Friday, June 26, 2009

little accomplishments

I have a relatively easy summer ahead of me (only two classes), so I need to keep myself on track and make sure I'm not wasting time. Therefore, I'm going to document my little accomplishments; the idea being that I'll be able to check and see that I've been making any.

Finished Le Ton Beau de Marot
Read 6 chapters of Golden Gate
Read 4 chapters of The Black Swan
Read 3 chapters of Python and did the excercises
Got an algebra book
Got books for both of my classes (and went to class)
wrote a few lines of a poem
Opened the gallery for Kris, who was able to sell (I think) her work
went to the opera, saw Don Carlo
Went on a 14 mile bike ride (last week)
Went to IU for the Philosophy and Computing conference (I need to write more about this!)

     try to break free
wonder why
    ask eternally

    in to the unknown
    all's dead that doesnt grow

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A well worded reflection on the nature of engineering and science

"Inquiry is the essence of science, design is the essence of engineering, and in their pure forms, these activities are utterly different. Scientific inquiry draws observations from the world to reshape the mind; engineering design projects ideas from the mind to reshape the world. One is an eye, the other a hand, afferent and efferent flows of information."

from Eric Drexler's blog

Programming in Python

I've been learning Python stuff. I get a similar "soulcraft" feeling from doing programming that people describe getting from mechanical work. I think the two fields are quite similar on an abstract level; both involve identifying problems, isolating them, forming hypotheses about them testing the hypotheses, fixing, and iterating. A significant difference, though, is that with programming you are in a position to do more original creation, whereas that part is already done with a mechanical object like a motorcycle.

I'm working my way through this free book on programming called "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist; Think Python." It's a nice gentle introduction, but even the "gentle" exercises provide fertile ground for creativity and problem solving. Here's a couple of functions I created for the exercises from chapter four and their graphical results:

def flower(t,n,r):
turnAngle = 360/(n)
for i in range(n):

def polypie(r,s):
for i in range (s):

(that one's done four times, moving the turtle to the edge and turning it each time. "bob" is the name of the turtle, btw.)

Not mind-blowing, I realize, but nonetheless the product of quite a bit of thought. It will seem more mind-blowing if you try to come up with the functions from scratch; quite a bit of ingenuity (and (basic) math) is required.

I remember computer classes from when I was a kid that used some predecessor to this little grapical program (TurtleWorld). I remember mostly being irritated with it... having to type commands and so on. I wish someone had taught me control structures, back in the day.


And now, the moment you've all been waiting for! Grades! I did quite well.

Data Mining: A
Design of Experiment: A
Neuroscience: learning and memory: A
Fundamentals of Programming: B+
Calculus: C

Only the first two are graduate level classes, and so I spent the bulk of my time on them. I was disappointed about the programming grade not being an A, but considering the circumstances, a B+ is quite nice. I need go back and improve my algebra level so I can do better in the next calculus.

I'm also thinking that I'll take Logic in the fall.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


And just like that, its all over. The first year of my master's program, that is. I had my neuroscience exam at 7:30 this morning, and I definately rocked it. I'm hoping to see four A's and a B this quarter, though that B will probably be a C (stands for "Calculus").

I'm taking only one class this summer; I think its about time I had a break, psychologically. I've been working all-out for years, it seems... though I suppose you could count the 12 months or so that I was just working and not in classes as a "break," if you were of a mind to denigrate the corporate experience. Despite that, I won't be unoccupied this summer. I'm going to try to sit in on a C++ class and a Calc II class, as well as studying college algebra and Python.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Light at the end of the tunnel

WOOO Data Mining and Design of Experiment are DONE! Only Programming and Neuroscience remain!

I got my Neuroscience project proposal back yesterday and talked with Dr. Bickle about it. He was amused, said he thought it was really interesting and creative, but that it probably wouldn't work. I'm of the same opinion. As I was writing, it seemed less and less plausibly accomplishable as I got closer to the end of the paper. Nevertheless, it wasn't really meant to be a proposal that gets implemented, so it served its purpose in demonstrating that I've learned some stuff about neuroscience and experimental design.

I've been remiss in my mentions of CS13. This weekend, Saturday the 13th is our grand gallery opening. I still havn't made any postcards, but now that exams are almost done I should be able to. I've been trying to get down there at least a couple times a week to help with the painting. The space is looking beautiful; I think that the opening will be very successful. We've got more than a hundred fifty postcards, and six people performing.

Oh! On Sunday, I'm going to Indiana University for the North American Philisophy and Computing conference! Erica Dylan-Waters has been kind enough to offer up her couch there, so thats sweet. I was thinking of taking my bike and trying to bike back... Seems like it should be accomplishable if I were to do like 40 miles a day, right? Rachael pointed out that I still havn't signed up for health insurance, so its probably not a good idea.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Neuroscience paper grade!

I got an A on my neuroscience paper!

Did my calc exam earlier today, probably got a C on it, for a C in the class. I need to go back and study college algebra.

Working on my Design of Experiment out-of-class final now. I've got some progress, probably only 10 more hours to go on it.

Great Irony

People on the political left have long emphasized the "collective," the importance of all people involved in a system having control and input. The irony: the best way to accomplish this is to have give all parties ownership and responsibility, while avoiding concentrating power into any particular individuals' or groups' hands. In other words, trust in the people to make the best decisions for their circumstances, let them be free do do what they see as right. Which is the definition of the free market.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Matlab geekery

Check out this AMAZING plot I made in MATLAB!

All the code for it is my matlab book, granted, but I was never the less really excited to be able to plot a strange attractor in 3d.

Its an example of chaos: the function will continue indefinitely, orbiting around these two values, but never reaching them and never repeating (I think), which is a pretty interesting property. I read about this sort of thing a while back in Metamagical Themas, and I remember feeling like it was way above my head. It still is, I suppose, but its neat to be able to dip my feet in the water a little more.

I'm gonna figure out how to rotate this in 3d so you can see the structure better. I'm pretty sure all I need to do is update an array with each value and use that to make the plot, rather than just plotting each point as it's created (when you do it this way, it erases all but the last point on the plot when you rotate it. )

How cool would be to make music out of this? I wonder if such things have already been done? I realized belatedly that my enthusiastic idea probably originated in Douglas Adams's fist Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency book, so it seems likely that at least a few other people have gone down similar paths.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Trouble in the realm! The leader's retired,
and the position is vacant.
PR folks offer assurances
to concerned parties within and without.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Seems like this is an endless two weeks. But, I think I will do quite well. I have the potential to get A's in everything except Calc, where I could possibly get a B. My programming professor is letting me count the final for 60% of the grade to make up for the midterm I missed, horray. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I found a diverting new pastime: riding my bike as fast as I can in
circles around the computer lab without marking up the walls or
crashing into the computers.

Haha jk. Or am I?