The All-Thing

All carrot and no stick, since ought-three.

漁翁 (柳宗元)


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Wed, 29 Oct 2003

Korea Preparations

Frantically running around trying to assemble everything I need for this trip. I have to leave my car at work (another Somerville fucking double-street-sweeping week ahead), take the bus back home tonight, then take a cab to the airport at 4:30am tomorrow morning, so I basically have to get everything in my life organized NOW while I still have a car.

Bought Quicksilver. I know it's too early for a paperback, but Jesus Christ, does the thing have to weigh ten pounds and fucking take up more space than my laptop? I was really tempted to get some other paperback book instead, but nothing really caught my eye and I wasn't willing to gamble too much with eighteen or whatever hours of flying ahead of me. Last time I accidentally bought a book I had already read and was forced to spend the entire flight thinking, which always leaves me in a hyper-depressed state.

Bought lots of coffee and red Twizzlers to trade with the natives for food and shelter.

(Side note: despite it being pretty crappy weather outside, the view from my office window reached its peak of autumnal beauty today and I gaze at it contentedly as I ponder the next mot juste.)

Got a call from security because I parked my car on the grass. I was like, "Bitch please. If you hadn't cordoned off a huge section for a 'training exercise', whatever the fuck that is, I wouldn't have had to park on that nasty-ass mud patch you arbitrarily decided not to pave over ten years ago which you now, in a laughably poetic turn, call 'grass'." But all that really came out was like "Oh, that's not cool? Ok, I'll move it." So I drove and bought Quicksilver.

Set up my xscreensaver with jcreed's phosphor trick to annoy my blog-hating officemate in my absence.

And with that, I think I am prepared.

Posted at 16:06 | /travel | 1 comment | permalink

Welcome to Pittsburgh

Here's a story a friend of mine told me about his only visit to Pittsburgh:

Some friends and I drove down to Pittsburgh in the 90's for a Dylan concert. We got to the Civic Arena, took our seats, and the concert started. I was really getting into it and at around the fourth song of the first set I took out my pack of cigarettes and lit one.

All of a sudden someone taps me on the shoulder and it's the guy behind me, wearing a shirt that says Fire Marshal on it. He says, "Alright buddy, that's it. I told you once before. You're out of here!" and he grabs me by the shoulder and starts pulling me towards the exit.

I say, "Look, you've got the wrong guy. You didn't talk to me before. I'm not even really a smoker. I'll gladly give you this entire pack of cigarettes, just let me listen to the concert." And he says, "You're getting out of here now or I'm going to have you arrested." What could I do? I shut up. He took my ticket and dragged me out the door. I spent the rest of the concert in the parking lot.

In an era of hit-and-miss Dylan performances, that concert is apparently remembered as a particularly good one....

Posted at 11:17 | /media/music | 2 comments | permalink

Speeding Ticket Blues

Well originally I had this grand plan to contest the speeding ticket and dazzle them with my knowledge of cosine distance etc. and prove the radar wrong. I'm pretty sure I was caught in a perfunctory quota-filling operation. But now, on the verge of a two week trip abroad (plea due right before I get back), I realize that I don't really remember where on the long stretch of Rt. 125 it occurred, and I didn't even get a look at where the cop was stationed. So I don't think I can mount much of a defense other than I didn't do it, man. I could always plead not guilty and hope that he doesn't show up at the trial, but what if he does?

So I'm pleading nolo contendere and just take it in the ass from my insurance company for years to come.

I guess that after two and a half years of keeping it at 85 to and from work, one ticket ain't so bad. Pity it didn't occur when I was actually speeding. But who am I to expect any kind of correlation between crime and punishment?

Posted at 11:04 | /mortal | (leave a comment) | permalink

Thu, 23 Oct 2003

Schneier on Data Mining

This one is making the rounds, but I figured I'd point it out too.

Security is always a trade-off: How much security am I getting, and what am I giving up to get it? These data-mining programs are not very effective. Identifiable future terrorists are rare, and innocents are common. No matter what patterns you're looking for, far more innocents will match the patterns than terrorists because innocents vastly outnumber terrorists. So many that you might as well not bother. And that assumes that you even can predict terrorist patterns. Sure, it's easy to create a pattern after the fact; if something identical to the 9/11 plot ever happens again, you can be sure we're ready. But tomorrow's attacks? That's much harder.,0,3927478.story

Schneier has it exactly right, as usual. Data mining sounds snazzy and exciting and high tech, but it's not the right tool for this job. In fact it's just about the worst tool possible—no real benefit, and a very high cost, both pecuniarily and in terms of further encroachment on people's rights and liberties and ability not to be treated a priori like a criminal etc.

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


For fuck's fucking sake. It's snowing outside. Let's see, it's been, what, oh, SIX MONTHS since the last goddamn snowfall? That's two months for spring, two months for summer, two months for fall, and six months for winter.

Seriously. It's not like the people in this state weren't enough, with their high-ass taxes and their fucking blue laws (goddamn conservatives) and their fucking smoking ban (goddamn liberals) and their stupid name (goddamn Indians) and their ridiculous driving habits (goddamn everyone). No, now GOD HIMSELF is an asshole, when he's in Massachusetts.

Fuck. Fuck that, fuck them, and fuck you. I'm moving.

Posted at 07:19 | /mortal | (leave a comment) | permalink

Wed, 22 Oct 2003

Cantab results

Well, it went pretty good I think. We managed to make it through the entire setlist without getting confused and stopping in the middle of a tune, which was my greatest fear. Big turn out in terms of friends and foafs which was surprising but very cool. Nothing like a crowd pre-disposed to be friendly.

Having a steady, experienced bass player helped tremendously. It was like everyone in the band was suddenly blessed with the ability to keep time. Now if there was only a similar magic in-tune fairy who could wave her wand over us...

I think that personally I started out doing pretty well but totally overshot my inebriation sweet spot (i.e. drunk enough not to be nervous, not so drunk that I couldn't play well) at about the Wild Turkey 101 1.25 mark and subsequently fucked up a lot of things I really shouldn't have. Red Haired Boy is not so complicated of a tune, really it isn't. But overall I didn't make as big a fool of myself as I could have, and we weren't thrown off the stage, so I'll consider the event success of the semi-rousing nature.

Basically now I feel like a virgin who just went through a Debbie does Dallas-style gangbang. Playing at the Cantab was the sum of all fears I had as an amateur musician, and now that all the real musicians have had a chance to listened to me and shake their heads in derision, I've got nowhere to go but up.

Major XP gain and level up, if you ask me.

Posted at 11:00 | /media/music | (leave a comment) | permalink

Tue, 21 Oct 2003


Tonight we step on stage to warm up the main band at the Cantab. Extremely nervous.

Posted at 14:56 | /media/music | 1 comment | permalink

Office View

Damn I have a great view from my office. The entire outer wall is basically one big window, and it looks right out into a whole bunch of trees which are just starting to turn to their autumn colors. The sunlight is streaming in, the trees are all waving slowly in the breeze, the birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing, the squirrels and shit are running around out there, and I'm drinking a freshly-brewed pot of fine Formosan spring oolong.

And to think, I could be a grad student suffocating in my own stench in the concrete bowels of Wean right now.

Posted at 09:59 | /misc | (leave a comment) | permalink

Thu, 16 Oct 2003

Logan Airport Security

"Five undercover agents of the US Department of Homeland Security posing as passengers last week carried weapons through several security checkpoints at Logan International Airport without being detected, officials confirmed yesterday.


[A] source who works in security at Logan said the undercover agents, who work for the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, brought knives, a bomb, and a gun in carry-on baggage through several checkpoints at different terminals without being stopped.

A pocket knife set off alarms at one checkpoint, the source said. It was concealed inside an agent's pants, hanging by a string behind his zipper. The screeners wrongly believed it was the zipper that had set off the alarms."

Great. Thousands of people are forced to break the nail files off their clippers every day, and these retards can't even spot a gun!?

In related news, I just bought this and this. No way am I making it through security unharassed.

Posted at 10:30 | /news | (leave a comment) | permalink

Wed, 15 Oct 2003

Korean Plans

Looks like I'll be going to Korea—just bought tickets for a week and a half in Seoul, starting at the end of this month. Gonna visit my friends, visit obscure Buddhist temples hidden in deciduous foliage on craggy mountain peaks, and eat lots of spicy salty meaty things. Extremely excited.

Gift requests, anyone?

Posted at 13:42 | /travel | (leave a comment) | permalink


I have to say that—possibly in a desperate ploy to avoid being a complete curmudgeon—I really like the fall. Even the drive in to work is just great.

I used to be pretty anti-season and pro-Californian-style low-variance weather, but I guess gradually through maturity or living in New England or reading all these Lone Wolf and Cub novels, I'm now officially pro-seasonal change.

Until winter arrives, at least (seeing as how the last one only ended about five months ago.)

Posted at 13:39 | /mortal | (leave a comment) | permalink

Sun, 12 Oct 2003

Bluegrass Octoberfest Review

Yesterday I went to Bluegrass Octoberfest. In total, and in various fine-grained different ways, it sucked.

Allow me to enumerate:

  1. There were only about 100 people in attendance. With big names like the Nashville Bluegrass Band and Jerry Douglas performing, they should have been able to draw more of a crowd. How did they fuck up so bad in promoting this?
  2. Of those 100 people, roughly 30 were cops or security personel. And did I mention the entire thing took place within a barb-wire-enclosed gulag? Seriously, were they expecting the Crips and the Bloods to show up? It's a bluegrass festival for chrissakes. It's all old fat white guys.
  3. Of the remaining 70 people, about 5 were parking-lot pickers. The highlight of the festival was escaping from the concentration camp out to the parking lot for an hour or so to jam.
  4. No alcohol allowed in the fairgrounds. No coolers. Containers searched by the police. Your only source of alcohol was a beer garden conveniently placed half a mile from the stage, where you could choose from a selection of a) Coors Regular, or b) Coors Lite. You could not leave the beer garden with your beer. You could, however, sit there and chug your swill while peering at the stage in the distance.

Now I don't know about you guys, but it's hard to sit through seven hours of bluegrass without being pretty drunk. I was buying cokes, bringing them into the porta-potties and adding Knob Creek from my flask, LIKE I WAS IN FUCKING HIGH SCHOOL. No alcohol at a bluegrass festival? What kind of crack-addled dogfucker came up with this policy?

So overall the entire event was devoid of—in spite of the great weather—any semblance of a fun, festival atmosphere. The only mitigating factors were a couple of excellent performances, notably by Southern Rail and the Nashville Bluegrass Band. (Jerry Douglas, as far as I'm concerned, is hour after hour of formless noodling and semi-musical wanking. I did not stay for more than ten minutes of his set.)

After the Nashville Bluegrass Band set, I had the following charming conversation with Stewart Duncan:

me: Hi, Mr. Duncan. I just wanted to say you sounded great.

SD: Thanks.

me: I really liked your second break on the last song, right after the bass solo.

SD: Uhhh... [looks confused, looks down at the table]. Thanks.

me: [trying to draw him out] Yeah, I've been listening to a couple Hot Club de Nashville recording. I really go for that swingy stuff. Segue into Grappelli? Wonder how he feels about him, vs., say, Snuff Smith?

SD: You shouldn't be.

me: Huh? Oh really? And why's that?

SD: [Rambling and ill-formed rant about internet music. I inferred that there were some shows that got out that he didn't want to. Unclear: whether they are still out there; whether any HCdN shows are public; etc.]

me: [Considering whether to explain to him the difference between Kazaa and ETree, that the Bluegrassbox folks try their best to adhere to artists' decisions, and he could contact them if he really feels they've made a mistake, etc... fuck it.] Ok. Well. You sounded very good.

SD: [looking down at the table] Thanks.

me: No no, thank YOU for being yet another friendly and approachable bluegrass musician.

And that was the festival.

P.S. Got a ridiculous speeding ticket on the way home right by the NH/Mass border, by a charming young officer more than happy to meet his quota and fill his department's coffers with out-of-stater's money at the same time, at the expense of only justice and the thruth.

Posted at 12:17 | /media/music | 1 comment | permalink

Fri, 10 Oct 2003

Dynamic DNS Service Agreements

I've just paid good money to add a couple more DNS servers pointing to because people have been complaining about failed DNS lookups when emailing me (which is completely bizarre, but whatever—I've got to assume it's a problem on my part when multiple people report the same issues.)

One thing that really irked me was that every dynamic DNS provider that I looked at—DynDNS, No-IP, ChangeIP, etc.— all had basically the same usage agreement, including this ridiculous provision:

Customer will not use the Service for illegal software, junk pornography, spamming or any use of distribution lists to any person who has not given specific permission to be included in such a process. Customer agrees not to transmit through the service any unlawful, harassing, libelous, abusive, threatening, harmful, vulgar, obscene or otherwise objectionable material of any kind or nature.

Now seriously. Besides the fact that it doesn't really make any sense AT ALL to speak of transmitting information through a DNS service (only transmitting information from a DNS server, and the only thing you can transmit is a zone record), are they suggesting I can't have a machine pointed to by their DNS servers that I use to view pr0n websites with? Or compose emails with the word fuck in it? Or talk about how I love to eat steak, because that's offensive to Hindus?

Well, whatever. I'm more than happy to click the agree button to nonsensical service agreements. It's almost like I'm not agreeing to anything! Tee hee! Fucking morons.

Posted at 10:12 | /internet | (leave a comment) | permalink

Thu, 09 Oct 2003

Whitney Numbers

This was cool. I've been working on a problem at work and at one point we needed to find the maximum number of ways of dividing an n–dimensional space into k partitions. It's easy enough to figure this out for the one- and two-dimensional case, and pretty mind-bending for the three-dimensional case, but what about the generalization?

So we go to the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, type in (get this) 2, 4, 8 (the first three entries for the 3-d case) and lo and behold, we get:

Cool or what? (A complete fluke as their sequence is the table read by anti-diagonals... wtf?)

So anyways, the solution is

W(n,k)=if k=0 or n=0 then 1 else W(n,k-1)+W(n-1,k-1), or
W(n,k)=Sum(binomial(k,i), i=0..n)

if you were curious (so order exponential, unfortunately for us).

Posted at 13:38 | /math | (leave a comment) | permalink

Gambler's Ruin Solution

My language exchange partner and I were going over the Gambler's Ruin problem yesterday (he is a big random walk guy and yes, this is the type of stuff we end up talking about in the English portion) and we came up with a solution remarkably similar to this one I found today:

No random walks involved, just straight recurrence solving. Interesting that there's a hidden q != p assumption in there (which we didn't notice and had us scratching our heads as to why everything collapsed to 0/0 in the q = p case.)

Posted at 13:30 | /math | (leave a comment) | permalink


I swear to god I just heard a Grappelli sample in the middle of some random hiphop track.

Posted at 13:23 | /media/music | (leave a comment) | permalink

Wed, 08 Oct 2003

South Park

Just found this when going through some old email:

Stan: Why would God let Kenny die, Chef? Why? Kenny's my friend! Why can't God take someone else's friend?

Chef: Stan, sometimes God takes those closest to us, because it makes him feel better about himself. He's a very vengeful God, Stan. He's all pissed off about something we did thousands of years ago. He just can't get over it, so he doesn't care who he takes. Children, puppies, it don't matter to him—so long as it makes us sad. Do you understand?

Stan: But then, why does God give us anything to start with?

Chef: Well, look at it this way: if you want to make a baby cry, first you give it a lollipop. Then you take it away. If you never give it a lollipop to begin with, then you'ld have nothin' to cry about. That's like God, who gives us life and love and help just so that he can tear it all away and make us cry, so he can drink the sweet milk of our tears. You see, it's our tears, Stan, that give God his great power.

Stan: I think I understand.

Posted at 14:52 | /media/tv | (leave a comment) | permalink


Let Arnold arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.

As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of Arnold!

But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before Arnold: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.

Sing unto Arnold, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, and rejoice before him.

A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is Arnold in his holy habitation.

Posted at 11:47 | /politics | (leave a comment) | permalink

Tue, 07 Oct 2003

Voynich Manuscript

This is pretty cool.

"The Voynich manuscript dates back at least to the seventeenth century, though it is possibly much older. It is approximately 240 pages long, and its pages are filled with hand-written text and crudely drawn illustrations. The illustrations depict plants, astrological diagrams, and naked women. These illustrations are strange, but much stranger is the text itself, because the manuscript is written entirely in a mysterious, unknown alphabet that has defied all attempts at translation."

sample page (and many more, e.g. the Google Directory entry).

Though I hadn't heard of it, this is apparently pretty well-known in the NLP community as it's a nice, compact and compelling open question (e.g. Eric Brill used it as a project in his classes). And it follows Zipf's Law, suggesting that there is an actual natural language underlying the document.

Posted at 16:04 | /media/books | (leave a comment) | permalink

Mon, 06 Oct 2003

Gateway 200X

I finally bought a laptop: the Gateway 200X. Yes, I realize it's not any of the four I was previously considering. I decided that, as cool as minimizing physical dimensions was, there wasn't that big of a cost in terms of weight and size to pay for a 14" screen, a nice keyboard, and a dvd/cdrom drive.

And despite my misgivings about purchasing an oh-so-uncool brand, this looks like a really good machine and has received very positive reviews. An inch thick, 4.3lbs, and at a great price-point—I configured a ha'gig of RAM, a two-score-gig hard drive, an internal 802.11g wireless card, and the extra battery for about $1700 total. The only difference between that and the XL model, as far as I can tell, is a dvd burner, a slight increase in processor speed, and $600.

Now I just had to suppress these flashbacks I've been having to junior year in high school, the last time I bought a Gateway (or, for that matter, any complete machine, as opposed to components from 50 different vendors to be lovingly hand-assembled in the basement).

Posted at 11:56 | /mortal/trappings | (leave a comment) | permalink

Dynasty Warriors

Spent the entire weekend, instead of shopping and cleaning and doing laundry like I really, really need to, figuring out the entirety of that Tea for Two solo (which is, let me reiterate, fucking awesome) and playing Dynasty Warriors 4.

I've never played any of the previous iterations of this game, but it's pretty cool. It's set in the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history (三國時代 I guess) and follows the battles and major events in a historically accurate manner—well, except for the fact that whichever character you choose to play has supernatural fighting powers and can strike down swath after swath of enemy soldiers without breaking a sweat.

The interesting thing about this game is that it is completely ruined by the sound. The voice acting is pretty terrible, but the music is just hideous—it's some kind of 80's head-banging screaming guitar rock the entire time. Ridiculous. Every other aspect of the game is great, but it's completely ruined by the sound. I didn't think that one single feature of a game, especially one unrelated to actual game play or mechanics, could have such a detrimental effect. But it does.

I guess it's the Asian land war theme, but Dynasty Warriors reminds me of what is probably my favorite of all time, Shogun. Now that's a game where they got the graphics and sound absolutely perfect (but not the mechanics). Every time I stand on top of that hill on some misty Spring morning, listening to the drums and the clank of my army as they stretch out on the field before me, banners unfurled and spears raised, waiting for my command—shivers run down my spine. Man, I should go play that some more.

Posted at 11:39 | /media/games | 1 comment | permalink

Wed, 01 Oct 2003

Tea for Two

Started learning yesterday, with the help of my fiddle teacher (whose ear is infinitely better than mine, especially for funky jazz licks) Grappelli's beautiful fiddle breaks on one of my favorite Hot Club de Paris rendition of Tea for Two (Caesar/Youmans).

Check out that second fiddle break; it's just gorgeous.

Posted at 10:53 | /media/music | (leave a comment) | permalink


The naked truth of it is, I have no shirt. -- William Shakespeare, "Love's Labour's Lost"