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Sunday, October 17th, 2004
3:38 pm - Creativity
In response to Ralph Johnson's blog post, a poll.

Creativity is...

not solitary.

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Thursday, October 14th, 2004
12:19 pm - QOTD
The great secret in life ... [is] not to open your letters for a fortnight.
At the expiration of that period you will find that nearly all of them have answered themselves.
                -- Arthur Binstead

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Tuesday, October 5th, 2004
7:59 pm - Several Events
Chris and I finished off a party size Papa Del's pizza yesterday. This mass input of pizza has been feeding me for the past 24 hours. I think it could keep me fed well through tomorrow, however I'm not sure if I can keep myself from eating something. Not because I'm hungry though -- but because I like to eat!

A great tragedy against humanity has occured -- William Shatner has released his first album. OMGWTF.

It's time for another experiment in the kitchen -- turnip (daikon radish) cakes, ti pang (pork shoulder roast) and maybe a custard pie. ¡Excitomundo!

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Tuesday, September 21st, 2004
12:32 pm - Chicago Surveillance Network
"When the laws kept men from openly doing acts of violence, it seems to me that they did them in secret. And a man--someone shrewd and wise--first had the thought to invent fear of the gods for mortals, so that there would be something fearsome to evil people, should they do or say or think anything in secret.

"Therefore, he introduced the divine as a daemon [in the benign, non-"demonic" sense of the word, sort of like a UNIX daemon], blooming with undying life, looking with its mind, thinking quite a lot, paying close attention to these things, and having a divine nature, one who will hear and see all that is said among mortals and will be able to see all that is done.

"If you plan some evil silently, you will not escape the gods' notice in these things, for there is much understanding in them... He set the gods in the heavens above... He placed such fears all around people, and... he well established the daemons in a conspicuous place and stamped out lawlessness with laws." -- Critias, Fragment B25. (Note that some attribute this fragment to Euripides.)

Read more from the NY Times, quote taken from an Ars Technica post. Or, read about why there cameras should be available for everyone to see, in an article by David Brin.

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Saturday, September 18th, 2004
11:22 pm - Television Viewing Habits
So apparently having more education makes your life more exciting, as does watching less television. The average american watches about four hours of television a day! Chris and I also found this interesting graph:

Percent of Americans Finding Life 'Exciting'

What we were really looking for was a graph of TV viewing habits by state or region in the US. If anyone knows where this information can be had, please leave me a comment!

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Friday, September 17th, 2004
8:03 pm - Wait, how did you get into college again?
The lack of normal knowledge in people never ceases to amaze me. I was sitting in LING 225 (Elements of Psycholinguistics) discussion section, and for some reason we were being taught about 'how to write a good hypothesis', despite the fact that none of this content is relevant to the course, and will not even be used in the course. The sorry state of affairs is that I've probably heard a similar lecture at least three or four times already in various courses. But I digress.

After the hypothesis discussion, we moved on to some sort of though experiment with a worksheet. It involved exercises such as the following, involving an input, a 'black box', and an output -- the goal being to derive what this 'black box' does. Easy, right?

1 -> box -> 5
2 -> box -> 8
3 -> box -> 11
4 -> box -> _blank_

Where you have to give the answer that goes into the blank. Anyway, a group of five people could not come up with a decisive solution. Now okay, I'm willing to give the LAS (Liberal Arts and Sciences) kids the benefit of the doubt, because well, this involves math. And even though math at UIUC is in the college of LAS, it's probably not their forte. Fine. So we come to the problem:

Red -> box -> Black
Yellow -> box -> Green
Blue -> box -> Green
White -> box -> _blank_

After some inane discussion, I pose the following question to the other four group members -- "So, red, yellow and blue mixed together make black, right?" And the kicker, some girl answers, "No, it makes some sort of brownish color." Now, I don't know about you, but this seems like the sort of knowledge that one learns in grade school. Even I know the answer to this question, and I'm a computer science student! Anyway, none of them trusted my correct answer. In fact, another girl proposed that perhaps _blank_ should be pink. Pink. Like somehow because yellow and blue both to go green, so red going to black means that white must go to pink. I don't know. (And if you're trying to figure out the solution, the hint the TA gave was that the green may be different shades of green. The answer should be fairly apparent without this hint, though, if you think at it from a color filter perspective.)

Chris' RebuttalCollapse )

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Monday, September 6th, 2004
2:15 pm - Presidential Candidates
Is it too difficult to run an incredibly good-looking presidential candidate?

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Friday, August 20th, 2004
2:52 pm - You know you've been programming in C too long when...
You read 'stroll' and think it's some sort of C string manipulation function.

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Friday, August 13th, 2004
6:00 pm - mdnsproxyd
So I've just released mdnsproxyd, a multicast proxy responder daemon. It's based off of Apple's mDNSProxyResponder source code, but providing additional features. There's an integrated configuration file in /etc -- you can run a single instance of the daemon to advertise multiple services. It also handles multiple subfields in TXT fields, so you can advertise services such as ftp and telnet that advertise their login and password, and also printers that advertise their automatic configuration information. It's current version is 0.5, as I intend to allow control of advertisements across ethernet interfaces and such. It runs on Mac OS X, Linux and (presumably, although I haven't tested it yet, Solaris and OpenBSD).

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Monday, June 28th, 2004
5:37 am - Something tasty you've always wanted to try
I just got back from my trip to China (Beijing, Lhasa, Xian, Shanghai) yesterday. Pictures will be up in a bit.

Kao Ya DianBut what I wanted to post to about is something I saw in Xian. As you may or may not know, copyrights in China are not quite the guarded property that they are here in the states. But in this specific case, we see Donald Duck boldly promoting a restaurant -- "Kao Ya Dian," the english translation being, "Roast Duck Restaurant."

Yes, for the first time ever, you can actually taste that tender Disney meat that you've always wanted. Because in China, you can get whatever you can pay for, and in this case, it's Donald Duck, roasted over in a stone oven on a spit. The Chinese palate shows no mercy.

I apologize in advance if the audience finds this in any way offensive.

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Saturday, June 12th, 2004
9:14 am - Ralph Johnson Blog
Did you know that Ralph Johnson has a blog? For those of you who don't know, Ralph Johnson is one of the co-authors of Design Patterns, a book that details general patterns that appear in object-oriented software development -- how to deal with those patterns and how to restructure your own code to follow these well known patterns. I took a class from him last semester that covered object oriented programming and design in Smalltalk, which was very good (if you're at UIUC studying CS, you should take it -- the course is labelled 497rej, but has probably been renumbered to 598rej to follow the new numbering scheme -- number inflation!) Anyway, Professor Johnson is at least ten years older than his photo on his web site. But yeah. Smalltalk is really cool.

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Tuesday, June 8th, 2004
10:12 pm - Heath
Who is Heath, and why does she made kits and bars, none of which actually contain heath (and do no exist in Heath, OH or make their habitat in a heath)?

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Thursday, June 3rd, 2004
7:58 pm - Hard Drive Versioning
So my latest and greatest idea has been to version control my hard drive. Basically, for those who don't know what versioning control software is -- it's software that lets you save files to your hard drive, check them in to a central repository and check out folders and so forth. It's generally used when programming, where multiple people can edit different files and the same time, and the central repository serves as a central location where stuff is stored.

What I want to do is to revision control my home folder. This seems like it would be a great benefit, since not only would I gain the ability to recover old versions of documents, but I could also delete files from my hard drive, and then recover them at a later date if I needed them. Basically this would present a whole new way for me to organize my data. Rather than having to file files into hierarchies of folders, I could get rid of this deep hierarchy by deleting files I probably won't even need. And if I do need them, I can pull them out of the repository. It would also make it easy to back up my documents. Instead of having to take document types and burning them to several CDs, I could simply take the repository and burn that to a CD, or copy it to another disk.

It would also make it easy for me to take a copy of my data with me on my laptop. I could simply check out a copy of my data from my desktop machine onto my laptop, and I'd have everything I need. When I'm done, I could check the data back in, and then update my copies on my desktop machine easily.

I'm still trying to struggle with how to deal with large files, though. Large files could pollute my repository by making it unmanageable big (and difficult to back up). I've decided that things would probably be best if I purchased another hard drive to actually store the repository on -- this means that when I move my computer between Illinois and California, I can hand carry the repository, and ship the other hard drive with the computer, and not too much will be lost if one drive fails. I'm also unsure as to how some software will deal with the versioning. Will software licenses get messed up? Will I have insane numbers of conflicts with preferences files? Ideally I would be able to pull the latest preference files so that I could change my preferences on one computer, and the other computer would get updated with very little work.

I'm also unsure as to how large this repository will actually get, and how big of a hard drive this would actually take.

I have decided that subversion is probably best -- both due to the fact that it is free, and do to the fact that it can version control folders (unlike CVS). I use perforce at work, but it sets all of the file permissions to read only, and you have to check out a file in order to use it, which would be problematic on a normal machine where I'm doing work -- I don't want to have to check out every file (note that a perforce check out is non blocking, unlike Visual SourceSafe).

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Monday, May 24th, 2004
11:27 pm - US National Debt
Did you know that the US national debt on 5/13/04 was $7,147,545,929,573.40 (~ seven trillion dollars), and that for every $1 of personal taxes you pay:

29 cents - Military Spending
20 cents - Interest on National Debt (~10 cents non-military, ~9 cents military)
20 cents - Healthcare
5 cents - Income Security
4 cents - Education

Graph of who the debt is owed toCollapse )

Don't be confused by some of the time vs. debt graphs on the page that is linked to above, though. While it is true that the national debt is increasing, a better plot would be time vs. (debt / GDP), such as the one linked to below.

National debt history -- national debt as percentage of GDPCollapse )

The most common method used today to solve the deficit problem is to try to grow the national GDP, so that the amount of debt will decrease percentage-wise. Apparently last year's tax rate cut ended up with an increase in tax revenues. Whether this is due to the tax cuts depends on your own outlook on life.

More information available at Wikipedia.

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Thursday, May 13th, 2004
11:00 am - You know you're a computer science major when...
... someone writes COBRA in their LJ, and you read it as CORBA.

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Wednesday, April 21st, 2004
1:06 am - Cursive Interference
So I discovered the other day that learning russian has caused some sort of strange neuron interference. More specifically, the fact that we write russian in cursive is interfering with my ability to write cursive in english. This is a very curious thing, and very strange feeling. Most of the problem lies around trying to write words in english that have the string "pr" in them, or have a "d" in them. I usually end up writing "пр" in place of "pr" and writing "д" in place of d.

Let me explain to those of you who aren't familiar with russian cursive. In russian, a cursive "pr" looks like an n attached to a cursive p (except the circle part of the p doesn't connect back to the stem, it comes back down to be perpendicular to the stem of the p and then goes on to attach to the next character). A cursive "d" in russian looks like a cursive english "g."

So as you can see, I'm having some sort of interference problem between letters that both look and sound alike, but are written differently. It's actually quite a frustrating problem. I don't have problems printing though, even though I print in both character sets -- english and russian.

What's even stranger is that I don't have any problems with interference typing dvorak keyboard layout -- and that's when I type about 100 wpm on qwerty and about 65 on dvorak (as a sidenote, I only type slower on dvorak due to lack of sufficient practice time -- typing in dvorak is a lot more comfortable, and one makes less typos as well!)

Does anyone else have this problem?

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Monday, April 5th, 2004
5:53 pm - iTunes Music Recommendation System Goes Public
We released our iTunes Music Recommendation System (iTMRS) today to VersionTracker (under the OS X category, although we have a Windows and a Mac client). iTMRS uses what's called a "collaborative filtering algorithm" in order to recommend songs to you based on music preferences from other users in the database. The more users that download our program, the better the results get -- and the service is free!

The goal of this project was primarily to provide a real-world (anonymous) data set of music preferences to researchers so that they can developer better collaborative filtering algorithms, which in turn, would improve results. If you're interested you can read about our client or download it.

Note that if you're not already using iTunes, you'll need to rate some music in order for the program to work -- the program will automatically internally rate your music if you allow it to, however songs that have been added to the iTunes database within the last two weeks won't get automatically rated due to statistical reasons.

Anyway, give it a whirl and let us know what you think.

current mood: enthused

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Monday, March 29th, 2004
7:31 pm - Photos from Recent Road Trip
Photographs from the road trip described in Julia's LJ are now available.

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Friday, March 5th, 2004
8:42 am - Monte Carlo Simulations
" could do the same thing in Las Vegas, but it would be far less sophisticated."
    -- Professor Levinson, on Monte Carlo Simulations

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Friday, February 27th, 2004
11:35 am - Real Life Nonlinear Problems
So apparently throwing a ball into the air and calculating where it lands -- or if it will hit a specific spot is a non trivial real life non linear problem when the point at which you're throwing at is at a different height than where the ground is. I haven't really thought about that much, having recently been distracted by the total amazingness of LU factorization, but I seem to remember there being some sort of problem similar to the aforementioned on in Physics AP. Anyway, it's my opinion that LU factorization is way cooler than any other linear system solving technique, and that we should have learned to solve augmented matrices in this manner, rather than the crazy multiple/divide two rows together and then add/subtract deal. But here's part of a slide taken from my CS 257 (Numerical Methods) lecture on Feb 26, by T. Kerkhoven...

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