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Absurdity ; metagaming [03 Jun 2006|09:24pm]
In a bizarre dream, I was in a skit to advertise some kind of student group registration form for the ASA. It concluded with me analogizing using the form to making pancakes taste better, then wrapping a pancake in the paper copy of the form in my hand and eating the pancake, paper and all.

In a bizarre non-dream, I imagined a version of the game Oregon Trail---call it Oregon Trail Online---in which the game would meta-game for you: one play of the game would affect later plays. For example, if you kept hunting buffalo to excess, eventually the buffalo population would drop, and several games down the line you'd have a hard time surviving on buffalo meat. And there would be a nice negative feedback loop controlling prices of supplies at Independence, Missouri, keeping the number of concurrent players sane. In an online version, to keep the game simple, you wouldn't need to have any direct interaction between players, except for NetHack-style "bones files" which might be generated if your party died, to be rediscovered by future wagon trains. The state of the online Lousiana Purchase would probably start with a lot of people buffalo-hunting until it became quite difficult to survive on any but bare-bones rations, and most games would end in death by starvation. Later on, of course, the survival rate would pick up again, as in the course of foraging, not hunting, trailblazers would find an abundance of "mystery meat"...
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Talk is cheap, too. [30 May 2006|11:19am]
"Oh my god! Oh my god!"

The cell-phone-wielding adolescent female whose words are immortalized above shall remain anonymous. (Because, you see, I don't know her.) Long ago, such utterances were deemed impolite in English-speaking countries, to the extent that the word "God" could not be published; publishers substituted "G-d" (be careful not to confuse it with "Gd", gadolinium). But with such carefree mention, whoever is her god is being cheapened, one invocation at a time. In a similar way, the overuse of profanity cheapens its value; when your heaviest ammunition is spent on daily nothings, what can you expend on the true horrors?

Cheapening is the sign of mass culture. High art becomes reproduced in kitsch. Million-dollar productions become 50-cent pirated DVDs. Cheapening is the entropic progress of time. A new car driven out of its dealership instantly loses quite a bit of value. Reuse is the home of things that once had monetary value and no longer do. Blogs, livejournals, and the internet cheapen speech, too - anyone can spout freely and freely. As I sit here writing, the irony is not entirely lost on me. As availability increases, so does cheapness.

Is teaching the cheapening of knowledge? Here's an odd example: My mother's computer runs Windows, so naturally it has debilitating performance issues. One day, my aunt, who is some kind of IT (thanks to Madeleine L'Engle I can only pronounce this as "it" in a disquieting tone of voice) staff, is visiting our house and offers to fix my mother's computer. A few mumbled rituals and incantations later, it seems to be working fine! I ask my aunt what she did that was so effective, but she clams up. Her livelihood depends on this information, it seems, as though it's a trade secret. So by teaching other people what she knows, her own benefit from the knowledge decreases. So she thinks.

But if all knowledge was like this, no one would tell anyone anything for free. In fact, the net benefit of knowing something (to everyone that knows it) is probably not fixed. And if everyone knows a secret, it's worthless as a secret, but if it has other value, everyone has it! Hooray! Please turn to page 42 for ALL THE SPOILERS.
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Meta-perception and meta-discussion [02 May 2006|09:59am]
Communicating is hard. Perspective is also hard (especially while drowning in the immediacy of tooling).

How does one discuss sensitive issues? The Institvte is mired in controversy about materials published on the Web for OpenCourseWare for "Visualizing Cultures"; such materials include Japanese anti-Chinese wartime propaganda. Prima facie, do these images offend Chinese people? Yes, they are brutal and gory enough to offend anyone. Chinese prisoners of war are being beheaded, while Japanese soldiers are shown as merciless killers. But that's not the whole of the discussion or even wholly discussed. Apparently groups on and off campus find these images "hurtful to the Chinese community", "shocking and inappropriate" and "emotionally provocative and demeaning", to borrow some words from Tech articles. But taken out of context, these words could apply to all kinds of controversial things. The context is Visualizing Cultures, a historical study. That these images have been reposted, without context, is its own separate issue. It would require an incredible suspension of disbelief to believe these images represent the views of MIT (or really, that MIT has to endorse any materials its professors use, an incredible negation of academic freedom). With context, who then is going to perceive these images that way? No one has answered this, so far. It is only people's meta-perception, their belief that someone else might read them the wrong way, that gives them breath for this outcry. The only way to destroy propaganda is to discuss it intelligently, honestly, and critically. It doesn't require blaring warnings and disclaimers.

How does one perceive lengthy topical discussions? Once they degenerate past all usefulness, once all opinions on the matter have been rehashed, reviled, repeated, and renormalized, further discussion is perceived by most people as wankery. Holy wars, whether religious, political, or computerish, should thus be categorized, which is why the former two are taboo in polite conversation. People often have an impulse to add gasoline to the flames, but they also sometimes resign in disgust, only to complain offline about the wankery and futility of discussion. Often, they neglect the irony of their own futility. As the meta-discussion goes into a rediscovery of all the annoyances of the original discussion, it, too, can only be perceived as wankery. The way to oppose wankery is to do something (a lofty goal which the most recent Random house meeting, I am told, fell short of).
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Sights and sounds of another world [26 Mar 2006|09:32pm]
In Fairfax County, along Rt. 29 (named after a famous Confederate general, not to be confused with Rt. 50, named after *two* famous Confederate generals), I passed by some really scary vehicles parked at a fire station. They were just really big boxes on wheels and, on the side, were labeled "Fairfax County Fire Department Mass Casualty Unit", and there were *two* of them. Now it's certainly a populous county, but do catastrophes that warrant _that many_ MCU vehicles ever happen around here? (Apparently there's a plan, just in case. WARNING: It's a monstrous exemplification of death by bureaucracy.)

In urban Cambridge the variance in bird species is low. You'll stand by an appropriate tree (identify it by its aura of bird droppings) and listen to the sparrows drown out the ominous hum of the facilities. In a suburban environment, the reward for an early awakening is the diversity and interaction of bird songs, and on a day like Sunday, the earborne menace, automobile engines, is less likely to disturb one's peace.

On the way to the Airport riding the Silver Line I was struck by the few fundamental frequencies responsible for the noisy environment, like the engine, the brakes, the ventilation, and the squeaky section in the middle that rotates. Wouldn't it be a much more pleasant experience if those frequencies were harmonious? I suppose people would be anguished when parts stopped playing well together, but it would really imbue "engine tuning" with new meaning.

At dinner I listened to government employees -- researchers with PhDs -- lament their fate. For example, the Congressional Budget Office is a nonpartisan organization that employs economists who undertake policy research and advise Congress. This sounds great, but Congressmen aren't likely to ask for research if they know it'll probably come out unfavorable to their position. Further, layers of bureaucrats exist to prevent the research from even getting started, and Congress still doesn't listen when it doesn't like the results. Also, strategic budget cuts cripple researchers in such areas as earth sciences; when the government environmental researchers block an administration pet plan, the administration circumvents them and goes to subcontractors who'll approve it. On the one hand, American children are becoming disinterested with math and science, and the White House makes a carnival of supporting education. On the other hand, the administration disregards and disrespects the scientists who advise them. The link is not as simple as two arms and shoulder blades, but surely these phenomena are not unrelated.

I found I have the "complete" Beethoven piano sonatas (except only volume 1 of 2, so half-complete is more like it). It will soon become Randomized (in the sense that it will live there).
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Toile^H^H^H^Himecard training [07 Mar 2006|01:23am]
Today (yesterday) was an amazing composition of lectures. Artin's lecture was probably interesting but I skipped it to work on a paper, which, in fact, I should now be writing. Harmony and Counterpoint wasn't a lecture so much as a quiz; all I learned was that I seem to take tests at ludicrous speed, regardless of the subject matter. The offical Pecker Floor Bad Idea was pretty well presented; we finally got to the afeared Bessel functions, and the breakdown of diffusion equations was interesting, since we've been ruthlessly making simplifying assumptions and it's nice to see where they go worng.

The stunning juxtaposition, though, was between 6.UAT and the RCC timecard training (which I went to as an OLC consultant). In 6.UAT, Tony Eng discussed engaging the audience. The lecture was a demonstration in itself; one brave student got up and gave a talk over and over, but with less and less time to do it. The gem was really Tony's question to the class, "How long should you wait before answering your own question?" followed by several seconds of silence, followed by the class's breakdown into laughter. Essentially, the lecture presented what should be obvious or common sensical points about engaging the audience while engaging the audience.

Now, timecard training? What in Gehennom? How hard can it be to use a timecard? Apparently, the folks developing the new online timecard system thought we needed an hour's worth of training. Never mind that they didn't come prepared, not knowing we already used an online timecard system. But the level of detail in the explanations was mind-befuddling.

Imagine, if you will, a bowl. Your higher-ups decide to train you to use it. You are told this bowl is for containing liquids. Fine. One look at it is enough to tell you how it works; the concavity keeps stuff from falling out, you can tip it to drink from it without aid of utensils, and so on. But suppose now your training involves watching the trainer's associate laboriously pour some sample liquid into a sample bowl, and, of course, sample it, as a demonstration of how it works. Oh, don't forget, you have to drink from the bowl to ingest the liquid. But wait, there's more! The bowl can be used to contain solid foods as well! Repeat ad nauseam. (You also get a handout with printed slides portraying the bowl in exactly the positions demonstrated; you get the impression the demonstration was reconstructed from the slides.)

Unbelievably, this is perhaps the most appropriate analogy to how the training went. Here is yon web form. Here you can click a button and this is what happens when you do. Don't forget, you have to click the save button for your changes to be recorded! The trainer's associate laboriously enters in sample data while you follow along with the printed slides, anticipating her every move. And ho! there are more web forms, so you can repeat ad nauseam. The beginning went extremely slowly, and no one asked any questions (in 6.UAT, we decided this signified either understanding or confusion; it was obvious which it was). Boredom bivouaced in our midst.

When the presenter got to the most relevant web form, there were several questions asked (which, as I learned in 6.UAT, is a sign the presentation went well, but in this case, a misleading one). I pointed out a design flaw that seemed to get glossed over. Leaving for a meeting, I stayed for only 30 minutes out of 45 or so, but was certain the entire training could have been completed in 5.

So, 6.UAT-style, I have spent a long time describing something obvious. The moral of the story is: Don't belabor the obvious.
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End-to-end airport security [27 Jan 2006|07:51pm]
The end-to-end argument is one of the most important principles of computer systems. To summarize it in a sentence, low-level checks are not useful because you still need higher-level checks, so you should specify a system by what happens at the ends, not what goes on in the middle.

Let's misuse the end-to-end principle for purposes of airport security. For passing TSA balrogs in the minimal amount of time, observe that if the time between arriving at the airport and boarding the aeroplane is great, it doesn't matter how swiftly you pass through security -- you aren't getting on the plane any sooner. (So this doesn't quite apply if you are hurrying to catch your flight, because a security delay might make you miss it.) Between entering the airport system and exiting the airport (into the aeroplane), you are just waiting for, basically, a fixed amount of time.

Should you remove your shoes and have them scanned? After all, the nice secure people ask you to. But generally the longest queues in airports are those feeding into security. It's reasonable to expect some delay D caused by removing your shoes, which affects everyone behind you in line (not necessarily equal to the extra time it takes to remove your shoes). On the other hand, not removing your shoes and walking through might get you thoroughly searched for some time T, with some probability p. One might think that pT > D. (Plus there is the risk of privacy invasion. You could care. I always thought there should be a classic arcade game spoof called Privacy Invaders, but that's another story.) But now, you're not holding up anyone behind you in line, since either you receive special treatment or you just pass through. This helps everyone else behind you go through faster. You might be slowed, but it doesn't matter! You don't board the aeroplane any sooner!

Most likely, I've neglected some critical factor like the baggage in the X-ray machine that completely breaks my oversimplified model. Also, if no one takes off their shoes, there becomes a queue for special treatment, which breaks the model too. But the conclusion is:
(1) If you're in a hurry, you should take off your shoes. You pass through security faster.
(2) If you're not, you shouldn't, but expect a longer delay. Everyone else passes through security faster.
So the immediately slower action is better for the person in a hurry. (Assuming pT > D; if that wasn't true, you would never want to take off your shoes.)
Those nice secure people are just hoarsening their voices for nothing. Hooray for Saltzer!
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A while has been, and I wasn't [21 Jan 2006|02:52pm]
A while has been and I haven't.

There were some excellent classes, and the beginning of a fun IAP (but I remind myself of how much work I have to do, and I tremble).

My latest bad idea is applying Sun Tzu to 6.370, aka Robocraft. It does have some merit to it, and it reminds me of strategy for Go. You can give the enemy what they want if it lets you gain more elsewhere. In some sense the lesson is more direct. Unfortunately there's a landfill-mountain of code you need just to be able to implement "a strategy", which dulls the excitement, but it's still fun.

Sun Tzu wrote about many things, some of which are totally irrelevant in the Robocraft case, like a general having to be able to act independently of the ruler to fight effectively, or commanding your subordinates, or gongs and drums and banners and flags, or studying your enemy's moods. But there is a surprising amount that can be applied. One can do all sorts of things with terrain, different unit types, achieving victory before fighting, forcing the enemy to fight by seizing something he holds dear, flowing like water, maintaining deceitful appearances, and having knowledge of oneself, one's enemy, and the land.

Sun Tzu said, "You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended. You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked."

He also said, "Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances."

But he didn't talk about "separating the fair use sheep from the infringing goats." That honor goes to Justice Souter, in the US Supreme Court case featuring "LUKE SKYYWALKER" as the petitioner.
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To remember that which will be forgotten [20 Oct 2005|01:10am]
Today contained a moment that should not be forgotten.

Early evening. I was walking about campus postering for Maslab, an excellent IAP robotics competition, when I happened to step through the west-facing doors of building 16. Already having been assaulted by the beauty of the sky lit by afternoon/setting sun, I was assaulted by the sound of dozens of songbirds, almost all quite clearly in the same two trees, right to my left, near where I was standing. The harmoniousness and the unification of the many distinct sounds, like the susurrus of leaves on any other (windier) day, drew me closer. I stood there, where I could see quite a few sparrows clearly, listening in awe. Even the food truck pigeons, numerously mighty in their own right, would have been in awe. So much richness of sound, in just a few distinguishable (to me) vocalizations; so much nicer a sound than would be produced by a flock of humans!

I looked at the benches below the branches of those two trees, and noticed a great profusion of characteristic white splotches on them and their surroundings. I understood. I thought to myself, Perhaps I should stay my distance, and listen untroubled by such concerns. And of course, I wondered why I had never seen and heard this sight and hearing before. Those very trees, in fact, in my 25 months here, I had never truly noticed.

"And then it hit you?" No, actually, it hit the top of the stack of posters in my hands. (I did try to remove it, of course, but there remained an indelible stain.)
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The art of bike sheds [22 Sep 2005|06:37pm]
Nitpicking is just too easy. Even I do it, and it makes me feel reprehensible.

We had a study break at Random Hall where we had invited some GRT candidates, so the foods had a GRT theme. Not stated explicitly, the foods all started with G, R, or T. It was the most widely criticized study break I had ever seen. You'd think people would show some decency, or perhaps gratitude for the free food, which people had no difficulty consuming, as far as I could tell. Instead, all we got were stupid questions. "Why is there ice cream? That doesn't start with G, R, or T!" Well, ice cream is something most people would eat, always a good attribute for free food, and had they bothered to look carefully, they'd see the flavors were Girl Scout Cookie, Rocky Road, and Triple Chocolate, or something along those lines. Admittedly, we did have cheddar cheese, which was just to complement another food item, but it's astounding to see how much people pretend to care about nitpicky details.

There's a well-worth-reading rant about this phenomenon at www.bikeshed.com.

Next I'd like to quote an email from nagle:

Oh Christ. I swear, in every goddamn math class I took here, some genius always cared to share the same blistering insight:

---
Prof.: "And so, with that final step, our proposition holds to be true..."

Obnoxious Math Kiddie (giddily gibbering): "Nooo! You're wrong!"

Prof.: "Huh?"

O.M.K. (triumphant, standing now): "You forgot to consider if A was the EMPTY set. If A's empty, it doesn't work!! Because there's nothing in the set!!"

Prof.: "Oh yeah...right...well, that case's trivial."

O.M.K. (still standing): *drools*


I'll stop before I start nitpicking at nitpickers' style. That is all.
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It's been a while... [20 Sep 2005|01:16am]
It's been seemingly forever. Humans are not made to comprehend time properly.

Since my last post...
I've moved into a new room.
The Cambridgeport Saloon shut down.
I've gotten (more) suckered into various student groups.
No fewer than six book exchange services for MIT students were active.
I've become inextricably hosed, for the only extrication is dropping classes I don't want to drop.
A hurricane changed millions of people's lives.

I'm seemingly insignificant. Humans are not made to comprehend their relation to everything properly.

Drying bamboo smell
Long dark tool-time of the soul
Familiar yet new
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I feel like I will accomplish nothing today [30 Jul 2005|06:32pm]
Seeking insight into my own motivations, I find an opposition. I find myself inscrutably opposed to seeing resources go to waste.

What resource can be more valuable than time?

This should illustrate the dread I feel on a day like today. Surely, I can account for the hour I spent boffing on the roofdeck in pleasant weather, the sun blowing and the wind shining; the seemingly endless grapple with Apache and mod_perl; and the trip to the celestial merchants who gave me, of all things, food. Then there were moments of introspection, followed by the setting down of thoughts without pen or paper.

Seated in front of my computer, time seems to disappear, like so many rings into a NetHack sink. It is the curse of idleness, and though idle I should not be, no urgency rushes in through my door to pound at my skull. And I am still here.

And now-- I logout from the computer before me from the computer at my feet, the bits scurrying through the air and down the backbone into the basement, back up into the telephone closet around the corner, through the walls and the blue cable. I push only the right button (actually, the left button), and I'll force myself to stand. I'll be out of here in no time at all.
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Terrible realization! [21 Jun 2005|01:16pm]
Yesterday I had a terrible realization. What is a terrible realization?

Exemplarily:
There is no Santa Claus.
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.
That was your mother, Oedipus.
rm is forever.
One's mortality.

Yesterday's terrible realization was that some things will happen _for the last time_. Every action taken might be the last of its kind. Though nothing lasts forever, the absence of something certainly can. Never mind merely the consequence that with the tiny span of time between my ears, there is so much I am obliged to miss. But there are some things the world will never see happen again.

I am not sure whether to take this realization with despair, resolve, salt, or befuddlement. Perhaps all, in time, if I can manage it.
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Story of dream of story [07 Jun 2005|12:55pm]
A very strange dream indeed.

People were reading stories out of books. Never mind the sheer weirdness of my dreams speaking with other people's voices. I read mine out of a Calvin and Hobbes book. It was a large, colorful, two-page strip, and thus one that can't actually exist. The backgrounds of panels were large solid bright greens and yellows and blues and magentas. Pages were oriented with the vertical dimension larger than the horizontal.

The first page was divided into two sections vertically. In the smaller upper section, with several rectangular panels, Hobbes (stuffed-animal style, not actual-animal style) crawls out of a mousehole and Calvin pokes him through with pins. In the bottom section, a squarish region, the accepted boundaries of comic strips are twisted into ghastly abominations! First off, the panels aren't rectangular, but instead their boundaries are radial lines, emanating from the lower left corner. The panels here seemed to consist of one character, kind of a Calvin-and-Hobbes fusion, sometimes appearing as Calvin and sometimes as Hobbes, standing in the lower left corner, with an absurdly long neck, and with head appearing at the top or right of the square.

The second page was more disturbing. I don't remember it as a complete page, but Calvin was muttering something about how the good things one can appreciate only get smaller (that is, in size, not in number).
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Update conspiracy! [18 May 2005|09:27pm]
shadow and badoingdoing and I pined perilously over our paucity of postings to possibly public pages (per predestined perception of previous preternatural hosage). THE END IS NEAR, read the sandwich board of an unsuspecting self. Thus, we conspired to update our Livejournals. Whee! (I wonder if they forgot.)

Yet I find myself undone. One more exam (don't call it a final, it's just quiz 3) flutters by, like the moths that are inexplicably drawn to the light emanating from my ceiling, and I try to ignore it for now, knowing I will inexorably be drawn into confrontation with it. Meetings with the pillars and the pilloried descend from the heavens like the occasional raindrop on my glasses, and I eventually smudge them out of existence. But most terrifying is the packing of my belongings and moving of them to another land, over the railing and through the walls, and the condensation of Pecker floor's community into right parallelepiped form factors. Nowhere else is TE's commentary on perspiration more applicable.

I also have gainful employment for the summer! I'm doing a UROP in CSAIL/CEE (course 1) developing software and other "interesting" stuff for an introductory lab course on electronics, microcontrollers, sensors, and wireless networks for course 1 sophomores with no prior knowledge. (This is accursedly late, by the way -- don't ever wait this long to figure out what you're doing. Finals week is *not* the best time for it.)

Also, don't tell anyone else, but I repotted my spider plant today. Its roots have funny shapes. It's also growing noticeably, perhaps because I figured out how often I should be watering it. I'd take pictures, except I still haven't replaced my lost camera, which maybe will turn up in my packing. Oddly, I find myself caring for it more so than for anything else in recent memory.

I think that's all for now. Don't let the Heisenbugs bite.
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So what if it doesn't make any sense? [02 Apr 2005|02:42am]
Somewhere along the line, I came across the mistaken belief that there is value in sanity. It apppears to conflict with a more traditional mistaken belief of mine, namely, that there is value in insanity. But the rationalist discards one belief, within reason, of course. The existentialist angsts for a while and concludes that life is unwinnable. The chronically sleep-deprived chooses sanity. The crack monkey chooses insanity. The bitter-and-jaded chooses neither. The LISP programmer (who knows the value of everything and the cost of nothing) chooses both. The Daoist doesn't choose. The Zen Buddhist doesn't care. The lazy doesn't care either. The extremely lazy doesn't notice.

Has anyone assembled a crack monkey team? It sounds like the sort of thing producible at the Institvte. Is it a crack team of monkeys or a team of crack monkeys?

This isn't an April Fool's joke. I think the world would be much more chaotic and enjoyable to live in if people unrestrainedly did that sort of thing more irregularly and thus more surprisingly; people would have no choice but to become less serious. People also tend to be more creative when freed from societal restrictions and norms (but when they're still operating within the bounds of society which are slightly changed for yesterday, are they really free?), and creativity grows like a snowball, strikes like a hammer, and nourishes like soy.
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Thoughts on sleep-dep / Choose your own adventure [18 Mar 2005|02:05pm]
Sleep deprivation seems to distort thinking in many strange ways. In my usual talking to myself, on three hours of sleep I noticed a lot more existentialist uncertainty, questioning the worth of living life. A general sluggishness of thought and movement was also clear to my otherwise muddled brain. People should get more sleep generally so they don't have to put up with this kind of stuff coming from themselves.

Context switch!

If you are familiar with recent events covered by The Tech, I recommend you visit the Stata chalkboards. After my final class before spring break, I had some free time, so I went to check mail and was inspired to write monstrous blocks of text on 2 of the equally monstrous chalkboards. I was glad to see that many passersby were amused; visit the Stata chalkboards, and you can be too. Here is a sample (not verbatim because I don't remember exactly, but pretty close):

You are the dean in charge of students at a university whose students have a unique residence selection system, are highly involved in student activities, and care more about student life than any casual observer would guess.

You are considering a change involving no longer subsidizing dormitories, meaning students will have to pay for services, such as landline phones, that were previously covered by rent, or face higher rents. Do you:

[a] hold a forum, inviting students to express their opinions?
[b] discuss it with student government leaders?
[c] deny rumors that the change is being planned upon inquiry from the student newspaper?
[d] meet in secret with other administrators, conveniently leaving out any student input, for 18 months?
[e] c & d?


The other one is about ops.

I think I know what to write for Voo Doo now.
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Department of Memetics [24 Feb 2005|02:40am]

Time to impose an arbitrary order on a world of chaos and memes.

What follows is a list of some number of things I have done, but which you have not done with high probability (meaning probability 1-n-c for arbitrary c, where c is like the item number). It would be much easier to get a list of things I haven't done, but which you have done with high probability.

  1. Been punished for making a rude gesture at a teacher by not being allowed to attend a field trip.
  2. Got a trojan horse from downloading the dnetc client.
  3. Caused a zephyr conversation on a normally zcrypted class to become unencrypted.
  4. Lit fireworks at the grave of my great-grandmother.
  5. Decided to make cornbread instead of going to sleep.
  6. Skipped first grade and flunked out of second grade.
  7. Been a vegetarian for exactly one month.
  8. Set off a fire alarm in failing to cook carrots and asparagus.
  9. Forgotten what I claimed was my favorite book on stage in front of an audience.
  10. Ran from campus police across rooftops in broad daylight.
  11. Forged a metal Möbius strip.
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Two advisors are like two Archimedes screws [31 Jan 2005|06:27pm]
It took me nearly 2 hours to complete registration and other useful stuff, which consisted of finding my course 18 advisor and having him sign my registration form and getting him and my course 6 advisor to both sign my petition to add course 6 as a second major, respectively. This was mostly because the aforementioned advisors were either busy or impossible to find.

My course 6 advisor, Madhu Sudan, actually had a lot of interesting advice about research and theory and practice. Something I hadn't thought about: you can "get your foot in the door" of research by working on extra open problems brought up in class and discussing them with the professor. It's a different kind of research experience than UROP, which he implied was more on the applied end of things (which I agree with for the most part) and undoubtedly would require a time investment. There was more to it that I don't remember at the moment.

Mostly, I'm afraid that these wisdoms will slip out of my consciousness, which is why I journal them. But isn't this the whole purpose of writing? The hope that the medium which preserves your thoughts will outlive or outperform the storytellers of oral tradition?
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A survey of last-minute panic [27 Jan 2005|09:41am]
There are less than 8 hours left until our MASLab robot is impounded.

Our code is incomplete, woefully incomplete. (Fortunately, our mechanical construction *is*, for it is woeful to be left with that to finish on the last day.) We'll probably do all right but fail horribly, somehow at the same time. That is why we must code.

Here I am, on less sleep than normal (awakened by Mass Ave traffic), and filled with last-minute calm. It's interesting how last-minute panic is transformed into an ideal state for working on things without screwing them up. Am I worried? Mu. Am I confident? Mu. Am I silly? Mu. Am I insane? Mu. Do I have the Buddha-nature? Mu. These questions mean nothing, now. There are some other, more important questions floating around, but I really won't deal with them until after tomorrow.

To reveal a possible underlying pun in the previous paragraph, come to the MASLab competition, this Friday, at 5 pm in 26-100. "Now infinitely better than Mock Contest 2!" for most of the teams... I hope.
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[10 Jan 2005|02:17am]
Suddenly I think I don't dislike fish anymore. This ought to reduce the number of normal foodstuffs (that is, not counting things like pig ears, chicken feet, and kuru-inducing brains) that I refuse to eat to approximately two, at least until I refine my fish-sense. (Note the distinction between "refuse to eat" and "lack desire to make available".)

But how? I haven't liked fish for as long as I can remember.

Well, that wasn't exactly true. I was okay with fish balls and preserved fried fish that was crispy enough that the bones were edible. At home my parents often cooked fish and would force me to "try" some, though I invariably found it dislikable. In the last few years, though, I can recall some sort of fried fish that was from non-Chinese cooking, some sort of fried fish contained in a flour product that I accidentally ordered in a Mexican restaurant, some fish my parents cooked when I was home for winter break (which I tried after deciding that perhaps I didn't dislike fish), and some steamed fish at a Chinese restaurant.

Other foodstuffs that I have had similar chronologically-dependent experiences with include beef, celery, parsley, and feta.
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