Finally done with that stupid project!

You know that big project that I was very scared about? Turns out that it went extremely smoothly. Staying at the office until midnight was not fun but hey, better safe than sorry. That did give me time to do random things during the day, like get new licence plates, get a proper pair of headphones… It almost felt like an extended weekend.

Thursday night was mostly spent verifying that the new files were reformatted to the new layout. Wait until the job runs, check it returned a good code, open the file, check the layout, and if everything was formatted correctly, put a check mark on the plan verification checklist. Very boring and tedious stuff… It did give me time to catch up on some podcasts and even start on a 4×4 Sudoku (I only got a couple numbers in…).

We did find a bug earlier in the week but nothing too hard to fix. How we managed to not notice that this issue was there despite months of testing? Who knows. It is probably due to the fact that is was part of a rarely used section of the code.

Friday night was when things could very bad and actually went very smoothly. Came in around 4:00 pm and no issues to report. Awesome. The only thing mildly exciting that happened was when we found an issue with one our files, which we did not actually fixed until Sunday morning (because we did not really need to). I was extremely please with how smoothly everything went. I did stay until midnight but my boss did tell me that I could have left half an hour early. Someone on my team did some math and determined that we deleted over 210,000 lines of code! Refactoring code, no one likes to do it but you’ll be surprised how bloated software can become.

As far as I know, none of the other teams had issues either. We had one team who though they found an issue but turns out it was on their side. So what now? What does one do after spending a year an a half on the same project? Not much. Got a couple project for January but the designs are not finished yet. At least the stress is gone.

 

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Blade Runner 2049: the Cuphead of movies…

This past weekend was the New York Comic Con, and unlike the past couple years, I did not get to go… So no exciting photos of New York and stuff. Very disappointing, I know. To be honest, would I rather have saved a few days to go to to the Comic Con and not do the awesome trips that I did this year? Probably not. No problem then.

So what have been doing rather than spending time in an overcrowded convention center? Nothing too exciting. I started playing the somewhat notorious game Cuphead. It has been making rounds on the internet as another proof that so called “video game Journalists” are nothing but talentless hacks that suck at video games.

Now to be honest, Cuphead is a pretty tough game and it’s not like a 5 years old could pick up the controller and beat the game without dying. I would consider myself well versed in the genre of action platformer and I died more than I like to admit on the first few levels. That being said, it is not as hard as some website make it sound. It did not take me “hours and Hours to beat the first boss (or 10 minutes to beat the tutorial).

If I look at my steam library, it says that I played 2 hours (probably closer to 2.5 hours in my estimate) and I beat the two run & gun levels and two of the bosses, and I can get to the final phase of the other three bosses of the first world. Cuphead is not a complex game, all the bosses are highly predictable, you just have to pay attention and learn the patterns, something that some people seem to have trouble with. Remember “Usus est magister optimus“.

I also went to see the new Blade Runner movie the other day. It was very pretty and they did a fantastic job at recreating the cinematography of the original, with long shot of the scenery and long sequences without any dialogue. If only they had spent as much time on the script though, because Wow was it a boring movie.

I am not fan of the first movie but at least everything felt like a neat package. The pacing was slow in the original movie because there is not a lot of plot to go through and the movie is punctuated with a lot subtle character moments. Blade Runner 2049 tried to keep that same type of pacing but because its plot is all over the place, it goes really slow for way too long then switches to hyper speed because they need to throw the plot at you to keep the movie under 5 hours long.

The villain is cartoonishly villainous, even saying cliches like “you don’t know what pain is yet” and killing a replicant for no reason other than showing he is the bad guy and that you should hate him. I think that fans of the original might be dissapointed with this new installment but then again it is rare that the sequel is better than the original (except in video games).

I continue to play RollerCoaster tycoon and here is the  park I have finished last week:

Trinity Island 2

Another week, another boring day at the office…

So there’s this project that I have been working on for the past year and a half, and I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Next Friday is Judgement day. We either go through the install without too many hitches or the thing goes pear shaped and I’ll have a couple sleepless nights fixing what ever needs to be fixed.

So far, everything seems like we are in good shape. No major bug fixes were required since we started the integration test and only a couple tweaks for efficiency has been made to the stuff that I worked on. The only really big problem we faced was during the Client Acceptance Testing (or CAT for Short) where we had a bunch of stuff go down, because the code change management tool failed completely… Turns out that the old and outdated tool that we are using (and failed to replace after the lead developer of the new tool left) was not design to handle the amount of stuff we are trying to push… Joy…

I am really excited to be done with this project but there is nothing I can do to make it happen any faster. So far my current daily routine is answer emails and wait for people to come to me ask questions they should have asked a month ago. “Hey Alex, what happens if I only give the attribute and no country or associations?” It will return an error code and empty outputs, as you should be able to tell from just looking at the code, there is an entire section about checking input parameters! “Hey Alex, I think I found bug in your code. Can you make it so that our code doesn’t crash by removing your error flags?” No. That is how it is supposed to work. Deal with my error codes. “Hey Alex, why does the new code not return the same thing we have in production? Your code must be wrong!” No, the production code is wrong and has not worked properly for the past decade. I fixed it (I am not making this one up! This actually happened TWICE already).

What is my trick to relax after a long day of endless pestering? Roller Coaster Tycoon. Lots of Roller Coaster Tycoon.

There is something hypnotizing to this game. Once you are in the groove of things, hours just start flying by, especially when your start making more money than you know how to spend it. I only finished the first few scenarios so far but I remember this game being harder. I don’t mind steamrolling through the goals, and seeing how far you can push the park before the end of the scenario.

SCR10
This one is only good at two things: making people puke, and making so much money!

The only issue with this game is that it does not always close properly. Every once in while, I have to do a quick Ctrl+Alt+Del to get control of my computer back. Oh and the screenshots are in the ancient .PCX format…

For those wondering, I have played Planet Coaster and yes, it is amazing. The thing is that I spend way to much time messing with scenery. I have a park with probably 30 hours of game time but it only has like six rides in it.

In order news, I got a jury summon today. Since I am not an american citizen, I am automatically disqualified, which is somewhat disappointing. On the one hand I don’t want to get stuck in it where I’ll have to use what’s left of my out of office allocation, but I am mildly curious about judicial proceedings. I guess I’ll have to wait until after I get naturalized, whenever that will be…

 

It’s the end of the world!!!… Supposedly…

So today is the day, guys! Supposedly, the secret tenth planet of the solar system, Nibiru, is completing one of its 65 million year orbit and is going to kill us all! How exciting. I know all those theories about the end of the worlds are complete bunk but I find them fascinating. I always wondered what goes through the mind of the people that come up with them. I am sure that a number of them are nothing more than con artists that see an opportunity for a quick buck, but there has to be a number of those wackos that believe what they are blathering on about.

Personally, my favorite end of the world fad was the Y2K bug. Everyone was so scared that every computer in the world was going to exploded or something because programmers were lazy and made most date calculation based on a two digit integer with an implied 19 in front of it and that date would roll over to the year 1900 or 19100. Those were simpler times, back when I believed that floppy drive was an essential part of any computer.

Then second best has to be when they started the LHC and people were scared that it might create a black hole and destroy the earth. I was at a Summer camp and we had this plan for an end-of-the-world pizza party with some of the counselors but then we forgot. That was disappointing, though seeing the reaction of some the other students when we explained what could have happened was entertaining enough.

Looking at Wikipedia’s list of predicted end of the world, it seems that the upcoming ones are a bunch of theological related stuff, which is far less exciting than secret planets and polarity shifts based apocalypse. It doesn’t list the Apophis asteroid, so I guess that it was written of the books for good. Oh well…

*****

In other news, I did run the Omaha Half marathon last Sunday and it was a blast! Unlike last year, we did not start late because of a shooting, which is always nice, and it was a bit cooler as well. I had a goal this year to do the race in less than three hours and I made it! 2 hours, 59 minutes and 25 seconds! (the website list us at just over 3 hours for some reason). Barely under three hours but that’s good enough for me. This year’s medal was extra bling, with a cool gold finish to it, and it is slightly bigger than last year’s!

Last year I finished in 3 hours and 24 minutes, which means that this year i was 13% faster than last year! That is a nice improvement, though I doubt that I can replicate that next year. I am sure that I can improve my time if I continue to train, but won’t be as drastic as this year. Maybe I’ll run the marathon next year… or the one in Hawaii… That would be cool, Hawaii is great place for a Christmas vacation.

So you are about to run a half-marathon this weekend…

So, you are like me and your family is filled with runners. Your father runs marathons, your mother runs marathons and your sister runs marathons. Lots of pressure to get you into the family business and running a marathon is not something you can learn to do overnight.

Now, I am not stupid and I have been training for this for the past six months and this is not some panic blog post about how I have been slacking off, as the title might suggest. I have been averaging 10 to 12 miles of walking and running around the neighborhood every weekend, and went through a pair of shoes. I feel ready!

To round off my training, I decided to sign up for a 10k called The corporate cup. It’s a charity event run by the American Lung association, and it happened right next to where I work. I made the mistake of not looking at either at the map of the run or at the elevation map. In my mind, the landscape looked pretty flat. Big mistake…

Turns out the UNO neighborhood is way hillier than by my neighborhood is. I was not prepared for some of those hills, but the good news was that somehow, despite walking most of mile 3 and 4, I managed to finish the race in one hour and twenty four minutes, which is the same time it took me to do my first 10K on flat land… Yay! that pretty cool! I should try to get a good timed run on flat land, could probably go bellow 1:20!

For me, the most satisfying part of running, other than collecting cool medals to hang in my office cubicle as bragging rights, is the very obvious way you progress. Your first run will leave more tired than you thought was possible and you will discover muscles that you did not existed, but the more you run, the less frequent you feel that way. After my first half marathon last year, I felt the same way that I felt after my first 10K. Now, I can run a 10K and not feel sore the next day, that is extremely satisfying. It’s what “no Pain No Gain” is all about.

Anyways, if you are going to be running next Sunday during the Omaha Marathon, I guess I’ll see you there!

My perspective on the Star Trek reboots after watching the original series…

In a quest to become a bigger nerd than I already am, I recently started watching all of Star Trek. I have finished the original series and half way through the lesser known animated series, and while watching an episode where there is a giant clone of Spock, a brain wave hit me. I finally understand what people where complaining about when the reboot movie came out.

Like many people that lived in the mainstream, the Star Trek reboot movie was the first Star Trek thing that I had seen and I really liked it. The music was great, the visuals were impressive (though, in hindsight, I feel that camera shakes and lens flair have seen become a bit overused), all the classic characters that I heard of were present and a spaceship called the Enterprise. This was more than enough to satisfy my uninitiated mind.

The sequel of reboot, “Into Darkness”, was more divisive, but I did not why at the time. The plot made some sense, all the characters were still there, Klingons made an appearance, special effects where still top notch. In some ways it was not as good as the first of the reboot film series, *cough* Carol Marcus *cough*. The dark and gritty approach did not match the optimistic and generally colorful aesthetics of the classic show. I did not mind the use of Khan as the main antagonist, but more on that later.

Star Trek Beyond was probably the best of the three movie of the so called Kelvin timeline. It ditched the dark and gritty stuff, went for an original story line and features a cameo by everyone’s favorite billionaire: Jeff Bezos.

However, now that I have seen more Star Trek than most people, I have a better perspective how the new movies compare to the established Star Trek canon. It is apparent that they made an effort in trying to make sure that the main cast is similar to the one of the show: Sulu is an amateur fencer, Bones complains a lot, Kirk is sarcastic and nonchalant in his approach to diplomacy. There are several scenes in the movies that are clearly directly inspired from the show. For example, the scene where a young Spock is being bullied to show emotion by other young Vulcans is straight of an episode of the animated series. In Beyond, Bones mention a giant green hand in space, which is actually the plot of “who mourns for Adonis”, an episode where the crew meets the Greek God Apollo. The distress signal coming from a planet surrounded by a strange anomaly is another trope that recurred several times in the show as well.

At the same time, however, they deviate in noticeable ways: Chekov does not make jokes about how everything was invented in Russia, Spock is far more emotional and does not say the word “fascinating” enough, and one of the main secondary character of the original series, Nurse Chapel, is nowhere to be seen. Also Spock and Uhura don’t have a romantic relationship in the show, but Nurse Chapel and Spock are implied to have feelings for each other.

I think the most glaring thing about Into Darkness that clashes with the classic Star Trek is the amount of arguing between the main Characters. In the original series, the main cast never have big disagreements. The only occasions were the crew argue with one another, they are either under the influence of something or someone is not who they say they are. The scene where Scotty resigns is not something that would fit within the canon of the original show. Uhura having relationship issues in the middle of a covert mission also feels out of place.

The dark, gritty and pessimistic tones of the movie is also in stark contrast with the optimistic tones of the original show. As dark as some of the episodes of the show got, like “The doomsday machine” or “Balance of Terror”, Things never got as bad as a giant ship crash in San Francisco bad.

That being said, I think that making a “true” Star Trek film based on the original series is going to be hard, manly because in order to be financially viable, you need to sell to the lowest common denominator. Action scenes and stuff blowing up is much easier to sell than a brainy sci-fi movie. I would love a Star Trek movie which deals with a tricky ethical dilemma and submarine style space battle (because that how it would realistically work!), but because Hollywood only understand money amounts greater than $250,000,000 in profits and perpetual hatred for fan made movie, I doubt we will see that movie any time soon.

Total eclipse of 2017 and the Ultimate Showdown of not-destiny…

So it sure was an exciting week! We started with a mostly total eclipse on Monday, followed by the most mundane and boring Tuesday to Friday week one could ever dread to suffer, to round it all out with a mostly predictable boxing fight! Actually, now that I put it that way, it was not all that exciting…

We actually got fairly lucky with the eclipse on Monday, because despite the weather prediction of storms and rain, the cloud cover was very light and we managed to get so good views of the transit of the moon across the sun. Many people at the office took the day off to travel south and catch the total eclipse, but not everyone got lucky. My coworker from the cube next to me drove an hour south and barely saw anything through the thick cloud cover. Clearly a lot of people had the same idea and traffic was so bad that the west bound highway was closed.

I did however managed to find a way to disappoint myself. I tried to take a picture of the sun through a pair of eclipse glasses and it was predictably bad, so I had the great idea of taking a time lapse video of the encroaching darkness. I simply set my photo against one of the offices’ windows and let it roll. However, My smartphone was too smart for its own good and decided to adjust the exposure. So, despite the fact it got pretty dark outside (street lamps turn on!), the video barely showed minor changes in coloration here and there… Damn smartphones…

The rest of the work week is the usual routine, go to the office, work on whatever minor issue that needs fixing and listen to podcasts. I have been working on this massive project for the past year and a half and it is finally coming set to be installed this fall. I was expecting we would get a number of error to work through issues as we start integrating the different new systems but as it turns out all the things that I coded are working as intended and everyone else is having issues. So while a number of the other teams are running circles to fix their bugs, I get to sit back and wait… and waiting is starting to become quite boring…

*****

To finish the week with a bang, I watched the big Mayweather vs McGregor fight. I do not care about boxing and I could not be bothered with MMA, but I figured that the absurdity of the event would be entertainment enough. I do not have cable and I had a hunch that paying the hundred dollars to watch it online would be a bad idea, so I elected to go a local sport bar to watch it. There was a cover charge of $40 dollars to get in, a better deal than the $100, though you still had to pay for drinks and food (limited event menu be damned!). According to the bartenders, the bar had to pay $11,000 just to have the public showing of the pay per view.

The fights themselves were intriguing but hardly as entertaining as watching the staff’s exasperation whenever the phone rang. Throughout the evening, almost every twenty seconds or so, someone would call and ask if they were showing the fight for free. Sometimes, when they got really annoyed they would leave the receiver off and prevent people from calling in.

One thing that I found somewhat surprising was how utterly empty the arena in Las Vegas was for the fight before the main event. I would have assumed that people would watch the whole events when they bought ticket to be there, but I guess no one really cared about the rest of the promoted fights, though neither did I.

As the night went on, the bar got more and more crowded, and when the main event was about to start there was a sudden influx of college students from the near by UNO. It seemed the crowd was mainly divided into to groups: the adults that were cheering for Mayweather and the students that cheered for Mcgregor. It seems that there was also a group of Connor fan girls, who squealed every time Mcgregor swung at Floyd, even if he missed.

The Students were really excited for the first few rounds as Conor was controlling the fight and even calling that Mcgregor would win by KO within the next two rounds, then things got a lot quieter by round 5 when Conor show clear signs of fatigue and Mayweather started running laps around him. By round 8, the older crowd was getting excited as the students looked on disappointingly as their hero barely managed to swing convincingly at his opponent. The crowd exploded with joy as the ref went to stop the fight and declare Floyd winner by TKO. The McGregor crowd looked like they just learned that Santa was not real, quite funny to watch.

The one thing that still perplexes me is the general reaction that, despite clearly getting his ass handed to him, somehow “McGregor is still the winner” for trying. All the MMA/boxing/combat sports fans that I knew in college, and online communities in general, always bragged about how you either win or you lose in fights and that there are participation trophies, and yet everyone seem to bend over backward, making excuses for McGregor! What a load of nonsense…

While I doubt I will be subscribing to the boxing newsletter any time soon but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watch the fight in the bar. Maybe the next there is a “fight of the century”, I might give it a watch.