HS Day 39: Journey to the West

I started out today pretty tired, but made it to Hacker School on time. I spent the day over at the old location after check-in since that’s where the Risk AI people were working. As usual, the last 10% is taking 90% of the time – we’re very close on many fronts, but it’s probably going to take us at least until the end of the week to finalize everything. I also made some excellent progress on my Space Adventure game – I’ve updated the work in progress on http://handprintgames.com. It needs a bit of help in the UX department, but I’m happy with how it’s coming along. (Hit “3” then “1” on the screen where you’re choosing the attributes, etc. if you can’t get past that). Still, of course, a work in progress.

Lunch with Peter Norvig and a couple of Hacker Schoolers including Joy, Martin, Matt, and Erik today – Dos Toros Burritos in the park. We mostly spent the time asking Peter questions about programming and stuff. He agreed that Python is a better language for AI than  Lisp, which, he says, was mainly chosen for AI because it was the most advanced language at the time, which allowed users to focus on the hard problems rather than implementing data structures.

When we got back, I worked a bit on projects, especially pairing with Mary, a facilitator, who wrote the Javascript engine that I’m using for Space Adventure.

I signed up for a 30-minute time slot with Peter, and asked him specifically about my school idea. I was pretty awkward about it, but he had some good things to say. I really just wanted his opinion on it, but I didn’t explain it very well. I’m still happy with the advice he had – basically what I already knew, but I think that’s good since it means I’m on the right track. The most interesting thing he had to say was that schools and online courses need to provide the ability for students to practice on their own, exposure to a community, and motivation to continue, either internally or externally.

He also wished me good luck and told me to keep him posted about it (yay!)

I think a lot of the people at Hacker School are a bit starstruck by him, which makes just hanging out and coding a bit awkward. I know tomorrow’s “office hours” list already has a backlog.

After a bit of work with Matt on a “really dumb” test AI for the Risk game, I took the 1 train to the Lincoln Center, where I entered the David H. Koch theater (yeah that Koch) and picked up my tickets for “Monkey: Journey to the West”. I grabbed some pics on the way in:

The entrance to the theater.

The entrance to the theater.

People milling around beforehand.

People milling around beforehand.

The upper floor of the theater.

The upper floor of the theater.

I had seen an ad for the performance a few weeks ago and bought tickets to the Tuesday night performance, since I figured I would have the best chance of getting good seats – and I did – third floor, fourth row, right in the middle. I had a very nice, clear view of the stage.

The performance itself was very well executed. It was the story of Xi You Ji – Journey to the West, an ancient Chinese tale about a group of characters who travel to India to retrieve some sutras – which stars a young, innocent Buddhist priest named Tripitaka, and a mischievous monkey king named Sun Wu Kong (“Monkey who is aware of emptiness”).

The producers were the same as The Gorillaz, which was what prompted me to go in the first place – the music was a blend of ancient Chinese instruments and modern synth pop, and the characters were all extraordinary acrobats – lots of jumping, flips, rope climbing, and aerial silks. The costuming was very well done, and the scene changes were covered by animation from the graphics side of Gorillaz.

The performance wasn’t perfect – there were a few slips, goofs, and underdone acting, but the overall impression was excellent, the humor was well done, and the visuals were stunning. The final act – featuring a massive statue of Buddha, was extremely well executed.

Also: the entire thing was in Chinese, with English subtitles projected above. (supertitles?)

Returned home after stopping at Hacker School to pick up my laptop (they were watching Firefly). Picked up a 5-pack of beer, a bottle of hot sauce, and some green tea on my way home at 5th ave market.

Played SC2 with Ian and now it’s bedtime.

From Brooklyn,

–Erty

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