My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

21 Articles Tagged with “real life”

  1. Bring me your math! All your math!

    Tonight Stargate Universe premiered, and I wanted to share my thoughts on it. However, I feel guilty blogging about a television show when I haven't blogged about arguably more important matters, such as life.

    With a month behind me, I feel good about the school year so far. I only have four courses this year: Introductory Analysis, Partial Differential Equations (PDEs), Introduction to Mathematical Probability, and Speculative Fiction. Three math courses and an English course. All of my math courses are interesting, and I was excited to take the English course the moment I saw it offered. I'll discuss it first, since the rest of the post will be about math.

    My Speculative Fiction course is covering only science fiction this section--which is fine. Although I love literature in general and would gladly have taken something like Victorian Literature if this course hadn't been offered, the chance to read and discuss science fiction for credit is not something I was going to overlook! We're reading The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, The Left Hand of Darkness, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Neuromancer, Dawn, and Singularity Sky. We also have to…

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  2. Math hermit

    With the first term nearing its end, here's a little review of my second year so far.

    That is the best way to describe how I spend most of my time now. With three math classes, I spend nine hours a week listening to math lectures. I have three assignments due each week, so I work on those in my time between school and work. Every second week until the middle of November, I went to a practice sessions for math competitions for an hour on Fridays. Even when I'm not doing my own math, I like to help other people with their math. I am living and breathing math.

    AND IT'S FRELLING AWESOME.

    For those who don't understand how someone can be so excited about math, the best way I can describe it is like being closer to God. I don't necessarily believe in God, but I imagine that what I feel when I'm exploring mathematical concepts is the same feeling pious people get when they do whatever it is pious people do to feel closer to God. And math truly is the language of the universe. If God does exist, in one form or another, then understanding math…

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  3. Help me paint my bedroom!

    It's already been over a year since we moved into our new house. Since moving in, although I've been very happy with my room on the whole, I have wanted to do three things: get new curtains, get rid of the wallpaper, and paint the white walls.

    Classes end next week, and my exams are over by December 12, which gives me a nice break before the start of next term. This is a perfect opportunity to paint my room. I need to do it soon, too, because I've already run out of space to shelve my books--and once I put up more shelves, they are never coming down.

    Over the course of this year and a month, I've adjusted to the curtains. I asked one of my coworkers (who is an artist, so I figured she could suggest some good colours) what I should do with the room, and she said she liked the wallpaper. It's certainly not Mario wallpaper((For those of you who don't stalk me, I used to have Super Mario wallpaper on one wall of my room in my old house.)) ... but then again, if I don't tear it down, I only have to paint…

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  4. Everything (Will Be All Right)

    I shouldn't be up this late. I'm going to bed. Really, I am. However, there is one advantage to staying up this late: infomercials.

    Think what you like about infomercials. I think they're annoying, sure. But open your mind for a moment and listen to those infomercial hosts--don't listen to what they're saying, but how they're saying it. As I write this, YTV has started to air the Magic Bullet infomercial with "Mick and Mimi." It's probably a combination of his accent and his enthusiasm, but when I close my eyes and listen to Mick explain how the Magic Bullet is the answer to all my food-related problems (and some non-food-related ones), I can, for a brief moment, feel reassured that everything in this world is all right.

    So praise the Flying Spaghetti monster for His noodly gift of infomercials. They are truly a blessing! :D

  5. Addicted to inventing the future

    I'm addicted to a new game called Superstruct. It's a "massively multiplayer" forecasting game. Sort of like a role-playing game, Superstruct is set in 2019 and concerns five "superthreats" that together weaken humanity enough to make our survival outside of the century unlikely. But you aren't playing as a superhero or a zombie: you're playing as you--or as you will be, in 2019.

    Created by The Institute for the Future, Superstruct is more than a game. It's a collaborative problem-solving exercise. And it's an experiment. I learned about it from this week's episode of Spark, where Nora Young interviews Jane McGonigal, the game designer. I was immediately intrigued. The goal of the game is to create possible solutions for the likely threats of our near future. It's designed to be realistic. While making accurate predictions isn't always possible, the game gives us scenarios extrapolated from humanity's current global situation. Watch the videos for each superthreat; they sound very plausible.

    As McGonigal explains, the game's serious. It's designed to get people to think about issues we might not otherwise consider in our daily lives. By focusing on the environment as a game, one in which people…

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  6. Ack, I'm an elitist anglophone snob

    So I was going to write this entry in French, but I discovered along the way that I've forgotten my simple past tense. This disturbs me.

    I took French from grade 1 until grade 11 in school (this was before the provincial government postponed mandatory French until grade 4). It's only compulsory until grade 9, but I liked my teachers, and the courses were interesting and academic. Plus, being able to speak another language is a plus. Except I can't really speak it now, can I?

    Part of me thinks I don't have an ear for languages. I excelled at reading and writing French. However, even at the height of my proficiency, I was never too hot at pronunciation or comprehension of spoken French. Nevertheless, I feel bad that I live in a bilingual country yet I only speak English. There's this whole other culture that's an integral part of my country's history and current events, yet I ignore it. I feel like an elitist anglophone snob!

    This week's episode of Spark includes a segment about the French-English digital divide. That's what got me thinking about this, although it was also tonight's French-language debate amongst the federal party leaders.…

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  7. Ack, temporal displacement--not again!

    I had a bunch of nifty blog posts planned for this week, but I didn't have the time to write them. :( My weekend was chock full of work, followed by homework, leaving me with barely enough energy to drag myself to my computer, let alone write or write a blog post. This week hasn't gone much better.

    That's not to say that I'm having bad days. I try not to start off my day dreading what is to come; it seems like the wrong attitude. Nevertheless, I do feel the pressure of a continuous flow of activities. I wake up, go to class, do homework, maybe read if I'm lucky. I've been working a lot. To reduce the stress and impose some order on this managed chaos, I've tried to establish as much of a routine as possible. Of course, things crop up that don't submit to that routine, and those throw my day off.

    I try to consciously stop and recognize those moments of stillness that happen between each scheduled activity. This afternoon I listened to Brahms while solving differential equations, and that was quite relaxing. Really, it was. No one else was home, so I existed alone…

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  8. Please remember to breathe

    If there were one thing I would change about myself, it is the fact that I lack the ability to inhabit the moment. I am constantly and consistently thinking only of the future--not necessarily the distant future, more usually the immediate, next-couple-of-hours-or-days future. And I find that this drains me more than is necessary.

    Summer is supposed to be time off from school to relax, but present-day economics throws a wrench in that model. Students instead usually must arm themselves with resumes and hunt out at least one (if not more) summer jobs in order to pay for schooling, residence, food, gas, and whatever expensive habits they have acquired since they had enough money to buy expensive habit-forming items.

    I'm one of the lucky ones. I don't have to pay for schooling, residence, or food. All I need to take care of are my expensive habits,((i.e., buying DVDs and miscellaneous computer stuff)) and sometimes gas, although my dad is pretty generous in that area. Otherwise, I'm just saving my money for when I will need to pay for school, when I'll need to start renting an apartment or put a down payment on a house or anyone of those expenses…

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  9. Wisdom tooth turmoil

    Yesterday I had a consultation with an oral surgeon regarding the possible extraction of my wisdom teeth. Why possible? Well, I'm not sure if I need it--or if I want to do it.

    My wisdom teeth have fully grown into my mouth and don't cause me any pain, unlike some people, so I count myself lucky in that regard. Nevertheless, both my dentist and my oral surgeon have recommended I get them removed. There are some compelling reasons to do this. Firstly, it's possible they'll crowd my jaw in painful ways in the future (I didn't really follow this part of the discussion, so I'm not sure if they are crowding my jaw right now or not). Secondly, if I ever need to get jaw surgery, my wisdom teeth will have to be removed anyway. Lastly, the teeth do make it harder for me to brush and floss, which can lead to oral hygiene complications--I already have a cavity in one wisdom tooth.

    So with all of this compelling data, why am I ambivalent? To put it simply, I don't like the idea of surgery. I've never had surgery before, and I'd rather avoid it unless it's really necessary. The…

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  10. 36 days: The countdown begins

    My life seems to be full of countdowns lately. Two days until the premiere of Battlestar Galactica. Five days until classes end. Eight days until my calculus exam. And so on. Now I've just added one more: 36 days until I fly to Ohio to meet someone I know only online.

    As someone who spends most of his time online, I've come to know many people whom I've never met in my offline life. Some of them I consider close friends. I'm sure that many people, particularly those in my demographic, interact other the Internet with foreigners all the time. We are a global village, as Marshall McLuhan might say. Still, going to a foreign country (yes, America is a foreign country!) to meet an online friend is a big step. It's increasingly common despite the pervasive fear of Internet predators. I'm not going to meet up with "sparky004m" from a faceless channel on some yuppie IRC network, however. That would probably be asking for trouble. Sorry, sparky.

    Lauren and I met on deviantART. I used to be quite active there until school ate up my time and I devoted my writing time to novels instead of short…

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  11. There must be magic

    Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!

    Mr. Gradgrind, Hard Times by Charles Dickens.

    Sorry Mr. Gradgrind, but I refuse to believe in a universe based entirely on fact. The universe can't be based only on fact and science. If it were, why would we have emotions? Why would we feel terrible half the time and ecstatic the other? Why put ourselves through so much pain and trauma? If the universe were based on fact, we wouldn't need this. We could be moist robots going about with logic and reason. But we aren't. And to me, that means that there's something out there logic and reason cannot explain. Our emotions are our ways of navigating that which we can't quantify. And that's magic.

    I had an awesome day today.…

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  12. Oh Internet, how I miss you so!

    Although it's only been two days since we moved into the new house, and we had Internet by 1 PM on Friday, I still feel so disconnected. This really puts my online activities into perspective: I spend most of my waking hours online. If I'm at home, I'm basically online. I may be doing something else, either on the computer or something completely different, but I'm still online if people want to talk to me. For the past two days, however, we've been busy unpacking, cleaning, and organizing. I've spent so much of my "free" time offline that I feel disconnected. :D

    So yes, I have no life. I don't want one, but it's good to know for sure. I miss you guys terribly. Yes, all of you, including the people who IM me for tech support (darn you) and the people who send me spam that tell me how to get free copies of products I don't want. And I guess I miss those of you who like to talk to me, poke me to do things, or tolerate me in general.

    As soon as my offline activities return to some sort of "normal" operations, I will be back.…

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  13. The times, they are a changin'

    Six days and I enter a whole new world. The summer went by really fast. Yesterday my friend Cortney left for the University of Guelph; today Vivike leaves for OCAD. I'm sure they'll have lots of fun down in Southern Ontario. :) And I will miss them terribly. :bye:

    I'm pretty much ready for university--sort of. It'll be an interesting few weeks, just getting into the new routine and figuring everything out. Once I've done that I think I will be okay.

    VSNS Lemon 4 is pretty much finished. I want to redo my entire site before I release it, but it doesn't look like that will happen. However, I definitely want to put out more rigorous documentation with this release. So look for the beta release sometime next week, along with complete documentation. Site upgrade should happen sometime the week after, and 4.0 final should be out by the end of the month unless an unforeseen number of bugs get discovered. ^_^

  14. Bear necessities redux

    I never expected to write a sequel to my previous bear-themed post. Then again, I never expected this.

    Today I bought a new bike (since my other one was stolen two months ago :dry: ). It's a good bike that will get me back and forth to school and work so I don't have to drive all the time! Anyway. That isn't the story. The story begins when I biked home from the bike shop. I came down my street, but when I got to the block on which I live, there were police cars parked at the corner and neighbours standing on the sidewalk watching something.

    A baby black bear had climbed up a tree on the corner! And I have pictures. :D I also got some video, which I posted on YouTube. It's long and not that exciting--they just tranquilize the bear and then put him in the MNR bear trap. But it's mildly odd, considering that we live in a fairly urban part of the city.

    Ironic, eh? We get bears near the gallery all the time--in fact, the MNR set up a trap outside the gallery on Sunday--but I never actually saw…

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  15. My grammar sense is tingling

    GM signYesterday was a bad grammar day. I kept on noticing so many little grammar mistakes everywhere I went, and it really annoyed me. By far, however, the largest one was pointed out to me by my coworker--this sign on the front of our GM dealership.

    Take a moment to look at it. "Last year GM more than doubled the sales of it's nearest competitor." Firstly, there's the glaringly obvious mistake: "it's" means it is. In context of the sentence, I believe they meant to use "its". This is a common mistake for reasons that escape me--how hard is it to memorize when to use its and when to use it's? :wacko:

    Now read the message again, slowly. What do you think it is saying? GM has more than doubled the sales of its competitor? To me, that sounds like GM has more than doubled its competitor's sales, which is to say, its competitor's sales have been doubled because of GM. So now GM is helping its competition? :ermm: Right.

    So I decided that the only thing to do was to ask about it. Today my friend Alex and I went to the GM dealership and asked about the sign.…

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  16. I guess Facebook is good for something after all

    Turns that like the Dark Side has a Light Side, so too does Facebook have a cream filling at the centre. (Tune in for more mixed metaphors at 11!)

    Through our mutual friend--the Oracle of English herself--Ms. Sukalo, I've reconnected with two friends who I knew way back before I moved to this side of town, back when I went to Algonquin, back in kindergarten and grade 1! Now, I have a terrible memory, especially when it comes to names and faces, but I certainly remember the twins Cassie and Carly. ^_^ On the cool scale from 0 ("heat-death of the universe") to 1000 ("The Colbert Report"), this is a solid 923 (about the same as "being John Cleese")! And if you have no clue what that means, don't worry.

    Although that reminds me of an interesting sidebar. Yesterday in English we were discussing the end of The Shipping News, which is seemingly a "happy ending". Our teacher put a quotation from E. Annie Proulx, the author, on the overhead and bid us to discuss it in groups. One of my friends, Andrew, quantified Quoyle's happiness on an interesting graph that he put on the board, concluding…

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  17. Wagner

    The perfect music for meditating on heavy issues of philosophical import. :wub:

    I think too much. It really makes my life more complicated than it needs to be.

  18. Life moves pretty fast

    Today, it feels like I got a lot accomplished while at the same time I did next to nothing. Or is it that I feel like I did a lot while accomplishing next to nothing?

    I went biking with my brother down to the university and back. It was an interesting experience. I'll probably be biking to university in two years. Cheaper than driving if those gas prices keep on going up.

    This blog now has an RSS feed that I cobbled together, and which I'm still trying to badger to work. I'm also working on setting up a Coppermine photo gallery. I'm working heavily on improving my blog, but now I'm going to take a break, maybe get some writing done.

  19. Grandparents in town

    Well, my paternal grandparents arrived from Waterloo on Wednesday to visit with people they know from Thunder Bay. My brother and I got to see them a few times. On Thursday we went for lunch with them and my Uncle George (who is in fact more like my Great-Great-Uncle; he is 92). I had fish and chips, ordering 4 pieces of fish thinking they would be tiny and being confronted with several large pieces. I ate them anyway.

    We got to see them again on Saturday, where we went fishing on a place called Sunshine near Kakabeka Falls. I didn't catch any fish, but it was worth a try, and fun, eh. :D

    On Monday we went out to their friends' camp on Island Lake. We went swimming, my brother did a little more fishing, and then went out to the island on the lake; I paddled there in a canoe and he took a paddleboat. I enjoy canoeing. There was a dog called Cue who had accompanied us to the island in the motorboat with the smaller children, but decided to return to the shore via the canoe. Not only did I overcome my fear of water, but I…

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  20. Visit to the orthodontist

    I went to the orthodontist today, first time for everything. Apparently I have an underbite, which occurs where my lower jaw protrudes out from my face slightly more than my lower jaw. Mine is very slight, only about a millimetre, so apparently it isn't much to worry about yet. The treatment would be jaw surgery in which a portion of my lower jaw is cut, removed, and then the remainer is slid back to correct the profile. I would have to wear braces for about a year prior to the surgery, then about six months after. I'm too young to have the surgery done, however, it would have to be done once I stop growing, so they are going to call me back in about a year to see how my underbite fares. If it doesn't get worse and I'm happy with it, I don't need to get the surgery; this is good, I don't like the idea of surgery. . . .

  21. My first job

    I took down the Currently Reading section of the About Me page because I read too quickly to keep it up-to-date. In other website news, hopefully my webhost will now be stable.

    In real life, I got a job. I am sorting files and the contents of several boxes stored in the basement area used by the law firm where my dad works (he's a lawyer). It is technically my first job, and my first day "on the job" was today. It was okay . . . although slightly depressing in the long run.