Thursday, July 13, 2017

STAY ON TARGET

Every time I see these markings on local trails, which must mean it's due for some sort of maintenance, I can't help but think stay on target....stay on target!



In case it's an unfamiliar reference...

Kodu

Teaching Kodu at work last month.  This app would not work on my work machine no matter what I tried.  Eventually had to load it up on the machine at home.  Fun to play with - easy to create and code Minecraft-like environments.  But very twitchy based on the machine after reading some similar online comments.

The kids had fun - we had their machines preloaded.


Bicycling Berries

I saw a post from last year about 7/3/16 where I picked blackberries at Schultz beach.  So I made a detour on 7/4 to swing by and look again.  This represents one of about a dozen handfuls, most of them full of more berries and riper than this handful.  I was actually full there were so many to eat.  I wondered briefly if you can catch a disease if you eat the wrong blackberry, but then decided I didn't care.

Coffee

I finished the last of the coffee Klund roasted.  Good stuff.  He called it Sweet Maria's Espresso Monkey for reasons I can't intuit.  Little lighter than I usually drink, but also much more flavorful than what I usually drink.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

To Read Today

A few things I've read recently...

A Search Engine for Programming Language Syntax Is a Pretty Good Idea

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/4xam5d/a-search-engine-for-programming-language-syntax-is-a-pretty-good-idea
Not as interesting as I'd hoped.  A comparison of Googling to code versus yet another code-specific search engine (SyntaxDB).  Conclusion: Google works pretty well.


Introduction to Neural Networks

https://medium.com/binary-maths/introduction-to-neural-networks-ead8ec1dc4dd
Neurons, sigmoid functions, and image cleaning.  Not as good as some things I've read and a little heavy on the math if you're not from that side of things.  Real examples, however.  I like the Tensorflow cat and purse example found elsewhere better - you can really see the layering of work in the API.


The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/24/opinion/sunday/artificial-intelligence-economic-inequality.html
Comes to the same conclusions as an earlier article I read.  Jobs that involve servicing each other are going to become highly important as computers eliminate other jobs.  E.g. social welfare jobs.  Touches on minimal income, the have and have-not gap, and other aspects that are common between AI impact writing at the moment.  I was intrigued by the topic of AI-driven colonialism.  That's sort of crazy and almost dystopic in idea; that countries without the income or population to create self-sustaining AI-driven economies might need to sell themselves, almost like a country-sized asset, to patrons like the US or China. You can squint and see the utopic version of that where countries without good assets gain minimal living standards and participate in a global service (each other) economy.  You can not squint and see where it might go down a morlocks slash 1984-population as an asset slash neo-english-virtual-colonialism-two-superpower dystopic path.  Interesting times.


Starting With Blockchain Chaincode Using Golang

https://dzone.com/articles/starting-with-blockchain-chaincode-using-golang
I want to try this one with the examples because it looks pretty straight forward, but I'm going to do the Pluralsight class instead.


The ultimate 3500-word guide in plain English to understand Blockchain

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/blockchain-absolute-beginners-mohit-mamoria
Absolutely excellent article.  He does a great job of explaining blockchain for n00bs.  I'm going to use this and the Pluralsight class to create a presentation for my team.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Hastings

Last weekend I rode out to Hastings on an Ingress hunt.  There was a portal at Spring Lake Park Reserve that was holding up big fields.  The ride there...not so bad.  Sort of downhill into the river valley for about 30 miles.  The ride back...different story.  I don't think it helped that I didn't eat because the breakfast joint I was targeting in Hastings opened an hour later than Google said.

Ride back: mostly uphill, 25 miles, slight wind, and a lot of road construction.  At one point I had to go under an under-construction under/overpass on Highway 52.  Going to Hastings it wasn't so bad because it was early and traffic was light.  On the way back it was around noon and the traffic was buzzing.  I was pinned against cement separators making sure I caught the eye of every motorist buzzing down the detour on/off ramp at 65 mph.  Nasty.

Those Hastings Ingressers are nuts.  The whole thing was back up within a few hours and I think they even scored some high rankings in the fielding standings thanks to rethrows.



On the way back I was running out of water, so I was excited when I found a pump.  After a huge chug of water, I realized it was slightly off tasting well water.  I thought about it for a few moments, and realized this bottle of water comes from directly between the enormous covered mountains of trash deposited by the refuse company and the cracking/processing plant on the other side.  I can't imagine, despite all their precautions, that this isn't one of the most fucked up bottles of water I could have chosen to drink, at least in my area.  I'm going to choose to believe that somehow nothing leaked into the water table.

Dominick's

Eryn, my wife, and me having lunch at Dominick's a few weeks ago, adjacent to the Trestle Stop in sort of southeastern Eagan.  I took this photo for the architect on our team because it was such a dead day at the office and I wanted him to see lunch in Eagan when it's good, rather than when it's depressing in the corporate cafeteria.

I also highlight it because they're both having a cheesesteak sandwich.  Which is what I had.  Which is what everyone who goes to Dominick's should have, particularly if it's their first time there.  It's got to be one of my favorite meals in Eagan.  Fresh bread.  Lots of very hot fries.  I think I might prefer it to Chipotle, although it's definitely worse for me from a calorie profile.

Don't go Monday, they're closed!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

AWS Security

Oof...I'm busy writing AWS CLI scripts and macros lately to parse apart our instances and billing details.  One of my developers forwarded this article.  Good stuff.  But dense if you're not working in it day in and day out.  Even after I realized AWS CLI instance querying was nothing more than another flavor of SQL (select, filter, sort), it was still challenging to get all the configuration in place to handle rotating credentials, retired sandboxes, and custom attributes.



Friday, June 30, 2017

Horror Shorts

Richard Rowntree pointed me at these shorts on Popcorn Horror: http://popcornhorror.com/films/  Pretty cool.

The second Oats Studios film is out as well, Firebase.  I didn't like it as much as the last one, but there are some really cool visuals.



Seasons

We played Seasons as a family after Klund and I tried it at his house.  It was marginally better with three people.  You aren't as capable of tracking everything everyone is up to constantly.  But it was pretty obvious it's heavily chance driven.  I pulled a combo that allowed me to score 21 points almost every single season - e.g. almost every round - by grabbing two resources and then cashing them in for a triple return because I had three of the same card.  Until that happened, I was definitely losing. Balance of Ishtar (eventually 3) + Hourglass of time.  Now...it's possible I was playing it wrong and that I was supposed to cash in 3 resources for each one, but that is absolutely not how the rules read.  It said that effects are cumulative.  I think that's another disadvantage of the game - it's difficult to understand how the cards interact sometimes.  Very Magic the Gathering in that respect.



My wife and daughter enjoyed it - helped a lot that I could explain it to them with no rules reading or looking things up.  That always makes games easier to digest.  They didn't have to deal with the pain Klund and I did trying to parse the rules.  So still not on my go-to list of games, but at least a bit more interesting.  I don't think I'd ever be tempted to grab an expansion.

Pedaling

Last Sunday I decided I was lacking in longer rides because of Ingress.  Ingress tends to slow me down to 7-8 miles in an hour on average.  No amount of sprinting fixes it.  Hacking, linking, and fielding simply takes time.  So I committed to picking a portal with a lot of big fields hanging off of it and decided I'd just go there with no stops.

It was more interesting than I expected. It was near Empire Township south of Farmington and I got a lost a few times before I finally found the dirt road I was supposed to be on.  Reminiscent of Almanzo.



I got lost several more times trying to work my way around the portal because it seemed to be in the middle of a field. But every spur on the dirt road ran into private property or a no-trespassing fence.  So I finally said "fuck it" and lifted my bike over my head and crossed a barb wire fence to get on a horse trail.  It was a little wet so it was crazy difficult going uphill.  But it was the right decision and I ended up at the portal.  It was an easy takedown because no more than one person at a time wants to haul their ass out there.  Ended up being about 41.5 miles and a 47.5 mile day.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Puzzleworks

On Sunday, a bunch of us went to Puzzleworks next to Lake Monster Brewing in St. Paul, close to Cretin and 94.   Robert wanted to check out the VR studio in the same building before we started, so we met him there and watched him wander around a rocky, Swiss landscape, throwing sticks for things that looked sort of like pigs.  He also played a game where he could take the place of any of the defenders (bow/sword) in a castle defense type game.  That one looked more entertaining.  Here is in the studio.  We wondered for a while how he managed to stop before running into a wall.  Apparently he has a proximity detector we couldn't see on the display.  That seems like a wise feature.


It was a particularly good puzzle room. I won't talk about the details and puzzles, because that's mean, but it allowed us all to be working on something, individually or in pairs, simultaneously with minimal walking on top of each other.  Maybe we were just really good at it by now (we've done three together if I'm counting right), but it seemed better suited to asynch exploration.

This was our theme.  We weren't really locked in the room.  St. Paul has legal stipulations.  I will say I was in charge of math.  If you've done a puzzle room, that there's a bit of math won't surprise you.  I seem to be the default math dude/ette.



We finished in 51:47.  Seemed really fast.  He noted that they sometimes extend by five minutes as that gets the completion % up to 70.  We did have one hint - but it was sort of an unnecessary one as we were already well on our way to done.  I don't think I've written on a wall since the bathroom at the rental property/duplex when we lived there.


Our success photo.  We are the conquering heroes.  The Puzzleworks guide noted that there is a puzzle for 12 people.  Robert seemed excited about the possibility.  He's our puzzle room motivator.  The guy next to me is Brett.  It was his first time in a puzzle room, although he's done a True Dungeon before like Eryn and I did at  Gamehole Con last year (I don't think I ever blogged that, which is crazy.  I liked it better than Hawaii and we're going again this year) which has some of the same ideas, it's just distributed.  He had a great time, although he was a bit like me my first time in a puzzle room in that he wanted to see every puzzle that was being solved.


Puzzleworks is great in that they give you a beer token for next door (or soda) at the end of the event.  We'd been there only shortly before for my sister's birthday.  Once again, my family missed the food truck.  Robert had a copy of Cards Against Humanity in his car.  It was a fairly subdued game in some respects, partially because I kept picking tame cards to play.  Which was a winning strategy.  Gotta know your crowd.  Great picture of Marie.  Morgan is probably staring me down because he lost by one card.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

To Read Today


  • https://aeon.co/essays/what-if-jobs-are-not-the-solution-but-the-problem
    • Whoa....wild article.  I like the aggressive style.  I sent a link to Eryn to read, partially because I was thinking about her when I read it (I should be able to coast to a retirement before I'm a "surplus human") and about how I might be biased toward a traditional job >> college, major, semi white-collar job.  Some interesting quotes in the article that get to how there's no longer enough work for everyone and that it requires a shift, including a significant moral shift:
      • "Shitty jobs for everyone won’t solve any social problems we now face."
      • "almost half of existing jobs, including those involving ‘non-routine cognitive tasks’ – you know, like thinking – are at risk of death by computerisation within 20 years"
      • "solve a fake fiscal problem and create an economic surplus where we now can measure a moral deficit."
      • "everybody has doubled down on the benefits of work just as it reaches a vanishing point. "
      • "the work ethic is a death sentence because they can’t live by it."
  • https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/architecture/patterns/cqrs
    • The Martin Fowler article: https://martinfowler.com/bliki/CQRS.html
    • Command and Query Responsibility Segregation
    • I've read a bit on this before and implemented some of it without knowing the formalities.  You're separating read and update/write into read and write stores with eventual consistency, sometimes fed by an event sourcing pattern (a queue is the real data that feeds the write that feeds the read (or multiple reads).  There's a pattern very like that on one of my projects and we can replay queues to feed the write database.
    • Biggest issue: adds complexity
    • Also see Materialized Views (which only contain data necessary to a query) - this has, I think, correlations to the use of GraphQL (when the data storage doesn't serve the presentation/query).
    • Think of a materialized view as specialized cache
  • https://twitter.com/MSFTImagine/status/877692618456657920?s=09
  • https://twitter.com/thoughtworks/status/877691364665942017?s=09
  • https://stratechery.com/2017/podcasts-analytics-and-centralization/
    • Interesting to me because Erik and I built a podcast framework with tagging for professors on our product back in 2004 based on articles about the Dave Weiner work.  It was deemed a little too avant garde of a feature for our product.  Ironic, given a few years later they asked us to mimic the Apple iTunes desktop (the store was released around 2003) and aspects of our tagging and storage for podcasts were intended to be applied to other content as well and would have been a great alternative for our customers as opposed to a desktop installable we had no hope of supporting or getting budget to support.  I've worked on a few desktop install products in my time at my current employer, and they're always high overhead because of configuration differences, although it's been minimized in the last few years by providing a shell of minimal functionality that hooks back to static content served from the internet or making the app piggyback on an existing app like Outlook or Word that handles the configuration differences (hopefully).
  • https://twitter.com/barryoreilly/status/877670228804591616?s=09
    • Just a tweet about Jez Humble, but it's one of the most important rules in software.  Automate so you can focus on the fun stuff.  Including your free time and your family.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Big Ag and Data Analytics

My co-worker Chris sent me this article.  Very cool use of Data Analytics and coordination of data.  We do something similar with a legal product that ingests customer data and then obfuscates it as part of group to avoid collusion and anti-competitive (including with each other) practices.

"And for one corn crop across thousands of acres in North Dakota, the data said that Baron’s customers were planting the lowest yielding, highest priced seed on the market."

http://www.kpcb.com/blog/how-farmers-business-network-plans-to-disrupt-big-agra-one-farm-at-a-time

Amazon's New Customer

Posting this article from Stratechery for my wife regarding the Amazon Whole Foods purchase.  Good reading.

What I expect Amazon to do over the next few years is transform the Whole Foods supply chain into a service architecture based on primitives: meat, fruit, vegetables, baked goods, non-perishables (Whole Foods’ outsized reliance on store brands is something that I’m sure was very attractive to Amazon). What will make this massive investment worth it, though, is that there will be a guaranteed customer: Whole Foods Markets.

https://stratechery.com/2017/amazons-new-customer/

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Reading Buddy 2017

I participate in a reading buddy program at Garlough Elementary most years.  I don't read to them, they read to me so they gain proficiency. This year my buddy was Clayton.  He didn't need much help reading - he's a champ.  The teacher told us it was nice to have us by her desk as we chatted about astronomy news all the time.  He's a huge space fan.

This is us at my workplace for the end of program

I know I don't fly much...

...but really, this is taxes and fees on a super cheap flight for 3 to London?    29.11% is taes, fees, and charges?  I guess it's impressive they didn't top 1/3.


Two Good Scifi Videos

Rakka by Oats, about 20 minutes:


Robot and Scarecrow by Factory Fifteen, about 15 minutes:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gaming in St. Peter

I was supposed to go for a bike ride with Ming today, but he messed up and had me take today off when he meant Friday.  So I tried to make the best of a messed up situation and headed down to St. Peter to play board games with Klund as he he some time free.  I went early and ate at the local breakfast joint, the Nicollet Cafe.  Good basic breakfast (2 pancakes, 2 sausages, 2 strips of bacon, 2 eggs), but a bit 2 much food.  I had some time left, so I went over to the River Rock for coffee, forgetting how I don't particularly like their Americano.  Klund does a better job.

Before I point out the games, I thought this picture was particularly strange, because it seems to imply Ming has his own fallout shelter in St. Peter.  Maybe he has them all over the country and I just haven't been paying enough attention.



We played a slew of games.  Several rounds of Klund's new game, Onitama.  I saw it reviewed on one of the games for couples series on Actualol.  It was as fun as it looks. Guyblin on Medium claims it's replaced chess for them. I think it would be a great work game and a great game as a gift for nieces and nephews.  Fast, very fast.  Here's the Actualol video it was in.

Then we tried Kane Klenko's Covert.  I've owned it for a while, but hadn't gotten around to playing it (there's a lot of those at the house).  So we sussed it out.  It's a bit like Pandemic.  A bit like Ticket to Ride.  And a bit of Klenko's dice placement.  It took a little bit of time to get in the right frame of mind, but then it made sense.  There are some interesting mechanics, like the code bar where you try to make the codes match the codes on cards you have in order to claim spy resources that are worth victory points or usable as means toward completing missions.

Very Pandemic feel to the board.  Missions to the right, "resource" type cards which double as special bonuses and flight cards to the left, and suitcase/codes at the top.


Here's the view from behind my screen.  It's the winner's view, I finished 7 missions (you need six to win, but there's a last chance to finish a mission).  A lot of my success had to do with finishing a mission that gave me an extra set of lockpicks in all situations and capitalizing on grabbing a bunch of lockpick-based missions.


It would have been more difficult with more people.  Playing your dice to get cards and movement requires that you have a die that's sequential (up or down) with a previous die.  That wasn't too hard with two of us.  With a few more people it might get crowded and tricky.


We followed Covert up with two rounds of Dead of Winter.  Klund hadn't played it before and I think it's better with more than two people, but we played straight coop and used a hard mission on our second try.  We won both times, partially because we got a lot of firepower without exposure in the right places.  During our second game (collect medicine from remote locations) we actually managed to pull a card that removed all food in the school pile, meaning every single card drawn after that was a useful card.  I almost wish we had done worse just to get a better feel for the game and what makes it fun (when things get stressful).  We could see it looming with food shortages and waste accumulating, but just never got there.


And we finished off the day with Seasons.  A game I've had forever, courtesy of my sister reviewing my Amazon wish list, but haven't played because there are a number of things that predate me almost dying that suddenly became something I wouldn't do because they predate almost dying.  Weird.  Psychological.  But true.  The rules were hard to figure out using the printed rules and we had to resort to a mix of printed and online rules.  But once we got going, it was straight forward.  Roll dice, collect resources, the ability to play cards, and points, and use the cards to make points, sell resources for points, and get better cards, to score.  In some ways, a bit like Magic the Gathering meets Dominion with a dice component.  Klund thumped me.  Absolutely crushed me.  I'm not sure it's a game I'd play regularly, but I'd like to see it played with three or more to see how it changes, and it might be a good game to play with nieces and nephews.

And, I should add, an absolutely beautiful day for a convertible ride to and from St. Peter, MN.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

American in Paris

Last night we (my wife, Eryn, and me) went to An American in Paris at the Ordway.  It's one of my favorite musicals - despite a little of the hokey 60s musical vibe in spots that's so common to that era.  I listened to the soundtrack as I fell asleep when I was a teenager and loved the movie.  My wife was surprised at how many of the songs were familiar.

There are a couple of great reviews out there, so I'll defer to them.  They note how beautiful the sets were and I can't agree more.  The way they integrated real set pieces with video with video on set pieces with digitized art over the digital set pieces....amazing.  It didn't distract from the acting and dancing at all, but provided a very city of lights and city of art feel.


I wasn't sure my 14-year old would enjoy it, but she laughed out loud several times which reminded me of how smart the play is in places.  The dancing was amazing and the acting superb.  My only complaint is that Milo (played by Emily Ferranti) doesn't emerge as the character who gets everything she wants in the end.  She's clearly the best character in the play, and I still think so after 35 years.

American in Paris also fulfilled my basic rule that anything with a bicycle early in it is going to be great.