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Home Sweet Home

A small update: after my extended stay in Seoul, I’m back in the states safe and sound. It’s good to be home, but there’s not a whole lot of time to take it all in; starting next week, my research for Professor Simha begins, and I’ll be back in DC only a week afterwards.

I had fully intended on writing up a nice post to summarize my entire Korean experience, but that’s now on indefinite hold seeing as things are going to start picking up again. Fortunately, it’s been relatively quiet these past couple days and so I was able to make something I’ve been meaning to put together since the suspension of the Agent Red Productions website: a page for all my past, present and future projects. If you’re interested, please do have a look. As with the rest of the website, I’ll be updating this whenever something new comes along.

ManyTones

One of many uniquely-Korean memories, this time in hippo form

Despite the fact that finals start next week and I still need to prepare for my post-semester return trip back to the states — which, by the way, is a mere two weeks away — I’ve decided to get back into Android development and make an app. It’s already available on Google Play, and it’s called ManyTones, hence the title of this blog post.

Originally, I had no intentions of releasing it to the public, because it all started with me wanting a random but specifically-defined set of sounds to play when I received a notification, namely these. I accomplished that goal pretty quickly, but then it occurred to me that there may already be apps on the Play Store that do this (great timing, right?). As it turns out, there are, but I didn’t like any of them, so I decided to build out my app’s user interface and add support for ringtones and alarm sounds too. ManyTones is the result of all that effort.

I think it’s a pretty useful application. Two updates back I added a sub-activity that allows users to convert any supported sound on their device and make it a ringtone, notification alert or alarm sound, which they can then set on their own via Android’s native capabilities or have ManyTones use. Making this essentially involved developing a simplified file browser for Android, which was pretty challenging and time-consuming, but I enjoyed myself. The last update made ManyTones free — it was originally $0.99 — but I’ve since added a donate version that has an identical feature set but can be used to show some monetary support. If anyone’s feeling generous, feel free to make use of it. I’d greatly appreciate some love.

Now, you might be wondering what exactly is going on in the photo of me at the top of this post. Well, I was at Seoul Grand Park Zoo a few weeks ago and decided it would be funny if I pretended one of the statues of a hippo was real and pretending to eat me…like Hungry Hungry Hippos, I thought, but real. As it turns out, it was at the time, although I admit there’s little to no entertainment value in the photo, and so I apologize. That said, deal with it.

Half Empty or Half Full?

The view from my seats at my second Doosan Bears baseball game.

Well, I’ve been in Seoul for about two months now and midterms just ended, so I figured it was time for an update.

All is well on the southern front, despite what the news was reporting back home a couple weeks ago. As always, the northern threat is there, but everyone here has grown so used to it that they couldn’t care less. I figure if the natives aren’t concerned, I shouldn’t be either. After all, this is their country and their way of life, and they have the most at stake.

Classes are tough — and it’s not the material that’s difficult, but the way it’s taught. There is heavy emphasis on testing over things like homework and participation, which alone isn’t a problem, but together with the rigid class structure has really been testing my learning ability and my patience. Granted, I’m not taking as many courses here as my peers because I knew the ones I decided to take would be challenging, but I’ve never considered myself very good at operating under time pressure, and there’s certainly been a lot of that as of late…but enough with the excuses.

Learning Korean has been compelling at times, but by and large, it has become a chore. Perhaps this is the culture shock talking, but it’s clear any foreign language skills I had in high school are gone, along with any real interest in pursuing Korean following my return to the states. I know plenty of people who seem to have a knack for it and are enjoying themselves though, and I don’t see fit to rain on their parade, so I’ve decided to carry on and see what happens.

On a more positive note, my research has been going very well. I’m not prepared to reveal the totality of what I”m doing for Professor Simha just yet, but I now have a system capable of randomly selecting a word from a dictionary and automatically generating a phonemic multiple choice question based on that word, complete with one correct answer and three incorrect ones. Thanks to some helpful libraries, this actually didn’t turn out to be too difficult, though there’s certainly some room for improvement, especially as far as the selection of plausible incorrect answers is concerned. In fact, it was far easier for me to develop procedures to generate correct answers to questions than incorrect ones, primarily because incorrect answers have to be, well, wrong, but also believable, which is pretty hard to explain to a human, let alone to a computer. It’s all coming together now though, and I’m excited to continue working on it into the summer. Hopefully I’ll be able to elaborate a bit more on what we’re looking to accomplish at that point too.

That’s about it from me for now. Not the lightest post ever, but rarely do I ever come out of a week of midterms feeling overly positive, so in the meantime I’ll take comfort in knowing these dark times will pass. Until next time, adios.