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Month: September 2022

Biggest discoveries of the year

Biggest discoveries of the year

Quanta Magazine makes a wonderful set of videos on mathematics, computer science, physics, biology, cosmology, and science fields. They distill amazing discoveries down to quick videos that often include interviews with the very scientists involved. One series I really like is their yearly summary videos that sum up some of the biggest breakthroughs of the year.

The 2021 video has a really great interview on how we’re starting to formalize and start really understanding how neural nets used in AI algorithms work. They used a clever idea of starting with how these networks worked if the net width was infinite.

It’s a great part of my effort to move away from emptier forms of social media consumption and more intentionally spend my time/energy on creative, positive, constructive, uniting, uplifting, and educational efforts.

The 2020 video has a really good segment on the LEAN mathematical proof assistant that is building up a library of theorems and assist in proving them.

Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar

“Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I’ll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man without a goal, and I’ll give you a stock clerk.”

J C Penny

My dad would have one of Zig Ziglar’s many tapes playing in his car every time we’d get in. It was inevitable that if you got in his car – the moment he turned it on you would hear the click of the tape deck and out would come Zig Ziglar. I don’t think my dad even programmed the station buttons on his radio.

I can almost recite some of his presentations word for word – and I can tell you firmly that they work. I remember being about 10 years old and writing down several goals using his method. The most audacious of the lot involved a goal I set 15 years in the future. And you know what? It worked. Even though I thought it was an impossible goal at the time. It was far too far away, too impossible for a kid from a rural school with a middling education and less than affluent upbringing. I followed his simple plan and led me along the way. Sure enough, it became reality.

I think we give far too little focus or credit in our efforts to help others on how very simple individual habits of success and simple goal setting will change a life. History shows that works infinitely faster and better than someone, some organization, or society to change things for you.

Paravirtualization of GPU

Paravirtualization of GPU

Looks like nVidia now allows paravirtualization of a single GPU between different virtual machines. This is really cool for AI work. Craft Computing shows you how to set up the graphics cards and virtual machines.

Check out some of his other great videos as well. I like this one where he was finally able to figure out how to use ANY graphics card for 3D Acceleration in a virtual machine:

Gödel’s incompleteness theorems

Gödel’s incompleteness theorems

Gödel proved his 3 famous incompleteness theorems at the opening of the 1900’s, and I would argue that they are still probably the most profound discoveries in mathematics of the whole century.

Veritasium gives one of the best descriptions of these proofs, and the mathematical developments that led to them.

Homeworld 3

Homeworld 3

I’m a huge fan of the original game Homeworld. It was visually stunning – creating a grand visual scale that really helped you feel the vastness of space and the isolation of the fleet trying to get home. I wasn’t as much of a fan of the later entries (especially Deserts of Kharak), but Homeworld 3 looks to recapture that original stunning style.

Targeted towards June 30th, 2023 release, they sure are making as much of the pre-launch hype as they can. They hosted a very successful online funding campaign that included tons of different goodies like art books, special discord access, signed prints, models, and more. The original Art of Homewold book often sells for hundreds of dollars (over a thousand USD at one point but falling fast now they’re doing re-prints with this release).

I’m excited to see how this new game comes out. I don’t buy many games, but this might be on the list.

Until then, maybe I’ll just download the original Homeworld source code (released in 2003) and see if I can build my own copy. Or maybe just look around at some of the original digial models or maybe get a few 3D printed ones or maybe the whole fleet from the Tempest Ship Yards.

Pacific Drive

Pacific Drive

This looks like a promising game – but not due out until 2023.

A mix of storm and ghost chasing in first-person, Pacific Drive invites you to survive a drive through hell.

Fear and Good Will Hunting

Fear and Good Will Hunting

“You’re always afraid to take that first step, because all you see is every negative thing ten miles down the road.”

Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting

If I could sum up the fear, anxiety, and even the core of the negativity that is so pervasive in our culture today – it would be this line. But it is more than this. It seems that public opinion and policy is now driven more by fear than by truth or true courage. How?

It is fear that prevents an entire generation from committing to marriage because they fear commitment, divorce, or hurt — yet the world applauds continual transient relationships. It is often fear that prevents people from having children or being open to children because they fear economic conditions, unrest, political and social uncertainty, career impacts, personal struggles — yet the world lauds keeping the birth rate shrinking and putting careers first. It is fear of engaging in the world and dealing with actual messiness of human lives that keeps perfectly healthy individuals on forums and social media instead of actually engaging in real world work of change — while social media posts are rebranded as heroic action. It is fear that tells a woman she must be able to kill her own child, and that she cannot succeed without that right – while the world says it is empowerment. All of these things bring immediate gratification/simplicity – but rob of us of the deep growth that gives real meaning to our lives.

So what would true courage look like? It is easier to just go from relationship to relationship uncommitted, but robs us of the freedom a committed relationship gives us to express ourselves with another person. Or as Jessie Jackson said decades ago, it is simply easier and cheaper to promote abortion among the poor and minorities than actually build support and education systems for people to actually have the choice to keep their children. It’s far easier to push for shrinking population growth instead of changing our behaviors to be more sustainable. It’s easier to spend all our money on ourselves instead of helping others. It’s easier to simply legalize homelessness than actually spending the money and effort to address the substance abuse, mental health, education, and skill training issues that caused the homelessness. It’s easier to repost divisive social media rants than go out and actually dedicate our lives to helping others in the actual messiness of life or find common ground to unite people and build constructive relationships.

Contrast that with the hope in the words of John Paul II, a man that faced down all the power of the Soviet Union and was critical in the fall of the Iron Curtain. Here’s a man that knows that the impossible becomes possible with faith:

Do not be afraid! Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To His saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization, and development.
Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch…. I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid!

Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God. When pronouncing these words in St. Peter’s Square, I already knew that my first encyclical and my entire papacy would be tied to the truth of the Redemption. In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words “Be not afraid!”: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (cf. Jn 3:16).

Peoples and nations of the entire world need to hear these words. Their conscience needs to grow in the certainty that Someone exists who holds in His hands the destiny of this passing world … And this Someone is Love.

Pope John Paul II
Re-learning things we already knew

Re-learning things we already knew

I recently found out about something called end-of-life doulas. Doulas are not healthcare professions, but a ‘trained companion’ who supports another person through a significant health-related experience. They seem to be part of a growing trend of doulas, life coaches, psychologists, and other similar emotional support caregivers. It’s fascinating that the secular world continues to find they need the same kind of support that people of faith have had for literally thousands of years.

In a recent Vox article, Rachel Friedman talks about what an end-of-life doula does. She walks readers through the process of loss that a person with a terminal illness goes through. She then talks about the re-focus of her daily life this created for herself, the value of active listening, and then focus on legacy projects you wish to leave behind.

What’s fascinating is that these exact topics and dealing with these realities are the lived Christian/Catholic experience that have been in countless writings and famous artworks for hundreds of years. Let’s take a look.

Memento Mori

“Memento mori” is the Latin phrase for “Remember, you must die”. This is not a morbid wallowing that many religious pundits love to use to discount Christianity. Instead, it is a statement of fact. In fact, many modern folks embody this idea in such phrases like YOLO (You Only Live Once) and ‘carpe diem’ (Seize the Day). Dead Poet’s Society has a great scene on this very notion from the 1648 poem by Robert Herrick:

Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,
    Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to day,
    To morrow will be dying.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time – Robert Herrick 1648

Both the secular and religious world see this as a need to remember that our time is short so we do not waste our lives. Many people are driven to achieve great things in business, sports, and personal achievement. We should live our life knowing that our time is finite – so we must make the most of it.

So what is the Catholic view? For hundreds of years, many Catholic artists showed monks and saints with or contemplating a skull. Some orders would sometimes put the skull of a previous monk in each monk’s cell. By contemplating the skull of a predecessor, we are reminded that we too will die, be buried just like they were, and all our efforts will come to an end. Some new person in just a few decades will then look back on our skull the same way as we look at them now. Talk about putting things in perspective!

If that was all there was, it might lead one to despair, wonder at the point of it all, or even turn to looking at life as just what I can get out of it for for myself. For Christians there is much more than this. Contemplating our death reminds us not only of the urgency of our lives, but also Christ’s victory over death, a victory in which we are invited to share by uniting our lives with His, and finally that this world is not our permanent home (Heb. 13:14).

This hits upon 2 major themes Friedman mentions. First, is that we should have a healthy sense of our own mortality so we can focus our living and make the most of it. At the core of many of Jesus’ parables and teaching was the most profound urgency. Don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today. Don’t wait for ‘some day’ to start changing and living as you ought. We only have so much time to address those things that need to be addressed. No one knows the day or hour of their own death or His returning. Learning to love is a difficult process and takes us much time. Learning how to fall in love and build a relationship with our creator is not something we do overnight. This is urgent because we only have this time on earth to become friends and lovers of Christ. When that time comes, Jesus tells us many will come, even those that preached in his name, and he will tell them to depart and that he never knew them at all.

Friedman’s second major point is that we need to realize that everything we love, achieve, and accumulate will be left behind. For the secular world, loss and death can bring about existential dread. In reality, Friedman says that even non-believers will go through these very same realizations that everything we have will be lost at our death. For the Christian, however, it can also be a motivating and freeing force that puts our lives in perspective – when it’s done in relationship with God who lives with us and awaits us on the other side of death.

Many of Jesus’ parables tell us that we are temporary stewards – but the quality of our stewardship is what carries over. Christians know we are all graced with some amount of life, money, career, family, and possessions. All of these temporal things are simply a means to find salvation by daily conversion to the teachings of Christ. At our death Jesus will appear to us and take accounting of our stewardship. Our temporal gifts are used to help us learn how to love our neighbor and God. This is why the poor are sometimes greater in love than the rich – since they often give all they have.

Active Listening and Confession

Active listening is a skill that any of us can develop and increasingly recognized as a key element of emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is recently recognized as a set of skills critical to a successful career and relationships. Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. The listener must holding back their own stories, comments, and feelings. They don’t tell a person what to do. They don’t try to fix the situation. They ask open-ended questions and seek to understand while letting the person go through the process themselves. The idea is that the person must find their own way through the experience and the listener simply helps them speak what they are experience to make their own choices.

Would you be surprised that Christians have a very similar practice since the earliest times of the Church? We call it confession. In confession, the penitent can speak their deepest self in complete acceptance and safety. Part of confession is spending time doing a solid examination of conscience in which we use Christ’s teachings to really take stock of ourselves. When done prayerfully with Christ, we see ourselves as Christ sees us. The priest, acting in persona Christi, listens quietly just as if one were sitting with Jesus himself. The priest only interrupts to ask clarifying questions to understand better. This alone, as Friedman says, is tremendously powerful. This is, however, where active listening ends. The best it can offer is to ask ‘What do you think that means?” or “What do you think you need to do?”. It does not offer any meaning or answers.

Confession, however, has an even more powerful element – forgiveness – if it is sought. A key element of Jesus’ ministry was speaking the Truth. Many of us know the Truth in our lives as many active listeners would agree. However, without any external guide, the Truth of ourselves often becomes simply our truth for today. It doesn’t hold nearly the meaning as something that has been proven true over millenium.

In confession, we can see that real Truth and then can be freed of failings, hurt, and guilt and hear the words of forgiveness that Jesus would speak to us. Even at the late hours of our life we can re-start and try loving rightly again. We still must go out in the world and deal with the temporal effects of our sins, but Christians believe in the promise that Jesus gave that he would use his ministers to give forgiveness if it is sought. It’s the first step towards healing. Something listening alone cannot do.

Legacy Projects

As mentioned earlier, embracing our mortality gives us the motivation and focus to really make a difference even after we are gone. This is something both secular and religious would agree with. In both cases, it means creating something that will live on beyond us. For many, this is setting up their children or families to be safe and cared for after we are gone. For others, it is setting up legacy foundations, trusts, and financial vehicles to affect the world after we are gone.

This is no different for believers – but with a few additions. One only needs to look at the huge cathedrals in Europe to see this in play. The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is a great example. Construction started in 1163 and was first completed in 1260. Over the next 800 years, it went through numerous expansions, revamping, destruction, re-building, and additions. The front towers were built separately over decades, the roof revamped numerous times, the windows added, etc. Many of these additions took well over a person’s lifetime. Expansions were started by one whole set of architects and workers only to be finished by completely different ones.

All the while it was funded by the contributions of money and work by believers. Churches should not be looked at as a one-time construction, but the work of generations of believers – rich and poor – over hundreds of years. Believers that contributed both in large and small ways. Even today, modern churches often have indications of which parts were contributed at different times and different people. It’s a reminder that we often start building things we never will see finished.

In more modern times, we do this kind of legacy building by setting up foundations, trusts, and groups that help particular societal needs. Religious orders have done this for centuries. Dominicans are dedicated to teaching, Franciscans and Carmelites are known for their work with the poor. If you look into the hundreds and hundreds of religious orders over the millennium, you’ll find that we owe modern free education and healthcare to countless generations of religious. That’s why many hospitals still hold Christian names. They were the original non-profit organizations of the world.

To wrap up

It’s interesting that the modern secular world is re-discovering the same things that Christians have known and practiced for thousands of years. That Jesus teachings are still as relevant and correct as ever. Perhaps we need to re-engage the modern world (which has become ever more disillusioned and discounting of religious knowledge) with these concepts – but in a way they can understand more clearly. And it turns out that we started that all the way back in the 1980’s under John Paul II. It’s a reminder of our mission.

Yo Ho Ho and The Fall

Yo Ho Ho and The Fall

The 2006 movie The Fall is an under-rated movie that I really enjoyed for it’s unique story and beautiful, dream-like visuals. Set in 1920s Los Angeles, an injured stuntman (Roy) begins to tell a fantastic story of five mythical heroes to a fellow patient, a little girl with a broken arm. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality blurs as the tale advances. Roy’s true motives and desperation start coming out as his story progresses.

The making of the movie by Tarsem Singh was a real labor of love. The film was shot in 28 countries over four years. No stages or sets were used, only existing absolutely fabulous and exotic locations were used. Filming locations included the Namibian desert, Cape Town Africa, Hagia Sophia, Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan India, Fiji, Rome, Bali, Egypt, China, Boliva, and countless others bucket list locations.

With as few people that know The Fall, even fewer know it was based on a 1981 Bulgarian movie called Yo Ho Ho (Bulgarian: Йо-хо-хо). In Yo Ho Ho, an actor crippled after a bad fall on stage befriends a 10 year old boy who is recovering from a broken arm in hospital. The actor starts telling a marvelous fairy tale, inventing stories about a good buccaneer fighting the evil ruler Alvarez that must be punished for his crimes. Little by little the real people in hospital are transformed into the imaginary heroes of the pirate stories that the Actor and the child vanquish by goodness, honesty and self-denial – all the while the actor intends to use the child to provide him with poison to end his life.

Yo Ho Ho (Йо-хо-хо) is terribly hard to find. There is a youtube video, but no subtitles. Even ebay seems to have failed me, but it appears DVDLady has a copy available.

Streamers turned Triple A Studio head

Streamers turned Triple A Studio head

Dr Disrespect is a quick-witted, bombastic streaming persona created by Herschel Beahm IV. He is most famous for streaming games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and other battle royale games, but has worked at game companies as a level designer and other roles.

After a tumultuous time being banned by Twitch, streaming a men’s room during E3, marital issues, and other potholes, he has moved to Youtube and still has a powerful brand.

It appears so powerful that he’s paired up with some heavy hitters to start a AAA game studio: Midnight Society. He’s collected Call of Duty and Halo veteran Robert Bowling, Quinn DelHoyo (a developer who worked on Gears of War and Halo); Halo Infinite veterans Darren Bacon, art director; Greg Cox, 3D environment artist; Alex Fennell, Technical Director of Infrastructure; Rodney Gilyard, software engineer; and Howard Coulby, Technical Art Director.

It will be interesting to see if Midnight Society can make free-to-play battle royale game (code named Project Moon) take off – but they sure seem to be taking a good first stab at it by releasing early playable footage called DEADROP. They sure have a great bench and started off with a bang by almost immediately selling out their 10,000 Founders Access Passes along with patches and passes. These Founder’s Passes allow early access, voting rights on game behaviors, unique founder’s costumes, exclusive drops, etc.

Just this last month they release their first drop after only 6 months of development and they claim they’ll be doing new drops every 6 weeks.

But it doesn’t stop there, they spend a lot of ink talking about a desire to work with their community to build the game. All members that got in early start as “Claws” and must participate in a variety of tasks to be elevated to highest status of ‘Variant’. There will also be a second-tier group called “Eyes” that run the in-universe creation of weapons and cosmetics – and share in the future economy generated from the work of the guild. What tasks? Besides judging your participation in the forums, activity in the community, activity as a content or game creator, they also had to go through secret missions:

Over the course of the last two months, we’ve been running a secret mission, which began on New Year’s Eve and allowed the most locked-in Claws within our community to verify as Pre-Variants over the course of a five-week campaign. Deciphering clues, hacking into consoles, unlocking Sectors, and running missions. Many of these verified Pre-Variants, who showed initiative and teamwork to complete the secret CC.protocol training simulation will be awarded Founder’s Access for free, with the rest earning whitelist status and receiving the highest priority during the selection process.

They’re leaving no stones unturned. There is also likely going to be the choice of transferring earned equipment via NFT trading or more standard non-NFT trading.

To me, this feels like 2 different engines are running simultaneously. There’s definitely a game being built here, but there’s also an even bigger PR, community, and hype machine engine going. It’ll be interesting if the technical game can live up, or even keep up with the almost massive amounts of direction churn that will be generated by the hype machine. As a software engineer, I sure hope they have some solid change management plans.

If nothing else, Dr Disrespect does know how to monetize and capitalize his fame. It’s also a fascinating view into the most modern kinds of community management techniques. It will be interesting if they can actually put all that into an experience that works and is fun.