Saturday, February 18, 2006
Monday, June 20, 2005
Mirror, mirror on the wall
It is easy to come out and say you are not a racist or even that you believe in freedom of expression. It is easy to forget about colour, religion or ethnicity. You can look past all that.
These are the issues that are easy to identify and even teach a child. None of these are inherent by nature. However, it is a lot harder to look past the person eating and spitting half his food in your face, the person that talks weird, walks funny or even the person who seems that he/she does not know all that much about the subject you love. It is a lot harder to reach out to every person regardless of the fact that you have nothing in common. It takes a lot of effort to be nice to everyone. I can hardly believe myself saying this but being nice, honestly and sincerely, is extremely hard and I can't say that I know more than one or two people that are like this. Or at least seem to be like this.
To be more specific... Anytime we use the words "me" and "them" - "I am like this, they are like that" - we are playing the game. The game that can lead you down a chain of thoughts so disastrous that you end up in a cycle of criticism and cynicism. You set yourself apart from the rest - be that politically, ideologically, religiously, or even when mannerisms, eating habits, educational or societal status are concerned. Every little grouping you can make, any labeling must dissapear even for the simplest of issues.
A method of dilluting this notion of separatedness is to see each person as a mirror. Look at them as if you are talking to yourself, as if that person is a subset of your matter, your thoughts, your anxieties. As if they worry, eat, drink, fall in love, get scared just like you do. After all, is it not true? See yourself in others and the words: "I", "me", "them", "they" dissapear...
The effect is that you will not think before you talk - "What will they think if I say this?", "Is this acceptable here?", "Will she think this or that?", "Will she reject me?", "Will they laugh?". Nothing will matter once you see yourself in "others"... Talk, behave, discuss, live like each person is you.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
O captain, my captain
Seize the day! There is a long list of cliche quotes that fall under this category. You know; phrases such as: "Live every day like it's your last."
You had something to say and you kept quiet? You were going to make the first move with that girl and did not? You were going to go skiing for the first time and decided to pass? Live life with intensity. That is what I have been told and possibly it is something I have to learn to do more.
Honestly, can anyone tell me about a time they took a risk and regretted it? Even when the result was a failure to an observer, what you gain cannot be shared or even explained. For a failure is nothing more that an experience. Any experience has value because it is something we can use in the future. There is a scene in "The Lion King" where the monkey (what his name?) hits Simba over the head with his cane. Simba turns asking: "What was that for?" "To teach you something," as he swings the cane at him again. This time Simba ducks avoiding the hit. "There you have learnt something already!"
I am not suggesting you go running naked down the street... but don't be passive... If you have thought about something twice it's too much. Do it!
[Quoting Henry David Thoreau]
Neil: I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life... to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
-Dead Poet's Society
Friday, May 13, 2005
I decide to peek into that spam folder that is part of my Gmail account. Thankfully, I have not seen any spam since using Gmail.
Below is a story I wrote here using the subject lines of a few of these spam messages; the subject lines are in bold below, Jose Suarez is a sender's name.
Jose Suarez walked into the pub. Amy, the waitress turned to him asking: " Can we help you ". "Yes, I'm looking for Michael ", Suarez said. "I'm sorry", she said picking up her next order, 6 bottles of fine wine PLUS the Vintner's Reserve Wine Opener, " more info needed ". Jose wanted to meet Michael to make a deal for what he called" the coolest cell phone on the planet ". However, Michael or the Godfather, as he was known in these parts would not be easy to trace. Suarez looked through his briefcase in search of the note he had with the password; "I have a Mother's Day Bouquet for him", he persisted. Amy nodded, much to his delight and escorted him to the back office where two oversized bodyguards were waiting. "We have to update and verif[y] your account ", one barked. Suarez reached into his briefcase and presented him with a box of " Premium Cigars Plus Bonus Gifts ". The bodyguard grabbed the box and reach over to open the large wooden door. As it opened a woman with hot large big breasts appeared. "Are you here to see Michael?", she asked him. "Yes, Are You Michael? ." "No, he is not here right now," she said. Right, Suarez thought, and I make 5k to 20k a month from home. It was time for the second password. "This is A Service for Christian Singles, is it not?". The Godfather used the match making service as a front for his illegal deals "Sit," the woman said handing him a form, " Please Complete ASAP." She opened another door, that led into a long dark corridor and left Suarez there to complete the form. He started thinking that all this was not worth the trouble.
The form was quite standard; name, telephone number and a few "personality" questions. Finally, the woman walked in and called him. She took him to an office and the Godfather spun his large leather office chair towards him. "What have you got for me," he said jumping directly to business. " The coolest cell phone on the planet," Suarez exclaimed. The Godfather stated his objective directly: "This is about your software, the machine does not interest me." Suarez nodded: "OK but remember this is your last chance before rates go up, this is the best deal around." The Godfather stood up from his chair: "OK, we need to talk more. Here's my card. Call me today. I'll get my people to talk to your people, we'll do lunch." " It was nice speaking to you," Suarez said and walked out.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
The subject is the playoffs. The NBA playoffs. I am not the expert I used to be. Haven't seen a game in a while (actually since this past season's finals), haven't seen LeBron play yet (I mean a whole game not a dunk or two), I can't name more than 3 Suns. Therefore, my predictions are not worth that much, even more so now that we are down to 8 teams.
Miami and Washington, Detroit and Indiana are the east's pairs and it seems like Miami won't have that much of a problem making it into the Finals. Washington came from behind to advance over Chicago, while Miami breezed by New Jersey. That alone would be enough to predict a rather easy advancement of Miami. Detroit will probably meet them there. Despite the fact that Indiana will be a harder nut to crack, Detroit will be there and it will will be a great series against Miami. Shaq Vs Ben! I hope to catch a few of those games.
In the west, guess what not Lakers... They did not even come close (they ended 11th) and you can't even say that they "barely missed" the playoffs (Minessota did though). Maybe that will make Kobe set his feet on the ground and keep his heads out of the clouds. The Suns have been doing great and it seems like they will secure the one spot for the conference finals despite being matched up against Dallas (which have been doing worse than recent years). Finally, Tim and San Antonio will - either way: easily or with difficulty - pass by Seattle to meet the Suns.
I foresee a Miami - San Antonio finals series and then anything can happen. It will be who wants it more. Both Tim and Shaw have been there before, so a lot will depend on the rest of the team. On the other hand, Suns Vs Detroit will be equally exciting. Detroit - San Antonio will also be a good match-up especially since Detroit will be able to defend their title and hopw for a repeat. However, the Suns vs Miami might be tough... I don't see an enti-Shaq in their mix (while San Antonio has Tim).
Anywayz... I need to watch some games to say more... but this is definetely the best time of the year for the NBA. The new improved teams are bringing back some more competition and that is what makes players exceed themselves resulting in memorable performances and highlights.
Oh, I think the champion will come from the East (either Miami or Detroit) and I would actually prefer Detroit to repeat (that will intensify the competition and rivalries).
Friday, May 06, 2005
Less is more
They say beauty is subjective. However, beauty is also simple. Psychologists say that we find another person beautiful when they are a "good specimen". For example, my idea of what a woman is, will be what I find beautiful. Deciding what is beautiful is a process that involves fine tuning, trial and error, as well as a solid knowledge base (aesthetics if you like). Finally, the beforementioned vary from person to person, culture to culture; they vary depending on one's exposure and experience.
In Computer Science efficiency and elegance distinguish what my CS professor called "big hairy ugly" code and "beautiful" code. With a few minor changes an extract from one of my old papers:
It might have been what those insanely abstract courses ("Theory of Computation", "Algorithm Analysis") were all about. As a newly hired junior programmer I am constantly reminded that loops are "evil": "Avoid them whenever possible." As a high school teacher (of sorts - extra afternoon classes) I encouraged my student to solve an exercise today with one loop instead of four.David Gelernter in Machine Beauty argues that: “The beauty of a proof or machine lies in a happy marriage of simplicity and power – power meaning the ability to accomplish a wide range of tasks, get a lot done. […] I call this type of beauty ‘machine beauty’…” (2). Therefore, according to Gelernter, a machine is beautiful if it is simple and powerful at the same time.
Furthermore, “beauty is a truth-and-rightness meter” (1). Gelernter uses Dreyfuss’s 1937 telephone as an example of a technological innovation that has an “inevitable rightness [which] is a large part of its greatness” (7). This illusion of inevitability - in this case appearing to be the way to design the telephone - when achieved, results in “technology that works beautifully and is beautiful” (7). He says that: “Dreyfuss’s the phone” (8); we cannot imagine it any differently now. Summing up, he quotes one designer’s opinion which states: “A useful object has a ‘natural form’ which when is in complete harmony with its function is perceived as having a special ‘rightness’ or fit that borders on art” (8). Hence, a machine characterized by harmony of design and function is beautiful.
How do we design and create "beautiful programs":
In addition, we have to be able to understand the concepts of the tool we are using.
says that “A feeling of control, a good conceptual model, and the knowledge of what is happening…” are essential to ease of use (174). Using the example of a door to illustrate his point, Norman says that if you need to put a sign on a door that says “push” or “pull” then its design is faulty (174). When designing a program we need to have a “simple, cohesive conceptual model” and then the “details of implementation will flow naturally” from it (179). Norman
points out three aspects to designing a comprehensive model. First, he says that the designer of the model must be able to “tell a story” to “explain to others how it all works” (179). [...] The most important aspect, however, is that the user “should be able to discover and learn how to use it with a minimum of effort” (179). The ideal situation for a successful machine would be if no manual were required (179). Gelernter argues that once we leave out physical limitations and rules in designing a program: “Beauty is the best guide we have” (23). [...] Norman
Another set of guidelines is offered by Gelernter in Mirror Worlds giving us three principles for designing clear programs: recursive simplicity, uncoupling and espalier. A program is recursive “when the whole is structurally identical to its parts - or at least to some of them” (54). [...] As far as hardware design recursive simplicity is applied when a machine is built on a series of levels. At the higher levels we have a clear picture of the machine but the details are not clear, while at the lower levels “the details come into focus” (55). Gelernter argues that the gradual elimination of the details of a design and the multi-layered structure that results is “an art pure and simple”, as he similarly argues in Machine Beauty (56). In computer science, this feature is built into the “machinery” with recursion (56). The second principle is uncoupling; which is when a program is separated into smaller components that are solved separately (73). This breaks the problem into manageable pieces and results in a better organization of the final solution. The final principle, espalier alludes to the support used for trees. This is a way of designing that incorporates a hierarchy with each structure knowing “who its inferiors are, who its superiors are” allowing us to work on only one part of the whole, completely ignoring the top or bottom parts. Finally, you do not need to have knowledge about the whole to work with one part of the program.
And that's all I had to say about that...
No, I have not forgotten the playoffs. I am following them closely... predicting a San Antonio - Miami finals series and hoping for many competitive games.
Gelernter, David. Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology.
Negroponte, Nicholas. Being Digital.
Rheingold, Howard. Tools for Thought.
Norman A., Donald. The Invisible Machine.
Gelernter, David. Mirror Worlds.
Big fat black women!
...We got a lot a women here tonight. Love the women... Love the women... You know who my favourite women are? Big fat black women! Gimme a sister about 250 pounds. The best people in the whole world. You know why? Cause we live in a society where nobody likes
who the fuck they are. Everybody's on prozac or some shit, everybody's getting cosmetic surgery. Nobody likes who the fuck they are except fat black women. Fat black woman don't give a fuck what you think... she's going out on Friday night. She got her outfit on and she match, she got her pumps on and the fat coming out the pumps. that's right [...] She got an anklet on and the anklet holding on for dear life... ahhhh! The black woman don't give a fuck,
she's like: "I am sexy! I am seeexy!" I am the sexiest mothafucka here tonight. There's some good pussy under this belt [...] Love the women... [...] Relationships! Easy to get into, hard to maintain. Hard to keep up the lie. You can't get nobody being you. You gotta lie to get somebody. [...] When you meet somebody for the first time, your not meeting them! You're meeting their representative. Who the biggest liers, men or women? Men tell the most lies, women tell the biggest lies. [...] We lie all the time. You know what a man's lie is like: "I was at Tony's house.." A woman's lie is like:"It's your baby" [...] Women the biggest liers... you a fucking lier, you, you... Look at you! You got on heels, you ain't that tall! You got on makeup, you face don't look like that! you got a wig, you hair ain't that long. you got a wonderbra and your tities ain't that big! Everything about you is a lie and you except me to tell the truth! Fuck you!
Communicating is a bitch... 'cause everyone is wearing a mask, we keep each other at a distance and "when you meet someone for the first time... you ain't meeting them... you meeting their representative"...
Friday, April 29, 2005
After four years of university in the States I will enjoy the traditional souvla and home-made cooking I had missed. However, the four easters I had in the US were different and memorable in their own regard. The one that stands out is easter of my junior year.
For some reason I assume that everyone likes Easter as much as I do and I took it upon myself to aks every Orthodox person I knew if they wanted to go to church in Columbus - half an hour from campus. I found drivers, I got people together, I arranged to get soup from a greek restaurant for afterwards. We had four or five cars drive us to church. Us being a group of three Cypriots, one Greek, five Bulgarians, one Romanian, one Russian and two Ethiopians; including two Americans who were kind enough to offer to drive us.
Getting to church and back was mostly uneventful, apart from the fact that one of the cars with the one American girl and two Ethiopan girls got stuck in traffic from the "Black Heritage weekend" (or something like that) concert and missed the midnight mass (the important part). In any case, we returned to campus and layed out a big table for everyone. We wished each other "Christos Anesti" (Χριστός Ανέστη) and then enjoyed some greek music from my illegal mp3 downloads :P I think the Americans that walked by at 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning must've thought we were mad - having dinner at that time and being all happy and merry.
That was easter 2003... I enjoyed it because I managed to organize a dinner that united very different people (not only ethnically).
Easter 2005. I am home and it's good that I don't have to worry about what I'm doing on easter, but I am glad I experienced easter 2003.