Thursday, August 31, 2006

Awesome Photo

So, a picture I took at when I was at the Mars Desert Research Station in second year got used as a cover of a scientific magazine. My friend Ken alerted me to this.

The scientific magazine is Mars Analog Research, Volume 111, Science and Technology Series, ed. Jonathan D.A. Clarke. Invited papers on Mars Analog Research,2006, 356p
Here is a link.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I want it that way

A little high school nostalgia.

Start me (Brian), John Whitney (AJ), Chris Olthof (Nick), Caitlin Cameron (Howie, a man) and Kevin as Kevin.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Toronto Improv Blog Post #1

I headed down to Toronto a little bit early in order to see the Neutrino Video Project. Its an improvised 60-minutes long form movie. They go out and film scenes on DV tape, and have runners bring it back to the theatre, where scenes are played in between the Neutrino screensave that plays on the main screen for most of the time.

I was curious what the quality of this show was compared to our attempts at longform. Honestly, I was a little disappointed. Despite the performers being genius actors and comedians, the plot was just as muddled and chaotic as usual. This actually gives us a ton of confidence.

Whats the main drive of improvisation, for me? I mean, I can't expect to clevely mimic the plots of scripted movies. I do like the unpredictably - the chance of following the more chaotic route, the chance of fucking up. Hm...

More to come.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Holy Connectivity

After finishing my job, I've been spending alot of time working in Second Life on my MyZoo project. When I entered the welcome area a few hours ago, I saw an avatar sitting on top of a device labelled "Universal Translator". I initially thought - how cute!

The avatar's name is Hank Ramos, and we played with a few different Languages - Spanish, French, even Chinese characters. You chat in Second Life like normal, and it repeats (via object IM) the translated message to those who do not share you language but have signed up to "Listen". It doesn't use a translator script on the prim (which would be CRAZY). It uses the recent addition of HTML reading to LSL scripts to access the Google Languages translator, which is amazing to me. It keeps track of who is speaking what.

So, until about 45 minutes ago this was just a cool toy, when suddenly a new user in the Morris Sandbox came up to me and said "Speak you spanish?" How perfect. The pictures are of us in the Morris Sandbox, me in the middle of working on MyZoo, him wandering around in his plain newbie avatar. His SL name is santico Sapunov. I popped out the translation box immediately, and somehow we communicated how to use it. He knows a little english, which helps, but the interface was outrageously easy. We found out details about eachother. He is some sort of post-graduate 33-year old economics student in Argentina. This is when everything turns awesome. We are still talking, but I took him out of the area to the Electric Sheep island. He is impressed with the virtual architecture. I shouldered the translator box on my back so I can fly around and we can still keep talking, me in English - repeated in Spanish, then he responds in Spanish - repeated in English.

I'm going from place to place. Shouldering the translator box - sending santico the teleport and he follows me. We are now in a club, trying (with difficulty) to talk.

I think this is the epitome of an experience SL is supposed to provide.

Lazy Ramadi

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

This is what is in my room right now

Going counterclockwise from my computer monitor.

Two black walkie-talkies, holding down about 50 pieces of paper containing scribblings about MyZoo, a proect, I'm working on.

Some climbing equipment.

My left hand, freshly covered in gymnastics chalk.

A metronome I've had since I was ten, in the original box.

My fiction collection, mostly strange sci-fi I found in this box on the side of the road one day. Some new-age comedy, and several issues of Y: The Last Man.

On my couch, a partially inflated kiddie pool, my toque, 5 large rubbermaid containers (which go with the kiddie pool). On top of the rubbermaid container is a manila envelope containing the 4 plays I'm writing - a post-it on top says "SENIORS must be CHARACTERS".

A bike helmet.

A stack of giant books on top of my dresser. Highlights: "Ants", "Impro for Storytellers", "99 ways to tell a story", "An Album of Fluid Mechanics". Also a moon globe and a lego contraption my brother Skyler gave me.

An improv block.

A two-foot long foam rocket I bought in Watertown.

My closet, containing clothers.

A picture of me and my bros.

My bed, covered in leopard print sheets.

My non-fiction book collection. Mostly random stuff. I was looking for my thesaurus in there last night to find another name for "midget" or "dwarf" but found nothing, meaning I couldn't find the book.

My right hand, freshly covered in gymnastics chalk.

Directly over my monitor, a series of equations relevant to my summer job on a 8.5 x 11" piece of lined paper, taped to the wall with drywall tape.

On my monitor, several post-its saying things from "Write Scripts" to "Fix OSAP"

And that's it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

How to cope with ADD with a Linux operating system

Before reading any further: put on your thick glasses, your pocket protectors, fanny packs, and don't shower for a week.

I have a distraction issue. Maybe its not officially ADD or ADHD or whatever but it could be construed as such should a pharmaceutical company want it to be. Anyway, I am frequently distracting at work, which consists mostly of programming, both this year and last. I've spent hours on wikipedia or *shudder* facebook almost by accident between more important efforts, but I just realized my solution about an hour ago. I'll outline it.

This is what my desktop at work looks like.

Two absurdly large LCD screens, both one by one and a half cubits (I don't have a tape measure). Next, I am running Linux on these computers with the multiple workspace feature - 4 per screen actually. So thats a total of 8 workspaces; a total of 12 square cubits of pixel space.
I program in MATLAB, usually with the command line section and whatever code I have open taking up one whole workspace. More often than not, I have multiple copies of MATLAB open as I am trying different things, or running tests. This tends to massive confusion, and I've often found myself having no idea what's going on.
Today I hit on the idea of having a tiny text editor open (this is quick due to the "note" feature I have in Linux) in the lower right corner of the screen saying explicitly what exactly I am doing in the particular workspace. I have 6 copies of matlab open right now, all performing independent tasks. The other two screens are taken up by some file management stuff, and then the last screen is for writing this blog entry. 4 of the Matlab copies are running tests, and the notes tell me which test I am performing. The other two are programming experiments I am toying with to improve our algorithm. When I move to a new workspace, I have a message (written by me) telling me exactly what the hell is going on. I move, godlike, from place to place making a tiny change here and there and I getting more done that I have been in the past week.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Family Reunions are Awkward because...

o You see what you could have been like if you had a slight shift in genes, or upbringing, and its strange and disturbing.

o No matter what (maybe this is only me) you are the ONLY one your age. I'm always the oldest of the children, except for some guy that is too cool to talk to me.

o Usually the only thing that you have in common is ancestry.

o You can't flirt with anyone, because they are probably related to you. Asking is doubly awkward.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Awesome/Wierd Night

Last night was so wierd/awesome that I feel I have to capture it.

On the elixir patio me and my team the Albino Seals were for some post-Ultimate Frisbee drinks and hang-outage. Overheard, there were some flashes of lightning, so a storm was about to start.

I love storms so much - they are the equivalent of an atheist's religious experience for me. Guys - you know how you get that tightening feeling in your balls when you are near an edge of a long drop that you could fall off? Well, its that same feeling of scary excitement for me.

We were hanging out, and the wind started to pick up. It got so intense an umbrella was actually pulled out of our table and hit my friend Matt in the face. Fortunately, my team's well-honed ninja-like reflexes grabbed it before it hit anyone else. Strangely, the bouncers took no notice to a situation which was going to get inevitably worse. After all my craptalk about how much I love rain to my team, they made me go out and dance when it started raining really hard. As I was getting back on the patio, a giant whoosh whipped up the umbrella again and sent it flying through the air directly at Matt (again), even though he had moved and WAS WALKING AWAY.

We went inside to dry off, and drink more. After two close encounters with an umbrella in a strange fashion, we started talking about Final Destination. Someone mentioned that in the Final Destination 3 DVD, YOU GET TO CHOOSE WHETHER OR NOT PEOPLE DIE! I immediately became fixated on this (having a fetish for new and interactive media) and we (Matt, Kim, Simon) immediately left to find it and watch it.

It seems that at 10:45 on a Wednesday night most video stores were closed. Night Owl Video was closed permanently (Dear Night Owl Video, I will miss hanging out in your curtained-off porn section as a way to make people I've just met jittery and test their limits). Finally, we went down to Classic, which was closed but being staffed by Jeff Williams, a guy I hadn't seen in FOUR YEARS who I used to play improv in high school with. He's a crazy-ass film student who is both hated and loved for his eccentric and ambitious videos, as I remember it. Anyway, it was after closing time but he hadn't closed the cash and let it in.

There it was, lying in three copies on the shelf - FINAL DESTINATION 3.

Incidentally, on the way home, we saw a massive tree that had crushed a car due to the intense winds that were going on. This made us a little more on edge.

We went home - I ate an unevenly toaster ovened chicken pot pie and we watched the movie. It was both awful and amazing. The choices were arbitrary and sometimes stupid, having little effect - but we could see it had been filmed with the intention of being used this way, at least. Also, I noticed that the director or whoever believed that people are made with Ravioli on the inside, having crushed or exploded several of them, and the cbunks looking rather delicious.

The movie is sitting on my desk now, waiting to be rewound and watched again.