it's a blog, yo

by brian copeland

Month: November, 2018

Squirrel Burgers

Here’s a story about sacrificing quality for delivery: don’t make squirrel burgers.

I’m usually a centrist. If there’s two competing moral principles, the best moral compass is probably somewhere in the middle. I’ve been on the side of rehabilitative criminal sentences (fix what caused the crime, don’t eye-for-an-eye ’em), but then some really awful case makes me want to just execute the asshole.

Thus, I really like when something pulls me towards the center. My father instilled the following principle in me when I was growing up:

At some point in your career, there’s going to be a day when the janitor doesn’t show up and there’s a huge mess in the bathroom. It doesn’t matter if you’re a mailworker or the CEO, that mess has to get cleaned. Don’t be the kind of person that says, “that’s beneath me!” Get the job done. [Paraphrased, not quoted]

I still think that’s a good lesson and has served me well. But the squirrel burger article makes another point – not every job should get done.

 

Micro Posts and Finding Meaning in Life

I’ve been a bad blogger. I see interesting content on the internet and don’t share it. I think, “eventually I’ll write an intelligent and meaningful post about it.” Then, months (years) later, I haven’t ever done anything and this blog goes months (years) without new content. Today is the day I stop the bad habit. Here’s the first in a (hopefully) long line of posts about small little things I like, or at least things I find insightful.

Fittingly, my first share is about someone displaying the kind of discipline I can only dream of:

A videogame player once spent 500 hours reaching level 99 in the first area of Final Fantasy VII via random low level encounters, in order to express his hatred for a player called Dick Tree

Long story short: Mr. “Dick Tree” had a theory that you could max out your character at the very beginning of a video game. That person promised a follow up proving it was possible, then fell off the map. Frustrated, anonymous internet writer “CirclMastr” did it himself. He spent five hundred hours manually beating the smallest enemies in the earliest stages of the video game to prove it was possible. This is boring, menial, tedious labor, to say the least.

Necessary disclosures:

  • Final Fantasy VII was (is) my favorite video game of all time, but this sounds like torture
  • I’ve made a career out of “just doing it to get it done”, so I totally get the attitude of CirclMastr, but this still sounds like torture
  • I dream of being the kind of person with the kind of discipline this would take, but fuck that, discipline for discipline’s sake is torture

I think my initial reaction was probably the same you feel right now: what a fucking waste of time. Even if he’s listening to podcasts while playing… or working out… or some other distraction… it is a shocking amount of time to spend with no pay off. I mean, this guy will get no money from it. No one will invite this guy to speak at a video gaming conference. Heck, he did it to spite someone that may never know he did it.

So… meaningless? Should we laugh at this guy?

CirclMastr has a response:

Life does not have inherent meaning; to say that our lives are pointless and our achievements meaningless is to state the obvious. No matter how grand our achievements or how broad their scope, time turns all to dust and death destroys all memory. But that does not mean we cannot ascribe our own meaning to what we do. It is because nothing has meaning unto itself that we are free to create meaning, to make metaphor, and in doing so reflect on ourselves and our world.

I found this article via reddit back on September 1st, 2017, but I still think about it. This story is perhaps the most meaningful thing I’ve read in recent memory. When it comes down to it, stupid passion is still passion.

PyData Recap

PyData (https://pydata.org/) is a fairly regular conference put on by NumFocus (https://numfocus.org/), a non-profit that sponsors most of the big Python projects (NumPy, pandas, Jupyter, Julia, Bokeh…). Within the span of a few weeks, they’ve put on conferences in Washington DC, NYC and LA. Three weeks ago, I attended the PyData NYC version – here’s my highlights:

– Lead Developer for pandas (Jeff Reback) talked about the next version of pandas (due mid-November) which will treat NaN as a first class integer system (currently, NaN forces a column to convert to float64, which is really annoying when you’ve got Int64 columns).
– James Powell gave a really entertaining talk about the nitty-gritty of unicode and identifiers in Python (Poo Emoji is a valid identifier, but an ellipse is not – he dug into the C code to prove it). I had previously seen his “So you want to be a Python expert?” talk (https://pyvideo.org/pydata-seattle-2017/so-you-want-to-be-a-python-expert.html), he’s fantastic.
– giphy is using session browse data as sentences, passing it into word2vec, and using that for gif recommendations. Sound familiar?
– Bokeh is worth checking out, Luke Canavan (developer of Bokeh) made a browser-side face recognition model easily
– Lightning Talks are amazing. Five minute presentations, hard cut-offs. It was really refreshing to see short subject presentations boiled down to the bare bones.
– Julia is getting hot.

So – should you attend one yourself? It was certainly not very academic: very few talks had papers associated with them. PyData struck me as much more business/hacking/results oriented. A general theme was, “hey, this works, isn’t this cool?” On the plus side, attending this conference very seriously supports open source (most presentations were by open source package authors) and it was inspiring to see short subject talks.

Bottom line: Soft Recommend