Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dreaming of Nirvana

Progressives in the west are so drawn to Indian philosophy. In gardens from Berkeley to Madison, small Buddha totems smile motionless next to gopher holes. If not in their gardens, tiny silent Buddha is placed on their stand-up desk. If not on their desks, a nice picture of a waterfall stamped with curly text ending with "-Buddha" is set as their desktop background. Zen is an office buzzword.

There are various reasons people put Buddhas on their desk. For some, it's an outstretched hand to exotic foreign culture, an offering to the Gods of Globalization. For others it's a shred of hope in a dark world of suffering, a Jesus of their own making. It could even be a way to manipulate your boss.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Eugenics are Whack

Duck! The environment is trying to kill you!

People joke about the Darwin Award which hypothetically goes to a person killed doing something stupid. The truth is, a person doesn't even have to do something stupid to get killed off. The environment is a hostile force, as anyone who has gotten poison oak can attest, which makes me question the mental state of so-called ecosexuals. Darwin said it very eloquently and precisely and people listened. The environment comes at us in waves and we sink or swim. The waves vary in size and intensity. The waves come from various directions and with various speeds. Wits, strength, grit and luck (and sanity) keep us alive.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Love For Hoffer

“Why the in the world did I come here”

I came because I'm a romantic. I’m always searching for the next high but I don’t do drugs. I’m always searching for revelations, making pilgrimages to places I think might be holy. But there are no holy places anymore. There are only holy moments.

As I turned the corner and saw the patch of grass where it was supposed to be, I doubted it was there. A public art installation dedicated to a man, a hero, who didn’t fit in, and not in a shy but charming sense. In a reclusive, grumpy, kind-of-an-jerk sense. His ideas are alternately uplifting and depressing and his life mostly dull. Yet I wish I was more like him. A blue collar pedigree, yet a philosopher's soul. What a combination.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Theseus

If the earth is 4.5 billion years old, our planet has rotated on its axis approximately one and a half trillion consecutive times so far. Does that make tomorrow's rotation a given? No. If every person you’ve ever met has exactly ten fingers, can you make the conclusion that every person, ever, has exactly ten fingers? No. In both of those scenarios, a clear pattern is apparent.

Circa 1740, David Hume came up with the disturbing philosophical problem of Induction. It states that the past doesn't necessarily predict the future and assuming that it does is based on faith rather than rationality; pretty deep stuff from someone who spent a good stretch of his adult life employed as a librarian. Put a different way, believing in patterns is an exercise in piety. Most people naturally take this into account. We notice patterns and apply them until they don’t work anymore. Patterns are useful for efficiency. It's perfectly reasonable to use apparent patterns to develop systems, in fact, it's the most reasonable thing one could do.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Timeline Compressed

Transcendent figures often seem out-of-place in their time. It’s as if they were actually members of the future but were accidentally born too early.

Generally a writer of true force/originality is anywhere from 20 years to 200 years ahead of his generation. So therefore he starves, goes mad, suicides, and is only recognised if portions of his work are somehow found later, much later, in a shoebox, say, or under the mattress of a whorehouse bed, you know. -Charles Bukowski

These figures are sometimes writers, sometimes scientists, sometimes philosophers. But during their lifetime, they are not appreciated. Politicians are always appreciated during their lifetime because everything that matters to them is here on earth, power. Without power they aren’t important. So this only applies to people whose contribution is on a non-temporal level. Wouldn’t it be great for humanity if that timeline is compressed and we appreciate what we have? Appreciate the transcendent figures before they perish? I think it’s possible. But first let me digress into how transcendent figures are actually far from transcendent.

Monday, May 7, 2012

DIY: Custom Graduation Photo Cards

Card in envelope
The final result of my DIY photo card adventure
Since I'm graduating this May, I decided to send out a special graduation thank you note to my friends and family. I started using the photo card creator on the Walgreens website but quickly got frustrated with the lack of customization tools. Specifically, I wanted custom fonts and also to change font colors within a text box. Being an incurable DIYer, I thought to myself: "I can make this myself in GIMP and customize it all I want!"

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Interesting Infrastructure: Caltrans and Music Notes

These photos are from Cotati, CA in the northern bay area. As you can see, Caltrans incorporated a music note motif into their new overpass project. Since Cotati is sort of a hippie town, and also home of an annual Accordian Festival, it fits the local vibe. The motif has a treble clef sequence and a bass clef sequence, and they appear on the sound walls, the retaining walls and on the actual overpass. I alternate between thinking this is really cool and thinking it is a huge waste of money, but here are the pics anyway:
Sound wall in final stages of project
Overpass with alternating design

Friday, March 30, 2012

GIMP: Adding New .gpl Palette

Palettes are very useful if you want to have a consistent color scheme. I find that having good colors readily available helps in the creative process as well. You can find great user-created palettes for free at kuler.com (link) and colourlovers.com (link); using these palettes can give your project a very professional look.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Arduino: Sending Hex Bytes to Serial Devices

I have been working on a project which involves an Arduino communicating serially with an LCD display device. Through a lot of trial and error, I finally figured out that when you want to send a HEX-encoded byte from the Arduino, you need to use the Serial.write() command rather than the Serial.print() command. The Serial.print() command works find when you are sending an ASCII byte but it will not work when you try to send a HEX byte. The right and wrong ways are below:
//Serial.print('U');  <----right (ASCII)
//Serial.write('U');  <----also fine (ASCII)
//Serial.print(0x55); <----WRONG! (HEX)
//Serial.write(0x55); <----right (HEX)

LINKS:
Similar problem and solution: http://www.arduino.cc/playground/Learning/SparkFunSerLCD

Thursday, March 1, 2012

STK 200: First Program (LED Blink)

For this program, you should already have AVR Studio 5 and AVRISP-U installed on your computer. If you don't, visit my previous post Getting Started Programming Guide (link). This is a simple program which simply makes the built-in LEDs to blink. I'm going to use C for this program because the code looks really simple. The assembly version is not really difficult either but we'll keep it simple for now. Note that AVR Studio 5 has a built-in C compiler. You might remember for AVR Studio 4, you had to download AVR GCC and integrate it. If you downloaded AVR Studio 5, you already have the C compiler.

What will the program do? If you look at the STK 200, there is a row of 10 LEDs numbered from 0 to 7 then "ISP" and "ON." These are the built-in LEDs. Our program will make the LEDs numbered from 0 to 7 blink on and off at a rate perceptible to the human eye. In microcontroller terms, this means physically connecting the LEDs to PORTB and sending alternating HIGH/LOW signals to PORTB. Note that is all output - no input. If you don't know what PORTB is, check my Basic Layout Guide (link).

Step 1 - Create a new project: Go ahead and open AVR Studio 5. From the startup screen, go to File>New>Project... and you should see a New Project dialog box. At the top left of the dialog box, select the C templates and then choose "C Executable Project" in the middle of the screen. At the bottom, fill in "blink" as the name and this should automatically fill the solution name field with the same text. Also, make sure that the "Create directory for solution" box is checked. This checkbox will not affect your code at all, but it will keep your AVRStudio folder better organized. Look at the picture below and make sure your screen looks the same:
STK 200: New Project Dialog Box