The All-Thing

All stick and no carrot, since ought-three.


隋宮 (李商隱)


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William's Aggregated Feeds

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Mon, 29 Sep 2003


Now that has turned into a non-stop loop of soulless, generic, watery gruel I've been checking out other sources of music. I hit the jackpot with BeatBasement —I have yet to hear a track I haven't dug. Solid underground hip-hop.

Posted at 14:26 | /internet/links | 1 comment | permalink

Terence, this is stupid stuff

"Many a peer of England brews
 Livelier liquor than the Muse,
 And malt does more than Milton can
 To justify God's ways to man."
— A. E. Housman (1896)

Posted at 13:12 | /lit | (leave a comment) | permalink

Wed, 24 Sep 2003


I've been thinking about buying a laptop recently. I'm looking for something very small and light. I envision mainly using it for coding, so I'm not overly concerned with performance, though obviously better is better. I am also willing to forgo having a CD or DVD or floppy drive in it for the sake of reduced physical dimensions, though I realize that may make installing Linux a pain.

After some research, I've narrowed the choices down to four. These have 12.1" screens, are an inch or less thick and weigh around three pounds.

Sharp Actius UM32W
Cheap! At $1100, it's the cheapest of the lot by far. An external CD drive is included in the deal. However, it's also the heaviest (3.1lb) and apparently has a slightly sub-optimal keyboard. (Review). Linux support seems fine.
Toshiba Portege R100
Despite the stupid name, this is the sweetest of the group by far: it's the lightest (tied with the Toughbook), thinnest, and smoothest-looking machine. It's also the most expensive: $2300, aka over twice the price of the Sharp. And Linux support is sub=optimal: in particular, the built-in wireless will never work due to Centrino issues. Not sure I want to support that kind of kak. My heart was set on this for a long time because it's just such a sweet machine, but it's hard to justify the price when compared with the others.
Panasonic Toughbook T1
$1880. Built-in wireless; not sure whether it will work with Linux or not. Thickness varies from an inch (slightly thicker than the R100) to 1.5" where the battery is in the back, which is weird. But it has incredibly low weight of 2.43lb. The cool thing about this one is the Toughbook characteristics—spill-resistant keyboard, shock-mounted HD and screen, hard case. Very damage-resistant, which is pretty appealing, and Panasonic has some neat videos of dropping and banging the thing.
Dell Latitude X300
Despite losing any geek points for buying a computer from a company with such irritating commercials (which, despite never watching TV, I still somehow manage to know about) this looks like a pretty cool machine. About $1650, 2.9lb and slightly less than an inch thick. Pretty-looking, too, except for the Dell logo on the cover. Offers a choice of three internal wireless cards, none of which is supported under Linux (and this is because the chipset manufacturers have been refusing to release specifications on the cards, not because of slacking on the part of the Linux community, let me assure you). Good reviews of the keyboard and screen.

It's a toss-up between the Toughbook and the Dell, I think. The lack of wireless support is completely irritating as I'll have to use a PCMCIA wireless card, but it's not fatal. The Toughbook is pretty appealing but it's not clear that it's worth $250 more than the Dell. Decisions, decisions....

UPDATE: I bought a laptop. It's not any of these.

Posted at 20:46 | /mortal/trappings | (leave a comment) | permalink

New Orleans

Greets from New Orleans, where, as of day three, 100% of my meals have been fried. The weather is great, the people are nice, and the hotel is extremely bling. Oh, and the conference is alright, too.

Went out to the French Quarter last night with workies and others and promptly spent ALL of the money I had allotted myself for the entire week at a Rick's Cabaret, where, after reacquanting myself with old friends Wild Turkey and Macanudo (the latter from the men's room, oddly enough), I made a new friend of a beautiful young lady by the name of Annabelle, who proceeded to—as we say in la France —remove her clothes and grind her delicious booty into my nether regions until the aforementioned money had, as aforementioned, run out.

So we pooled our pocket change together and spent the rest of the evening at Mike's, where Pabst is on tap and a twenty-dollar bill buys you five beers, two shots, a plate of chicken bits (fried) and a plate of onion rings (fried).

By the way, not only can you smoke everywhere in the hotel, and carry drinks around outside, the touch rules are also incredibly lax. Fuck Boston. I. LOVE. NEW ORLEANS.

Posted at 11:28 | /mortal | (leave a comment) | permalink

Mon, 22 Sep 2003


At some point today, my officemate and I are supposed to board a flight to New Orleans. As of right now, neither of us have any idea what time, what airline, or what flight number.

Hope it wasn't leaving this morning. Live in the moment, I always say....

Posted at 10:05 | /mortal | 1 comment | permalink

Wed, 17 Sep 2003

Angle Grinder Man

"This is the Web-Site of Angle-Grinder Man, the U.K.?s first wheel-clamp and speed camera vigilante cum subversive superhero philanthropist entertainer type personage. A big welcome to all good, decent, law-unabiding citizens. Godspeed to you and your four-wheeled, petrol-driven chariots."

If you live in London, and your car has been wheel-clamped, you can call this guy and he will come with his angle grinder and remove it, while dressed in a superhero outfit. Great pictures.

Posted at 14:07 | /internet/links | (leave a comment) | permalink

Tue, 16 Sep 2003

Pickup line

I was reminded by some random Livejournal entry about my favorite Chinese pickup line: 小姐,小姐,請問,您今天晚上想不想來我家讀論語?.

Posted at 17:39 | /chinese | 1 comment | permalink

Debian Dueling Banjos

In yet another "two disparate areas of William's life join together in a very bizarre way" category: apparently the Debian devel list has a curious history of random people asking for—of all things—sheet music for Dueling Banjos.

One theory is that, thanks to Google, which indexes the list archives, this has become a kind of self-perpetuating effect. Once the initial mistaken request was made, Google starting pointing people who searched for Dueling Banjos to the list, which increased the number of requests posted, which pushed up its rank in the search results page, which drew more people to post about it to the list, and so on.

The list is now pointed to by the first two results returned by a Google search for "dueling banjos sheet music". And apparently several Debian folks have now taken to sending out the sheet music....

Grueling Banjos

Posted at 14:43 | /internet | (leave a comment) | permalink


It's taken me two and a half years to figure this out, but when I switch the vent selector in my car to the windshield setting (i.e. to defog), it automatically turns the AC on without toggling the AC indicator light. What the FUCK is that about?

I realize AC air is drier. It's often the case that one would want to turn it on while defogging. But a) maybe you live in a dry climate anyways, b) maybe you're running low on gas and don't want to be forced into a tradeoff between visibility and stalling, and c) maybe you don't want fucking cold air blowing out of there on a cold day and regular air is just fine if you turn it up enough thank you very much you fucking brain-damaged dogwankers.

And why would you not toggle the AC light? Simply because you know people will get pissed off?

Do all cars do this? Or is this a Subaru-specific feature?


Posted at 10:39 | /mortal/trappings | (leave a comment) | permalink

Sun, 14 Sep 2003

writebacks_recent plugin

Wrote another Blosxom plugin for the "recent comments" list that's now in the sidebar. I've seen similar plugins that generate a separate page of links upon request, but nothing that spits out a nice includable HTML list. Pretty crappy code at the moment (e.g. no caching) but it works.

Updated the comment system as well to some fancy shizzle that allows threading and timestamps, finally. Luckily, making the plugin work with this instead of the old writeback system was trivial.

Posted at 22:21 | /meta | 3 comments | permalink

Gambler's Ruin

Could anyone who knows a little about random walks lend me a hand? I've been thinking about the Gambler's Ruin, trying to figure out why the probabilities of winning are what they are. I believe it is equivalent to the following random walk problem:

Given a finite one-dimensional ladder with n rungs r_0 .. r_n, starting at rung s, at each each time t the probability of going up one rung is p, and that of going down one rung 1-p. The game ends when you reach the top or the bottom rung, so what is the probability of hitting the top of the ladder, as a function of n and s?

I can write the recurrence:

 P(R_0 = s) = 1
 P(R_0 = r) = 0 \forall r \neq s
 P(R_t = x) = p * P(R_{t-1} = x-1) + (1-p) * P(R_{t-1} = x+1)

where R_t is the rung you're at at time t, which might be helpful, but I'm also not clear how to solve it. In general this seems like a pretty basic random walk question, so... little help, please?

(In terms of the Gambler's Ruin problem, tacit in the above formulation is the assumption that, in flipping the coin, you first choose a pile with equal probability, and then flip a coin from that pile—as opposed to picking a coin to flip independently of which pile it's in. The Mathworld page doesn't specify how the coin to be flipped is chosen, but it seems like it matters, so that's my simplifying assumption.)

Posted at 18:30 | /math | (leave a comment) | permalink

Fri, 12 Sep 2003

EFF's first-ever congressional petition

"We oppose the recording industry's decision to attack the public, bankrupt its customers and offer false amnesty to those who would impugn themselves. We call instead for a real amnesty: the development of a legal alternative that preserves file-sharing technology while ensuring that artists are fairly compensated.

In signing this petition, we formally request that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), as representatives of the public interest, be included in any upcoming hearings regarding the proper scope of copyright enforcement in the digital age."

Go sign it.

UPDATE 9/15/03: 35k signatures already, far surpassing their goal of 10k. Take a moment to donate or join (or add them to your will )—you get a cool t-shirt that's guaranteed to pick up babes.

Posted at 15:13 | /politics | (leave a comment) | permalink

Thu, 11 Sep 2003


Today at work I:

  • spanked myself with my coworker's new translucent purple gel wristpad while making loud pain-yet-pleasure yelps as my boss's boss walked by with his family and baby daughter;
  • ran out of my office brandishing a plastic knife in each hand and yelling prepare to be boarded! only to see the same boss's boss involved in a serious business conversation in the hallway;
  • found myself counting the hours since my last drink; and
  • drove someone I like to send me an email about how much of game-playing, manipulative, bad person I am.

Should I just go ahead and start the betting pool now?

Posted at 17:55 | /misc | (leave a comment) | permalink


Still diggin' this poem. Re-encountered it yesterday when flipping through my kiddy book of poetry, and apparently I'd read it a long time ago—last month's discovery was just a re-discovery.


Rough translation by me:

My home is built among other people,
but the sound of carts and horses is absent.
Asked how I live this way, I reply:
With my mind on distant things, this place is naturally solitary.
I pick chrysanthemums under the eastern bamboo
And cast leisurely glances at the southern mountain.
The mountain air, a beautiful sunset,
A pair birds returning to their home—
There is a deep meaning here. But
As I open my mouth to speak, I forget the words.

But it's basically impossible to capture all the ambiguity possible in classical Chinese when translating. E.g. the line 心遠地自偏 can be glossed as heart distant earth natural remote, which is pretty open to interpretation—and that's after disambiguating character semantics. But I guess that's what makes translating classical Chinese poems such a fun and exciting thing to do.

Posted at 12:31 | /chinese | 2 comments | permalink


i'm from virginia where ain't shit to do but cook
pack it up sell it triple-price fuck the books
where we re-up re-locate re-off them brooks
so when we pull up it ain't shit to do but look

Posted at 12:12 | /media/music/lyrics | (leave a comment) | permalink

Mon, 08 Sep 2003


Here's a picture of the best tea I've ever had in my entire life:

tea pic

This was in 鎮勝陶坊 in 陶瓷老街, 鶯歌, Taiwan. (If you're in the area, I highly recommend them—I got a great teapot there, some beautiful tea cups, and the proprieter brewed my the aforementioned tea and chatted with me on things tea and not-tea for about an hour, despite my oh-so-poor Chinese.)

Posted at 22:33 | /mortal | (leave a comment) | permalink

Sun, 07 Sep 2003

Craigslist Best-Of

The Boston Craigslist in general is populated by very stupid very illiterate people, but the best-of section occasionally has some very funny posts, e.g. this very Flowers for Algernon trip report about Portland:

Posted at 23:09 | /internet/links | (leave a comment) | permalink

Fri, 05 Sep 2003

Log Age

The Koran, allegedly, is the origin of the half your age plus seven rule (i.e. as the lower limit for dating/sex). But modern times call for modern rules, and thus I'd like to introduce the concept of log age.

Because the modern age is digital, and because it just works out better this way, we'll be using base 2. Your log age is simply log base 2 of your regular age. We'll stay with the traditional practice of dropping everything past the decimal point in casual conversation, so here's the quick conversion chart:

Traditional age | Log age
            < 1 | don't ask
              1 | 0
            2-3 | 1
            4-7 | 2
           8-15 | 3
          16-31 | 4
          32-63 | 5
         64-127 | 6

(So that solves my birthday problem, at least—I'm still 4.)

Now for dating, we'd like a radius of .5 in the log domain, i.e. you can date anyone half a logyear younger to half a logyear older than you. That works out to:

  dating_radius = trad_age / (2 * sqrt(2))

which means I can legally date anyone from 16.1 to 33.8 years old. Modern times being more liberal, I guess.

Posted at 10:00 | /misc | 5 comments | permalink

Wed, 03 Sep 2003

Sudden book influx

During the past week, three people at work have independently and without prior warning left books for me to read. I have:

  1. Lolita
  2. The Stars My Destination
  3. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Pirates

Was it something I said? Does this particular selection something about my personality?

This reminds me, I've been meaning to write a mini-review for Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others and China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, both of which I read in SA, but the very very short review (for both) is: <shrug>.

Posted at 10:57 | /media/books | (leave a comment) | permalink


So so is good, very good, very excellent good: and yet it is not; it is but so so. -- William Shakespeare, "As You Like It"