Have some frozen spaghetti!

I was invited by the folks at the Day Dream cafe (the RPG cafe where I have my weekly fix of D&D) to play with them a one shot session of "Undertale" using a Japanese TRPG system. This made me really happy, and curious about how their sessions might be different than what I normally play with the usual suspects. Also, it got me thinking again about Undertale. I, too, did fall into the Undertale hype and fandom back then, and spend a lot of useful hours looking for remixes of Undertale songs. But now the game seems to be completely gone, the internet has moved on (other than a few pockets of die-hard resistance). Memes are such a fickle thing.

The one hour workday

I want to share this text, The 1-hour workday, which a friend posted on Facebook recently (see, it can be good for something!). In the text an academic discuss his trick to keep productive (in the sense of writing papers) in the middle of all other university tasks, such as classes, meetings, reviews, activities. His trick is to set aside one hour per day, usually the first hour of his workday, to do nothing but write. This idea resonated a lot with me because, first, I'm in the very same situation as the author was: Assistant professor, pitiful paper production (compared with my phd days), overwhelmed with non-writing tasks. But not only that, it makes sense that writing, as any other skill, thrives when practiced daily, and withers when not used. I think it may not be a coincidence that my high productive early-phd period coincides with a period where I was writing a lot in this blog. This is a time of change for me. I'm in the later half of my tenure track, feeling the "publish or perish" pressure like never before. At the same time, last week two of the projects I was counting on for the tenure track papers took a terrible setback. I am getting by with a little help from my friends, and I am doubling down on old productivity tools, such as the Kanban. But right now, anything that can take me any closer to jump over that barrier will be tried. And who knows? Maybe this will eventually get me back to updating this place :-P

Tokyo Game Show 2016

I went to Tokyo Game Show 2016 today. It was a near thing -- I was feeling a bit down in the dumps in the morning, but I had a promise to keep, to meet Alex Rose who was showing Rude Bear in the Indie Corner.
When you promise a high five on twitter, you gotta deliver.
When you promise a high five on twitter, you gotta deliver.
When I got there, I first walked through the main wing, where the big companies (Capcom, Konami, etc) were. To my surprise, nothing there really attracted my attention. Another Final Fantasy, another Mafia, another slew of idol games. I was starting to wonder if I had become an old codger that would never get excited about anything ever again -- oh the drama! Fortunately, I eventually went to the secondary wing of the expo, with the Indie zone. Maybe I am a hipster, but those tiny two-man booths with games made of spittle and dreams grab my interest much more than any giant screens and booth babes could. A few games from my steam library were there, such as Moon Hunters and Read-Only Memories. Some others made their way to my wish list today: * Lanota is actually a free mobile game. It is a mix of rhythm game and RPG. * Blockships is a shoot-them up where you build your ship from blocks (lasers, energy, engines) as you go. The game is still a bit away from completion, but it was a concept that I always dreamed of making, back on my game-making Jam days *grumblegrumble* * Star Mazer was the most attractive of the bunch. The dev at the booth called it a "roguelike shoot them up" (a rogue-like-like-like-like?), but the idea is that each of your lives (pilots) have different characteristics (powers, upgrades), and you line-them up before beginning the game. This one will probably bubble up to the top of my wishlist, since I need a new shoot them up. * Campus Notes is a Visual Novel that takes place at the University of Tsukuba. I'm not usually big on Visual Novels, but one of the devs at the booth today was actually a former student from my lab, which I found really neat. Time to re-order my wishlist :-)

Zen Pencils

I got linked the other day to Zen Pencils, a page where the artist creates short comics to illustrate motivational quotes from famous people, such as Feynman, Picasso, Muhammad Ali and Carl Sagan. The hit/miss ratio is very high, and definitely worth a read. Not only the art is good, the quote selection is interesting, but the author also does a great job of talking about and introducing the quoted person, and linking good examples of that person's life and work for further reading. After finishing a quick read through the archive, I'll probably do a second read to follow the links more closely. Here is my favorite so far: Make good Art, from Neil Gaiman (the comics about art are usually the best ones)


When I was a kid, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" left a lasting impression on me. The image that was burned in my mind was the journal of doctor Jones, Indy's father. The entire story was about the character searching for a treasure based on the clues hand-written in that leather bound book. Scrawly notes, drawings, loose leaves stapled in, Jones's diary was a veritable mess, and yet an unvaluable recourse. It contained not only his knowledge, but his life, his feelings, his art. So I grew up wanting one day to have such a diary for myself, stained with coffee marks, so that one day someone might look at it for knowledge, or for history. Maybe this idea was in the back of my mind when I started writing my "rants" (blog was not a word yet at that time), which I kept for a very long time, and brought many friends and changes into my life. But I would long, from time to time, for a physical book, marked with use and smelling like old words. Once someone who knew about this dream of mine gave me a notebook. But there was too much of that person in that book, and unfortunately it eventually joined my stack of unfinished projects. Last week I was talking to a friend about this, and was encouraged to take up paper journaling again. To avoid putting too much pressure in these ideas, I was encouraged to only write a sentence a day - a key sentence to express how I was feeling. Of course I couldn't do it like that. "New Idea Passion" struck in, and I was doodling the entire weekend in that notebook. The second idea was to take a summary of what I wrote and use it to write blog posts twice a week. That at least I am doing right, as I spent a significant portion of my time writing about writing. Maybe it had an effect. Or maybe it was the barbecue/camping I went to, but I was quite energetic today at work. See you tomorrow! Also a link: a cool short story that won the Hugo award this year: "Cat Pictures Please" http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritzer_01_15/

Redacting PDFs in Ubuntu

Some students in my "Experiment Design" course this semester asked me to share with them examples of good reports from students from previous years. Since I usually ask my reports to be submitted in PDF format, I needed some way to alter the PDF and remove the names/personal information before sending them to the class. A quick google check game me this askUbuntu thread, with some suggestions:
  • Load the PDF on Inkscape
  • Load the PDF on xournal
  • Load the pDF on GIMP
The GIMP and Inkscape routes required me to load the PDF page by page, which was kinda inconvenient. I ended up going the xournal route. They don't have a "redact" option, but I could use a black highlighter (need to repeat 2 or 3 times since the highlighter is transparent). I am not sure how foolproof this is though. I have not actually removed the text, so it is quite probable that it can still be retrieved from the PDF if you really want to (which I don't this is the case for this particular situation). If you need something that REALLY needs to be redacted, this might not be the solution for you.

Pending List

There are too many awesome people living today. If I spent my whole life trying, I would never be able to meet them all. There are too many books, too many jobs. Too many pretty streets, too many interesting houses to visit. There are too many cities with their traditional dishes and their must-see locations. Too many computer games, too many Minecraft worlds. Sometimes I wonder at the endlessness of space, but our own world is already endless enough for all practical purposes. And yet we must look outside. There is way too much knowledge for any one person to ever learn, and yet we must do research. We must pick and choose what we do. We give up good people and good paths, without even realizing our choices. I was thinking about this on my way back from Iwaki, while looking outside the window from the car. I could think some of these infinite thoughts, or I could read a page from the infinite pages produced by people. Or I could talk to one of the infinite humankind in the same car as me. And a quick, common-sense rule would tell me that one of these choices would be better than the others (probably talking to the person). One of these choices would make my life richer. But when we think about the enormity of our search space, these differences seem way below the significance level. But in spite of appearances (as always), I thought of this as a positive thought. There are so many choices, and so many good choices inside this set, that it is hard to run out of them. There is always something good out there waiting for you - always a good choice to select - always many good choices to select. Still, it can be scary to try to imagine it all from above.

I have been only using 10% of my power!

Order of the stick has updated! This is my favorite webcomic, although the update schedule is... so... damn... slow. Which is specially frustating when the author is going full dragonballZ (never go full dragonballZ). Other comics that I often read include XKCD, SMBC, PhD Comics, Strong Female Protagonist, Erfworld and Oglaf (NSFW). On other news, I have started a new libGDX project. I will try to write updates here from time to time, but no promises yet.

Taking it easy

Yesterday I spent a lot of time reading books, I guess today was computer game day. Halfway has great graphics and a veey imteresting story, but the gameplay and level design were kinda dull. Prison architect has finally released a version 1.0. Lots of interesting systems. Still havent got the hang of preventing tunnel escapes, though. Played also a few hours of FTL. This game is perfect, except that it does not have an Android version... unlocked the type C kestrel. Finally, a friend recommended me Monument Valley, and I bought it yesterday. The game not only is gorgeous, it is also incredibly intuitive. Managed to finish the first storylime without getting stuck, but also without getting bored. Thats for my sunday. Starting tomorrow, I am back to being a productive member of society. :)