Archive for 2002

Sure, I’ve been wanting to learn about politics…

The nation of Castalia.

Being as I’ve only just taken office, there are still a number of things that need to get cleaned up.

Minority Report

I am no longer in the minority (at least among people I know) that have no DVDs (never really was if you count the music video sampler that came with my computer) Still in the minority that have never purposefully bought one ;^)

Local gaming group did a random gift exchange last night. Kind of a horrible commercial corruption of the whole ‘gift’ thing, really. Anyway, I ended up with a Minority Report DVD. (Plus a garbage bag and lifetime supply of paper towels as wrapping.) In theory I can play it on my computer, but I don’t know when I ever will; having a small screen instead of large doesn’t make me any more willing to watch movies by myself.

Not that I’ve been making fabulous use of my time. Mostly I’ve been getting sucked int reading academic programming papers. All of the sound relevant to a project I want to get going, but it seems like I’m spending all my reading. Today I joined the ACM (an expensive proposition) for access to their online library, (an equally expensive proposition) which it looks like I’m quite likely to making frequent use of as I track down previous work. Meanwhile, the web page revision is only plodding forward in spare moments.

I have Kumquats ^_^

Not quite what I expected to find at Piggly Wiggly, but it’s always fun to go into a store and go “Kumquats? I have never seen kumquats before!” The store’s cashier is expecting a report on what the taste like as well :-)

Kind of a small, grape sized citrus fruit. Reminds me a little of lemon, but not as bitter. The seeds can be nearly as big as the larger fruits though, so be careful.

And yes, even kumquats have a website. ;^)

More recently

Sometime the Culligan commercial water softener control got final approval for release. A day later they got a comment that required changes ;^) Testing was slightly complicated by some of our tortured testing hardware refusing to work, but it got fixed. Meanwhile, I’ve been fighting with poker odds. If anybody knows of a resource for the odds of various hands after discarding and redrawing X cards, please let me know, because I gave up on Google ;^)

Thursday disappeared. First I took my car in for basic service, and to have a factory recalled ignition switch replaced. Then I slipped in dinner before heading off to a kind of joint birthday party with one of my relatives.

I think I got too much sugar from the ice cream cake, because I didn’t sleep very well that night. Finally I got up to see what time it was (and whether I had ever gotten to sleep.) It was a little after five, so I ended up going into work early. It was kind of a short day anyway, because they like to go out on a high note. The last work day before christmas is a catered lunch (which was decent as catered food goes) and they close the place down not long after. We also get a christmas bonus. I’ve seem three other christmas’ here, and it is always about 100 dollars; okay, so it covers a few gifts. Consequently I didn’t even open the envelope until I got home. At which point I found a check larger than my usual one. I guess it really was a good year. :-)

That should top off my car loan. And here I’d just figured out that I could do it in two or three months if I made a point of it. ;^) Once that’s closed down, I can turn my full attention on the mortgage…

About a week ago…

Saturday the 14th was a work day, in a kind of exchange for everything between the 20th and 2nd. The previous day the boss had mentioned that one of my previous games, Dino Dash had been doing pretty well for making money, and we could consider doing something similar. Saturday I brought the rest of programming team (up to a whopping three, up from just me at the beginning of the year) to make the call for game concepts. It was a nice feel-good meeting. Along with it went a few technology demos of stuff that I developed during a stagnant year, but never used.

Sunday was birthday breakfast with my parents. They gave me some bamboo stalks in water, in a fancy looking vase. A sign declared the stalk arrangement “Love Sign,” because we are the Love family, ha ha. It also had instructions which, quite separately, said to change the water every two weeks, and to add two drops of some green stuff every other week. Couldn’t they have made that one step? ;^)

Still, two weeks is kind of annoying to remember. But a lot of things seem to have that frequency, (namely, paycheck and changing my (disposable) contacts) so I decided to line them all up and mark down two week intervals on my calendar.

The Year of the Compass

The games are on site, and bug reports and comments are starting to roll in. No panicked phone calls this weekend, so things can’t be going too bad ;^) Still, we are probably going to have a load of new comments Monday.

Saturday was a martial arts seminar nearby. Fairly standard, although a fair bit of it was lecture this time. It was a nice workout room though, with a good southern exposure. (glare was mostly diffused by the glass block windows) It was kind of cool to see the bright area of the sun crawling across the windows as the day went on.

Really I’ve only come understand the facing of a building recently, due in large part to my architecture research. I have for instance realized that I have the northwest corner of the building, so I don’t get much sun. Might explain why it went unsold for several months before I found it. I’m not quite sure I’d buy it if I saw the same place today; it is really not very well designed, under every system I’ve considered it by.

After the seminar, I rushed home for a shower before heading out to the usual gaming group. With Saturday gone, Sunday was pretty much utilitarian, taking care of grocery shopping, cooking for the rest of the week, and some links I ran across in Natural Home Magazine:, which seems to be mostly lists of other references, which will actually tell you what the heck it actually is, and, which tries to re-introduce neighborhood squares (among other things) into existing grid subdivisions. Both the mission, and the name, (“Site Repair” is an element of the pattern language) suggest that the instigator, Mark Lakeman, may be familiar with Christopher Alexander’s work.

Also finally got around to printing a new calendar (I couldn’t find a good year calender when I went looking for one, but I did find that my old copy of Print Shop could make them.) The way things are shaped though, there always ends up being an empty spot in the corner. It seems appropriate to put a square graphic there, and of Print Shop has tons… Mostly useless, so it’s a debatable use of time. Still, even though I’ve never done “new year’s resolutions,” the graphic that gets chosen somehow reflects the coming year (or at least my conception and hopes for it a month beforehand.)

This, then, is the year of the compass. It seems like I’m stopping to check to my bearings in life, to see if I’m still headed in the right direction. Lots of new things starting up, (or trying to) and maybe some old ones will have to end. Change is scary, and I’m still not completely sure which way is north.

More Alexander

Finished reading Christopher Alexander’s Notes on the Synthesis Of Form. (See some previous comments) While this book demonstrates Alexander’s dissatisfaction with current practice, and a desire to do something about, the book is almost more a statement of the problem, then a presentation of a compelling solution, as in his later work. The arguments are less compelling, and lack the exemplary clean and clear style found later.

One of the things I found out reading is that Alexander actually started out in mathematics and later moved to the field of architecture. This fact, completely un-discernible from reading his later work (expect, perhaps, in the attempt to make design systematic) is painfully evident in Notes. Nearly the second half of the book is devoted to two appendices, the first of which is a large example, mostly presented as raw data, which most readers will probably not undertake the effort of fully understanding. The second appendix betrays the mathematical background, with formulas, sums, and greek letters in their full obfuscating glory.

Also missing from Notes is the focus on human factors that predominates in his later work. Once again, this looks like a borrow, not a buy, for most, and very few readers will wish to put forth the effort that would be needed to understand the appendices.

A longstanding question answered

I’ve often wondered where I stood in the standard political view. I never really ‘got’ the concept of sides. The answer, it seems is that I’m right in the middle.

Economic Left/Right: -0.12 (not sure which way)
Authoritarian/Libertarian: -3.64 (towards lib.)
(scale appears to be -10 to +10; the
graph makes a lot more sense)

Political Compass

I Think I Have a Cooking Problem.

About 1:00pm I tore myself away from to eat lunch. About 7-8pm I returned to the computer.

Lunch was actually leftovers, and I spent some time finishing up the chapter of Notes On the Synthesis of Form that I was in. Then I decided to make another cookie experiment, since the cause of some undesirable qualities in the last few tries has been causing a rather annoying bit of curiosity. This batch turned out quite well, although the dough was a little crumbly and hard to work with. But first, I red some of the statistics book, and then did dishes since I was going to be making some more. Got some more reading done while baking cookies. Did more dishes.

The stuff that I had for lunch was the last of that set of leftovers. So time to make something else. That, plus dwindling supplies of fruit, necessitated a quick trip to grocery store. Then I get dinner started, since it will have to cook for a while. More cooking, more reading. Eating, finishing chapter, more dishes.

I have two meals, cookies on the counter, leftovers in the fridge, and no dishes in the sink. Still, the reading progress seems like poor consolation for six hours of prime weekend. ;^)

(I had been hoping to re-build my web page. Maybe the christmas break?)

Alexander Today

As predicted, I finished The Oregon Experiment in fairly short order. (See previous reviews of the first two books, The Timeless Way of Building and A Pattern Language.)

While I can wholeheartedly recommend the first two, The Oregon Experiment is a much smaller book, for a not too much smaller price, and offers little in the way of new insights, especially in comparison with earlier volumes. Part of my disappointment is largely due to a misconception on my part; I had been expecting a kind of analysis of applying the pattern language the the University of Oregon, and a report on how well it worked. Instead, I got a report on how the process for using it was set up, apparently written before anything tangible had come of it.

I made an attempt to see how UoO is doing today, which hasn’t been completed to my satisfaction yet (explained later) I have discovered that UoO is still basing it’s policies on the principles set down in The Oregon Experiment nearly thirty years ago, which should say something. On the other hand, the current campus map looks largely like the 1970 one, and nothing like the speculative maps in the book. Clearly the UoO planners have taken a different interpretation of the patterns than Christopher Alexander had at the time.

I guess the final verdict is that I can’t recommend buying the book to anyone, except perhaps those actually looking at setting up a simmilar planning process. Others may find the book worth borrowing, but would hardly be improverished without it.

While searching for reports on the success of the UoO process, I discovered that Christopher Alexander is alive, well, and on the web at Among many other things, is information about his four-volume magnum opus, The Nature of Order, currently working it’s way through typesetting and printing. As if I didn’t have enough to read:

Meanwhile, I’ve started reading C.A.’s Notes on the Synthesis of Form. This is much earlier work, predating the pattern language idea by several years. Still, I’ve gathered that it is a well known and respected work. It is also a “flip-book”: generally a couple times a page one has to flip to the back to see if a note is just the bare bones reference information, or a one-two paragraph exposition on the point at hand. A spare bookmark comes in handy ;^)

Completing my earlier point… Many of said references, both in context and title, sound extraordinarily fascinating. Then again, maybe I should just wait for The Nature of Order‘s bibliography, for the updated list…