Journaling

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. :)

Well, that didn’t work

Another aborted attempt at blogging regularly. After that post on Sunday, I just couldn't pull myself to write again. I wonder about my thinking process. When I am in the bus or train, my random thoughts always have this little "I should blog this" part -- this also happens sometimes when I am taking a break at uni. But when I return back home, I can't pull myself together to write. I either break down into lump, procastinate (gaming/redditting), or shamble through my unfinished work. This week was brutal. I had to finish my Kakenhi application, and at the same time prepare my weekly class. At least this year I had some extra help to prepare my kakenhi. Got some older professors to comment on my project, and got some accepted projects from other colleagues as samples. But I'm still not confident. Thinking about it, my previous applications were all classified as "Grade C" (lower 50%). I don't think they were THAT bad, so I guess I'm eating some handicap by writing them in English. Unfortunately, that just can't be helped. The other thing was the Joho class. Computer literacy. I remember when I first heard about this subject, I was really looking forward to teaching it. But teaching it is proving to be more grueling than I expected. Part of it is that I have two big walls between my knowledge and the students: Japanese and English. No matter how I look at it, my Japanese still sucks, specially if I have to speak for any length of time (such as in a classroom). Also, for this class Windows use is mandatory (windows 7), which means that I don't know many of its tricks, and that the environment where I prepare the class is different from the environment where the students have the class. Case in point, last class I had huge problems with encoding making my notes looking like gibberish at the student's computers, and I had no good way to diagnose the problem in Windows. Which leads to the other part that this class is difficult for me: Large classrooms. In my graduate school classes, I have a much smaller group of students, so when something unexpected happens, I can just walk the student having trouble with it. In this class, I have forty students. This means that trying to solve the problem of one student means leaving 39 unattended. I'm sure I'll find a way to deal with this, but it has not been easy. To deal a bit with my Japanese language problems, Ayako has been borrowing simple books in Japanese from the city library. I've read a few illustrated novels, some children's books (even my little prince), and now I got the Japanese version of "Truckers", by Terry Pratchett. To be honest, I still can't finish most books before I have to return them to the library, but I keep grinding, since this is how I learned English in the first place. I just noticed I wrote a lot. I still feel like I have more to talk about (like when I re-found my old blog, and my forum nostalgia), but I will try to leave this for another blog post. Let's see if this strategy works. :-)

Cute kittens

I've recently finished The Martian in record time. It was a very fine book. A large part of the book is narrated in "Blog" format from the protagonist, which made me think of my own semi-abandoned blog. How many of my passing thoughts have been lost to the void? Maybe it is better this way for most of them... on the other hand, you never know when your passing thought is another's person inspiration. I should know that -- silly afterthoughts that I left on the internet have led, at least three times, to variations in my own story. Today I finished one of my grant application projects for this year. That took me the entire weekend of straight writing, plus an unaccounted amount of time gathering materials and my thoughts in place (that is a very nice way to spell procastination). I sent the application to some professors for feed back. I was planning to start working on the other application tonight at home, but I just couldn't get anything done. So tomorrow I need to start working on project number two, and on this week's class, but I will probably get sucked into finishing my admnistrative tasks... At least, I found two super cute cat gifs on reddit: Cute Kitten 1
Cute Kitten 2 I also found this guy exploring my desk when I got home: Jack Kerman