Blog Closed

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Blog Proliferation

Dana mentioned a while back that I hadn't been updating my blog. I actually have written a number of posts this week, but haven't published any of them. It's a case of me starting to write something long before I realize how disinterested I am in writing about it.

A blog really demands a theme, otherwise it's hard to find things to write about. I have good success writing regular posts in my Wikibooks blog, and I do pretty well in my Parrot-related blog too. This blog is more like a diary, where I write things when I have something to say, but have a hard time forcing myself to update otherwise. Such is life.

Dana and I have talked about starting a food-related blog, something where we could take our various dinner creations and upload pictures and recipes. It would be a great way for the two of us to work together on a project, and the theme will help us to stay motivated with it. I do pride myself on my cooking, and a blog would be a great way to show that off to the world. I'm nothing if not a little arrogant!

In other blog-related news, the Wikimedia Chapters committee is talking about starting a new blog for themselves to keep the greater Wikimedia community abreast of the committee's doings. Actually, I was talking about doing it because blogging is my thing, and a few other people have shown some support for the idea. I do also run a personal blog for chapters-related topics, but that one doesn't always get updated as regularly as I would like. I have invited some people from the New York chapter, or the Canada planning group to join the blog and post, but so far there has been very little success on that front.

I have been thinking about moving away from my use.perl blog and creating yet another personal blog to talk about programming and software topics that are of interest to me. It makes sense because most of my programming projects are not Perl-related, at least not directly. I'm not sure if that's going to happen or not.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Matlab/Octave on Parrot

A few months ago, back when I was still in school and needed things to do to keep my mind off my thesis, I started idle work on a Matlab/Octave implementation for Parrot. A lot of the PCT components were still being polished at the time, and I remember having to implement some pretty heinous hacks to get things like subroutine return values working. I also remember having a hell of a time implementing the M variadic subroutine arguments and return values (Although that was a shortcoming of PCT that has since been resolved). I also remember the absolute sense of overwhelming dread when I thought about the huge number of standard library functions that any M implementation would require (not to mention the graphical functions!)

Anyway, today I got an email from another interested coder who wanted to implement an M-on-Parrot compiler. He saw some of my discussions on the topic in various chat logs and sent me an email. We shot a few emails back and forth last night, and today he's set up a new project at Google Code for it: Matrixy.

We're going to start uploading some of our initial work today, and then it's off to development like normal. I'll post updates about progress here as they happen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lost: My Theories

I'll admit, I'm a Lost-aholic. I love that show. And, as any other fan of it, my brain is riddled with questions and ideas and speculations. There is only a season and a half left of it, however, and I think the show has come to a point when I can start making reasonable speculations about it. I'm not going to go through all my reasoning and supporting information for each claim, more information about everything can be found at Lostpedia. Without further adeu, the theories:

Origins of the Island

I'm not sure where the island came from or where it got it's properties. There is no sense speculating about it's origins since there is very little evidence either way. The island does have an abundance of energy (time-space travel energy, electro-magnetic energy, healing/life energy, etc). This could be just a neat natural phenomina, or some kind of extraterrestrial doing, or some kind of spiritual religious thing. The exact origins aren't really important.

Some group of people in the distant past learned how to harness some of the energy though. This is why the donkey wheel in the Orchid well is made of wood and metal and stone, and does not appear to be some kind of alien technology. This early group of people built the well and the donkey wheel (which predated the orchid since there wasn't even wreckage left when the well was present), the temple, and possibly Cerberus the smoke monster. These are all primitive human technologies for harnessing the energies of the island.

The island also has a certain amount of consciousness/soul "energy", which is why the dead seem to come back to life. It also explains Jacob, who is like a ghost consciousness of the island. It's this energy that the ancient people harnessed to make Cerberus, which appears able to make decisions and animate smoke and stuff.

Charles Widmore

Circa 1954, Charles Widmore becomes the leader of the others. He is shown to be impetuous and absolutely dedicated to the island, which seems like the kind of thing that the others needed when they are being invaded by enemies with nuclear weapons.

Hanso Foundation

The Hanso Foundation is set up to examine the Valenzetti Equation. This is the equation whose 6 results are the numbers: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. The Valenzetti Equation is used to calculate the exact date and time that Humans will become extinct. Each number corresponds to a different factor that influences this. The Hanso Foundation sets up 6 research stations, one to study and attempt to influence each number (in order to push back armeggedon). These stations are the Arrow, Flame, Swan, Hydra, Pearl and Orchid. Research and experiments in these places eventually prove to be ineffectual at altering the numbers. Alvar Hanso, leader of the DHARMA initiative is replaced by the radical Thomas Mittelwerk. Mittelwerk decides to take a more active approach, and creates three new stations: Tempest (poison gas), Staff (biomedical and biological weapons) and Looking Glass (to obscure communications to hide the new evil purposes).

The Incident And Mittlewerk

The Valenzetti equation includes overpopulation as a factor in it's calculation, so Mittelwerk decides to reduce human population to try and change the numbers. He creates a virus that causes the others to become inable to have children (and tests it on them too!), and starts working on poison gas for further drastic population control. It is unknown why these numbers seem to pop up so frequently, it may just be a destiny thing.

The Swan station is also used in a drastic experiment to try and change the numbers by using them recursively. The magnetic reactor in the Swan is made into a doomsday device, where the numbers themselves are used to prevent catastrophy. The hope is by using the numbers to cause or prevent armeggedon, the numbers will be forced to change in order to stay accurate. This does not work, the reactor becomes unstable and is eventually sealed off. The reactor isn't able to be disabled completely, and the numbers must still be entered into it regularly in order to prevent further incidents from occuring. After the initial incident, the Swan is broken irrepairably and the experiment cannot be shut down without the failsafe switch to destroy the whole station.

Ben and the Purge

Alarmed by the dramatic and harmful work the DHARMA initiative is doing, the others turn to Ben who is conviving and scheming. He agrees to purge DHARMA from the island in exchange for becoming leader of the others. Jacob and Richard (or whoever makes the decisions) decide that Charles must be "sacrificed" for the good of the island, and must leave it forever in order to get the help from Ben. Charles grudgingly leaves the island (developing quite a distaste for Ben) forever, and Ben releases the poison gas to purge DHARMA from the island. Ben becomes the leader of the others, although they all aren't entirely happy with it because he schemed his way into the position, he wasn't specially chosen like other leaders were. Jacob and Richard both make comments about how they aren't happy with him in the show.

Charles Widmore can really have one of three motives (I'm not sure which without more info):
  1. Charles is still loyal to the island itself, and feels he must protect it from Ben, who he views to be an interloper and enemy of the island. This is why he tries to capture Ben and have him removed from the island at all costs
  2. Charles is intensely vengeful that Ben took control of the island from him, and thinks that if he can't have the island, nobody can.
  3. Charles is forced by Ben to leave the island before he can learn some of the islands secrets. He wants Ben captured so that he can learn the additional secrets of the island and use them (for good or evil, I do not know).

There are a lot of aspects that I haven't touched on here, because there are many areas of the show mythology that haven't been explained well enough or where not enough evidence exists to support any one conclusion. I think the next one or two episodes are going to be very informative, and will conclusively prove or invalidate at least one prediction made here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hacking on Wikiperl

My Wikibooks bot is one of those projects I work on in fits and spurts. I tend to ignore it when it does what I need it to do, and hack like crazy when it doesn't. Recently I've been focusing most of my efforts on Parrot instead of on Wikibooks, so the bot has been pushed even further back in my queue.

However, Spring semester is getting going again, and the folks down at ODU need more help getting their book Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment up and running for their students. A lot of pages in that book need boiler plate text added to get the students started. By my last count, they need about 2500 edits made, and they need to be made by this weekend. Sounds like the perfect use for my bot!

I did some hacking on it yesterday and this morning, and then set it loose to start making edits. While I was on a roll fixing things, I added a few features that I wanted too. Here's some of what I did in the past two days:
  1. Added syntax highlighting and line-numbering
  2. Lots of refactoring of code to improve code quality and improve extensibility (have a lot of ideas for extensions to add later!)
  3. Fixed the "save"/"load" functions, so you can save your work and return to it later
  4. Added in a mode to do unified diffs, to better see what changes are being made
  5. Added support for multi-level TOCs (Book/Chapter/Page)
  6. Fixed handling of TOCs not to return Category:, Image:, or other non-page links
In addition to these fixes, I also set up the bug tracker at source forge to better keep track of things that need to be done.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Current events

I don't normally talk about current events on this blog. Of course, I don't "normally" talk about any one thing here. Not that it matters of course, I don't have a readership that I'm worried about alienating. Let's hit some news things:

  1. Michael Phelps smokes pot. So what? Seriously, I'm not surprised, shocked, or disappointed about this in any way. America, here's a news flash: People under 30 who have never ever ever smoked pot are probably in the minority. The problem with pot is that it ruins people's lives, people give up important things in order to pursue pot, and they end up wasting their lives. Michael Phelps has a box full of olympic gold metals, we don't need to worry that he's not going to amount to anything. If he wants to kill a few brain cells at this point we should let him; he's not celebrated for his mind anyway.
  2. Miracle on the Hudson. It's not really a miracle, it's a combination of the great engineering that went into the plane, and great training and quick thinking of the pilot and crew. Luck had nothing to do with it, these people involved were experts.
  3. The stimulus is stupid. Want to help people? You can do it by taking these "toxic" debts away from them. If we have children eating bleach tablets, do we give money to the hospitals to treat them, or do we take the damn bleach tablets away from the children? Banks screwed up by giving bad high-interest debt to people who couldn't afford them, and I can guarantee you that giving money to the banks is not going to fix the problem. You want to help the people in trouble? Give them the money. The unending bullshit of "trickle-down" economics, that some how giving money to rich people will inspire them to eventually give money to poor people, is utterly rediculous. If the government gives me a million dollars, I guarantee that I won't hire 5 people with it: Maybe I'll go on vacation, and have a little fun instead. Of course, executives of large corporations would never do that, would they?
This is why I don't watch the news, because it's all so boring and stupid.