Monthly Archives: June 2008

New Job

So I am now officially working for Anygma. It’s a very… interesting situation.

So far, the team has been great to work with. It’s always nice communicating with smart people who “get” software and don’t have any strange overarhicitectural fantasies. Well, I guess we have yet to find that out, but so far so good.

The project is really interesting, too! I wish I could talk more about it.

Typically I’m starting work around 1AM (which is 9AM in Belgium). Today was the first day I got a “decent work day” in, going until 8ish. The environment is nice; sitting here in my comfy chair or couch with a blanket and a kitty on my lap, discussing linguistic (as opposed to formal) aspects of programming languages!

I’m using FogBugz to track my time and tasks. It’s working well, nice and lightweight.

Freewrite no. 25

Long before I started this blog, I decided to adapt the idea of a writer’s freewrites to music. The exact definition has mutated over the years, but nowadays I define a freewrite as a piece which I compose in one sitting, generally (but not rigidly) avoiding backtracking. That makes it a sort of compositional improvisation.

Yesterday I took two hours to do a freewrite using two of Karen’s instruments: oboe and marimba (instruments I definitely did not focus on in the past). It’s a two minute, four piece ensemble for oboe, marimba, violin, and cello.

Freewrite no. 25: (mp3 / pdf)

Opus 3: Symphonic Serenade

Two weeks ago I completed my symphonic serenade, which I now dub opus 3. In previous posts I referred to the second movement as symphonic poem no. 1, and the third movement as symphonic poem no. 2. I wrote a third and crammed the three of them into a logical movement structure, where they form a somewhat coherent piece.

In total, this serenade took me about 90 hours over six weeks. It forms my largest, most complex piece to date, and although parts of it are somewhat juvenile and the scores are messy, I am quite proud of it. Its runtime is 22 minutes. It is also listed on my music page.

  1. Molto allegro (mp3 / pdf)
  2. Adagio (mp3 / pdf)
  3. Allegro, Andante (mp3 / pdf)

Education (two senses)

Woo! This is post #500!

Recently I had the realization that I don’t want to be a professional programmer. I just made a commitment to program professionally for a while in Belgium, in Haskell, doing FRP (yeah, pretty freaking awesome!), and I’m not about to bail on that. But after that job has run its course, I suspect I won’t be wanting another one.

It’s not because I don’t like programming anymore. Programming is still a wonderful way to keep my mind agile, and I like it very much. Creating or learning a new abstraction requires head-breaking leaps, it’s exciting to master a new concept, and I still feel passionately about the future of programming languages (particularly the completely yet-unrealized potential of dependent types). But such are the pursuits of an academic, not a professional.

When I started college, I wanted to be a professor. It didn’t take long to realize that my work ethic was not insane enough to be a professor. Nevertheless, every semester since my sophomore year I was a TA. I skipped around teaching physics, calculus, and computer science. I was good at it and I loved doing it. It was a delightful sanctuary from the stress of studenthood.

After the fall semester of 2006, I became fed up with school’s bullshit (in fact, an elective voice class of all things was the one to push me over the edge—it’s a long story) and intended to take a year-long hiatus from school to work at NetDevil, a local game studio. That I did, quitting the job seven months later due to the ridiculous “crunch time” (read: mandatory unpaid overtime) policies.

And here we are, mid 2008 and I have not resumed school, and the next year does not expect my return.

It’s unclear what happens next. Maybe I spend a year in Belgium as a programmer, maybe longer. But after that, I don’t know. However, teaching looks to be in my future. And looking back on all my teaching experience in college, there is one thing that will always stand out: physics.

Physics is miraculous to teach. The subject’s depth and beauty has made a zealous atheist like me reconsider God’s nonexistence (converting me, if you will, into an agnostic :-). There is nothing more pleasing than being in the presence of a student who asks question after question as he begins to behold the mathematical masterpiece (except perhaps seeing more of the masterpiece yourself, which students have helped me to do!). I witnessed this with two or three students each semester.

Students come into physics often with a truckload of preconceptions about how the world works. This differs from mathematics and computer science, where the most prominent preconception is that they will not understand (a difficult one to work with). Physics also differs from those two subjects in that the tools to disprove themselves are placed right under the students’ noses. I have experienced the moving, haunting situation where I predicted the outcome of a physical situation and then observed it go down completely unlike I expected. To help a student with a misconception, you don’t tell them they’re wrong, you help them devise an experiment to disprove themselves.

Talking about it excites me, it makes me remember and long for that experience. I can see myself, even with my restless, wandering soul, doing that for the rest of my life. But there is a brief international diversion to explore first, it seems.

Last Comic Standing

I have a love/hate relationship with stand-up comedy. Most comics are mediocre, with one or two jokes in a half hour set that make me roll on the floor, where the rest mostly bore me. The only counterexamples I can think of right now are Demetri Martin and the late Mitch Hedberg, who hit me with 80 or 90 percent of their material.

On the other hand, I can’t stand Chris Rock and those like him (George Carlin somewhat included in this category), who ostentatiously vomit political and ethical opinions which sound like they’re edgy but everyone agrees with. I didn’t go to a comedy show to hear a liberal sermon (I, too, agree with most of said opinions).

Anyway, where I’m going with this: I just watched Last Comic Standing on Hulu. I was thoroughly impressed: about 80% of the jokes made me laugh out loud (possibly to the extent of waking up my roommate). However, I completely disliked the presentation. It was presented like American Idol: they showed bad comics telling bad jokes and getting rejected by the judges, they showed the good comics boringly telling the camera about themselves (but two of them were quite hillarious in this process), they even did the “who will go on to the next round” needlessly long dramatic pauses with nary a single amusing moment.

I’m watching a comedy show, I don’t want to get to know the comics as people and cheer when they are selected and feel bad for them when they are rejected. It’s a comedy show, I want to laugh my ass off!

So: skip the two semi-final nomination segments, there is nothing good there. The rest has spatterings of pretty funny stuff, and the two live show segments are hillarious. And NBC, stop with the mindless filler!

Flow

Flow is my cat. She’s more like a person to me today than ever before.

Originally Flow belonged to Namaste, and now that he has moved away it’s unclear who the owner is. It’s almost like she belongs to this house.

I had my music program open on my computer and was about to start writing a song when Flow walked onto the couch next to me. She put her paws on my lap and lay down. Normally I would have pet her a few times and continued working.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a particular girl recently. Today I fantasized, what if that girl had sat down close next to me and rest her head on my shoulder? I wouldn’t simply hug her and go back to working; she just asked me for some affection!

So instead of seeing “that’s a cat”, I interpreted Flow’s actions as I would a human’s. I closed my computer and sat next to her, petting her softly and listening to her purr. I felt close to her, like she was my friend and she understood me. At the least, I understood her.