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matthras
03 August 2011 @ 10:04 pm
For the record, I've moved my blog to WordPress. There's a way you can add RSS feeds to your LJ friends list so once I figure that out and IF there's a RSS feed for my WordPress blog, then I'll let you guys know.

However I still regularly check my LJ Friend's List because it's become sort of a news feed for me as well, so rest assured that I'll still be reading all your entries :)

http://matthras.wordpress.com
 
 
matthras
21 July 2011 @ 06:22 pm
Reading the latest Calamities of Nature comic reminded me of something that slightly irked me a little.

At a colleague's 21st I was in a conversation with someone who's also studying some music. Conversation basically drifted into discussion of absolute pitch and the range of theories that I'd found out through my research, somehow or other the topic also included the beginning of the world/universe/galaxy where, again, I was just throwing out possible theories.

What annoyed me was that he was asking 'But do you believe [theory] is true?'.

'Believe' is such a strong word, and as said in the comic I feel it comes with really strong religious connotations that has ultimately made me hate using the word (for the record, I'm agnostic). Being a level headed on-the-fence scientist I simply told him 'Theories will always remain possibilities unless there is strong evidence to disprove them.' One thing I learnt back in high school is that even though we've come to commonly accept 'facts of science', the fact remains that they're still 'theories' since we are unable to execute all possible cases of testing the theory.

Yes, this even means that I'll accept the possibility of the Pastafarian religion and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as absurd of an idea that may be. I have not looked into it, so obviously my current stance is uneducated and as such I have not heard anything that has proved or disproved the existence of the validity of the religion and its deity. So it's still a possibility.

It may seem silly, but to me it's a fair stance that does not sway one way or the other.
 
 
matthras
For the record, I don't exactly mean to ridicule anybody, but if they feel offended, bear in mind that I never write these kinds of posts with the intention to do so. My opinions are just opinions and I know better than to judge people based on limited information.

Certainly, though, the observation of what people post has been interesting especially as I do have a few younger people on my friend's list (family friends, younger brother's friends, etc.).

For some, Facebook is an outlet where all their statuses are with some hint of frustration. Frankly I find those a little annoying mainly because it tends to prompt other people to ask something along the lines of 'What's wrong?', so basically the whole thing shouts 'attention seeker' to me. I do understand however that people just need to blow off steam, and I hardly doubt that people actually write these frustration-fueled status updates for attention (I may be incredibly naive here, though).

Quotes. It's always nice to learn that little bit of wisdom and then impart it to your friends. Sometimes we read a line from a book, or perhaps hear about a witty joke, that we just have to share it with our friends. For the love of god, though, if you're quoting a line which can easily be misunderstood or taken out of context, please use quotation marks. It's not that difficult -_-

I'm not sure what category to put this in, but for lack of a better word I'd have to say 'ideals'. I find this more common amongst females, and they write/quote/post stuff with a very individualist attitude (that's putting it very broadly, the latest example I've seen is the 'I didn't need you anyway' in which the context is easily guessable). I daresay I fear a little for people who actually post this kind of stuff, mainly because it all feels very superficial since I get the impression that they're easily influenced by those 'ideals' because they sound 'cool', but to me the reality of it is that taking on those 'ideals' just covers your actual personality with a shell (not that it's a bad thing, but the younger they are, the more harmful it'd be for development, I'd imagine).

And then there's the snippets of peoples' lives. Some more easily understood by strangers, and others not so easily (naturally due to specific aspects of a person's life that some people may not be too familiar with - it's like me complaining about music to my non-music friends, putting it simply).

Unfortunately I'm a pretty ordinary person :P
 
 
matthras
13 July 2011 @ 02:19 am
Generally I've been telling people that I've stopped studying music mainly because I've realised that I want to do other things, but to be brutally honest, that isn't the whole story since there is a whole bunch of personal reasons which I've never told anyone.

Finding the drive to practise was something I struggled with throughout the whole three years of studying music. Part of the reason was that I simply felt that the amount of practise I needed to put in wasn't worth the small improvements. Seeing as it's something I've never really improved, I realised that there's no point continuing to study music if I don't have the drive to practise.

Another reason was that I was already comfortable with my own standard of playing, even though they may never have reached the level of standard required at the respective year levels. Intonation still remained a huge issue and since it was something I could never pinpoint, my standard of playing always remained under a certain threshold. As long as my fingers were roughly in the right places (relying on muscle memory), I couldn't care less for intonation. Naturally this is something that wouldn't have gotten me through further study in music.

I just simply cannot understand a lot of classical music. Excluding music that I've personally performed/learnt/studied, I could listen to it, but have no clue what the ideas/imagery/colours are supposed to be. The average musician talks about the colours and ideas that a composer conveys through his music.
Unless I'm given a name, an obvious reference, some kind of historical reference, or some kind of visual imagery I can relate to, chances are next to zero that I'll actually pick up the ideas in the music.
I've always needed someone to put a name or an emotion to a part of music to properly understand the idea behind the given phrase/passage - it was something I've always struggled to figure out on my own.
Now that I'm not 'forced' by any means to listen to classical music, I've branched out and extended my listening, to find a preference for ambient, background, and electronic music, sometimes movie sound tracks, basically anything that can be set on loop as background music to anything else. I enjoy them because of their simplicity in all aspects - ideas, tunes, melodies, harmonies and accompaniment.

Given my introverted nature, I realised that I only really got enjoyment out of music when I was just playing it to myself, embracing my own ideas and expressing another side of myself. I've always had to shut out my audience, pretend that I was on my own - only then I feel I could actually make the best music. Throw in an accompanist, things just get annoying, fragmented, and I have to make an effort to be in sync with someone else. When I have to perform for examinations, everything goes out of the window and I can't enjoy myself. In hindsight, I should've learnt the piano instead :P

That said, I've never enjoyed playing in orchestras. One thing I still don't understand is the need to practise individual orchestra parts if they weren't interesting on their own. Maybe it was me alienating myself from the group, but I've just never felt the whole 'being part of a group' vibe when I've played in an orchestra. I haven't done chamber ensembles for a long time, but my sentiments are exactly the same - just trying to be in sync with a group when I've been on my own for so long is just bothersome because I'm a selfish bastard that wants people to understand me first before I make the effort to understand them.

One might ask 'So what were you aiming for?'. If I continued studying music, the only thing I'd want to be is a soloist. Already, such is a very unrealistic expectation, and I realised this halfway through my third year. I honestly feel I'm in no position to teach, since intonation is one of the most fundamental aspects of perfecting one's play, so I would be setting a very poor example to any potential students.

Now, back to the reasons I've been telling everyone. I do feel that audiology is an area that I can potentially excel in, as well as being able to contribute to research in that area by supplementing it with my own personal experiences. Studying mathematics now is simply a stepping stone, but also sets a solid foundation for me to fall back upon, as well as allowing me to expand into different areas (further study in Mathematics, Economics/Finance/Actuarial studies) should I be unsuccessful with pursuing any means of postgraduate study in audiology.

I don't regret studying music, though.
 
 
matthras
12 July 2011 @ 12:33 am
Nursing homes aren't full of friendly old people; the grannys that pinch your cheeks; the cheerful and smiling nurses; or the jolly fat men who you could easily imagine standing around your back garden tossing an extra sausage onto the barbie.

Nope. Nursing homes are a pretty depressing place. For those who don't know, my father has been in a nursing home for a number of years now. My family regularly visit him on the weekends. Roughly two hours a day on both Saturday and Sunday.

As the automatic doors make way, one observes a series of assorted couches around the TV, a nurse in the corner attempting to coax some food into the mouth of a half asleep woman. Walking down the hallway reveals more silent women sitting at round tables. For a first timer, the stares are unnerving.

The men, however, are much more vocal. My mother greets them with a 'Hi, gentlemen!' and the room erupts into friendly banter. There's Noel, who is the only one who can walk unassisted; John, who attempts to turn anything into a sexual innuendo; and Paul, who is missing a leg and regularly takes ciggie breaks. Ray is recovering from a stroke, so is Serge.

Every visit is the same: my father remains silent whilst my mother feeds him, whilst we all watch TV. False smiles are the last thing I want to do, but accompanied with a small wave, makes up my usual greeting upon entering my father's room.

I don't know why my father remains silent, like all of the women in the nursing home. Hastily jumping to conclusions would be an error on my part.

But when you've been putting up with visiting him at the nursing home for so many years, it is a struggle to retain any shred of humanity. Especially when one watches old people deteriorate slowly. Whether it be to dementia, or long lasting terminal illnesses, every few months we always hear about someone passing way.

Me? I gave up ages ago. As far as I'm concerned, my weekend is like any other normal weekend minus six hours.
 
 
 
matthras
30 June 2011 @ 10:25 pm
It's been a while since I last posted. Mainly because I was supposed to have prepared something special for this 1000th blog post. So you guys'll just have to do with a typical long post about how things have been in life for me.

What I had planned was a vlog with a little more editing than I would normally do, but I've realised that I've always been put off making videos for two reasons everytime the thought comes up:
1. The camcorder is a very old tape one, and on Youtube the quality doesn't surpass 480p.
2. Lack of efficient AND cheap video editing software. The big guns, naturally, cost waaaaaaaay too much.

It doesn't help that I have a backlog of videos from old tapes that we've just never process to properly cut, compress and archive, but I've slowly been working on it. Fingers crossed that I'll have them all done by the end of this break.

I've also gone off the antidepressants, partially because my GP has disappeared from the clinic we regularly go to. Last we heard was that he was setting up his own clinic, but we have no idea where. I realised that this was a good opportunity for me to see how I fare without antidepressants in a much more relaxed environment (since I went off them after the semester ended). It helps that I'm a very self-aware person, and whilst some of my old undesirable tendencies have come back to haunt me a little (minor periods of depression, the occasional anger peak), I do feel that I have a lot more control over them. Whilst I enjoyed not having to deal with depression and anger, during the period I was on antidepressants I daresay I was probably more emotionless (not even my seemingly being happier seemed to be much of a positive effect). It's nice to sit here, think about it and accept to some extent that it is just who I am (I still hate myself for several reasons, but progress is progress).

I decided to defer another subject until next year upon recommendation from one of my subject co-ordinators, so Semester 2 is looking pretty easy and straightforward (Clicky for timetable here!). It also helps that I probably already know more than half the content for one of my subjects.

MAST10009 - Accelerated Mathematics 2
MAST20018 - Discrete Mathematics/Operations Research
MAST20022 - Group Theory/Linear Algebra

I'm still jobless, but am slowly getting around the fact that there are some things that fall under 'slightly tolerable', and still continue to check the University's Careers Website every second day or so.
What my mum has suggested to me a while back that I finally decided to make some headway on, was looking at Joomla which is a CMS (Content Management System). Essentially what CMSs do is set the infrastructure of a webpage such that the less-technologically oriented user can edit simple content right on the website itself. Of course, this requires a bit of additional work by someone with the proper expertise to actually implement the infrastructure, but the benefits is that as long as the general design (i.e. logos, colours, templates, etc.) remain intact, everything else can be handled by the client (i.e. doesn't require constant interaction and maintenance between client and web developer).

I'm going to stop here, mainly because anything additional I write will be more self reflective stuff, and for now I'm just posting a general update here :)
 
 
matthras
16 May 2011 @ 12:20 am
What has been quite a thorn in my side when it's come to gaming is that essentially, I know I can and want to get better, but I don't have the time to make the commitment mainly due to studying.

This happened with World of Warcraft - I was a very competent raider in terms of research, knowing the fights, understanding class roles, leading raids and knowing my positions, but I just couldn't spare the time. Hardcore raiding guilds would set aside 3-5 hours a night for 3-4 nights per week working on new content for 2-3 month periods after a new patch release would come out with new boss fights and such - and I know that personally if I made that time commitment I would've taken a serious blow to my studies.

I feel the same is happening with Starcraft 2. I'm at a stage where there are just minor details that I want to refine, but the nature of the ladder system is such that I'm not always presented with the same opportunity. The thing that has been keeping me from joining a clan is purely the fact that they seem to have requirements like 'must be online 10 hours a week' when such things are obviously variable depending on how much I commit to study.

In hindsight, though, with the aforementioned two games it is a fact that I have not ever played/practised competitively with real life friends. Even though I do have real life friends who play Starcraft 2, only one is even anywhere near to being on a competent level as I am.

Though, just to be sensible, exams are coming up (my first being in about three weeks) so I should probably not actively look for local friends or join a clan of some sorts. However there is three successive over three fortnight SC2 LAN tournaments at a fairly accessible place after exams, so hopefully I'll be able to make some friends there.
 
 
matthras
15 May 2011 @ 10:55 am
If I do offend any people who commit to a religion reading this post, I challenge such people to reply with their thoughts. For the record, I'm an open minded agnostic, but I do have very defined boundaries with my tolerance.

Religion is something that at least, in today's individualist society, something that isn't really talked about except between like-minded people. People like myself usually don't have a problem with people being religious, only that they don't attempt to force their belief on others or assert some form of superiority (which is really ironic with most Christians who fall into that trap). Granted, I do twitch a little when a friend or two posts a quote from the Bible from Facebook or publicly thank God - but since it isn't my business I usually do nothing.

I've always seen faith is something that people either have or don't have, but I do understand that there are cases and circumstances where someone 'finds' faith in a deity. One of my uncles who visited recently spoke with me at some length about it, and it made me realise that faith is obviously a very personal and unique feeling/experience for everyone.

The issue here is whether there should be religious education in primary schools. A recent event on Facebook was telling people to go vote in a poll hosted by the local paper (The Age) as to whether they support religion as part of a school's curriculum.

My stance, frankly, is that it should be an 'opt in' option rather than a compulsory/'opt out' option (with the exception of religious schools - after all you'd have to be pretty silly to be enrolled in a religious school if you weren't committed to that particular religion). But there are a couple of things that concern me about the general issue overall.

From personal experience, I have had some religious education in my earlier years of primary school (and I've also had my Catholic confirmation done) but like as it is now, all it is to me was just simply knowledge. With that, I pose the question: Do kids at primary school age really understand religion and faith?
With that in mind, one can imagine that a child's understanding of a religion and faith would not be particularly deep. The problem I see here is that it can easily lead to blind faith.
However I'm fairly certain that more and more people are asking questions and inquiring, no matter what age they are, since there can be a range of much more complex issues (e.g. suffering, what signifies as 'sinning') nowadays that do require answering from a priest or more informed individual.

Another argument put forward by mostly the teachers is that the current curriculum is already so full such that religious education doesn't really have a place amongst everything else. It's clear that to them, religious education has a lower priority than 'core' subjects (music education suffers from this problem as well). This gives rise to another question or two: How easy is it to teach something that's not physically apparent, or at least, can't be experienced first hand with the five senses?
The other question is the future implications of what they teach - whether they consider it to be viable or not. It's easy to see that teaching children mathematics, English, and science is a given since it's such knowledge that they will eventually go on to develop later in life.

Honestly, it's a rather grey area because I do understand that people may actually need (to develop) that faith that gives them a sense of personal completeness. I do personally feel though that this is something each individual needs to find on their own, and if they're people who live by solid and realist logical rationale and reason like myself, then it's clear to them that they don't have any need to commit. After all, it's our experiences that shape our choices.
 
 
matthras
12 May 2011 @ 07:50 pm
Google recently announced their latest laptop concept, the 'Chromebook'. The main idea is that everything you use and do on these 'Chromebooks' are entirely online. All applications, editing, whatever.
Essentially that's the whole concept of 'cloud' computing. All you need is an internet connection and a sufficient laptop, and you'll be able to do anything anywhere since all your files and programs will be on a server that's naturally accessible through the internet connection.

Naturally I've indirectly mentioned a glaring problem - you need an internet connection to actually get any use/function out of it, and given the sorry and backwards state of internet access here in Australia I can imagine this being more of a difficulty and hindrance.

Personally I'm pretty keen on the whole idea and can see the efficiency of cloud computing. Whilst I don't have -a- personalised server where I keep all my files on, I do put documents up on my Google Docs account as well as setting up a way for my laptop to access my desktop at home through TeamViewer.
Effectively one could argue that my desktop at home IS the 'main server' where I keep all my main files and what not, and when I use my laptop at University I just download whatever files I need through TeamViewer.

It will definitely take a while before it becomes mainstream (given the majority of the population are relatively uneducated with PCs, and that they'll probably stick with Windows for a number of years to come), but it's not difficult to see the benefits if you're one who needs some flexibility in one's accessibility.

One blog I read mentioned that in a way, this is another attempt by another corporation to 'dumb down' computing in order for it to be a much more accessible user experience. Whilst I certainly understand the prospect, I tend to be more of the opinion that with the rate that technology is developing, that slowly it'll be mainstream to have some degree of computer/technological knowledge (rather elitist, I'm aware).
Essentially this is why people like Apple products and the Mac OS, as far as I'm aware. It's more prepackaged and there's less things to worry about. Naturally Apple does take this to a slight extreme with its iPod products with their restriction to loading songs/movies through iTunes.

I can't see this revolutionising much more extreme computer activities such as high-end gaming and video editing in the short term, though. There was a demonstration at some gaming convention where one can play a game, but everything about the game was all online on some server, which resulted in a massive bandwidth requirement for downloading and uploading - I don't know the exact figures, but I can definitely say that the amount required greatly exceeds the best speeds we can get here in Australia, and would easily blow typical download caps within a matter of minutes (i.e. very impractical!).

Ah, the joy of technology.
 
 
matthras
11 May 2011 @ 11:04 pm
Computers are dumb. Let me elaborate.

Mostly through my study of Graph Theory which includes a section on algorithms, I've recently been rather frustrated at how simple we actually need to dumb down steps in order for a computer to actually understand it. As I have told one or two people, 'It's ironic that we need to smarter in order to be able to dumb down actions/processes for a computer to understand it.'

Yes, it's biased, mainly because I'm horrible at this sort of thing, but it seems like there's a different way of thinking required in order to break down 'general' process into step-by-step processes.

Let's look at something simple: A simple search algorithm. We want to find a given word in a list of words. One can describe the algorithm (written in hopefully simple and easy-to-understand English) as follows:

1. Start with the first word in the list.
2. If the word is the given word, then display [position of given word in list, acknowledgement of word presence in list, etc.]. If not, move to the next word in the list.
3. If no words in the list matches the given word, then display [something like 'Unable to find search query/given word']

And if we compare the breakdown of such a process to the simple action of a person looking through a dictionary to find a given word, there's a huge difference in how we, as people, mentally go through the given process fast enough that we don't actually realise it; OR our understanding of such a process is not in the step-by-step form that's required for computers to replicate the same results.

Part of my frustration tonight that led to this entry being written was that I was trying to simplify a representation of a graph in order to minimise the amount of information it would require for a computer to replicate it.
The problem that I came across is that I couldn't use certain simplification processes without adding a LOT more information that a computer would require to replicate the graph. Annoying.

I'm sort of hoping this entry made some sense *uneasiness*