Weekly Head Voices #108: Gaga.

I was reminded that future me really enjoys having written these things. (Present me knows about extrapolation.)

interested in time travel

Actually present me also enjoys this, but creating sufficient amounts of time to do so is often challenging. I have most recently convinced myself that I should see this as practice so that I will later be able to write really entertaining posts in minimal time. Until then my two readers, I hope to compensate with edification.

Genetic Offspring Unit (GOU) #3, the rapidly glowing cellular mega-city that first made contact with extra-wombular (I made that up) light slightly more than three months ago, suddenly started babbling a few weeks ago. To be honest, I thought that she was going to be really quiet to compensate for the immense amount of continuous talking in my house. It turns out that her reaction has instead been one of taking this bull by the horns. SHE WILL BE HEARD. (GOU#1 and #2 are able to produce speech with an intensity that is to be heard to be believed. I have no idea where they got that from.)

Speaking of babbling, I sometimes make videos of me trying to explain nerdy programming-related tricks, and then I upload them to YouTube. My most recent creation is about using the conan.io C++ package manager to get a small SFML-based GLSL example going (that’s GPU programming). It has a soundless explosion at the end!

I came across a really interesting bit of research performed at the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) on how really small, seemingly inconsequential rewards, can actually ignite people’s intrinsic motivation. This is interesting exactly because it has long been thought that extrinsic rewards diminish intrinsic motivation, a phenomenon called the overjustification effect.

In the recent study by researchers at the WU, students were encouraged to do extra homework assignments. However, this was done by allocating an amount of extra credit which was perceived by the students as being trivial (this was measured in a separate study). Lo and behold, this perceived trivial extra credit still jump-started that group’s extra assignment submissions, and the students in that group then showed evidence of autonomously (intrinsically) motivated behaviour.

The researchers hypothesise that this could be due to the fact that the students being jump-started could not internally explain their behaviour on the basis of the negligible reward, and hence automatically came up with more intrinsically-oriented motivations, such as personal importance, interest or enjoyment).

South Africa is a really strange and wonderful place. I don’t write about it that much, because in that respect it is my place to be quiet here in the background. However, sometimes someone else writes something that, if you’re interested in the perspective of South Africans who’ve lived abroad for a significant amount of time, and have then returned, somewhat the wiser, because the country in their blood called them back, you really should read. Disco Pants, or rather her blog, helped me a whole lot when we had to decide whether we would be coming back or not. She has a new post out titled “On Surviving the Madness of South Africa”, and it’s a beaut.

On the topic of beauty, Flume has new album out. It’s called Skin, and it gets the highly coveted but completely unknown Weekly Head Voices Album of Right Now award! Here’s the first track to whet your appetite (or not):

Have a fun week listeners!

Weekly Head Voices #105: There will be tears.

Congratulations, you have successfully completed the week of Monday February 8 to Sunday February 14, 2016!

About 4 seconds after posting previous edition WHV #104 to Facebook with the “When you’re a vegan <boy with bulging veins> and haven’t told anyone in 10 minutes” meme image included, friend Ivo T. zinged me with this reply:

12651073_10153234132252035_804640390912092906_n

So much truth. I have been put back in my place. Sorry vegans. Sorry MBA students. Not sorry Ayn Randers.

This is currently my favourite lager ever (at least until next week):

Jack Black Brewers Lager

It is indeed a craft beer. If we’ve ever chatted more than 10 minutes in the past (or in the future), you’ll know everything about my braai, and you probably also know that I find craft beer to be one of the greatest inventions ever, along with fire, and the internet.

Here’s a another beer which I recently had the pleasure of enjoying, at a secret networking meeting (yes, we have secret meetings where we in fact do manage a large number of aspects of your daily life, and where we also orchestrate it so you’ll never suspect that we are behind everything, subtly manipulating reality) where, when the beer arrived at the table, everyone who looked vaguely hipster-like claimed vocally not in fact to be even remotely hipster-like:

Tears of the Hipster Beer

META-HIPSTER CRAFT BEER! At first I was confused, but then I realised it was just another case of WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!

(By the way, I stripped the EXIF GPS data from the Jack Black photo, because privacy, but I left it hidden in the tears of the hipster. First one who tells me in the comments where the secret meeting was held gets a free craft beer!)

Nerd tip of the week: It’s somehow not prominent enough on their site, but GitLab, the open source GitHub alternative, also offer free hosting of an unlimited number of private repositories with an unlimited number of private collaborators. In other words, if you’re on a budget, you can host your commercial and proprietary project git repositories (and bug tracking and wikis) there at no cost. This is cheaper than github ($7 for the smallest subscription for 5 private repos) and better than bitbucket (private repos for free, but if you have more than 5 team members you have to pay). I pay quite gladly for the online services I use, but in this particular case, such a level of free is hard not to like.

Nerd tip #2 of the week: The Clang static C++ analyser is brilliant. If you program in C++, and you need to up your game, integrating this into your workflow is a solid step in the right direction. I’ve been using this via the scan-build method. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to know more about this!

After some professional ethernet cabling down to the sort-of basement of our new house, I have checked off another item from my non-existent bucket list: We now have a lab at our house. So far there are computers, all kinds of DIY supplies and art stuff for the genetic offspring units, and all of this to create. I spent some of the best times of my life in labs of some sort of another. It’s really great bringing some of that back home to my clan.

Have a great week kids, see you on the other side!

Weekly Head Voices #104: Let me update you.

This post is about things that I noticed in the week of Monday February 1 to Sunday February 7, 2016.

I dug up an email I wrote to Alex Stepanov and Meng Lee, authors of the C++ Standard Template Library on Monday August 3, 1998, to ask them if they would have written a matrix template, if they would have derived it from the vector template. Stepanov answered, the next day (!), that he had never found much use for inheritance. In those days, nerd celebrities mailed you back. Also, poor old C++ inheritance…

A few years later, but still back in the day, @gerwindehaan and I wrote a time management web-app which could automatically schedule all of your tasks. In other words, it would decide exactly what you needed to do when in order to hit all of your deadlines, your appointments and your priorities. It had an ugly UI (story of my life), but it worked (story of my life?). That whole adventure marked the start of our downward spiral away from academia and into the sea of money and debauchery we currently find ourselves in. In any case, I resurrected the old TimeScapers website and wrote a short little retrospective blog post if you’re interested.

I got tired of waiting for the OTA (over the air) update to Marshmallow (that’s Android 6.0) for my LG G3, so I booted into Windows 10 (yes, I have a partition with that also), and used LGUP with the 8974 DLL  (very important to use this and NOT the 8994, else you WILL FAIL) and the official LG G3 Marshmallow KDZ (1.3GB md5sum 711d91254f5e3e02536395b35e1d534f) to upgrade the phone. After one day I can say the following: Looks mildly prettier and feels slightly smoother, but battery life has improved phenomenally. Let me know in the comments if you need help with doing this on your own phone.

The graphical warning below is why I’m not ready to shave my beard quite yet (click for imgur source):

what happens when you shave

As you might or might not have heard, our currency has recently taken quite a serious knock. Fortunately, it’s still extremely good for exchanging for meaty pleasures, such as the almost 2.5kg of rib-eye and t-bone you see in the photo below. Prepared and enjoyed with good friends, this was as beautiful as it looks. The hand you see in the picture belongs to my friend, who is a giant.

rib-eye t-bone yum

Don’t worry, I don’t eat that much meat every day. Also, when I grow up, I want to be a vegan:

bmyBQBE - Imgur

(It’s almost just like when someone is doing their MBA! Have I offended enough people yet? I was also planning to insult people who manage to take Ayn Rand seriously, but they’re not very good with multi-syllabic words, or reading in general. Furthermore, my beef with vegans (I’m on the roll here) and with MBA students is actually just good-natured teasing, a tone I would prefer to maintain. For now.)

Have a great week kids, I hope to see you on the other side!

Weekly Head Voices #102: High on life.

The week of Monday January 11 to Sunday January 17, 2016 got off to a brilliant start with a business lunch at Bodega, a restaurant that finds itself on the Dornier Wine Estate. The view looked something like this:

view_from_bodega

… and the company was suitably awesome. (This is not the first time that Bodega makes its appearance on this blog, or in the blog-free suburbs of my social calendar. The company might be different every time, but so far its level of awesomeness has been quite consistent.)

The rest of the (work) week was consumed by extreme nerdery, which is of course the way I love it. Besides more GPU shader fine-tuning (at least once I exclaimed on the Stone Three HipChat, hopefully soon the Stone Three Mattermost,  WITNESS THE POWER OF MATH!, before showing a rendering that was marginally better than the one where the POWER OF MATH had not yet been invoked a sufficient number of times), there was Javascript, d3.js (d3 is another fantastic example of what you can do with vectorised thinking and computation) and Python.

In break time I finally took a closer look at C++14 and beyond and came away super impressed. There’s a blog post in the pipeline on generic lambda expressions, because I think they’re brilliant. I don’t know why I love different programming languages so much, but I do.

On Saturday,  I got really high with one of my besties, a superb gentleman who also goes by the name of A Very Flat Cat. We reached this altered state by the old-fashioned but extremely reliable (and cheap!) method of physically increasing our altitude via ambulation up the west peak of the Helderberg. The walk (a few hours in 35 degrees Celsius…) was exhilarating, and the view from the top awe-inspiring. Check it (click for high-res):

20160116_100314-PANO

I’ve often wondered about the effect of one’s surroundings on one’s mindfulness. This was one of those cases where mother nature, without asking for permission or anything like that, simply brute-forced the being switch with her astonishing beauty. Very grateful I was.

Have a great week friends, see you on the other side!

Weekly Head Voices #78: Aeroimpressed.

Up in the North, temperatures were in the mid to high twenties every day (yes, it’s the middle of Winter, and that’s how they roll in the North). Back home we had to deal with mid to high tens (sometimes in the twenties!), and then, because the houses are not built for winter and sport similar temperatures inside and outside, you resort to making a fire in yer office, because that’s how we roll!

My office is on fire! Note the interrogation lamp.

(don’t worry, our friendly electrician managed to get the underfloor heating working and now I don’t have to make fire in the office anymore. you can send donations towards my electricity bill via paypal.)

On Tuesday evening (after the fire), I decided to go to my first MeetUp. Although my main goal was to meet fellow software developers and entrepreneurs from my neighbourhood, I had a super enjoyable evening meeting said people, and learning about Construct 2 (the topic of the presentation). Now while I’m not into gaming at all, this did lead to evenings of reading about the various mobile game development libraries; there’s a whole universe of interesting cross-platform code out there! My search finally ended with Moai SDK, an open source C++ engine with Lua bindings (Lua is awesome, before Moai I integrated it with my secret hobby project; for 200kBytes you get a whole super fast dynamic language in your C++ application!) that can be used to write 2D games for all of the desktop platforms, as well as for iOS and for Android.

I have too many hobby projects going, but the idea of writing a mobile app that’s actually enjoyed by a few people does sound like fun. (I do have an embarrassing app in the store. It’s been downloaded more than 10000 times, and many of the reviewers (more than 200 at last count) have turned superlative reviewing for the useless app into an art. (Writing over the top funny reviews is a thing, but you knew that.))

It was awesome seeing Colbert interviewing Vint Cerf, co-father of the internet:

(ARGH. Last Tuesday, this was a working YouTube video – tonight it claims to have been removed by the user. Also, none of the videos available from The Colbert Report’s website are viewable here in SA. I briefly considered hosting the video here for both of my readers, but instead I’ll just post this other more useful link here.)

The bit at 17m50 in the full episode, or at 20 seconds into the part 2 video hosted on the Colbert site, where Colbert asks Cerf about his resemblance to The Architect (of The Matrix) is priceless.

Vint Cerf on the left, The Architect on the right. (I had to watch this via US VPN due to geographic rights restrictions. Kind of ironic!)

Oh, it turns out that Al Gore did help to get NSFnet funded by the NSF, and so the running joke about him giving the world internet has a kernel of truth according to the gracious Vint Cerf. Here’s a cookie to feed to your trivia OCD: Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn started working on what would become the internet in 1973, and they switched it on in 1983.

GOU#1, all of 8 years old, is independently WhatsApping with her grandparents, from her own telephone. I find it really awesome that she’s making these connections with her extended family. I also find it awesome that she comes up with these kinds of constructions when we’re not in the mood to build a real fire:

Augmented reality, GOU#1 style.

(Now she just has to let me teach her to code.)

(I thought that this was going to be a really short post, but this time my notes had other ideas. We’re almost done…)

On Sunday, we went to Lourensford, a well-known wine farm and cellar just down the road from me, and also the location of the Coffee Company roastery, to acquire a supply of freshly roasted coffee beans to feed the a voracious bean-to-cup machine which lives in my kitchen.

Sitting on the shelf above all of the lovely coffee beans was a newly delivered consignment of Aeropress coffee makers. During a previous visit, I had managed to resist taking one, but this thing was now singing to the very warp core of my inner coffee nerd.

I could not resist its call anymore.

Giant coffee injection. Air-tight seal, column of air pushes water through coffee in 30 seconds. I haz it.

I can now report that with freshly ground Bugisu Arabica coffee, the liquid black gold emerging from this wondrous device is indeed some of the purest and best coffee that I’ve ever had. If you’re into coffee, get one of these. You can thank me at the next hipster meetup.