i can relax,
hang with friends,
oh and restart that hobby!
and i could also start learning an instrument and...
Shit its over.
Heyoo TubbDoose fans, lovers, haters, stalkers, stans, obsessives, sworn killers, and admirers!!! The summer is almost over so its time for me to blog about it!
The top thing about the summer is being able to see friends again. We did a lot of epic things!
For the coronation I got my friends to wear paper crowns as we walked through downtown. We even went to the dollar store to decorate the crowns with stickers. When we got to churchill square we each did a little scene where we coronated each other and swore dumb improvised vows. It was super fun and I feel really lucky to have friends that would do silly things like that with me.
On the topic of the coronation, I'm pretty miffed about having a king. Extremely old british woman queen was funny. The idea of a royal family is super problematic so having a monarch that was the reverse of every traditional understanding of royalty made it feel less gross. In the past monarchs were the personifications of power, dominance, and patriarchy. Queen Elizabeth II was frail, politically irrelevant, and a woman so she seemed detached from all of that. It'll suck when we have some random british guy on our money 😔
Edmonton has this program called Downtown Spark where they decorate downtown in a strange way to encourage people to visit. This year they had inflatable monsters on top of buildings. We got pictures with all of them B)
We played badminton at a rec centre. I used to attend a badminton class and after readjusting to the racket my skill came back. I usually think of myself as terrible at sport but that might be because I would only ever play sports in clubs or lessons where the other people are extremely proficient. Felt good to be good.
After that we went to an Indian restaurant and had the classic butter chicken and naan bread. We also ordered samosas but couldn't split them evenly. We decided to play a game for who would receive the extra samosa and I suggested a group trivia. The reason I suggested it was that The Unmade podcast had released a second "Bean Dish Quiz" recently where Brady gives Tim trivia personal to his life. I didn't reveal I got the idea from a podcast though because talking about podcasts makes me feel like such a loser. I listen to podcasts so much that, in the same way a gamer playing paintball might say 'wow this is like Call of Duty in real life', sometimes when I'm having a good conversation I feel like I'm 'doing a podcast in real life.' The internet has me ruined.
Anyway the trivia game was really fun. We didn't really keep track of score and ended up splitting the samosa anyway.
Almost as soon as we left the restaurant I saw these two interesting figures. They were boys around our age and they wore the same outfit: black pants, white shirt, tie, name tag in pocket - no blazer. We had just caught some mormon missionaries in the wild.
I had heard of mormon missionaries and seen images of their funny uniforms but I had never met one in real life. I desperately wanted to interact with them and was soooo happy when they stopped us as we passed by.
It was very awkward and I joyfully soaked it in. The mormons tried to start the conversation in a normal way (What are you doing today? Are you from Edmonton? We're from [some midwestern state], etc...). That was uncomfortable because everyone there had an infinitely deep understanding of the situation. We knew they were missionaries, they knew we knew they were trying to convert us, we knew they knew we thought this was nonsense, they knew we knew [they knew we knew \(\times \infty \)] that they were trapping us in this conversation...
And yet all of that was left unacknowledged so we had to just go along with this pretend exchange.
When they got to religion it was interesting to observe their tactics. They told the three of us that they were representing the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints and then asked if any of us were religious. One of us said they were Christian and the missionaries followed up with this question: "How would you say it helped you in life?"
I believe they prompted our Christian friend to speak on the benefits of religion because the rest of us who are irreligious are going to be more trusting towards our friend than some unknown Americans on the street.
My friend said something about it being a "really positive influence" and the mormons agreed - trying to sell this point to me and the other irreligious friend. After that though, they directed all their dialogue back to the Christian.
They said their Book of Mormon was "very compatible" with the Old and New Testaments, they invited him to their Sunday service, and they tried to force him to exchange phone numbers. They didn't even ask for mine.
He very clearly didn't want to give his contact over to a foreign centralised religious organization but they insisted. As they tried to work their tactics on my friend, I watched silently. I could feel the unspoken common knowledge slide closer and closer to the edge of being acknowledged. It was more and more clear that my friend was just being respectful and didn't actually want to talk to them. It was horribly obvious and becoming more so that they knew this but didn't care. The polite nods and conversation continued but the tension was constantly increasing.
"Have you applied sunscreen?"
The missionaries stopped. Their faces confused. My friend (the other irreligious one) had just offered Mormon missionaries sunscreen in the midst of their extremely uncomfortable recruitment attempt. Everyone was shocked. There was a wordless pause. And then I fell to the floor laughing.
As the mormons refused he kept pushing for them to use sunscreen. "Are you sure? Its really hot out. I have some in my bag..."
Even as they sweatily tried to get back to their goal of recruiting us to the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, I lay collapsed on the pavement - giggling uncontrollably.
I would be surprised if these guys didn't have some sort of flowchart for their proselytization. Approaching a group and then using the religious individuals to sell to the irreligious. Targeting Christians because they are already two-thirds the way to Mormon (The Book of Mormon is basically DLC for standard Christianity). And purposefully not mentioning any of their specific beliefs (by concealing ideas that might seem outlandish, extreme, or heretical to most Christians, they increase the chances that one might try out the church service - a ceremony designed to be emotionally persuasive.)
Less seriously, being a mormon missionary must be kinda fun. Visiting a new country. Growing closer to your pals on the mission. Learning a new language (they said they were learning Mandarin, probably because there are a lot of Asians in Canadian cities). Representing your community to the world. Getting to feel like you are doing something important and good... The downside of it is that you actually have to be mormon. I had a friend in junior high who is now a mormon missionary. Apparently he is no longer allowed to be friends with irreligious people because of it. Very culty!
Yeah we gnomed the ravine. Here's a photo I posted of one of the gnomes we hid. On the bottom of each of them we instructed finders to share a photo with the tag #yegGnome and then hide it again. It would be cool if that actually happens!
I've tried running a different roleplaying game a long time ago (Cogent Roleplay), and I've played a few sessions of Dnd, but this is the first time I'm seriously running a campaign. I got a membership to the naddpod patreon and for the first few months of the summer I had been relistening to campaign 1 non-stop. The constant Dnd in my ears pushed me over the fence I had been sitting on for years and I couldn't stop myself from picking up my copy of The Dungeon Master's Guide and planning a story.
We've had three sessions so far. I'm no Lee Mulligan, Murphy, or Mercer but I think my two players are having fun. In the first session I made the mistake of giving the starting town zero theming. I wanted it to be mundane so that when the mysterious inciting incident occurred it would feel even more mysterious and significant. Maybe it did have that effect - I'm not sure - but it definitely made the time in the town less fun. Obviously there's the problem that zero theming meant less interesting people and architecture, but it also meant that I had almost nothing to improvise off of. Another mistake I feel I've made is starting the players off at level 1. Their characters were so weak that their first foe was rats and their second was homunculi. In the second session a player took a D4 of damage from being hit by cutlery and thought the Unseen Servant who threw it was terrifying powerful.
If I'm not lazy or busy I might post recaps of the sessions on this website. If I do it I wanna do it narrative style which means it'll take a lot of time and is less likely to happen. I'll try though! (maybe)
I worked my first job that involved programming!!! There was an older "senior developer" but all the programming work was done by me and another second year. Its been pretty cool being paid to do a thing I enjoy. I had wayyyy more freedom than I expected so I added a lot of epic features (rss feed, visual essay, infinite feed, helped with darkmode, mastodon bot coming soon...) and I pretty much did a full front-end redesign.
This was the home page before I started
And this is it after my redesign
I think the design and user experience is pretty good. It's definitely better than the previous one. The previous design made it very difficult to decide what order to look at things. There was also way too much text. In my redesign I tried to give an obvious visual hierarchy for the content on the page. I also moved the ads to less invasive locations.
While making mockups I searched for inspiration from other news websites and found that almost all of them were extremely shit. The only news website that I like the design of is The Verge's.
The Verge is also the only news website that I check regularly. The design is obviously very good. Just looking at the colour palette makes me feel cool and smart in a sci-fi way. The fonts are exciting but readable. The thumbnail images are very well made. But I don't think that's what differentiates The Verge from other news websites in terms of building the habit of checking it regularly.
This is CBC News's homepage
If I was checking this site, what exactly would I be checking it for? To see if the text at the top changed? The video? The small text in the top left? Any of those small text boxes shoved tightly around those items?
The Verge's homepage has an unquestionable centrepiece: The cover story image. I check The Verge to see if this cover story image has changed. If it has I'll read the title, if the title interests me I might read the article. If it doesn't then I'll read through the "Top stories" list to see if any of those interest me. If they don't, well I'm already here - why not scroll down their feed?
CBC News gives me no clear singular reason to visit their homepage. And even if I do, what am I supposed to look at?
Most news websites seem to cram as many article titles into a space as they can, as if including as many as possible will guarantee that at least one will interest me. Even if that is true, the logic is flawed. It assumes that not only will someone visit your walls of text, but that they will read through it until they find something that interests them. That simply isn't true. If I don't immediately find something to look at, I'll leave almost instantly. If I don't get a consistent and immediate pay off when visiting your website, then why would I visit it?
The Verge's very simple hierarchy of articles means you always know what to look at. The obvious centrepiece (the cover story) changing regularly provides the payoff for developing a habit of checking the homepage.
You've probably already noticed that I used this exact "big cover story - left, top stories list - right" layout for The Ubyssey. I hope it doesn't come off as an unimaginative replica or something. The reason I kept to it so closely is that I honestly believe The Verge has arrived upon the optimum design for a news homepage. My design definitely looks worse than The Verge's however.
A lot of that is obviously because I'm less skilled and experienced than their designers. The Verge does have an advantage in its tighter focus though. The Verge is for a specific type of "nerdy techy internet person who might also play video games". You can afford to go hard targeting these individuals with darkmode, monospaced programming fonts, minimalist vector graphics, and sci-fi colour schemes. The Ubyssey on the other hand is for "University of British Columbia students." Despite being a much smaller group, the aesthetics and topics they collectively appreciate is much more broad. You can see the range in sections from the Ubyssey (going from Science, to Sports, to Humour) as a result of this. It's difficult to have a strong design without also having a strong idea of who is supposed to enjoy it. I think I did pretty well though. Others have said they like it! (hopefully they weren't just being polite).
On top of improving the Ubyssey's website, over the summer I lifted the Knowledge Grapher program I mentioned in past blogs from a locally run personal tool to a real hosted live website that anyone can use!!! Its at brambli.com if you want to check it out. Its not in a polished promotable state right now so if you are seeing this just as this blog is being posted, consider yourself a cool beta tester or something and don't get mad at me if something sucks (do send me requests through mastodon DM or email though!).
My plan is to polish the site during first term and then promote it to people during and after the Winter break. One of my methods of promotion will be taking notes for all my classes with it and then sharing a link to the notes at the end of the term. I'm honestly feeling optimistic about getting users once it's polished. A tool for creating knowledge graph based notes just seems so obviously useful to me.
So now I'm back on campus for year 2.
I didn't get into computer science so I'm technically majoring in math. I'm doing all the courses I would have done anyway though so really the only difference is that when people ask my major I now feel a sharp ping of shame and an ugly desperation to explain myself. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to transfer to computer science for third year. If I fail again though, it's not the end of the world. I've already secured developer experience and I'm pretty sure I could get a graduate degree in computer science with a Bsc in Math anyway. I mostly want to transfer for pride reasons.
Housing is only guaranteed for first years so I had to sublet an apartment. The apartment is pretty nice. It's also height up which is cool. At night you can sit on the balcony and watch the blinking lights of aeroplanes arrive and depart from the airport. I have two roommates. One is second year engineering and the other is a masters student - also engineering. They are nice and pretty clean.
Another thing that ended with first year was the meal plan. Now I have to go to the store and actually buy the food I eat. I was pretty excited for this because I ended last year DESPISING the meal plan. I've decided that I'm going to try only bringing back vegetarian foods to the apartment. I love some meats and meat dishes too much to fully give it up but I also recognize the fucked up inhumane ways we've industrialized agriculture. I have a lot of respect for people who don't eat meat so when the opportunity came, why shouldn't I at least partially try it out for myself? I've only been doing it for a few days but I've really enjoyed the novelty of a restricted diet. If I wasn't doing this then the only meat I'd probably be eating in the apartment is the shitty meat you find in instant noodle packets or inside canned raviolis, so I don't think I'm really missing anything. Also if I really want meat then I just have to eat out which means I now have an incentive for even more fun and novelty!
I was scared about this decision before making it because I thought it would be difficult to get the proper nutrition. Right now I feel pretty healthy though so hopefully that lasts and I can continue it!
According to pretty much every measure - last year didn't go so well. What will make this year better than the last?
No more honours math: For courses I just took the requirements for math, computer science, and cognitive systems (computer science stream). I lost so much sleep in first term to that course and my grades were damaged so hard by it.
No more dishwasher job: I cannot believe I worked that job for 2 and a half hours, 5 days a week, for the entire academic year. My days feel so long now without it. I guess at the time I wasn't even aware of how much studying time I was losing to it. I think my grades will be considerably higher now that I have time to study.
Desk at Ubyssey Office: Because I'm continuing to work at the Ubyssey over the academic year part time (1 hour a workday, flexible hours) I get a desk in the office!!! This means I have a place to be both alone but away from the distractions of where I sleep.
Buying my own food: Food is a big element of every day and the meal plan completely eliminated the novelty in it. Now that I buy my own food there can be a little source of joy and excitement that comes with trying something new.
Easy access to tea: I need english breakfast tea to be easily accessible. Last year I had to go all the way to the cafeteria or the common room to get a sip because I did not have a fridge for milk in my dorm. There's a fridge in my apartment so I can now wake up and immediately start making tea.
Roommates: Living with other people means I'll always have at least a small exchange with someone everyday. Last year I went a lot of days without any sort of conversation with anyone. That's a bad situation when you are from a species of social animals. Another positive of having roommates is that when other people are around me I feel "cool" when I'm doing productive or studious things. It doesn't work in libraries because everyone else is being "cool" so I won't feel "cool" by comparison. This comes from a rotten part of my psychology but it does get me to work hard. When I was in summer school before grade 10 I did the maths textbook on the bus and in the breaks between classes. It was the best maths textbook completion experience I ever had because feeling "cool" made it so much easier to concentrate.
Brambli: I am pretty confident Brambli makes note taking and studying more efficient. I'm also planning to use my notes from this term to promote the website so I'll be trying extra hard to stay on top of classes so that the notes are good.
I know all the tools now: I was so horribly overwhelmed last year by the tools they introduced to us in the first classes. Canvas, iclicker, piazza, webWork, gradescope... I was so confused by these new softwares and even failed to hand in some assignments because I didn't know how to properly navigate them. I know all of them now though so I won't have that worry anymore.
No more working on the weekend: Last year not only did I work long hours in the afternoon, but I worked BOTH weekends. This meant I was always scared to go off campus on weekends because I might miss work. That was VERY BAD for novelty and my joy levels suffered greatly. Now that I work flexible hours on only weekdays, I can just leave campus whenever I want with no worries.
This year is gonna be better than last I promise! See you next blog post!!!