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This is my blog, I call it, The Gospel According to jden, I write about my projects, obersvations about technology and the arts and cultural sector, with a specific focus on the Australian realm.

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Typesetting mathematics on a blog

One thing every maths major will eventually learn is the importance of LaTeX—a mathematics type setting language. LaTeX lets you write your maths papers in plain text and then have it compiled into a beautifully typeset document.

Typesetting turns out to be a pretty complex problem to solve and is quite computationally expensive for what we think is quite simple. For years customers would complain about the typesetting in Amazon’s Kindles before they re-wrote the typesetting engine in 2015.

LaTeX does not exist on the web, however there are a few other ways of writing maths on the internet.

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April: To infinity and a maths blog

From the March of progress we now enter a new month and with the new month a new project. For the month of April—part of 12 Months, 12 Things—I will be working on and launching a new blog-of-sorts on mathematics. It sounds boring and it probably is, but I am excited.

This is an idea I have had floating in my head for at least a year or so, probably more. The vibe will be a StackExchange cross ProofWiki a place for students to search for obscure and unnecessary maths proofs that they can use as starting point for tutorial questions and problem sets. I want to have essays and guides for mathematics students based at an advanced university level, a website not really targeted for beginners (I feel like there is already many of them) but for curious mathematics majors looking for something new. I want to have a reference proofs to those ‘left to the reader as an exercise’ questions that we all fumble to answer. Hopefully and time-permitting I will have an accompanying podcast. There is a lack of mathematical podcasts (that last any meaningful length of time) where I can host guest as they talk about their maths life and interesting maths—once again pitched at a higher level than the norm.

It is already April the second writing this post, but I have already bought another Digital Ocean (that is 12/10 a referral code, so like totally spend money with it) Droplet (it’s the $5 Droplet—which shows my total faith in success for this project) so we are off to a start. I fly to Sydney (from Adelaide) in 2 days which gives me a solid couple hours of boredom to really nut out some work. I am excited for this one and very keen to start working on it, when I first thought of doing 12 Things, 12 Months this was originally the January project.

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The 'March' of progress

As March comes to a close (it is now the second day of April) I need to update you on the happenings of 12 Months, 12 Things—which I keep calling 12 Things, 12 Months. March has been an impossibly busy time for me; juggling the opening of a new show, finishing the run of another show, travelling 600 km for a one-off show, to writing a screenplay and working almost every other day. As a result it is now April and I still have lots to write about my Fringe experience and still have much of a screenplay to write all the while I should be starting a new project—and I am.

Throughout April there will be three streams of posts on this blog—I am telling this to the whole one-and-half persons who read this blog (not including myself).

  1. Finishing off posts from January/February Projects a.k.a. Adelaide Fringe shows.
  2. Updates on the screenplay and completing and submission into competitions—with helpful hard deadlines.
  3. The new about-to-be announced April project.

So that is the March of progress for this little project I am working on. Hopefully by the end of April this streams will be forming a nice big lake.

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Act I

I’ve just—and when I mean just, I mean four-nights-ago I ‘just’ forgot to write this post—finished writing the first act of the screenplay. I will post a link to it at the bottom for anyone who wants to read it, please bare in mind I literally haven’t read it back through for spelling mistakes—it’s rough as guts.

I did however want to talk about some key ideas of the first act. First of all, please don’t laugh at the character names—they will change.


                               MARCEL (V.O.)
                     Do you know what the plastic thing
                     on the end of shoe laces are?

                               LEANDREW (V.O.)

                               MARCEL (V.O.)
                     You know. The plastic nib thing on
                     the end of (shoe laces)

                               LEANDREW (V.O.)
                     Yeah what about it?

           FADE IN:

           INT. ELEVATOR - DAY

           MARCEL MERCURY is a 29 year old man who's been fighting his
           way through life, at any stage where there is a hurdle he
           hits it. His thick black beard has not been trimmed in
           months, Red Bull in hand, disheveled and crinkled working
           overalls with a hoodie on top.

We start the story with voices over the black and then into the action. I like when movies start off like this, so this is how I start it. The opening scene is a fairly innocuous conversation between our male-lead and his friend. It sets the mood and introduces the main character as someone who likes to think about these random parts of life and goes down rabbit holes seemingly with each breath he takes.

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The narrative structure

I wanted to write an interesting plot that delivers a twist but doesn’t feel like it’s been setting up for a twist the entire film. You know those movies where you are just waiting for the killer to be like the police office or something. A twist that you can see coming isn’t really a twist. I also wanted the structure of the screenplay to be an interesting way to tell the story of this world.

Recently I was speaking to a magician at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and he was telling me about his show—I didn’t get to see it because it clashed with my show—and the structure he wrote into it. The show is performed in reverse chronological order, in that he comes out onto the stage and says “Thank you all for coming, I hope you enjoyed the show.” and would then progressively bring us to the beginning of the show. So the finale would be him saying “Hello everybody, welcome to the show. Tonight we are going to be doing some great magic, we will start of with…” and then list the effects he’s just done in reverse order. The mechanism for the reverse order was a sand-timer, there was a big sand-timer on the stage and overtime it ran out he would turn it around and that would bring us one step close to the ‘beginning’ of the show. I thought this was the most interesting idea, I’m pretty bummed I never got to see the show because it sounded really-really good.

So I took this idea of a reverse chronological order and started looking at non-linear narrative structures. The film Memento uses a very similar idea to the show I was describing above. Where the reverse chronological narrative is used to reveal information in a very controlled way. I got really fixated on this reverse chronological idea to tell a story, but I also wanted to add a spin on it.

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The one thing you should learn

With more than 1160 shows this year at the Adelaide Fringe setting your self apart from the noise is increasingly difficult. Someone once told me that the Edinburgh Fringe is the most competitive environment in the world, and if you can sell your show there—you can sell anything. The Adelaide Fringe is the second largest Fringe festival in the world and although we some way behind in terms of volume of ticket sales I think the environment has become exponentially competitive.

Having great marketing material is absolutely important, but beyond having great high quality material I think the more important thing to learn is how to use that material. In particular I am talking about learning how to use Photoshop. As a performer or producer your core competency is not graphic design, but your core competency is to sell tickets. To sell tickets you need to excite your audience, and and to excite your audience you need to make adaptive marketing collateral.

This year I bought an ad in the Fringe guide, it was a quarter page advert in the magic section. I was given the dimensions for that advert and I adapted the posters from the shows to fit in the advert space. Something I would have to out source to a graphic design firm if I didn’t know how to use Photoshop. What happened next exemplifies why I think knowing how to use Photoshop should be your core competency. A few days after the deadline for submitting adverts I got a phone call from the advertising department. They told me that my advert being in the magic section would cause it to flow onto another page. So they offered to cut my advert in half to make sure the selection wouldn’t flow, and in return give me a full page vertical advert. The catch? I had to have it to them by close of business. So I sprang into gear and after an hour or so I had reworked my adverts to fit into the new dimensions and just like that I had gained a free advert worth over $1000. Now if I had to send this off to the firm in charge of my graphic design, I would have missed out on this opportunity and someone else would have taken my spot.

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Ole' reliable friends and family

One thing that I learnt this year more than anything was that you can never trust someone when they say

“yeah, I’ll come see your show”.

It’s no doubt well meaning and they have all the intention of coming to your show, however soon enough the end of the season rolls by and they still haven’t bought a ticket.

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All Over Red Rover

For another year Adelaide Fringe is finished. This year was very much a learning experience the first time doing solo shows and the first time producing more than one show. In the end I sold over a 1000 tickets and performed 1.3333 shows a day, everyday for 30 days for 40 shows in total.

Sleeping on Stage

It was a really busy month and I’m incredibly tired as a result, which also meant I didn’t get to write as many posts as I would have liked to. I have a lists of posts to write in OmniFocus and will work through them and post a bunch all at once soon.

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March: Writing a Screenplay

I’m in the middle of the run of The Expert at The a Card Table and start SUPERHUMAN in seven days, but it’s a new month and time to start a new project in tech 12 Months, 12 Things series. For the month of March I will write a screenplay for a film.

I’ve never written a screenplay before but have written over a hundred pages of quasi-stageplay for the two Fringe shows and quite enjoyed the process. So I will take it further and try to write a complete feature length script for a film. We will see how it goes, it might end up being short film length.

I have a idea for a story already and need to develop that into something worth writing about. The story will probably be done in collaboration with Andrew Lynn-Penning, we recently spoke about the idea of a film based on a character I can up with awhile ago, he mapped out a nice funny scene and premise. I need to learn about the form of screenplay and the tools used by the pros, I have a friend in the business I will lean on for help. Last year I bought the Aaron Sorkin Masterclass on Screenwriting, at the time only because I like hearing Aaron talk about things. However, this will become very useful I feel.

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It's not all roses

Today I performed a show the smallest audience I’ve ever had a show for. This year’s Adelaide Fringe has been down on ticket sales across the board. On a artist only Facebook group producers and artists are all talking about the lack in ticket sales, and overall less hype. This is all apart of a larger trend starting last year with artists complaining about a drop in ticket sales, and led to some heated debates between fellow artists.

It was our first show last year and we didn’t really have issues selling tickets. But this year, we are having some serious troubles filling seats during the weekdays. I woke up this morning and I had no pre-sales at all for the show, at 12pm HalfTix open for the day and offer half prices tickets to the show until 3pm, during that time I sold 2 tickets (last year we could move 30+ tickets during HalfTix) so I hit the streets to do some flyering.

This is where it gets tricky out show is at 6pm, so the people you end up flyering are city workers and retail shoppers going about their own thing, they don’t really want some dude handing a flyer to them to see a show. Flyering during the day and at the end of the work day is a complete failure. I resorted to annoying my friends to move tickets to mediocre success, no one likes last minute plans or re-watching my show. And believe it or not literally handing free tickets to people on the street is much harder than you expect. I gave 4 complimentary tickets for some uni students, none of which showed up.

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Selling out the first show

On the 7th of February 10 days before the opening of the festival we sold out the first show of the season. The opening night February 17 is the very first show of The Expert at the Card Table — How to Cheat at Cards and this is the night that’s sold out. It’s a great feeling and very good place to be in at the moment.

Last year with our debut show, Reading Minds and Other Fascinating Lies, we sold out shows in three weekends but it took us two days and on the first Sunday we sold out that show. We worked hard for that first sell out, we were on the ground flyering up until 10 minutes before we went on stage. The venue was a 100 seater theatre. In contrast the show I just sold out is only 30 seats, it’s a close-up and intimate show.

I am very forntuate to be at The Tuxedo Cat for this season, they celebrating their 10th anniversary and with it comes a large marketing push. One of the stated goals is to sell out every show, and with the combination of a smaller venue, a great show, the marketing push, and gained experience I don’t think this is beyond reach.

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Janurary, February: The Tale of Two Fringes

For the months of January and February in the 12 Months, 12 Things project I am producing two shows for the Adelaide Fringe Festival. This will be the cononical post for these two months I will update this with further blog posts and other bits of information.

The two shows are SUPERHUMAN at The Bally — Gluttony and The Expert at the Card Table — How to Cheat at Cards at The Tuxedo Cat. And the required promotional copy is provided below.



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12 Months, 12 Things

This was a post I was suppose to write on January First. However I got busy and well forgot for some of the month, so here we are February First.

This year I am taking the year off university, and in the bigger picture taking the year off being in an education system. I have been in school for the past 17 years of my life, and I was heading for even more. Last year I finished my first Bachelor’s Degree (in Mathematical Sciences) and I have a year (or maybe a semester, I haven’t been motivated enough to check) left of my second Bachelor’s Degree (in Physics). I was originally destined for an honours year in physics, but instead turned that honours year into a second degree.

I have always been an academic (I won Dux in Specialist Mathematics and Physics in high school) and everyone around me assumes I should live an academic life and continue onwards and upwards into an honours degree, masters degree and ultimately a doctorate. While I find this compelling, I do not love it. But in a way I do love it, I love maths and I love physics, but at the same time I really want to spend my days locked away in an office thinking about things. Equally I would love to do that.

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Hello World — deploying a Linode VPS, nginx server, Let’s Encrypt, and a Ghost blog from an iPad Pro

This post serves as my first post on this new blog as well as a (brief) technical overview of how I got here. On a whim last week I decided to move my website — — from NearlyFreeSpeech to Amazon S3. My site is a very basic and only serves static pages, so S3 static hosting is completely sufficient. However, after a mishap transferring files to S3, my site was 404’ing, and after years of hearing Marco read the Linode ad on ATP I decided to sign up for a Linode VPS and run my own web server. Here I document my decisions (for when I inevitably break it) and overview troubleshooting I needed to do.

For those playing at home I am running static website with a Ghost blog on a subdomain hosted by a Linode VPS running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS with nginx all secured with Let’s Encrypt certificates (configured on an iPad Pro). If you want to skip all my commentary and just go straight to the gory detail of how to make it all work, skip to the Making the pizza section.

Why Linode? Why a VPS?

Do I really need a VPS? Probably not. Do I want to deal with server maintenance? Probably not. Was I going to get a VPS anyway? You betcha’. The power of podcast ads are not to be overstated, the reason why they relentlessly sponsor the same podcasts every week, is not to instantly create a sale — but rather to provide a company to think of when you need a service. Need a VPS? Linode is there to help. Need a domain? Hover is there. Need a bed? Casper have your back (pun intended). So when I decided to get a VPS there was no other choice. I did however briefly look around at other options, Linode is very competitive on price and come with high praise from people I trust. I thought about staying in the Amazon ecosystem and using an EC2 instance and S3, ultimately AWS is just too heavy and clunky (and frankly confusing as hell) for the stuff I’d like to do.

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S3 Analytics

Recently I have been working on a new project and when it came to making the website I decided to move away from my regular web host and try out Amazon Web Service’s S3. Part of the project is hosting files for audience members to download, the links must be direct and cannot contain a redirect. They must also be served over https, another reason why I decided to go with S3. 

I want to track the download counts of these files and look at analysts to investigate the usage of these files. S3 doesn’t provide this natively in the console and I can’t use Google Analytics because the files are direct. I noticed that S3 does have logging, but this creates unwieldy log files. 

There are a number of companies that offer services to read these log files and provide useful analytics. One such company is S3Stat. I have been using them for a couple weeks so far, and they have executed perfectly. Works great from my iPad which I am constantly working on abroad. And the main use case that I wanted analytics for, S3Stat delivers. 

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Everything is Possible Bottle

Everything Is Possible Bottle

The other day I was in an Australian store called Typo and they have these really pretty and cool looking bottles there, and I’ve always admired them and wanted to do something cool with them. So this visit I bought one and came home and wrote a post saying I am going to do something cool with this. 10 minutes later I have a Tic-Tac container impossibly inside. This is idea is based off the Anything is Possible Bottle by Jamie Grant. Originally I wanted to put a mini deck of cards in my bottle but I couldn’t find one. So I looked for the next best thing. I’ve always admired Jamie’s bottles and still don’t know how he does it. Bottles like this are fantastic to inspire people. Everyone I have shown mine to love it.

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Dash by Kapeli

Dash by Kapeli

I’m currently studied a Honours Degree in High Performance Computational Physics, and the “computational” part means I need to be literate in programming languages along with a strong computer science background. In this semester I am learning C++, and Ive been looking for a bunch of developer tools, and I will post about them later. But I jsut wanted to give a massive shout out to Dash by Kapeli. Which is an API/language documentation browser, and its totally fucking awesome. I have to catch the train into university each day, and on the train I have no internet. So it can be hard at times to do any length of coding on the train, cause Im constantly looking up references online and code examples etc. So I was looking for an offline documentation for C++. What I found was better than I had ever imagined. Dash has support for pretty much every programming language you could think of. If your language is not included there are resources for generated docsets for them. Dash also intergrates into a bunch of different apps. One of them is Alfred. Which is fucking grea too and if you dont use it, you should be. I can call up Alfred and use the prefix, dash, and then search directly into Dash from Alfred. Fucking awesome right. Another great integration is with PopClip, so I can highlight a search term in my code and search Dash directly from my code. The searching ability of Dash are superb. It also has a Snippet Manager which I havent looked much into at the moment. But in short, Dash is awesome and you should get it right now, if you are doing anything with programming.

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OS X Ivericks

You’ve probably already seen these OS X “Ivericks” mockups around the web the last few days. But to be honest, it scares me a bit. Cause this mockup by _Stu Crew _follow all the iOS & guidelines and are a real look into what an iOS 7 inspired OS X will look like. And I dont think I like the change. I started off as a great fan of iOS 7 when it first got announced. I was in the camp that thought iOS needed a great design overhaul and needed to change to stay competitive. When iOS 7 came around I was happy with it, I loved the new design. But after using iOS 7, the design language just doesn’t add up for me. It feels nowhere near as polished and cohesive as iOS 6. Yes, its still in beta and of course its not polished. But in the 5 beta updates, it has not changed dramatically. It just does not feel right, its hard to explain.

In the next generation of OS X after Mavericks, I imagine much of the iOS 7 design language will be incorporated, in a manner very similar to the mock ups above. And I dont think its going to work. It will different and new and fresh, but after the novelty of that has worn off. The ‘brushed aluminum’ we have come accustomed to will be gone. Which is a pity, cause OS X is beautiful. All the apps follow the OS X design language to a tea, and it looks great and feels great and is so cohesive and works so well. I dont want to lose that. How ugly is it going to look when apps are transitioning to the new look and you have ‘brushed aluminum’ mixed in with modern white space. 

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Magna Carta... Jden Grail

Magna Carta… Jden Grail

I did a thing. I thought it would be cool to act like Jay Z, so I made my own Magna Carta… Holy Grail album art. The hardest thing was finding the raw photo of the statues without Jay Z’s name on it. I found out that Ari Marcopoulos took the photo for Jay Z, and found an original photo. Was still pretty hard, I haven’t nailed down the font 100%. I went for News Gothic Bold, originally I thought Franklin Gothic as someone posted online, but News Gothic fit best, except for the terminal on the J, which ends at a different angle. But it was the best font I could find that I owned. I attached a progress snap too.

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