Codevember round up!

So as November winds to a close - err, has been over for a week, here's a brief list of what I did.  Or, more accurately, a confession to what I didn't do.

- Made a big keyboard controlled processing sketch and did projections for a bunch of bands.  It's on my github called "combination" and to be honest the code is a bit of a mess.  I would like to refactor it but haven't started.

- Made my first 3D processing sketch, which I'd like to expand into a similar projections app.  It's fun.  The thing I like about processing is I can just open it up and be done a self-contained sketch fairly quickly.  It can be difficult to pick up a larger programming project if you only have an hour or two- it's like each time you spend a few days away you have to rebuild the mental map of your code, and reorient to the problem-space.

- Started rewriting the way You Are A Rock handles part of speech using nltk.  The first version is basically hard coded, and at the time I didn't know how to do it any other way.  I'd also like to be able to explore natural language processing tools on my own writing.

- Been reading the nltk book.  I'm currently in chapter 5, and my biggest notable so far is that it makes much heavier use of list comprehensions that I've been in the habit of, and has made me realize they're much more powerful that I thought.

- Made some frontend changes to Tool Library version of the LasaurApp.  I basically just made a pop up menu for Tool Library-specific maintenance, and recent cut speeds.  I'd like to add a form that lets users add entries to the cut speed table . . . someday.

- Began a web project that isn't on my github, and probably won't ever be.  This is not a lie to make up for my lack of commits later in the month, I swear! It's real!

What I didn't do:

- Make a commit every day.  This is because I didn't program something significant every day, and resisted the urge to make superficial commits.  In hindsight, a commit is not a good metric.  A month of fixing minor syntax errors is not much of an accomplishment.  Also the whole working on code that's not open source thing ...

- Finish the MIT intro to programming course.  This I'm a bit sad about, but I'm still working my way through it fairly slowly.  Better to grok it thoroughly than quickly, I guess?  Currently in the section on optimization algorithms, lecture 14.


Random-access Memory

(exactly what it sounds like)

This song popped into my head last night.  I haven't listened to or thought about it in years.  I don't think it's cool anymore, but it's been a long time since being cool was important to me. Of that, this blog post can be the evidence. 

I first heard it in, I think, 2003 or 2004.  I was in grade 10.  I was sitting in Communications tech class, at a table alone except for a boy I had a crush on, who I was also simultaneously terrified of.  He was listening to a discman - back then, the cool and normal way to listen to music was on CDs.  I used to feel like spinning silver disks were life rafts.  For this reason I carried an 1/8" inch audio splitter in my bag.  I thought maybe I could float out of some imagined storm and into intimacy.

In this class we made a short film on VHS tape, and I made intricate ball point pen drawings of computers (I still have them, and think they are a testament to how precise and patient you can be when you're lonely).  I think I only handed in two assignments for this class (the film, these drawings), and was passed by virtue of these drawings alone.  I overheard my teacher, who's name in my memory sounds like Mr. Neelan but may not be, at a parent teacher interview describing me to another student, "Sarah's not like other girls."  I thought it was a compliment at the time, and now I know that it wasn't.  I also know that I am. 

Anyway, rewind.  We are sitting in the classroom.  The lights are flourescent and there is something we're supposed to be working on but we're not.  I don't remember warning him - I just remember unplugging his headphones, and adding mine.  This song was playing.  I didn't ask him for the name of the band, instead I remembered the lyrics and googled them.  I still do this often when I like a song, and every time feel clever. 

Less than a year later, this song was playing over and over on a four song playlist as I lay quietly waiting to die.  Or course, that is another story - maybe more silly and certainly more melodramatic than this one. 


Some of my pals from Site 3 are starting this thing called Codevember.  I think the idea is for it to be like NaNoWriMo, but for code. 

Sooooo, I'm going to try to put one commit per day on Github for the rest of the month.  And, I'm going to finally finish this course:

In other news, NPR made this podcast about women in computer science, notable because it mentions the book "Hackers" that I complained about just a few posts down, and quotes the exact same passage I do. 


Currently reading this: Everything and More by David Foster Wallace.  It's his only book-length non-fiction to my knowledge.  So far, it's a pop science run through the history of infinity.  After reading (err - "being almost done") Godel Escher Bach this Summer, it's not so jarring a world to be plunged into.  Somewhat familiar.  In fact once already Wallace has specifically mentioned GEB, and a few times seemed to nod textually at readers of both books. 

Wallace is going to go into some depth on Cantor, in fact he's the focus of the book (Cantor is, so I learn, the guy who discovered that some infinities are bigger than others).  I appreciate this as he's an important figure that didn't become central to anything Hofstadter covered in GEB.  But despite finding much of the subject matter interesting, I'm also finding Wallace annoying.

He is perpetually denoting various aspects of math as "college math", "junior high math", etc.  He argues that this is an attempt to consider and respect the varied backgrounds of readers.  It comes off as quite the opposite - because for one thing, not everyone was educated under some standard American curriculum - a thing which I doubt exists.  Also - it just ends up jarring the reader out of the text and sending them down a memory rabbit hole. "Did I learn this in school?  When?"  A pointless reverie that has nothing to do with the math in question.

Also, he frequently glosses over areas of content with the excuse that they are too difficult.  Example, " . . . what's known as Fourier coefficients, which are so conceptually hairy that we plan to avoid them at almost any cost."  In a book that presumes to be a math text for relative laypeople, this kind of persistent cutesy reminder that the math is really too hard for us seems to be almost a contradiction of the books purported goals (aka being a math text for laypeople). 

And finally, he's done this multiple times: "In sexual terms, it's an expression of the rate of change of a function with respect to the function's independent variable."  No, Wallace - there is nothing sexual about it and this was only funny the first time. 

Notably none of these examples would be so obnoxious if they occurred only once, even twice.  One wants to Wallace to better control his verbal tics and make his damn points. 

I'm beginning to suspect I won't finish this book either and wondering how long this guilt-driven need to review books I gave up on will continue. 

In other news, I feel like documenting my life a bit more than usual lately.

I'm fond of these empty-ad slots (actually always have been) but these in a different way than others.  I like them 1) because they aren't ads  2) because there is something crisp and austere about the image they *do* contain  3) because they appear to be a technical description of the material they're made of (polycarbonate).  Since working with lasers, I've become a bit of a polymers geek.  Knowing the differences between these materials is important in my life regularly - I quietly enjoy seeing them nose their way into the spotlight. 

Went to a space conference some time ago (IAC) which was . . . full of tiny model spacecraft (which are made by specialty tiny spacecraft-making companies - that's a job someone has).  Irl, I have learned that sometimes real spacecraft are also tiny. 

The only photo I took was of the garbage left from another conference that I saw on the way in.  (I think about the continent of garbage slowly congealing in the middle of the ocean, someday visible to said spacecraft).  

And lastly, me drinking from a silver goblet cause YOLO.  Sayin "hi" to the bots that crawl this blog.  Sup bots!


Those of you who know me well know this has been a difficult Summer.  My body, specifically my jaw, has mechanically malfunctioned in a way that was difficult to diagnose and carries an uncertain prognosis - so uncertain that doctors suggest I may go into remission for as long as 10-15 years, only to experience a relapse, to possibly relapsing within the year.  The possibility of a complete recovery has not been mentioned. Though it is, I'm sure, not impossible.   

So, I've been living, as one always does, in the eternal present, trying to get used to the shadow of my own orthopaedic sword of Damocles.  It is a grim, slow adaptation. 

Of course, what is most striking about the "new" relationship I am developing with my body is that there's nothing new about it.  The structural weaknesses and bad habits that made me susceptible to this problem have always been with me.  Doctors tell me this would have happened to me someday regardless, earlier treatment could have delayed but not prevented it, etc.  And indeed, I share this with all humans. Inside all our bodies even now, entropy accumulates.  In actuality, this is a shadow I've always lived under and only now perceive.

My body is a bomb and the fuse is lit. So is yours. No one knows how long it is. 

One of the most difficult and embarrassing feelings I have is jealousy - sometimes it's difficult to be around people who are healthy.  I want to ask them if they realize how lucky they are, casually taking for granted each passing moment of pain free movement.  This Summer, watching all you lucky people move on with your pain-free lives has been very, very difficult for me. 

At the moment, the lower right side of my face alternates between numbness and tingling.  This new symptom started about 6 weeks ago, and has gotten gradually and progressively worse.  It's nerve related - when it's at it's worst touching soft things (a pillow, my own hand) to my face feels rough and prickly.  I am trying not to be afraid.  However, I can report with pleasure that the nocioceptive pain (normal, not neuropathic) has improved steadily to the point where it is almost absent.  The time-frame and perspective of my life has entirely changed, as the tectonic plates of my body shift within me.  A year from now is terrifying, for tomorrow I am grateful. 

The muscles on the right side of my face have atrophied from disuse.  This is not necessarily visible to you, the casual observer, but to me, definitely.  When I look at old photos, especially.  Even a few months ago, my cheekbones were not the shelves they are now.  For almost a month I ate a nearly liquid diet, and I am still avoiding anything that requires a lot of chewing.  At first this seemed difficult, but I've had a lot of time to reflect and now it seems like the most minor concession imaginable.  If it could guarantee me a life without pain I would gladly never eat solid food again. 

I seem to have reached the end of the medical rope, as doctors are now regularly sending me home saying there's nothing they can do.  I wish, often and uselessly, that this were literally any other part of my body.  Literally any other part of my body. 

I'm writing and posting this very vulnerable text after lengthy time to reflect on our culture's and my personal relationship to sickness and disability.  Before this happened to me, I very rarely thought about my health.  I was consistently healthy and able-bodied.  I was, to be searingly honest, proud of that health and able-bodiedness, despite how arbitrarily I possessed it.  Now - every remembered moment of that pride makes me feel a bit nauseated. 

In my ill health, I've been comforted by many of my friends mentioning to me that they were once seriously injured and had a difficult or incomplete recovery, or that they continue to live with a chronic illness they have to manage.  In our youth-worshipping health-worshipping culture, there's a tendency to be very tight-lipped with anything that doesn't dissolve easily into the miasma of facebook likes.  Thus the importance of counteracting that, and speaking frankly and publicly about pain, in it's daily ugly detail. 

. . . from the bottom of Pandora's box, glowing gently. 


I did not get into Hacker School and the meniscus of my right TMJ is anteriorly subluxed, medicalese meaning the cartilage is not properly aligned in the joint.  Nice suckerpunch, universe.

 . . . and now back to regularly scheduled programming.


It is one month to the day since I woke up unable to open my mouth, in gradually increasing pain and fear.  And 22 days since I applied to Hacker School and began working through their multi-stage interview process (gradually increasing excitement and anxiety).  

Tomorrow I will get the results of an mri which looked inside my temporomandibular joint to asses the level of soft tissue damage.  Will I also hear back from Hacker School about my acceptance/rejection?

Stay posted; breaking news.