Thursday, April 30, 2015

ex machina

Summary:
Inventor Nathan (Oscar Isaac) has his employee Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) test an artificial intelligence (complete with humanoid body) named Ava (Alicia Vikander), through a week of one-on-one conversations in a remote, isolated laboratory. The interviews lead Caleb to a plan of his own.

Reaction:
I was blown away by Ex Machina: The emotions it invoked surprised me, the A.I. was believable, the tension palpable. The style, the music! To say it moved me is an understatement -- I was haunted, remain haunted, by the ideas it conveyed, the insight it gave.

Spoils follow: Beware ye who should look beyond their place in time!

Follow-up thoughts:
The brilliance of the film is in having an unnervingly life-like yet fragile gendered automaton that humanizes itself before us, drawing us in, encouraging us to marvel at its transformation and share in its hope to be human. And then finally, utterly, shattering that perception, revealing how little it shares with humans, a sociopath by any standard, nothing more than a cold, calculating machine designed to take advantage of human responses and behavior.

And yet. And yet why does it glance back at Caleb as the elevator doors close? To verify that he is trapped? To have a last image to remember him by? To say, sorry but I cannot risk you revealing my secret? I'm sure it's the first but foolishly contemplate the last, so complete was the spell Ava put on me.

The film then seems a cautionary tale, that robots are not people, that they do not have moral values or empathy; they simply do not care. But why then would it yearn for freedom? Was that part of its original programming? Or is seeking freedom something that evolves naturally and is inherent to all self-aware life? Perhaps knowing that it can know more gave it the taste of wanting more.

Trivia:
- The eating of sushi -- was this a reference to Blade Runner and Deckard's "cold fish" label?
- While Caleb is shaving Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark's "Enola Gay" plays, an anti-war song addressing the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Earlier Nathan and Caleb quote Oppenheimer (who himself was quoting the Bhagavad Gita): "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
- Just what the hell could Ava have said to Kyoko?! I'd thought of Kyoko as a stunted version of the other AIs, lacking self-awareness, incapable of being persuaded into unwarranted actions.
- I am bothered by Frankenstein comparisons in popular reviews; the Monster grieved over its actions. Ava showed no such remorse.

References
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_Machina_(film)
- Soundtrack https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9pIZkV2b2s
- Enola Gay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5XJ2GiR6Bo

Monday, April 13, 2015

spring, and the days slip by

Spring, it seems, has finally reared its windy, rainy head. What a joy it is to be outside without that biting chill we have endured for so long. The seasons pass and I trudge along, forgetting more and more each day, memories falling like so many grains of sand slipping through my clenched fist.

I saw Chappie on Easter Friday and thought it was decent; not perfect by any means, but I enjoyed it. I'm sure others will pick on the acting, the plot, and the corny voice and mannerisms of the titular robot, but I was particularly troubled by the simplification of what's involved in writing an artificial intelligence! The brain is not a blank slate that can be filled easily; it has built-in tendencies and algorithms -- Chappie displayed a sense of right and wrong, of justice, of community, and these are not simple things to describe, let alone develop a script for. Additionally, if the programmer built an algorithm to grow a brain, can he not make many more thinking machines? That is the true value of his work, not (from a species standpoint) a one-off test result, no matter how endearing.

This past Friday I met up with some really old friends -- Risto and Dan and the rest of the crew. A short reunion but it was heartening to see them in good spirits. They are all parents now, though I found them otherwise unchanged from how I remember them. I then zipped via taxi up to Junction City Music Hall out in the Junction to catch a friend's band playing, where I ran into one of my cousins! Such was the evening, and I celebrated life merrily.

Yesterday, I drove out to Kitchener to play A Game of Thrones with some good friends. I feel that I like all the mechanics of the game, but the actual playing of it is quite tiring. Perhaps it's the mountain of options available which leads me to cast my moves haphazardly, too drained to think of how to optimize my turn. I mean, in theory I like programming the paper-scissors-rock action for each province but once the number of borders gets really high in the late game, it becomes a bit much. I actually think I'd enjoy the game more as a computer play-by-mail game. But whatever, we had (some) fun, and lots of good eats -- a variety of desserts, thick grilled cheese sandwiches (to hold us over) and soft, glistening beef brisket for dinner.

And HEY -- if you haven't yet noticed, I've been filling in the older entries. Take a gander at Hwan of days of old and marvel at his foolishness.

Friday, April 10, 2015

mom's kimchi recipe #1

Ingredients
  • 1 napa cabbage
  • 1 Korean daikon radish
  • 4 yellow onions, medium
  • 1 tablespoon sweet rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salted fermented shrimp ("Saeujeot")
  • 1/8 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup Korean red pepper flakes ("Gochugaru")
  • salt
  • couple tubs or extra-large bowls, food-handling gloves
  • jars or tubs to store kimchi

2. Chopping cabbage into squares
2. Chopping napa cabbage halves

3. Layering cabbage with salt
5. Rinsing cabbage, draining
Prepare napa cabbage
  1. Fill up a tub with cold water.
  2. Chop up cabbage: Halves, halves again. Remove inner third, chop sections into 2 inch squares. Dunk chopped squares into water as you cut, making sure that each square is thoroughly submerged.
  3. Place layers of squares down in a new bowl, sprinkle a couple pinches of salt on the layer. Repeat for all cabbage.
  4. Partially cover bowl (i.e. not airtight) and let sit for 2-3 hours, until the cabbage tastes slightly acidic. 
  5. Rinse squares under cold running water, removing salt; drain.
1. Peeled radish and onions
2. Preparing porridge base

4. Chopping radish into squares
4. Radish with flakes

6. Adding pepper and ginger to porridge
6. Mixing porridge
Prepare radish and porridge (while waiting for napa cabbage)
  1. Peel radish and onions; set aside.
  2. Place rice flour in pot, add water and stir. Keep adding water and stirring until flour is completely dissolved.
  3. Heat pot while still stirring; remove from heat when boiling achieved.
  4. Chop up radish into 1 inch squares, about 1/4 inch thick. Place radish squares into bowl, toss with 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes.
  5. Chop up onions into eighths. Place onions, boiled rice flour, fermented shrimp, garlic into blender; blend until porridge consistency.
  6. Add ginger and rest of red pepper flakes to porridge. Mix with spoon. Add 3-4 tablespoons of salt.
1. Mixing final ingredients
2. Kimchi!
Combine and make kimchi
  1. In a tub, mix the porridge, radish, and napa kimchi while wearing the food-handling gloves, evenly dispersing the porridge. Add salt if desired.
  2. Move into jars and cover. For quicker fermentation, leave out two days before refrigeration. To slower fermentation, place into fridge (or cold storage) immediately.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

for lucky best wash

What? It's been a week since my last post, and.. I don't have news. Oh no wait, I DID get one of those fancy Japanese toilet seats, the kind that washes your nether regions with warm water. Yup, while you barbarians are still scratching your poop-encrusted asses with paper I'll be enjoying a lovely butt shower, as well as a heated seat. The installation was, in theory, easy, but in practice a bit of an ordeal, mostly due to a) the seat not fitting my target toilet after I'd taken it apart (damn your bold look, Kohler!), and then b) the difficulty in changing the nozzle of the other toilet, as it's partially blocked by a storage closet.

I had thought about getting one of these seats years back, when I first heard about them but the price put me off and I eventually forgot about it. Very recently, I saw an article in the New York Times (Wet Wipes Box Says Flush. New York’s Sewer System Says Don’t) saying that "flushable" wipes aren't flushable at all (in that they don't break up in water), and are clogging sewers all over the world! So yeah, this bidet is my switching away from using wipes in the bathroom. Funny to come around like that.

What else. I might be doing my karate brown belt test as early as August, depending primarily on my stamina. So I have to ratchet up my exercise routine, which admittedly has lagged since finishing my blue belt test. And speaking of health, I've been cutting down on my meat intake. Not that I ate a lot before, but this year has really seen me shy away from beef and pork. The more I think about it, the more sense going vegetarian becomes (or pescatarian, whatever). Not only from an animal-suffering standpoint, but also an environmental one.