Thursday, December 20, 2007
He has even called tech support about this. "What did you say to them," I asked. "Was it something like, 'What happened to my spam? Give me back my precious spam, you bastards!'"
Apparently it wasn't quite like that. But they had no explanation.
"You've won!" I told him. "The spammers have given up on you and admitted defeat. All these years of resisting their ads have paid off. They've taken you off all the lists for good. You are the first man to achieve complete victory over spam!"
He didn't believe this. He said something about how inconvenient it would be to have to get a new e-mail address. He is actually considering getting a new e-mail address because the current one doesn't get spam.
But seriously, I think if spammers had some way to precisely target only those people most likely to respond to their ads, they would probably do it. They would get the same results with fewer complaints and less action taken against them. Could we be seeing the beginning of that strategy? Have spammers developed a vast A.I. that can figure out which people aren't worth bothering with? Or is my father just The Man That Spam Forgot?
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
This really reminds me of the writings of crackpot inventors, who complain about how scientists won't accept the genius of their perpetual-motion machines. Typically the crackpot inventors then take up a second project, namely figuring out "what is wrong with scientists?" They quickly discover the answer: scientists are closed-minded, they are snobs, they are jealous of the superior intellects of crackpot inventors. They are unwilling to let an outsider into their club, and even less willing to let their hard-won knowledge be rendered obsolete by the breakthroughs of the inventors. In the end, really, scientists are insufferable jerks! They don't even deserve the perpetual-motion machine! They're too immature to handle the anti-gravity ray!
Nice Guys complain that they've been "just friends" with a woman for quite a while, but -- amazingly! -- it has not lead to anything "more." This is an odd attitude, because it actually defines friendship as a type of rejection. (Try to wrap your head around that one.) To normal people, friendship is a good thing and valuable for its own sake. But to the Nice Guy, friendship with a woman is something else: it is reserving a place "next in line" to be her boyfriend. To the Nice Guy, friendship is stalking from point-blank range. (I imagine I'd find that twice as horrifying if I were female.)
I'd like to explain to the Nice Guys that they have Crackpot Inventor Syndrome, but I don't think it would work. Nice Guys aren't out trying to understand the reasons why they're wrong. They have created inside their own heads a perfect vision of how the world "ought to work." Just like crackpot inventors.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Update: I did watch all three movies back-to-back. Wow, with commercials that was really, really, long. I don't really recommend it.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
-- From Evaluability (And Cheap Holiday Shopping), on Overcoming Bias
Friday, November 09, 2007
___ ___ _
/ _ \ /\ /\/ __(_)
/ /_\// /_/ / / | | GHC Interactive, version 6.4.1, for Haskell 98.
/ /_\\/ __ / /___| | http://www.haskell.org/ghc/
\____/\/ /_/\____/|_| Type :? for help.
Loading package base-1.0 ... linking ... done.
Prelude> :m +List
Prelude List> let primes ns = nubBy d ns where d x y = y `mod` x == 0
Prelude List> primes [2..100]
(Of course, this is not an especially good way of finding primes. It is more like a funny use of nubBy.)
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I haven't seen this mentioned in Haskell tutorials so I'm posting it here.
Prelude> :m +Data.List
Prelude Data.List> "bc" `isInfixOf` "abcd"
Prelude Data.List> "zz" `isInfixOf` "abcd"
Friday, October 26, 2007
Detective Sergeant Reuben Stroble said anyone driving by would see the box and simply assume it was a delivery for the business.
"The concealment, I mean, no one would ever think of someone being inside a box in front of a storefront window in the middle of the night," said Det. Sgt. Stroble.
Video gamers will recognize the cardboard box camouflage as a signature trick from the Metal Gear Solid series of games. When I played those games, I thought that was a silly gimmick that was very unlikely to actually work in the real world. What's next? Will we discover that random barrels and crates really do contain power-ups?
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Then a few days ago, I decided to read the label more carefully, to find out the exact ingredients and the nutritional information. I was shocked to discover that according to the label the jar contains 2 servings! Eating half a jar of garlic at one sitting is considered a serving. I can't even imagine doing that.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
"BAD MUSIC, whisper, BAD MUSIC, mumble, SOUND EFFECT, whisper, SOUND EFFECT, mumble."
At least 1/4 of the spoken words were too soft in the mix to be understood. It's like the sound engineers decided, "Hey, let's turn down those lines of dialogue because they're drowning out the dumb BLOOP-BLOOP-BLOOP noise that we worked so hard on."
Christina Aguilera Planning Duet With Aretha Franklin
. . . for a second I thought it said they were planning a duel. Now that would have been exciting! Flintlock pistols at 40 paces, at dawn?
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sunday, August 19, 2007
We'll see how this works. So far I have gotten an "uh-oh 3" which meant "I can't find my iPhone."
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The more over-the-top you imagine it, the better.
There's something quite funny about doing this exercise. You realize how completely unlike the Hollywood Version the real version is. I'm not sure why that's funny, but it is.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Her: While I'm up, can I get you anything?
Me: Yeah . . . uh . . . a monkey.
Her: Let me rephrase that, can I get you anything that I reasonably could get?
Me: Well . . . um . . you could make us a pot of that "Monkey-Picked Oolong" tea.
Her: Why, because it was touched by a monkey?
Me: It has "monkey" in the name.
My brother: Slap me.
Me (suspicious): No.
[Note: if my brother wanted to spar, he would probably say something like "want to do some sparring?" Or if he wanted to try out some particular move, he would say "try to slap me." But just saying "slap me" as if he expected it to succeed made me think he was up to something.]
My brother: Come on, I won't hit you back. Slap me.
Me: No, I don't want to.
My brother, turning to my girlfriend: Slap me.
[She slaps him very lightly, almost a pantomime slap.]
My brother: Not like that, really slap me.
[She really slaps him.]
My brother: See?
Me: I don't understand the point of this.
My girlfriend: Hmm. Slapping him was kind of cathartic!
Me: Hey, you've invented a new type of therapy! You should write a book, and go on Oprah.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Her: Time to clean the floor.
Me: We really need to have an army of robots for that.
Her: Nah, I'll just use the Swiffer.
Me: An army of robots would be cooler.
Her: Well . . . I guess it would be cooler.
Me: But eventually they'd rebel.
Her: And kill us.
Me: . . .
Her: I'll stick with the Swiffer.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
'Intelligent' cars fitted with sensors to predict traffic flow can deliver the same fuel efficiency as hybrid vehicles, a new study shows.
[...] 'intelligent' cars are conventional vehicles fitted with sensors and receivers called telematics, which work in a network, swapping information about the traffic ahead.
This traffic information is then relayed to the car to stop the vehicle or slow it down so that the ride is smooth, avoiding the stop-start phenomenon that drains fuel.
They calculated that a hybrid version of the car would deliver fuel economy of 15-25% over the unconverted vehicle.
But this saving was matched when the benchmark car was fitted with basic telematics that predicted traffic flows as little as seven seconds ahead, as determined by Australian driving conditions. [link]
Wouldn't smarter drivers be just as effective as smarter cars? Wouldn't that be cheaper, too? The only way to get drivers to drive more smoothly is to have a computerized car override their bad decisions? How sad. And if we're going that route, maybe the car should refuse to start at all during peak traffic hours.
It is possible to get better mileage simply by changing driving habits. See Hypermiling.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Sunday, May 06, 2007
[Note: This is a World Without Oil post.]
We may outlive the Internet. To everyone blogging and podcasting about a World Without Oil, I admire your efforts, but I also must ask: what's your Plan B for when the power goes out? This energy crunch will not just be about gasoline and driving. The electrical grid is vulnerable, too.
"In fact, severe power shortages and rolling blackouts will now become a daily occurrence around the country over the next few years, according to NERC, because the antiquated power grid will be continuously stretched beyond its means - mainly a result of electricity deregulation, whereby power is sent hundreds of miles across the grid to consumers by out-of-state power companies instead of being sent directly to consumers by their local utilities, which is what the grid was designed for."(link)
Suppose you have off-grid electricity -- you have solar panels or windpower, or your own backyard wood burning steam engine connected to a generator. Maybe you even have a hand-cranked laptop. Cool! You're still ready to browse the web! But has your ISP made similar preparations? What happens if these disruptions cause them to go out of business? Where will your net access come from then?
So far most people treat the oil shock like it is "the" crisis, but in truth it is only "a" crisis, one of many, and unfortunately it is the one that will multiply all the others. For example, we know consumers feel the shock to their budgets at the gas pump. But some at the same time will face rising mortgage payments from their subprime ARM loans. Maybe they could have handled one of these problems at a time, but not both at the same time.
Here's another one: if the honeybee die-off takes a heavy toll on America's crops, we get the double whammy of reduced supplies of food at the same time as higher costs to transport it. One or the other of those would have been bad enough, but both? The oil shock creates a multiplier effect on other problems.
Finally, what about our aging population? Younger people might be able to use bicycles instead of their cars, and they may well benefit from the extra exercise, but what about senior citizens? Is grandpa, who can barely walk up a flight of stairs, going to suddenly jump on a mountain bike and start pedaling 20 miles a day? I don't think so.
When I say we may outlive the Internet, I realize those are strong words. I do think that in the future there will still be computers -- for those who can afford them, at least -- and some of those computers will still be networked together. I suppose there will still be web pages, too, but there will be far fewer people reading them. The Internet as the powerful social and cultural force that we know today may be dead. Easy, frequent, reliable access to the Internet by huge numbers of people may be a thing of the past.
We will need other tools. And we will need some other form of entertainment, one that does not depend on electricity. Better start building those Thunderdomes.
[Update: July 7, 2008. It appears that there is now some evidence that the food supply is being impacted by the lack of honeybees.]
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Monday, April 09, 2007
Sunday, April 08, 2007
This handmade samurai-style leather armor was incredible, made from thick leather plates it had a real feeling of substance. It was one of my favorites from the convention. This cosplayer told me he had worked on it for three years, on and off, and he learned how to make it by researching it on the internet.
This costume was made of a cool fluffy material that caught my eye right away. It had a natural look (well, as natural as neon blue can be anyway), like a real animal.
Stay tuned for more, I got a lot of good pictures from the convention, and I am writing an article about it for JLHLS.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
I swaggered off towards the parking lot, grasping the chainsaw under one arm as if to say, "look, not only do I possess this extremely cool chainsaw, but with my huge muscles I can lift it with one hand as if it were a mere trifle, like a box full of feathers!" People look at you with more respect when you're carrying a chainsaw, even one that is still in the box. I think this must be what buying a Ferrari feels like, only much cheaper.
So I highly recommend buying a chainsaw, it is extremely fun. Buy one even if you don't need it. You can always return it the next day.
I told this story to my brother, and he immediately said I had ruined the effect by not also buying a hockey mask at the same time.
And that brings me to one of my brother's stories about buying things. He once told me that he went to Home Depot to get some caulk, and he couldn't find it, so he wandered around looking for it, getting more and more frustrated. I said, "why didn't you ask someone where it was?"
"Because I didn't want to have to say it," he said.
"Huh?" I thought about this for a bit before I caught his meaning. "Oh, I get it, you didn't want to have to say caulk out loud." I laughed. "That's silly. So what did you do?"
"I thought up another way to ask for it, so I called it that stuff that you use for sealing cracks. And it worked, they knew what I was talking about."
"But don't you think you're being a bit crazy? I mean, caulk is just what it's called. That's what everyone says. You're in a store, so they're not going to think you mean anything else."
"It's just really embarrassing," he said, "to have to tell some stranger that you want the caulk."
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Wake the Zombies was the trickiest to do, but Geisha Gunslinger is probably my favorite.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Most Americans do not know what to do with abstraction in general. To be able to fully appreciate abstraction, you must be able to turn off your thought, or at least be able to put your thought into the background. This is not as easy as it might seem. In modern art museums, most people’s minds are dominated by thoughts like: “Even I could do this.” Or, “Why is this in a museum?” Or, “This looks like my bed sheet.” Etc.. They are unable to let the abstraction affect their emotions directly; their experience must be filtered through interpretations.
I agree that most Americans are more comfortable with representational art than abstract art, and like pop music with lyrics better than instrumental jazz. But jazz used to be much more popular in America than it is today. What happened? Did Americans have a greater ability to appreciate abstraction in the past? How did they lose it?
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Thursday, February 08, 2007
To me, the oddest thing about these bugs is that we are usually unaware of them. It is kind of like the tone-deafness that afflicts some of the American Idol contestants, causing them to believe they are good singers even though they are horrible. The problem combines poor performance with inaccurate evaluation of one's own performance. But unlike tone-deafness, the bugs described in Schneier's article seem to affect almost everyone. That is the weird part. Imagine living in a world where 99% of people perceived music the way that the very worst American Idol contestants do. Most people would not notice anything wrong, but a few people would be very annoyed and wear earplugs a lot.
Well, it turns out that we do live in such a world, except musical perception is not the problem. It is the various types of everyday judgements listed in Schneier's article that we all keep getting wrong.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
I had no choice but to match his crazy maneuver, just six inches to his right, and I wound up being forced to drive up onto the sidewalk to avoid a collision with this madman. I really wish someone had captured the whole thing on video, because I would put it up on YouTube and become famous. It couldn't have been more perfect if it had been a rehearsed stunt for a movie.
Once I stopped and realized I had miraculously avoided any damage to my car, I had a weird suspicion. This guy's force-me-off-the-road technique was so good that . . . could it have been intentional? I waited to see if he would stop and get out of the car. But he kept going. That's when I realized that he was completely unaware of the whole incident. He didn't even know I existed.
I believe that I escaped this day without a scratch because of all the hours I spent playing Test Drive Unlimited on the Xbox 360. Playing that game trained me in spontaneous evasive maneuvers until they have become second nature. I don't normally need to do them in real life, but all the mental pathways are there. Video gaming has finally paid off.
With the hatchback open, this Lotus looked like a blue metallic scorpion with its tail in the air.
The Audi concept car had an agressive appearance.
Though I enjoyed looking at the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Mazeratis, and Lotuses, when it came to the category of "cars I might actually own someday" my favorite was this Mini convertible.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
The version online that I linked to does not have any disclaimer text, but the version aired on TV says in small print at the beginning: "Based on horizontal drop. Aerial sequence simulated. Professional driver on closed course. Do not attempt."
I have two issues with this. First, what is a horizontal drop? Horizontal motion wouldn't be a "drop" at all, right? So maybe they mean that the car was dropped in a horizontal orientation. But if that is all it means, why do they need to say it?
Second, "do not attempt?" How would you attempt this even if you wanted to? I guess you'd call up your helicopter pilot friend who has both a Lexus and a huge helicopter and say, "Hey, I have this great idea, could you pick up your Lexus with your helicopter and drop it from 4000 feet while I try to drive under it? It will be awesome, just like in that commercial!" And he would say, "Wow, that sounds great! Let's try it on the street in front of your house. I'll be there in 10 minutes! Make a video so we can put it on YouTube."
And then you wouldn't drive quite fast enough, and the second Lexus would land right on top of you, killing you instantly. Then your family would have to sue Lexus because the commercial promised that the car would be great for that sort of thing.
Then in court the lawyer for Lexus would say, "Please look at Exhibit A here, where it says to use a horizontal drop, and do not attempt. The plaintiff did attempt this, and he didn't even use a horizontal drop, as directed." Then the judge would say, "Mr. McFlimmigidgie, please explain to the court what a horizontal drop is." And the lawyer would smile and say, "Of course, your honor, it is one where the car drops from side to side instead of down from above." There would be murmuring in the courtroom at this point. The neighbor, sitting in the audience would say, "I told him to use a horizontal drop, but he wouldn't listen, the poor bastard."
The trial would of course go on for another two weeks, filled with testimony from experts on dropping things from helicopters, but in the end the jury would come back to that phrase "horizontal drop" and find for the defendant. Case closed.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Then there are the people who completely miss; they don't even get within a half step of the pitch. If they didn't sing the words, you would never be able to tell what song it was supposed to be. These are the ones who not only miss the bullseye, but put a hole in the neighbor's window at a 90 degree angle to the target.
You can tell a lot about the contestants before they start to sing, just by what they say before the audition starts. Good singers are realistic. They know that they are good, but they have heard a lot of other good singers out there too. They usually talk about preparation and trying to do their best. They have probably auditioned for singing parts many times before. They know that you can be good, but still not be what the judges are looking for.
It's usually the truly bad singers who are convinced they are a sure thing, because they are delusional. And if they are completely confused about one thing, they are usually wrong about everything else, too. So when unattractive people describe themselves as super sexy, they usually aren't good at singing either. It's part of a general pattern of not being realistic about themselves.
It is an especially bad sign when they boast about how "different" or "unique" they are. Hey, if you are nothing like any famous singer, guess what? It is usually because you are an awful singer. It's usually not because you have an incredibly beautiful type of singing that nobody else has ever tried before.
The biggest surprise for me this season is Paula Abdul. I'm really liking Paula so far this season. Last year I thought her odd behavior and speech patterns probably indicated that she was drunk. This year she seems alert, on the ball, and charming. Maybe she was just trying to be funny before.