Today’s inspirational poster

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The lesson you never got taught in school: How to learn! | Neurobonkers | Big Think

This is what we’ve been saying for years! Oh, and we’ve got our own experiments to back it up, though we haven’t taken the time to test all the alternative study strategies used in this comparison. If only it were easier to develop targeted, computer-based tests for all needs. The computer could test you until you knew the material. It could present things you need more help learning, and slowly phase out the things you already know, giving you more time to master more material.

That’s what our software does!

The lesson you never got taught in school: How to learn! | Neurobonkers | Big Think.

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I just had the most stressful day I can remember since leaving the navy.

Yesterday we put in an offer on a house in Thousand Oaks. Nice neighborhood, clean house in good repair with an awesome floor plan. We underbid by $29k but I bet we could have gone lower. Anyway, we’ve got a clause in the offer stating that if the house appraises for under the offer price, we’ll buy it for the appraisal value. Nice, huh?

Anyway, Sangeeta’s been really nervous about the whole house buying process, and I hate to admit that it’s starting to affect me. I spent the day second guessing myself and wondering if I did right.

So I spent the morning scrambling to gather and send paperwork for loans and such. I was supposed to get it all in by 10:30am. I got the first wave in by then. Supplements followed until noon.

Then I found out that my domain name had expired. was off the Internet. Crap, something else to rush and fix.

Everett went on vacation today, leaving an experiment with a buggy program. Phil asked if someone could take a look and see about fixing it. Uh, yeah, I guess he meant me. That makes three concurrent projects, plus the real estate situation.

On the way to the lab I narrowly avoided two accidents. First, an old lady crashed her car into another car, then careened through a fire hydrant and into a wall/tree. Water was shooting higher than the buildings on the street. I was in the parking lot behind the wall.

Then at UCLA I pushed a pedestrian with my car. He was cutting in front of me so he wouldn’t have to walk all the way to the intersection/crosswalk to cross the street. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t expecting that and didn’t see him until I had threatened to run him over. He warded off my bumper with his hands, and gave my mouthed apology a couple of over the shoulder dirty looks.

By this point, the adrenaline had gone sour in my blood, and I was shaky. I got to the lab and found out I’d be lunching by myself, and then heading over to a meeting by myself. Who would think that a business meeting with two attractive women would be stressful? Well, now I know. At least the meeting went well.

On the way to the meeting, Jerry called me from Krav Maga Worldwide about my introductory lesson scheduled for tonight. Well, my wrist is still giving me shocks of pain occasionally (hockey injury from last week), but Jerry said we could just tape it up if it was a problem. Oh, and I should wear something I wouldn’t mind getting sweaty. Great. My gym clothes were still at home. I left after the meeting.

Once home, it all crashed down on me. I canceled the lesson and just laid down for an hour. I’m now struggling to stay up until 9pm. I made it through okay but now I feel like I’ve been beaten down. Hope it’s not as hot tonight, so we can all get some good sleep!

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Monday (False Memories)

Okay okay so it’s not Monday anymore. This is about Monday though. I’m finding things I thought I did yesterday (Monday) that I apparently didn’t do. Specifically, a database update and a version control commit. I really thought I had done these things while I was at the lab, but when I got home I found that I hadn’t done the commit with the new files I added. Then when I woke up this morning (Tuesday) I had email requesting that I please apply the database update from yesterday’s files, which I was sure I also did at the lab.

What’s going on in my head? Is this typical for Mondays? I seem to remember that it is, but I seem to be developing false memories so I don’t trust them so much anymore.

Alright, that’s enough writing without coffee. I think I made coffee. Let me go check…

[edit] Hey! Now I update my code and I see the files I thought I committed yesterday! WTF?!?

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Excel and fractions

I’ve been working with MS Excel quite a bit lately, and one of the things that’s been driving me nuts is fractions. You can represent an improper fraction as text, and you can format a proper fraction numerically, but whenever you use it in a formula it’s the decimal that’s utilized. Given a large spreadsheet with a mixture of numbers, fractions, mixed numbers, and text already there, how do I make sure that my numeric fractions are preserved in my formulas in other cells?

Well, I decided to convert them to text. Automatically. I made a formula that did this, and I want to save it here for future reference:

=IF(ISNUMBER(A2),TEXT(A2,”### ###/###”),A2)

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Actionscript 3

For the last few weeks I’ve been learning Actionscript 3. For those of you who don’t know what that is, I’ll tell you: Actionscript is a scripting language used by Adobe (and previously by Macromedia) to control things in Flash movies. Actionscript 3 (AS3) is the latest version of Actionscript, and it’s a complete rewrite.

Learning a new language is a difficult task. Fortunately, much of AS3 is the same as AS2, which I learned last year. Unfortunately, almost all of the parts of AS2 that I hacked my way through to design and implement a PLM client framework last year were the same parts that were rewritten, changed, or scrapped in AS3. XML handling is different. Event distribution and handling is different. Display management and interactivity is different. So I had to learn all the new stuff and then figure out how to rethink my hacks into the way AS3 lets you do things.

It’s coming together now, in the 4th week of the process, and it’s really a lot cleaner than it used to be. It uses about half the code to get the job done, since the new tools built into AS3 take some of the burden off of the PLM. I just can’t wait for this thing to be finally working! I’m going to go back and hammer on it some more now…

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At the end of last week, I became very depressed. It was awful. I felt useless. Other people seemed to be easily doing harder things than what I was struggling and failing to do for weeks on end. Also, working at a University can really make me feel old and washed up sometimes. So much youth! That part of life has passed me by, never to return. I mourned its loss.

I got a sunburn last Saturday. We drove up to Santa Barbara to visit my aunt and a small handful of assorted cousins. My mother rode up with my wife and daughter, and we had a nice conversation. She’s still disappointed that she didn’t brainwash me properly to accept her religion as the ONLY TRUE religion, but at least she’s happy that I try to be a good person.

We went swimming that afternoon, and apparently my sunscreen washed off enough of my untanned bits (usually shielded by a t-shirt) that I turned lobster color on my shoulders and upper arms. Other than that, it was a satisfying trip. Saranya loved throwing things into the pool. My mom spent hours telling about her family and things she remembered as she was growing up. Having been raised at least 1500 miles away from most of my relatives, it’s kind of odd to realize that I had a great uncle who owned a brothel and a saloon. It also seems apparent that my mother’s mother was forced to marry down in social standing after she was found to be pregnant. Oops.

On the trip back I found out that my brother Matt was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, which explains some of the obsessive-compulsive behavior, social awkwardness, and lack of empathy. Brains are funny things.

By Tuesday, however, I was very happy and confident again. There was no good reason for it. I’m still overweight. I’m still struggling with my programming. The housing market is still out of my financial reach despite years of diligent saving and investing. But hell, as long as I don’t think about that stuff I feel fine. I just need distraction or (even better) delusion and I feel great. Isn’t that awful? I think that’s why almost nobody can deal directly with reality. We all have our distractions and fantasies and delusions and optimistic beliefs because just taking reality as it comes makes us feel too awful.

So now I guess it just turned Thursday. My sunburn has been itching all day. It’s been a marginally productive week so far, and on top of that we’ve got a large looming license deal in the works. It probably won’t be big enough for me to retire on, but for sure it will give us a boost to grow the company into something a bit more effective. I might even be able to buy a new home for my growing family. That should distract me for a while.

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Done At Last

This week I delivered the third of three online learning modules. I built them as I was building the framework that they use, so the process was very dangerous and difficult. Actually, due to the rapid development rate, there are many many known problems with the code, but hey it works and that’s what’s important right now at this moment.

I’ve already started on my next coding project, which is another experiment on how to teach kids to measure things. I think with the new framework available it shouldn’t be much of a problem.

One of the general development problems I keep running into stems from the conflict between creating new code quickly and maintaining older versions of the code. Here’s what happens:

We get a new job that’s a lot like the job we’re working on now, except instead of wanting it to be delivered yesterday, they want it last week. Okay, we’ll have to make quite a few changes to the existing project in order to implement the desired features, but since the existing project doesn’t require those features, and we don’t want to break that project in the process, we create a new copy of everything and add the features to that (just to be safe).

Now while we’re working on this new project, we also fix a bug in code we copied from the original. It’s difficult to realize that we should immediately stop and apply the same fix to the original (and of course test it thoroughly in case it has unintended consequences) so in most cases we don’t apply the change to the original. Later, however, when we’ve delivered the original and someone notices the bug there, we’ll get to go back and fix it there too. Multiply this by several projects and it becomes very tedious.

One way around this is to utilize shared library files. This way, when you fix the library file, everything that uses it benefits from the bug fix. The tradeoff is that if the behavior of the library file changes, all the projects that use it suffer. If different projects implemented different workarounds for that bug, they’ll all need their own individual debugging sessions. Gah! Also tedious!

Another option is to use some kind of source control and try to merge versions. This so-called automated function usually requires at least as much effort as debugging all dependent projects after a library change, because you have to test them anyway, even after you figure out how to incorporate the changes from source control. Also tedious!

I guess what it comes down to is that developing several related projects at the same time is tedious. It involves a balancing act between code sharing and code separation, and it demands testing of every project after every change to library files. This is where automated testing is very beneficial. It lets you spit out a test command and collect results of all your tests. Unfortunately, I haven’t got automated testing down for GUI code. People can come up with so many odd behaviors that I’d never think to write a test for.

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As the title of this post implies, I’m now coding in Actionscript 2.0. This is the scripting language used by Flash MX 2004 through Flash 8. It’s Macromedia’s attempt to add object-oriented design tools to their scripting language, and I’m appreciating their efforts in this direction. The parts that are wonky for me are the points of interaction between Actionscript and the graphical symbols on the stage. I’ll figure it out though. Just gotta keep tweaking on it.

I’m coding Actionscript because I’m creating a web-based PLM architecture to support this and all our future learning modules. We’re getting a dedicated server this month too, which should help. The server’s problem sequencing procedures can get kind of complicated, and I’d hate to have to rely on a massively shared webserver to support all our projected users.

Today I made the login screen. Again. This time as an object. I’m not sure how to integrate it with the rest of the framework, because as yet the rest of the framework does not exist. I’ll leave that for tomorrow though.

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Semi-Annual Update

I didn’t realize I’d gotten so busy! Having a child is very taxing. It takes a lot of time and energy and attention to take care of the baby and make sure she’s doing okay. Saranya is doing okay. She’s starting to take her first tentative steps, and she babbles like a loon, sometimes making herself laugh in the process. It’s pretty funny when it happens, so it makes everybody else laugh too.

Work has been heating up this year too. I’ve made my first web deliverable PLM for an experiment, and we’ve collected data. I’m now working on two more. Trying to get out of the Windows-only trap. It’s been challenging, but I’m learning a lot and the rewards are potentially great.

I’m still playing World of Warcraft. I’ve also gotten myself a bicycle and I’m starting to learn to use one again. The crippling pain in my feet is almost gone, and my back feels healthy and not as delicate as it used to. I’m starting to lose weight after gaining so much while recovering from my injuries. Things are improving after a long downward spiral.

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