Friday, September 9, 2011

Dreaming of Dragons

There was a village of mountain people who would go up the mountain each summer for a great hunt. They would all wear brightly coloured clothes to attract dragons, who had their mating season in the summer. The dragons were brightly coloured, tufted, beaked, and of course winged things, who migrated south for the better part of the year but came north to the mountains to breed.

The great lizards would eat a number of the villagers, but a few would also be taken down by skilled spearmen. Their meat would feed the village, their bones would build new homes, and the sacs of flammable oil in their bellies would light lanterns through the dark winter. The meat was delectable, like chicken or snake but with an indescribable spicy quality, rich like beef or whale. I'm glad I got to try it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Life Lately

I've been meaning to make a video about all of the stuff that's gone on in my life of late, but I've been meaning to do it for so long without actually doing it that I figured it might just be best to write a blog post about it all just to get things off my chest, then maybe bring things up in the vlog when I get back to it. Some of this will likely be familiar to you already.

If you'll recall, I posted a video back in January called Why the YouTube Home Page Sucks, which is exactly what it says on the tin. As a result of that video, two Google employees contacted me. The first was an engineer who looked up my name, saw that I had applied to Google back in October, and offered to send my CV around to Google and YouTube for another go. The second was a recruiter who made a similar offer.

After speaking with a (rather rude) engineer at YouTube, I was shifted into the Google hiring process and put in contact with another recruiter. After two technical interviews, they started giving me interviews for projects. I interviewed for an internship working on Translate, then for one working on Groups. At this point they were running out of things to interview me for, so I was transferred over to a Google Ventures recruiter.

Google Ventures is an internal venture capital program whereby Google employees can launch startups with financial backing from the company. I interviewed with a company by the name of Wingu, which is working on a platform for collaborative scientific research. Unfortunately they chose not to hire me either, and at this point no other Google Ventures companies were looking. So I was out of luck.

Or so it would seem. Out of the blue, my good friend Kevin was contacted about his pixel art by a game startup in California called Bit24, which is in IGN's incubator program for game companies. I jokingly told him to put in a good word for me as a programmer, which he did, and now I've got a summer job.

While all of this was going on, I was dealing with some other issues. From the end of February to the middle of April, I had a hot Asian boyfriend, who is quite possibly the sweetest and most genuine person I know, and who unfortunately is also way more serious and over-the-top romantic than I can handle. I like simplicity; gifts and dressing up and dining out and all that can be good sparingly, but for the most part they make me feel awkward and guilty, because I'm simply not going to reciprocate to nearly equal degree.

Earlier in the year I had been living in the dorms at RIT, and at the beginning of spring quarter I moved to an off-campus apartment. Doing so made me realise how much I missed spending time with my roommates Cam, Brian, and the other Brian, and the girl who lived across the hall, Maggie. And apparently my absence also made her realise how much she cared for me. We both had boyfriends when all of this started to surface, but ultimately I don't think we ever stood a chance of doing the "right" thing when the actual right thing was staring us in the face.

So now Maggie and I are involved, and it's very open and simple and I really couldn't ask for anything better. She is not my girlfriend and I am not her boyfriend: we have the capacity to be committed without imposing obligations, and we are mature enough to live with the fact that we cannot tell each other what to do. I think all relationships stand to benefit from this sort of arrangement.

As for personal projects, I've been working on a game, a programming language, a novel, and a musical that I intend to release in installments on YouTube. I've got several vlog ideas in the works, and I've been cleaning and reorganising my bedroom in order to have a good space to work in.

I spent last weekend at my acquaintance's lake house in upstate New York, enjoying beautiful weather, good friends, good food, and constant swimming. It was made all the better by seeing Maggie for the first time in six-odd weeks. Later this month I'll be going to New York again for a wedding, then heading to Cape Cod toward the end of the month to stay at a friend's beach house, and finally returning to New Hampshire for August.

Now, having got all this out in the open, perhaps I'll feel better about doing a vlog like I ought to.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Source Code" Trailer Review

In my correspondence with devoted viewer mc213mc, conversation briefly turned to the recently-released trailer for "Source Code", the upcoming film starring Jake Gyllenhaal. I was uncertain of whether to post this, but here, for your viewing pleasure, is the quick analysis I gave:

First, the choice of title is silly. Source code is the human-readable text of a computer program, and nothing else. It's jargon for jargon's sake, like how the Matrix in its eponymous films has little to do with any of the actual meanings of the word "matrix". Second, while Jake Gyllenhaal is a great actor (and it's interesting to see him in an action role), the choice to have him in the roles of both in-"Source Code" and IRL Capt. Stevens is simply lazy. The fact that he's not told in advance of his participation in the obviously experimental and top-secret procedure makes no sense, and I guarantee it won't make much more in the full film.

The trailer is poorly edited, not even attempting to disguise the splicing of unrelated audio and video, and while it may pretend to be deep and existential, at its heart it's unabashedly an action movie, with only enough plot to hold it together between the fun action scenes. What else would you expect from Ben Ripley, the writer of Species III, Species: The Awakening, and The Watch?

Of course, with direction by the experimentalist Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) and cinematography by Don Burgess (The Book of Eli, Enchanted, Radio, Terminator, Spider-Man, Cast Away, and Forrest Gump), it's guaranteed to be tolerably good in the visuals department—or even great, if you happen to like the style of those movies. It was almost certainly shot digitally, and probably using RED cameras and lenses, which means every zoom shot is going to look awful. The original composer, the ace Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream), bailed out due to time constraints, leaving deuce Chris P. Bacon in his place, and on a $35 million budget, the sound design may not even do his work justice.

tl;dr: Recipe for a B movie, straight up. Big box-office draw, bigger critical flop.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Dream

Earth as we know it is a foul, charred shadow of its former self, encrusted with the sprawl of urban growth, regrowth, and decay. If you didn't die in the war or leave for redder pastures in the Reconstruction—yes, even Mars is more hospitable these days—then you undoubtedly cling with all your feeble might to what shred of life remains here. It is a world filled with layer upon layer of empty catacombs. Empty, that is, but for the burnt corpses of the homeless, the ashes of those killed in raids, collateral damage from a war amongst everyone and no one. Sure, there were politics around it; there always are. But by now, nobody even cares enough to ask why. It's enough to keep your head down and get from day to day, to fight the urge to ask questions, and above all, to avoid getting infected.

It would be irresponsible of me not to introduce myself, but due to that equally irresponsible and inconveniently innate desire of humanity to survive, I think I'll avoid giving my full name. I hope you'll forgive me for not wanting to get shot. Let me tell you: it's not exactly what you'd call a pleasant experience. Anyway, they call me Y.

The disease. We deal with it, for the most part. The infected tend not to last long these days, and you only stand a chance of catching it if you're idiotic enough to go spelunking in the downside, the lower levels. Raiders get it, mostly, the scavengers who subsist on the decaying meat of society that was. Serves the fucking vultures right for getting themselves sick, though it has the unfortunate side effect that a lot of the newly infected are packing heat. Usually they're scared shitless and can't figure out how to make it out of the downside, so they end up blowing themselves up or becoming just another downside wanderer. Circle of life, right?

The best part is that we know where the disease came from, and like the war, it's the fault of nobody and everybody at once. The pre-Reconstruction years were hell on Earth—well, a deeper circle of hell than we're in now, anyway. If you wanted to survive, you had to make some adjustments to your code of ethics. Usually that meant you had to forget you ever had one. If you wanted to eat, you had to eat meat. There was only one way to get it, and only one source of game.

What people didn't realise is that eating human puts you at serious risk for some serious fucking diseases. Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, what fun. It was mostly harmless, though: you got the shakes, you got the laughs, then you shat yourself and died, and life went on around you. If your friends were smart, they didn't eat the leftovers. But the disease, the capital-D fucking infection that's so common nowadays that it's the only disease worth talking about, that was different. At first it looked the same, but it spread so damn fast—it was trying to spread, and doing a damn good job of it, too.

At its core, the disease results in some serious aggression and a serious boost in metabolism. The infected can't think straight, they can't sleep, they're pissed the fuck off about it, and their core temp is just shy of brain-fry, sometimes higher. Their metabolic rate is through the roof, and they'll eat anything they can get their hands on. If they can't get their hands on anything, they'll just eat their hands. And arms. And anything else on their body they can reach with their mouth before they bleed to death.

Why am I writing about this now? What encourages me to reminisce? Well, I'm on the train to work, and the car behind me, formerly containing a good friend of mine, is now a sealed chamber of death because some asshole who didn't know or didn't want to admit he caught the bug decided it would be a great idea to get on a crowded overground. And, frankly, I'm a little pissed off about that.

Man, my dreams are awesome. They don't often have stories that are worth anything, and this is no exception, but damned if they don't create some vivid imagery.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Insightfulness and the Whole YouTube and Google Thing

It's incredibly early in the morning, which logically means I'm up incredibly late at night. Happy birthday to me, by the way. I'm feeling particularly insightful and inspired at the moment, having just watched Primer, a truly stunning film about time travel, and understood it well enough on my first time through to finally solve a programming problem that has been at the back of my mind for several months now. I've got a really unique idea for a project that may change the face of programming. At this point it's all very hush-hush, since, though my mind has proven that it should work, I really can't say anything about it till I put my skills where my mouth is and prove that it actually does. All I can really say is that it's tremendously exciting.

Anyway, what's with this whole YouTube thing? Well, as you almost certainly already know, I posted a video giving a critique of the YouTube home page layout, which was noticed independently by a couple of Google employees, one apparently a recruiter, the other a software engineer. I received requests for my CV from both of these, and had a long and quite pleasant phone conversation with the engineer about where I might possibly fit in at either Google or YouTube, and what it's like to work for these companies in general.

At this point it's all just fun and games, really, and the terrifying thrill of being noticed by a giant is even enough for now. I've received no official word yet on whether I have an interview or anything like that, but I certainly hope so, as I doubt there's any pair of companies in the world that I would love more to work for, or that are more deserving of my interest. If hired, I'll likely end up doing an internship over the summer, during which time I would strive to be as deserving as possible of a full-time position.

I spoke quite briefly on the phone yesterday evening with a YouTube employee who also asked about my interests and how I might see myself fitting in there. He seemed distracted, and I think perhaps he wasn't taking me very seriously, though this may have had something to do with the fact that I had difficulty hearing him and had to fumble a bit to get anything said properly. That aside, he seemed vaguely concerned about the fact that my cumulative GPA is only 3.25 on a 4-point scale, but I look at it this way:

If my studies were 100% engaging, I would have a 4.0. The missing 0.75 grade points account for just shy of 20% of a perfect score. Making the reasonable assumptions that I spend an equal amount of time on engaging schoolwork as engaging personal work, and that I only work on engaging things, I conclude that around 20% of my time and effort that would otherwise be spent on school is actually spent on other projects. Coincidentally, 20% is also the amount of time that a Google software engineer is expected to spend on personal development work. Hm.

I may not be a model student, but I am actually a damn good worker, especially when it comes to such a workplace as Google or YouTube, about which I've heard only good things, firsthand and otherwise. I can only hope that one of these companies figures out how valuable I could be to them, and snatches me up before I go waste my skills doing unimportant things that don't drive me to excel. I need a challenging environment, pressure, and brilliant people to make me perform consistently at that level.

Anyway, we'll see where it goes. At the very least, I got a bunch more views and subscribers, and there's nothing wrong with that. And who knows? This time in a year or two I could be somewhere quite new.

♥ Why