Thursday, February 28, 2008

Meeting My Successor

Today I left work early to help judge a science fair. I really enjoyed it. But little did I know that I was about to meet my CMESC successor.

When I was in high school I worked for a place called the CMSEC (I won't bother explaining it... that would be a very long post). I enjoyed that job like no other. I still think about it sometimes. I wish I could make a living working there. If I could I'd be back in a heartbeat.

So imagine my surprise when I'm talking to this kid and he turns out to be the head programmer there! It was so much fun to talk to him. It was like meeting a friend I didn't know I had. It's nice to know that the CMSEC is in such capable hands. When this kid gets into a CS degree there will be no stopping him!

In some ways I envy his position. He's doing some of the things that I always wished I could do there. But who knows? Perhaps someday I will be able to work with him on some amazing projects. I still know how to dream.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wiki While You Work

I've known about wikis for quite a while now. The poster-child is Wikipedia which has all sorts of interesting information. But until recently, I never really did anything but read them.

At work we installed a wiki on our internal server. It seemed like a good way to let employees add their own documentation and other important company information. And then suddenly I found that I was enjoying it. The wiki made it easy to put up content, and being empty it cried out for me to start adding pages.

Before I knew it we had stared documenting all kinds of things. Then we installed the Trac project management tool to help us manage our main project. Lo and behold, it has a wiki too! Now I'm finally getting around to adding documentation for our project!

This week I decided that I would go ahead and start working on my game (see my previous post). So what did I do? I created a wiki on my home computer for my game.

I think I've got some kind of wiki fever!

Monday, February 18, 2008

My Galactic Empire

A couple years ago, I set my mind to creating a game. I worked on it a little during that first summer, but really didn't get around to making it work until that winter when I was on break from school. It seems strange to think how long it has been since I created it.

The game was one of galactic conquest. It involved exploration, researching technology, and fighting over systems with other players. You could even design your own ships (according to the rules of the game).

I had a lot of help from my friends to build it. They gave me some great suggestions, and I programmed it. We had some good times playing that game.

Every once in a while, I get the desire to make games. But programming a game takes a lot of time and energy. Lately I've been thinking about this game. At one point I had met with some friends and hashed out ideas for a second version. I really like the direction we were headed with it. I think the game would be greatly improved, and we even had some ideas to fix some fundamental problems with the game.

I've tossed ideas around for a little while, but there are two main things holding me back:
  • Time
  • Players

    It took me a good while to build the original game. I'm not sure how many hours, but I'm sure it was in the hundreds. Right now, I just don't feel like I have that kind of time.

    The other issue is who would I play the game with? I'm sure that I could get some friends to play with me for a while, but in the long term I'm not so sure. But part of me just wants to build it anyway. Even if it is just for my own satisfaction.

    Sometimes I wish I could just work 4 days a week at my regular job and then work 1 day a week on my own projects. The weekends are too busy with other things to devote a whole day on a project like this. But perhaps I can start getting up earlier on Saturdays (wait, no sleeping in?) to work on this project for a couple hours a week.

    I've toyed with some ideas for it. I've thought about buying some web hosting to run the game. I could build a site for it and see if anyone wants to donate to the project. I've also thought about building it in a different way so it wouldn't require a central server. I've even thought about making the whole thing open-source... although that idea makes me cringe because I want to retain control!

    If you have played the game with me (you know who you are) and would like to see a new and improved version, let me know! But for now, my plans are still up in the air.
  • Saturday, February 9, 2008

    The Lost Arts of Spelling & Grammar

    Recently I've been noticing errors in spelling and grammar popping up everywhere. Now I know that I'm not perfect in these areas (punctuation has always given me an especially hard time), but I keep noticing these things.

    I see them all the time at work. Sometimes from co-workers, many times from clients or other companies we are working with. It seems like people just don't look at what they write anymore, let alone toss it to a spell checker.

    A bumper sticker on my co-worker's car stood out to me the other day, its poor grammar diverting my attention enough to ruin the joke. "Caution: I drive as bad as you," it said. And all I could think about was, "Shouldn't that be 'as badly as you'?"

    Another example comes from some local signage. I have seen this same message at both at the local IHOP and rec center. It reads, "Open door slow." At the IHOP, somebody had tried to add the requisite "ly" to the end. I imagine this must have been done by some kind of traveling monk who had been carefully trained in the old ways.

    Your and you're; its and it's; there, their, and they're -- how is it that these words are so confusing as to lead everyone and their canine to get it wrong?

    Is it really that hard to do things right? Is English grammar just that difficult? Or maybe no one cares? It's just hard for me to take something seriously when it's written so terribly. I see this on the Internet all the time. People write their opinion on some topic or another, but all their points are immediately diffused when I see such travesties as "omg ur so dumb. lol." But the Internet has a lot of issues when it comes to language, authorship, and editing. So I'll save that discussion for a later post.

    Now, on occasion, I find it humorous to sarcastically pervert the English language. But I worry that sometimes I step out of the realm of satire and enter the desert of lazy incompetence. You must first know the rules and adhere to them in order to know when to break them for dramatic emphasis.

    I just find the whole situation appalling and sad. I'm afraid that the future holds a post-apocalyptic wasteland -- linguistically speaking.

    Thursday, February 7, 2008

    To Vote, or Not to Vote?

    I don't really follow politics. I just don't find it very interesting. But sometimes I think I should know a little more about what's going on in government.

    In any case, the recent developments in the Presidential campaigns has brought me to an interesting question. What do you do when you don't like or can't support any of the candidates? When it comes time for me to vote in the national election, what should I do? In the past I've taken up the stance of voting for the lesser evil, so to speak. But if I really have no preference, should I even vote at all?

    I've grown up hearing that everyone should vote. There are always various reasons presented, such as:
  • "Your vote matters!"
  • "You should involve yourself the the democratic process!"
  • "You are expressing your opinion! It's your voice in government!"
  • "It's your civic duty!"
  • "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain about how things are!"

    But the problem is that my vote (in this instance) probably does not matter! The candidates I would have voted for are all gone! There are so many voters, but only a handful of candidates. And even if my vote does matter, it will only matter in my particular area of the country. My vote will either resonate with the popular vote in my state or will be drown out by the majority (there are precious few times where this is not the case).

    In some ways I feel it would be more of a statement to not vote for a Presidential candidate. I'd be basically saying that I don't approve of any of them. Silence can be a method of communicating too... unfortunately it is very passive. In voting it cannot be distinguished from apathy. But what would happen if a great number of people all abstained from voting for any candidate? Would that send a message, or would it just be an interesting statistical fact overshadowed by the drug addictions of the current pop star?

    Of course I will still complain, no matter the outcome. I feel I do have that right. I'll just file it here under "free speech".

    Now I'm not advocating that people shouldn't vote at all. (You can all put down your torches and pitchforks.) There are other issues and candidates for other positions to vote for. If no one voted, or if the general trend was not to vote then our democratic republic would quickly break down. But in this particular situation, what is to be done?

    In our government, our leaders are supposed to represent us. But what happens when they do not? I suppose that the current candidates represent a lot of other people in the nation, so there must be more that agree with them than agree with me. I just hope that they are average citizens, rather than vocal minorities or lobbyists.

    In the end, I trust that the check and balance systems of our government will ensure that one terrible President will not single-handedly destroy the Union. If things are all that terrible then in four years we'll get a new President. So for now I'll just have to ponder whether 'tis nobler to cast a vote callously, or to remain silent and uncounted. Ay, there's the rub.