James Reyes on technology, language and the human experience.

23 Jul 2013
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What happens when computers get smarter than humans?

According to Wikipedia, a technological singularity is:

the theoretical emergence of superintelligence through technological means. Since it is believed that the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the technological singularity is often seen as an occurrence, akin to a singularity, beyond which events cannot be predicted, yet many have made educated guesses about what will follow.

Documentary filmmaker Doug Wolens film, The Singularity, explores the possible bad and the possible good that the technological singularity could bring.

7 Jun 2013
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A eulogy for Grandpa Pete

Last week we lost a great man, my grandfather Pete Torres. I was honored by my father, aunts and uncles to be asked to deliver the eulogy after his rosary this past Tuesday. I thought I would share it here.

The home he created on Medina Street was one where the door was always open. Welcoming to all who entered. He always made people welcome there. And everyone knew it. I know this room is full of family and friends who came over for countless parties and family gatherings. His family, his children, grand children and great grandchildren, was one that enjoyed each other’s company, loved being together. There really was no place I’d rather be, especially at the holidays, than in my grandpa’s house with my dad, my aunts, uncles and cousins. At these gatherings, I could see the joy in my grandpa when his house was filled with family and guests enjoying themselves. Even as recently as a few Christmases ago, there was my grandpa taking tequila shots with his children and grandchildren. That’s the good stuff.

Everyone knows, my grandpa was the hardest working guy any of us knew. He instilled in his children and grandchildren a solid work ethic. We all took our turn with the push broom sweeping the back yard, or spending our Sundays at the Fox Plaza swap meet. You know, the swap meet was really the first job I ever had. The first dollar I ever earned from work was working for my grandpa. Today, when I look at my aunts and uncles, my cousins, I see his values alive and well. We all know what a solid day’s work is and because of that we are able to have a well-deserved good time in each other’s company. Those are the values he instilled in us.

I know many of us in this room can think of the many favors and he has performed. I could never repay him for all he’s done for me throughout my life, but I hope I can express the gratitude it deserves.

But you know, he is alive and well here in this room, in each of our hearts. He’s has now joined my Grandma Chickie. They are both now looking after all of us and we will never forget either of them. I live out in Colorado. I wasn’t here at his passing. I wish I could have just seen him one more time. If I could just to say “thank you for everything, Grandpa.” I know he knows.

“Ay te wacho, Grandpa.”

18 Apr 2013
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Sit Vis vobiscum

Legend has it that Queen Matilda, the wife of William the Conqueror, commissioned a 230-foot-long tapestry which is a pictorial narrative of the events leading to the Norman conquest of England, culminating in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Known as the Bayeux Tapestry, it depicts fifty scenes with captions in Latin, called tituli, embroidered on linen.  It was likely commissioned and made in England in the 1070s.

This scene, for example, depicts the death of Harold, King of England, grasping an arrow lodged in his eye with the caption, “Harold Rex interfectus est (King Harold is killed).”

Then I find this piece of nerdy awesomeness inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry. Jibasse on deviantART came up with a scene depicting the iconic climax of The Empire Strikes Back.

Pretty neat! Here is my explanatorily slavish translation of the tituli.

hic. Darcus Vadorus. – This is Darth Vader

luxgladium tenet. – He has a lightsaber (light-up sword)

non. ego sum pater tuus. – No. I am your father.

hic. lucius caeliambulus. - Here is Lucius Skywalker (Luke in Latin is Lucas. See the Vulgate Bible: e.g. Mattheus, Marcus, Lucas, Ioannes).

imo. non est verus. - No (immo is a contradictory particle used at the beginning of a sentence that can be translated as “on the contrary” or used to go beyond what was just said). It’s not true.

Until next time, sit Vis vobiscum!

18 Feb 2013
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Adobe Photoshop source code released…but it’s not what you would expect

This verb has even made its way into the dictionary (Merriam-Webster online dictionary, 2012):

pho·to·shop, transitive verb, often capitalized \ˈfō-(ˌ)tō-ˌshäp\

to alter (a digital image) with Photoshop software or other image-editing software especially in a way that distorts reality (as for deliberately deceptive purposes)

This all goes back to the late 1980′s to a University of Michigan graduate student Thomas Knoll, who wrote a program for the Macintosh to display grayscale images on monochrome displays. Working with his brother John, Thomas eventually developed a full-fledged image editing program called ImagePro. Thomas eventually named is program Photoshop, and with that a new word was born.

After demoing his program to Apple and Adobe, Adobe decided to purchase the licence to distribute Photoshop and in 1990 Photoshop 1.0.1 was released and the rest is history.

History, indeed, as the great Computer History Museum (if you have never been, you must go), has just released all 128,000 lines of code for Photoshop 1.0.1, all coded by Knoll himself. If you are into such things, check it out.