The All-Thing
   


All carrot and no stick, since ought-three.

送人東遊 (溫庭筠)

荒戌落黃葉,浩然離故關。
高風漢陽渡,初日郢門山。
江上幾人在,天涯孤棹還。
何當重相見,樽酒慰離顏。

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Tue, 01 Jul 2003

On the continuing decline of William's mind

Wow. Just looked through an old demi-blog I had created about a year ago. Clearly I was about ten times more intelligent then than I am now.

http://www.masanjin.net/~wmorgan/zzthoughts.html

Posted at 11:13 | /meta | (leave a comment) | permalink

Girl talk

I tend to be very wary (wery wery) of women who spend their time in male-dominated areas. I'm thinking here mostly of CS girls, whom I avoided fanatically at CMU, but now that I think about it, basically every area of my life is a male-dominated one, so that includes basically every girl I know. Hm. No wonder I'm single.

Oh anyways, the reason for this is that, in my experience, many of these girls are so continually surrounded by adulating guys fawning over them at every step that I think they tend to develop certain personality characteristics that I find unappealing. There's a kind of prima donna attitude that emerges, almost. Everyone is paying so much continuous attention to them, they can feel free to treat everyone poorly and not really have to suffer any repercussions.

I've known exceptions to this, of course, but in general I remain suspicious. And the flip side of the coin is that if I'm interested in a girl, I find all that competition intimidating. And more strongly than that, I don't want to be just another fawning guy... I'd rather preserve my remaining self-respect.

To all you hot CS babes who now hate me, this entry is not motivated by a particular person or event. I was just thinking about this recently. But I encourage you to take a moment to examine your style of social interaction...

Posted at 11:09 | /mortal | (leave a comment) | permalink

Laziness

I was thinking this morning about how I was always considered the lazy kid of the family—I don't remember my parents or grandparents being shy about stating that explicitly. My brother was always ready and willing to do any kind of physical activity, but I was impossible to drag away from my reading, and, later, the computer.

I basically believed them at the time, but in retrospect I don't think I had, or have, a fundamentally lazy character. Looking back, I see that I just received so much pleasure from reading and from playing around on the computer that I really hated having to go out and endure the tediousness that was yardwork, or going to church, or whatever other moronic way they wanted me to interact with the outside world. Every minute outside felt like a minute wasted, and every minute I was thinking about being able to get back to my what I wanted to do.

I'm much better about that kind of thing today—I've learned to control my obsessive tendencies better (being able to turn them on is almost as fun as being able to turn them off is useful) and I have mellowed with age, like fine old grape juice. But of course, there's a certain amount of laziness that I think everyone has, myself included, in the form of being unwilling to do repetitive or menial tasks.

I think it's that type of laziness, combined with the obsessiveness, that makes me a good programmer. Larry Wall was right in his quip about "laziness, impatience and hubris" being the three cardinal virtues of the programmer.

Of course, they also combine to make me a poor scientist. This has been going through my head a lot, recently. What to do....

Posted at 10:26 | /code | (leave a comment) | permalink

More "Brain Power" Needed for Mandarin than English

From http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=585&ncid=585&e=1&u=/nm/20030630/sc_nm/health_mandarin_dc:

Unlike English speakers, who use one side of their brain to understand the language, scientists at the Wellcome Trust research charity in Britain discovered that both sides of the brain are used to interpret variations in sounds in Mandarin.

Cool research result, although the article itself is terrible. My comments:

The term brain power is, of course, a mystical term with no real meaning, but it is, I suppose, a convenient draw'em'in phrase for the headline.

"We think Mandarin speakers interpret intonation and melody in the right temporal lobe to give the correct meaning to the spoken word," Scott said in a statement.

This is bizarre. Intonation is unrelated to tones. (E.g. intonation exists in English; tones do not.) Additionally, what is melody supposed to mean? You're speaking a sentence, not singing a frickin song. I'll give the guy the benefit of the doubt and assume that the reporter incorrectly reported his statement.

"Native English speakers, for example, find it extraordinarily difficult to learn Mandarin," Scott said.

Heh. No kidding. (And it's not just the tones.)

I'd be interested in knowing if they did comparisons with non-native speakers of Mandarin, and with native and non-native speakers of other Chinese languages (which by and large have more tones than Mandarin does). Brain damage studies, as suggested by my colleague, would be pretty intreresting too.

Anyways, a cool find, even if the article is crapulent.

Posted at 10:23 | /news | (leave a comment) | permalink

Surprise Language

For the past month I've been involved in the TIDES Suprise Language project, which is a cool new ideawhere a bunch of computational linguistics researchers get together and have exactly one month to develop various bits of NLP technology (machine translation, named entity extraction, etc) for a given human language. The surprise bit is that they don't know which language it will be until the month begins—the only thing they know is that it will be a language that people haven't put a lot of effort (in terms of NLP) in to before.

Beyond getting people to start working on a new, presumably relevant, language, this is also a great way of assessing the ability of the research community to do rapid start NLP—something the government is very interested in as of late.

The language was Hindi. The month ended yesterday. Overall the project was pretty successful, I think. All the big players were involved. It was interesting to see a cooperation-based project rather than the competition-style events, which is what I've been involved in before, for conferences. There's still competition in terms of who can develop the best system, but resources, tools, etc. were all shared between researchers.

We submitted a named-entity tagger. It'll be interesting to see how it fares.

Posted at 10:18 | /research | (leave a comment) | permalink


   

I do desire we may be better strangers. -- William Shakespeare, "As You Like It"