Job update.

As of this past Monday, I am now a full-time employee with Wolfram Alpha, LLC. Benefits start at the end of the month. Needless to say, I am thrilled.
  • Current Music
    The Guild - (Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar (feat. Felicia Day) [(Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar (feat.

For the rock hounds...

This month marks the one hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the main fossil bed of the Burgess Shale - one of the richest and most important fossil beds... well, ever!

Read for yourself!
  • Current Music
    Rob Zombie - 06 - (Go to) California [The Sinister Urge]

Looking back.

This past Sunday would have been my seventh wedding anniversary.

I suppose I should be upset and angry, but I'm really not. I'm doing better than I was, and I hear that Paula is doing well too. It's probably good for both of us; we just didn't match properly, for a variety of reasons. So I hope she does well in school, and I'll continue to enjoy my job.
  • Current Music
    Rob Zombie - 13 - Never Gonna Stop [Greatest Hits Past, Present, And Future]

George Tiller's murder and some thoughts about history.

Okay, this post is going to piss some people off. I'm well aware of this, and I'm even going to encourage it, to a certain extent. The things I'm going to be talking about are controversial, the positions I'm going to present are going to make people uncomfortable, and I'm going to make people on both sides of the issue think twice about their perspectives. So if you choose to read past the cut, keep in mind that I'm intentionally doing this to make you think.

Personal disclosure, I'm pro-choice, even though some of the things I'm going to say here are not necessarily going to come across as flattering to this position.

Now then.

As many folks are aware by now, on Sunday, May 31st, 2009, George Tiller was murdered. In a church, during services (although out in the narthex, and not in the chapel itself). This man was an abortion provider, and the murder is likely to have been motivated by this.

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As many of you know, I'm working for Wolfram Research now. I'm involved (although mostly around the edges) with their new product, Wolfram|Alpha. There's been a lot of hype about this, up to and including a live web broadcast from the actual launch of the website. It's been pretty chaotic, but a lot of fun for me.

That being said, a lot of people don't quite get what this new thing is. It's being billed as a "computational knowledge engine", which is a different thing altogether from a search engine, like Google. This is something that simply has never existed before, which is why so many people are having trouble figuring it out. You can't use it to search for things, like the best value car, or the cheapest cell phone, because that kind of thing can't be computed, except by methods that would either be biased, or not be trusted, or both.

But for things that are computable, Wolfram|Alpha excels. It builds on the computation power and symbolic interpretation of Mathematica, and takes it to an entirely different level. While Mathematica is designed for professionals, Wolfram|Alpha is designed for the whole population, although many of the data sets are rather specialized. As things stand now, this product is only starting. It's at the first point where it's good enough to be used by the public, but it has a long way to go. There's a lot of work to do, and a lot of things won't work, and there's a lot of data that hasn't been put in yet.

So if you run across things that don't work, or that you think should be added, use the feedback form on the bottom of the page. Your feedback will help make it better. I'm not just saying that, either - I'm actually one of the people who reads that feedback, and makes sure it finds its way to the developers. So sending feedback will also help to ensure my future employment. *grins*

There's a lot of articles out there which show off what Alpha can do. I figured I'd show a few examples, myself. So if you'd like to see some examples, Collapse )

Steam, The Last Remnant, and why my weekend plans are trashed.

So, there's a (fairly) new Square|Enix RPG out, called The Last Remnant. Xbox 360 release, and PC, with PS3 soon to follow. I had it recommended to me by bav101.

Since I have a new job (more on that later), I figured I'd treat myself and pick up a copy. While at the mall this week, I stopped by the Game Stop in the mall, but they didn't have any PC copies. Apparently they're phasing out their PC games, because of "rampant piracy". Sounds like an excuse to me, but oh well. Turns out, the game was made available via Steam, Valve's download-based free service for game distribution.

I've had a Steam account for a while, and I was pleased with the results when I brought home my (store-bought) copy of the Orange Box. So, last night I fired up the client and purchased a copy of The Last Remnant. First of all, it was only $39.99 - no tax. Fair price for a new game, I figure. Second, the download was fast. It's a 12 Gb install, and it was done before I woke up this morning (and I started it right before I went to bed). Third, it just... works. I didn't have time to get very far this morning (just to the point where I actually control my char), and now I'm off to work, but there was absolutely nothing for me to do. Click on the shortcut, configure my gamepad, tweak the video settings, and start playing.

That's the kind of game experience I want. Simple, quick, painless, and it just works. Oh, and so long as I have my Steam account (free, of course), I can download it again any time I want. The fact that I have no physical media won't limit me at all.

Now, I'm off to work, and yeah, my weekend plans are fairly set now. *grins*

Media wtf.

Here is an article on Salon.com which describes a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles in the New York Times talking about how "some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended".

You'd think that something like this would be all over the major TV news channels, right? Well, no. In fact, they're supressing it. Here is an article from Media Matters which talks about an NBC segment which completely ignores these articles when discussing the Pulitzer Price winners for this year.

There's something going on here, and I don't like it.

The original articles are:
Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand
One Man's Military-Industrial-Media Complex

These are New York Times articles, so registration is requied (although if you use BugMeNot, you can bypass that...).


Dave Arneson, co-creator of D&D, died of cancer on Thursday. Gary Gygax, the other co-creator, died last March.

I guess it's up to us, the new generation of role-players, to keep their spirits alive. The creativity and socializing that you can get from role-playing is still (in my opinion) one of the most valuable things that a young (or young-at-heart) person can do to help develop themselves.

In the mean time, I bet there's one heck of a session going on up in heaven.

Some food for coding thought...

Here is an interesting article to read. At first, you might scratch your head and think, "Gee, Geoff, what does that have to do with programming?" Well, it's pretty simple. The judge is upholding a ruling that says that calling something a "trade secret" does not mean you can keep the source code for a breathalyzer a secret from a defense team that might want to challenge it on the grounds that it was not programmed or designed correctly. While this will mean that some cases of DUI that should probably have resulted in convictions will be dismissed, the end result is much better.

What it means to a programmer is that, if you're involved with a project that has serious implications (in this case, evidence can result in a conviction and jail time), you had better do it right. And that's because your work can be gone over with a fine-toothed comb by a defense team. And for something so serious, it darn well had better be able to stand up to inspection.

Even better, it's not a difficult stretch at all to see how this sort of a ruling might be expanded to other things, such as ATM's - and even voting machines. No matter what side of the political spectrum you're on, I'm sure you want elections to be as fair as possible. I know I do.

This ruling only applies in Florida for now, but I don't see any reason why it won't be extended. So make sure you ship good code, if it's for something important.