Tool Search

As previously mentioned, I’m on the hunt for a tool, one I can document or create. But funny enough, that quest leads me back to here. What is the most advanced tool we interact with on a daily basis? A tool so complex that it’s barely understood despite regular use? A tool so important that we can’t live without it? That tool… is the mechanism responsible for our existence. Dun, dun, duuun!!!

That’s right, I’m talking about the “simulation”, the thing that provides inhabitants with the experience of “life”. For the past seven years, I’ve been documenting this tool. Who’s to say I should stop now? It certainly seems like a plausible option: the system is certainly complicated enough to warrant documentation — and the steady stream of new users require up-to-date materials, refreshed for the times they’re in.

In short, I’d be a preacher for the modern era. Instead of deities in the sky, it’s engineers in the ethernet. I’ve come up with this idea many times in the past but never committed. My interests tend to be split between in-world technology and the philosophical underpinnings of reality. Basically: “Wow, cool gadget!” versus “What is this place and how does one get through it?”

Por que no los dos? And yes, I could potentially pursue multiple interests. Either way, I do seem to be more of a documenter than a creator. I like to consume complex topics and break them down into digestible bites. And programming is basically that: organizing complexity. Okay dear diary, that’s where I’m at, thanks for listening.

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Crafting Code

Computer programming is the art of organizing instructions. To practice this art, a programmer arranges and tidies code while fixing whatever’s broken. At its start, every program is essentially broken — it doesn’t function properly — in fact it doesn’t do anything at all because there aren’t any instructions yet. So the programmer adds instruction after instruction until the program behaves as expected.

Because a program is a giant list of instructions, the code itself must be organized in an easy-to-understand way. A programmer can get lost in a mishmash of jumbled code and never find a way out. To deal with this inherent complexity, many different styles, languages, libraries, and frameworks exist. Each programmer must find his or her preferred way of organizing instructions, discovering a method that makes the most sense.

What drives a programmer is the need to repair something that doesn’t work correctly. Whether it’s hours or days, the programmer researches and experiments until a particular problem is resolved. As the programmer grows in experience, a catalog of techniques and solutions accumulate but that doesn’t mean programming gets easier. A programmer simply gravitates toward harder projects and the challenge continues.

Plus, programs are never really complete. Aspects of functionality can be overlooked, tiny mistakes can accumulate over time, larger mistakes can remain hidden until revealed by obscure conditions, or the platform on which the program runs can change and cause errors. And thus programming remains an art whose output only approximates something concrete. What appears as a window is in reality tiny dots dancing across a screen.

Lights Camera

“It’s Friday the 13th!!! There’s a full-moon!! Bad luck AND strange happenings?! All at once!?” THAT my friend, is histrionics. When I wake up each morning, I often wonder what the day will bring. I look out the window to see if the sky or landscape reveals a clue about what’s to come. “I sure hope nothing bad happens today…”

Which of course is the line that precedes something bad happening. I’ve been noticing all the theatrics going on around me lately. It’s embarrassingly obvious when you look for it. But I’ve realized that I’m not really a fan of drama, so I’m trying to ween myself off of dramatic acting. And to do that, a substitution needs to be found.

I suppose that’s why I’m deeply involved in computer programming right now, it serves as a creative endeavor that occupies my time and interest. It seems true of life, that you’ll face a continuous barrage of challenges. BUT if you so desire, you can choose the form of your challenges. IF you don’t choose, challenges will be chosen for you.

Therefore, it’s best to specifically pick the problems you want to pursue. Most of the time, I don’t purposefully pursue a path, I simply meander down the road and let my wandering mind choose for me. That’s a bad idea because my mind can only come up with scary-stuff and overly dramatic nonsense — a real amateurish approach to life.

To live life as a soap-opera, is a poor quality experience in my opinion. The more mature approach, is to pick a creative path — to delve deeply into a personally satisfying topic. Life presents all these options, a buffet of engaging pursuits — it’s dumb not to select SOMETHING wholesome and pursue it as far as you can go.

Nowadays when I wake up, I try to replace mindless drama with thoughts of programming and the current projects I’m working on. When drama comes knocking, I say: “Sorry, that’s not my department, I’m a programmer and unless this issue deals with code, I’m neither interested nor qualified enough to handle it. Buh-bye.”

The Sly Steward

This is my interpretation of Luke 16:1-13

A man of wealth once accused his steward of recklessness. Distraught, worried how he’d survive without his position, the steward devised a scheme to lighten his burden. Before he was relieved of duty, he summoned all who owed his master money.

“You there! How much do you owe? A hundred? No, make it fifty! And you! How much must you pay? Well whatever it is, take off twenty!” And in this way, the steward made himself beloved amongst the people so they would take him in at the end of his time.

The man of wealth, upon hearing this clever plot, actually praised the steward for his shrewdness. It turns out that those who worship the wealth of this world are much wiser than those that seek only enlightenment. Through ill-gotten gains, they buy friendship, constructing a refuge for their time of need.

So if you too want to ensure a safe-harbor for yourself when all else fails, buy as many friends as possible while using whatever illegitimate means are at hand. Yet, consider that devotion to a part reveals devotion to the whole — and whoever deceives in a little reveals their overall dishonest nature.

But besides that, if you haven’t proven yourself with dirty money, who would trust you with truer treasures? And if you haven’t proven yourself with someone else’s possessions, who would give you any of your own!?

I’m being facetious of course. The alternative to an uncertain path paved with unprincipled profits, is a path to God. You obviously can’t follow two opposing routes at once. You can recognize God as your source of sustenance and eternal refuge — or you can make money the source of your salvation.

Algorithmic Art

I’ve been working on some algorithmic art lately — that is, art generated by a computer. In other words: based on my initial input, the computer paints a picture. For instance, I might feed a bunch of numbers into a mathematical formula and then those resulting coordinates get connected with colored lines.

Pure randomness isn’t satisfying by the way — it’s just noise. You need patterns and a graduated flow. Abrupt changes don’t work, satisfying art requires transitions. Yes, splashes of color can work, but such boldness must blend itself into the mix somehow — perhaps as contrast to a simple background.

So what? Well, if life is a simulation (which it is), then the flow of life will be graduated and filled with patterns that are ushered in with transitions. Think of music: it’s not a monotonous note nor is it a random string of tones, there are graduated scales and patterns that progressively transform.

In computer-generated art, the trick is finding an algorithm that produces interesting output. Just filling in a formula is predictable and boring, you need to add some randomness. So yes, the unexpected is a necessity — but it can’t be the only component. Randomness needs to be woven into a pattern.

Stories are like this too. Narratives aren’t random happenings strung together — there are plots and progressions as characters with distinct personalities fade in and out. But all along the way there are surprises here and there — yet nothing too abrupt or outlandish, nothing beyond the boundaries that the narrative sets forth.

By its nature, there most certainly is an ebb and flow to life, a pattern punctuated by the unexpected — events rising and falling on a graduated spectrum. But what do you do with this knowledge? Appreciate it for what it is: art. It is these very aspects that we find appealing in every other medium — life itself is no different.

Enjoyment of art is modulated by the seriousness we apply to it. Take it too seriously, and you stifle it. Approach it too frivolously and it has no impact, no significance, it barely registers. Therefore, you must approach it with lighthearted appreciation — interested enough to explore and examine, but not to the point of stressing-out over it.

Constant Conundrum

I was recently re-watching the first few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was essentially watching people/characters that I like, undergo very difficult circumstances. The act of watching drama is basically sadism — deriving enjoyment from the suffering of others. Luckily, the characters are fictional.

Yet isn’t that what we do here? Watch others, especially ourselves, experience the worst things we can imagine? But of course, there ARE other ways to derive amusement from existence, but we so often revert to the easy-fix: the sadomasochism solution. “I’m bored! Is there some sort of suffering from which I can extract excitement!?”

But when watching TNG, I don’t actually enjoy the calamity, I enjoy the competence and professionalism of the crew. How will Picard and the gang get out of this one!? And of course they always do. THAT’S what I like, the problem-solving. But there must be problems or else there’s nothing to solve.

Therefore, life must fill itself with problems i.e. opportunities for problem-solving. So problems are not the problem — the attitude we maintain is the real key. Does Picard get frustrated and give up at each obstacle? No, he proceeds diligently, perpetually performing his duty as starship captain. As they say: keep calm and carry on.

Of course that’s what Krishna told Arjuna on the field of battle that day too: stop whining and do your duty. Because in this life, we all have a role to play, a character whose arc we must fulfill. It’s dumb to pause production in order to incessantly complain about the storyline. Just read the damn lines! Become the authentic character and enjoy the narrative.

Perpetual Politics

“The problem with the other side, is that they’re a bunch of know-nothing morons that try to impose their stupidity onto everyone else! They simply don’t understand the world we’re living in! Well, I guess now that we’re in charge, we can try to work with them, but you know they’ll constantly fight against us. But for the sake of the country, we’ll try to get along.”

I use to follow politics because I thought it made me smarter. To be smart is to be well-informed. And since politics plays a prominent role in shaping the world, I had to know about politics in order to truly understand what’s going on here. WRONG.

Examining politics as a means of understanding the world, is like staring at the contents of a used toilet in order to understand people. Politics is not the start of the cycle, it’s the end product — the stinky, nasty turd in the toilet.

If you take a step back and really look at politics from a wider perspective, the repetition is obvious. It’s the same situations over and over, rinse and repeat ad nauseum — oftentimes the names don’t even change. And just like the digestive cycle, if you feed it crap then even worse crap comes out the other end.

If you want to understand what’s going on here, the WORST place to start is the toilet bowl. From there you’d surmise that people produce nothing but foul odors — they’re gross, disgusting creatures that smear feces wherever they go. Yuck!

Politics will always engage your outrage, that’s its nature. Don’t get involved with potty-talk, speak to people when they’re outside the stalls. Rise above the revulsion. Focus on what you’re feeding yourself and what you’re offering to others.