Around the Web: 2013.01.22

Surprising things that make a brain?

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/510141/what-makes-a-mind-kurzweil-and-google-may-be-surprised/

While I understand large bits of the subject at hand I want to draw the most attention to the comments on Watson: it’s good at trivia but not so great at problem solving. As a society we base communication on trivia, and we seem to assume that that thought is based on said communication learning techniques; but it doesn’t that that’s the case! Yes, we are a sum of our experiences, but it’s the sum of our problem experiences that were solved!

Dark Ages now brighter!

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/509876/the-algorithms-that-automatically-date-medieval-manuscripts/

Building a bit on the compounding communication part, I find this rather fascinating. Basically, it’s holing communication changes to a generation or a migration; something that the AI guys try to do with modern changing vernacular- only this is over thousands of years instead of days or months!

Assuming Siri is… wait, what?

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/510081/dont-make-siri-a-character-apple/

It’s a good point to think about: what does Siri need? I tend to think that a writer would be brought on to make things shorter or least more varied while being rather brief.

The Fall of Communism- I mean Social News!
http://corte.si/posts/socialmedia/trouble-with-social-news.html

The Long Contract of The Law

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/01/google-stands-up-for-gmail-users-requires-cops-to-get-a-warrant/

I’m rather glad Google is doing this; maybe our data will start to be our data! When your mail goes through the post office it’s still your letter that the post office is hanging on to for a little bit (not perfect I know, but you get the idea). Maybe more exposure to such things will get people to start to really think about their data more critically.

Mu-nundrum

http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/01/hydrogen-made-with-muons-reveals-proton-size-conundrum/

Interesting read to be sure; would be interesting to see how the experiment would pan out in six months from now to see if anything is different due to tilt or seasons.

Sunday Movie Night

Some movies just need to be bad to be good; Demolition Man very much fits that profile. Many of the characters are over the top caricature of stereotypes from other genres. Complete with bag guys that can’t aim! Very little of the overall movie makes sense really; but Dennis Leary adds a bit of understated bravado that balances out the more slapstick over the top feeling one gets from watching Snipes or Stallone.

Just watched Demo Man and now moved on to the Les Mis inspired Aladdin; can you have two different movies? The actual bad guys in Demolition Man are actually a bit ethereal, whereas in Aladdin they’re fairly cut and dry overall.

And look: Cinderella! The movie that doesn’t understand time, location, or titles for that matter.

To say this was an interesting night of movie watching may be an understatement of massive proportions.

Television

I watch one show every week and make sure not to miss it: Castle. I’ve slowly added in Suits. Burn Notice used to be in that category but has declined recently sadly, same with Parenthood. Once Upon a Time has caught my attention more this season; I stopped last season about half way through since they were going a bit too far with the “no more happy endings” thing that was entertaining for me. Iron Chef as well as Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives are still staples in my weekly viewing. Grimm I will more or less listen to while my wife watches it and I code or game on the couch. That leads over to Netflix.

When I need something to just be on, or want to relax with some sic-fi I go to my Netflix queue. I’ve been re-watching Deep Space Nine since it was available on Netflix, not barreling through and it’s been fun to watch an episode and think back to when I first saw it, what it really means for the human state before continuing on with my day. Recently I got through the rest of StarGate Universe that I failed to watch in its original run; the change of day made it almost impossible for me to watch it or record it in the second season. Another post coming soon about that show; it was almost really good. At this point, the majority of my movie and show watching happens long, long after it’s new if at all.

Makes my normal viewing habits of television for a week are up to three hour of paying attention, and then a variable amount of “noise” while my wife watches her shows. I did not/do not include sport in this list; they are quite seasonal and I treat it more as news given how much of it I watch in clips on the web.

This post is very specific on television with a foray in to movie consumption; where I get most of my visual entertainment is “streams” of games, gaming related video casts, and various youTube videos. That’s some thoughts for another day though.

Time Commitments

Recently I decided to map out my week and have a table for time vs percentage and another of ideal; my ideal schedule I still haven’t really come up with, but documenting what a “normal” week looks like was hard enough in its own right. Looking at my schedule over the last couple of years this is what a normal week tends to look like apparently.

Activity – By Week Hours Percentage Notes
Total 168 100% This is how many hours a week possible
Music Practice 9 5 Three 3 hours rehearsals
Work Commute 12 7 2 Hours Train, 30 Minutes Redline, 30 Minutes Walking & Bus- 3 Hours/Day; I always try to work from home one day a week.
Work 40 24 Really this goes over a lot…
Comics 7 4 Between reading and picking up it’s about an hour a day
Sleep 42 25 Really this is a minimum, but it tends to be pretty true
Television 5 3 For shows I watch and various things my wife would like me to watch
Gaming 7 4 I really only end up averaging an hour a day at this point; this needs to improve dramatically
Church Activities 3 2 This is the other things I would like to bump up a lot
Personal Projects 10 6 From coding to everything else
Time with my Wife 25 15 I note this not as an obligation, but a privilege that I get to have at least this much time with my wife a week; typically it’s more, too!
Workouts 8 5 It’s about an hour each day with some spillage

That’s 100% of my week. I didn’t think I actually had it planned out that much, but I really do. Thankfully for me, there’s a lot of these things that I can do at the same time; like commuting and personal projects! I wrote this on one such commute. I did not include eating as I tend to pair it one of the other items above. Sadly, due to both our schedules, my dedicated time to enjoy my wife’s company gets cut tragically short all too often. Additionally this doesn’t even include various transportation timing that eats in to activities. Realizing that work plus sleep is half my week gone out the window was not an inspiring thought…

This has been a very interesting excursive for me; really having to think about the things I do/don’t do in a week and what my real priorities are. It’s also inspired me to make “Time Commitments” an on-going look at how I spend my time and how I think about my time.

Football, Drones, and Walls: A Weekend Review

Given my teams that I hope to win things, I’m down to just the 49ers in the hunt to the Super Bowl. I was quite hoping for a Broncos-49ers Super Bowl in New Orleans; Manning against an upstart defensive team, would have been entertaining!

Of all the things that I saw covered at CES the only thing I’m really interested in is the Parrot AR 2.0; GPS with programable routes, better camera control, and an SDK. Yes please. The 84″ touch screen was cool and gives me some ideas for a project at work to be honest.

On Saturday I helped a friend start to tackle his yard. We built 30′ of wall for a planter four (4) feet high. There were five of us working all across the yard and a lot got done in one day; at one point we were all even looking for extra things to do! My body is certainly paying for it today, but in so many good ways. The lifting that has been going on most mornings for the last few months came in handy, not only was the chore of carrying over seventy (70) bricks weighing over twenty five (25) pound made easier, but recovery is much easier, too!

Up for this week is helping my wife with her projects around the house, finishing another video game, a lot of writing, and hopefully releasing an alpha for a game I’ve been wanting to make for a long, long time.

Django – Insensitive Case

When using Django in Python there’s these awesome things called QuerySets that are a full blown ORM to make it so I don’t have to think in SQL to get things in and out of a database! One of the things I didn’t find documented very well was case sensitivity vs insensitivity.

If you’re using the MySQL backend the case-sensitive is implied, i.e. using BINARY LIKE instead of just LIKE

series = Series.objects.filter(name__contains=srch_str)

To make sure that you’re searching for some that’s case insensitive you can do the following:

series = Series.objects.filter(name__icontains=srch_str)

If you want it to work case insensitive no matter the backend, collation, or collection type just use icontain, istartswith, iendswith, iregex, iexact.

Pokemon X/Y – Why?!

I saw this announcement the other day and promptly showed everyone in my office. I’ve been playing Pokemon games since the Red Blue days, and the halcyon days of Silver and Crystal. After that I got a little less interested for a while, but still picked things up and have “beat” every game since. Pokemon Black got me really in to it all again, even borrowed my wife’s copy of white to work on filling out the Pokedex; thankfully I had transferred a ton of Pokemon from my original Silver all the way up to Pearl and HeartGold, so there were a lot of old world Pokemon I didn’t need again. What does this have to do with a 3D Pokemon game? Well, everything really.

  1. I’ve been playing games in the series since it was created
  2. We’ve all been waiting for a true 3rd person perspective and “3D” world, and now we get it!
  3. I’ll be able to see all the Pokemon I’ve been dragging around since Blue in eye popping 3D
  4. The games are fun if you take them for what they are

The interesting things for me is that I don’t even own a 3DS, but this one game will get me to buy the system and a handful of other games that I’ve been wanting to play on the hand held. As a short anecdote, I got to play on one of the original dev models while at E3 a few years ago, I’ve been wanting something to justify the purchase ever sense. The 3DS XL was the first half of justification I needed, this new Pokemon game will tip the game library to populating the other half.

“Superior” Spider-Man #1

Spoilers warning: this article contains spoilers for Superior Spider-Man.

If I wanted a dark, edgy, action Spider-Man I’d go back to buying Venom…that said, lets look at this a little bit.

Otto is, seemingly, fully in control of Parker’s body; he’s even finally giving back in to his relationship with MJ (finally). As we see Otto pulling out more stops than Peter usually we did we get a glimpse at what a Spider-Man that had bought Batman comics would do in terms of preparation. He’s taking cues from Tony Stark with the over the top, paparazzi, press filled take down. We also see something that more like Peter-Sense than Spidey-Sense: Otto stops his retreat to save a police officer. This crops up again before Otto can kill a man: Parker is a Force-ghost who stops Otto’s arm! This ghost has a moment where he notes that he is thinking about taking back control; so there’s one ace up the sleeve to bring Peter back, what others do they have?

Given the hype of this issue I thought there would be a lot more “meat” to it; but instead it reads like a normal, plodding and sparse number one issue, introducing us once again to characters. In that respect, it’s a great jumping on point to Marvel Now!

Bastion: Play through In Review

I completed my play through of Bastion in about 6 hours of playtime that included leaving some idols on, doing a couple proving grounds, and experiencing the awesomeness of “Who Knows Where” a couple times. I will note that this article contains spoilers; you’ve been warned. The soundtrack was amazing, the voice overs hauntingly intriguing, and the emotional impact high.

There’s a good possibly that I place a bit too much importance on music in games; being a musician will do that I guess. The soundtrack to Bastion was so good I was humming it in the shower after my workout this morning. It’s quite sparse in a lot of ways, but that just adds to the feeling of a desolated world trying to put itself back together. The slow building of the orchestration and instrumentation mimic that which is being played, which just adds to the feeling of progression that the games provides. At one point they made some of the sheet music available and given how amazing the songs on the soundtrack are I’ll be using that as the basis for my next round of trombone arrangements. That’s how good the music is in this game.

One of the features that caught me as truly innovative was the narrator; he even mentioned that I was just idling killing terrain, “raging a bit” over what had happened! The realization at the end of who is talking to and in what context is also quite awesome, it even influenced my decisions at the end of the game. The narration the first time I went in to “Who Knows Where” changed a lot of my feeling and attitudes toward Zia as well; it’s the main reason I evacuated at the end instead of just leaving it all to possibly happen again.

Speaking of “Who Knows Where” it was the turning point in the game for me. Going from action adventure game to an immersive game that happened to be an action adventure RPG. From there on out I was fighting for someone, for people, to find out what the truth was. A little while later I encountered Zulf who had sent some people to attack The Bastion; because I was quite tired at that point my poor Squirt died…I didn’t realize how attached I was to the little bugger until the awesome narrator told me he didn’t make it. I was heart broken and pissed that my little friend had died; and felt it was all my fault! From there I woke up a bit more and decided to push through and punish the bastard who had sent people to not only kidnap the girl, but to kill my friend. My rage was only enforced by the music, getting more and more epic with every level and layer added on. Then something happened; Zulf was on the floor, and I didn’t do it.

Seeing the man who was fueling all my rage impacted me in a very odd way; knowing that the people around him were technically Zia’s and had no desire for peace made me feel sorry for Zulf in a way. So I picked him up and slowly trudged to the exit, awash in so many emotions that it was odd to feel a sense of pride, of being the hero not leaving anyone behind. When I got back, and Zia went through all her comments about being together if we just evacuated, and knowing that Squirt wouldn’t be coming back no matter what I did, the choice was obvious: don’t let Squirt die in vain, don’t ditch the girl. And so we evacuated, ending an amazing journey that was more touching than any other game or movie in recent memory.

Comics in review

Next month I’ll be doing a full posting on my current pull list and some more on the reasons for those books; while it’s still January, another retrospective piece on how things got to now for me in the world of graphical goodies.

DC New 52 Fun in Review

Flashpoint got me back in to buying comics; Batman kept me reading. The low point of the year was a certain artist getting a hold of Deathstroke and taking him in a weird direction for a few months; which was rebounded later in the year and with T7. The Court of Owls was, interesting, and lead to the fun that is Talon. There were some other major story lines, but the big zero month did a good job of keeping the overall momentum going. Possibly most surprising was finding myself actually liking Jason Todd, not as much as Tim (needs his own book already) or Dick (best solo book right now for me), but more than I thought I ever would.

One of the most interesting moments in my DC collecting came when I realized that I had cut all the female books from my pull list; this isn’t all that surprising since there’s not a lot of the female characters in print form that I enjoy. In the DC Animated Universe (DCAU) I could use another few episodes of Wonder Woman, or Barbra Gordon doing her thing. Then I started to think about what would happen if I had a daughter who wanted to join in reading with me? This caused me to check up on all of the other characters that I had neglected since issues six; of all the books the one that captivated my attention the most was Batgirl (given it’s the Bat Family that I enjoy the most not too surprising), so I’m now caught up on those.

The New 52 has continued to be a great source of awesome and frustration for me; there’s a point of pride in knowing that many years of history and lore! That many years is fine and great, but when it stifles new stories it loses its appeal; these new starts and not worrying about any real past status quo has started to grown on me and I’m enjoying them a lot.

Marvel When?!

Moving on to Marvel there wasn’t much I enjoyed in the year; Schism was a bit of a flop for me, as was Avengers vs X-Men. But then came the All New X-Men, a big Spider Man event (more on that later) and now an Indestructible Hulk! The X-Men title may have spilled in to this year but its first few issues were in 2012; putting Beast made me very happy, giving him another new look after all these years was a good touch, too. Dr. McCoy and Logan have been my favorite X-Men since I was a little kid, but there’s been a little much of Logan in the world recently, more Hank can only be fun and exciting.

The Hulk has, historically, been at the bottom of character I like to read. The first issue of the new Hulk book changed that all for me. It came out right after I watched The Avengers again wishing for some more highlights of Bruce Banner in the comics; low and behold that’s exactly what I got! I’ve temporarily added it to my pull list for the beginning of this year, but it was a great way to cap off 2012 unlike the next event…

The comic series that got me in to comics in the first place all these years ago was a guy named Ben Reilly who took over for a certain web slinger of historic proportions. Sadly, this only lasted a few issues, but was my real introduction into reading and collecting comics; to the point where I asked for the Epic Ben Reilly collections for Christmas this year. Being burned so badly by his death (his portrayal as the Scarlet Spider before Peter stepped down is still some of my favorite moments in comics books) I wasn’t totally sold going in to this whole “Death of Spider-Man” thing. In the end, I very much don’t buy it; Peter’s memories aren’t powerful enough to make Otto just change on the spot given he’s still the dominate personality in that body. I’m not going to comment on the longevity as I’m not too worried about that, but I will comment that the end of Amazing doesn’t make me want to pick up Superior.

Locke and Key Open The Moon or how I leaned to cry when reading a comic book

While this may have come out in 2011, I didn’t read it until 2012 and was the most surprising thing I read all year. Not only did it serve as my introduction to the series it made me cry. I don’t cry over much, I get it out once a year on my late grandfather’s birthday; but that comic made me cry darn it. I’m getting choked up just thinking about it now…

Transformers, Turtles, and Manga!

The new Transformers books are better than I thought they would be; “Regeneration One” feels expected most issues, but that’s not a bad things. “More Then Meets The Eye” and “Robots In Disguise” feel like people who really liked all the animated series, and had a couple toys they wish had more screen time, got together and pushed the bounds of what a Transformers story should be. From characters physical transformations to a very cool time travel issue these books kept my captivated for the year.

Another large part of my child hood revolved around the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which leaked in to my adulthood given the name of the site this is hosted on. The Micro-Series issues focusing on one character that’s not a Turtle is a great idea; it’s what I wish other companies would do instead of trying to give a character a solo book. One full issue to completely focus on one character, what makes them tick, why they are the way they are, and just leave it at that! Additionally, it makes the TMNT universe feel a little bigger, but not like a conglomeration that’s too large where you can’t know everyones name.

One of the awesome guys at Comics Toons N’ Toys in Tustin told my wife that Sailor Moon had returned in manga form; we now own all of them. This caused me to go to that side of the shop a bit more and check out some titles I haven’t read in close to ten years.

Where I Buy These Graphical Goodies

This will also serve as my plug for this article that if you are in the Orange County area, or ever pass through and need some comics, then you should really check out Comics Toons N’ Toys in Tustin; the people are awesome, will hold books for you, and make sure that everything is priced fairly (including discounts on Wednesday, aka New Comic Book Day). Not only are the workers nice, but everyone who I have talked in the time I’ve been going has been quite nice and genuinely enjoying themselves, not the snobbery of some stores. Additionally, its quite kid friendly with a few places devoted to younger readers selections.