Friday, February 27, 2015

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2015 album.

  • Events
    • Visited Sam, Kristen, Ingrid Michaelson, and all the restaurants in Richmond on the weekend of 1/31 - 2/1.

    • Went to a mini Super Bowl party with dancing sharks at the Crane's on 2/1.

    • Had my company winter event at the American History museum on 2/7.

    • Went to "Pups in the Pub" at Old Ox Brewery with the Lowry dogs on 2/8.

    • Met Isaac Ahlbin and played Hearthstone on 2/13.

    • Saw both sets of parents as well as newly-relocated Mike (Local-Mike?) on 2/14.

    • Enjoyed good snows on 2/17 and 2/21.

    • Went back to the Crane's for the Oscars on 2/22.

    • Survived another overnight deployment for work on 2/26.

  • Projects
    • Studying for my AWS Developer certification in earnest this month through

    • Assembled a bookshelf.

    • Shoveled lots of snow.

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed seasons of Justified, Bosch, Lilyhammer, and Lie to Me. Just started Sherlock.

    • No great new music this month.

    • Played Hearthstone, The Talos Principle, and Far Cry 4.

February's Final Grade: B, lots of indoor time, but pleasant and mostly low-key

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Treme, Season Four:
This abbreviated final season was well done, but ultimately pointless. Although it gives the characters a nice send-off and wrap-up, it doesn't do much more than the similar wrap-up of Season Three, which could have (and probably should have) functioned as the series finale. Overall, the first season was probably the best, and could be watched in isolation.

Final Grade: C

Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13):
Although we turned this off after an hour originally, I did go back to finish it on my own, because legitimate Internet reviewers like myself adhere to a high code of reviewing conduct. This movie was not as good as everyone said it would be. Sure, there were a few funny jokes here and there, but the rest of the movie felt like setup for those few jokes. Most of the movie is spent with the main characters running around SHOUTING lines of dialogue like super heroes while chasing random artifacts through realms of poorly acted supporting characters.

Final Grade: C-

Uptown Special by Mark Ronson:
As a longtime fan of Mark Ronson, this album was pretty disappointing. Uptown Funk is Ronson at his best, and it's nice that he's getting a lot new fans from this being played ad nauseum on American radio. Feel Right (not safe for work) is bubbling over with energy and feels like a track from the movie, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. However, the rest of the album is forgettable, with a bunch of minimally exciting B-sides and weak supporting artist performances.

Final Grade: C+

Better Call Saul, Pilot Episode:
I didn't expect this to be anything more than a derivative valentine to Breaking Bad, but was unexpectedly impressed. The pilot manages to have its own style and themes, and while a little Breaking Bad knowledge is nice, this show looks like it'll be enjoyable on its own merits. The pilot is free on Amazon Prime, although we'll be waiting for the whole season to come out before we watch any more.

Final Grade: A-

tagged as reviews | permalink | 6 comments

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Memory Day: Twelve Years Ago Today

Twelve years ago, on February 25, 2003, I was a grad student finishing up my Masters at Florida State. After spending the day sparring with committee members for my upcoming thesis defense, I played in a basketball game with the Music Theory basketball team against a team called "Happy Hour". We lost, 62-22, and 3 of our 4 starters had accrued fouls by game's end. I also got in a shouting match with a frat boy who fouled me, which got me a foul.

I also spent the day helping a procrastinating Kathy finish up her presentation (to be presented 24 hours later), Where's the Beat? Metrical Ambiguities in the Introductions of New Wave Pop Songs of the 1980s, by applying PDF magicks to handouts and proofreading her prose.

boyllama (8:49:02 PM): how's it comin'?
ksb629 (8:49:15 PM): on conclusion
ksb629 (8:49:23 PM): need help
ksb629 (8:49:37 PM): Each of these examples demonstrates the possibility of multiple interpretations when establishing meter. In every case, the song began with an event that was neither a clear upbeat or downbeat. In such cases, I believe that it is reasonable to assume that the first event is a downbeat. This metrical interpretation seems correct until the established meter is disturbed or overpowered by another, stronger layer of sound. In most examples, it is possible to hear the "correct" interpretation of the metric placement retroactively, although even then it is frequently difficult to feel it correctly until the most dominant layer enters.
boyllama (8:55:40 PM): Each of these examples provides an open-ended scenario for a listener who is trying to establish meter. Every song began with an event that could be either an upbeat or a downbeat. In such ambiguous cases, it is reasonable to assume that the first event is a downbeat. This metrical interpretation feels correct by default, until the established pulse is disturbed or overpowered by a stronger layer of sound. It is sometimes possible to determine the true metric placement retroactively, although even then, it can be difficult to hear with confidence until the dominant layer enters.
ksb629 (9:17:05 PM): thanks
boyllama (9:17:14 PM): no problem
ksb629 (9:18:49 PM): fucking shit fuck
ksb629 (9:18:57 PM): I closed your window that had your suggested changes
ksb629 (9:19:00 PM): poop!

tagged as memories | permalink | 4 comments

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

BUriversity: Machine Code 101

Based on readers' topic suggestions

How do we tell computers what to do?

The central processing unit, or CPU, is the brain of any computer. It understands a very basic set of atomic instructions like "add this value to that value" and speaks only in binary -- a neverending series of 0s and 1s. In the early days of computer programming, programmers quickly came to the realization that communicating with the CPU at this level was error-prone and migraine-inducing, like the job of a cop reporting on the high-speed pursuit of a criminal whose license plate is a random mix of capital Is and lowercase Ls.

To remedy this situation, programmers relied on "layers of abstraction", taking chunks of machine code and assembling them together into human-readable instructions just slightly more understandable (called assembly language). Programmers then went up another level to languages like C, which are English-like and compiled into assembly language. Programming languages, then, are like ogres -- they have layers. If this layering concept is still hard to grasp, click on one of the buttons below to get an example in a context you are more familiar with.

This layering of abstractions continued over fifty years until today, where we have high-level languages that are so close to English prose that they sometimes read like poorly-written Twilight fan fiction. The benefit of these layers of abstraction is that a human programmer can write instructions in a language more closely related to the domain he or she is working in. Unfortunately, as languages becomes easier for humans to understand, they become more difficult for the binary-based computers to understand.

Every high-level language is eventually translated down to binary machine code before execution, since the CPU is essentially like a calculator with only 3 buttons. Thankfully, this translation is not a manual process, since a single line of code like System.out.println("Booty"); could end up being hundreds of lines of machine code.

Wouldn't the machine code need to be able to read itself as binary?

No. The machine code is just a dumb set of instructions with no processing smarts of its own. And, the CPU has a small set of instructions hardwired into it, such that there is a one-to-one mapping of every incoming machine code instruction to a CPU instruction. No interpretation or translation is happening when the machine code arrives at the CPU -- it just gets stored and run as-is. The CPU is like the bureaucrat with fifty years experience who knows exactly where to file your paperwork just by the identifying number on the form, not the summer intern who has to look up the form number in a process manual every time he sorts the mail.

Have any more ideas for future BUriversity courses? Suggest them in the comments section!

tagged as buriversity | permalink | 3 comments


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