Month: April 2002

Language-recognition algorithm

This is fascinating. Italian researchers have found a way to identify the source language of a text just based on how that text has been treated by a compression algorithm. It gets better:

The scientists performed a further test of their technique by analyzing a single text that has been translated into many different languages — in this case the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The researchers used their method to measure the linguistic “distance” between more than 50 translations of this document. From these distances, they constructed a family tree of languages that is virtually identical to the one constructed by linguists.

Blogging & hate speech

The kind of conundrum only a blogger could face: Blogdex recently removed a hate-speech website from its index. A discussion ensued, in the course of which the person who originally complained about the website in question accidentally outed himself. Now, here’s the thing: I really want to dislike this guy for being such a cringing pansy that he promotes censorship to protect his delicate sensibilities, but the thing is, he’s got a good blog.

Ultimate bad date…?

Now this is what I call a bad date. Not to be cruel, but the clue-phone was ringing for a long time before this woman got around to picking it up. I’m signed up on nerve.com too, and I’ve gone on some bad dates (including a comically bad one this past Wednesday), but I haven’t had any experiences remotely like this one.

Eeyore’s Birthday

Eeyore’s Birthday was held this past Saturday. I went for a couple hours, saw some of the usual suspects. Big hippie-freak fest.

I debated bringing my own camera, but it’s hard to just enjoy yourself when your trying to document everything.

This whole OS X upgrade

This whole OS X upgrade thing is still consuming way too much of my time. I need to go for a bike ride.

Installing the update from 10.1 to 10.1.3 was a huge pain in the ass, since I had had the audacity to move some apps around. The updater couldn’t find them, and so installed “stubs” containing the modified resources (but not necessarily a complete app) where it did expect them. I wound up moving the new resources into the old apps, very carefully (yes, this is possible). Then I had to delete the old stuff, which turned out not to be very easy. Seems that there was an invisible file that really didn’t want to be deleted. I wound up breaking into Terminal and using sudo rm .recalcitrant_file to take care of it. There’s probably an easier way, but I’m not sure what.

Mail clients for OS X are also a pain in the ass. Capsule reviews of the apps I’ve tried:

Eudora

The OS X version of this, for me, is a step backwards because I can’t seem to make it support Japanese, and Steve Dorner’s team hasn’t gotten the internationalization message. Plus the fact that it’s still beta. How long has OS X been out now?

Mulberry

Ugly. Weird. I’m not a UI queen, but sheesh, I spend a lot of time in my mail client, and I don’t want to have to look at that.

Entourage

Slow and gimmicky (it’s from Microsoft, so this is not a surprise). I’ve also read that it starts going haywire when you have a really big mail database. Mine isn’t really big, but why risk it.

Sweetmail

This now has a beta version for OS X, but it won’t boot to my machine. Probably checking for a Japanese OS or something.

Powermail

In theory this does handle Japanese, but it failed to import my old Japanese messages from Eudora correctly, which is a problem. Perhaps it would have better luck extracting them by way of Mail.app.

Mailsmith

I love BBEdit, especially now that it has Japanese capability, but Mailsmith still doesn’t. It has lots of other virtues, but no Japanese=no good for me. I read some criticism somewhere that it’s too expensive. Get real. How much time do we spend on e-mail? Lots. If a product can make your life easier, it’s worth a few bucks.

So that leaves us with Mail.app, which is included. That’s what I’m currently using. It has embarrassingly weak filtering (“rules”) capabilities, and a distinct paucity of keyboard commands. But it seems to be fast and reliable. I’ll switch if I find something better though.

I upgraded to Mac OS

I upgraded to Mac OS X today. I have been in maximum geek-mode for about 6 hours now. You know its maximum geek-mode when you forget to eat, then you remember your hungry, and even then decide to defer dining.

OS X is…different. It’s very disorienting in hundreds of little ways, not to mention the fact that the guts are drastically different. I figure it’ll take me a week to come to a modus vivendi with it–getting it to work the way I like, and adjusting to the way it works. There is a lot I like about it already, and despite occasional complaints that it’s slow, I find that it is a) snappy, and b) pretty snappy even when I’m trying to do all kinds of things at once.

So I was making a

So I was making a fire-baton a couple days ago, and because I’m a klutz, jammed a phillips-head screwdriver into the web between my index finger and thumb. Ouch. Yesterday I went to the ER at Brackenridge to get a tetanus shot. (Interesting aside–I called a general practitioner’s office to ask if I should have them look at it. The receptionist said I should get a tetanus shot, and since there was a shortage of those right now, they didn’t have any, but the ER would. So I went there.) I waited about two and a half hours to get a shot that some guy practically administered as he walked past me. I asked a few people about the tissue damage, and they all seemed really unconcerned. One of them told me “hands heal up really fast.” So far, I’d have to agree, much to my surprise. The day after, I could barely hold anything in my grasp. Two days after, and I’ve got most of the strength back in my thumb.

Carlos in town

Got together with Carlos (visiting from NYC) and his fabled squeeze Rachel (who is really cool, and visiting from AZ), Greg, Dave, Chris, and a cast of thousands. Sushi at Kyoto, beer at Elephant Room, more beer at Gingerman, still more beer at Lovejoy’s (at which point I bowed out). Walking from Gingerman to Lovejoy’s is kind of weird, because you navigate an obstacle-course of musical entertainment–walk past one bar with one kind of band, next to another with another, and so on.

It’s spring, and the flora

It’s spring, and the flora around Austin are all in a tizzy. This is good and bad.

Roses, wisteria, honeysuckle, et al are in bloom, and a walk through my neighborhood is a party for my nose.

But the allergy-spawning pollens are in the air too.

What’s inside the walls

If you never leave your house, you’ll never know what the outside looks like.

One idea that holds a lot of explanatory power for me is the distinction between people as they really are and the mental models we have of people.

Whether it’s someone you encounter on the street for 30 seconds or someone you’ve known intimately for a decade, when you deal with that person, you’re really dealing with your mental model of that person. Some models are more accurate than others, of course, and in the process of getting to know someone, you refine your model of that person.

But the assumption that there is any such thing as the “person as you really are” raises an interesting epistemological issue. Anyone with a modicum of honesty and self-knowledge will admit that he does not have a perfectly objective self-assessment. And no other person could believably claim to have a better assessment of a person than the person himself. So that leaves the person’s true nature in a position akin to that of Schredinger’s cat, but in a box that’s been permanently locked shut.

The physics metaphor seems prone to over-stretching, so here’s another one: the self is like a house. You’re born in that house and you never have a chance to leave it, that is, you never get to look at yourself with another person’s eyes (I’m going to arbitrarily assert that drugs, “astral travel” and suchlike mystical claptrap don’t count). So you have no idea what the outside looks like. But you know every damn crack and crevice, every squeaky floorboard, and the right way to hike the key in the back door to get the lock to turn. Other people are on the outside looking in. Some people press their noses right up against the windows and get a pretty good idea of the house’s floor plan, but can never feel what it’s like to live in that house.

And perhaps most importantly, nobody has any idea what the structure and mechanical systems of the house looks like, hidden inside the walls. Are the wall studs 16″ on-center, or did the contractor skimp and use 24″ on-center? Is the plumbing copper or PVC? That’s a three-prong outlet there, but is it really grounded?

Perhaps if you believe in God, you can tell yourself that God knows. But I don’t.

The show did go on. Sort of.

Well, the show did go on, just not quite as planned.

We wound up doing it in the backyard of Amber’s house–Amber being one of the performers. About 30 spectators showed, and I think they enjoyed it.

While it was extremely frustrating and stomach-churning to have our sponsor default in the eleventh hour, and it would have been really nice to get the money for the show, I’m actually pretty happy with the way things turned out for a lot of reasons:

  • The money on offer didn’t come close to fairly compensating us for the amount of prep time that went into the show–in a way, it’s better to give away your efforts than to be meanly remunerated for them.
  • We all learned a lot from doing this–it was a valuable experience.
  • I discovered it was nice to be doing the show just for us, rather than for a sponsor.
  • We had fun
  • In the end, I’m not unhappy that I’m not working for this particular sponsor, which is Camel cigarettes. I had been holding my nose all along, and now, since I’m not taking their money, I can be morally superior and smug.

Clients. Who needs ’em?

Life is funny.

I was supposed to have a gig tonight, a big production with three other performers, plus a facepainter and five safety people. We had all put in a lot of work on this. I’ve put in at least 14 hours, and I know that others put in more.

Andrew, who has been coordinating our group, met the sponsor at the venue tonight, and the sponsor evidently said something to the effect of “Oops, we forgot to cut you a check!” And they couldn’t scrape together anything out of petty cash, so that show is not happening. Right this minute, Andrew is trying to scare up an alternate venue so that we can still put on a show.

Physical Inconstants

The Economist: “Can physical constants change over time? Some scientists think so. Others are struggling to explain how”

Just when you thought you were completely confused, something like this comes along and shows that it’s still possible to be even more confused.

Spamassassin

I recently heard about Spamassassin, and was thinking about setting it up. I mentioned it to the guy who runs my website’s hosting service and within a couple hours, he just had it running. I’ve taken the somewhat Procrustean measure of deleting all spam before it even gets to my computer, so if you write to me and don’t hear back, it might be because spamassassin mistook your mail for spam. But it seems to be pretty smart.

firenight photos

Stopped by the opening of an exhibition of art by ACC students, where my friend John had a piece showing. Bumped into several familiar faces there.

Proceeded from there to firenight. Because it was Goddess Night at our usual hangout, we met at the tunnels under MoPac, where they have the hippie full-moon drum circles. Despite the lack of amenities, it was a fun place to spin fire–we got down inside the tunnels to spin, which resulted in some interesting shots. I didn’t bring my tripod this time, but still managed. John made his way there, late (after going from his art opening to his blacksmithing class). Things wrapped up a little after 11:00, and John, Bob, Bean and I stopped by the nearby Magnolia Cafe for some late-night snacks.