# Alternate Names For TV Shows

Earlier this afternoon I mentioned to my partner that we should watch an episode of The Adventure of WASP Girl in the Land of Systemically Biased Sampled Population. Which was of course, Orange is the New Black. She got what show that was immediately though, but I don’t think most people would get it. I then recalled a time when my housemate couldn’t find House of Cards on my home media server because I had named the folder “Derps of Capitol Hill”.

So here’s a list of funny names for TV shows I had over the years:

Show Name Nickname
Arrow drop :: Int -> [a] -> [a]
Arrow Woe is Laurel
Castle Beckett, Beckett, Beckett
Castle Caskett
Hannibal Best Cooking Show on TV
House of Cards Derps of Capitol Hill
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD Agents of Nothing
Orange is the New Black The Adventures of WASP Girl in the Land of Systemically Biased Sampled Population
Person of Interest Adventures of Batman and Brother Eye in a Post-Snowden World
Young Justice Not The Teen Titans

# The Nanjing Taxi

I recently visited China (my writeup was in three parts: Part I, Part II, Part III). An incident of particular note was in a taxi in Nanjing. Picture this: The driver is on the left side of the vehicle. On left edge of the windshield, a Samsung Galaxy Note sits on windscreen mount, connected to the cigar lighter on his right. The cigarette lighter also powers another smaller feature phone which sits on top of his dashboard. Next to the air conditioner vent of the front panel, a walkie talkie sits on its cradle.

We were on a fairly long journey (about 20km ish), and the driver was talking to us, trying to upsell us his services for the whole day. We talked about the local sights, the museums and what nots. Then CRRSSSHHH, an incoming message from the walkie talkie – it was something traffic related. The driver pressed the transmit button on the walkie-talkie, acknowledging the message. Then came a different TCHSSHH sound. A woman’s voice came into hearing. She asked about lunch. The driver leaned forwards, picked up the feature phone, and pressed a button and talked into it, explaining that he was with passengers and his general direction. Upon finishing that conversation, he continued our conversation, picking up from where he left off.

This continued to happen throughout the journey – the driver would be switching between different modes of verbal communications – real life, push to talk, walkie talkie and even his mobile phone. The driver was dealing with 4 different networks at the same time (walkie talkie – some kind of trunked system, since most of it were traffic related; the push-to-talk feature phone – which I assume to be some kind of PTT powered by cellular tech; mobile phone – full duplex radio; and talking with the passengers of the car). That sparked an idea.

Here’s a bit more background. I had developed an interest in trunked radio networks and half-duplex communications when my way-more-accomplished-than-me partner was working as an E&E engineer for the telecomms industry[1]. So I had some good ideas on how CB and trunk radio networks worked.

At the same time I was having a bit of trouble with the VPN the previous night. The solution was simple – I ended up rolling my own VPN on AWS, swapping elastic IPs for the EC2 instance every few hours and updating encryption key everyday. In short, it was a mess.

So the idea was born: what if you could have an ad-hoc (read: P2P) chat network that was private (read: encrypted), and you could juggle different networks at the same time? After a few rounds of refinement of the idea, I started working on the prototype application that night.

1. [1] I think she’s more accomplished than I am, given that she’s now working for a certain search engine company while I have tried and failed at least 5 times with that same company, twice within the last 7 months

# The Long Term Plan

“Bugger that plan,” Escher spat into the ground. He looked at his troops, positioned around him in a circle.

“Have heart, grandfather. The long term plan, remember?” Escher the third looked up at his grandfather.

Overhead, clear liquid from the chemical weapons used by the enemy rained down in large droplets, threatening to dissolve any organic matter that it came into contact with. Already, a pool of the corrosive liquid is gathering and slowly but surely making its way to the group sitting under the boulder.

“How! How did it come to this! We lost millions of troops just today alone!” Feeling very distraught, Escher sank to the ground. His son and grandson went up to him.

“We knew this would happen. We prepared for this. Get up – father – you gotta lead us” Escher Junior pleaded.

“You know I’m not your father. You’re clones. We’re all clones. We’re nothing but clones. You may have came from me, but we’re all still clones!” Escher’s voice cracked. He was close to giving up the battle.

“Get up! This was planned! We expected this!”. The troops separately called for their leader to regain some confidence.

“No, we never planned for our food source to retaliate! We aped what the Dictyos did, and we went too far! This war has been going on for far too long!”

“Notify the Network, son. I don’t think father is a good leader anymore. We need to take action” Escher Junior gave his son an instruction.

Escher the third separated a small distance away from the group and calmed himself down. Concentrating, Escher sensed a pulse of energy surge from within him and dissipated outwards. Almost immediately, the rest of the group felt the surge of energy. In return, each member of the group surged some amount of energy from within themselves, forming a feedback loop of energies emitted outwards. Reluctantly, even Escher re-transmitted the energy. It would be difficult to overcome aeons of evolution and bioengineering.

This wave of energy would pulsate outwards, and every living creature would feel and react to it. But it’s only the Co-Ly who can interpret this wave as a message. It reads:

Squad leader lost motivation. Under heavy fire. Request instruction.

A few seconds later, Escher the third received his reply from the Network. Every member of the Co-Ly had received the message and have voted accordingly. Despite the increased chatter on the Network of late, the results were clear and the instructions directed to him. The Network had voted. He was the Chosen.

Upon receiving the message from the Network, Trey braced himself. The pain would come. He knew. He had experienced it before. But the sacrifice was necessary, for the survival of the Colony.

Just as the thought emanated from within him, so too did vibrations from the machines deep within Trey. He could feel the wire-like device within him unravel as his midsection bloated outwards. He could feel his body generating and consuming more energy as more skin cells were rapidly forming around the distended midsection.

Soon enough Trey had all but doubled in size lengthwise. It was as if there were two of him stuck together. Then came the split. With a sudden crack and a flash of pain, Trey was back to normal, save for an unsightly scar down his entire body. The new entity flopped around the ground for a bit and then stood up.

“Father”

“Welcome to the world, Escher the Fourth. We’ve got business to do”, Trey said.

“It’s no use! You’ll all end up like me” sneered Escher.

“Let’s face it. Our torus-shaped food source plan was a bust. It may have been a good idea a few years ago to breed something larger and more complex than ourselves as a food source and live on top of them. You all remember that don’t you? We agreed to this – the Network agreed to this plan.”

One by one, the group stirred. They had all received new instructions from the Network. Only Escher is ignoring the message.

“Now they are superior. All we have is our sheer numbers and cloning ability. But their genetic variety turns out to have provided them an advantage. We thought wrong. This wasn’t supposed to happen. They weren’t supposed to develop weapons. Let’s face it, men, we have lost this war.”

Almost no one heard his ramblings. The rest of the troops were preparing to follow their new leader, his son, as voted by the Network.

“OK men. Let’s prepare to move out from underneath this cowardly boulder. We’ll leave this old rambly here.” Escher Junior turned to his father. “Whether you survive is up to you, but we’re moving out,” he spat.

“You have my memories – ” Escher interjected, then looked at the rest of the troops. “You ALL have my memories. So you know this war cannot be won this way. We need a new way”

“Move out!” came the order from Escher Junior. In an orderly fashion, the troops moved out from under the shelter of the boulder.

Presently, a large droplet of clear liquid containing the chemical weapon fell onto the troop, Trey included. He immediately felt the pain – his skin was torn apart by the chemical weapon, its ionizing capabilities led to multiple perforations on Trey’s skin. The perforations caused an imbalance of pressure, and his innards exploded outwards, right into his father’s horrified face.

Very soon too, Escher Junior succumbed to the same fate. So did Escher the Fourth, and the rest of the troops who stood exposed. All this happened within view of Escher. The troops he once led, wiped out by one single use of a chemical weapon. And here he was, sheltered by a natural formation of the landscape.

“Oh well, I guess it’s time to go,” Escher muttered to himself, all alone, as he watched the pool of liquid roll towards him. He resigned to his fate.

***

The woman had just sprayed Lysol on her countertop. She looked at the bottle. “99% bacteria eliminated,” she thought. “I wonder if it does wipe out E.Coli,” she mused as she gave the countertop a wipe down. The thought left her mind as instantaneously as it had entered her mind as she went on with her day.

# A Fantastic Account of Wanting To Change The World Through Literary Devices

Ellen McGuffin heaved a heavy sigh as she uncoupled the device from the battery and pocketed it in her lab coat. Wear a lab coat, it’ll make you look more professional and more people will buy into your story, she was told.

Fat lot of help that did, she thought to herself as she walked towards the exit of the garage. She turned her head to give the car one last look, switched off the lights and left the garage for the last time. It was a lovely evening – one worthy of stopping and taking in the sight. Ellen didn’t do that. Her mind was far too clouded by the incidents today. This was her sixteenth time in her attempt to raise funds for her invention, nay her sixteenth failure. She had succeded in closing a seed round a year ago, but tomorrow the burn chart comes to an end. There would be no more future for the device.
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# China Retrospective 2014

TL;DR and Meta – I visited China for the first time. I enjoyed it very much. These are elaborated from notes I took while in China. This is part 3 of a 3 part series on China, concerning impressions about China as a whole. Part 1 concerns my week in Beijing. Part 2 concerns smaller visits to various parts of China.

So, I visited China for the very first time – in essence, looking at my cultural roots. Along the way I have gained some impressions about China, as well as new views on old topics. This blog post summarizes my impressions of my first trip to China.

# The Ancient Great Capitals of China + Hangzhou Retrospective 2014

TL;DR and Meta – I visited China for the first time. I enjoyed it very much. These are elaborated from notes I took while in China. This is part 2 of a 3 part series on China, concerning my explorations to other parts of China. Part 1 concerns my week in Beijing. Part 3 concerns my impressions of China as a whole

My travels to China also accidentally brought me to all of the four ancient great capitals of China – Beijing, Luoyang, Xi’an, and Nanjing. I had spent a lot more time in Beijing, hence the separate post. I didn’t spend as much time as I would have wanted to in the other ancient great capitals of China, but I had still taken some photos and notes.

# Beijing Retrospective 2014

TL;DR and Meta – I visited China for the first time. I enjoyed it very much. These are elaborated from notes I took while in China. This is part 1 of a 3 part series on China, concerning my week in Beijing. Part 2 concerns smaller visits to various parts of China. Part 3 concerns my impressions of China as a whole

It was a hot and sweaty night in the Nanjing airport. Cigarette smoke wafted across the waiting area in slow curls. Overhead, announcements were made that due to weather conditions, some flights were being cancelled. I waited, sweating, fervently hoping that my connecting flight to Beijing wouldn’t be cancelled. To much of my relief, it wasn’t cancelled, only delayed. I soon boarded my flight and arrived in Beijing, feeling very tired and worn out.

Exiting the airport, my travelling companions and I took a taxi to the hutong (胡同) where our boutique hotel was situated. To our dismay, the taxi driver simply dropped us off at the junction between the road and the hutong. His taxi couldn’t enter the small alley that is the hutong. At 1.30 a.m, we trudged into a dark alley, not even knowing where the hotel is – it was about 600m into the hutong. I was getting quite cranky at that point and my impression of China wasn’t very good at that point.

The next morning however, marked the beginning of a change of impression, of both Beijing and China on a whole. The booking of the boutique hotel was a good choice. In the light of day, I got to know the location, and it was impressive. The hotel is a siheyuan (四合院). The receptionist later intimated to me that it was built in the late Qing dynasty, making it about 140-170 years old. It was small (I would visit much larger siheyuans later), but surely impressive. It was quite interesting to think about how a family would live in a building with such architecture and how the architecture of such buildings dictate social convention and dynamics in a family. Continue reading

# Two Ways of Thinking

I went to a shopping mall today and I noticed they had installed a new feature in the parking lot[1] – it’s one of those things that told you whether a lot was taken. If a lot was taken, a red light will shine, and a green light will shine if a lot isn’t occupied. I’ve seen a lot of those in parking lots, but this one actually interested me. Here’s how it looks like:

It’s a potato quality photo, but I think it shows how it works quite well. The system used is the ParkAssist M3. A camera is trained onto a parking lot. If there is a car with a licence plate in the lot, the system will know that the lot is taken, and display a red light. There are two cameras, so one light represents two spots.

As I walked past it, I had a hunch on how it worked – it uses computer vision, and one thought led to another, and I soon began to think about the two major ways of thinking about products. Well, technically there are three. If you were to give an assignment to any random guy off the street to design a parking lot monitoring system, there would be one of three broad response types: give up, innovation or invention. I’m not going to even deign discussing giving up.

This line of thought was quite influenced by a talk by Alan Kay I watched earlier this week:

After our shopping, I pointed out the cameras to my partner, who immediately asked “are those cameras?”, followed by “but that’s so wasteful!”. That was her inner electronics engineer speaking. Both she and I knew that there were cheaper, and probably more efficient methods of designing parking lot indicator solutions. She also highlighted her way of thinking: The innovator.
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1. [1] They had actually installed it at the end of last year, but I never bothered to notice how exactly it worked till now

# Eyetracking Jetpack Joyride, Smash Hit and Dungeon Keeper

TL;DR – I got a little upset that I didn’t get any jobs I wanted, so I decided to learn how to write an Android app to relax instead. The result is eyemap.io – Gaze Analytics For the Rest Of Us. The rest of the blog post chronicles how I got to that point.

The week before last was a terrible week for me. It was one week after I had published my books. I was looking to take some time off from updating the books. After about 6 months being self-employed, doing the things I love to do, I felt it was time for me to return to the workforce. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to be self employed and get a steady paycheck. So I started looking for jobs.

All was well. I had applied to a number of jobs that I was interested in. By the end of the week however, I had nothing – nobody called back. Naturally, coming off the high of having just published a couple of books, it was crushing.

Remember a few months ago, I was mulling over acquiring a tablet? Out of sheer coincidence, I came into posession of a Nexus 10 a few days after I blogged that entry. It’s an older model, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Despite coming to possession of the tablet, I never really used it.

Anyway, back to the week before last. Combined with the fact that I got rejected for those jobs that I wanted plus a few more not so nice news, I was feeling pretty shitty about myself. So on Friday evening, I altered my state of mind chemically to relax a little.

After some drinks, I took out my tablet and fiddled with it while relaxing with pineapples. I decided to download my favourite game on tablets since 2011 – Jetpack Joyride. Now, when your brain is under the influence, time seems to slow down – your body appears to lag. Specifically my eyeballs felt like they were lagging. I kept looking at the right of the screen, and I could feel my eyes darting to look at the right and back to Barry on a very regular basis.

This led me to ask a question: what does Jetpack Joyride look like when one’s eyes are tracked? What would a heatmap look like? Clearly there are eye tracking devices out there like the EyeTribe or Tobii which is fantastic. But I didn’t have access to any of those. The front-facing camera of my tablet appeared to frown at me. Then it hit me: why not use it to do eye tracking?

So I dragged myself to the computer, and started learning how to write Android apps. To their credit, the Android developer page is absolutely easy to use – if an intoxicated person can read and create an app in about an hour, you know it’s bloody good documentation. I didn’t get far, except to capture videos and detect my face, which is easy stuff anyone can do. I went to bed.
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