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Random notes from my head - The Revolution of the Moon
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Wed, Feb. 9th, 2011 12:32 pm
Random notes from my head

Next time I buy a motorcycle, I need to make sure it is optimized for riding in Pride and not just cruising to NERO.

Speaking of which, I should find a good photographer who will take pictures of me in garb on my motorcycle, because that looked kind of awesome.

I finally picked up a wacom tablet. So far I'm disappointed in my results, but I think that might be that the last time I owned one of these I was taking weekly painting classes and drawing constantly, and right now I've doodled a little in meetings in an attempt to keep my planar translation skills up and that's about it. So it'll take a little while to regain the physical skills. The reason I picked it up was that I had a confluence of events on one day that were wicked inspiring and so I've got about half a simple ABC webpage written so far, and rather than figure out some pictures to use it is easier to just draw them. The ultimate idea is to use new web standards to make flash-free kids games that, for example, work on the iPad.
I also have an idea for a game that would involve minor social bits, but not in the "play with other people online" sort of way, to remove all the "talk with strangers" concerns. Instead would be designed, initially, to be played by multiple people on a single machine, with the social components happening in the real world. I don't know if the game concept itself is educational, or even appealing, and I need to get the art working, and it's second priority (ship game 1 first, then start game 2), but I was listening to a lecture on quantified models of subjective uncertainty and scribbled down three or four pages of notes.

I also ordered a new laptop. After having to borrow Diagonti's for the presentation I gave last week, I decided that, no, really, it was time. Shopping for a laptop was interesting because it has been so long since I've had to and it is a completely different experience from shopping for a desktop. With the desktop, I can get exactly what I want (by building it myself, but still, the components exist.) "Okay, I want to spend this amount of money and get the maximum power, so I look for the sweet spot of performance-per-dollar around that price point and it ends massively overpowered for any game possibly available right now." The laptop, on the other hand, I discovered that you can get "the ability to run games well" for wicked expensive, heavy, no battery life and not particularly rugged. You can get rugged & battery life with almost no video card for reasonable pricing. You can get a decent video card, relatively rugged, pretty light, good battery life for expensive and a bad warranty (Mac), but still cheaper than a gaming machine. But no one, anywhere, is making the laptop I actually want, at any price.
So I ended up deciding that I had just built the exact desktop I want that runs my games so beautifully I get chills (Oblivion, with maximum settings, no stutters & no load times. Bliss!) I have a lightweight machine for browsing the web (my iPad). What I kept not having a laptop for was A) giving presentations and B) coding away from home. I'm going to set up every development environment I can think of on this machine, so that the next time there's a Ruby hackathon I want to go to or I want to pull out a Perl script at Hunt, I want to remember LISP or I want to work on this webpage on the go, I just can. Plus, I'd like to have a machine I'm not going to worry about carrying on my motorcycle.

Thus, I have an IBM ThinkPad on it's way. It's not the workstation version, in part because I really didn't want the touch screen, but it's their next-most-powerful option. It is 15.6", because I've discovered 13" is far too small for me to code on and I didn't want to take any chances with the 14" version even though it is lighter. It has a fast processor, a terrible-but-not-on-board video card, an SSD (motorcycle-sturdy), a three year "if you drop it we'll fix it" warranty and memory in the mail from Crucial. If I want to game I'll go home to my beautiful shiny brushed aluminum desktop instead (which also cost less.) With my workplace discount it was half the price of the (better) MacBook Pro. It's not the latest and greatest technology because it's Lenovo and that's not what they do. What they do do is make laptops that last, and right now I'm kind of excited about having an "i" key that works again.

Compressing our stuff, I've realized just how many electronics I have. Partially, of course, because I'm loathed to throw anything out, even if I haven't used my PSP in two years. I haven't been out on my own that long to have this many electronic devices, but they are most of what I buy for myself, once a year or so, and it's not that the old ones are completely useless, just less useful. I could take the easy way out and claim that it's because it's what I do for a living, but the truth is I just like having enough technology that it stops getting in my way. I love that when I want to do something, like watch a DVD or listen to music or browse the web or program, I don't have to think about where I need to go to do that; I can just make it happen wherever I am. If I need a recipe I don't have to write it down or print it out, I just grab my iPad. The hard part is storage; if I have two screens and a laptop on my desk, where am I going to charge my iPad? Where do the four older hard drives I've got go? Where am I going to store my tablet? Where do I keep the novel I'm reading? (because the only thing I still insist on physical copies of is books.) Space and organization is an ever-present challenge.

And then, of course, how do I turn this from entertainment into productivity? I've still been in college-mode for the last couple years, reading, absorbing, soaking in information. It's time for that to start changing. I've written guest blog posts here and there, and I've read enough economics blogs that I'm starting to come up with the ideas slightly before they pop up on the blogosphere. Not that I think I'm going to quit CS and become an economist, but honestly I've yet to find many programming blogs that are saying anything new or interesting or relevant; mostly it's the same stuff I've heard for the last 20 years. It's harder to care about than policy I can watch nose-dive the Irish economy, or (treasonous) government transparency that inspires democratic revolts, or the parallels between Anonymous and the Tea Party, reflecting underlying socio-economic dynamics of Western society. Next to that, am I really going to be excited about NoSQL databases when half the point is that they are problem-specific? Anyway, I've been an enthused consumer for about four years now. It is time for me to move from just absorbing to actually processing and doing something new with that information. I gave one presentation last week, I'll be talking about something-or-another at ConBust, I've been posting more comments places like Geek Feminism, in addition to the The Economist.

My Economics musings here were examples of me trying out that transition. I feel like I'm at that teenager stage, where I'm experimenting and seeing what works and what doesn't. It's a little scary, because I'm starting to link my ideas to my real-world identity and that means that if I'm wrong there might be actual consequences for my wrong-ness. People might think less of me. It's the internet, so those things might never go away. But at the same time, I think I've come to understand that I'm sometimes right. One of the blog posts I made here, a month later someone published the same exact idea only with a bunch of data they'd collected to show that I was right. I'm living in this wonderful age of rapid information exchange, of processing and sharing and collaborating, of harnessing more information that we've been able to effectively consolidate before, and I don't want to miss out on that because of fear.

Be brave, little Piglet. I get to watch the world change before my eyes; I can't think of another period in history I'd rather live in. If it requires a little courage, that is a small price to pay.