It’s completely disgusting

CNN recently squandered an opportunity to interview Julian Assange about Wikileaks’ recent publication of classified Iraq war documents.

In response to questions about his personal life, Julian calmly stated:

I’m going to walk if you’re going to contaminate us revealing the deaths of 104,000 people with attacks against my person.

And then left the interview.

I want for nothing

I’ve been feeling rather philosophical lately.

When I first interviewed for a programmer position a number of years ago, I was asked why I wanted to work for the company. I pondered the question for a while and then answered with something along the lines of:

I’m not sure that I do. Can you tell me why I should want to work for you?

At the time, I wanted for nothing. I lived in a small apartment in the city and I had enough money to support my (admittedly frugal) lifestyle. I could pursue my own interests, and I only wanted to undertake interesting work.

I ended up working for the company, and it was a worthwhile experience. I made a lot of friends, I learnt a lot about myself, and I learnt a lot about team leadership.

During that time, I also realised that the things I wanted were very difficult to obtain.

I wanted for others to challenge themselves, achieve their goals, and to be recognised for their achievements. I wanted for people to do the right thing and to be happy and fulfilled. More than anything, I wanted others to feel the same.

Today (while sorting through old files), I again felt that I wanted for nothing.

However, this time my thoughts had a very different meaning. I wasn’t thinking that there were no necessities that I lacked. Rather, I was actively yearning to have nothing.

Looking at old photos and documents made me feel weighed down. Memories and experiences aren’t meant to be relived over and over, or held so tightly. They simply live on as part of who you are today.

I’m sure that a philosopher once said something like:

Holding onto things ensures that your hands are always full, making it difficult to reach out to others and to grasp new opportunities.

Pragmatically, I don’t want nothing. I just don’t want to hold onto things unnecessarily. Everything is transient and there’s no point in holding onto things beyond their term.

There’s a great elegance and calmness in minimalism, and I yearn for it deeply.

Maeng Blah

My sister invited me over for lunch last week. We had “Meang Blah”, which basically translates to: fish with stuff (wrapped in lettuce). It’s a nice refreshing meal that is easy to prepare and surprisingly filling.

Here’s a photo of the “stuff” ingredients as they were being prepared:

And here’s a photo including the steamed fish and lettuce:

Finally, here’s a quick explanatory video featuring my sister:

In related news, I bought an iPod Touch 4 a few weeks ago and I’m enjoying the easy video capture, editing, and upload that it affords. This is the second video I’ve uploaded to YouTube from it.

In respect for the ways of the Internet, the first video was obviously a tribute to my cats: Bruce and Pete. Check it out to witness the cuteness, generic music, and uninspired editing! 😉

Tom’s Minecraft notebook

My nephew Tom is really into Minecraft.

I’m pretty surprised that he is so into it. Not because I don’t think see how the game would appeal to him, but because he can’t actually play it on his home computer. So the only times that he’s played the game are the few occasions when I’ve let him use my laptop.

Despite only playing the game a couple of times, Tom is completely enamoured by the visuals (“Everything is blocky!”) and core game-play concept (“You can make anything you want!”).

He appears to have spent hours watching Minecraft videos on Youtube in order to learn crafting techniques (in preparation for one day playing the game again). When he had trouble remembering how to make things, he started keeping a journal and filled it with diagrams.

Here he is showing off his notebook:

And here are some photos of his diagrams:

Update: Eventually, he found Minepedia and stopped updating his book. Also, his parents bought a new computer…

Update: With the new computer, Tom’s been playing at home in the free creative mode. I think that means he can’t save yet (?). Anyhow, his birthday is coming up and it’s no secret what he’s getting. 😉

Update: Fixed grammatical error.

Dungeons & Dragons & development

September went by so fast that I missed the deadline for the Experimental Gameplay Project‘s “Neverending Theme“. No matter, I’ve been busy with other things… sometimes involving these:

Jim has been bitten by the Dungeon & Dragons bug since attending the Worldwide D&D Game Day early in September. His fascination with D&D appears to have started via Penny Arcade‘s involvement in the D&D podcast, and was further cemented after watching the Robot Chicken writers play D&D on YouTube:

Jim has since been Dungeon Master for a few short game sessions at his apartment, and I’ve been playing a character called “Gakk: The Face-stabber”. It’s been interesting to see how the game has changed since I last played it in primary school. It feels more like a board-and-card game… but maybe that’s just because I never played it properly before.

The character sheets are fairly intimidating for newcomers. They feel onerous to interpret and update (“Um… are these values cumulative?”), and somewhat volatile (subject to being misplaced or damaged). Maybe it’s just because we’re not used to them, but they seem a little convoluted.

Which brings me on to “development”. I’ve been trying to grok web development from the ground up. There are a lot of new technologies that make things easier for seasoned web developers, but I have little practical appreciation for the models they follow or the problems they solve.

I decided to try to learn web development foundations by using just the most basic (and widely used) software: Apache, MySQL, and PHP… with a little CSS and JavaScript thrown in for good measure. I’m using Subversion for version control and a simple Bash script that invokes rsync for deployment.

Creating web-based D&D character sheets seemed like a good project to undertake. They may make D&D more enjoyable, and we could learn more about web development. I got a copy of Learning PHP, MySQL, and Javascript and set to work on modifying some examples to suit our requirements.

My first problem was setting up a development environment under Windows. I usually develop on my desktop computer (which runs Ubuntu 10.04 and I use a virtual machine as a LAMP server), but I would be working on my Windows laptop over at Jim’s place.

I went with software that I had used before and added some recommendations from the book. This meant installing TortoiseSVN, Cygwin (with rsync and SSH for key-based authentication when uploading to the live server), and EasyPHP to provide a WAMP stack.

After a couple of programming sessions, we had a basic website where users could sign-up, login, create a profile, and create characters. Jim has more database experience than me, so he directed the database design. It seems pretty lightweight because character sheets are formulaic and a lot of the data is fixed.

I figured that it would be nice to have a web app version for iPhone, so I bought an iPod Touch 4 (8GB) for $268 at BigW. I haven’t really been interested in iOS devices before, but the new (pseudo) multi-tasking features and high-resolution “Retina display” address what I considered two of the devices’ biggest shortcomings.

It’s clear that Apple have put a lot of thought into product and software design for their iOS range. The iPod Touch 4 is responsive and intuitive, and tailored web-pages look fantastic and load quickly. This made me even more keen to develop a mobile version of the site, and also to get an Android device in the not-too-distant future.

Unfortunately, the battery life on these sorts of devices is abysmal. So I may be sticking to a feature phone for a while longer (such as the Nokia C1 which boasts a whopping 6 week battery).

Anyhow, James is still looking for more D&D players. So let him know if you are keen and you may be able to also help us test our web-based character sheets. 🙂