Saturday, May 29, 2010

How the library works

The reason the library was so keen to have me stay is because they are working with four TA's this term in total (the library needs about 20 to function correctly) of which one must guard the computer terminal at all times and one must guard the course reserve.
I put this in my first post as part of the list of things that motivated me to create this blog. It is admittedly confusing to someone who doesn't know our library, so I thought I'd explain this in more detail with today's post.

The library has your typical Reference section, open-shelf section, and some computers with internet access (called the Computer Terminal Room for historical reasons). Like most college libraries, it also has a Course Reserve (which keeps copies of several books under closed-shelf space because the management considers these books shouldn't leave the library) a Hall of Thesis (where graduate and undergraduate theses are stored), and several Study Cubicles which can be lent to students in groups of four. (The list goes on, but I just need enough to get the explanation down.)

The library has a firmly established hierarchy with a director at the top, heads at each section, and employees under them. Also assigned to to the library, but out of the hierarchy due to being assigned by subcontractors, is security and maintenance personnel. (The subcontractor deals with the whole campus, but the few that are in the library are stationed permanently there.) At the very, very bottom are the TA's, short for Teaching Assistants. (Yes, we know there isn't exactly classes to be taught in a library, but the name is more of a payroll-enforced thing we have to deal with.) When I started working in the library in 2006, TA's were basically payed 47 US cents per hour (we're that low on the ladder).

The Windows to the Soul

Eyes are easy to draw. Take two teardrops and put one on top of the other. Pick a color for the circle where they intersect, and put a smaller black circle in the middle.

Position these correctly in the center of an egg-shape and voilà! Instant realistic human.

This is possible because human eyes are nearly symmetrical within themselves. You can use the same shape for both eyes and few people will notice. Not so with other animals.

This was a problem for me in making my avatar: the eyes I was using weren’t human. Animal eyes are more akin to two teardrops pointing away from eachother, than two copies of two intersected teardrops. So, I went back to my model and tried to trace his eyes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wheels and Language

Spanish is a funny language. Although it, like English, has regional variations, the variations of Spanish are widely disconnected from one another; so much that its speakers are allowed to forget they exist. This leads to the arisal of many funny words whch don't propagate at once. A country may create a word when the country next door had a word that perfectly well described that phenomenom.

Where am I going with this? I recently learned a new word in Spanish. Don't ask me which region it's from, but it's enough to say I had no idea it existed, so it's probably new (in the way "cool" was new in 1975 and "groovy" was new in 1950). It came to me through a pun, possibly exploiting its novelty. It goes like this:
Alumbras más que un sol, lamparita!
Now, to translate this, I first need to tell you what it means. The literal translation is, "you light more than a sun, lamp." The "lamp" at the end makes no sense when written like this; but the "you light more than a sun" part sounds awfully romantic.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

In which I start telling how I drew my avatar

In About my display picture, I explained what motivated me to draw my current display picture. Having decided what I wanted to draw was only half the battle: I had absolutely no idea how to draw a mouse. Ideally, I'd have a live model, but I knew my mother wasn't going to buy me an escape-happy, wall-chewing rodent just because I wanted to draw it.

I therefore went with the next best thing: look for a photograph. Most people think the only way to use a photo for drawing is to trace it and reproduce every hair, every floating dust particle, every trick of the light exactly. This becomes noticable because, well, if your model were to move, you wouldn't be able to get all those details. What I had to do, then, was use the photos to find the proportions and basic shapes that, when our brains see them, make us think, "Aah! There's a mouse in the house!"

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mrs. R, why do you torture me like this?

The title may be a bit extreeme, but it is exactly how I felt today when I saw that, once again, the teacher was telling us to bring something to the following day's class with few hours left in the day.

Teachers like this abound. Before the internet, it was mainly in the shape of
"Bring it to my office by tomorrow at sunrise."
"But this class is last period! There's no time to do it!"
"I don't care. Just be in my office by sunrise."

Last term I also got a teacher like this, only worse.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The deal with the food

In my first post, I mentioned a problem with the food on campus. If any of you read it, you'd be right to be worried. If you aren't I perhaps didn't express correctly just what the situation was (and that's very likely: my original post was so short, it probably wasn't clear). In today's blog post, I'm going to explain it in more detail, and tell you how I'm going to deal with it.
My college is quite removed from the city; to put it simply, this causes it to have a sort of soup kitchen, a coffee house, and a Subway store as the only places to eat. Due to budgetary constraints, the kitchen will be closing soon; however, 42% of the students eat there, mainly because we (yes, myself included) can't afford the other two places. (Going to the city and back would take four hours, making it not be an option when you have to go to class in the afternoon.)
Looking back at it, the only thing that is clear is that I have three choices to eat; exactly three. Firstly, I'll tackle what I mean with budgetary constraints: basically, the college is out of funding. While tuition may cover the teachers' salaries, grants and donations pay for food, maintenance... heck, even the paper the exams are printed on! Donations have been falling and grants aren't rising nearly fast enough to cover the difference, and a lot of the money has already been spent. You see where I'm going with this?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

About my display picture

You've probably been wondering about my display picture, and why it's a drawing and not an actual photograph. What's that? You haven't? Well, tough luck, it's what I'm blogging about today anyway. It's part of my introduction to you of who I am and in what world I live in.

When I started posting on the Internet (see the "you may know me as" list in the "About me" gadget to the right) my camera was broken. Even though I did have some old photos lying around, I was forbidden by my mother from posting them online (and was still young enough to have no choice but to obey). So I did what I noticed most sensible people were doing at the time (remember that this was a time when webcams and scanners were luxuries). This meant Googling for your favorite TV show or similar, and using a character from it as your display picture (or, as it was called on the forums I was in, your avatar).

My avatar was usually a playable character from one of the Pokémon games. This seemed like a fine idea in the year 2000, but by 2003 Pokémon was already being called gay, geeky, and by other descriptors whose sole intent was denigrating it. By 2006, with no news of new games reaching me, Pokémon seemed dead and I felt a need to dissociate myself from it. I did still like it and I knew that changing my name could make it harder for the people I formerly posted with to find me, but I wanted to avoid being pigeonholed. My first feeble attempt was to try to find something neutral, yet identifying, in the concept art for the games, so I devised an avatar which contained only the eye of a character; a character which just so happened to look like me.

This worked for a while, with nobody judging me by, nor asking me about, the eye. However, in 2008 I was pointed to the wide world of webcomics, and couldn't resist the temptation to comment on one or two. I continued like this for about a year and a half, when I finally noticed that my avatar wasn't working properly due to a technical issue that wouldn't be fixed (I was known as "the guy with the black avatar" because of this).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It's high time I had a blog!

Several things have been have been happening in my life recently that have made me realize I need a presence on the web. Where to start? Let's try chronologically:
  • Last year, I did an internship. I realized how important it is to put your CV online; not just to put it in the way of employers seeking people, but also to expand on it beyond the limits of paper.
  • I've realized I've been getting out of touch with the people I know, so I need something to help me decide what to talk about with them.
  • I have put a bit of an extra effort into some of the programs I've made for my course projects; I want to show them off, but I don't have anywhere to do it (at least not anywhere that is mine).
  • In March, I was asked if I do art (and it so happens I do) and if I have it online (and it happens that I don't).
  • I've stated checking more blogs and such, and I think I need to be able to connect all my commenter personas to one place.
  • For the past couple of years I've been noticing some queer equalities between languages both between natural languages (say, English and French) and programming languages (say, C and Haskell) that are so queer I want to write about them, but I don't have anywhere to do it.
Yes, I know I'm using "recently" in a very relative sense, and yes I know I should get something better to cover these wishes. I could've kept those things bottled up inside of me until I amassed enough money to buy a domain, but during the last week, quite a few things happen that pushed me to finally create this blog.