28 July 2009

Johnny and I go to the Beach

So... my pale self and I decided that a trip to the beachfront was in order. No, I don't know why I felt that sunny California and my lily white skin would be a good combination. It is a family vacation, my brother and I are flying in to see Mom, I had no choice really. And there are worse things in life than staying on Sunset Island, a three minute walk from the ocean.

Anyways, further updates about my vacation (and the fact that SPF50 is a freakin' lie) will be forthcoming. But for the moment, let me tell you about Johnny on the beach.

To start, all I brought was the ereader. No cables, no computer to hook it up to, just the ereader. So if the batteries go, I’m totally screwed. I will say that I did not take into account that on my vacation I might be required to interact with family and thus, not actually a whole lot of time for reading. I promise, Johnny, I will pull myself away from the Wii and play with you soon.

I had thought that sand and sun would be a problem, and sand definitely is. Or would be if I took him out of his protective zip-lock condom. I have sand in places I didn’t even know I had. I’m also a little afraid to open the condom as there is a string of sand along the seam that will not go away. Yet lo unto those who leave their reader out in the sun. Turned on. It shall burn the letters into the screen, which was not cool at all. Luckily, I didn’t leave it for very long so by futzing a bit with a few pages and turning it on and off a couple of times I managed to get rid of the after image. But don’t be me people, the cover is a wonderful and useful device that should by applied at all times.

[Afternote: So, dumb me, I never even tried the following. I put the cover on while the ereader was in the zip-lock. Worked like a charm. Ereader safe and secure, with cover. We are go for beach, I repeat we are go for beach.]

25 July 2009

You will be assimilated

[Before anyone says anything: yes I have a lot of time on my hands. I work swing shift, so on my days off, I have very little to do between about 2am and 5 or so when I go to bed.]

I began a project back in May. I say began, I bought the materials for a project back in May, actually started it in June and finished it last Friday. Even that’s misleading. I began and finished my end of the project one week at then end of June, I then had to wait for help with the laser which didn’t get finished until late July.

What’s that? Yeah, there’s a laser involved. Did I mention that this project was awesome?

Meet 2 of 3.

He’s a little shy around strangers, enjoys warm fires, puppies, assimilating lower life forms, and pasta. Also, he’s a Teddy Borg.

Resistance is futile.

Making a Teddy Borg is not as easy as one might seem, nor is the going unfraught with peril.

But with a few feet of black vinyl, some cord, a willingness to dismantle a laser pointer and a guinea-bear you too could have your very own Teddy Borg.

(Note: I do know that some students at MIT made one with a wireless connection that was pretty cool; but I don’t attend MIT. In fact, I took off three years between school and grad school. Techno-geek I am not. This bear was made to the best of my abilities and it does rather rawk. Actually, to the best of my abilities and I could rather have made it wireless if I’d really wanted. But seriously, is it not creepy enough as it is? Can you imagine if you could turn it on from half a world away?)

So some directions, should you desire a Teddy Borg of your very own:

Easiest way to make the suit, hands down, is to open up the back of the bear, pull out his stuffing, and turn him inside out. This will make you feel like a very bad person. From there, you can see the edges of the panels needed and can create a pattern. I went through a few different incarnations of the suit before I found the one that worked.



The face, well.. I tried it two different ways. One was to pull all the stuffing out of his head and sew it that way. That’s how the finger injury above happened. This is also how 1 of 3 was made. The other way is to just use a double back loop while sewing which I can’t describe but actually works quite well. This is how 2 of 3 was made. I do believe he turned out better (and he is the one featured in the finished photos). He is the also the one gifted to The Amazing Lauren.


The laser, well... we broke a few in this process. What, we? Yes, I do not currently own a soldering iron. Of my many projects, I do not have the required tools to solder a laser. My geekitude only extends so far.

So 1 of 3 and 2 of 3 are complete. In fact, this is 2 of 3 and (future) 3 of 3 together.

They started so cute I actually felt a little bad. Only a little though.

We are the Borg, resistance is futile.

23 July 2009

Wizard’s Third Rule

In the enduring trials of my modem, AT&T informs me that I am outside my one-year warranty. By one day. That’s right, my service plan (and warranty) started on July 21 2008 and my house was hit by lightening on July 22 frying the ethernet port on my modem. There may have been additional name-calling and general grousing towards the poor customer service representative at this point.


[I just want to note here that when I’m angry with customer service people, I spend at least half of my time apologizing for venting my frustration at the person on the other end. I know it’s not their fault. Unfortunately, they are the voice of the company. I have had one person, after I said for the fourth time ‘I know this isn’t your fault’, laugh and say ‘It’s alright, at least you’re not cussing or threatening me’. Do people actually do that?]


Once I got over how mad I was at the whole runaround I was getting from AT&T the solution to my problem became very easy. I went to the AT&T store and bought a new modem. I know what you’re thinking, but stick with me for my plan is manifold and varied. Once connected, my internet will be back for the next twenty something days. Then, well within my 30-day return policy, I will be returning it to the store from whence it came.


Suck it AT&T.

Update: I am back online. There was much jubilation.

22 July 2009

You can lag it up your...


Here is how I (am forced to) read on the Sony. When I get to the last line on the page, I hit the page turn button. Around the time I’ve finished the page is about the time the page actually turns. This is especially annoying as I’m only viewing one page at a time and thus run into this problem every fifteen seconds or so.


Why is this happening? It’s not like my laptop, which does god only knows what in the background while I work. You have one function Johnny. Sometimes, the lag is so long I question whether I hit the button and hit it again, thus skipping a page when Johnny 505 finally rouses himself from his stupor. I know I have an older model ereader. I know that my computer is slow thus the lag in the Sony estore, while frustrating, is understandable.


But when you are acting on your own, you should not have processing problems! You are performing one job! If my book is boring you hum or something, don’t play solitaire in the background and eat up the processing power. Johnny 505! I am talking to you young man ereader!


On a slightly brighter note, I used Johnny nearly a week before he lost a single bar on his battery indicator. So that’s cool…


But it does not let you off the hook for the page-turn lag sir! Don’t sass me! Go to your room!


If I kill someone over this, I'm going to blame the entire collection of Smart Bitches.


Also see the origin of Johnny 505, the second comic, and some text-based Sony eReader observations.

Modem Madness

Dear AT&T,


I pay a handsome fee to use your DSL line. I bought a modem from you. I have had very few complaints in the year since. AT&T, your technical support sucks.


I admit, I know just enough about the inner workings of my computer to get myself in trouble. I had already ascertained that the problem was either in my modem itself or on your end. I have pinged the modem from my computer, all data packets received and returned. The problem, I repeat, is not on my end.


If you tell me to reboot my computer one more time I am going to scream. Yes, even more so than I screamed at your automated system when it told me the easiest way to fix my modem was to log online to the support center. Really? This is your best possible solution to the fact that I can’t get on the internet? Tell me to get on the internet? I’d love to get around that message but my repeated bellowing of ‘SKIP!’ was met with confusion on the part of your automated software.


I hate you so much right now. Why even ask for a callback number (in case we get disconnected) if you’re not going to call me back when you hang up on me. That’s right bitch, you hung up on me!


And no, I am not going to reboot again!


Right now, no joke, I am going to drive twenty minutes to my dad’s to post this online. I would rather use his internet and go without at home than call you again. I am moving out of this house in three weeks, I will find a way to survive without. I spend 4-6 hours on the internet a day, and I would rather go without than use your service.


That’s how much you suck.


Love,

The Heroine.

17 July 2009

Blackjack Probability

My life experience, let me show you them.


At one point in my moderately shady past I worked as dealer on a Louisiana riverboat casino. I’ll take a moment here to let you bask in the fact that my past rocks. Done? Okay, this is to anyone who has ever played Blackjack – I would like to offer you a crash course in luck v. probability vis-√†-vis card counting.


The difference between blackjack and the games I will go into later is simple, in blackjack your odds are constantly changing. Discarding suits, and I know of at least three variations on Blackjack that offer varying odds on certain suited sets of cards, there are thirteen different cards you can pull [A2345678910JQK]. Assuming a full deck, you have approximately a 7.6% chance of pulling any given card. However, in the game of blackjack, there are four cards that are considered to be ‘ten cards’ [10JQK]. All of these have the same value on the table and are interchangeable within the gameplay. You could take out all of the Jacks, Queens and Kings in a deck and replace them with 10s and the game would play the same. Thus, while the probability of drawing any single card is 7.6%, the probability of drawing a ten card is in fact 30%.


Let’s play with that for a moment. Let’s say I have a table with six players who all, on the first hand, receive natural twenties (two ‘ten cards’). I also receive a natural twenty. On the table there are now 14 ten cards. A six deck shoe (common for the area I dealt in) contains 312 cards. One is ‘burnt’, or discarded if you will, before the first hand is dealt. At the end of the first hand there are 297 cards left in the shoe. The shoe stared with 96 ‘ten cards’ and now contains 82. After the first hand, the total probability of pulling another ten card is now 27%. Until more cards are pulled, the probability of pulling a ten has dropped three percent. After one hand. If that doesn’t make you pause for a moment then I don’t know what will.


So how do we get back to a 30% probability of pulling a ten card? It seems easy. Pull 14 non-ten cards to balance it out. If we do this, however, our probability only rises to just shy of 29%. In fact, to return to a 30% probability, you’d need to pull nearly thirty non-ten cards from the shoe.


The above math is what card counters are attempting to take advantage of. As cards are pulled, the odds for that type of card appearing again will fluctuate in relation to other cards pulled. By keeping a count of what cards have already been used, you can make a guess at what cards are likely to appear.


So how do casinos combat this? The easiest way is in the cut. Ever notice the dealer doesn’t deal all the way to the last card? Instead, they deal to a special yellow cut card, finish the hand, then shuffle all decks. At my casino, procedure was for the dealer to cut at least a deck and a half to two decks from the end of the shoe. If you had a suspicion the player may be counting cards, you cut straight in the middle, three decks from either end. While this doesn’t change the overall odds, at any given time a significant portion of remaining cards will never be used or seen. In theory, with a deck where 156 of the cards will never be used (a halfway cut), all ten cards and aces could be on the other side of the cut card. While the odds of pulling one of these will grow closer and closer to 100%, knowledge of this is ultimately useless as there is literally no way to access these cards.


The more cards a counter sees, the better informed they are as to what their next card will be. If a dealer dealt to the last card, a person card counting would know with 100% probability what that last card will be. (This is actually giving counters a little too much credit. For the most part, the systems used merely give the counter a ‘best guess’ at what the nature of the next card will be [High/ Low/ Neutral] rather than the specific type of card [A23456789‘10’].)


So the moral of the story is, if you ever see a dealer cut a shoe halfway then they or their pit manager suspects a card counter at the table. And honestly, trying to count into a six deck shoe while nearly a third of the deck remains unknown is a little silly. You only gain a measurable advantage for the last two or three hands. Stick to basic strategy, you’ll probably work out better in the long run.


Math!

Probability of any type of card: 1/13 or .076923… (repeating)

Probability of 'ten card': 4/13 or .307692… (repeating)

Probability of 'ten card' after first hand: 82/297 or .276094… (repeating)

Probability of 'ten card' after fourteen non-'ten cards are removed after the first hand: 82/283 or 0.289752 (non-repeating)


15 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Oh Harry Potter, how I have missed you.


dumbledore awesome


Harry Potter was pretty much the defining force behind my college years. I read the first four my senior year of high school. The fifth I bought while on a family vacation in Italy. While everyone else was soaking up the sun on a Mediterranean beach, I was sitting on our balcony reading a copy of Order of the Phoenix that I’d bought at the Rome Termini station. I sat outside the Richmond Waterstone’s for the midnight release of both Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows – each was finished the same night.


I’m the Nerd Heroine and I am an HP fangirl. So take the following with a grain of salt. They could have done the movie in claymation and I would have shilled out nine bucks to see it. Also, spoilers. If you intend to see the movie and haven’t read the books – well, first of all what’s wrong with you? Second, I will be revealing minor stuff. Major stuff shall still be hid.


Contrary to what I’d read, it wasn’t as dark as I was expecting it to be. After Order of the Phoenix, I was half expecting to leave the movie in tears with a desire to kill myself. All in all, I think this didn’t have the same air of desperation that OotP did. It did have its moments of course; by which I mean, and all forgiveness to cross-referencing here, Why so Sirius Dumbledore? Although I knew it was coming, it still made me tear up.


That said, I think this was by far the funniest of the Harry Potter movies. It was partly the energy in the theater, and partly because it is in fact very very funny. On the flip side, I don’t think it has been ever more obvious that Harry Potter, and indeed the Harry Potter franchise, has grown up. Even OotP still seemed like kids playing a game with grownups. This is the first time the characters are allowed to stand up for themselves as adults on their own terms.


I remember being annoyed with the sixth book because it focused so much on the raging hormones of being an adolescent. And while I remember what I was like as a sixteen year old, I have no desire to relive it. It was played well in the movie and I didn’t want to shoot any of the main characters. Lavender? She can go away forever.


And! What was with Ginny tying Harry’s shoe at the Burrow? A woman two seats away went “What!?” which made the whole audience laugh as we were all thinking the same thing. She made herself subservient to him. Ginny was always shown as being more than Harry’s equal. What was up with that? I kind of wrote it off as romantic awkwardness, but it wasn’t very well played if it was. But she then chased after him into the flaming fire of non-canon fiery death OMG! so it all rather of evened out for me. I know you don't have a huge appearance in the last book, but be more awesome Ginny.


Total Spoilers: Yeah, they left out Dumbledore’s funeral. In the book it offered a denouement after the Battle for Hogwarts: Origins. In the movie, the original Battle for Hogwarts never happens. Bellatrix, Greyback et al show up, hang out taunting Draco for a bit [and yay Tom Felton, he had like three lines, but the lurking and scheming was awesome], watch Snape kill Dumbledore and waltz out. Harry gives chase, Snape becomes snarky. The end. There’s no need for a denouement. Nothing happens – well, other than the obvious. The emotional catharsis comes from the wands-held-high memorial the students and staff give Dumbledore. And it works well within the movie. [Denouement? Catharsis? Yes, I took AP Literature, why do you ask?]


Oh! And the bit with the Inferi on the lake where they kept showing shots of the water and the music was like 'La la la nothing to see here' and everyone who read the book knew that shit was about to go down. But it didn't and didn't and didn't and by the time it did my feet were in my seat and I was watching the movie with my hands over my ears and my eyes half-closed. Well played, Mr Yates. Well played indeed.


It is a good Half Blood Prince movie. I personally would have included different scenes and a slightly different tone, but it wasn’t my movie and the one they made was pretty damn good.


All that’s left is Deathly Hallows I & II. The Potterd√§mmerung is here y’all. I’m stocking up on canned goods and 1,084,170* words of magical goodness.


Production Sidenote: I have never believed Michael Gambon looked so muck like Ian McKellan as he did in this movie. When he was at the top of the Astronomy Tower at the end, I kept expecting him to bellow 'You shall not pass!' at Malfoy. He's a great actor and all, and this was one of his finer performances, but Michael Gambon will unfortunately always be a poor man's Ian McKellan for me. Sorry Mr. Gambon!



*Serious, that’s the total word count of the Harry Potter books. I cried when I found out my senior thesis was supposed to be 15,000 words. JK Rowling laughs in the face of lesser prose - mwa ha ha!

RTFM

Text-based Johnny 505 observations:

The Sony readers are apparently not the easiest thing to set up. Besides the completely awful layout of the paper instructions (serious, it's like a meter square), they were misleading. Several people who have attempted to set up their test driving e-readers have had trouble.

I didn't read them. I don't read manuals until something goes wrong. Sometimes this has led me into trouble. (Remind me to tell you the story of the day I got HAL's new internal DVD drive) Most times, and with most of today's technology, you can plug in and go. That actually really impressed me with Johnny. Plugged him in, loaded the software, and away we went.

Now the software. The ebook Library software sucks so hard. It's slow, which may be HAL's fault - he is six years old poor guy which is like 114 in people years, and there is no intuitive way to back-navigate. While I can get to where I want to go, when I want to go where I've been I run into roadblocks. There is a back button, but it applies to the entire program. So if, say, I click between the store and my reader, when I go back to the store the back button takes me to my reader, rather than where I was in the store. Some people are using Calibre software, and I shall be looking into this. But for the moment, and in the spirit of the test-drive, I'd rather use the software Sony gives us for a while first.

And hey, there should be way of marking books on your reader you have read. When I'm at work looking throught the library for something to read, I'd like to bypass to things I have yet to read. Or books I started and didn't finish.

Also, while I do have bad eyesight, my reading vision is 20/20. Yet I still have to zoom in at least once to comfortably read. You only get three options and the ones that are truly comfortable mean that you have to click through to the next page every few sentences. With the page-turn lag on the reader, this is annoying as all hell.

Still, these are mostly nitpicks that would make my experience better but aren't necessarily dealbreakers for me. I'm still desperately in love with Johnny.


For further Sony 505 lovin', see J:505 comic number one and two.

14 July 2009

J:505



For those of you who don't use the Sony ebook store, those swirly arrows spell doom. They are the 'waiting' symbol the store uses and I feel like I spend a goodly portion of my day looking at them spin and spin and spin...

They mock me.

But Johnny rocks nevertheless. My paper books are going to stage a coup d'etat.

Go to SBTB now. You too may win awesome things.

But mine will be awesomer.

10 July 2009

Why Smart Bitches *Rock*

So let me tell you what’s up with me. A couple of weeks ago, my first favourite blog decided to do a ‘lendaway’. It wasn’t really a giveaway because we don’t get to keep what we were given. They called it a ‘test drive’.


Of what, you may ask? Oh my dear gentle reader, a Sony 505. It's an e-reader. You know how you never realise how wrong things are in your life until they go right? This experience has been totally like that,


[click image to embiggen]


(No, that wasn’t artistic exaggeration, angels actually did sing when I opened the box. Serious.)


Yes, I have, currently in my possession a Sony 505. And it is awesome. I’ve only had it like eight hours (six of those I spent at work), and I can still say without qualification, it is awesome. I started reading The Patchwork Girl of Oz at work because a) I read ‘Skin Horse’ and wanted some background for Unity* and b) I totally cleaned out the selection of free books the Sony store offers. Rock on.


Check out Smart Bitches, Trashy Books [also in the sidebar] if you get a chance, and check back with me for further J:505 adventures. (Yes, I did name it Johnny 505 so I could make a 'Johnny 5 is alive' joke at some point in the future. Hush.)


To the Smart Bitches themselves, you rock so fully. I love you so much.


*If you don’t know what that means, see ‘Webcomics you should be reading’ on the sidebar