Weekly Head Voices #112: Emergency Smörgåsbord.

(This blog post documents snippets of time taken from the period starting on Monday August 15 and ending on Tuesday November 8, 2016.)

My longing simply became too great.

For an epic few days in August, I found myself in The Netherlands (my other home) mixing business and pleasure like a boss. Thank you besties, my cup has not stopped running over.

Photo by Bestie DJ Fiasco.
Photo by Bestie DJ Fiasco.

Shortly after returning from NL, my year counter ticked over one more time.

I have become indeed quite middle-aged.

On the flip side, I am content with where I find myself in space-time, both physically and meta-physically. Although I seem to think more slowly, I do seem to have become slightly better at retrospection, introspection and at seeing the bigger picture.

As an additional consolation, it seems that I am in the best physical condition I have been for years due to a recent(ish) and surprising discovery of a latent jogging addiction. I am terrible at the action itself, but I really enjoy being repeatedly terrible at it.

On the topic of consolation, I tasted (at least) three new local craft beers, the experience of which I would like to share with you.

The Striped Horse Pils won gold at the 2015 and 2016 National Beer Trophy. More importantly, it also won the WHV-two-voices-cheering-loudly award, because it’s a full-bodied hoppy beer.

Jack Black Atlantic Weiss gets a whopping 9.8 on my famous Celis White scale. This is the lighter, fresher version of the Bone Crusher that we’ve all been waiting for. Now you just have to cross your fingers that more suppliers will get this. At this moment, it’s still quite tricky to track down.

On a subsequent failed mission to acquire more Atlantic Weiss, I ran into the Newlands Spring Brewing Company’s Mountain Weiss. As I was enjoying this light white beer (THE SUMMER IS COMING) something was tugging at the edge of my memory…

As I turned the bottle around, my worst suspicions were confirmed: Newlands Spring Brewing Company belongs to South African Breweries (SAB), the behemoth beer-brewing international mega-corp. They’ve been trying to get into the craft beer market, a sector traditionally belonging to often entrepreneurial and even family-run small enterprises, and this was their sneaky attempt.

In spite of its lovely taste, I do prefer spending my craft beer budget on mom-and-pop setups. Besides the truly tasty beer, I really like that craft beer has democratised a traditionally closed (by SAB!) area of commerce, and so would prefer putting my money there.

(That is not to say that I don’t buy SAB’s non-craft beers. A man gets thirsty!)

The following marvelous animation popped up in my twitter timeline:

Someone configured their camera stabilisation to lock on to the milky way in this National Geographic timelapse video. The result of this simple experiment is that you can clearly see the rotation of the Earth.

It’s really amazing what you can achieve by simply changing your perspective.

In Other Much More Important News, one of my last academic children got doctorified on October 31. I left academia for entirely non-children-related reasons (the children were the best part of academia!) shortly after she started with her doctorate, hence the significance of this.

Henceforth, everyone has to add an extra DOCTOR to her already impressive title, namely Evil Empress of the SciVis Galaxy. Doctor Evil Empress of the SciVis Galaxy will continue her reign from her new (iron?) throne in the Visualization Group at the University of Bergen, Norway.

Don’t worry puny subjects, you are in good hands!

I read somewhere that good stories tend to make circles (could anyone help me out with a good reference?), so let me end this thing with a brilliantly coloured but slightly more lonesome sunset:

Taking a run around Mordor.

Have fun peeps, I hope to see you soon!

Weekly Head Voices #99: No-lands.

This is without a doubt my favourite animated GIF of all time (go ahead, click on the play button!):

I am eternally grateful to Twitter user @ftrain for granting us this gift. In the process, I also learnt that:

  1. Twitter automatically transcodes animated GIFs to MP4s to save bandwidth, and for other reasons. I’m in two minds about this, because these are good reasons, but GIFs are really handy to be able to paste into HipChat and Slack and everywhere else.
  2. There is no real consensus concerning the pronunciation of GIF. The author of the format says JIF, a whole bunch of (vocal) other people say GIF.

This is our last week in this house. It was a beautiful base for our return to South Africa, but the time has come to move on to a new home and to new memories. Moving out of places is decidedly not my favourite state of being. I think I might still be traumatized by the experience of moving out of our Dutch hood.

This weekend, TPN and more of my friends were at Lowlands, my church. They’re still there, as I write this. I’ve been enjoying the experience through their photos and messages. You see, this is the first time in a number of years that I’m not there. My head, on the other hand, felt like it was more there than here this weekend. Nostalgia really is quite bitter-sweet.

past_tents.jpg

I somehow only just now learnt that you can do this with Python:

x_inside = x_min <= x <= x_max

It turns out that in Python comparisons can be chained arbitrarily.

To those of you who’ve met me in person (that’s both of you I guess) it’s probably no surprise that my Myers–Briggs Type Indicator is ENTJ. Someone tweeted this page which defines hell for each of the MBTI types. Mine reads:

ENTJ – Somebody is wrong, and they’re directing a large group of people! You can’t do anything about it and will have to obey whatever inefficient policies they decide to implement.

I mention this, because this week I again fell into the trap, and broke my personal rule, of correcting someone who was wrong on the internet (it was about bicarbonate of soda and cancer). Of course this did not end well, although I managed to extract myself before it went completely off the rails.

It also made me think about why the internet, in spite of being one of the most wonderful things humankind has ever come up with, is so conducive to anti-social behaviour. You only have to take one look at the average comments section of a news site (news24, I’m looking at you), or at something even more toxic like this, to lose all hope in your fellow humans.

It turns out that we have a name for this: It’s called online disinhibition effect. It comes down to the fact that otherwise relatively normal people turn into anti-social gits when given anonymity (i.e. no consequences) and an audience. Penny Arcade dubbed this phenomenon the Greater Internet F*ckwad Theory and published this handy graphical guide. What I take from this, is that it is an especially good idea not to break the no-correcting-wrong-people-on-the-internet rule when the person in question is not posting under their real identity. Also, I really wish that we would grow up now.

Our week ended very much away from the digital world with a delightful and lazy Sunday lunch with great friends at Long Table restaurant on Haskell Vineyards just outside of Stellenbosch. The food was divine: Moroccan beef carpaccio starter, beautifully prepared Kob mains, followed by pecan nut praline cheese cake for dessert. As one does around these parts, the view was also something to drink in:

view_from_long_table.jpg

Ok kids, have yourselves a great week! I’ll hopefully see you on the other side.

The Lowlands Tooth Fairy #37. [Weekly Head Voices #55]

In this week’s Weekly Head Voices, looking back at weeks 33 and 34 of 2011, there are three important topics that I’d like to discuss. For your convenience, I’ve arranged them in order of increasing significance. This has the added advantage of guaranteeing that this post ends, at least technically speaking, with a sort of climax. Oh yes, the theme of today’s post is dry.

Photo of the Bravo tent during Lowlands 2011, taken by Andreas Terlaak for NRC Handelsblad. I hope they don't mind me linking to their picture. You can see more of Terlaak's Lowlands 2011 work by clicking on the photo.

One

I turned 37 very recently. This is the last prime number I’ll have the privilege of gracing before shooting past the big four-oh. I remember when I turned 32. Amongst other defects which I believe I’ve gotten more or less under control, I was extremely smug, and I would probably have irritated the living daylights out of 37-year-old me. I’ve been very much desmugged in my search for harmony and balance in life, although I’ve been told that I tend to be self-congratulatory, an observation that I personally think might have been triggered by my extroverted optimism. Whatever the case may be, I’ll take 5 more years to de-self-congratulatorise myself as well. It’s really a small price to pay for harmony with the universe.

On my birthday, many wonderful people left sweet messages on my facebook wall, in my email inbox, in my SMS whatever and even to my face. It can’t be understated what a positive experience this was. Thank you wonderful people.

Two

I had the awesome privilege and unbridled pleasure (when last did you read about unbridled pleasure in a blog post?! hmm?) of spending 3 sunny days at Lowlands 2011, an alternative reality where it’s sunny (if you were in NL this “summer”, you would know that sunny weather is a purely theoretical concept) and you get to hang around on the grass drinking beer or in tents experiencing Amon Tobin doing ISAM, or Little Dragon being absolutely gorgeous on Sunday morning, or Trentemöller and his band being superbly Danish. Of course you get to do this with a group of Exceptionally Wonderful People (EWPs). There is one thing you should take into account before starting to hang out with EWPs: They attract even more EWPs, resulting in huge groups of like-minded EWPs that renders linking up with your favourite EWPs (a subset of the larger group) an interesting challenge, further complicated by the fact that 65000 people SMSing at the same time in the middle of nowhere tend to clog up the few available cellphone towers, which in turn delays any SMS by a random amount from a few seconds to a few hours.

Whatever the case may be, I had an awesome time and am already very quietly counting down until August 2012. EWPs, get ready!

Three

Genetic Offspring #1 lost her first milk tooth and this is of course a major life event. So the Tooth Fairy, or the Tooth Mouse as we call it (GO#1 has ascertained that fairies don’t exist, but she has visually confirmed that mice in fact do, so she’s willing to play along for now), or actually just Yours Truly, had to sneak into her bedroom and exchange said tooth for a sizeable (compared to what my teeth went for back in the day) amount of cash. Remember that this is her major life event, but I did spend a few moments pondering the fact that I’m now someone else’s Tooth Fairy. That’s just huge man…

Conclusion

That’s (almost) all I have to say kids. This is my fourth blog post of the weekend: I also wrote one on Django testing with selenium, one on getting a Windows console that doesn’t suck, and another pre-dated one on my newest toy.

I really liked writing them all, but I enjoyed this one the most.

Happy returns! [Weekly Head Voices #29]

Dearest readers,

I’m truly sorry that you’ve had to endure three full weeks without any Head Voices. I’ve been in full-on Crisis Mode(tm) for the past weeks, doing my best to complete a number of projects, most prominent of which has been the brand-spanking new TU Delft first year CS course TI 1100-a. During Crisis Mode, all but the most critical of tasks have to spend some time on the back-burner. Almost like the adrenaline-fueled mammalian fight-or-flight response, when even one’s digestion is temporarily halted in order to divert all energy to for example bounding over trees whilst evading some sharp-toothed predator, even my GTD processing more or less came to a stand-till. TNR’s pomodoro suggestion, however, was a life-saver. There’s nothing like a succession of 25 minute periods of being completely in the zone for flattening mountains of work. If you’re not continuously zoning yet, I can’t more firmly recommend giving this a try.

In any case, here I am, a slightly debauched weekend drawing to a close (thank you L and friends!), joyfully writing a special anniversary Weekly Head Voices.

Photo taken of the magical entrance to Lowlands, taken by my mysterious and resourceful friend fpixel.wordpress.com

TI 1100-a (which I plan to write a detailed blog post about; the short version: All TU Delft CS first years spend their whole first week doing a single project-oriented course, which I, with much help from my friends, completely redesigned during the past months) concluded with, as far as I could surmise, some success. Fifteen groups of enthusiastic students demonstrated fifteen working augmented reality music instruments in a room packed with 140+ people, and much fun was had by all. With this more or less concluded, I still have more than enough to do, but the decrease in shoulder-weight is considerable and very welcome.

Reaching slightly further back in time to a different slightly debauched weekend, I was one of the 55000 exceptionally privileged human beings spending three life- and humanity-affirming days in the third week of August: Lowlands is not so much a music festival as a fantastic and sizeable post-human community that meets once a year to enjoy each other’s happy presence.  I had the further privilege of also being in the company of a slightly smaller group of exquisite friends. Hello there exquisite friends! Due to our still-strict policy of What happens at Lowlands, stays at Lowlands, I’m not able to give you much more information than the photo of the main festival entrance above. Please do note the huge “Welcome Home” sign at the centre, it’s quite telling.

Those of you who’ve been with this blog for slightly longer, might remember that the very first edition of the Weekly Head Voices was posted directly after last year’s Lowlands. This means that the WHV has now lasted one whole year! Astute readers will note that the actual frequency of my posts might dictate a name-change to Bi-Weekly Head Voices, which is nice (it has “bi” in there!), but is still not going to happen.

Whatever the case may be: Happy birthday Weekly Head Voices, I wish you very many happy returns!

On the topic of happy returns, and my hobby of somehow managing to string together disparate paragraphs in an almost convincing fashion, the animal that houses my consciousness also turned one year older in week 34, three days after Lowlands. I’m not mentioning this so that you can send me presents (although these are always welcome, especially if they’re gadget-related), but rather to dwell briefly on the unexpectedly fabulous day. In spite of the deadline-related stress dominating at that stage, being the happy target of a day-long deluge of such positive facebook messages, texts, email and telephone calls was just beautiful, thank you thank you thank you! I really do love being the gregarious human that I am, right in the middle of this information-age.

Alright boys and girls, it’s now time to get some rest, then to wake up bright and early, and then, then to continue on your life mission of creating value.

Starting today: Head voices, every week!

(Badly) inspired by some dude’s weekly I’m-finishing-my-PhD-blog, sent to me by the infamous francoism, I have decided that you, dear reader(s) (hey mom!), have the right to be exposed more regularly to the voices in my head.  So, in order to supplement my recent posting frequency of once per month (my global frequency seems to be higher: 349 posts over 98 months in total), I’m going to post every single week with an exceptionally entertaining summary of the week’s highlights.  I do reserve the right to slip up now and then, or to stop completely when I feel like it. :)  You then have the right to taunt me in the comments of this, or the latest post at that time.

So, with that off my chest, I can start with the highlights of this grand week, number 35 of the year 2009.

As many weeks do, this one started with Monday. However, this particular Monday was quite special.  On that very day, we (I have really really terribly fantastic friends, family almost) were having an extremely relaxed yet already nostalgic morning, getting ready to leave the Lowlands 2009 festival grounds, after 3 days of Exceptionally Excellent Times.  Because we have an Exceptionally Strict Rule called “What Happens At Lowlands, Stays At Lowlands”, I can unfortunately not tell you much more than that.  While contemplating The Rule,  you could do worse than watch the YouTube clip below of Whitest  Boy Alive performing 1517, but why would you?:

Apart from my post-festival illness (hey, what do you expect after 3 days of Extremely Little Sleep and Far Too Much Excitement?), the rest of the week consisted of a number of research / technical meetings (these ones are nice, really) with research collaborators, and I took part as external member in the M.Sc. thesis opposition of a student who evaluated the perceived quality of several electron microscopy post-processing filters.  It raised an interesting discussion on perceived quality (of experts) vs. task performance.

Other than that, I’ve rediscovered Mendeley.  I wasn’t that impressed the previous time, but the current software version 0.9.2.1 has been greatly improved.  The free software runs on Linux, Mac and Windows, and is a kind of beefed up reference manager.  Simply drag and drop an article PDF on it, and all metadata is extracted and inserted into your database.  There’s a bookmarklet that can also slurp information from a large number of citation sites.  You get to synchronise all your references with the Mendeley mothership (website), and you can even synchronise up to 500MB in article PDFs. You can also add other academics as your friends, harr harr.

What I like most about the software, is the ease with which I can now add new references, and also the fantastic built-in PDF reader, which which I can easily annotate PDFs.  What I don’t like, is that it doesn’t yet offer a way for me to use it on multiple machines where I already have synchronised PDF directories.  For now I’m using it to synchronise a subset of my PDF articles (only collections that I’m currently working on) as that still fits in 500MB, but I’d really like to be able to use it across different machines with my own pre-synched directories.  I did add a suggestion concerning this to their feedback thingy.

I’m going to be using it as my main reference manager for a while (I’ve been using JabRef up to now), primarily because it has 90% of what I need in one system.  If you have a Mendeley account, link up with my profile man!

Academic research

That’s it for now boys and girls.  I hope you enjoyed the first weekly head voices, and I hope you have a fabulous week! I’ll see you at its other end harr harr!