The Week’s Getting Worse

Tipping points and thresholds can really suck. I got a random duty for this year to cover for a person’s sabbatical. They were “Programming Competition Czar” which really means the ACM algorithmic programming compeition which means UKIEPC 2018…this weekend.

I’m sure the duties committee said, “Hey, this isn’t a fuck ton of work and it’s the kind of thing that Bijan likes, so it’s a lightweight thing to throw his way.’ It isn’t a fuck ton of work and it is the kind of thing I like…but the first competition happens in period 1 which is my Hell Period of Doom. On top of the normal hellishness of two full day classes a week, plus 3rd year projects starting, plus MSc project marking, plus exam writing (3 exams because I have a period 2 class too!) I have first time first year tutorial, plus people are scheduling all day project meetings, and project management meetings, and initiative launches, etc.

Even the easy things get hard. Novelty, esp dealing with new tasks and new people, easily throws me into a tailspin, which is why I’ve got an unnecessary late night of class prep: What parts of today that weren’t dealing with UKIEPC were spent crying or dry heaving or both.

So that sucks.

Random think from the news…one of the Marvel Netfflix shows, Iron Fist, was cancelled. Since it was the utterly unwatchable one…yay? One thing thing this random pointless news story which was somehow plastered all over my feeds really highlighted is how impoverished the Marvel and DC catalogs are. There’s a notable paucity of good plots or stories, hence the tendency to rehash origin stories. Origin stories are easier because they rely on the process of worldbuilding to provide momentum and interest. But they tend to introduce character designs rather than characters, which is why subsequent episodes tend to be meh. There very little character development because there’s very little character to develop. The plots are weak so they can’t carry much. Conflict seems very forced (hence the villain problem…the villains are bland because all the characters are bland. Adding more and more characters replaces developing the characters that were already there.

Of course, there are some gestures toward characterisation. If you follow Tony Stark over the Iron Man movies and the first two Avengers movies (oy), they are clearly aiming for him to have some complexity. But we’re mostly told the complexity rather than shown it. Even in Iron Man 3 which spends a lot of time trying to set up character complexity (he was a jerk, being a jerk has long range consequences (really? people become murderous supervillians because someone was a jerk to them?! what?!), he got super religion, he sacrificed himself and has PSTD, and…he goes from “I am Iron Man” to “I’m not just suits”) it is pretty weak. In particular, a huge swath of the plot exists to mimic or fake character development.

In the end, growth is minimal and symbolic gestures (blowing up the suits) are without consequence (cf Age of Ultron) at any level.

The fundamental problem is there’s little there there. The source material is voluminous but not rich except in loads of character designs. Now, evidently, you can go a long way with a big catalog of character designs esp if you get awesome and charismatic actors to wear them.

I do wonder what’s going to happen when the first generation actors move on. I mean, they have some awesome new ones for sure so maybe there’s enough overlap to keep the showcases of character designs going. But maybe there’s a fast collapse coming.

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Not An Easier Week

I thought it was going to be an easier week. Buuut…MSc project grading (done!), three exams to write (whoa, those are hugely not done), class prep (Not Done sob), and a programming contest (somewhat advanced)….it’s a bit much.

Sometimes, I can harness this pressure, but usually closer to the wire. Which I want to avoid!

Oh well. Next week is the last week of period 1. Now, I have a class in period 2 to panic over. Yay.

Music Monday: Mary Don’t You Weep

Over the end credits of BlackKklansman plays a version of “Mary Don’t You Weep” by Prince. It’s part of a posthumously released album, Piano and a Microphone, 1983. Apparently, Prince sat down with a piano and a mix and recorded a bunch of stuff.

Zoe heard this in the theatre and was blown away by the piano. She had no idea it was Prince! She got a ton of inspiration for her own piano work.

He was a musician’s musician who died far too young.

Sunday Baking: Spinach Bread, Pizzelle, Baps, and Cake

As a bit of tab cleanup, I made a spinach soda bread. It had soooo much oven spring:

It was supposed to be half parsley and have parmesan cheese, but I didn’t have enough parsley and no parmesan. So I just upped the spinach and replaced the cheese with this olive stuff I have lying around. The effect was a bit odd. I definitely need to repeat with the cheese.

I made pizzelle again though with cardamom and orange. I reprised the baps this time with half whole wheat. They came out quite wheaty and delish:

And to celebrate the SWSA award, I made some cake:

My standard chocolate cake with either a peppermint or orange cream layer topped with chocolate ganachey glaze.

We Win the 2018 SWASA 10 Year Award

What is this award? Well:

The primary criteria will be the number of citations to the paper in ten years. We will use Google Scholar. While citation count will be the primary criteria, the panel will also consider other impact factors for the top-cited papers. If two or more papers are very close, more than one paper may be honored. The determination is done in the Spring of the calendar year for the conference.

That’s pretty cool! It also won best paper at the time. So yay! Matt’s thesis won the BCS Distinguished Dissertation award so Triple Yay!

When Uli and I were supervising Matt, we had plenary meetings. They were enjoyable but it’s difficult enough to get a word in edgewise with either Uli or myself on our own…when we’re bouncing off each other fuggetaboutit.