Reverse Empire (spoilers!)

April 2, 2015


Let’s face it: if you’re reading this, you’re the kind of person who’s familiar with the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back. You’ve memorized the scene where Darth Vader reveals to Luke Skywalker: “I am your father.”

In a recent episode of The Flash, an evil villain played by Mark Hamill — Luke Skywalker himself! — makes the same revelation to his young trainee.

I’m dubbing this move the “Reverse Empire.”

Everything you do is a balloon

March 29, 2015

Everything you do is a balloon
Spotted at 21st and Mission

I imagine the conversation went a little something like this:

“Hey, how should we decorate our storefront?”
“Well, all I have is this bike pump and a drawer full of balloons.”
“Uh… *scratches head* sounds kinda like a plan!”

And there you have it; a storefront filled with balloons.

(With apologies to Boards of Canada.)

New murals on Dolores St.

March 20, 2015

Across from Dolores Park there’s a Christian Science church that’s been shuttered for a number of years. Recently a developer wanted to turn it into housing, but so far that hasn’t happened.

Instead it got boarded up, and now those boards have been filled with some spiffy new murals by fnnch, Analog Monsters, MaxEhrman and others.

Dolores St. murals Dolores St. murals Dolores St. murals Dolores St. murals Dolores St. murals Dolores St. murals

A furry companion?

March 16, 2015

Over the weekend, several folks on Twitter pointed out an over-the-top, only in San Francisco dating ad on Craigslist. A young man has decided that he’s going to become a millionaire, and wants a woman to support him in this endeavor.

The original post is here. But since Craigslist posts expire, I’ve copied and pasted the entire ad:

Posted: 8 days ago
A Companion to Support Me on My Way to Become a Millionaire – 26 (pacific heights)
age : 26
I am handsome and fit
I am confident and determined
I am fascinating
I am not hella funny, I am fuckin hilarious
I am building a global company along with two local companies. I work hard and I am planning to reach the top. I will succeed, because that is what I do.
I am smart. I have three degrees. All Summa Cum Laude. One from Oxford and one from Edinburgh
I am wordly. I lived in several countries
I am a lion. I go to battle. I am not a spectator. I am on stage because I dare greatly.
I take responsibility for myself and have a hunger to accomplish my dreams Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.
I am shooting for the moon and I want a companion to support me on way there
I will break the relationship after our first fight. There are thousands of woman who want to take your place and live their dreams. We don’t fight. we will love each other, laugh, have fun, and go on adventures. Fights and drama are for less evolved miserable married couples. Drama and pressure come from outside life and we will help each other overcome it, but it will not come from the relationship It’s me and you against the world. And we will fuck the world because we are menacing lions.
I am your lottery ticket in this life. Support me, love me, and do everything I want, and you will have the world and everything it.
Things to understand:
Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.
You must take action now that will move you towards your goals. Develop a sense of urgency in your life. I know what I want. If you are what I want. I will marry and have you move in with me the next day.
You need to have goals and ambitions. You will not just sit around in the house.
I have money, and I will spoil you from time to time, but you will not be a trophy wife that goes shopping everyday. A lot of money will go to my company not your dresses. But you will feel comfortable and you will not pay any more bills for the rest of your life. Once we reach the top, then you will get spoiled.
Just because Fate doesn’t deal you the right cards, it doesn’t mean you should give up. It just means you have to play the cards you get to their maximum potential. I am a full flush, take advantage of that.
Your ability to communicate is an important tool in your pursuit of your goals, whether it is with your family, your co-workers or your clients and customers. You need to have effective communication skills. This means that if we have a disagreement, it will be resolved very easily, will will not argue forever. In short, do you see the typical girls that fight with their boyfriends for hours. That is the enemy. Do you see the rare couples that have dreams, ambitions, and a clear destiny that makes it almost impossible to fight over dumb things like average couple who fight over dumb things because they have nothing else to do. Think of Frank Underwood and Clair from House of Cards, or even Jay Z and Beyonce. That is what I want. I am emphasizing this, because drama is my ultimate turn off.

If you are not that experienced and do not have a lot of knowledge, I do not mind to make you my protege as long as you work hard, read the books I give you, and do the things I tell you.
The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.
Circumstances are the rulers of the weak; they are but the instruments of the wise
Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. Perception is reality. you can create a perfect reality by creating the perfect perception
When in a relationship, a real man doesn’t make his woman jealous of others, he makes others jealous of his woman, and vice versa.
We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future
Listen to the impossible dream
Send a message with a face picture, and put “DREAM” in the subject line

do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers


Yikes. But this raises a question: is it a genuine attempt at finding a lady, or a parody? There’s no way to tell — in extreme cases like this, sarcasm is imperceptible due to Poe’s Law. Still, who doesn’t remember the “I’m on top of the world!” feeling of being 26 years old and snorting your first line of coke?

Clearly this needed to be escalated either way. So I decided to respond the only way I really know how: with a couple shots of tequila and maximum troll mode engaged.

Subject: DREAM

Hey Lion,
You asked for a photo. This is me here in the center:


Please understand that while my inner body is male, my furry persona, Tigera, is a female (with fully functioning parts if you must know.) Like you, I have a powerful ambition to accomplish my dreams no matter what obstacle comes my way.
For example the zipper on my fursuit got stuck several years ago, but I’ve learned to overcome these circumstances in spite of the smell that comes with not having bathed in quite some time. No matter! Folks like you and me shoot for the moon, but we end up on Mars instead. Who has time for the moon? Neil Armstrong is a poser.
Maybe I’m not exactly what you had in mind, but like you said: perception IS reality. Value creating winners like us don’t let the rules dictate our lives because we’re the ones dictating the rules. Other people’s rules say you should go to a university and get good grades. To hell with that! I made my own rules: I went to every university in the world at the same time, took every single course, and graduated at the top of my class. All before lunch.
Do you think I answered my professors’ questions in class? Nope, circumstances only rule the weak. Instead the professors had questions for me, like “Why are you in that fursuit?” or “Can you take that thing off?” or “What’s that awful smell?” But I kept my mouth shut and powered through — that’s why I have over 83,064 Ph.Ds.
There wasn’t a filing cabinet big enough to hold all of my prestigious degrees, so I started a multinational chain of office supply stores specializing in over-sized filing cabinets, worked my little tiger butt off until it was a Fortune 500 company, then sold it to Office Max.
Should I ever escape my fursuit, I’m going to use my millions of dollars to buy a new one that has a built in jetpack and laser gun. I am Iron Man.
Anyway Mr. Lion, please drop a line if you like what you see. I have to go now to bench press an entire gym, but I’m very interested in your book recommendations.
All the best,
  - Tigera

Tigera has yet to hear back. I’ll update this post if she gets a response.

Legal: Furry photo copyright Flickr user Darkhorse Winterwolf. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Some love song titles

March 3, 2015

I Love You Lots
Photo by Jeff Golden used under a Creative Commons license.

Are you a songwriter? Are you incredibly lazy? Good. This blog post is for you.

As a songwriter you probably have too many things to worry about — like making your songs sound good — to worry about the lyrics. Fortunately that’s why love songs were invented: you can just say some general things about love, or even about a previous relationship. If you’re lucky some people will like your love song and play it at their wedding. Then those sweet, sweet royalty checks come flowing in!

Now that you’ve spent three minutes writing the lyrics to your love song, you must come up with a title. D’oh! Titles are tricky. Fortunately I’ve already come up with a few that you can use, all for free. Yes!

  • Love To Love You
  • I Lovingly Love You
  • Love 2: More Love
  • The Lovely Kind of Love
  • I Actually Hate How Much I Love You
  • Unlike David Lee Roth, I Am Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
  • I Fucking Love The Shit Out of You, Bitch
  • Don’t Make Me Come Over There and Love You
  • Love, Love, & Love. Also, Love
  • I Am Legally Obligated to Inform You That My Love is So Strong It’s Classified as Carcinogenic Under California Proposition 65

See? You’re almost done now; the hard part is deciding which of these fabulous titles to use! Incredible.

One weird trick to induce lucid dreams and out of body experiences

February 23, 2015

What if I told you that I have one weird trick to help you have a lucid dream and/or out of body experience? This particular trick has been well documented elsewhere, but if you don’t want to read an entire book I’ll give you the quick version here. Also note that this is intended for weekends or non-work days in general, because it requires sleeping in a little.

What’s the difference?

Now you may be asking what the difference is between a lucid dream and an out of body experience. In the former it’s like a traditional dream, except that you’re lucid enough to do what you want — it’s not just a passive dream experience. Yet all the normal weirdness of a dream still applies.

In an out of body experience you typically start by “waking up” but soon realize that your surroundings are a little off. This is known as a false awakening. For me at least these out of body experiences don’t feel like a dream, yet are recognizable thanks to suffering from dream-like continuity problems. Additionally, physical things that don’t usually work in dreams (mirrors, light switches, etc.) will often function to some extent. In many ways it’s like a lucid dream only more grounded.

There’s no real yardstick for determining whether an experience is one or the other. Dreams, lucid dreams, and out of body experiences can and will blend together along a spectrum of consciousness. For the rest of this post I’m just going to stick with the term “lucid dream,” but I’ll be referring to a variety of conscious sleep experiences.

Cut to the chase

So here’s the trick: wake up around an hour or two before you normally would. Use this time to read a book, check Twitter, or anything else that requires little effort and won’t wake you up too much.

At about the time you’d normally wake up, go back to sleep. Ideally you should be a little tired at this point, but more or less fairly alert. You’ll probably have trouble falling asleep, which is a good sign — focus on keeping your mind clear of distractions. Any meditative exercise will do, my favorite is slowly counting your breaths backwards from 100.

Now comes the important part: relax. At this point your brain will take you directly from being awake to being in a dream, so it’s important not to let anything that’s about to happen startle you into waking up. For some folks this will take a bit of practice.

The first thing that will happen as you transition into sleep mode is you’ll hear a buzzing, almost chainsaw-like sound that fades in and out. Even though it’s all in your head it can sound both loud and real. Don’t worry about it, it’s natural and happens to everyone.

Next, you’ll see a series of images float into your mind’s eye. You might see people, animals, etc. Sometimes they’ll be a little scary, but again it’s all in your head. The images will slowly start to move, and then *POOF*! You’re in the dream world now!

With any luck, the transition from being fully awake to your body being asleep will leave you in a fully lucid state. Congrats!

How it works

Many lucid dreaming books explain the same technique. Technically it’s called a Wake Induced Lucid Dream (or WILD) because you’re inducing the lucid dream from a fully awake state. But most of the books leave out one key detail: this type of dream induction only works in the morning hours.

Why? Let’s look at this sleep diagram from Wikipedia:

First note that dreams can only occur in the REM cycle, which is marked in red. As you can see, the time between when you fall asleep at night and the first REM cycle is over an hour long — most of us can’t maintain consciousness that long while asleep. But as the night progresses, the REM cycles get longer, and you can go (as the diagram indicates) directly from being awake into REM.

Waking up an hour or two before your usual time deprives your brain of that last extra long REM cycle, which means that when you finally sleep again, it will almost certainly jump straight into REM and thus a dream. The only tricky part is maintaining consciousness during the transition.

Having any dream right before you wake up makes you far more likely to remember it. If you’re serious about lucid dreams, keeping a dream diary will also help build your ability to recall any and all dreams.

By the way, if you’re wondering what to do in a lucid dream, just explore! You may be amazed by what you find hidden in your own mind. For a strange experience, try looking at your hands for a minute. Shoot me an email when you find out what happens — as they say, “You’ll never guess what happens next!.”

My own QML TreeView

February 15, 2015

It’s Valentine’s Day and here’s the point where I have to confess my love as a software engineer for QML. It’s a markup language for building simple modern UIs with Javascript controls, and can be bound to C++ and Python via Qt. Since it’s based on Qt it runs on pretty much any modern desktop or mobile platform you can think of.

But like any relationship, sometimes one is left wanting for more. Sure, QML is great but it has flaws that are hard to overlook. For example, there’s no “tree view” component (think: file system UIs, Windows RegEdit, etc.) which is a deal breaker for some use cases.

That deficiency ends today.

I’ve been busily working on my own tree view implementation, which you can find on GitHub. It supports drag and drop rearranging and folder creation with a mouse or touch interface. Like the iOS home screen, folders are limited to one level (i.e. no subfolders.)

Here’s the sample test harness in action:

The trick? It’s all a standard QML ListView with a special type of delegate, my own RearrangeableDelegate.

The items can be rearranged by pressing (or long-pressing, see update below) on them, then dragging to the desired space. If you position it between two items a line appears, and releasing the mouse positions the item at that location. Positioning on top of an item causes the two items to pop out into a new folder. Dragging the last item out of a folder deletes the folder. If you want to have special items at the top of the list that can’t be rearranged, that’s supported via the numStationary property.

Everything is designed to be styled to your liking. Want to change the drag border, the opener image, the indentation, etc? Easy! Just set some of RearrangeableDelegate’s existing properties and you’re good to go.

The UI state of each item is stored in the list model itself, which provides an easy (if somewhat hacky) way of maintaining the UI state with a database or settings file. Here’s what you need to provide, subject to change:

ListElement {
    // Unique id (integer)
    uid: 1;

    // Used for drag and drop UI. (Persistence not required.)
    dropTarget: "none";  

    // True if a folder, else false
    isFolder: false;     

    // -1 if not in a folder, else the uid of the parent
    parentFolder: -1;    

    // For folders, this indicates whether their children are
    // displayed. Otherwise, indicates if visible.
    folderOpen: true;

Best part: I’m giving away the entire thing for free under the MIT license, which ought to satisfy pretty much everyone (except for Richard Stallman.) Take my code and do what thou wilt. If you encounter a bug please file a new issue or fix it on your own and submit a Pull Request. Either way I — and perhaps other QML developers — will be eternally grateful for your ongoing efforts to make up for this missing QML component.

UPDATE: After convincing Hryx to do some user testing, we decided that long-pressing wasn’t discoverable enough for a desktop. So now there’s a flag called dragOnLongPress to control this behavior. By default it’s set to false so that a long press isn’t required to move an item around. You can set it to true in situations where a long press to move makes sense, such as on touch and mobile devices.

The John Barrowman Theory

February 6, 2015

Image credit: Phoenix Comicon

What if the television shows Doctor Who, Desperate Housewives, and Arrow are all part of the same universe? Crazy, you say? Well sure. But let me explain The John Barrowman Theory to you anyway.

After the events in Doctor Who and Torchwood, the enigmatic man who calls himself Captain Jack travels forward in time and discovers Earth is destroyed by an environmental disaster. Rather than work with Torchwood he decides to take matters into his own hands. He travels back in time and assumes the name Patrick Logan to conceal his identity from Torchwood.

As Patrick, he becomes an eco-terrorist to stop the impending doom. To escape his crimes, Patrick fakes his own death in an explosion (an easy feat because he’s immortal) then changes his name to Malcolm Merlyn. In the face of tragedy Malcolm decides to become even more of a badass and trains with Ra’s al Ghul’s assassins. When things take an ugly turn, what does Malcolm do? He fakes his own death again, that’s what.

See? There’s a pattern here — morally ambiguous, vengeful, mortality-challenged. Jack, Patrick, and Malcolm could easily be the same character in the same universe. And that’s the John Barrowman Theory.

Mind = blown.

BART needs platform walls

January 27, 2015

Shanghai Metro

Recently we’ve had a number of cases in and around San Francisco where someone was hit by a train in a subway station. These tragedies — whether intentional suicides or simply accidents — have become common enough that we really should be doing something about it. It’s only fair for everyone involved.

Fortunately there’s a solution that already exists: walls. Specifically, walls with sliding doors that line up with the subway’s doors, just like how elevators have inner and outer sets of sliding doors.

Would you want to work in a building where the office elevator didn’t have outer doors, and instead you just stood next to an opening to the elevator shaft? No? Why should riding the subway be any different?

If you’ve ever taken the driverless airport tram at SFO (or many other airports) you’ve seen this first hand: there’s a glass wall between you and the tram, and the doors only open when the tram arrives. The tram only departs once both sets of doors are safely closed.

But this wall “technology” isn’t just for driverless trams — some major transit systems already have this, for example Shanghai Metro in the photo above. As the photo illustrates the yellow-tiled safety zone has been replaced by a thick piece of glass separating people from fast moving trains on the other side.

Walls have a side benefit as well: stopping the wind. No need to worry about holding a paper steady or having your hair re-arranged by the wind from a fast approaching train.

The good news is that BART has at least considered this recently, but so far they don’t seem to be in much of a hustle to build anything. That’s a shame for us all.


Newly elected BART director Nick Josefowitz responded on Twitter:

Schedule your day like a skater

January 11, 2015

Wake Bake Skate
Spotted in Clarion Alley


Sure, you could go to the library or a bookstore and find a book about optimizing your daily schedule. But that would involve reading more than three words, and therefore is a sub-optimal use of your time.

Instead, take the advice of the sticker I found on a wall in Clarion Alley and schedule your life like a skater. Wake, bake, skate. Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest.