've had this running I haven't really been in the mood to do that. Probably because I'm lazy and writing about something like that takes work. So, I suppose I'll use this blog as an extended status message for the time being. Which strikes me as something that no one else would want to read, but hey, this blog is in beta.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Struggle Continues

Continuing on the newfound drive for, well, drive. With regards to writing, I have in mind some anecdote from someone and I can't quite remember who it came from. I'd like to think Hunter S. Thompson, but I'm thinking it was more likely Seinfeld. Quick stop to Google... yeah, Seinfeld. Well, I'm sure people other then Seinfeld have said that. Not that I don't like Seinfeld at all, he's just not normally who I think of in terms of inspiration. That reminds me of something else I wanted to get down, but another time for that.

This all reminds me of a line of thought for how there should be a better non-linear software aided way of writing. Brendan had some thoughts along those lines. And I suppose this is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

About Time I Got This Started

I've been contemplating creating a blog for years and somehow never gotten around to it, instead just filling up occasional notebooks with random thoughts. A large reason for that has been laziness. Well, that and I didn't want to have to put my thoughts together in a way that was organized and presentable for the general public, but I suppose that's just another brand of laziness. Shame about that.

I used to think a lot more for fun. Then came college and jobs and those sapped a good deal of that energy. When you're breaking your mind all day it's awfully easy to turn to a beer and TV in the evening, but that's not how I want to go about life. Hopefully setting this blog up will prompt me to get back to my roots a bit more, force me to do some original thinking again. That, and be a lot easier to search through then dozens of notebooks hiding around my room.