7.24.2016

Summer of Television

It is time to give an update about my current TV viewing habits.  Since last I wrote, we have adiosed DirectTV for Comcast. Long story, but the short version is that the DirectTV customer representative I was talking to made me so mad that I cancelled on the spot. Signing up with Communist-cast made me cringe but (1) it was ultimately cheaper since we already have internet through them, and (2) the X1 box gave me back DVR. I also finally junked my gen-1 Apple TV since Hulu was constantly re-setting. I picked up a Roku 3 which is a slick little machine that I primarily use for Hulu and Netflix.  So, the current itinerary of programs includes:

Current Shows (in Progress)
  • Ballers (HBO; Season 1, 2) — Currently in Season 2
  • Casual (Hulu, Season 1, 2) — Currently in Season 2
  • Gilmore Girls (CW and Netflix) — Rewatching the series on Netflix to get ready for the new episodes that are due out in November
  • Ray Donovan (Showtime; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Currently in Season 4
  • Suits (USA; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) — Currently in Season 6

Caught Up
  • Better Call Saul (AMC; Season 1, 2) — Renewed for third season
  • Billions (HBO; Season 1, 2) — Renewed for second season
  • Bloodline (Netflix; Season 1, 2) — Renewed for third season
  • Elementary (Fox; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Renewed for fifth season
  • Fargo (FX; Season 1, 2) — Renewed for third season
  • Game of Thrones (HBO; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) — Renewed for 7th season
  • Girls (HBO; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) — One season left
  • Homeland (Showtime; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) — Renewed for sixth season
  • House of Cards (Netflix; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Renewed for fifth season
  • Lucifer (Fox; Season 1) — Renewed for a second season
  • Sherlock (BBC; Season 1, 2, 3) — Renewed for fourth season
  • The Americans (FX; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Two seasons left
  • The Path (Hulu; Season 1) — Renewed for a second season
  • True Detective (HBO; Season 1, 2) — Maybe a third season??
  • Turn: Washington's Spies (AMC; Season 1, 2, 3)

Behind (but Still Watching)
  • Empire (Fox; Season 1, 2) — I am only a couple episodes into Season 2, which is on Hulu; Season 3 is coming soon
  • Halt and Catch Fire (AMC; Season 1) — Two seasons out, renewed for third season
  • Longmire (A&E and Netflix; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — I am currently watching Season 4; Netflix renewed the show for a fifth season
  • The Grinder (Fox; Season 1) — Show was cancelled after one season; I have watched the first 13 episodes
  • Madame Secretary (CBS; Season 1) — Waiting for Season 2 to hit Netflix; Renewed for Season 3
  • New Girl (Fox; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Waiting for Season 5 on Netflix; Renewed for Season 6

Behind (but Not Really Watching...Maybe an Episode Once in a While)
  • Daredevil (Netflix; Season 1) — Although Season 2 is already out, I am still only 3/4 of the way through Season 1
  • Gotham (Fox; Season 1, 2) — Season 2 is on Netflix, but I have only watched the first few episodes
  • Person of Interest (CBS; Season 1, 2, 3) — I am about half way through Season 3 on Netflix; The show was cancelled after Season 5

Finished
  • 11.22.63 (Hulu) — Eight episode mini-series
  • Hart of Dixie (CW; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Show was cancelled after Season 4
  • House of Lies (Showtime; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) — Show was cancelled after Season 5 
  • Mad Men (AMC; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) — Show ended after 7 seasons
  • Making a Murderer (Netflix; Season 1) — One season mini-series
  • Nashville (ABC; Season 1, 2, 3, 4) — Show cancelled after Season 4
  • Parenthood (NBC; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) — I watched all six seasons this spring on Netflix
  • The Bridge (FX; Season 1, 2) — Show cancelled after Season 2
  • The Good Wife (CBS; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) — Show ended after 7 seasons
  • The League (FX; Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) — Show ended after 7 seasons

3.23.2016

Some Good Advice on Writing

“Cut out all these exclamation points,” he said. “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Photograph of F. Scott Fitzgerald c. 1921, appearing "The World's Work" (June 1921 issue). Photo in the public domain from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:F_Scott_Fitzgerald_1921.jpg



F. Scott Fitzgerald, near the end of his life, began a love affair with Sheilah Graham. In her memoir “Beloved Infidel”, she describes the advice Fitzgerald gave to her. after reading one of her radio scripts:

“You don’t mind if I reword it here and there?” he asked. And though tired from his own writing at the studio, he sat down with a stubby pencil and a pack of cigarettes and painstakingly—and completely—rewrote my copy. He worked with the utmost concentration and as he worked he twisted the hair above his forehead so that a tuft stood up, as on a kewpie doll. It gave him a strangely boyish appearance. “Cut out all these exclamation points,” he said. “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” He underlined words I should emphasize, corrected my grammar. 
This is good advice for any writer. A well-structured sentence will emphasize all the content it needs to without shouting at people.

2.25.2016

How I Spend My Money

Lauren sent me this comic which pretty much is a super-accurate depiction of where my money goes.


The original is from Sarah Anderson's book Adulthood is a Myth. Her stuff looks pretty funny, so it will probably be on our bookshelves soon!

1.31.2016

Using Unix to Change Filenames

I have recently been trying to standardize my file names to keep a better consistency. I have decided to use all lowercase letters rather than the title case that I have been using.

View inside a folder that has file and folder names using title case (combination of upper- and lowercase letters.

I knew there must be a quick way of making these changes using Unix commands in Terminal. After a quick Google search, I found this site. After using the cd command to get in the directory, the syntax to change everything to lowercase looks like this:

for f in * ; do mv -v $f `echo $f | tr '[A-Z]' '[a-z]'`; done

To understand how this works, let's parse the syntax. First the semicolon is how we put multiple commands on a single line. It is akin to hitting <enter>. So it may be a bit easier to understand if we format this in a different manner.

for f in *
  do mv -v $f `echo $f | tr '[A-Z]' '[a-z]'`
done

The first and last lines are executing a FOR loop. The f in * just says do something (in this case the something is the commands issued in the second line) for each filename in the directory, that is where the * comes in. The f is an arbitrary variable name.

The do command of the second line tells Unix to actually do what follows it. The heart of this command is mv. In Unix-speak, mv can either be used to move files or rename files, depending on what comes after it. In this case, we use it to rename files. The -v is an optional flag that tells Unix to print to the screen everything that mv is doing (verbose mode). In general the structure of using mv to rename files looks like this:

mv old_filename new_filename

From the FOR loop, the name of each file is stored in the variable f. Thus we can get that name by accessing $f (the old filename). Notice the new filename is not given explicitly, but is a series of Unix commands. This is enclosed in a set of backticks (`commands`). Everything typed between backticks is evaluated (executed) by the shell. (The mathematical equivalent would be enclosing this in parentheses so order of operations is followed.)

The series of commands executed is

echo $f | tr '[A-Z]' '[a-z]'

This echos back the filename ($f) and then pipes it into the translate (tr) command. This is like a pipeline, where the output of a one process is fed as input into a subsequent process. This is that vertical bar (|). SO the output of echo (the filename) is fed into the tr command.

The tr command translates the first thing into the second thing. Since these are characters, they are both enclosed in quotation marks. Both the first and second component are calling regular expressions. The first component, [A-Z], looks for uppercase letters, which are then translated into lowercase letters, [a-z], the second component.

After executing the command, the verbose flag outputs the following:

Andy -> andy
Dad -> dad
Fractals-and-Chaos-Workshop-Pamphlet.pdf -> fractals-and-chaos-workshop-pamphlet.pdf
Grandpa -> grandpa
Soccer -> soccer


The result is all the filenames (or folder names) are now lowercase

The same directory after running the commands.

There are other ways to do this as well. For example, the regular expressions can be changed so the commands are:

echo $f | tr '[:upper:]' '[:lower:]'

Be careful if you use these commands. You can accidentally write over a file if it has the same name. For example if your directory contained two files,

myFile.doc
myfile.doc

and you issued this command, you would write over the 'myfile.doc' file.






1.03.2016

Read-a-Thon (c. 1982/1983)

Going through some more old stuff, and came across the list of books I read for the Multiple Sclerosis Society Read-a-Thon. According to the "Book List Record", I read 35 books and had 9 sponsors. (The sponsor bit was not copied by my mom, so I do not know whether they donated per page or per book.) I also don't know how long this read-a-thon took place, but my guess is that it happened over Christmas break. Here is the list of books:

Title Author Pages
1 The Littles to the Rescue Peterson, John 95
2 The Littles Take a Trip Peterson, John 95
3 The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood Pyle, Howard 238
4 The Littles and the Big Storm Peterson, John 80
5 The Littles Give a Party Peterson, John 96
6 The Case of the Snowbound Spy Hildick, Edmund Wallace 120
7 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Twain, Mark 238
8 The Count of Monte Cristo Dumas, Alexandre 238
9 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Twain, Mark 238
10 The Secret of the Rosewood Box Orton, Helen Fuller 120
11 Mystery in the Pirate Oak Orton, Helen Fuller 120
12 Socks Cleary, Beverly 156
13 Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Midnight Visitor Sobol, Donald J. 112
14 Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dead Eagles Sobol, Donald J. 96
15 Encyclopedia Brown Tracks Them Down Sobol, Donald J. 96
16 Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Case Sobol, Donald J. 96
17 Crazy Horse, Sioux Warrior Meadowcroft, Enid LaMonte 104
18 May I? Please? Thank You Wilt, Joy 146
19 The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes Heyward, DuBose 46
20 Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All Sobol, Donald J. 96
21 Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues Sobol, Donald J. 86
22 Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Exploding Plumbing Sobol, Donald J. 73
23 The Great Rabbit Robbery Hildick, Edmund Wallace 101
24 Encyclopedia Brown Carries on Sobol, Donald J. 72
25 Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes Doyle, Arthur Conan 95
26 A Bear Called Paddington Bond, Michael 128
27 Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective Sobol, Donald J. 75
28 Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch Sobol, Donald J. 96
29 Encyclopedia Brown Shows the Way Sobol, Donald J. 96
30 The Case of the Nervous Newsboy Hildick, Edmund Wallace 131
31 (Copy cannot be read)
32 Encyclopedia Brown Keeps the Peace Sobol, Donald J. 96
33 Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds Adler, David A. 58
34 The Mystery of the Dead Man's Riddle Arden, William 45
35 Pirate Island Adventure Parrish, Peggy 120

I clearly liked mystery, Encyclopedia Brown, McGurk, and The Three Investigators books appear in this list. The classics were the Great Illustrated Classics, so while the page count was almost always 238, about half of the pages were pictures.

12.15.2015

Toooooooooo Much TV

It is time to update all of my faithful readers (1–2 of you max) about what I have been watching on TV.We got a new mini-genie receiver for our DirecTV setup this fall. This is awesome in that it takes up less space, but it also doesn not have a built-in DVR. Because of this I have completely switched to watching TV shows via apps on Apple TV, namely Hulu, Netflix, FX/Now, HBOGo, and the Showtime app.
  • Ballers
  • Better Call Saul
  • Billions
  • Fargo
  • Game of Thrones
  • Girls
  • Gotham
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Homeland
  • House of Lies
  • Madame Secretary
  • Nashville
  • New Girl
  • Ray Donovan
  • Suits
  • The Americans
  • The Bridge 
  • The Good Wife
  • The Grinder
  • The League
  • True Detective
  • Turn: Washington's Spies

Here are some shows that I don't go out of my way to watch anymore, but once I have some down time (maybe never) I might start re-watching.
  • Arrow
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Black Mirror
  • The Blacklist
  • Criminal Minds
  • Elementary
  • Jessica Jones
  • Longmire
  • Luther 
  • Person of Interest
  • Rita

Shows I quit watching since my last post on this. Several of these have wrapped, were cancelled, or were mini-series. I also cut the cord on several shows this fall when I made the switch to the genie-lite, including, the Vampire Diaries, and The Originals—two shows I have watched for years.
  • Battle Creek (cancelled)
  • Bloodline (mini-series)
  • Dallas (new series; cancelled)
  • Daredevil (mini-series)
  • Gang Related (cancelled)
  • Graceland (quit watching)
  • Mad Men (wrapped)
  • Making a Murderer (mini-series)
  • Masters of Sex (quit watching)
  • Narcos (mini-series)
  • Rookie Blue (wrapped)
  • The Glades (wrapped)
  • The Jinx (mini-series)
  • The Killing (cancelled and wrapped)
  • The Originals (quit watching)
  • The Slap (BBC version; mini-series)
  • Tyrant (quit watching)
  • Vampire Diaries (quit watching)

11.18.2015

Ray Bradbury's Poem Inspired by the Exploration of Mars

In May of 1971, NASA launched Mariner 9 to take picture of the planet Mars. Just prior to Mariner 9 coming into Mars' orbit, Bruce Murray hosted a public lecture and discussion at Caltech that featured a panel of authors and scientists, including Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Carl Sagan, and Walter Sullivan. These lectures were later turned into a book of essays entitled "Mars and the Mind of Man".



Ray Bradbury's contribution to this panel was a short poem entitled "If Only We Had Taller Been". It is poignant and haunting, linking, as blogger Jurgen Wolff puts it, the dream of conquering space with that of immortality. The words of Bradbury's poem are printed below.

If Only We Had Taller Been

The fence we walked between the years
Did bounce us serene.
It was a place half in the sky where
In the green of leaf and promising of peach
We'd reach our hands to touch and almost touch the sky,
If we could reach and touch, we said,
'Twould teach us, not to ,never to, be dead.

We ached and almost touched that stuff;
Our reach was never quite enough.
If only we had taller been,
And touched God's cuff, His hem,
We would not have to  go with them
Who've gone before,
Who, short as us, stood tall as they could stand
And hoped by stretching, tall, that they might keep their land,
Their home, their hearth, their flesh and soul.
But they, like us, were standing in a hole.

O, Thomas, will a Race one day stand really tall
Across the Void, across the Universe and all?
And, measured out with rocket fire,
At last put Adam's finger forth
As on the Sistene Ceiling,
And God's hand come down the other way
To measure man and find him Good,
And Gift him with Forever's Day?
I work for that.

Short man, Large dream, I send my rockets forth
between my ears,
Hoping an inch of Good is worth a pound of years.
Aching to hear a voice cry back along the universal Mall:
We've reached Alpha Centauri!
We're tall, O God, we're tall!


Recently Brain Pickings posted a YouTube video of Bradbury reading the poem. Hearing it read by Bradbury is goosebump worthy.


Update

Last night I was listening to a podcast that was reviewing several papers and presentations from the 2015 IEEE conference on visualization, and one of the papers mentioned was related to examining the sonic topology of a poem. The authors have made their software, called Poemage, for this examination freely available. There is also a paper available here.

Anyhow, I decided to examine Bradbury's poem. Pretty pictures, although I don't know if I fully understand them. The colors have to do with the sounds, rhyming, etc. I may need to re-listen to see if the aural experience conforms to the model proposed below.