Friday, May 17, 2013

Beyond If, Then

Usually I am not one for bandwagon jumping. Concerning topics in which I am interested, if a news story comes out and everyone is talking about it, I'll think about said news story and deny myself the opportunity to comment about it through this, my personal soap box, my modest little blog. But this time I can't help myself. I have to explore my thoughts on loud speaker.

I am talking about the quiet little story that is going to, most likely, make all the difference. In an article about Google's I/O conference, PC Magazine as well as a bunch of other media outlets reported that Google is buying a Quantum computer from Lockheed Martin, and is going to make it available for academic research.

Here's the quote that caught my eye: "This new approach toward computing allows us to put bits of information into their 0 and 1 states at the same time, essentially allowing researchers to view a number of possibilities simultaneously." Simultaneously???? For Serious???!!

Okay, so from what I remember from that ancient branch of my knowledge that I have touched for approaching a decade and a half (computer programming), things go like this: the bunches of code that make up a program can respond to user input. The user has a finite number of possible actions such as clicking on a button, or rolling a cursor over a certain part of the screen. This user action is the "if" or the cause. So in the programming it tells the machine, at a very high level, that IF the user clicks that particular button, THEN something happens. The effect. Another window opens or a bunch of text is deleted or the whole picture turns purple or any other infinite number of possibilities that can be programmed into the software to make it more functional.

That's all a pretty simplistic explanation, but the point is as follows: it is a fairly static model. The computer, be it tablet, laptop, smartphone, what have you, that you read this on cannot predict. Not really. Sure Google and Apple have all those predictive text algorithms bu the reason why there are so many blogs devoted to their foibles is that they are not truly predictive, not really. They are still based on the IF, THEN model. (There are other programming statements, I know, but for simplicity's sake...)

What, then, is the implication for computer programming if a piece of software can be in two states at once? The PC Mag article only refers to 0s and 1s. But like our bodies are not only organs and cells and atoms and subatomic particles, the 0s and 1s of a computer make up its machine language, its programming language like C++, and effect its GUI (the stuff that we the computer user sees). So what does this mean for software? For the users of software?

The article then goes on to point out this quantum effect means that patterns in weather or stocks might be better examined. Knowing the basics and simplistic version of how computers work that I know, is it far fetched to assume that our interactions with operating systems will soon be those of knowing what we want and need before we even ask for it? Or if that's not quite on the horizon yet, maybe quantum computing can at least make AI programs such as Siri a little less frustrating to use? Good god she know little to nothing. Am I right?

Another possibility that I can think of for the use of quantum computing is, as Google itself points out, machine learning. In that, perhaps this breakthrough could hail the ability of computers to make decisions: Be in two states at once and thereby play out scenarios in order to learn which is the best. I know this idea sounds far fetched and some people might read into it that the machines are just that much closer to taking over, but here I am thinking more along the lines of a robot vacuum that is a little more flexible in its movements than the current Roombas are. 

What do you think about all this anyways? Am I just way off course? Do I know too little about the way in which computer software really works to make any real sense? I'd love to know how it all actually works.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013


OMG I've been so busy. I'll make no apologies and no promises. I'll just say that my writing course is starting to really go and it's awesome! Okay so I'll leave you with some inspiration musics of the week:


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Capturing Inspiration

Third day of course. Yesterday I heard from my instructor -- my mentor -- and I am obsessing over what to write back. What is this novel about again? Why do I want to work on it? What aspects need working upon? I don't remember! Maybe it's all for naught and it's crap and there's no point! Ugh! Artist moods that swing from hubris to shame.

What I need to do is take a shower. Not only because I do need one but because the shower is that magically in which the spark of inspiration becomes a storm of thought.

But I can't just hop in the shower anytime I need a blast of inspiration or a few moments to unknot certain tangled problems. Even if it weren't for the cost of water, would I even want to? Probably not.

And besides, what is it about the shower that makes it so productive, mind-wise? It is the sensory deprivation? The white noise? The alert relaxation that throws one into precisely the best brain state? What are those again? Alpha waves? Most likely it's a combination of everything.

So I have two choices: I can work to capture those elusive answers that come to in the shower or I can try and duplicate the conditions.

Billed as: good clean fun. Awesome. :P

So I think the best bet I have is perhaps to capture on thoughts on paper using an underwater scuba notebook. Or alternatively on the shower walls with fun bathtub crayons! Or perhaps even a grease pencil. The drawback is that I cannot write fast enough to keep up with the tempo of thought that occurs in my temple-of-the-mind, the shower. What I can do is type almost as fast as thought. Okay maybe not almost but a hell of a lot faster than I can write. What I really need is like, I dunno -- a keyboard and screen built into the wall of my shower. A waterproof one. I suppose that doesn't exist yet, since creatives-who-get-their-best-ideas-in-the-shower in a miniscule market. I don't suppose I could pursuade you to invent it, could I?


The other thing I could do is try to duplicate the conditions of the shower outside the bathroom. Namely, where I need ideas the most which is usually in front of the computer. It seems that, if I am on the right track about the whole Alpha Wave thing, I would have to have my eyes closed. It's a little bit like mediating without 'letting thoughts pass out of your mind without judgement' bit. It occurs to me that I've known this secret all along! Ever since that high school band came to play at my elementary school and I closed my eyes to listen to the music and my first story popped into my mind. In fact, I believe I did the same thing last evening as I waited for my yoga class to start: I thought about one of the problems my currenly manuscript currently faces and I closed my eyes in relaxation pose and listened to the sweet little folky ditty that came out of the speaker. And the answer came.


Okay so I think I've got the formula down. But yesterday, frustrated with my own addiction to all things internet, I poked about for one of those 'distraction free' writing applications. And I came up with this: "OmmWriter". It's pretty cool since it plays ambient music and so might just turn out to be the ultimate all-in-one shower idea-writing down package. I see it as this way: Close eyes, listen to music, open eyes, write ideas done, repeat. Not too shabby.

So what do you think? Do you get ideas in the shower? Do you think my little system would work for you?

Monday, May 6, 2013

The First Day of Course

So today is the first day of course. Nothing much doing, yet. This being an online/correspondence course and all. No new emails delivering first critiques. No one on the message boards yet, introducing themselves. Should I be the first voice? The push to participation that is sometimes needed? Am I that person?

I was once confident enough to be a leader. But probably not flexible enough. But my confidence, even online, has been scattered. I must work to regain it.

Anyways, you may have noticed that I've been gone for the past week. My parents came for a visit. They gave us a week and a day's notice. It is typical of them to parachute out of the sky and take over my world. It was exhausting, not but all that bad. Distracted them with the high and low-lights of this middle-of-nowhere city:

Like the Forks:

And the Park:
And the museum:

And other such touristy bits. Restaurants and some long-lost friends from the old neighbor who somehow ended up living on the "bald prairie" as my parents called it. The bad roads and worse drivers and the one fruit wine that they make here. Bison meat and soughdour and local brews. And the Mennonite Thrift shop (that one was a visitor request). All very visitory.

Well, I suppose that entertaining guests is over and course is yet to begin, I have little enough to write about. Except for the snow is finally gone and I found this just amazing, amazing cover track that I have to share. Call it a spring celebration, at last:

Not that new or stunning. But love.