Monday, March 31, 2008

Are limbs worth going out on?

(Yes that is a preposition dangling at the end of my title)

I feel sort of silly asking this, and I might delete this post when I've thought better of it :) , but I wonder what others' opinions are. (I have my own ideas.)

Given that you have an interest in both girls:
Is it better to ask out a girl for whom the asking out is comfortable? Or is it better to ask out a girl for whom the mere prospect of asking out is terrifying?

I refer specifically to first dates as it seems ridiculous to ask out a girl on a fourth or fifth date when she terrifies you. And I know that the two choices aren't exactly mutually exclusive. And by terrifying I mean that your brain shuts down when you think of asking or think of going...

What say ye?

Friday, March 28, 2008


Somewhere, a tight-rope walker is missing his shoes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tetris III

My high score is 110 on level 9. How about you?

I should explain the scoring:
1 row = 1 point
2 rows = 4 points
3 rows = 9 points
4 rows = 16 points

(it only works in Firefox)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Amicelli Wangu

This week we finally let Jason the Grouch out of his barrel on the balcony. Now that the weather is warming up, there's really no point making him stay out there.

Also this week, I polished off the last of the Easter candy my mom gave me. I love the Cadbury caramel eggs, and the Lindt eggs, but my favorite are the Amicelli!

Imagine a Pepperidge Farm Pirouette -- it's the thin, cylindrical, butter cookie filled with some kind of sugary goo. Usually the goo is chocolate, or french vanilla stuff or (my favorite) hazelnut-flavored chocolate.

Now ask yourself, "How could I improve upon the near-perfect Pirouette?" What could possibly be better than a thin butter cookie filled with hazelnut chocolate? How about dunking the whole thing in chocolate? Yeahh..... oh man... they're good.

And, two other fun events: I got to go to the VocalPoint concert on Thursday. It was awesome! I had no idea how fun it would be. I loved their Christmas songs, and their reproduction of Vitas was pretty impressive. My two favorite songs were Grace Kelly ("I could be brown, I could be blue....") and September. Fantastic!

And last night, I went to Classical 89's showing of the silent movie: The General with Buster Keaton. They had the organist accompanying the action throughout, and we got to boo at the villain and cheer on the hero -- it was hilarious! Look for tickets next year.

That is all.

Happy Easters!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I stumbled upon this little thing I wrote a while ago... I wrote it whilst I was in a ponderous mood. We live in a strange time:

A few months before I flew to Zimbabwe, I remember sitting in my kitchen filling out forms so I could get a VISA. I enlisted the help of Mom's electric typewriter, excavating it from it's grave in the desk downstairs. My parents saw me using the typewriter and began telling me about how their days in college. They used to type entire reports on typewriters! They had a few strategies for correcting mistakes, but it was mostly a one-chance operation. They thought it strange that they had relied so heavily upon typewriters, but that I didn't even know how to really work the device.

Technology changes -- it becomes more and more amazing. Not having gone to college when my parents did, I can not give a comparison between then and now, but I'd like to relate one small anecdote that shows what it's like for me in college.

A month or so ago, I was sitting in my circuits class. The class was taught by Wade, a graduate student, who stood at a podium in the front of the classroom. From there, he controlled a PowerPoint presentation that was being projected onto the screen at the front of the room. He drew on the slides (nowadays they don't slide, but we still call them 'slides') with the mouse for emphasis.

I had procrastinated doing my assignment, so I had to work on it during class. During class, I finished all of the assignment except the part that would be easier to do on a computer. Once class ended, I pulled my lap top computer out of the bag at my side, opened it up and started typing. I copied and pasted a few times for the assignment (didn't even bat an eye) so I wouldn't have to retype anything -- because that would be too much work.

Once I had all the code written, I pulled it into Word so that I could format it nicely onto one page. I shrunk the font size down so that it would fit. Then I had to print.

Still sitting in the same chair, I turned on the wireless network connection of my laptop. Once it found the network (a 5 second wait), I told Word to print my document to the campus printers. Once it sent the job (through the air), I closed my laptop. Mind you, I had been looking at a screen that is thinner than a spiral notebook.

I stuffed my laptop back into my bag, slung it over my shoulder and headed downstairs to the printer in the front of the Clyde building. I touched the screen of the printer to awaken it, then slid my school ID card through the reader on the side of the screen. For some reason, this printer wasn't working. So, I wandered over to the Widtsoe building, walked up some stairs, then around to the computer lab, where I again slid my ID card. This time it worked. The screen showed me that I had just under $2 left on my account. The money got there in the first place by me transferring $5 from my credit card a few months earlier -- a transaction I did online; no money was ever touched. The pages printed; I stapled all my papers together, then turned them in.

So, that's how homework's done today. I wonder what my kids will do...


And this is my keyboard in the dark:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Tetris II

I did it! I finally finished it. I made Tetris in hardware!

You might ask, "What do you mean by that, Matt?" Or equivalently: "Huh?" Well... do you want the accurate explanation, or the analogy-rich obfuscation? I'll start with the latter:

Inside every computer is a magick box filled with Smurfs. But these aren't garden variety Smurfs... they're extra, extra small, and they're very fast. Just like humans, these Smurfs come in only two stereotypical varieties -- short, squatty Smurfs and slender, stick-like Smurfs. Unlike humans, these Smurfs are constantly at war with each other. Fueled by mutual affronts effected long ago, a girthy Smurf will always attack a gangly foe... and the gangly foe (though he will not call himself so) will never deny himself the satisfaction of dealing the low blow.

As luck (or you might call it fate... depending on your altitude) would have it, the lurpy lot nearly always defeat the smaller Smurfs, and were it not for the huge population of the shorters (owing to their remarkable ability to reproduce), the taller Smurfs would have long ago taken control of the magick boxes.

The warfare is important, but the real reason companies like Intel and AMD breed and captivate these Smurfs is because of their uncanny predictability. On any given day, at any given humidity, you can predict with certainty where a Smurf will go for a walk, what he will say, the joke he will tell you and the place he will dine. It is this predictability that powers modern computing. A hardware designer's job is to create the avenues and cafes that will drive the creatures where we'd like them to go and to stop -- sometimes this means sending a short Smurf to be annihilated by a gang of tall ones. It's brutal, perhaps, but you wouldn't be able to read this on your computer if our society wasn't willing to make that sacrifice.

So, that's what I did today (and every day for the past eight days). I put the Smurfs to work that I might amuse myself with moving colors on a screen.

Brief, boring explanation:
To make something in hardware is different than just programming software. Software requires a processor and memory (both pieces of hardware). Hardware requires electricity. The stuff I did to make Tetris II lies in between software and hardware. I described the hardware in a language (similar to programming software), then downloaded the resulting design to a piece of hardware that can be programmed. Also, if I had the money or a benefactor, I could make the design into a standalone chip ... so I could fabricate something that would run Tetris... you could hold it in your hand, then plug it into a monitor and play. Oh, it was so fun to make.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Last week I decided to make Tetris. I egged Todd on until he bet me that I couldn't write it in an hour. He won... it took me 2 hours to get it working, and I fiddled for an extra hour on making it better. The thing that let me do the program so quickly is this Python module called Pyglet. Pyglet makes the graphics really easy, so I could just concentrate on the logic part of it.

Anyway, I'm nerdy, but I've made Tetris... here it is:

In other news, I arm wrestled and defeated Ashley and Alicia. And lest the results are ever contested, here is the evidence of my victories: