American Top 40

01/26/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: Music

Sometimes I worry that being at school, and not listening to the radio, I miss a lot of new music. So I went to checkout the top 40 today and surprise! Not a single song in the top 10 changed this week. Furthermore, only one new song was on the charts...at #40. Looks like the American music scene is in hibernation for the winter! Oh well, here's to waiting for the new Lifehouse CD.

Intelligent Geographic Transportation Networks

01/22/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: TTD AI

So for this post I had to create a whole new category of posts called TTD AI, in the future, the whole series can be found HERE. Anyways, this semester I am doing independent research with a friend on Intelligent Geographic Transportation Networks. At least that's the mouthful of jibber we can up with to describe this project. In reality, we are creating an AI (Artificial Intelligence) program for the game Transport Tycoon. Because I will be posting a lot this semester about my progress on the project, I wanted to give some background on what we hope to accomplish, what the game is about and why we chose it, and why any of this matters. More after the jump!

Full story »

Dollhouse

01/17/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: Movies, The World

Hopefully you enjoyed my ranting about airlines, however today I wish to enlighten you to an even more egregious travesty. One of the greatest cultural treasures our country has, has once again been snubbed by Fox. Of course at this point, you know that I'm talking about Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and more importantly Firefly and Dollhouse. While it's been known for quite some time that Dollhouse was canceled, it doesn't make the news any better.

Dollhouse was one of the few shows on TV that I found both interesting and morally significant. Which are especially important I discovered, after being subjected to watching the season premiere of Chuck last night. There are a couple areas of the show which I want to highlight.

The first area is the diversity of the show and the actors. For those of you who haven't seen it, the show is based on the premise that "dolls" (people essentially in indentured servitude) can be programmed with imprints, or unique personalities, at will. This means that every show the main characters who are dolls (Echo, Victor, and Sierra - Eliza Dushku, Enver Gjokaj, and Dichen Lachman respectively) have different personalities. The options range from a custom prostitute to specialized secret agent depending on the client. However, throughout the season I've been amazed by the ability of the actors to accurately portray the different personalities. Perhaps my favorite episode "The Left Arm", has one such character actually portraying another character from the show. Obviously the comedic value is there, but what's quite impressive is how accurate every detail and mannerism is.

As the season draws to a close, the "dolls" have been returned to their original personalities, at this point, it's just the actors portraying yet another personality, yet I can't help but feel like this is truly their original personality. Many critics of the show cite the lack of a consistent character to identify with as a potential roadblock to success. Yet the writers and actors have done a magnificent job of giving each doll a unique personality regardless of which imprint they have on a given day.

Hopefully that precious part made sense, but just in case, I'll to to recapture you by discussing the non-doll characters. Starting with my favorite, Topher played by Fran Kranz. The most important thing to note here is that he went to Yale and was in an improv group here. In fact, I met him last year at a reunion show. Having watched every episode, I can safely say that I think he is the best character (and perhaps most improved actor) on the show. He plays the head programmer who is responsible for creating the imprints they use, meaning he's essentially a neurological programmer. It's fairly clear on the show that he is both the comical character and also the moral character. This dualism creates some of the best tension of the show when Topher who is usually the jovial, aloof character has to face the reality of what the Dollhouse does and its ramifications (See "Belonging").

Of course, not everyone is Fran Kranz, and at this point in my three-paragraph essay, as my 7th grade English teacher would tell me, I must acknowledge the counter-arguments. Reed Diamond, who plays Mr. Dominic, is abominable. He is the definition of a flat actor. He is supposed to be the head security person who is undercover NSA, but I believe that about as much as I believe artificial sweeteners are safe. Even more unfortunately, he had to come back for an episode in season 2 (Plot complications). My rebuttal to his horrible acting? 1) He died. 2)Summer Glau and Alan Tudyk (who gives The Joker a run for his money).

Having successfully rebuked that minor detail, we can move on to the show as a whole. It is (was) the perfect time for this show. The premise is that these dollhouses are run by an incredibly large biotech firm, Rossum. The dollhouse (and the ability to imprint people) came out of their research in neuro-engineering and neuro-drugs. Naturally, it turns out the Dollhouse is actually a front for Rossum to amass more power through a variety of methods. Perhaps I'm paranoid, but after watching this show and reading Next by Michael Crichton, I hate Biotech companies. Regardless of that though, it's important to bring up these issues in our current environment as drug companies gain an absurd amount of power through absurd patents. The Rossum concept isn't that far off from a possible reality. So why did this great show end up canceled?

Well, the show struggled for two reasons. First, it's basically a science-fiction show that most people should be able to relate to. However, it seems like it would be very difficult to just join in the middle. If you didn't grasp the basic premise of imprinting the dolls, then the whole show doesn't make much sense. Second, Fox aired it Friday Night at 9 PM, which as I understand it is a death timeslot. I've actually never watched the show on Fox, since, being a college student, I have better places to be on Friday Nights.

It's really a shame it was canceled, I think if anything the show has only matured with time. The middle episodes (4-7) of the second season were especially excellent. However, I suppose all good things must end. Admittedly, the show has jumped the shark a bit. It seemed like they had to double the speed of their plot to get to the endgame in their remaining episodes. I don't want to give away the ending as I hope this post will encourage you to watch it, but when you watch the show you'll see a bit of what I mean.

In the end, perhaps 2 seasons is a good amount for a show with a limited plot such as dollhouse. I have confidence that Joss could have drawn out the show for much longer, and I would have loved every moment of it. It's such a shame that shows like Firefly and Dollhouse have to end when travesty's such as Chuck and Jersey Shore are still on. But hey, at least we got closure this time and if we can learn from previous experience, his next show will make it three seasons, and I simply can't wait for Dollhouse: The Movie.

Tags: dollhouse, fox, tv

Damn Delta!

01/11/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: The World

Ahh it's been a while hasn't it. Enjoy your break? I did! Well except for a few things which I'm fully prepared to rant and rave about. Guess what. They all involve Delta Airlines!

Gripe One: Supplies

So for some reason, I got stuck in the back of a flight on my way down to vacation with my family. We were about 3/4 of the way to the back of the plane. While the flight probably wasn't long enough to merit full meal service, it was about 5 hours right through lunch time, and a growing boy needs his food! Anyways, by the time the cart got all the way back to us, there was only a "Southwest" "Chicken" "Sandwich" left. I use quotes, not because I'm trying to be hip and using air quotes needlessly, but rather because I actually attempted to eat said sandwich and failed to find any trace of the three claims implied by the title. I think there was egg in it somewhere, or tofu...and sauce. I only ate half and rounded out my lunch with peanuts. (SIDEBAR: Why are peanuts back? There was a 4 year stint where I was forced to eat pretzel sticks...but now they are back? Was there a peanut famine?)

Appropriately, a letter was written and frequent flier points awarded. (I hope the people behind us got more, because I took the last sandwich from them!). To make matters worse, on the way back from this trip, they ran out of headphones. Of course, I have my own Sennheiser headphones which I LOVE, but still, to run out of headphones?

Point of the matter, most airlines are allowed to run these absurd gambling games which are a consumer double-whammy: 1) How far can we over-book the plane before people notice while at the same time 2) How low can we stock the plane such that 95% of the people get what they want. It's gone too far. Obama supposedly enacted some measure that compels airlines to feed you after you've been on the ground for 4 hours, which is a start. I simply don't understand how low-cost carriers (Southwest, Jet Blue, etc.) can charge FAR less while still not making such egregious errors. They are also the only two airlines which still don't charge for luggage. Are large-scale carriers networks so bad that they really cost that much more to operate? Where does the overhead come from?

Charge 2: Ninjas
So I'm hanging out in FNT, waiting to board my plane to come back out East when all of the sudden I find a gate check tag on my bag. What!? WTF! For reference, gate check tags are usually an issue on smaller planes such as SAAB and CRJs where overhead bins are smaller, so they take your bags at the gate and put it under the plane.

So I finally tracked down some gate agent who was surreptitiously putting tags on peoples bags and asked her why she gave me one and told her I didn't need it. She set down her Ninja tags and told me that my bag was too big to go over or under my seat. I let her know that I had stuffed my (albeit) huge backpack under the seats in a CRJ about 10 times without fail, but she insisted it was too big. So I walked out to the plane in shame. I tried to give it to the baggage handler, but she told me I could probably put it under my seat. So I did, and all was well.

Lesson: Look out for Gate Ninjas.

Charge pi: Drinks
This is more of a question than a charge, and really I just wanted a third item for my list, but what is the logic behind whether they give you a glass of apple juice or the whole can? From my observations there is 0 correlation...thoughts?

Well that concludes my little rant, hopefully everyone else had safe travels over break! Look for renewed posts in the future (perhaps). I'm hoping to work on an independent project this semester in Computer Science, so look for a bunch of posts about my experiences with that. Happy Shopping Period!

Finals and Oatmeal

12/03/09 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: College

So now that my week from hell is over, (as are two of my classes!), I thought I'd share some fun stuff from today. First, I awoke this morning to find a nice email from the police chief, who usually reports robbings and stabbing in my inbox. Naturally, I found this hilarious, but fake given the gmail address and link at the bottom (Which I scored 49 in btw).

Although I soon realized the threat was real, when I saw, with my own two eyes, a man clearly trying to protect his bananas and running in fear while being chased by a rather large escaped monkey and two researchers trying to recapture the monkey through Commons Dining Hall. The threat is real...maybe...

A Message to the Yale Community:

I write to inform you that five rhesus monkeys escaped from the neurochemical research laboratory of the Child Study Center (230 South Frontage Road) at 5:07am on Thursday, December 3, 2009. All members of the Yale community are urged to exercise caution in their movements about campus until the animals are recaptured. If you or anyone you know comes into contact with one of the monkeys, seek medical attention immediately. The animals are infected with the Motaba virus, a hemorrhagic fever native to central Africa; Yale-New Haven Hospital staff is ready to administer the E-1101 serum, but it must be administered within several hours of infection. Subjects escaped on S. Frontage towards Central Campus and were last seen near George and Church. If you have any information regarding this case or should witness suspicious activity, please report it immediately to the Yale Police at 203-432-1374.

Sincerely,
James A. Perrotti
Chief of Police

Yale University Official Message
NOTE: This official Yale University message can also be viewed at: https://light.its.yale.edu/messages/univmsgs/detail.asp?Msg=48459

Thankfully that link led me to a beautiful new fun site called theoatmeal.com, you should check it out. After figuring out how many monkeys I could take out, I clicked around and found some fun info here:
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/beer

Enjoy browsing around! Happy Finals Week / Reading week!

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A collection of musings from my time at Yale along with some thoughts about my "Freshman year of life" in San Francisco.

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