Saturday, December 25, 2004

English weather; xbox theology


It's sunny! And warm!

I am of course not referring to the weather in Washington. I'm down in Southern California for Christmas. I flew in to John Wayne last night, and stayed with my brother David for the night. Then in the morning, I got some last-minute Christmas shopping done at South Coast Plaza--first time I've been there; it's nice--and then we picked up my other brother, Josh, and drove up to Tehachapi2 where my parents live. They just got a new puppy. She's a chocolate brown Lab, named Cocoa. Very cute. Her leg is broken, so she has a cast on, which makes her puppyish blundring all the cuter.

I have the best family in the world! We can all hang out together and argue about discuss certain passages of scripture without anyone getting offended at one another3. That's not the only reason they're the best, but the ability to disagree, and yet still be able to communicate with a desire to understand4 and not just make your veiw understood is high on my I feel like I can be myself with these people-ometer (which is quite fortunate, considering).

Yes, yes, I can see all the comments now, "Tim, you need to become less argumentative... blah, blah, blah". I acknowledge that most people find me argumentative and I actively try to be more 'nice'. However, I enjoy pointing out subtleties and counterpoints. I think my sense of humor and appreciation is built around nuances and seeming contradictions. This doesn't necessasrily mean that I disagree with whatever I happen to be challenging; it's more like sparring, and it invites retort. I don't think you can truely understand something, especially your own belief, until you have subjected it to a round of attacks. The fact that logical angles of attack exist means nothing; what matters is how well it withstands those attacks. By probing at your argument, I am seeking to understand its intricacies. I am also not afraid to change my position when I see that I have been wrong. I think I'm better at living out the 2nd half of Proverbs 9:8 than following the advice of the 1st half.

I meant to blog earlier; in fact I set aside time to do so, but other things came up. I think one of the reasons I can tolerate my roommate's more annoying attributes is the fact that we can argue and disagree, and neither of us gets upset. I particularly enjoy our theological debates, in which we usually find after the initial barrage, that we fundamentally agree on most points.

Casey's xbox and sound system are also nice to have around. I've gotten into Halo a bit. He used to work at the Redmond Devil, so he got all of his xbox stuff for free (the system and 8 or 9 games, along with several controllers). We had a halo party at my house on Monday evening. There were 8 of us on 3 xboxes. We started with Halo, and then switched to Halo 2. It was the 2nd time I'd played Halo at all, and I finally worked out a control setup that fits me: I'm a Lefty Greenthumb6. The only disadvantage to this setup is that the jump button is on the same side of the controller as the moving controls, so it's hard to run and jump (at the same time).
What made my house ideal for the Halo party is the digital projector. An xbox can output HDTV-quality picture, and my projector has the resolution to handle that beautifully.

I'm reading a book called The Story of English, and enjoying it thoroughly. I've always loved etymologies7, and this is like an etymology of the whole language8. One thing they point out about English is the fact that it has by far the most words of any language in existence. This is partly due the fact that the British isles were repeatedly invaded by attackers who settled in with the natives, merging lexicons, and so there are often several different ways to say the same thing. The variety of options allows for the possibility of subtleties, undertones, and connotations (which are incidentally three ways to say basically the same thing, but convey slightly different shades of thought). English also does not have a protectivist organization to insulate it from outside influences (as does French), which has insured that it remains a living language, useful as a medium of new ideas and cutting-edge technologies. This, as well as centuries of British and American global hegemony, commerce and war have made English the global language.

Certainly at one level I'm rooting for my language, and enjoying its success much like a sports fan, but this book is not at all about how English is inherently better or best. It's more a journalistic report on what has happened, how it happened, the contributing factors, and the consequences.

Quote of the day:
"Everyone should speak English or just shut up, that's what I say!" - Calvin.

1A sigh of contentment, as opposed to 'Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah', a scream of agony.
2Pronounced 'te-ha-cha-pee'
3Anna had gone to bed at this point, and Becky is with her parents.
4And possibly reconcile the two, concede, or reconcile the two points of view by clarification of the understandings behind what is said.
5Which is very fortunate, considering
6For the record: I am right-handed, and have only successfully kept one plant alive in my care.
7The stories of how words came to be as they are.
8Just another instance of my insatiable desire to understand how things work.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Of purchases

Fogive me if I seem a bit distracted this post, I just got The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Collector's Extended Edition, and I promptly plopped in the first Appendicies disc. After that, I stuck in the second one. I'm saving the film for Saturday, when I will watch all three extended editions.

Last Saturday, I attempted to go Christmas shopping. I started at the Sprint store, where I got something for my brother. Then I went to Radio Shack on a whim, where I saw a Franklin Bible (it's an electronic search tool) on clearance. My last one got stolen along with the rest of my Bible stuff, so I sprung for it. Next, I headed across the parking lot to the Goodwill. I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for, but I saw some interesting things. There was a table that opened up to reveal a spring-loaded sewing machine that popped into place. $9.99, if anyone's interested. There were no Dr. Seuss books in the children's section; they probably get snatched up immediately when people are foolish enough to get rid of them (or is it a sad lack of foolishness?) What my eye finally settled on was a photo printer. It looked to be in good condition. Nothing broken, and the power cord included, so then why would anyone donate it to the Goodwill? I opened it up and examined the carteiges. The black cartrige looked and felt full, but the color cartrige was emply. Someone had bought the printer for over $100, then the color cartrige ran out, so they got rid of it. The price was right: $3.99, so I bought it. When I brought it home, I plugged it in hooked it up, and downloaded its drivers from Sure enough, the color cartridge was completely empty. It was also damaged in the back from being taken out and put back in, so the electrical contacts were messed up. Unless I jostled it around properly, the printer didn't recognize the cartridge. The black cartridge was almost completely full, but it printed with streaks. That's probably due to the printer heads, which on HP printers is part of the cartridge, so if I want I can buy a new one of those, but for quick grayscale printouts, I'm keeping my old one on-line. I bought a store-brand color cartridge at staples down the street and presto! Photo quality printing, and all for under $35.00.

The first thing I printed was CD labels, because the next day I burned some new favorites MP3 CDs for my car. I recently got the Kill Bill Soundtracks, which are awesome. There's a flamanco mix of Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, as well as a pan flute The Lonely Shepherd. There's also that whistling one-eyed nurse tune that freaks people out (literally).

I still haven't gotten the bulk of my Christmas shopping done. Between the goodwill and home, I went to the mall, as well as a few other stores. The only potential gift I found all day there was something for my little sister, who is the one person I already had a gift for. So if anyone needs any ideas for her, give me a call.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Testing... The one with the sly smile is Anthony. Posted by Hello

It just started hailing outside.

Does anyone know how to use 'hello' to upload a photo that I can use on my profile, so that it'll be displayed on my blog? So far, I can upload photos to my blog, but that's about it. I haven't gotten fancy and hacked apart the format template, but it's on my list.

Work is frustrating. I think I'm making headway in understanding what I have to do, but there's no concrete progress. I've asked several people for help, but they don't know exactly what's going on either. It's been more or less like this for over a week. I'm writing the back-end to an SNMP MIB application (yes I know that means nothing to most of you). The front end was actually fun to write. Once I figured out how to use curses (which, in this case, is a software library, not a set of detrimental spells) I built a GUI1 (Graphical User Interface: pronounced "gooey"). I could tell you more, but then I would have to use a server script to capture all of your IP addresses so I could track you all down and kill you, and the computer you rode in on, too.

1It was text beased, so technically it was just a UI.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

My, what huge hobbits you have

The better to grow pipeweed, my dear0.

Friday night, I bought a digital projector. I love it! It's awesome. I had been kicking around buying a big screen TV for a bit, but had decided against it for a number of reasons. Big TVs are huge and heavy and I live in an apartment with a 6 month lease. Plus, if I had a big screen TV, I would probably watch it more often than a regular TV. I've also been thinking about the future, when I (presumably) get married and have kids, do I want my home life to be centered around the television, which if I bought a big screen would be the most prominent object in the living room1. I also wouldn't want my wife to be tempted to sit on her butt and watch soaps all day (or slightly less worse, Oprah and Dr. Phil). One of the reasons I feel strongly about this is that I was raised without a television in the house and at least partially as a consequence, I have an attention span, I like reading books, and I'm a beanpole who can eat just about anything I like and not get fat. I also missed most of the 1980's, and a lot of the early 1990's as far as pop culture goes.

Consequently, I absolutely suck at trivial persuit. People are surprised at this. They say "But Tim, you're smart, why are you so bad at trivia?" Intelligence assists retention of information, but it certainly isn't the same thing (althoug it might help in piecing together new information from that already known). I hate rote memorization of useless facts. I find information about celebreties useless. When I talk to someone, I want to exchange useful information as well as enjoy the person I'm talking to. Small talk accomplishes none of these things, especially when it centers around celebrity gossip (unless it raises some issue that applies to a profitable discussion) and professional (or college) sports (unless that person is involved in that sport in such a way that it meaningfully effects their lives). Sports scores and statistics don't interest me. If you admire a particular athlete because observing them has allowed you to improve your own technique, then talk about that, but please don't attempt to talk to me about how the WSU football team is going to beat the Oregon Ducks because frankly I don't care.

While I hate rote memorization, I love to understand how things work. And by things, I mean lasers, the human eye, quarks, galaxies, people, girls2, languages, Space-Time, predestination, computers, personality, artificial intelligence, electircity... you get the idea. The point is that memorization does not come from or lead to a discussion of the natrue of things; of what is going on under the covers and behind the scenes. Memorization can teach a man how to catch a fish, understanding the inner-workings of oceanography and marine biology is more fun for me, even if you never end up catching that fish. I digress. A digital projector is small, portable, and its primary purpose is to watch movies, not television (although we have that hooked up to it too). When off, it doesn't drain the room like a big black hole, and the resolution is excellent, especially for the price. I can also potentially use it to assist in a slideshow or a Sunday school lesson.

Friday night I went to Fry's becuase I know they have floor models of digital projectors. My roommate tagged along because he was very interested that I buy a projector, since he would get to use it for free. After Fry's we went to Circuit City and found an even better one than the one I had been looking at at Fry's. I was originally planning on ordering it online, since I could probably find a good price with no tax or shipping, but I changed my mind because at CC I could get a 4-year service plan that covered replacement of ($500) lamp modules. The sales guy said there was one in the warehouse, but when they got it, it was a very similar model, but with a few major difference, most notably $800 higher in price. They didn't have the one that I had just paid for. I told them I would take the one they had, since the computer said they didn't have any of that model, and they had one of the model that I ordered that they didn't have, but they didn't go for it3. They did give me a $20 price reduction for the trouble of driving to Tacoma to a store that did have it, which was rather nice. My roommate was actually rather helpful in knowing the right questions to ask. He used to be an electronics store salesman. To inaugurate the projector, we rented pi, which neither of us had seen, though it had been recommended. The problem with pi and the projector is that pi is in black and white, and this projector uses a color wheel. White light is produced by shining light through red, green, and blue filters on a spinning wheel. When there's white next to black, and there's motion, or especially an abrupt change of camera angle, your eyes momentarily see the individual colors, and you see a rainbow effect, which is particularly distracting in a black and white film. Not to worry. After about 5 minutes of this, we popped in Mission Impossible II, which played beautifully, especially since my roommate has a nice sound system. Saturday we hooked up our game systems. He has an Xbox and I have a Gamecube. I've never played Halo before, but I'm convinced the best way to play it is on a 5-foot wide4 screen projected above your mantle.

One of the reasons for the timing of this purchase is that The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition comes out soon, and I want to have a Lord of the Rings marathon where we5 watch all three extended edition movies in one day. That's over 11 hours of movie, and if you're going to watch it, why not watch it in your own movie theater like God intended6, rather than on a TV screen where the widescreen image is less than a foot high.

0I don't know! YOU think of something that big hobbits would be especially good for7.
1unless I got a huge one of those cabinets made especially to hide the sin box
2Yes, girls are people. I was just checking to make sure you're paying attention. Also, while a girl is a specialization of a person, to understand some of how girls function (let's be realistic here) is quite a different dimension added on to understanding how people work.
3Hey, it was worth a shot.
4No, that doesn't mean its a 60" screen. It's actually a 75" at 4:3 aspect ratio and a 69" screen at 16:9. This is actually the smallest it will go from where we have it set up. The reason it's this size is so it'll fit within the diagonal wall above our mantle.
6Rather than blasphemy, this should be interpreted as an allusion to Fezzik's line in the Princess Bride.
7Although I could claim it's a C++ thing, it was actually laziness that prompted me to start footnote enumeration at zero. I wrote the title and its accompanying nonsensicel blurb last.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Hello, World!

My name is Tim, and I'm a hacker. ("Hello, Tim.") Well, actually, my day job is "Embedded Software Engineer," but it sounds much sexier when I say it that way. Back in the days of warmth and sunshine, I used to manufacture tear gas; that was before the company moved, at which time I demolished the old plant and built a shiny new zero-emissions one in the desert (I had help). Now are the days of chill and wet and dark. I work for the same company as Dilbert, incidently. Same ugly building, same co-workers, although my boss' hair hasn't turned pointy yet. He's new to management; they haven't sucked his soul out yet. My direct supervisor is Homer Simpson, and the funny thing is he knows it. He and the 'requirements creep' can both quote any given Simpsons episode, chapter and verse.

Anyway, I've been plucked from my friends and family in Southern California and plopped down in the Seattle area. It's not a totally forign world. I'm still in the cultural blob that is the West Coast, where people (with the exception of those in "NorCal") know how to talk right. The extent to which the culture is different, it's dictated by the weather. Up here, you won't see the sun for extended periods of time, and during the winter it's dark by 4:30. And, there are coatracks at every table in restaurants. So people turn to mild legal addictive stimulants to reset their cercadian rhythms. I don't blame them. They don't know any better.

The hardest part for me is that I don't have anyone I can just hang out with anymore. I have a roommate, but you haven't met him, or else you would understand. I'll leave him for another post. My best friend up here is at Wazzu, which is five hours away. All the guys up here that I know are big into sports, which I'm not, and most of them are down in Tacoma, while I'm in Kent. Some of the girls that I know up here are fun to hang out with and talk to for the most part, but I don't want to give them the wrong idea, freak them out, or intrude. The kids are great, when they aren't mobbing my and pulling on my shirt--oh and hitting and kicking.

I've said enough for you to chew on... I'd better get out of my brain before it catches me.

Goodbye, Cruel World.

(Really--I'm not suicidal--it just fits symmetrically with the title)