Projects and other stuff

Projects and other stuff

Life Round-up

I now realize that the idea of publishing a new blog post every Friday is too ambitious and stressful. Sacrificing the quality of this blog in order to meet those demands is out of the question. Instead, I’ll go back to my usual routine of publishing content sporadically. Who’s counting, anyways?

Still, I’d like to compensate my readers for all of those missed updates. Introducing … the life round-up!

The Interview

I wrote about a possible job opportunity a few months ago.

I sent a cover letter to a contact acquired from my mother, in which I inquired about a paid internship for programing. Within a few days, I received a reply from the contact, who requested an in-person interview with me at his office downtown.

The meeting was scheduled for that Friday, the time anywhere from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Things didn’t go exactly as planed.

I left the house later than I should have. I was now at the mercy of the MBTA’s infrequent (and sometimes terrible) train service. I arrived at South Station at around 4:30 pm. Not knowing how to reach the contact’s office, I turned to my phone and pulled up Google Maps.

The built-in GPS on my phone proved to be the single most frustrating thing I’d ever experienced. I walk in circles for ten to fifteen minutes.

The mobile crowd walking to and fro intensified my feelings of anxiety. I was close to experiencing a nervous break down. Knowing that I would not be able to reach the meeting, I called the contact and rescheduled the appointment. The meeting was set for next Thursday, at 4:00 pm.

The same thing wasn’t going to happen twice. That Sunday, I traveled with my mother to the contact’s office so that there would be no possibility of getting lost. Who needs a GPS?

On the day of the meeting, I still got lost. I walked up a street adjacent to the one that I was supposed to go to. Those feelings of frustration and anxiety returned.

After walking up and down for far too much time, I stumbled across the building that the meeting was scheduled at. It was 3:59 pm. I rode the elevator up to the correct floor, and entered the office of the elusive contact.

The contact was one of those guys who utilize a standing desk. I never hopped on that bandwagon. He offered me a chair, which I gladly took.

The interview didn’t go so well. Well, it was awkward and disjointed, to say the least.

I didn’t have good questions to the answers that were asked of me. I asked him to elaborate on what he was trying to ask me more than once.

I told him about the “Cookie Calculator” program that I had created, in clumsy-like fashion. In my defense, I couldn’t exactly tell him what it did before explaining what the hell “Cookie Clicker” was.

He quite plainly said to me that my talents wouldn’t be utilized well as his company. However, he said that he would contact another company, which could utilize my skills. He would also send me an email with a “sample project,” even though he already told me that I wasn’t right for his company.

Suffice to say, I never heard back from the contact or that supposed company that would be interested in me. I’m not sure why he would even tell me that if it wasn’t true.

Meeting Famous People

The total number of celebrities I’ve met has recently increased by two.

In 2008, I’d met Mel Gibson on set of the crime thriller, “Edge of Darkness,” which was filming in a Boston neighborhood. It wasn’t really a meeting. It was more of a “quick glance and a firm handshake” ordeal, but it’s good for conversation fodder.

Fast forward to October 8th.

My family had gone to see “All the Way,” a political drama staring Bryan Cranston as Lyndon B. Johnson at the A.R.T.

After a stunning performance, a rumor circulated that Cranston would be signing autographs and meeting fans for an indeterminable amount of time. We hopped in line before it got long. We waited patiently and talked amongst ourselves, still aghast.

It didn’t take long for the man himself to arrive. We took a family picture with him and I received his autograph. I didn’t say much to him because it felt like I was on borrowed time, though I did say to him that I really loved his work.

I also got to shake his hand. Not nearly as firm as Mel Gibson’s.

A week elapsed.

On the 15th, my oldest brother went to a Barnes & Nobel in a shopping mall in order to procure the newly released autobiography of Bobby Orr, aptly tiled, “Orr: My Story.”

As fate would have it, there was a book signing scheduled at that very book store, to be held at noon on the 17th. When my brother relayed this information back to me, I knew that we had to go.

This led to a crazy sequence of events.

We figured that people would start lining up for the event as early as 5:00 pm on the 16th. Therefore, we had to do the same thing. We were going to be on the same level as the crazy people. Even crazier, perhaps. I prepared a backpack full of manga, books, an iPod loaded with podcasts, snacks, and my entire library of DS games. It was going to be a long night.

There was nobody lined up at that time. Not even close.

We couldn’t retreat, though. The crazies would start lining up at any minute. Leaving would mean losing our place in line. We stayed at the next-door Starbucks in order to spy on those crazy people. If they started a line, we would know about it immediately.

When the store closed at 10:00 pm, there was still no line. Did the crazies forget to show up or something? These were hockey fans. Boston hockey fans.

We had made it this far. Going home was out of the question. I had a backpack full of gear, after all.

We slept over the quiet and dimly-lit shopping mall. By 6:00 am on the 17th, there was a line. A very short line. Eyes bloodshot, I entered the line as the 13th person. I said goodbye to my brother, who needed to go to work.

The line didn’t start to gain traction until 10:00 – 11:00 am. I killed some time by playing Pokémon Pinball: RS and mingling with the other people in the line. By 11:45 or so, Orr started signing copies.

There were no pictures allowed with the Great Number 4. I didn’t even say anything to him. What could I say? It was Bobby Orr. I handed the book to him and he signed it.

I shook his hand before leaving. It was very gentle. Gibson handles the whole “handshaking” department best.

The Short Story

When I last spoke about it, I was in the planning stages of “The Teddy Bear of Death,” a psychological horror short story that is heavily based on a nightmare that I had earlier in the year.

The good news is that I’ve finished the outlining process and I’m ready to begin the writing stage.

The bad news is that I’m at a loss for words right now. I’m working with an entirely new form of story telling (the epistolary story, in which events are told through a series of letters/diary entries) that I’m not quite accustomed to. It’s a very tricky thing to pull off — something that requires a level of care and attention to detail.

It’s something that every writer experiences in their career. I imagine that it’ll get easier once I start writing the story at a steady pace. I shouldn’t overthink these things.

Other Writing-Related Things

Elsewhere on the horizon is a pool of writing projects that I have yet to work on.

I plan on starting another short story after I complete “The Teddy Bear of Death.” This one will focus on loneliness and will be about a person who is immortal. This person is waiting. This person is constantly thinking. It’s all that he’s able to do. It won’t be told in an epistolary format, but rather as a series of thoughts in a 1st person limited perspective.

Other projects include an opinion piece on the frequently-criticized shootout in hockey, as well as a perspective on what means to have a good ending in fiction (this has been in the works for awhile).

Speech Therapy

I’ve talked with a lateral lisp for as long as I’ve been able to speak. This means that I have trouble pronouncing the /s/ and /z/ sounds because the air flow from my mouth protrudes sideward rather than outward.

This was the cause for relentless teasing during my elementary and early middle school years. Nobody seemed to understand why I talked this way. They simply knew that it was something to laugh at. There was very little that I could do about the taunting or the lisp.

For what it’s worth, my public elementary school offered regular speech therapy lessons. I took them until I switched to a Catholic after the 3rd grade.

The speech therapist would pull me aside during the middle of class. We would then walk down to her office so that we could work on correcting the lateral lisp privately. I was sometimes accompanied by another classmate, though I was often times alone.

I always enjoyed working with the speech therapist because it was a lot of fun (missing class is a nice bonus). The lessons amounted to playing language games that focused on correcting the /s/ sound. She would say a word that started with an “s” and I would have to repeat it back to her.

One game involved playing charades, in which I had to perform an “s” word and a classmate had to guess the word. The horror that came across her face when I wanted to perform “suicide” and I wasn’t referring to the popular children’s game played at recess. How it was to be an innocent child.

At the end of each lesson, the speech therapist would pull out a pyramid divided into several boxes. She would then color in one or several of the boxes to indicate a job well done. When the entire pyramid was colored, I got to take home a toy (this was my favorite part).

For all of that effort, the difference in my speech proved to be negligible.

None of the lessons really sunk in at all. In my mind, it was all fun and play. I thought my classmates were missing out because they didn’t get to attend speech therapy. They didn’t get to take home toys.

As I grew older, it became a point of frustration that I couldn’t clearly articulate words with an /s/ or /z/ sound. I wish those speech therapy sessions had worked out so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the lisp or about audibility.

So I’ve made it a point that I’m going to conquer this lisp.

The problem is, resources on the Internet are rather sparse. It’s pretty much impossible to find a speech pathologist that has a website or has made their contact information publicly available. The websites that do exist are often geared towards parents that have young children with lisps and are generally unhelpful. It’s as if there have been no significant advances in the field or increased awareness about the subject since I first started treatment some 14 years ago.

I’m still going to try. I’ve got a voice recorder app, a hand-held mirror, and the coaching of my mother. I’ll work at it and practice until I’m able to pronounce every /s/ and /z/ sound perfectly.

Programming

I haven’t worked on much since the “Cookie Calculator” program.

I’m reading a few books that should help me improve the quality of my code as well completing some exercises.

I plan on trying to tackle the Java Sound API in the not so distant future. The low level programming sounds like a pain, but I’ll learn a lot during the process. I’ll create an audio player at the conclusion of that.

hguiney:

While the rest of you are killing each other over Black Friday deals, my dad is killing me for sport! Happy Thanksgiving from the Guineys! (at Roslindale)

hguiney:

While the rest of you are killing each other over Black Friday deals, my dad is killing me for sport! Happy Thanksgiving from the Guineys! (at Roslindale)

hguiney:

You guys see “Homeland” last night? Carrie’s doctor is played by one of my dad’s best friends, Stephen Schnetzer. I watched the Bruins take home the cup with him!

hguiney:

You guys see “Homeland” last night? Carrie’s doctor is played by one of my dad’s best friends, Stephen Schnetzer. I watched the Bruins take home the cup with him!

Writing Progress

I’ve recently started the outlining process on a short story that has been in the works for some time now.

It’s based on a nightmare that I had a few months ago, which paralyzed me with fear. In order to calm myself down, I decided to turn my nightmare into a horror story. This idea gave me a sense of power and control over my fears. I wouldn’t begin working on the story until this month, but I’ve always been tinkering with it in the back of my mind.

It’s nowhere near finished, but I’ll cue you in on a few details in the meantime.

The working title for the story is, “The Teddy Bear of Death.” It’s told in an epistolary format, which is an idea that I borrowed from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I enjoy this format because it suggests that the events described in the story could conceivably happen to anybody, which gives the reader a lingering sense of uneasiness. It also produces a more personal level of story telling than a normal 1st person narrative.

As you can tell by the title, the teddy bear is the central part of the story. It has the power to either kill the owner, kill the owner and a loved one, or cause the universe to stop existing. These options are represented by a spinner on the teddy bear’s chest. You shouldn’t disturb this teddy bear.

Yesterday, I wrote and sent my first cover letter. I’m trying to receive a paid internship for programming so that I can get some more work experience. The writing process wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be; it’s quite easy once you’re familiar with the format.

My mom has a few contacts with connections to job opportunities, so hopefully I can get hired by one of them.

In Defense of the “Puck Over Glass” Penalty

With the start of the 2013-2014 NHL season on the horizon, there has been a lot of discussion about the myriad amount of rule changes that will come into play this season.

Among them, a lot of negative attention has been focused on the newly enforced "jersey tuck" rule, which has everyone bent out of shape.

This isn’t the first time that there has been a universal disdain for rules that the NHL has seemingly pulled out of nowhere.

Take into consideration the “puck over glass” penalty, which used to be the most scorned rule in the league up until this month. It’s received so much attention that TSN even created a music video in its honor.

Rule 63.2 ¶ 3 of the Official NHL Rulebook states the following:

When any player, with both of his skates inside his defending zone, shoots or bats (using his hand or his stick) the puck directly (non-deflected) out of the playing surface, except where there is no glass, a penalty shall be assessed for delaying the game. When the puck is shot into the players’ bench, the penalty will not apply. When the puck is shot over the glass ‘behind’ the players’ bench, the penalty will be assessed. When the puck goes out of the playing area directly off a face-off, no penalty shall be assessed.

So why is this rule so admonished?

Ask veteran referee Paul Devorski, who has spoken out against this rule in an interview conducted by SportsNet writer Mark Spector:

“I hate it,” admits Devorski, whose brother Greg has been an NHL linesman for the past two decades. 

“Only because … we all knew when a guy was tired and he threw the puck over the glass. 

Now … a guy just tries to put it off the glass, and he’s got it a little too high, and sure as hell he gets a penalty. 

“I don’t like calling it, but I don’t have any say in the matter.”

Yes, the most common argument against this penalty is that every violation of this rule is “unintentional” and is instead the result of player fatigue and tiredness. I don’t buy that argument.

You walk a thin line when you say that a rule should be abolished because players “don’t intend” to violate it.

How many players unintentionally commit routine stick violations because they were battling for the puck and their stick was in a place where it wasn’t supposed to be?

It happens nightly.

How many people are clamoring for those players to be excused because they did it unintentionally?

Nobody, because those people would be the laughing stock of the entire hockey community.

Retired referee Kerry Fraser takes an all too similar stance in a column that he writes for TSN:

Every other rule in the book allows for referee discretion to determine the existence of an infraction … [a]side from determining if the puck is deflected, the referee’s discretion is nonexistent when it come to Rule 63.2[.]

a puck over glass is the singularly most guaranteed infraction that would be called at any time in the game, including overtime! Think about the absurdity of that scenario.

make Rule 63.2 a discretionary call, just like all the rest. If the referee deems the action of a defending player shooting the puck over the glass to be deliberate, then assess a delay of game penalty.

What sort of standard or protocol is there to consistently measure or quantify the intentions of another human being, who is altogether free?

What Fraser is asking is impossible, because nobody can every truly know what another person is thinking, short of being a mind reader.

Even if a player verbally declares that he isn’t intending to put the puck over the glass as he is committing the infraction, we have no idea if he telling the truth or simply trying to spare his team from a minor penalty.

Why does Fraser want to make the rules more ambiguous than they already are? The only reason that the “puck over glass” penalty is consistently called in the first place is because there is no room for referee discretion. The rule doesn’t allow for it.

If we were to take up Fraser’s suggestion, the penalty would never be called. With every infraction, you’d bet the player who committed it would whine to the referee about how he never did it intentionally. Since referees already dislike this rule, they’d always use their “discretion” to call it off.

The fact remains that there should be less discretion in a game that currently has too much of it.

How many times do you see referees “put away their whistles” in a tight playoff series, even if infractions are committed that would normally be called during the regular season? Do you call that “discretion” or deliberately not enforcing the rules?

It’s murky enough of as it is. Confusing players and fans even more is a recipe for disaster.

Players alone are responsible for what they do on the ice, regardless of intentionality. It’s all part of the game.

Sean McIndoe, over at Grantland, adds more fuel to the ongoing bonfire, offering a potential solution to this “epidemic”:

Like most dumb problems, the solution for this one is easy: Treat any puck shot into the stands the same as icing — which, it should be pointed out, usually involves shooting the puck out of your own zone to relieve the pressure and is therefore essentially the exact same thing. You have a faceoff in the defensive zone, the defending team doesn’t get to change lines, and off we go. No worrying about whether the puck clipped the glass, no trying to triangulate whether it might have crossed into neutral airspace over the bench, and no trying to explain to new fans why shooting the puck over there is treated differently from shooting it over there.

The problem with this idea is that there doesn’t need to be a rule change in the first place. Rule 63.1 of the Official NHL Rulebook states the following:

A player or a team may be penalized when, in the opinion of the Referee, is delaying the game in any manner.

Causing the puck to go over the glass fits the criteria of “delaying the game in any manner,” therefore it should be a minor penalty.

Icing and offsides violations are more frequent than they should be in today’s game.

I’m not alone in thinking that there should be less of them because they disrupt the overall flow of the game. It just isn’t interesting when the same team ices the puck three or four times in a row because the players on ice are exhausted but aren’t able to get in a line change. It’s painstakingly boring.

Treating the penalty as icing would only add to this.

I can guarantee you that stoppages due to a “puck over glass” infraction would increase if it were treated the same as icing. It instead becomes a strategy in order to deter the offense from carrying out any amount of sustained pressure in your defensive zone.

Instead of players unintentionally causing the puck to fly into the stands, you’ll start to see them do it intentionally.

This is not only bad because it delays the game unnecessarily, but it’s also a safety concern.

In the words of Leigh Augustine, most spectator injuries are the result of fans attending NHL games:

More than 15 million Americans attend professional sporting events each year, and injuries to spectators as a result of objects leaving the field (or rink) are commonplace.

One study found that during 127 National Hockey League (“NHL”) games, pucks injured 122 people, 90 of which required stitches, and 57 required transport to a hospital emergency room.

Although injuries can happen at virtually any professional sporting event, they are most common at baseball and hockey games[.]

Such is the case of fourteen year old Brittanie Cecil, who lost her life in a game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Calgary Flames due to a deflected slap shot from Espen Knutsen that flew into the stands and struck her in the temple, causing her to die two days later.

While the puck was deflected, it serves as a reminder that we should not introduce any rule that would encourage any player to intentionally slap a puck into the stands.

The fact that anyone died from a puck entering the stands is incredibly tragic. Fans should feel safe at hockey games. They shouldn’t have to worry about getting hit by errant pucks because one team decides it wants to receive a fifteen second brake.

Boston Bruins prospect, Anthony Camara, was suspended 3 games by the OHL because he intentionally caused a puck to go over the glass after a stoppage in play. Such behavior should not be tolerated, and the OHL administration said as much when they decided to suspend him.

What we can surmise from all of this is that players should be more careful with the puck in their defensive zone.

If it unintentionally goes over the glass and into the stands, that’s on the player. He either wasn’t paying attention or didn’t have good control of the puck. It happens to everyone. He should own up to his mistake and move on.

The “puck over glass” penalty is here to stay.

The Finale: We Hereby Sentence You to Starvation and Boredom!

I lifted up my arms so that the large African American male could investigate me. He immediately found and confiscated the bottle of Mountain Dew, which he set aside in a box.

When he saw that I had been hiding something, he looked rather anger and proceeded to perform a more thorough search of my body. He didn’t notice the hidden gummy worms, and he barely overlooked the hidden bag of Lays chips, which fell onto the ground immediately after my search was complete. My brothers didn’t have much success, either. Their bottles of Mountain Dew were also confiscated.

My mother was able to enter the stadium without an evasive pat down or a thorough check of her purse. I found this to be appalling. I had purchased that bottle of Mountain Dew with my own money. My ability to choose between competitors in a free market economy had been infringed upon. Fenway Park had been a monopoly on any and all concessions entering that building.

The game itself was rather boring. Not only were hits few and far between. When there was a hit, it wouldn’t take very long for a player to tag the batter out. This experience was unenjoyable due to what had transpired moments before. Hugh took it upon himself to purchase a 20 oz. bottle of Coke for $4.25 so that we would at least possess something to quench our thirst with. Let me repeat that. Four dollars and twenty-five cents for a bottle of freaking Coke. What a joke.

We are rapidly approaching a world in which freedom will be a thing of the past, as in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, “how could you have a slogan like ‘freedom is slavery’ when the concept of freedom has been abolished.” (53). We will posses no shred of dignity. No ability to speak out against unjust social structures. It isn’t just about the Mountain Dew. The principal of the matter is that this type of business is unethical and contrary to rights and abilities of the consumer. Where do you draw the line?

By the time the game had gone to extra innings, we were tired, cranky, and ready to return home from our mediocre experience at Fenway Park.

On the way out, we attempted to retrieve the bottles of Mountain Dew that had been rightfully ours. It turns out that our sodas were right where they had been taken away from us.

When we stuck our hands in the box, a security guard yelled at us. He had told us not to touch the soda and to keep our hands away from the box. This had been simply been demoralizing and degrading to our character. We were beyond flustered, but we somehow managed to convince this “security guard” to return the Mountain Dews to us.

Hugh’s Mountain Dew had been thrown out because he had already opened it beforehand, which would have made the drink unable to be sold at one of their concession stands.

I have never been to Fenway Park since.

Cookie Calculator

For the last few weeks, I’ve been invested in a browser game known as Cookie Clicker.

The game, which is developed by JavaScript developer Orteil, is a surprisingly addictive idle game in which your goal is to produce as many cookies as possible.

In order to achieve this feat, you must click on the large, interactive cookie on the left side of the screen.

Each time you click on the cookie, you gain one “cookie” in your bank. Over time, you can exchange cookies in order to purchase buildings that will automate this process. The amount of cookies you gain from doing so will be reflected in your CPS (cookies per second). Each time you buy a building, its price exponentially increases by 15%, which introduces a fair bit of strategy to the game.

Through your purchases, you’ll no longer have to click on the cookie or even check on the game, as the game will be play by itself.

Soon, you’ll be able to spend your cookies at the store in order to purchase a variety of upgrades, which range from varying degrees of effectiveness. There is also an achievement based reward system, which will further increase your CPS through milk%.

———

What I have created is an application that will help me, and by extension, anyone who enjoys playing Cookie Clicker, become more adept at making certain decisions that will impact the game.

This isn’t to say that Cookie Calculator informs the user of the most optimal way to play the game, as there are other applications and spreadsheets that already serve that purpose.

Instead, Cookie Calculator provide the user with 4 useful calculations that while doable on a piece of paper, is a very cumbersome thing to do.

image

Here’s the overview:

The combo box contains a list of values that correspond to every building in the game. The only difference between each building is its “base cost” and “base CPS,” the latter of which does not pertain to this program.

Directly below that is a 4 x 2 grid of text fields, which gathers information from the left-hand side and displays its corresponding calculation on the right.

Available Quantity: Given an amount of banked cookies, this function calculates how many of the selected building may be purchased with available funds.

This function also factors the # Buildings field into its calculation, as the price of the selected building increases exponentially the more times you purchase the building.

In this example, the program has concluded that I can purchase 24 Mines with 2.45 trillion cookies, having already purchased 100 Mines beforehand.

Cost: This function calculates the current price of the selected building, given an amount that has already been purchased.

We can see that because I have purchased 100 Mines, the cost of 1 additional Mine is 11.7 billion cookies.

Sell: Given an amount of buildings to sell, this function calculates the total refund value of those buildings. Each building sells for 0.585 times the amount it cost to buy the previous building, or rough 1/2 the current price of the building, rounded down.

Owning 100 Mines, selling 25 of them will produce 4.4 billion cookies.

Cookies Needed: Given a “target” value of buildings to reach, this function calculates how many cookies are needed in order to reach your “target” value. This function subtracts the amount of banked cookies from the final value.

It would cost 26.5 trillion cookies in addition to 2.45 trillion banked cookies in order to buy 30 additional Mines, our target value being 130 total Mines.

———

As you can see, Cookie Calculator is a pretty powerful application with its somewhat limited capability.

This small project took only a few days to complete, though most of my time was spent designing the GUI rather than working on logical components.

I ran into a few hiccups when trying to replace the default image of the application with one that I created myself, but I was able to solve that with Google.

I encourage everyone to try out Cookie Calculator, even if the browser game doesn’t interest you. I’m interested in any kind of feedback!

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