An interesting story or something like that.

April 30th, 2010

The Scary Spider
Birds. Yeah, they were the least noisy thing I could find to “put” in the background.

Have you ever heard of Irvington?

April 29th, 2010

Jing StreetView Video
This is where I’ve lived for all 20 years of my life. This is also my third attempt at doing this project. The first one I dropped the F-bomb in the middle of it, the second I lost when my computer drowned, and here’s the third, done with many thanks to Paul for letting me use his computer.
I wish I had more than 5 minutes to talk because I ALWAYS run out of time.

Final Reflection

April 29th, 2010

I came into Digital Storytelling feeling pretty excited about everything. I already spent a lot of time blogging on my two blogs, Loopy Logophiles Love Lobsters and Hold The (Stella) Phone, and I hoped that we’d get to do something like that for this class. Honestly, I took the class for a gen ed credit, but as a Computer Science major I figured I might get something out of it too while having a bit of fun.
I loved how every night sort of had a general goal in mind, but we were free to go off on tangents depending on what interesting things we could bring up. Net neutrality, internet memes, music… It was amazing. Most of the stuff we talked about was really fun and I enjoyed it.
Prezi was one tool that I absolutely loved and will definitely use in the future. I actually saw someone in one of my linguistics classes use a Prezi in a presentation that we had to give, and I thought it was really cool but had no clue how they did it. Well, a week or so later we did the Prezi in class and I realized that this was the “really awesome presentation thing” that I’d seen before. It was remarkably easy to use and a refreshing treat after so many years of bland powerpoints.
I also liked using Jing and Google StreetView. I’d seen people make screencasts before, but once again I had no idea how to do it (and no name for the finished product, so no way of googling it). I would like to use Jing again. Perhaps I can experiment with making screencasts of this old horseback riding computer game I have. You jump courses and it’s actually really fun, but I’ve always wanted to be able to save the “instant replays” that they give once you finish the course. Also, the game is one of the few I’ve seen out there that lets you fall off of the horse (and actually in some pretty grotesque ways, like the horse falling on you or you slamming into the jump–yeah, makes me have some nasty flashbacks…), so my demented sense of humor says it’d be funny to compile a bunch of clips of falls from the game and maybe set them to music for presentation on Youtube.
Google StreetView was really fun. I kind of gave up on Google Maps a long time ago because I live way out in the middle of nowhere and every time I’d check there was still no data for my area. I really, really just wanted to see my house from here. I didn’t know StreetView existed. And the best part was, I could see my house! I really started to feel the whole nostalgia thing. In fact, when I did the project, I ran out of time every single time I did it–and I did it multiple times because I just had so many stories I wanted to tell.
I liked doing the Daily Shoot. I love photography, especially animal photography. You could almost say that my Facebook albums are digital stories themselves, because I regularly document the things that I witness and experience throughout college and at the barn. The only hard part about the project was that my digital camera charger is at home and the camera died not too long ago. For future classes with this project, I’d bring it up much earlier in the year that everyone will need access to a digital camera so that they can go home and get their cameras or their chargers or arrange to borrow one from a friend with a bit more notice. This summer, I might actually continue with some of the Daily Shoot prompts when I have the time.
I had a lot of trouble with Audacity, as well as the video editing projects. Either I had a lot of trouble learning how to use Audacity and it actually hated me back, or the Mac version was a bug-ridden piece of crap (which wouldn’t surprise me one bit) compared to the Linux and Windows versions. I liked the finished product of our sound story, and I would actually be inclined to do some more short ones if I could get a better handle on Audacity. The video editing projects were difficult simply because there’s no good open source video editor. Mac’s iMovie is NOT good. In fact, it’s really bad. I’m actually really good with Windows Movie Maker, but my version of Windows doesn’t include it. (I use a bare-bones version of Windows XP on my computer; it runs fast on my 8-year-old laptop, but I don’t have a lot of things and I can’t download it.) I use Linux the rest of the time and that really has nothing at all to use. I was kind of stuck for this project, so I’m really glad we did it in groups. That way I could do other parts besides the actual video editing, like finding clips and doing the audio.
I liked learning about the Internet Archive. I’d never heard of it before, and it has a lot of interesting stuff on it. I really also liked when we looked at internet memes occasionally. I think most of them are really funny or interesting.
I didn’t like a lot of the articles we had to read and write about. The article we read a while back about “augmenting human intelligence” was my thing. I loved getting a chance to write about computer science and linguistics at the same time, especially since many people (who don’t know much about either) hesitate to say that the two disciplines have anything in common. I like to practice writing things about computer science because one day I want to be an artificial intelligence researcher who writes things about computer science all the time and publishes them. That’s actually the reason I did a lot of my projects about computer science. I’m very passionate about what I do, yes, but I also love to explain computer science things to people in really fun ways. Many of the articles, however, were bland and too technical even for a huge nerd like me. Some of the ideas were important, yes, but perhaps excerpts could be taken from some of the lengthier articles to get the main ideas out there while ensuring that the students survive to the end of the article.
I liked the big digital story that I did. I thought a Javascript tutorial would be really fun.
I didn’t take into account a few things, however. My life is coding-intensive. I program most days, and usually for several hours at a time. I would crawl into my bed around 12:30 AM after spending the night in the Unix lab, open my laptop to write a post on Javascript, and instantly feel irritated because I’d just come back from over five hours of dealing with my own core dumps and such. I basically got burned out on programming near the end of the semester. I also didn’t think about the fact that I haven’t done Javascript in a very long time. I grew up on Javascript. I took my first actual computer science class in Javascript. I wrote the Lucky Seven game in Javascript over the summer. But I’ve been through lots of other languages since then, and I’ve basically forgotten Javascript syntax. I even wrote a post about it, comparing Javascript to Latin and talking about how much I’ve forgotten about Latin since I dropped the major.
I also ran out of time to complete such a large project. I wanted to give a really thorough overview of Javascript before giving a tutorial for the game, because I’m the kind of person who believes in having a solid knowledge of the basics before doing anything else. The project kind of evolved into explaining the building blocks of computer programs. I feel bad that it didn’t reach the point I originally intended it to, but I feel like I wrote some really interesting and good pieces for beginning programmers to read. I might continue writing things like that, but I think if I did do a tutorial for a programming project in the future, I’d simply put it all on a web page at once and either assume the reader has basic knowledge of Javascript (in which case they probably wouldn’t find it too difficult to do the project on their own given a description of the program’s behavior) or include tutorials for basic aspects of programming in a different location. I just don’t think that the building of the game itself should be split; in fact, I don’t know how I would easily be able to give a tutorial on writing a program. Lucky Seven is a really easy program and it would be possible to do a tutorial for it in one shot, but I generally see programming as something you do with your own personal flair. Everyone goes about it differently. I personally write out all of the methods I’ll need, comment what they should do, and write pseudocode/code haphazardly until everything works. Other people go method by method and then make sure everything works well together at the end. In fact, there was a whole section in a book for one of my classes a while back about the two major programming styles–the crazy style that I usually use, and the organized style that other people use. I would have to do a lot more thinking about it in order to put a really good tutorial out there.
I guess I would consider my tutorial a story. It was a fairly linear path with each part growing in complexity, and it had an end goal of creating something from everything else that had preceded it. In a way, this class redefined my definition of a “story.”
If I could make one suggestion, I’d want to start our own digital stories a bit earlier and do what we did at the end at the beginning too (and perhaps even the middle). I would have loved to hear everyone’s plans at the beginning so that I could get a better idea of what would be coming from everyone and really get excited about it. I know public speaking can be difficult for some people, but it’s not hard to stand in front of the class for two or three minutes twice a semester and tell everyone what you’d like to do and what you’ve done. I loved hearing what everyone had to say about what they’d done. I’d read and looked at some projects, but somehow I’d completely missed others that I would’ve loved to follow. The last two days of class were some of my favorites just because there were so many diverse topics to hear about from the story’s author’s perspective. (Paul and I actually discussed this together one day, how much we liked the presentations, hence we both wrote about it in this reflection thing…)
I really did like this class a lot. It was surprising, interesting, and a lot of fun. Some of the projects were difficult and very time-consuming, but they were far outnumbered by the really fun projects we did and the times I sat there in class and thought, “Wow.”

Phishing with Fishing

April 29th, 2010

Yay for my cute little fish-voice 🙂

One of my posts where I ridicule phishing e-mails that spam up my UMW e-mail (because, yes, I used to blog A LOT before this class too):
Phishers Need Spell Check Too

The Finished "Lucky Seven" Game!

April 22nd, 2010

Here it is, give it a try! Sorry I didn’t do a better job teaching you how to do this yourself. But if you really want to learn, click on the link and view the source yourself. Simply click “View” in your top bar, then go down the menu until you find “View source” or “View page source.” It’ll pop up with some Javascript code. I’m going to try to do a few more posts to help you understand what’s going on in the program, and then maybe I’ll put out a pseudocode version or some sort of step-by-step walkthrough.
Feel free to steal this game and put it on your own sites or do whatever else with it. (If you aren’t keeping your site, you can save it on your computer as an HTML file, then set it as an icon on your desktop. Yay, new games!) I’m not at all partial to the code, and I spent no more than an hour on it myself. Besides, I got the idea from a programming prompt I found online one night when I was bored 🙂

Lucky Seven

Loopy Variables, Variable Loops ("Lucky Seven" Project #4)

April 20th, 2010

I’m going to combine two things in one post today, variables and loops. Variables are sort of like what you used back in algebra (or whatever math you like, I’m partial to calculus myself); they hold something. They stand for something else. But in algebra, x could be 2 or it could be 3.1415926535. It’s just x, but it can be different types of numbers. Javascript is like algebra in that it uses variables to stand for a value, but it’s different because Javascript variables can hold lots more things–including letters, words, and sentences–but you need to tell your computer what will go in there.
I have a Gatorade bottle on my desk. Pretend that Gatorade, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, and Coke are all made in the same factory by the same company. Each bottle looks a bit different, but it’s all the same concept. Then, pretend that they all have to go in their own bottles. Come on, you’d be pretty angry if you went to the store and bought a bottle of your favorite drink only to open it up and find that it’s not the right thing. At the factory, the people put labels on the bottles that tell you what has to go in there. The label sticks tight, so even if you don’t fill it up with drink until later on, you can’t change your mind and put Pepsi in the Coke bottle.
Now pretend that Gatorade is a single character (like “Z” or “s”, and keep in mind that there’s a big difference to your computer between big and little letters, even of the same letter), Mountain Dew is a word or sentence, Pepsi is an integer, and Coke is a floating point number (a number with a decimal point in it). Each bottle is the little bit of memory in your computer that holds the stuff you want to put there. The label on the bottle is called the variable’s type. The drink is the data. The greatest thing about the drinks you get from Javascript Drink Co. is that you can dump out your bottle whenever you want and fill it up with fresh drink, but only drink of the same type. No, you can’t even put Pepsi in your Coke bottle (They’re NOT the same!), that’s not allowed. You can do this as many times as you like, whenever you like, for whatever reason. There’s no need to worry about wasting it, either.
I have no idea whether that was necessary or not. I hope it helped someone. But if it didn’t, I hope it made someone laugh.
Variables have to be initialized before you can use them. At first, they’re just null variables. They’re bottles with labels and nothing in them. Not Coke Zero (zero or a ” ” in the case of a string), not water, plain air. If you put those in a store, chances are no one wants them. If you tried to sell them to someone as filled drink bottles, people would be pissed when they realized that that you tried to get them to drink an empty bottle. Your computer feels the same way. If you give it an uninitialized variable and tell it to use it, it’s going to get pissed. With Javascript, it’s probably going to do nothing. With languages that you have to compile, they’ll be tough on you, but at least they’ll let you know what’s wrong.
Loops are very important for computer programs. In fact, a professor once told me that about 90% of the time a program is running, it’s going through loops. Loops are the way you tell the computer to do something over and over and over and over again. You can tell it to do it a certain number of times or until something happens.
For example, I could tell you to hop on one foot five times. That’s called definite iteration. I could also tell you to keep hopping on one foot until I say that I want you to stop. That’s indefinite iteration.
Loops are pretty easy to write, but also really easy to mess up. In fact, I mentioned giving you a warning before letting you go on with this project.
If you use Internet Explorer, I don’t recommend executing any of your Javascript programs that contain a loop unless you’re sure they don’t contain what’s called an infinite loop. My mom hates the thought of using Firefox. I’ve told her that it’s not different to use and that it’s a trillion times better than IE, but she refuses to let me put it on our home computer. Well, one day I was using the home computer to do some Javascript programming and…I accidentally let loose an infinite loop. Internet Explorer did what some computer scientists like to call “throwing up.” It flipped out, and I was very unhappy. Firefox is much more polite when it comes to telling you that there’s an infinite loop going on in your program. I believe there’s a pop-up that tells you that something’s going wrong and asks you if you want to make it stop. I can’t tell you how other browsers take an infinite loop, but I know IE will make you miserable. (Even if you’d rather not use Firefox permanently, use it for Javascript programming. Plus, I think everyone should have at least two browsers on their computer. Ask me, I’ll give you a couple reasons.)
Oh, I never told you what an infinite loop actually is. Well, they’re evil. They happen to everyone every once in a while. They usually happen with definite iteration loops (at least for me), but they can happen either way. Basically, your computer starts to execute the loop and can’t stop.
An example in pseudocode with definite iteration:
print number
The problem with that is that the number never changes. You're always going to print the same number forever and ever and ever. A bunch of zeros. Ugh.
Here's how you SHOULD do it:
print number
That makes the number change each time through the loop and eventually the number will be equal to five and the number won't be printed. The output will be…
0 1 2 3 4

The same thing happens with indefinite iteration. If there's no way for the end condition to occur (when you're jumping on one foot, my mouth is taped shut so I can't tell you to stop), then the loop just keeps going.
(This post is in memory of my MacBook, which drowned when a cup of water blew off my windowsill. I'm normally good to my computers; the one I have now is almost eight years old and still going. It won't charge now, and I'm going to see if it just needs a new battery or if it's completely screwed.)

Daily Shoot

April 13th, 2010

I don’t have the charger for the battery for my digital camera, so you’re getting photos from my cell phone and stuff that I pull from Facebook. I take more interesting photos with my phone, anyway, because I can carry it with me at all times.

Paper is versatile and malleable. From napkins to origami, it’s all around. Make a photo of something made of paper.
GALL project
For a GALL project, we cut out a bunch of paper leaves, attached them to bent paper clips, and put them on a tree. Gotta love it.

Speed or the sense of speed can add excitement to a photo. Make a
photo of something going fast or that can go fast.
Stella running
This is my horse, Stella, running in the field with the other horses. She’s so pretty 🙂

Pet photos are such a cliche, but they’re also cute. Make an interesting photo of a pet today.
Jack and me
I love this one. It’s one of my dogs and me holding hands.

I love animal photography. First of all, I love animals more than just about anything else in my life. It’s challenging because they’re always moving and they’re not always cooperative. I’ve gotten pretty good with horses and dogs, but my cats are still fussy. I really don’t photograph my birds because they always seem nervous about it. My fish are the biggest challenge, though. They’re usually moving (I have two corydoras and a pleco who chill on the bottom a lot like catfish usually do, and a pufferfish who sleeps on the bottom at night even though he turns completely black and doesn’t look all that pretty), and I have to photograph them through glass. It really helps to know about animal behavior and body language. I’ve spent my entire life learning their lexicon, their syntax, and I’ve honestly gotten really good at it. Plus, I have the two greatest photograph dogs and a barn full of the greatest photograph horses in the word. They’re always doing wacky, fantastic things for me to photograph.
For me, that’s what photography is all about. I love to record things for posterity. Before I came here freshman year, I read something someone wrote about recording everything about your college years. Take photos. Blog. Do whatever, as long as you’re preserving those memories for the future. I take pictures of what I do with GALL, I take pictures of anything interesting I see around me, I take pictures of pretty flowers and trees in spring, I take pictures of funny sayings I see written on chalkboards, I take pictures of my friends and my dorm rooms and just about everything else. I used to keep a thorough blog called “Hold The (Stella)Phone” when I was taking riding classes here at UMW and when I was able to go home more frequently and ride my horse. I also kept a separate blog (and still attempt to update frequently when I’m not blogging for this one) about the amazing experiences I’ve had since I’ve come here. One day, I’ll thank myself.

Binary Search Prezi

April 13th, 2010

Whoa. Prezi is absolutely amazing. And so are binary searches.
I didn’t see a way to embed the Prezi, but I probably didn’t look hard enough.
Here’s a link:
Binary Search

EDIT: Yeah, I didn’t look hard enough. Here it is.

Nine Inch Nails Remixed

March 21st, 2010

Since we’ve been on the topic of audio and video editing, I thought I might share a few interesting remixes of songs by Nine Inch Nails. The head of the band, Trent Reznor, has always encouraged his fans to “steal” and remix his work; now that’s he’s split from the major record labels, he gave out his last album as a free download and it’s open for everyone to use in just about any way they’d like. I made a slide show for UMW’s GALL (Guerilla Art Liberation Lives) using pictures that I took from last year’s art and pranks and the song called “Corona Radiata,” and as far as I know, I don’t have to worry about any sort of copyright claim if I decide to share it on Youtube. (I might post it later, but you get my usual excuse for now: stuck in the Unix lab!)
If I were musically gifted, I’d love to do some of my own remixes, but I think I’ll just leave it to other fans and Reznor himself.

This one is called “Tear Zero,” and I’m a huge fan of both songs. The song you hear in the intro is “Teardrop” by Massive Attack (which most people know as part of the House theme), and the voice is the lyrics from “Zero-Sum” by Nine Inch Nails. You can hear bits of “Zero-Sum” mixed in at one point, but it’s almost inaudible.
The best part of this song is that it’s not the only one. Someone took most of the songs from NIN’s Year Zero album and remixed them with other songs by different artists. There are also a few that are remixed with other NIN songs. This person titled his collection of remixes “Bootleg is Resistance,” after a sort of slogan for the Year Zero album: “Art is Resistance.”

Here’s another one by the same person called “Hypercloser,” which is a remix of two NIN songs, “HYPERPOWER!” and “Closer.” This one’s one of my favorites, even though I’m really not a huge fan of “Closer.” Uh, this one also has “bad” words in it. If you don’t like it…don’t watch it?

And I really love this one too 🙂 It’s called “In This Green World,” remixed from “In This Twilight” by NIN and “O Green World” by Gorillaz.

If you like those as much as I do, there’s a site to download these remixes called Bootleg Is Resistance. I’ve downloaded stuff from here before with no problems, so you should be just fine.

This one is a mashup of NIN’s “Discipline” and Vanilla Ice. Admittedly, I liked this one a whole lot better when I could hear NIN over Vanilla Ice instead of vice versa, but it was still strangely satisfying. And as an added bonus, the cartoon of NIN playing on stage? Done by a fan as a prank. He posted it on Youtube as the “official video” for the song and everyone went nuts because it gets even more outrageous and non-NIN than what you see in this video. Reznor apparently thought it was really funny and adopted it as the actual official video. See what creative, “obsessed” people can do?

This is my apology for my rick roll post earlier in the semester: NIN’s “The Hand That Feeds” mixed with Rick Astley’s infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up” as “The Hand That Gives You Up.” Uh… Well, it’s a little better this way, right? 🙂

I really, really love this one 🙂 It’s NIN’s “Meet Your Master” and Queen’s “Get Down, Make Love” (which, funny enough, NIN covered at one point).

This one, a mix of NIN’s “Suck” and Daft Punk’s “Indo Silver Club,” had its moments where it was really good. I didn’t like it at first, but around one minute in, I think it sounds pretty great. Also, around 2:46 it’s full of discord (the end of “Suck” being somewhat chaotic, plus the Daft Punk thrown in there). It’s FANTASTIC (for a person like me who loves that sort of thing), but I actually wish the artist had cut parts of “Suck” out or something. I don’t know, there are just a few parts that I really don’t like coupled with some really amazing ones.
I’ve got a million more, but I think this post will take up enough space as it is. Does anyone else have a favorite remix? Nine Inch Nails is my favorite band, but what about yours? Any that include your favorite? Share if you’d like 🙂

Voices of Experience: Talking with Women in Technology (Lucky Seven Project "Aside" #2, part 2)

March 19th, 2010

I started down the path to Trinkle from Dupont around 6:55 PM last night. I’d wanted to finish helping with our video editing project, but I figured things would go well without me and we could present on Tuesday. I was running a bit late, so I picked up the pace. I ducked into the back entrance of Trinkle’s basement, home of the computer science department, and made my way down the hall to the only lit room that I could see.
It was filled with professors, students, and even some alumni. I waved hello to Dr. Anewalt, my current professor, and sat down nearby. The president of PERL, Jessica Zeitz, introduced the six women who would be answering questions for us. The first question asked the women how they got their jobs and what they do. Several of them “just needed a job” and found that they were perfectly capable working in IT or programming for a company. One of them majored in Mathematics “before computer science was a major” and got the opportunity to pursue a Masters in Computer Science once she was working for a company. One of them who particularly caught my attention majored in Computer Science (after needing a job, teaching herself a bit of programming, and realizing she was good at it) and Linguistics. She wasn’t working in computational linguistics, but it was still exciting. Most of them simply majored in Computer Science, and I think half of them were UMW alumni.
Another question asked them if they had any advice for the next generation of computer scientists, gender-specific or otherwise. They talked a lot about internships, and in fact I think there was a separate question all about them. I’m really considering looking for an internship next summer (as I think it’s probably too late to start looking now, and I didn’t know that I was qualified for one yet–I thought I needed more classes to be useful to anyone), and it was good to hear so many positive things about them. Most of the women said that it’s important to be good at what you do. I think that’s good advice regardless of gender or discipline 🙂 One girl also said that you should have a sense of humor; she explained that sometimes guys will say stuff, not to be mean, but because they just don’t know what to say. She told a story about how she was in a group to work on a project. She was the only woman, and a man came in and said, “You’re…a girl.” She laughed about it, and it was a very funny story to hear. Another woman said that she always felt that she should dress more professionally than the others because she was young and she felt that whenever they would go out after work, others would think of her as just “the secretary.” And one of the women said that women are ready to rise to the challenge, so there’s no need to be afraid. That one made me smile a bit 🙂
All in all, I thought it was a good session. I got to hear lots of great stories from great women. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for drinks and snacks, so I can’t comment on how tasty they were. (Just kidding, I’m sure they were great.) One thing I’d have to say, though, is that there were no current graduate students. I’m seriously considering graduate school in my future, and I really want to hear from someone who’s there right now, doing what I’d like to do. They were probably aiming to have just women who are already in the workforce, however, and I still think it was great.