Pointless Games

I get addicted to video games sometimes. I get hooked, and I need to fully beat the game before I can give it up. Even after beating it, I sometimes still mess around in a game for a couple weeks before I’m willing to let it go. This is in no way unique to me, but I guess it feels better to lay it out. I actually just uninstalled FTL again. This time it’s for real. I’m an hour past my bedtime for the second night in a row, and I had to put a stop to it. Also, I just lost on the final boss on hard difficulty, and I can’t see myself dropping a dozen more hours to get back to that point. I have a lot of projects to complete in my free time, and it’s time to move on. Do you hear that, FTL? I’m breaking up with you and you can just toss all the stuff I left at your apartment.

I eventually forgave MF Doom

MF Doom, the masked polysyllabic master rapper, has a tendancy of sending imposters to his shows. These “doom bots” front around on stage and lip sync poorly to his songs. The dejected audiences pretty much instantly recognize them as frauds. I know because I attended one such show back in 2010 at the Congress theater in Chicago.

The Congress, shuttered in 2013 for flagrant safety violations, was a terribly managed theater and this show was a sour one. I was drawn to it because it featured two of my favorite MCs: Yasiin Bey (then Mos Def) and MF Doom, among other lower tier artists. It was clear that something was wrong early on. The time between artists kept dragging out, and one artist stayed on stage performing past the point where he had any songs left to play. I remember him trying to create mix up new songs on the spot. By the time Yasiin Bey came out much later, the audience wasn’t really there for him. He tried, but he just couldn’t recover the mood of the rowdy audience. His set ended, and “MF Doom” immediately burst onto the stage. Who was this guy in the MF Doom mask? What’s happening? Even Yasiin Bey looked confused

I left shortly after, and met some people at the el stop who had done the same. They were at least thankful they saw Yasiin Bey, and I connected with someone who said Black on Both Sides changed their life in the best way possible. Leaving that show, I felt an equivalent change, albeit a negative one. I couldn’t listen to MF Doom with the same respect and admiration I had previously. I felt betrayed as a fan.

It took me until this year to let those feelings go, when I heard Talib Kweli describe MF Doom’s booking philosophy on Hannibal Buress’ podcast. Apparently MF Doom never leaves money on the table and will always book the show if he’s requested. If the money’s not enough, though, he just won’t attend. It changed my perspective. He wasn’t doing this to be a jerk to his fans. He was doing this because the Congress, which I also detested, didn’t pay him enough.

I wish I knew that before I waited the entire night to see him.

Don’t overthink this

Today I disassembled the foldable keyboard prototype that I posted about a few days back. I wasn’t using it, and in truth, it was an over-engineered design. It was a keyboard with  three different layouts, and really only one layout that interested me—the vertical one—and in practice, it didn’t do that well either. It was wobbly and that rubberband’s placement was pretty annoying. No worries, though. The benefit of building things quick and mean is that you can tear them down just as quickly and start fresh.

Which brings me to my next prototype: the pedestal.

A scrap wood laptop base

Your first impression is probably: “did he buy that or make that?” The answer is that I built this puppy with pieces of scrap wood and my Viterbi keyboard. It’s likely a self-explanatory photo, but here’s one with the laptop installed just in case.

 

A scrap wood laptop stand with a laptop installed.

As you can see, this stand orients my keyboards vertically (and permanently) and elevates my laptop so the top of the screen is closer to my eye level, which is the ergonomically prescribed position. This stand is also portable enough that I can take it from my work-at-home desk to my work-at-home armchair, while only adding maybe 65 lbs to my lap. 65 or 6.5. I’ll get the scale and give you an exact answer when my legs get their feeling back.

So far, I’m actually using this prototype, which is winning out over the last one. I’ll let you know if I keep that up, or if I add any changes to it. Also, I’ve been keeping up yoga for these past few days, which is another win for new habits. I’m still falling asleep on the couch, though.

This one’s not about sleep.

Hey! Although it’s approaching my bedtime, I took a nap today, so I’m not especially tired, and this post shouldn’t be about how much I wish I were sleeping.

I want to build something new, and rather than tell you what it is, I think the best thing is to write about the principles behind it. If I can establish a better understanding of this topic, than I can use that to build it.

When it comes to poetry, there are many established ways to stylize a passage. Perhaps the most obvious one is rhyming. There are two categories of rhyming that I’ll cover today: true rhyming and slant rhyming.

According to the free dictionary, true rhymes are: “rhyme[s] in which the final accented vowel and all succeeding consonants or syllables are identical, while the preceding consonants are different.” Examples would be dutiful and beautiful, or slippery and chicory. 

A slant rhyme, according to dictionary.com, is “when the vowels or the consonant[ sounds] of a stressed syllable are identical”, but not both. Examples include park and parse or hearse and church. There are two subcategories under slant rhymes, assonance and consonance. Assonance is the rhyming of vowel sounds (e.g. gray and fade), and consonance is the rhyming of the consonant sounds (e.g. pit and pat).

There are more ways to rhyme (homonyms, eye rhymes, and identical rhymes) but these are the two which interest me right now as they’re a bit harder to achieve and they sound better in the ear.

Thinking about sleep

Waiting until before I go to bed to write these posts is not ideal. I’m doing my best to try to stay awake and write this. Ideally I’d write these when I’m wide awake, but I’m busy doing other things then, like thinking about napping. I have a long and intimate relationship with sleep. And in that sleep, what dreams may come? Often anxiety dreams, usually a recurring one (or variation of one) in which I awake in the dream realizing that I have little time to submit an important assignment. Completing that assignment is impossible in dream land, extending that anxiety into the night. I also regularly have a dream where I realize that I’ve missed courses in high school, and I need to go back and retake them. The idea that I’ve already graduated college makes no difference as I resign myself to being a 35 year old high school student. No real conclusion here, just stating my love of sleep.

Starting another habit

I’ve already done this for over a week, and I’m happy to report that this blog-post-a-day idea is officially an unbreakable habit. I no longer have to worry about missing a day or running of things to say. Every post has been on time and of glittering quality and wit, and it’s practically muscle memory now.

Now I can repurpose the block of time that I was previously using to fret about writing boring posts. I’m going to fill that time with yoga, or more seriously, at least 15 minutes of yoga a day. One of the perks of my job is a hour yoga session each week, but I haven’t been attending since I started this work from home arrangement last year. I think it’s starting to add up. That, and the fact that I don’t bike to work anymore. So, I’ll start doing yoga once a day, for a cumulative total of at least 105 minutes per week.

My all time favorite free class, and one that it easy to fit into my schedule, is this one: https://www.doyogawithme.com/content/sun-salutations-with-tracey

Virtual Flea Market

I grew up going to flea markets on the weekends and thrift stores on the weekdays. Not every day or every week, but enough to get me addicted to examining at other people’s lives through the stuff they decided they no longer needed. As an adult, I don’t really go to these destinations, and I don’t need to because I have enough unnecessary crap, but I still miss that activity. Recently, I’ve been randomly dropping in on CraigsList’s “all for sale” link, which shows the most recent posts of uncategorized items. It’s kinda like visiting a flea market, except there’s less walking, and connecting with fellow people, and the tactile feel of picking up an item. And it’s missing other things too, but at least it’s something.

Avid Gum Chewing

I changed the title of this post from “obsessive” to “avid”. I love chewing gum. I have a sharp jawline, which I attribute to this habit. I also sometimes have jaw pain, which is likely attributable to this habit as well. I’ve leveled up my chewing game, though. No more artificial sweetners or gums flavored deliciously like apple pie or root beer. No, I’m an adult, and when I want an adult chew, I go for the obscure (to most people in the U.S.) Turkish gum that’s modeled after chewing tree sap. That gum of course is Falim.

Falim gum comes in a wide variety of flavors that actually all taste the same. I can tell them apart, but at this point I’m the sommelier equivalent of a Falim connoisseur. For most people new to this brand, you’ll probably notice an absence or vacuum of taste with subtle but comforting hints of masticated cardboard. Reading the negative reviews of this gum on Amazon is entertaining because people new to Falim all seem to have this reaction. The positive end of the review spectrum is a healthy mix of people who’ve stuck it out with Falim previously, people with dietary restrictions, and body builders trying to get that effortless ripped jawline look.

One detail that I haven’t seen broadcast is that Falim is actually really terrific for blowing bubbles.

A close up shot of a large bubble gum bubble

When it pops, I sometimes get the gum stuck on my eyelids and eye lashes.  Have I mentioned yet that I work from home permanently? Pretty sure my coworkers wouldn’t miss this.

Poor Sleep Hygiene

Ok. I actually wrote this blog post in the middle of the night on a scrap of paper. I think it still counts even if I didn’t post it until now.

I go through phases of poor sleep hygiene, and I’m in the middle of a nasty one now. To me the phrase means disrespecting my bedtime and instead falling asleep on that wonderful mistress, the couch. I’ll wake up some four hours later and stumble upstairs, where I’ll brush and floss and retire to my actual bed. Now fully awake, I’ll lie in bed with my mind wandering among subjects, a return to sleep at least an hour down the line. The next morning I’ll awake more tired than usual, as the night before I split my REM sleep in half and probably cut an hour out of the full duration. This inevitably leads me to another sleepy evening at the sweet bosom of the couch, the act of walking upstairs and brushing my teeth too onerous to give honest thought, thus continuing the cycle. To break this cycle and return to a good night’s sleep takes will power or some other external force like a townie cat fight outside that’s too riotous to ignore. And so I lie here in bed tonight, praying to the god of my life, the couch, begging it to release my soul from its coffers and return me to the land of the restful sleeping.

Urban Dictionary and Neural Networks

I spent some time this weekend feeding a recurrent neural network (torch-rnn) a dump of Urban Dictionary definitions that I found posted online. Once you train the neural network on a text corpus, you can ask it to generate a block text based on the rules it learned. Janelle Shane over at aiweirdness.com leverages this or a similar nn to great humorous effect. Maybe I’ll write a more technical post later to explain how it works behind the scenes. I’d have to understand that myself first.

I chopped the corpus in a few different ways in an attempt to get better results, but I never quite got it past the gibberish phase of training. The base idea is just feeding in the words themselves, sans definitions, and seeing what the nn makes of it. Here are a few I hand selected from its generated output:

Churching Butt

Rhinopolypo

Brodie Poke

Truslin’ Rucy

Poozar

Burbin’

Phone Salmon

Sweasure

Mortal Frownzz

Chabaco Bag

Petarious

Technosausition

Stinting

Bean Oneside

These would all be better if the nn generated definitions for each, but when I included the definitions in the training set, it just spit out effortless nonsense.

The kernel of what makes Janelle Shane’s work so fun and interesting lies in the anthropomorphizing of the rnn. We ask it to do something, and then when it does a terrible job at it, we can’t help but say “Oh computer, at least you tried to understand humans.” With this in mind, I decided to try one more thing before hanging this up for the day. What if I isolated just the definitions that were sex acts and fed them into the nn? Would the computer come up with something sexual that humans have never considered?

The Dozz

A sex act involves the felled-umbing this imerican inserted it

Indeed.