September 25th, 2006

Semiformalishmaybe

Panda Flag

Probably the last Wikipedia-centric post for awhile...

Taipei, capital of Taiwan, was chosen for Wikimania 2007. I was initially a bit worried about the cost to fly out there (about $1100, if prices stay steady), but thinking about it, I've never been anywhere in Asia, and Taiwan would be a fine place for a first visit. I can swing $1100 (plus misc costs) - it'll be worth it. If for some reason I can save a bit more, I might see Kyoto as another leg on the trip - it's worth considering. My friend Mac might offer me a list of places to see while there when the time comes closer - I'd like to try to convince him to go. Not only is he the smartest person I know (one of those rare business-savy geek geniuses -- he is CTO of several companies, founder of a few others), he's from the area (well, at least from somewhere in Taiwan).

Looking over that city bid, I am impressed at the generosity of the as-of-yet unnamed sponsor(s) - apparently all the building cost, dorm costs, catering costs, and party costs are covered by those sponsors. The local organisers must've done a really good job at securing those sponsorships.

A natural downside to any city winning is that the other cities lose - I would've loved to have seen Alexandria (the downside is that I would probably feel obligated to stay another week to see all the museums and similar). Some part of me wonders if it's really a good idea to have all the resources expended to have these things at such distant places, but then part of the goal of Wikimania is community building, and if mixing the idea of vacation in helps, that's probably not an issue. I do feel bad for the teams who organised things on the lost bids... I don't think the bid system can or should be changed, because the results are so nice, but it's unfortunate that the losing bids are mostly wasted effort.

On another note, I am addicted to two Dresden Dolls songs, "Sex Changes" and "Dirty Business". I've had them looped back-to-back for the last half hour. Mmm. Bedtime though..

Studying for the Chainmail class is going pretty well - the tough part for me seems to be memorising the names for the types of armour that cover various parts of the body. Hopefully by the time I go to sleep tomorrow I'll have in my head the difference between a Hauberk, a Coif, and a Pixane (among others). It might be worth making a web-based shuffling quiz-CGI.

Germanish

Neurosection

One of the things I haven't talked about online before is my volunteer work with Neuros Technology. The company (previously Digital Innovations) makes a number of multimedia devices, some of which recently had a sold-out debut (in their beta incarnation) on thinkgeek and a few other sites. I bought their first product, the Neuros 2, a little over two years ago, primarily because it supports the Ogg sound format and was at least moderately Linux friendly. Since then, I've watched the company embrace Linux and open-source stuff, and when they started a wiki, and started having problems with linkspam, I stepped in, started cleaning, and eventually started doing some low-key sysadmin work and related work. As their current and planned future products will actually run Linux and are nearly full-function computers (with everything but normal inputs), when they have developer boards for their future products, I'll probably be playing with and developing for that hardware. It's very easy to get enthusiastic about small companies that bet the bank on open technologies -- their products are much more useful than their closed equivalents (like iPods) because anyone with enough programming skill can use them for almost any imaginable purpose. I'm going to see what I can do to load Wikipedia dumps onto the N3 and the 442v2 and make a portable (but imageless) Wikipedia for them. I might also write some games for them (possibly simple text-based RPGs, maybe even a roguelike). I feel bad for people who can't program - to lose that ability now would feel almost like giving up reading (well, not quite that bad, but in the same league). In any case, it's good to be involved with the company.. It feels rather different than working with Netscape did when I was active in that community (although that wasn't bad either).

I am presently enamoured with one of the forms of the myth of Pandora's Box, whereby hope is the last thing left in her box, saving the world from it. I initially was unsure if my interpretation was one of the standard ones -- according to wikipedia, my memory of that version of the myth is correct, but the notion of hope accompanying that version is significantly different. I've been thinking recently on how hope can either be a terrible or wonderful thing in a person's life. I don't think it's necessarily connected with how realistic the hope is -- sometimes futile hopes can lead to a smoother life, or sensible ones can lead to misery, and vice versa. It's more, I think, how the states the thing hoped for influence the mental states caused by said hope. This is closely related to the Buddhist notion of desire leading to suffering. I also recently have thought about how programmed an emotional response we have to dead things, and if we allow that response to be punctured, we find we're part of a strange set of collective, mutually sustained propoganda on life and death. If we don't insist so earnestly that life is worth living and to think otherwise is insanity, we risk existential angst. I think that question is instead best asked by individuals to themselves. I tend to think more like this as winter rolls in, like a new obnoxious neighbour, disturbing litle pockets of peace we spent discovering for ourselves. I think winter's quiet times are perhaps even worse, sitting there alone and shivering on the porch, watching snowflakes fall, symbolising many things I don't want to see, burying my first cat, separations and other ends. A part of me wonders if Northerners are less friendly than Texans because winters in the north are both physically and "spiritually" (for lack of a better word) there. Right now I'm feeling a little bit like oil inside the water of my apartment.. but I'm a bit sleepy and rambly, so don't mind this too much.

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