Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas in Canada

Merry Christmas everyone!

I mean, for a few more minutes. It's pretty much over at this point, but whatever. Happy New Year! Yeah, that works.

Anyhow, this is just an update about what I'm doing this Christmas. The past two years I've gotten to go on fantastic trips around the world to visit friends and family (and family of friends), but this year, I wanted to do Christmas at home, with my family. So, I'm back in Canada. Well, I've been in Canada for a couple of weeks and I'm actually about to leave again, but the point remains that I wanted to have Christmas at home with my family, which I have now successfully done.

Yes, rather than trot around the globe this year, I figured that I'd save some money and visit my family in Canada, and then my family in Indiana (which is next on the agenda). I haven't seen the Indiana folks in quite a while, so it seemed like now would be the perfect time for a visit.

I hope that next year I might be able to go on a short little trip to somewhere exciting and foreign, but for this year, it was nice to come back to the -30 degree Celsius temperatures and snow of my hometown, as well as to hang out with my entire family, some of whom I hadn't seen in a couple of years. Siblings need to visit more than that.

So, this Christmas has been good so far and I look forward to the rest of my break. Maybe I'll actually get around to posting another story in the new year before the break ends... but don't get your hopes up.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Space Debris: A Look at Gravity and Planetes

Alright, let me just get this out of the way, first off: Gravity is really, really good, and you should all go watch it. Right now, if possible. I don't usually recommend this, but if you can watch it in IMAX 3D, do it. The 3D is totally worth it, and I really wish that I could have seen it in IMAX. The screen at the theater where I watched it wasn't nearly large enough. Trust me, it will help with immersion, not distract you from the movie. As a side note, the final shot in the movie is one of my favourite shots of all time. Just the cinematography behind it, it's so packed with meaning and purpose... the way the camera is placed, the direction that it's facing; it was clearly well thought out, and I truly appreciated it.

Moving on, let's talk about the plot of Gravity (without any spoilers or anything). The entire time that I was watching the movie, I couldn't help but be reminded of an anime that I watched freshman year: Planetes. Also 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I haven't actually watched that movie so I feel like I shouldn't make that comparison. Nevertheless, it's a movie that uses its space setting to explore the human condition, so I feel like that counts for something.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Grace Hopper Celebration 2013: It's For Men Too

So, this past weekend I was up in Minneapolis, MN attending my very first professional conference: The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2013. Yes, yes, I know I'm not a woman. It's the celebration of women in computing, not for women in computing. It's totally ok for men to attend.

Nevertheless, I was definitely in the minority. Being a tall, blond haired, blue eyed, Caucasian male made me stand out from the crowd, that's for sure. And you know what? That's not a bad thing. It made me memorable to everyone else attending. I met several people over the course of the conference that recognized me later and came over to say hello, which was very nice because I didn't know anyone there. I came up from school by myself to present at the poster session as part of a group that had never met before, so I felt a little lonely. Not knowing anyone in a crowd of 4,807 can kind of get you down. So whenever someone that I had met previously saw me again and said hi, it picked my spirits up.

Monday, 16 September 2013

5 Dragons Again

So, this past weekend there was another showing of The 5 Dragon Daughter, that amazing stage show that I first saw almost two years ago now. I just figured that I'd take this opportunity to remind people of its existence, and reiterate how amazing it is. Because, even after experiencing it a second time, it is still the best piece of media that I have ever seen. I say "piece of media" because it isn't a play, it isn't a concert, and it isn't a motion comic, but it does combine elements from all of these forms of media to create something amazing. Check out a trailer here.

I don't really have all that much to add to my previous write-up, except for the fact that it stands the test of time. There is definite re-watch value here. If they're showing it again in the spring, I'd go then too.

Friday, 9 August 2013

World of Girls und Panzer

So this isn't exactly breaking news any more, but it's still recent., the company behind the free-to-play pc game World of Tanks just announced that it will be launching in Japan this fall on September 5th. In order to help make the launch successful, they will be doing a collaboration with the recent anime Girls und Panzer. The details of the collaboration have not yet been announced.

Let me start off by saying... You have no idea how excited I am! I watched the Girls und Panzer anime back in the spring, and it was amazing! Actually, that show is the reason that I started to play World of Tanks. I was watching one of my friends play the game, and it looked like a lot of fun. Then he said "It's basically Girls und Panzer the game," and I knew I had to try it. I just have my four year old laptop, so I tend not to play pc games because it usually starts crying when I try to run them (i.e. over half of the time I played Batman: Arkham Asylum it was running at about 5 frames per second). But this game looked worth the risk, and it was free, so I figured, why not?

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Travel Map

Alright, this is just a short little post to let people know about the new page that I've put up. On the right hand side of the screen, there's a new link under the Pages section called "Map of Places Visited." If you click on the link, it'll take you to a static page with... well, a map of the places that I've visited over the years.

This is actually an idea that I've had kicking around for quite a while now. I've wanted to have an interactive map with all of the locations around the world that I've been to marked on it, but making a map yourself is simply impractical. So, I've picked up a Google Maps API key, and I'm using their maps to mark my travels. The map is zoom-able, drag-able, and click-able. Currently it's all done with in-line JavaScript, which I would prefer not to have to use, but using Blogger and its templates makes things a little complicated, so I'm just dealing with it for now.

Right now, all I have marked are the different airports that I've been to. I think it's all of them. I marked an airport whether or not I exited it, so I haven't necessarily been to all of the countries that have a marker in them (although right now, Germany is the only country that I haven't been outside of the airport).

So, expect the page to change greatly over the next few months as I get around to updating it with more information and figure out better ways of inputting and displaying the data. I've got some other ideas for map types, so we'll see if I ever get to them.

On a related note, there's also a new link on the side to my Anime-Planet profile, in case you want to check out what anime series I have watched and what my general opinions of them were. I try to keep it up to date within a few hours of watching a show, so it should have recent data on it all the time. If you want to know exactly how much of my life I've wasted on this pastime, now you can know. Apparently I just passed the 150 series milestone today, so I guess that's an achievement.

I've got a whole list of article ideas kicking around now, so I'll try to put out a couple more before school starts up again and I get too busy to update this as frequently. Check back soon-ish for more.

p.s. 41 posts!

Sunday, 28 July 2013


Wow. So, apparently Time has ended.

It's been a wild ride for a really long time, but I guess it had to end sometime.

No, I'm not referring to Doctor Who (although I do see the confusion). I'm referring instead to XKCD comic number 1190, titled Time. If you haven't heard of it, here's just a brief rundown of what it is, and why you should care.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Simulcast vs. Bingeing: One Year Later

I just realized that it was one year ago that I started experimenting with watching anime simulcasts, so I figured that this was a pretty good time to look back and reflect on the different ways of watching. At this point, I've watched a fair amount of anime, so I think I should be able to get a fair handle on the issue.

Fundamentally, there are two ways that you can watch new shows: you can either watch new episodes week-to-week as they come out, called watching a simulcast; or you can wait for the show to end and watch it all in a couple of days (or even in one sitting), called bingeing. Well, I suppose that you could wait for a show to finish and then watch it very slowly, but where's the fun in that?

Thursday, 18 July 2013

My First Con: RWBY at RTX

Well, now that RWBY has been premiered, I think that it's about time for me to write up my time at RTX. By which I mean that I should have done this sooner, but I'm only getting around to it now so that I don't fall too far behind current. For those of you who don't know, RTX stands for "Rooster Teeth Expo." Not that it's any clearer what that means if you haven't heard of Rooster Teeth...

Rooster Teeth is an production company that makes TV series for the internet. Their most famous series (and the one that started them off) is Red vs. Blue, a machinima (which means that it is filmed in a video game, specifically Halo). Red vs. Blue has actually just started its 11th season, which is pretty impressive for something made on the internet. Other series of theirs include P.A.N.I.C.S., Immersion, and now RWBY. Rooster Teeth is also the parent company of Achievement Hunter, one of the most popular video game community websites on the internet.

For the past three years, Rooster Teeth has held the RTX convention in their hometown of Austin, TX. Three years isn't very long for a convention to have been around, but this past year, there were over 10,000 people that attended. It's pretty nuts. They had major game publishers there, as well as famous voice actors and lots of panels from industry professionals. This year they also premiered the first two episodes of RWBY.

Friday, 12 July 2013


Alright, I said that I was going to write up my experience with random internet houses in an article of its own, so here I am. I think this is the first time that I've actually followed up on something that I said that I'd write later. Huh.

Anyhow, for those of you who don't know, I recently had to find a place to stay overnight in Austin, and hotels are expensive. I was reading Gizmodo one day, and this article came up on my feed. It talks about how much cheaper it is to use the startup airbnb than it is to stay in a hotel. I decided to check it out, and managed to find a listing for $40/night. Compare that to the $80+ for a hotel (that doesn't even have a shuttle to the airport). Naturally, I was intrigued, but didn't bite immediately. I don't trust the internet very much at all, and this whole "stay in a stranger's spare room" thing seemed kind of sketchy to me.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

ICPC St. Petersburg 2013: Day Four

This is Day 4 in a series. You might want to check out the previous day, or start at the beginning.

You may be wondering "why are you writing a blog post at 1:30am? Isn't that really early? Go to sleep!" Well, you see, I have to wake up at 2:00am for the bus to the airport to catch my flight, so... why go to sleep at all? Plus, I want to get this blog done before I go.

So, breakfast as usual, then off to the actual competition. I'm not sure why we had to have breakfast at 6:30 when we stood around in the lobby of the arena for an hour waiting for them to let us in, and then had to kill half an hour waiting for them to let us onto the competition floor, but such is life I suppose. We finally got to go to our workstations, and then had to wait another 20 minutes while they explained the rules and settings that they explained to us yesterday in the exact same way. But I guess reinforcement is good, especially if English is not your native tongue.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

ICPC St. Petersburg 2013: Day Three

This is Day 3 in a series. You might want to check out the previous day, or start at the beginning.

6:30am breakfast is not what I wanted to hear, but it happened. Breakfast was in the hotel again, and immediately afterwards, it was off to the buses to go to the arena for the Dress Rehearsal. I say arena because it is being held in a hockey arena on the main floor. There are sheets dropped from the ceiling, and tables set up everywhere. 120 teams takes up a lot of space.

The reason that we have a dress rehearsal is not for the contestants primarily. Mostly, it is so we can test the system that they have set up for the contest, to make sure that everything is working, and that everyone knows how to use it properly: how to submit problems, how to find documentation, how to print, etc. When we got there, we were in the waiting area off to the side. For some reason (I think they were just stalling for time), they allowed teams to come up and get their picture taken with the cup. I'm not sure why you would if you didn't win it, but hey. There were a lot of people who wanted to, so I guess it makes sense.

ICPC St. Petersburg 2013: Day Two

This is Day 2 in a series. You might want to check out the previous day to start at the beginning.

The day started off in a fairly ordinary way (although I had to wake up earlier than I would have liked to for 7:30 breakfast). The hotel has a restaurant on the first floor, and we were given hot breakfast with all sorts of foods. There were pancakes, cheese pancakes (I didn't really like them very much), bacon, sausage, various pastries, cottage cheese, yogurt (with flavours such as prune), watermelon (which is yellow, not red), and a whole bunch of other stuff. It looks similar to an American selection, but there was just some stuff that was slightly different that would make you realize that you weren't in Kansas anymore. Not that I was in Kansas (my other teammates were though), but that's not the point.

When we finished with breakfast, it was time to head over to the Manége for the IBM TechTrek (a series of talks). The Manége is the building that used to be the stables for the King-Czar-Emperor-Ruler guy, but it has since been converted into an event center. The TechTrek presentations were given by two big names from IBM: Bjarne Stroustrup (who you may know as the inventor of the C++ programming language), and Jeff Jones, the man who wrote security programs for banks, voter registration, and casinos (who you may know as the man who wrote the software that caught the MIT card counters in the true story that the movie 21 was based off of). Suffice it to say, it was a fascinating morning.

Monday, 1 July 2013

ICPC St. Petersburg 2013: Day One

So, I'm in Russia right now. Crazy to think about, but true. Cyrillic characters are everywhere, and everyone you pass on the streets is speaking Russian. Crazy.

The reason that I'm here is to compete in the 2013 International Collegiate Programming Competition (ICPC). It's part of ACM (the international computer society) and is sponsored by IBM, who are paying all of the expenses for us over here. They've put us up in hotels, and they pay for all of our meals every day, and they're even paying for visiting some attractions, like the Hermitage and Saint Peter and Saint Paul's Fortress. The prize for this competition (aside from money) is a guaranteed job offer from IBM, for the top four teams. Pretty cool stuff.

The reason that I'm here is because back in September, the team that I'm on won our regional competition, which gives you a spot in the World Finals. Our region is small, with only about 60 teams in it. But there are just shy of 10,000 teams worldwide, of which only 120 get to come to the World Finals. Needless to say, I feel pretty privileged right now.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Choose Wisely

An Analysis of Choice Mechanics in Video Games

This topic is one that I got the idea for from an episode or two of Extra Credits. Specifically from episodes 1 and 2 from Season 5 and episodes 4, 5, and 6 from Season 6. I love their work, and you should go check them out at their YouTube page.

Seriously, go check out their stuff.
But really. Do it.
I'm going to be looking at the way choice is handled in video games through the lens of two games that I think are some of the best examples of it, while they still handle it very differently from each other. These games are The Walking Dead and Spec Ops: The Line, the games that are easily at the top of my list for the best game of last year. As we're discussing the central mechanics of these games, be aware that some minor spoilers will be unavoidable from this point on. However, I'll do what I can to keep the major plot points out of this.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Spring Break Anime: Science Fiction

This is Day 5 in a series. You might want to checkout the previous day, or start at the introduction.

Alright, so after finishing this show, I decided that it really required a full essay to be written about it. It was so complex and deep, and such layered story that can only be described as an epic, that it needed to be given special treatment. It is absolutely steeped in themes and meaning, so I figured that I'd try and write a thematic analysis essay, something that I haven't done since Grade 11 English class, for the book Who Has Seen the Wind?, so we'll see how this went. I've been writing it on and off for several months, with the finishing touches written in the van on the way up here, so it may seem a little disjointed at times. Please bear with me on this. Without further ado, I give you my MLA formatted essay!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Spring Break Anime: Existential

This is Day 4 in a series. You might want to checkout the previous day, or start at the introduction.


What does it mean to be human? I love it when shows ask that question, especially in connection with technology. It probably has something to do with the whole being-a-computer-science-major thing. It's a question asked by many different TV shows and movies. The Matrix looks at what reality is, while Ghost in the Shell examines what separates man from machine. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is one of my top anime because it is so thoughtful. It raises real philosophical questions about life and tries to engage its viewer to consider them. The other day, I was feeling like watching a philosophical show like that, and I stumbled onto Serial Experiments Lain. It's an older show, but it had some pretty good recommendations, so I figured that I'd check it out.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Spring Break Anime: Action

This is Day 3 in a series. You might want to checkout the previous day, or start at the introduction.


Alright, this is one that I didn't really want to review, but I feel so strongly about it that I have no choice. The most popular show of the past year was probably Sword Art Online, with everyone and their uncle talking about it. It was a very polarizing show as well. If you go to the Anime News Network website, you can see that it is #16 in the "Most Diverging Opinions" category, even with more than twice the number of votes for its score than anything else in the top 50, and well over 10 times the votes of almost all of the rest of the top 50. There's a really simple explanation for why opinions are so spread out: the show started out amazing, and ended horribly, on several different levels.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Spring Break Anime: Folklore Anthology

This is Day 2 in a series. You might want to checkout the previous day, or start at the introduction.


If you've ever talked with me about TV shows, you'd know that I really don't watch procedural shows; I tend to spend all of my time watching serial shows. If you don't know the difference, procedural shows are shows like CSI or Seinfeld where nothing really changes from week to week. Something may change over the course of a season or two, but the viewer can usually skip an episode or twelve without missing anything at all. Sitcoms and crime dramas tend to be procedural, so I tend not to watch them. Serial shows, on the other hand, are shows where there is an overarching storyline that persists from week to week with new developments each episode. Examples of these would be Lost or Heroes.

It's probably because I put too much of an emphasis on story in media, but I can't stay interested in a procedural show. If there is nothing that reoccurs each week, I can't be bothered to tune in again. Which is why it's strange that I love Mushi-shi so much. Mushi-shi is an anthology, which is a step even further abstracted from procedural shows. Not only do the episodes not have any connection besides the same main character, but they are so unrelated they could be shown in any order and still make the same amount of sense. There is no over-story, no mystery to solve. It's simply the adventures of a man from week to week. It's not entirely fair to say that the show has no main story, but the story is only brought up twice. It's the mystery of where the main character came from, so nothing earth shaking, but it is fascinating.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Spring Break Anime: Slice of Life

This is Day 1 in a series. You might want to start at the introduction.


Let me start off by explaining what the Slice of Life genre is for those of you who are unfamiliar with it. Basically, it is when a show takes a cross-section of a character's life, and that is its entire purpose. There is no quest to save the world; no ultimate battle between good and evil; no grand mystery to solve. Some of those elements may be present in some form or another, but they are not the focus of the show. The Slice of Life genre exists simply to let us see the ordinary life of its characters.

Most shows in this genre end up being teen romances set in high school (Clannad, Toradora, etc.), but there are almost as many that aren't romances at all (K-On!Tari Tari, etc.). Because of the audience they are targeting, they do tend to be almost exclusively set in high school though. The two shows covered below aren't your typical Slice of Life shows though. They're very different from each other, but they're both examples of one of the things that I like the most about anime: whoever made them had guts.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Spring Break 2013: Anime

Last Spring Break, I decided to do some writing and give my personal top 10 list of video games from the year before. This year, I can't really do that, because I haven't played all that many new games. If you really want to know, I would probably choose The Walking Dead, Journey, Spec Ops: The Line, and a couple of others as my best games from last year, but I haven't even played Journey or Spec Ops yet, so who knows. (Actually, now I have played some of them, and I've written up an analysis of both The Walking Dead and Spec Ops: The Line.)

No, this year I figured that I'd tackle a different form of geeky media: anime. I watch a fair amount of anime in my spare time, and I've covered several shows in the past year. Actually, that's one of the reasons I love the anime genre so much: the shows are usually short. They're planned to run for only a season (13 episodes) or two, and then they wrap up nicely. An entire story, planned from start to end, can be started and finished within a week! Of course, there are some like Naruto or One Piece that never end, but that's a whole different animal.

So, over the course of this week, I will be posting my thoughts on different anime that I have watched this year. I'm also going to try and talk about the less watched, more interesting shows that I've seen, so not Gintama or Steins;Gate or the like. These won't all be shows that I would recommend or would watch again, but they all are interesting, I can guarantee that.

Right, so, starting tomorrow, one post per day for five days. I did it last year, so I can do it again, right?

p.s. Watch Steins;Gate. Please.

Full Series

Intro: Anime
Day 3Action
Day 4Existential

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Christmas in Kenya: Days 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25

This is Part 5 in a series. You might want to checkout the previous post, or start at the beginning.

The Gate of Hell and School

We decided to go to Hell's Gate with Roswell's family. We would leave before them to eat lunch there, and they would meet us later at the picnic area. To get there from RVA, we had to descend into the valley. There are technically 5 ways down, but two are really far away and one is prone to carjackings, which only leaves two. The way that we chose to go down is the better road of the two when it's dry, but it had been raining the night before, so large sections of the road were now simply mud. Really thick, slippery mud, at that. There were times where we were going downhill with our nose pointed 30 degrees from the direction we were moving (I'd use radians but most other people don't like them). Surprisingly, it felt quite a bit like driving on a really icy road. Dagger's dad did a great job keeping us on the road, and there was never a time where I felt unsafe. Actually, most of the time it was just fun.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Christmas in Kenya: Days 15, 16, 17, and 18

This is Part 4 in a series. You might want to checkout the previous post, or start at the beginning.

Masai Market

Masai Market is a sight to behold. I mean, it is an experience, that's for sure. We woke up fairly early that morning to drive into Nairobi to get to the market. It's kind of on the outskirts of town, near the embassy district. The shopping center itself is actually very well off, with all sorts of shops and stores for the more wealthy citizens. It looks very much like a traditional Western mall. However, under a tarp roof, just outside one of the exits from the mall, there is a place set up for vendors. I think that it's close to the size of a hockey rink. There are hundreds of vendors set up in rows very close to each other all throughout this space, trying to sell their carvings, or their beads, or their shirts, or whatever else you are looking for. There are multiple vendors with the exact same items, so you can look at multiple options. Apparently it was not a crowded day, but it seemed packet to me.