Aug 062009

Been a while since my last post.  Since then, a ton of stuff has happened.

  • We fully moved-in to our house (though we’re still only about 25% unpacked).
  • We set a date for the wedding (8/7) and have picked a location for the reception, which may double as the wedding site too.
  • We selected/customized Cody’s engagement ring and matching wedding band
  • My company laid off about 25% of its work force (a layoff I rather miraculously was not a part of).
  • The Vampire game has resumed.

I’m probably forgetting a few things, but those are the big highlights.

One of the reasons I haven’t posted often of late is that it seems a bit of a chore to go to the blog page, log in, write up a post, etc, etc. I’ve recently implemented an easier method of posting that I think should make posting a more frequent occurrence. I’ve also got to get over my internal reluctance to post a battery of short posts as I think of things to say. If Twitter has proven anything, it’s that people enjoy hearing about the exploits of others in short bites. I don’t think I’ll ever hop on the Twitter bandwagon, though (famous last words…).

I finally got LaTeX-style rendering working on my wikis. It’s not that this is particularly difficult to do, but rather I had never had a server setup that would allow me to make the necessary changes to support it before. The particular implementation I’m using right now is MimeTeX. I had to do some custom hackery to make it work (specifically, my server did not seem content to create image links with some of the formatting required by TeX, so I wrote a PHP “middleman” that stands between the MediaWiki math engine and the MimeTeX CGI to properly handle formatting), but it’s great fun.

The major motivating factor in getting the TeX support to work is that I wanted to explore the idea of “damage potential” in EVE Online. Because of the way damage works in EVE, specifically with turrets, a given ship using a given type of gun is going to do the most damage at close range, and then see that damage falloff gradually as the target gets farther and farther away. This isn’t accounting for aspects of the target, which also play a role. The formula for this falloff is known and can be calculated, but I wanted to see how different ships stacked up to one another when they were compared.

I decided that the best way to do this would be to integrate the falloff curve (i.e. find the area bound by the DPS graph for the ship). Of course, this led to about 15 hours of wrestling with a truly atrocious integral. After consulting with Wolfram’s online integrator, engineers at work, the think tank at SDN, my dad, Cody, and Dr. Math,it became clear that the only way to solve the integral was via approximation and a computer.  I wrote up a Python script to do the integral and started getting good results.  I’m not really sure how valid they are, though.  Mathematically, they’re sound, but I’m not sure about their practical application.

I think that’s about it for now.

Play Guitar!

 Posted by at 12:21  No Responses »
Oct 232008

One drunken night, I proposed to a friend of mine — while playing Rock Band — that we should form a real band.  He plays bass, Cody can sing quite well, and I would teach myself to play guitar.  While that latter notion might sound preposterous, it’s not quite as outlandish as it first seems because my dad’s been playing for well over 40 years.  I also have a number of friends who play, so the base for training is pretty large.

After recovering from my drunkenness over the weekend, I decided that it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all.  Why not learn how to play guitar and then form a band?  I spent some time reading up on guitars, learning guitar, what guitars were best for beginners, and so on.  I also got a list of things to look for when buying a guitar from my dad. I then grabbed the aforementioned friend and dragged him, along with Cody, to Daddy’s Junky Music in Burlington.  

We spent two hours there, my intent being to look, see what they had, and do some more research.  They had a number of very nice guitars, including a Seagull S6 — universally recommended as one of the best-sounding beginner guitars, though the most expensive of the lot. I decided it was more than I wanted to pay. Most of my deliberations were over a $200 Epiphone. We discussed a lot of things with the sales guy there, going back and forth on deals and so forth.

And then one of the stock guys, who had been coming in and out putting guitars on the wall the whole time, brought in a used Seagull S6, marked for less than $200. It was pretty much a done deal at that point. I bought the guitar.

I’ve spent every day since then practicing. The internet has a ridiculous treasure trove of resources for a novice guitarist, including several excellent learn-to-play sites that focus on developing in stages. YouTube is another great resource. In just three days, I’ve gone from knowing literally nothing about playing guitar to being able to play the five common major chords (CAGED), though not without still glancing at the neck to ensure my fingering is correct. My calluses are well on their way, accelerated by using the Eric Clapton trick of applying rubbing alcohol to them three times a day. And my dad is overjoyed. My original plan was to go down this weekend and surprise him for his birthday (he turns 65 on the 30th), but my allergies have more or less destroyed that idea. So instead, he’s coming up to visit. He’s also bringing his Martin.

After this weekend, which I hope will be very fruitful for my guitar-learning endeavors, I plan to take up regular lessons. I’m not sure where, yet. The salesman who sold me the guitar mentioned that he provides lessons, though he had also often emphasized that he wasn’t much of a guitar player. Of course, his definition of “much” and my definition are quite different; he had a pretty good set of licks he was able to play for demonstration purposes. There’s also a fairly well-regarded music school located here on Main St. that I’m considering.

One of the biggest regrets I have in my life is not pursuing my piano lessons when I was young (really young). Once I left Montessori, I stopped playing, and never really progressed beyond my ability level from that age. Learning to play something like guitar, so radically different from the piano I was at least marginally familiar with, always seemed out of reach. That drunken idea of forming a band, coupled with a quote from Babylon 5, made me realize I had nothing stopping me from learning guitar but myself.

Marcus: I could teach you [to speak Minbari] if you like.
Ivanova: No. I don’t have the time; it would take me a year.
Marcus: And assuming we survive this; how old will you be in a year if you don’t learn to speak Minbari?
Ivanova: The same.
Marcus: Exactly.

So, I decided to take Marcus’s, and John ‘Cougar’ Mellencamp’s advice, and learn how to play guitar.

You may drive around your town
In a brand new shiny car
Your face in the wind and your haircut’s in
Your friends think you’re bizarre
You may find a cushy job and I hope that you go far
But if you really want to taste some cool success
You better learn to play guitar