MetacogniTV

Thinking about thinking.

The Existential Programmer

Existentialism

Every day is a melody comprised of dissonance. Our ability to create new, novel ideas is only the result of ongoing contrast against a background of an ever-shifting concept of normality. We dance about our daily lives not to the tune of the world, but to the song we let ourselves hear. And our lives are guided by opposing thoughts: for every individual is both significant and meaningless. Our collective drowns out the truth, but each individual is merely a result of that collective.

Every human is blessed with the ability to conceive of the world, but that knowledge is also their curse. We are indeed strange animals, for without these thoughts and our ability to share them, we would have no cultural history. And without this history we would be no different than protozoa in a pond – existing only to survive in the currents of our environment. We mold our environment to our mind, and the environment molds our mind to it.

Programming Is Easy, Engineering Is Hard

Intro

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the journey I’ve taken to get to this point in my professional programming career. Upon reflection, I’ve found that there’s one mistake I keep making. Namely, I conflate programming skills with engineering skills.

Programming is Easy (to shoot yourself in the foot)

And it’s an easy mistake to make. After all, once you’re on a roll with your programming knowledge, you feel like you can solve pretty much any problem thrown in your direction. So you approach the problem head-on, with little thought as to the underlying big picture of the problem. Suddenly, a wild edge case appears! Now you’re stuck re-visiting code that was once “perfect”, and you’re pulling your hair out over how you could have missed such an important step.

Websockets With Nginx + SSL. Also, Benchmarks

After weeks of following the nginx roadmap for news about websockets support, I was ecstatic to see the newest changeset had some simple intructions on how to implement them.

I have an example of a websocket + ssl server running right now at: https://legionofevil.org

If you want to see the code, go ahead an skip these benchmarks.

Very Coarse Benchmarks

Previously, I was using xhr-polling with socket.io and was getting latency readings of about 120ms. My friends in the US were getting a 60ms lag reading (the server is in Utah, while I’m in British Columbia).

After recompiling nginx from the trunk source, I got speedups to about 55ms, which is half of what I was getting before. My US friends also reported a latency of 35ms.

So, ya. It’s worth an upgrade if you’re working with ssl.

And We’re Back

After much head-banging and some deep contemplation, I have once again migrated my server. Hopefully, this solution lasts and is reliable enough for me to begin creating consistent and thematic updates. Version 3 of this site is hosted with the good folks at Linode and this particular virtual machine is located in Japan.

Depths

The mind is an amazing gift. For one thing, only living things are able to enjoy this experience. For another, using our minds we are also able to reflect on its gift. Indeed, it is a precious gift.

This is why I don’t feel like any experience is ever squandered. Moments are precious gifts of the result of so many dancing chemical processes.

Once, walking in the University of Utah’s library courtyard, my friend asked me what the purpose of my philosophy degree was. After all, I was also studying biology, and wouldn’t studying two “different” subjects just make my studies more difficult? Indeed, I was in a varied array of classes; my homework ranged from counting and dissecting octopuses to writing about intellectual property law. But I don’t think that this broadness made my life more difficult. I rather liked finding the common narrows in these assignments. But now, having finished a degree in Cognitive Science, I’ve realized something: our studies are interlinked in even more unexplored ways. I propose to you that ballet and DNA have more in common with our experience than simple statistics. For the function of both is chemical, and the chemistry is the chaos springing from basic rules. This emergence is prevalent in nature.