I've been having a really hard time feeling the holiday cheer lately.. Everything just seems like more hassle than it's worth these days.

My nifty new phone has had a bunch of hardware problems, so much so that I've taken it back to the store so many times that they won't swap it out for me anymore. I'm now waiting for a refurbished replacement to be mailed to me by Verizon. Well, actually it's been mailed, and was attempted to be delivered yesterday, but I wasn't home. I can't be home for it today because I need to be in the south bay today, so they'll miss me again, and I don't really want to sign the thing to have them leave it on my doorstep (not so much because of the fear of it going missing as the fact that the weather lately has been such that with my luck I'd come home to find a cardboard box full of soggy warranty-voided electronics waiting for me). I'm hoping I can get it tomorrow as that's the last attempt they'll make to deliver it...

Oh, and one of my DirecTV satellite inputs has decided to stop working for no apparent reason, so we're down to just one now, which means some of the stuff we've got scheduled to record probably isn't recording, and watching live TV is more of a pain now. I haven't had time to even start troubleshooting it, and probably won't for a while..

Let's see.. On the way home from work last Thursday I got into a car accident. Nothing major, just a (literal) fender-bender, but still annoying. Honestly, what the hell has gone wrong with everyone on the roads in the past month and a half? I'm having to plan for twice the commute time every day because every single day now there's at least two different accidents on just the 10 mile stretch of freeway I take to get home. And it's not just the freeways! The accident I got into was because some idiot blew straight through a red light into the lane I was changing into, and there have been at least 3 other incidents I can think of in the past month where I've narrowly avoided hitting people who were doing something stupid. That's more than the entire rest of the year! I really miss working in SF, if nothing else just because I wish I was still taking BART into work and didn't have to deal with these morons every day just to get to work and back..

The irony is that it was because I-680 was bumper-to-bumper from Dublin all the way up to Walnut Creek that I decided I would get off and use surface streets because it'd be faster.. Just as I'm getting off the offramp is when the guy blows through the red light into my lane, and bingo, I get to spend an hour and a half sitting in a parking lot until the whole mess is resolved (and then still have to drive home). If I'd stayed on the freeway, I would have been home an hour earlier, and I wouldn't have to go through all the hassle of the insurance companies and getting repairs done and everything. Who knows how long it's going to take to get stuff done, considering the insurance companies won't do anything until they see the police report (despite the fact that I even have witness info, etc, for them), and the report probably won't actually get into the system for a month or two given how backed up the police always are, and all this is on top of the rest of the holiday crap going on..

Speaking of which, I still haven't gotten any Xmas shopping done. Like, not any. And I'm going to be on-call from 7am-7pm this Saturday basically stuck at home, so I can't do it then, and on Sunday I've got two different parties scheduled on top of each other. I might be able to take a day off somewhere to do something next week, but considering that I'm already being forced to take some of my few vacation days because of a company shutdown week-after-next I really don't want to burn more of them than I have to. And I never did get any kind of an Xmas list put together, so I'm not expecting anybody to have any idea what to get me (I don't even really know what to get me), so don't worry if you don't have anything for me.. I'm not really expecting to get much this Xmas anyway. Seems only fair since I'm probably not going to manage to get much for other people either given how things are going..

And of course work's annoying.. I've got a long list of things that need to get done but somehow despite working on all of them every day I can never manage to actually cross any of them off.. And I've got three or four things all piling up that are going to need to be done OMGRIGHTNOW as soon as we come back from the shutdown week and are allowed to touch production stuff again (at least one of which I was going to be spending some of the "downtime" this month figuring out how we were actually going to make it work properly, and I haven't had any time to (because there's been more stuff breaking now, during what's supposed to be the quiet time, than ever before) so I still don't have a working implementation to put in place first-week-of-january)...

Oh, and on top of Buddha's thyroid issues, which we're still trying to get the medication right for, now there are signs of impending liver problems, and the lump on her neck has gotten bigger but nobody's quite sure what it is yet or whether it's a problem. I get to take her back in in a week for a biopsy and a bunch more expensive lab tests..

And I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that I just shouldn't talk to other people. Every time I do I seem to get in trouble or get into some sort of hassle. Mostly due to my own stupidity or personality flaws, so it's not even like I can really blame anybody else for it. I think I just wasn't meant to be around people.

So anyway, I'm just getting really kinda tired and fed up with everything. I try not to be. I've been trying to have fun, or at least pretend to have fun, but more and more I'm just coming to the conclusion that I don't have the energy for any of it, especially Xmas. I just want to go somewhere quiet and sit in a corner and ignore everything for the next 6 weeks, but I can't do that either, because that will just make most of it worse.

Really, I guess, I just want to go home...


Don Knuth speaks

Hey there!

I recently found out about this and I really want to go see it.. who wants to join me?

"Why Pi?" Professor Knuth Annual Christmas Tree Lecture

Professor Knuth will present his 16th Annual Christmas Tree Lecture on Monday, December 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm in NVIDIA Auditorium in the new Huang Engineering Center, 475 Via Ortega, Stanford University.

For those who might be thinking "hey, that name's kinda familiar", yes, it is that Don Knuth, Professor Emeritus (and author) of "The Art of Computer Programming", who for the past two decades or so has also been a near-complete recluse. He claims to come out and give talks every few months or so, but for the past several years it looks more like only once a year, and this is his annual talk this year.

To be honest, I didn't even know he was still giving any talks until I stumbled across this recently. This is one of the great figures of modern computing, right here in our back yard, and I'm pretty sure anybody who has any interest in programming, computers, or math (and probably some other subjects) will find pretty much anything he has to say worth listening to.

So.. It's free to get in and open invitation, anybody else interested in going?

It's time we had a talk...

Hello boys and girls,

Today I'd like to talk to you all about singing. No, not just any singing, I'm afraid today we must talk about something very disturbing: Bad singing.

Now, I'm not talking about the sort of bad singing you find at Karaoke Night, or the kind of bad singing you find in hole-in-the-wall bars after midnight. I'm not even talking about the kind of singing you find at Karaoke Night at a hole-in-the-wall bar in Virginia City, Nevada after midnight (and for those few (ok, that one person) who were there, you know what I mean)...

No, I'm talking about professional bad singing. The kind of bad singing that can bring the entire career of a promising young startup band with a shiny new recording contract to its knees, and rightly so. What am I talking about? I'm talking about White Town singing.

Some of you out there may have heard of this band. They had a bit of a hit once upon a time back in about 1997 for a song called "Your Woman". I know that's how I heard about them, and I, once upon a time, thought it actually wasn't a bad song, overall, so I, once upon a time, actually went out and bought their album. I've had it floating around my music collection ever since. Occasionally I dig it out and listen to a bit of it, and I wonder to myself, "self, why don't I listen to this more?", and then, usually before my self can try to answer, I have my answer provided to me, when the lyrics start.

Now let me make this clear: The music on this album is actually really good stuff. It's clever, and interesting, and well put together. It sounds good and it feels good and I like it a lot. Every time I hear some of this stuff I think it's remarkably good and I wish I could listen to more of it. Until the singing starts.

Now, this isn't just ordinary bad singing I'm talking about. I mean, yes, it's off tempo, and off key, and the singer doesn't even seem to really care what the music is doing, or even really what he's singing about, because he's absorbed in his own thing, or something. Yes, it's bad for a multitude of reasons, but it goes beyond that somehow. The lyrics themselves don't help either, of course, being some rambling mishmash of utterly boring stream-of-consciousness rubbish which doesn't even make an attempt to either make sense or to fit with the tempo or meter of the music to begin with. But it's more than that too. It's subtle and disturbing, somehow, like somebody who's been spending the past twenty years figuring out exactly the best way to lure preschoolers into their van. Somehow this mishmash of horrible lyrics, sung with horrible lack of talent, smashing all through an otherwise really good musical track like a hungry redneck 13-year-old with muddy boots at a high society dinner party, manages to go beyond merely bad, or even really bad, to a level I'm not sure how to even properly describe to you.

It's a level that's so bad that I eventually felt myself compelled to go to Wikipedia just to look up who was responsible for this atrocity so that I could have somewhere to direct the pent up blame inside of me. For those curious, the responsible party is apparently some prat named Jyoti Prakash Mishra.

Now to be fair, I don't entirely blame this guy, not really. Who do I blame? I blame whoever it was who encouraged him, whoever told this person they could write lyrics, and whoever told them they could then sing them. Whoever would do this thing, whoever would commit such an abominable sin against the whole of mankind as to unleash this upon us all, they must have had some inkling of exactly how egregiously they were endangering the entire world. They must have known on some level that their careless words might, just might, amount to something not entirely unlike this, but they did it anyway. They, they truly are the monster. It is often said that encouraging others is a good thing, and often it is, but those who would give encouragement to others must realize the burden they hold, the obligation they must uphold, to never ever abuse this power. For indeed, when it is misused, sometimes there are truly horrible consequences.

Mind you, honestly, I have to acknowledge that this sad idiot Jyoti is at least partially to blame too. I mean, it still boggles me how somebody, no matter what he's been told by anybody else, could really think he's producing anything of any value while such utter crap is spewing out of his mouth into a microphone. Mind you, when I hear his voice I do have visions of all those stereotypical college guys with acoustic guitars, who never really learned how to play because that would be too much work, of course, but they strum them idly while making up random lyrics just to try to impress all the girls at the party. Yeah, I'm pretty sure he's exactly that kind of prick. If he isn't, well, he only has himself to blame for making me want to believe it's true anyway so very very much.

And it really is a shame, because I really do like the music, but I so often just cannot bring myself to listen to it because of that.. other stuff. It probably goes without saying that the one instrumental track is by far the best thing on the entire album. Unfortunately that can only go so far.

To be honest, I'm not sure who did the music. The Wikipedia article seems to suggest it's all basically a one-man operation, but really I just cannot bring myself to believe anybody that utterly horrible at lyrics and singing could produce anything approaching that sort of music without somebody else's help. He probably just screwed them out of any credits because he knew if anybody had any idea who was responsible for the only good stuff on the entire album he'd be out on the curb in a second.

But then he was anyway, of course. The article says he was dropped from the label after a "troubled working relationship with EMI", but really I think anybody with functional eardrums can tell it was just because he was darn near mind-numbingly incompetent at coming up with anything anybody actually wanted to listen to.

So anyway, why am I posting all of this? I dunno.. I suppose because all of this has been building inside me for years, every time I go back and try to listen to this train wreck just one more time, every time I accidentally land upon the one track of the entire album more horrible than any of the others, more horrible than I even want to remember half the time ("The Death of My Desire". No, don't look it up. Please don't.), every time I end up doing this to myself again it builds up a little inside and eventually, finally, I just had to let it all out somewhere.

And I can't escape it, of course. Ultimately, the music is like a beautiful shimmering, flickering flame drawing me back over and over again, every time I forget just enough about the horrible searing white-hot pain that awaits me when it draws me close enough to hear the words. Damn you, White Town! Damn you to...oooh, pretty! OW! OWOWOW!! arrgh! sigh..

So there you go. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
tardis calling

Wholly Carp!

Ok, so I actually uploaded my very first app to the Android Market last night (ironically, no, it wasn't the app I was scrambling the past several weeks to get done for the contest. That one I still want to work on a bit more before putting out in the general marketplace.. This one was just a little bug-fix app which fixes an audio routing problem in the stock Android system involving using bluetooth and wired headsets together)

It's been up on the market less than 12 hours. I didn't even announce it anywhere.

There have already been 566 downloads(!), 11 ratings (it's currently 4.5 out of 5), and 3 (favorable) comments.

I have to admit, I wasn't expecting quite that large of a response..
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Stuff you don't want to miss!

The Challenge

Ok, hands up! Who wants to go watch me suffer nerve damage in Santa Clara?

So here's the plan.. This coming Friday, September 4, the day before my birthday, I will be travelling down to the south bay to take on the Smoke Eaters' Hellfire Challenge. Anybody who wants to come join me is welcome (you don't have to eat them with me, you can just watch). Collapse )

The Birthday

Oh, yeah, and speaking of my birthday, hey, guess what? I'm gonna be having a birthday party this coming Saturday (September 5. Yes, for a change, it's actually going to be on my real, official birth day. What a concept!) Come enjoy an entirely arbitrary demarcation of somebody else's perception of linear time! And then there will be cake! Collapse )

It's in there.. I can feel it.


Every time I turn around, there's another bug. It's really starting to piss me off. These bugs shouldn't be there. I should be getting fewer, not more. I know what it means.

There's some wrongthink somewhere buried in my code. It's in there warping everything else around it. I need to do a sanity pass to find it and unwarp everything, but I just don't have time. All I can do is hammer each bug down frantically, warping everything worse, hoping I'll get to a point where the dents aren't too noticeable.

I hate coding under deadlines. I'm not even really sure why I'm doing this anyway. Even if it were the best possible app at what it does, this thing just isn't sexy enough, isn't social-networky enough, to win anything in this sort of contest. The modern twitblogger, www.mylivefacetube.com world isn't gonna give anyone any points for being useful or pragmatic. I guess I'm just doing it now because I committed myself to doing it, and now I have to at least try to follow through, but more and more I'm getting the feeling no good will come of this.

And Google still hasn't bothered to tell anybody how we're supposed to be submitting these things for the contest. Less than a week left and the "submission site" promised in all the docs still doesn't exist. I'm gonna be really pissed if all this cramming turns out to be completely for nothing. I really hope I'm not the only one.

Edit: I take it back. Apparently they just updated the ADC site with a (rather understated, considering) new link to a submission site.. Took them long enough.