Palm Springs!

We just spent two weeks in sunny California! Still excited about my new iPhone, I shot a 3 hour timelapse of our flight from Calgary to Palm Springs.

Here’s a collection of random photos  from our trip.

Selfie of Jeff and Andrea on a palm tree lined street in downtown Palm Springs.
The first place we go after landing is Las Casuelas in downtown Palm Springs
Playing pickleball on a tennis court in Palm Springs, California.
We discovered the great game of pickleball.
clouds and palm trees
A rare cloud over Palm Desert.
A closeup of Andrea and Jeff riding a tandem bike.
A bicycle built for two
Jeff sits crouched under an orange tree.
Hot tubbing under the orange tree.
Three of the hot springs pools are visible from a high angle looking down. The slack line across the creek is also visible.
We hiked down to Deep Creek Hot Springs!
A collage of 5 photos showing our trip along the coast -- bike riding, standing on the beach, and some boats in the harbour.
Our bike trip along the coast
A selfie of Jeff and Andrea on top of a mountain in Joshua Tree National Park
Mountain climbing in Joshua Tree National Park
A Joshua tree in the foreground, desert and brush in the midground, an outcropping of rocks in the background, all under a deep blue sky.
Typical Scenery in Joshua Tree
Jeff, Andrea, and her parents enjoy dinner in down-town Palm Springs.
Happy Hour!
A windy path, bright green grass, and palm tree trunks near an empty but wide road.
Bike riding through Palm Desert.

And here is the autoawesome movie that Google+ put together of our bike trip along the coast.

A Little Adversity Goes a Long Way

I’m happy to say that today, I approached a Phil Connors level of perfection in everything that I did. The day didn’t start out very promising with only a half day of work scheduled (out of town) and not the slightest inkling of a plan for the afternoon or evening.

As it turned out, the half day of teaching was extended to the full day, the afternoon was perfect weather for both raking and mowing the lawn, then I had time to make myself an upgraded frozen pizza (one must add red peppers, spinach, and onions in order to bring plain pepperoni freezer pizza to acceptable levels) to jam out on my new guitar, watch the daily show and even eating some chips and salsa. After cleaning up supper like someone with OCD, I roused my roommate Justin from his long afternoon nap and we went to the university climbing wall and pool. Now that I’m back and laying comfortably in my nice, warm bed, my arms are quite tired and my eyelids dropping but I feel great. Aside from the arduous trouncing by the elephant in the room, it’s amazing all the positives that can come from a little adversity.

A Glimpse

Student 1: Hey Mr. Milner are you still together with your girlfriend?

Me: Nope. Thanks for bringing that up though.

Student 1: Ohhhhhhh! I’m so sorry.

Student 2: Oh, that’s so sad, you were so cute.

Student 1: I thought you were going to get married.

Me: You’re not the only one.

At which point I can feel my face turning bright red.

Forrest Gump

Without getting into it, I’ve reluctantly found myself with a lot more free time than I know what to do with, (a break-up if you must know). I’ve been walking in the coulees to get exercise and on occasion listening to audiobooks and podcasts.

Yesterday I took a trip into The States to pick up a package for my brother-in-law and listened to almost all of Forrest Gump, by Winston Groom. It’s the book that inspired the movie, and I use the word inspired loosely because while there are some similarities there are also a lot of unexpected differences.

In the book, Forrest is a lot bigger — huge actually, which makes more sense for him as a football star, he’s a savant at math, and many of his adventures are nothing like the movie. For instance, after throwing his medal of honour away and injuring a high level government employee, Forrest finds himself on a low earth orbit crashing toward earth, attacked by cannibals and head-hunters, later becoming a stampede wrestler, a chess champion, and during which time he adopts an escaped NASA orangutang as a drinking buddy. While the differences from the big screen adaptation make it an interesting read, I found the novel to be so outlandish and crazy that I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief. This is one of those rare exceptions that the movie outshines the book.

While on my walk yesterday, I was finishing up the book. Forrest inadvertently gets into some trouble and as a result Jenny breaks up with him. Although treated poorly for being mentally challenged his whole life, he says that losing Jenny was the first time he really knew what it was like to feel like an idiot. Losing Andrea, I feel like an idiot too.

iPhone 6

This week the world was introduced to iPhone 6. Last week I had my credit card number compromised which meant I wouldn’t have to stay up all night to order a phone that won’t even ship to me until October. I did, however, get a new card in the mail yesterday and the phone which I have been anxiously holding off through three generations of iPhones (four if you count the 5c) will finally be on it’s way in just another week. The photos I’m going to take are going to be amazing… I can’t wait.

Some might argue that spending so much money on a new Apple device would actually be much better spent on buying Apple stock. The $500USD that was spent on my first ipod (the iPod Photo 40gb) would have been a better investment in Apple stock considering that same $500 would now be worth $12470. While I really loved my iPod, it wasn’t worth $12.5K.

So this time around, I decided to have my cake and eat it too. I invested in the spring and so far I’ve made enough to pay for my iPhone just out of earnings. The tough part is deciding to pull my money out now or to let it ride for the long haul. This little chart, What if I had bought Apple stock instead? would suggest I should let it ride.

Update: it has arrived!

How to Be Polite

A lovely piece on politeness.

Most people don’t notice I’m polite, which is sort of the point. I don’t look polite. I am big and droopy and need a haircut. No soul would associate me with watercress sandwiches. Still, every year or so someone takes me aside and says, you actually are weirdly polite, aren’t you?

How to Be Polite.

The Bad Review Revue

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles doesn’t so much provide brainless enjoyment as it pummels the viewer into submission. ‘Shell-shocked’ is a reasonable description of the experience.” — James Berardinelli, ReelViews

The Expendables 3: “You need ‘The Expendables 3’ like you need a kick in the crotch, and while this running-on-fumes sequel may not be quite as painful a thing to experience, it will waste considerably more of your time.” — Justin Chang, Variety

Let’s Be Cops: “It’s just. awful. for most of its run time, content to squirm and squeal instead of explode with absurdities.” — Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com

Into The Storm: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m as willing to check my brain at the door and sumbit to an idiotic late-summer spectacle as the next person. But this funnel-cloud fiasco tries to suck up everything in its path, and just winds up sucking.” — Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

Planes: Fire and Rescue: “This Disney cartoon is running on empty.” — Geoffrey Macnab, Independent

The Kyoto Misconception

The feature image above shows me in front of the Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Temple in Kyoto Japan, 1993. Kyoto’s beauty and rich history stuck with me all these years since. I can easily see how visiting such a place dramatically changes your opinion.

On August 6 and 9, 1945 the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the most powerful weapon the world had ever seen. It turns out, Kyoto was almost sealed to the same fate but was saved (at least partially) by someone’s personal experience.

Kyoto was spared because of a personal intervention: the US Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, did not think it should be bombed. This story has been told many times, often as an example of how thin a line there is between life and death, mercy and destruction. But there’s an angle to this story that I think has gone overlooked: how the debate about targeting Kyoto led President Truman to a crucial misunderstanding about the nature of the atomic bomb.

Fascinating and thought-provoking read: The Kyoto Misconception.

First-Person Hyperlapse Videos

At this year’s SIGGRAPH conference, Microsoft Research presented their First-Person Hyperlapse Videos. These videos are compiled of rendered hybrid frames from shaky head-cam footage turned into amazing time-lapse videos that flow smoothly. The dramatic improvement between the before and after is astounding.

We present a method for converting first-person videos, for example, captured with a helmet camera during activities such as rock climbing or bicycling, into hyperlapse videos: time-lapse videos with a smoothly moving camera.

They say they are working hard on making their Hyperlapse algorithm available as a Windows app.

Awesome.

Ok Cupid Is Not Facebook

In a blog post published yesterday, OkCupid revealed it’s been lying to some of its users just to see how manipulating their experience could make the site better at matchmaking.

The public’s reaction to OK Cupid’s admission of the kind of A/B testing that Facebook caught hell for has been much more muted. It turns out, treating your users like guinea pigs is ok as long as people already like your website (nobody really likes Facebook — they’re just trapped by the network effect).

So what exactly did they do? From the blog post:

The ultimate question at OkCupid is, does this thing even work? By all our internal measures, the “match percentage” we calculate for users is very good at predicting relationships. It correlates with message success, conversation length, whether people actually exchange contact information, and so on. But in the back of our minds, there’s always been the possibility: maybe it works just because we tell people it does. Maybe people just like each other because they think they’re supposed to? Like how Jay-Z still sells albums?

To test this, we took pairs of bad matches (actual 30% match) and told them they were exceptionally good for each other (displaying a 90% match.)† Not surprisingly, the users sent more first messages when we said they were compatible. After all, that’s what the site teaches you to do.

† Once the experiment was concluded, the users were notified of the correct match percentage.