Saturday, November 18, 2006

Overheard on the flight from Tampa

So is Dallas like the Orlando of Texas?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova...

Wednesday I'll be heading out to SuperComputing '06 in Tampa.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mind your own business!

Two English men are on a train.
"What's in that box up there?"
"It's a MacGuffin."
"What's a MacGuffin?"
"It's for catching lions in the Scottish highlands."
"But there are no lions in the Scottish highlands!"
"Then it's not a MacGuffin."

Friday, September 8, 2006

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file

So I encountered an interesting problem this week: too many ranks. Apparently Opterons can only handle 4 ranks of memory at 400MHz. We loaded a certain machine with 4 dual-rank DIMMs per CPU (=8 ranks/CPU) and it was woefully unstable. Opterons can handle 8 ranks if they run at 333MHz, so I downclocked the memory in the BIOS.

Just something to watch out for the next time you try to build a 1U with two dual-core Opteron 270s and 8 2GB DIMMs. :)

This machine pulls 2.9A under load!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Dream no small dreams

I left early Wednesday morning. Before noon, Rob and I had made it back to his place. We went to Snakes on a Plane that afternoon. (It didn't live up to our expectations!) Afterward we went to dinner with djao and his fiancée. djao took us to see the Fields Institute before heading back to Waterloo. We headed off to play pool and wait for "the gang" (B&E, Mike). When they showed up, Rob and I alternately played pool and conversed with the table.... EC teased that I'd have to entertain SG at the wedding. We all caught up a little. Before long though, they had to go. Rob and I moved on to another pool place before crashing.

On Thursday, I made it out to Mississauga for the tux fitting. Mike and I roamed Square One for a bit, talking, and of course acquiring ping pong balls for the Csima's. We then had to try them out. :) I made my way back to Toronto that evening, and Rob and I met some of his friends for pool. They were lame....

On Friday, Rob and I went to the rehearsal. He then bailed while I went on to the rehearsal dinner and the after-dinner festivities (including ping pong!). SG and I kept losing at the ping pong. I didn't make it back to Rob's apartment until pretty late.

Saturday was the auspicious occasion. I took public transportation to the wedding, and changed into my tux in the bathroom. The wedding itself went pretty quickly as these things go. The highlights: Papa Csima almost tripped over the bridal gown on his way back to the pew, Rob had some trouble with the video camera, and the kiss looked a bit awkward. :) After the wedding proper, we moved on to a quite beautiful park for some more photographs.

After the photographs, we made our way to the reception. I rode in a very full car, but an amusing one. There was a whole discussion about which Disney character each of us was. Apparently I'm very much not Peter Pan (SG balked at the idea). By the time we arrived, pretty much everyone was already there. It was a nice crowd. MBD and Christina were there, as well as N&N.

The dining hall was set up with a dance floor in the middle, and the raised head table behind that. B&E named all the tables after mathematicians, and the head table was the Grothendieck table. There was all the usual: food, dancing, speeches. I spent quite a lot of time talking to SG. That was especially fun. (... and sad. Travel hundreds of miles, and see not only friends I desperately miss, but also meet other cool people I'll never see again. :))

There were a lot of great moments. Bert's parents were really getting down. And Papa Csima's always fun. But the moment as far as I'm concerned happened when no one was watching. B&E were in the corner of the crowded dance floor during one of the slower dances. Elizabeth had her head on Bert's shoulder, her eyes closed. Elizabeth was in her beautiful dress, and Bert in his tux. At the end of the song, Elizabeth said something to Bert and then they kissed. It wasn't staged or awkward. She looked happy.

There's a poem by Billy Collins. It goes something like:

The boy at the far end of the train car kept looking behind him as if he were afraid, or expecting someone, and then she appeared in the glass door of the forward car and he rose and opened the door to let her in and she entered the car carrying a large black case in the unmistakable shape of a cello. She looked like an angel with a high forehead and somber eyes and her hair was tied up behind her back with a black bow, and because of all that he seemed a little awkward in his happiness to see her, whereas she was simply there perfectly existing as a creature with a soft face who played the cello. And the reason I am writing this on the back of a manila envelope now that they have left the train together is to tell you that when she turned to lift the large, delicate cello onto the overhead rack, I saw him looking up at her and what she was doing the way eyes of saints are painted when they are looking up at God when he is doing something remarkable, something that identifies him as God.

(Forgive the arrangement. I've not seen it in print.) Don't know why I thought of that. :) I think SG made me an idealist again, for a short time....

All in all, it was a fun wedding, and a fun trip. I arrived back late Sunday. It was weird. As soon as I landed, it felt like a long dream had ended. I was back to "real life." I went to work Monday and hardly anything had changed in my absence. Just last week I was in Toronto, and now I'm back. It's quite jarring.

This weekend I'll be in Chicago. Prepare yourselves!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006


So now where is my passport?

Monday, August 14, 2006


Check this out! Amazon suggested it....

Friday, August 4, 2006

Remember Peter McNichols?

He's in Numb3rs. He was in Ghostbusters.

He went to high school with my aunt!

Tuesday, August 1, 2006


For the Csima wedding, I'll be arriving Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. I'll fly out Sunday at 6:45 p.m. Plan accordingly. :)

For the Zbarsky's, I'll come in to Chicago Friday night, and leave Monday night. If anyone wants to hang out or such...

(Anti-recommendation: Don't use Travelocity. Pain in the butt. Orbitz is much better.)

Monday, July 31, 2006


Suppose one has a GUI app that does the occassional network I/O--and that's about it. Right now it wakes up 5 times a second to poll. What's the best way to keep it sleeping? Seems to me the I/O should be moved to a separate thread and done pretty much synchronously. Then it can reliably be put to sleep.

Agh, this will take time.

Government inaction

Don't you feel safer already? Reminds me of a red letter day in Texas legislative history. A representative thought cheerleading dance moves had become too provocative. A bill introduction followed, and a debate, and upon a vote it passed in the House. They contacted a senator to see how the bill would fare in the next step. He replied that the senate had real work to do.

And that was the last anyone ever heard of the provocative cheerleading ban...

(Re the Texas cheerleading ban: FOXNews and CBS)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Re math curricula

Not surprising...


Did anyone else notice the Csima wedding is on National Bowling Day?


Thursday, July 27, 2006

I'm not sure I understand late night TV

Either porn or the Killing Fields? Of course I'll choose Sam Waterston....

My job is going quite alright. Although people are telling me I'm doing a good job enough to worry me....

I am coming to the wedding. Stop worrying.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Seriously now

I've already woken up four times. No more sleep for me I guess...

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What dreams may come

A few days ago, I either had a lucid dream or dreamt I had a lucid dream. I'm not sure which is more exciting, but I'm pretty sure it was the former.

Second one total for me...

Monday, June 26, 2006

I'm such a tool

I thought almost all the relevant people knew I was in a different state. Of course, I didn't shout from the rooftops my intention to move. My flatmates didn't know the exact date of my exodus until 3 days prior. The Csima's didn't know more than about a week prior. Rob knew a few weeks prior. It seemed to get out though. It's a small community. After all, RY was at the little farewell pub outing. I figured that meant it had spread to the office crowd. I took my stuff from the office, which I heard was a concern of KP's. It would seem however that the Z's didn't know. They learned when asking for an address for the wedding invitation!

I was aware I didn't give a lot of warning, but I suppose I thought most people knew. Of course, RW had no way to know, and I didn't have time to specifically seek her out. I hope she can forgive me.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Vanishing Theorems

Esnault and Viewheg's book is available online. Q might find this interesting...

Friday, June 23, 2006

To everyone pestering me for job details:

So far things are going well. My main responsibility seems to be a combination of installation and support. We deal mainly with huge clusters. There are some lone machines that come through though. Our team installs and configures the software and tests the machines before they ship. Sometimes there's a problem and we troubleshoot it.

We also get malfunctioning machines from customers that we have to troubleshoot. I haven't yet dived in to the actual customer support.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Some of you might like...

...this Guardian story. Insightful comments included. :)

(Found via a blog.)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

First day recap

Before my first day at junior high, I was so anxious I couldn't sleep. I awoke at 4:30 a.m., got dressed, gathered my things, and ate breakfast. Then I faced several hours of waiting before I could go. My point is I'm high strung.

I've been antsy for a couple of weeks. Waiting to see if I'd get the job... Waiting to see exactly what I'd be doing... Waiting to see if I could do it... It all makes day one that much more fun. I didn't get so much sleep the night before. I misjudged the traffic factor and arrived a few minutes early. I filled out some paperwork in the morning. I couldn't get my key yet. M showed me around. Our team communicates via IRC. (Isn't that perfect? I spend all day on IRC.) I was charged with some simple tasks. Unfortunately the network had issues and we spent a while unsuccessfully trying to track them down. So that was pretty much my day.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What I've been up to...

I promised an update. Here it is: Thursday after the move I went to talk to a guy about a job. I've been talking with him and his company since, and long story short I start Wednesday.

I've seen a few old friends since I've been back. A week ago, Texas Rob and I went to play pool, and then WS and we showed up unannounced at Matt's place. Matt's now married, so we met his wife who we all happened to know through Heidi. His sister also visited. Anyways, late night there...

OK, so that was rather short. But that's what you get... :)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Book TV!

I love cable.

This book looks like it'd be decent. The guy took a 14 foot boat along the same trail as Lewis & Clark. He was a good speaker. Anyways, it's on the list...

While I'm on the subject of cable... I think EC would like this show.

Hot diggity

MIG welded for the first time today.

Agh, my neck!

Apparently no one realized that the reason I slept on the couch more than is customary at my old place was because my mattress is a bit too soft. After a week without the rock-hard couch option, my neck hurts.

Gotta fix this.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Home Sweet Home

So it all started two weeks ago. When my sister left on that Thursday, I started packing. Fortunately I don't have too much stuff. I was quite able to pack it all at a leisurely pace, while allowing for some social diversions. My dad arrived on that Saturday in the afternoon. We picked up the U-Haul and some supplies, and then went to get dinner. My mom arrived that evening. They relaxed while I continued to pack. On Sunday we loaded up the U-Haul. I did leave some stuff at the apartment for you guys. Bert, your copy of Catch-22 was there. Rob, I had 4 books of yours I left there. And I left the good poker chips--Justin's hard plastic ones. We even went by the office to get all the crap I left there. The whole thing was so quick. My mom flew out that evening, and after we dropped her at the airport we began our journey.

We drove for a few hours that night before stopping in Bloomington. The Bloomington-Normal "metroplex" is a college town. Illinois State (go Redbirds!) calls it home, as well as a few smaller local schools. We arrived at 10 p.m. and went looking for food. We didn't have much choice. Denny's it was! It's popular with the school kids, too. Then we called it a night. On that Monday morning, we woke up to dogs barking. Our hotel was providing accommodations for the Heart of Illinois Dog Show!

We set out from Bloomington pretty early. We went south to St. Louis and hung a right to go through Missouri. The truck was suspect from the very beginning, but it really had problems with the hills. After filling up in St. Robert, the truck gave up. It wouldn't go in D; other gears worked. And the check engine light came on. We got a room and called U-Haul. They had to find a local mechanic. They said they'd keep calling us every 30 minutes to let us know how it was going. After an hour or so, they gave up on that. Hours later they found a mechanic, and with some more phone tag, he found us. By the time he arrived, the truck seemed to work. That is, it still had a misfire, the odometer didn't work, the temperature gauge didn't work, and the gear shift display was almost completely off the steering wheel, but the truck did move with a little noticeable strain.

We left Tuesday early and drove the rest of the way. As it turns out, the truck had no further issues. We made it home Tuesday night with time to see the Mavs.

On Wednesday I spent almost the whole day unloading and unpacking. I was quite set up by the day's end.

It's been a week since then, and I've been a bit busy. I'll write more about that soon.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Our U-Haul broke down. We're at a Best Western in St. Roberts waiting for a real person on the U-Haul hotline. The BW is pretty nice. They have a pool and free wifi, and they gave us the trucker's discount. U-Haul however sucks.

How will the caped crusader get out of this one? Stay tuned.

More on the whole move later.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I hate packing

I have several borrowed books. Rob, I have 3 of yours. Bert, I have your Catch-22.

I have too much stuff.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Juicy irony

And they call it Libertyville?

Off with her head

Sis stayed until today. I put her on the bus to the airport a few hours ago.

As it turned out, pool didn't start until next week. It's not even clear it's going to happen--there aren't many teams interested.

People want to do things tomorrow. Q and N want to have dinner. Then Rob and everyone else want to go out.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Poker without fistfights?

Poker for the first time in 4 months was wholly underwhelming. Nick and I were first out. We played Boggle before going back to a cash game. Rob, George and I left last at about 4 a.m. This was last Wednesday.

Friday we watched basketball at the pub. We even cajoled Bert and Elizabeth into coming. Afterward I came back to my apartment filled with the "worms crowd."

Yesterday we sought out Sheffield's for the basketball. The Dallas game was amazing! With 30 seconds left in the first quarter, the Spurs made an amazing shot to be up by 3. This was the first time they led all game. Good timing, eh? With little over 20 seconds left, Dirk tried a layup. All the Spurs had to do was not foul! He'd get his two points, they'd have possession, and they could run out the clock. And they'd win. But Ginobili fouls Dirk (the 90% free throw shooter, mind you), and the game was tied at the end of the 4th. Thank you Ginobili! Dallas dominated in overtime, and thankfully live to see another day.

My sister is flying in today. Actually she was going to arrive at 9 a.m., but that flight was canceled. Instead, she'll arrive at 3 p.m. She'll be leaving tomorrow.

Ordinarily, today would be pool, but as my sister's in town I'm not going. I'm not even playing this session anyways.

Thursday, the Csima's are having me over for dinner. Should be fun. And I'm leaving this god-forsaken place very soon now. Moving south for summer? I have a lot of crap to do.

Friday, May 19, 2006


I don't think anyone reads this who would find this funny, but I get a kick out of it: Linux posters.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


The Dallas Mavericks are hot right now! There are three series yet undecided in this round. Dallas is soundly thumping San Antonio 3-1. The Detroit vs. Cleveland and Phoenix vs. LA Clippers series are closer at 2-2 and 3-2 respectively. I'm presently at last place in our pool, 19 points down from the lead, but I'm still in it. The key is Dallas. Only I have Dallas winning the whole tournament. But even if things go as close to my bracket as possible, I'll only win by 7 points. It's still anyone's game.

Dallas is essential for me. If they don't win the whole shebang, I am mathematically eliminated. The only series for which I picked a different winner from anyone else (excluding Jayadev) are the Dallas series. Since I'm so far back, these are evidently very important. The tricky part is both Elizabeth and Linda also have Dallas getting all the way to the final. And even if Dallas wins it all, their point totals will be very near mine. (They are currently ahead of me.)

So to analyze my chances, let's assume Dallas will win it all and see how I stack up against Elizabeth and Linda. Presently, Elizabeth is 19 points and Linda is 12 points ahead of me. The Dallas series this round won't make a difference. We all said it'd last 7 games, so we'll all get the same points from it. The Dallas series next round will be interesting. Linda and I said it'd last 4 games, and Elizabeth said it'd last 7 games. So I will gain 4 points relative to Elizabeth if it really only lasts 4 games. (If it takes 6 or 7 games she will gain more over me.) Then there's the final. I'll gain between 17 and 21 points on the both of them.

Then there are the other series. Elizabeth and I both said the current Detroit series would go 5 games, and Linda said 6. If Detroit does win, it'll take either 6 or 7 games. This means Linda will gain another 2 or 4 points relative to me. Then in the next round, I said Detroit would win in 4, Elizabeth said 6, and Linda said 7. So if this is a short series, I have the chance to gain some more points on them. (On the longshot Detroit loses this round to Cleveland, this whole discussion is moot, and none of us get any points. But I have friends rooting for Detroit, so let's hope not! A Dallas vs. Detroit final would be fun.)

Then there's the Phoenix vs. LA Clippers game this round. We all have Phoenix winning it, and if they do it'll take 6 or 7 games and I'll lose on both of them. It'd be preferrable if the Clippers won. Aside from not falling further behind, it might make for a short Dallas series next round. And it's always fun to root for an upset team. (GEORGE MASON!)

I really need Dallas to win the final. Even so, my fate is not guaranteed.

Tomorrow, Liz and Nick are hosting poker. It's the first time since the incident. I hope they have cable so we can watch the games.

Oh and by the way, I probably won't be in Chicago for very long. Cheers.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Undocumented options!

SVN has this wonderful idea where if you want to access a module in a repository you just stick it at the end of the URL, so you get something like Should you ever need to know which part is the repository and which part is the module you are screwed, as each of these parts can themselves have slashes.

Of course, usually you don't care. You know what you want and you know where it is. But if you were trying to import into another version control system (say because you find it easier to use), you might. There's a nice tool called tailor which does this. So you might decide to use it. It works by getting the changesets from the old (say SVN) repository and then applying them in the new repository. But the changesets have paths relative to the repository root. That means that tailor has to strip off the "module" part of the paths, and for that tailor must know which part of the URL is the module part.

It has a very simplistic way of doing this. You have to tell it which part is which. To check you, it will test to make sure the repository root you give it is actually valid. Now, a webserver I encountered last night wasn't properly configured, and as a result tailor thought that test failed. At this point it bails, and tells me I screwed up.

That is, it bails unless you put the option "trust-root = True" in the config file. That option tells tailor to trust that I have given it the correct repository root. Unfortunately this option is documented neither in the command line help nor in the man page.

Aren't undocumented options grand!

Beauty & The Geek 3

It would appear a friend from that place might be in this show. Haha! (Hope they don't make him do a crossword puzzle!)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Good idea

Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.

NBA Playoffs

Rob's running a pool for the NBA playoffs. They started about 3 weeks ago, and last until sometime in June. Part of the fun of March Madness was watching our relative standings in the pool updated almost live. ESPN did it all for us. So when Rob started the pool, he called me up and asked how much work it'd be to make such a website. You see, ESPN doesn't have one for the NBA. I said it'd be a few hours of work, but I didn't commit to doing it.

This past week I've had a little extra time on my hands. The result is here. There are a few things I still want to do:

  • PPR! As you can see from the table, there's a spot for the possible points remaining. The scheme for awarding points makes calculating PPR somewhat more complicated than it might seem at first glance. A correct pick gets 2, 4, 8 or 14 points depending on the round plus 4, 2, 1 or 0 points depending on how closely the series length is predicted plus an upset bonus if applicable. The upset bonus is awarded when there is an upset, i.e. a lower seeded team wins. The upset bonus is the difference of the seeds. This is what makes it tricky! It's entirely possible that someone can maximize his points by losing a series one round, in order to get the upset bonus in the next. One has to take this into account to faithfully calculate PPR.

  • Automatic updates! The whole point of this thing was to make both Rob's life and my life easier (in the long run). I haven't yet written the script that will update the database. This is actually a pretty simple step thanks to AJAX. I remember back in the day when I might have to screenscrape to do this. But now every website has a nice XML feed so AJAX can automatically and asynchronously refresh its webpages.

  • Game progress! When I write that background script, I can get more information than the series tallies the database currently holds. I can follow individual games (scores and the like) and display these on the page. Of course, this means I should also use an AJAX-style refresh, to keep those updates coming. (Knowing the upcoming schedule will also allow for better caching!)

  • Clean code! I did this rather quickly, so it's a little messier than it has to be. It'd be nice if it were a bit more intelligible. The files so far total over 800 lines. Isn't that a kick?

I can now run a pool every year! Hah.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Que sera sera

The Barefoot Contessa was on TV tonight. I came into it late, and couldn't figure out what was happening. Great fun to watch though. Bogie is unique. I leave you with a quote from the movie about the lonely times in life:

... there are no days and nights in it, just days that turn black when the sun goes down.

Friday, May 5, 2006

My Music!

I lost my music when my laptop went belly up. Well not quite, but my music's not as portable as it once was. I have a few CDs. I had ripped them all to my laptop. I didn't feel particularly compelled to back this up. After all, I own the CDs. I still have the music; it's just a pain to get it back onto my laptop again. So as I was sitting here ripping another CD, I became curious about the distribution. I'll share. The number of albums I have (box sets and multi-disc albums only count for one) with only one composer are:

  • 1 Albinoni

  • 3 Bach

  • 1 Beethoven

  • 1 Berlioz

  • 1 Bizet

  • 1 Brahms

  • 2 Corelli

  • 1 Debussy

  • 2 Dvořák

  • 26 Liszt

  • 1 Mozart

  • 1 Orff

  • 1 Rachmaninov

  • 1 Respighi

  • 4 C. Schumann

  • 1 R. Schumann

  • 1 Serebrier

  • 2 Shostakovich

  • 1 Sibelius

  • 8 Tchaikovsky

  • 1 Telemann

I have 5 other albums of classical music, and a few of popular music as well. So it'll be a while before it all comes back "online." This list certainly highlights the strengths and weaknesses of my collection (don't judge me for the Liszt!). If any of you are looking to buy me Christmas presents...

Wednesday, May 3, 2006


I had a pretty nice copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I got it from this little bookstore in Terrell, Texas. For some reason which evades me now, my family and I went to Tyler, Texas (of Toadies song fame). On the way back, we stopped at a strip mall in Terrell. I found this little bookstore. I didn't recognize the name, but the store had 3 or 4 other locations. I have a habit of buying books on trips. I don't like souvenirs, and I don't vacation well, so I suppose it's a compromise. It gives me something to read on the way back, and a way to remember the trip. I bought THND in Terrell. I bought Sister Carrie at the Baylor bookstore. I bought Lucky at an airport.

The point of this is: I can't find THND now! I thought I brought it to Chicago. But I don't see it anywhere.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

I take that back

Sorry, I meant to ask if you could believe there are two blogs devoted to random events that happen on Chicago mass transit. Here's the other one.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Weekend at Bernies

So yesterday I spent some time with part of my old bridge crowd. Four hours of staccato conversation. It was nice to see them again. We suggested future soirees. I wish I were more certain of my future...

Then Rob and I went to go play pool at the usual place. Call it practice for playoffs. You know what happened? We were charged for pool. (The bartender working didn't know us.) It brings up an interesting moral question: if they so regularly give us free pool, can we expect it? (Also, a former manager essentially offered everyone in the league free pool--but he no longer works there. He didn't promise anything though.) I really don't care, but Rob was incensed. I'm certain he's going to embarrass me. I have friends there. Why can't everyone be so laid back as I? :)

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Do you ever see a glimpse of your own future?

I just did. You know the guy who sits on the porch in his little chair for hours at end, and watches all the people walking and driving by, trying to parallel park, walking their dogs... If I make it to age 60, I'm pretty sure that'll be me.

Sunday Funnies

This probably is "too much information," but there's something I really like to do on Sunday mornings. I get up early, hit the grocery store for some snack food, and come back home to watch the Sunday morning political talk shows. I just can't get my day started without Bob Schieffer, Tim Russert and George Stephanopoulos. It's my way of keeping up with politics.

Bob Schieffer had Condie on today. What's her job again? It seems she believes herself to be the administration's (incompetent) press secretary. How's she ever going to have any diplomatic credibility abroad if she has absolutely no credibility locally. Bob tried to pin her down on some old issues, like troop levels in Iraq. Her answer was evasive and contentless (as usual): everyone makes mistakes and it's not the right time to analyze the potential mistakes surrounding the war. What she doesn't seem to understand is that even though every large operation will inevitably make mistakes, it's still alright to revisit the decisions leading to them. Decisions can be made intelligently and in good faith and still be wrong, and then decisions can be made hurriedly and tendentiously by Defense Secretaries on crack. That is, was it the administration's gross negligence and willful ignorance of the facts at hand which directly led to the horrible mess? (And further, if now's not the right time to discuss this, tell us when? We won't wait until a seemingly eternal war is finally abandoned.) Unfortunately, I don't think Condie even understood the question. Bob had to give up and move on.

On George Stephanopoulos's show, the highlight by far was George Will. His endless pessimism summed up this week in politics well. The topic at the roundtable was gas prices. Sure they've gone up, but they've been higher (e.g. in 1981, adjusted for inflation). Higher gas prices do have positive side-effects: they encourage conservation and thus have a positive effect on global warming (which the administration doesn't "believe" in...). The U.S. by far uses the most crude oil at 21 million barrels a day. China's at about 6, and India's at about 1 and a half. Cut domestic consumption. Increase production. (A windfall profits tax will hurt production. Carter did it; it didn't help then.) Encourage hybrid vehicles and E85. Give those idiots who bought SUVs what they deserve... Is this really so much of a problem?

Then Tim Russert had some interesting people, including our own Dick Durbin. He was on the opposite end of every issue from all three of the other guests. He seems to think the profits the oil companies see, and the salaries of the top men is completely out of line. But it's commensurate with what top men in other industries get. Look at what top hedge fund traders get paid. Half a billion dollars is a decent salary. Maybe that's too much, or maybe not. They get paid if they perform well, and they are accountable not just for their decisions but also the vicissitudes that affect their markets. Seems to me that if that CEO types are uniformly paid that highly, people must value what they do, and think that they are worth that. I suppose I'm a capitalist; I believe in a free market.

In other news, we have dropped a notch in the convention market. We were previously second to Las Vegas, but now we also follow Orlando. I mention this because some people think I happen to have a special fondness for Rosemont and the hummel museum...

Friday, April 28, 2006

To the pub...

So I should let you know that my laptop now works. I had talked to Dell technical support at about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, and Thursday morning my laptop hard drive arrived. That's a pleasant surprise. I quickly installed it, then worked on installing my preferred operating system. This took a little bit longer than it should have, but I eventually got everything set.

Tonight, we went to the pub. We went to watch basketball. Rob, Bert, Elizabeth, George, Matt and Christina came. I was being overly "social" though. I was hanging out with some people nearer the pool table and more willing to play pool. The people were trying to hook me up with one of their female friends.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Baby we can make it if we're heart to heart

Tuesday I crossed off most of my to-do list. In the process, I learned a lesson:

Don't call Dell technical support. Ever. I learned this the hard way. I called them, spent a little over half an hour giving personal information and describing the problem to a lady with one of the thickest Indian accents I've ever heard. This included giving my phone number, so she could call back if we got disconnected. Great idea! Poorly implemented: as we were discussing the problem at hand, the connection was dropped. No one called back. So I tried calling again. This time I got a guy, also clearly Indian, but with a much milder accent. He also seemed to know what he was doing. We got to the same part in the conversation before the connection was dropped, again. Naturally, he never called me back either. And I had no ticket number, and nothing had been started to actually resolve my problem. This is precisely why I had put off this call...

So at this point, frustrated, I tried Dell's online technical support. The lady was very helpful. Even though it took an hour, and her responses lagged considerably, it was infinitely better. I should have a part coming in a few days.

With a great feeling of accomplishment, I arrived at the CP for our pool league. It was the last week of regular play. Next week starts the playoffs. We're in the playoffs, but so is everyone else. (Our division only has 6 teams. The first team automatically advances, and the next 4 have these playoffs.) Anyways, we're having trouble with attendance. One of our guys is captain of a softball team. One is being flaky for unknown reasons.

The highlight of the day was the ride home. On the southbound red line, three girls entered at some downtown stop. One said, "Hey, look what James wrote," and pulled out a small note and began to read it aloud:

Dear Lola,

Your absence is like being hit in the ankle with a blunt object.

I grant you that being hit in the ankle with a blunt object must hurt, but when thinking of potentially painful things, is this the first one that pops into your mind? I had trouble not laughing too noticably. (There's a blog which specializes in things overheard on Chicago mass transit. Wouldn't you figure?)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Texas Blues

There's a song I like. I heard it attributed to a Texan blues singer. I think it was Mance Lipscomb, but I'm not sure. I haven't found it among his songs, as far as I can tell online. I heard it covered by some band on Prairie Home Companion, probably in 2003. The leitmotif of the song is "chains." Any help?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Rumours of my Demise

To make a long story short, my laptop died. Actually, it seems the hard drive died. (It was my fault, but I won't get into that.) As a result, my access to jgarrett was hampered until now.

Anyways, I've been having a great few weeks, lately. I'll avoid getting saccharine about it, but I'm beginning to build a better appreciation... (Good luck if you can figure out what I'm talking about! In 2 weeks, I probably won't even know.)

I've been keeping in touch with that prospie who e-mailed me a while back. He decided to come. I'm somewhat curious how he found me. Anyways, because of a lack of access to my primary e-mail, I had to get inventive in figuring out how to respond to his last e-mail (which is on my now dead laptop). I googled, and he has a myspace page. So now do I (so I could message him). That's in the category of things I doubt I'll ever think about again. My brother has a myspace page even...

I should get back to real life now that I've checked this off my to-do list.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Are we a youth hostel now?

About two weeks ago, Q's Ukrainian friends stayed here for a few days. Then this past weekend, N had 3 college buddies and his brother over for the weekend--for his "bachelor party." (I do not think I saw his brother sober ever.) Then last night when I come home, there's some guy sleeping on the couch--one of Q's friends.

Anyone else need a place to stay?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Why PHP is not a real language...

PHP doesn't have named parameters. You know what that means? That's right, you have to specify every parameter to a function, in order and unnamed, even if there are default values. You can leave off parameters at the end, but only at the end.

Earlier today I thought, "Hey, it'd be neat to list the number of posts in each category." It's not exactly rocket science. The categories are listed by some function called list_cats, and it takes a parameter for just such an occassion. It's called optioncount because it controls the option of whether or not to list the post counts for each category. It defaults to FALSE, or in other words "don't show the counts." Hey, I told you it's not rocket science.

So I have just to send the function TRUE in that parameter instead of the default FALSE. Now here comes the whacky part. I now have to specify all the parameters of list_cats up to and including this one--even though I don't want to change any of the others. So the code must read:


There's only one other parameter in there that's not taking the default value. That's the one 'name' which says to sort by category name (it defaults to category ID--why!). So with named parameters, it could look as simple as:

list_cats($sort_column => 'name', $optioncount => TRUE)

Now I must ask you the reader a few questions. Which one is more readable? It's certainly not clear what all the parameters in the first one do. Furthermore, which ones are important? For example, which ones differ from the defaults? Which ones are there because the author intended them to be set, and which are just there because the language is braindead?

While we are at it, which line is more maintainable? If you write this and come back to it five years later, or even two days later, you'll have to scour the documentation to figure out what all the parameters of the first line do. You can make an educated guess (and probably be right!) for the second version. (Maybe PHP developers are envious of Perl developers for being able to create morasses of unmaintainable, illegible code! Just a theory.)

This shortcoming is nothing new. I used to use PHP all over the place. So when I encountered this flaw again, I thought, "Hey, maybe they fixed that in the latest version!" So I googled. Unsurprisingly, I found this guy Adam who thought named parameters would make his life easier. I'm sure there are many such people out there though. He had a nice link though... Apparently the PHP people did think about adding named parameters pretty recently. Laughably, they did not. The link gives three reasons:

  1. There is no real need.

  2. It's not simple enough.

  3. It makes code messier.

Now, certainly in my example, and in Adam's, it makes code simpler and easier to follow. What's more, it leads to maintainable code. You could actually read some lines without having to continually return to the manual or documentation. You can imagine how difficult it must be to actually figure out what's going on in a reasonably-sized PHP script. So really, that only leaves their first one: there is no real need.

I suppose. Other languages respect developer time. They try to help one make simple, legible, maintainable code. Ruby and Python stand out. Even Perl has named parameters. So in the sense that one can just use a decent language, I agree.

(If this seems like a bit of a rant, I suppose it is. I just see no reason to purposely thwart developers--even if they do use PHP. Given the option, the PHP language gods could add named parameters. It'd lead to better code, and save time for everyone. But they choose not to... WHY?)

The mice are back...

And I can't get to sleep. I'm going to do laundry and hope I don't wake up Q.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sing on

I got a little tired writing about all the results, so I'll give up on that. What's a little surprising is that I'm still second in our little pool. And in most cases, my losses weren't huge ones. Today I chose A&M to win, mainly because of the Texas connection. And as with every team I chose, they were winning with about 2 seconds left. And they lost! Oh well.

Rob and I are actually in two pools together. There's the small one he started with U of C math people. Then there's the one at the place we play pool. Supposedly this one's pretty big, with people from many bars and such playing in it. Unfortunately, we can't tell how that's going...

In the midst of all this fun, Niles has had friends and his brother over for his "bachelor party." A bunch of annoying drunk people... There is a bright side: Mitya is out of town and everyone else will sleep soundly. Thus, I can leave my tunes playing while I drift off to sleep:

Operator won’t you put me on through
I gotta send my love down to baton rouge
Hurry up won’t you put her on the line
I gotta talk to the girl just one more time.

OK, so it's not "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose," but who are you to judge? I'm from Texas, damnit.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Unlucky me

So the rest of the games didn't help me so much. UCLA won, but everyone and their mothers called that. Fortunately, GW won in overtime by 3 points. I had them over NC Wilmington. LSU won over Iona. They were down at the half, but they continually expanded their lead in the second half. Likewise, Gonzaga was down at the half, but came back to win it. Unsurprisingly, Illinois easily beat Air Force and Duke killed Southern. I got all these.

Now we get into the fun part. Texas A&M beat Syracuse. I'm not sure if I wanted them to win because they are from Texas or because they play decent basketball. Probably the former... It wasn't too close a game though, and it worked out. I said there would be two other upsets though. I said San Diego St. and Utah State would win. They both lost. This wasn't too surprising. Utah had no chance of winning either. They were always down by around 10 points in a relatively low scoring game. However, San Diego was playing well. They were leading by a point with only seconds left. Again, a late score did me in.

Only 10 of 16 games did I get correct. I'm ranked at about 2 millionth of those on ESPN. That is, I'm at about the 27th percentile. What's funny is that EC called 14 out of 16, and she's at about the 99th percentile! Guess how she filled out her bracket...

Go ahead, guess!

That's right. She flipped a coin!

March Madness

I'm in two small pools regarding the tournament. It makes the whole thing so exciting.

The matchups so far have been not bad. Wichita St. beat Seton Hall in a blowout. Florida beat Southern Alabama in an unsurprising game. I got these right. Oklahoma lost in an upset to Wisc. Milwaukee. I got this wrong, but apparently so did the experts. :)

BC won over Pacific in double overtime. This was such an exciting game. I called this, but I must say it was much too close for my comfort. It was tied 65-65 at the end of regulation. With two three pointers in overtime, Pacific brought it to 71-65. Then BC brought it to 71-69, and Pacific made another three for 74-69. BC made a three to get it to 74-72. Then, with seconds left BC's Smith made the tying free throws. (He apparently is not so good with the free throws.) The second overtime was relatively anticlimactic, but BC managed to pull it out.

What was perhaps the most interesting was the Tennessee and Winthrop matchup. Believe it or not, I said Winthrop would win this. I might be the only person too. And it was a close game, the whole way. It was tied 61-61 in the final minutes. Then with 3 seconds left, Tennessee had possession, put it up, and damn it was good. Winthrop had 0.4 seconds left on the clock to get all the way down court and score. Obviously, this did not happen, but they tried valiantly. Final score was 63-61. I didn't call this game right, but I was close. :)

In another uninteresting upset, Montana beat Nevada. More interesting though was the Alabama win over Marquette. It was a 1 point game with 20 seconds to go, but Alabama pulled out a 5 point game. I got these both wrong. :(

So far, I've got 3 out of 7. I'm not doing so hot. I guess that's what happens when you don't regularly follow basketball... Fortunately I had none of these losing teams winning more than one game.

Everyone else having fun with the basketball? :)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hard links!

I found the Unix Hater's Handbook for the umpteenth time. When I was in high school, I got it out from the public library. It's a long rant, but it's cute. It has many stories of ancient relics, such as LispM, and early Unix frustration... (One can also peruse some archives of the Unix Haters' mailing list.)

In the last chapter, they bring up one of my favorite things: hard links. Most of you probably don't care, but that hasn't stopped me yet. Hard links are absolutely wonderful creations. Most Unix-like filesystems behave very similarly. Information on a file (such as its owner and permissions and where it is located on disk) are stored in a central place. This allows for a little legerdemain. The filename is not part of this information. Instead, the filesystem views directories as lists of names and associated files (i.e. pointers to these blocks of information).

This means the name, and location in the directory hierarchy are not inherent properties of a file. It is possible that a file on disk is "hooked into" the directory hierarchy at no places (this shouldn't happen) or at more than one place. This latter condition is known as a hard link. This means one has the exact same file at two (or more) different locations in the filesystem, possibly in two different directories, possibly with different names. This is not just an exact copy--it's the exact same file, and it's only taking up space for one.

Why is this useful you ask? That's a very good question. Hard links do seem arcane at first glance. One could use them to get a certain amount of safety. Say you have an important file. Hard link it to a safe place. It can still get screwed by malicious actors--it's the same file--but if your usual editor breaks hard links (i.e. when it edits a file, it takes a hard linked file, and replaces it with a copy) you will be safe from accidentally messing it up. You have a known good copy in the "safe place."

An even better use is to create branches cheaply. When I program something (I've been known to do this ;)), and I want to work on some feature or another, I can hardlink the entire directory structure over. This is quicker than copying, and it uses much less disk space. Then my editor can break the links for any files I edit. And I now have two directory structures: one with the unmodified source and one with the modified source. And they get to share the disk space for all the unedited files! Yes, disk is cheap, but my laptop hard disk isn't that big. (There are even certain revision control systems that can work within this setting. Even cooler!)

To create a hard link, just run ln filename linkname. They must be on the same filesystem. After this you'll now have a file called linkname which is identical in every respect to filename. If you want to do this on a whole directory structure, you can run cp -al directory/ newdirectory/. Now you'll have a new directory structure newdirectory/ with exactly the same files as directory/.

Then, you may want to teach your editor to break hard links. For vim you can do this by putting set backupcopy=auto,breakhardlink in your .vimrc file.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Delicious Exercise

Last weekend, I wanted a cheesecake--a strawberry cheesecake. I had a craving. I've never made one before, but it seemed easy enough. Flora's Recipe Hideout has tons of cheesecake recipes so I looked through to find a good one. I picked what seemed to be the average cheesecake recipe and modified it a bit. Scrawled list in hand, I got my ingredients from the store. When I got home, Q was baking. I chose to rest on my laurels for a bit...

By the time Wednesday rolled around, I was jonesing. I wanted the cheesecake. That morning, I shared my plans with Nemili and she was gung-ho. So we immediately began our cheesecake odyssey.

I had bought a ready-made graham cracker crust from the store. We prepared the crust following the directions. Then we (that is, Nemili) mixed all the ingredients for the filling together. I wanted a strawberry flavor in the filling, so we put a few good dollops of jam in there. Then we put the filling in the crust and slid it into the oven.

A few notes on the result:

  • The recipe made a little bit too much filling for our pie crust.

  • The outer edges of the cheesecake rose in the oven. They settled while cooling, but there was an unsightly crack on the top of the cake.

  • The center cooked much more slowly than the rest. After 40 minutes, we turned up the heat to 350°F for 8 more minutes. Only then did the center appear somewhat set.

  • When we removed the cheesecake from the oven, the center still wasn't as firm as I would have expected. The cake firms a great deal while cooling.

  • The top of the cake gathered a rich golden color along the outer edges, but the strawberry filling gave the innards a pinkish hue. The two did not mix well.

  • The filling's consistency didn't seem quite right. I'm not sure what I mean by this...

All in all, it seems like the baking parameters could be usefully tweaked. (Maybe I should try baking it for longer at a slightly lower temperature?) With that in mind, here's the recipe:

  • 1 store-bought pie crust

  • 6 strawberries

  • 1 egg white

  • 4 eggs

  • 1t vanilla

  • 1c sugar

  • 1c heavy cream

  • 2T flour

  • 6T strawberry jam

  • 16oz cream cheese

Prepare pie crust with an egg white wash and a quick toast in the oven for a nice golden color. Mix the flour, sugar, and heavy cream. Soften the cream cheese and mix it in thoroughly. Beat the eggs separately and add them to the mixture. Also add the vanilla and about 4T of the jam to the mixture. Mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the shell. Bake at 325°F for 40 minutes or until center firms up. Cool at room temperature for an hour and then in the refrigerator for 6 hours. Decorate with remaining jam and halved strawberries.

Don't get me wrong. The complaints are mainly for self-improvement. It was a great cheesecake. A wonderful cheesecake. It was so good and rich... You have no idea. It was that good!

Bert and Elizabeth had me to dinner at their place on Wednesday. (We've done this before, as you know.) I took half the cheesecake over there. It was perfect timing. Bert didn't partake of course, but Elizabeth had some.

Everyone loved the cheesecake. Elizabeth enjoyed the cake. Q and Karolina seemed to enjoy it. Q said he'll have to buy the ingredients for me to make it again, and watch so he can do it. M thought it was store-bought it was so good...


Monday, March 6, 2006

Wise not to seek a secret and honest not to reveal one

I make an awesome pork chop. Paprika is the secret. I just season the pork with salt and paprika and then fry it in olive oil. It's quick, easy and cheap. From here to eternity, I imagine I'll always have tons of pork in the freezer. I just buy the really cheap cuts, less than $2 a pound. Then it's there when I need it. No thought. No effort.

My flatmates know my secret now. I've shared some pork chops with Q and N. They now each know exactly one use for paprika. Yesterday, Q tried to emulate my pork chops. He bought his own paprika from the store. (I don't know why he can't use mine. We keep all our spices together in a shared cabinet.) With that, he fried some boneless loin cuts and made a side of rice. (As it turns out, he overcooked the pork a bit. I think it's tempting to do that. It tasted alright though.) He really went gung ho!

Saturday, March 4, 2006


Suppose one asks what fraction of matrices over a fixed finite field are invertible. For nxn matrices, one can calculate this easily. In order to make sense of this, one might be tempted to take the limit with n. As it happens, the limit converges. Not only that, it converges to a very nice function (of the size of the field). It's a theta function. It shows up all over the place in number theory. It's modular. Its Mellin transform is closely related to the Riemann zeta function.

Now why does this function show up here?

Thursday, March 2, 2006


I suppose I never finished the story. CC and the workmen came over at around 10 a.m. on Monday. It wasn't quite as simple as I had hoped. CC wanted to put a shutoff valve in our apartment. So she called the plumber, and we waited a few hours for him to show. CC waited in her car for a bit, and then we watched some early Seinfeld episodes together. Finally, the plumber arrived, and they spent some time trying to figure out how to put a shutoff valve in our apartment. The plumber gave CC an estimate (which was larger than she thought), and she decided not to do it for a while. Then the workmen fixed the drywall, and moved the washer/dryer back to its place.

Overall, it only took about 5 hours. Relatively quick...

A Modest Proposal

A piece talking about high school algebra was recently published by the Washington Post. It's a decent satire I think. And it's gotten a rise out of people who take it seriously. The Scientific American blog responds with facts and studies for example. I think someone should write an equally humorous piece about the uselessness of English writing classes, but alas I'm not in the mood.

Come on! A writer who doesn't even know the meaning of the word "reasoning"? Even with access to computers and dictionaries? The example of algebra's uselessness being a simple problem of exactly the sort any manager might need. An argument that is sui generis and utterly devoid of reasoning skills? At the same time he suggests writing is the ultimate form of reasoning?

It has to be a satire!


Induction just doesn't work.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006


Look at what I found! And look at who's making the offer!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

War Games

On TV tonight was the classic 1983 movie starring Matthew Broderick. It's the one with the negative affirmation: sometimes it's best to give up. My Russian flatmate had never seen it before.

Guess what?

I suppose it's obvious a whole uneventful week would not pass. CC and the workmen are supposed to come tomorrow morning. They will put insulation along the exterior wall, fix the drywall, and hopefully move the washer/dryer back to its cubby.

But wait! Another problem arises. There is a slow, steady drip in the heater's closet. Right now, there's a bucket below it, and much less drywall above it than once was. CI is attempting to reach our upstairs neighbor. Hopefully this will also be fixed tomorrow?!

Ol' Brauer

I ran across "The flat locus of Brauer-Severi fibrations of smooth orders" today. It reminded me of a problem I once found very interesting:

Given a quasi-compact separated scheme X, is Br(X) = H2(X,Gm)tors? There are some examples of non-separated (but even semi-separated) schemes for which this is not true.

Friday, February 24, 2006


What better honor exists for a French general than to lend his name to a kid's game? I went to the contest at Sheffield's yesterday. It was best 2 out of 3, and I was out in the first round with my first two throws: paper and rock. Aside from the contest, there was a Sierra Nevada tasting. The ladies nearby sampled all of the options, while trying to fend off a persistent suitor.

The place is rather nice. I watched Olympic skating on their 106" screen. They have a pool table, and supposedly it is free until 9 p.m. I didn't try it though. They have a large, reasonably priced selection of beers. I think Rob would've found himself right at home. I had a great time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

CTA waste

So on the way home last night, I happened upon an unworking bus. I wasn't too talkative, but I tried to commiserate with the bus driver. She couldn't get the bus in gear. The CTA spent 34 million dollars to equip their buses with electronic data terminals. One can report trouble and delays and whatever from the data terminals. That's in theory anyways. It seems however that no one's listening on the other end. She said that no one has responded to one of her reports in the past six months. And the CTA refuses to pay for cell phone bills (and don't even want to see cell phones), so she indignantly uses their terminals.

That was her third bus yesterday. They all had different problems. Perhaps this is unavoidable with an aging, ailing bus fleet, and an underfunded (or so we are led to believe) CTA. But can't they reliably answer trouble reports?

Too late in the day to kill, or too early in the evening to die?

Having spent 8 or 9 hours on Monday dealing with that catastrophe, much of it in the company of CC, I didn't much feel like doing anything yesterday. Today, I still would rather not, but I have some Freudian issues with a washer/dryer in the middle of the kitchen. The workmen are downstairs, but CC said she wanted to be here when they fixed the drywall. I left a message. She hasn't called back.


The lint remover post was meant to be a private reminder. Have no fear. I found it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Lint remover

I had a lint remover. It was this little rolling wheel with tape on it. You could peel off the outside tape to reveal more tape. Very useful. I can't keep lint off anything in this house. But where'd it go???

Then died the glory from the west

I got an email from a prospective the other day. I answered it in good faith. I did mention that I may not be the ideal one to ask, but I didn't get into details. I'm not on the list anymore. Curious.

Disaster hits home

So remember the inability to get to the circuit breakers? Our dining room circuit was blown for a few days (this isn't any sort of emergency), but we were to get the key to the basement yesterday. All would've been well. The universe doesn't work like that.

Around 2 p.m., a pipe behind our washing machine bursts and water begins gushing out. The workmen in the basement notice the water cascading down their new drywall, and frantically come knocking on our back door. We try to shut off the water to the stacked washer/dryer, but to no avail. So the workmen, communicating via cell phone, try many of the numerous water shutoff valves in the basement. After a few minutes, success! With one minor hitch: water is shut off to the entire building.

I call two of our landladies, CI and CC. CC is in a meeting, so won't make it over for an hour. CI calls a plumber. Meanwhile our upstairs neighbors notice they have no water, and come down rather upset about it. They are really not happy. :)

So CC shows up at about 4 p.m., and CI calls and says the plumber is on his way. Not quite that easy: he's travelling from Harvey. That's a south suburb, around 150th street or so I'm told. So he'll be here in a little while. We wait for several hours, and we eventually find out there was an emergency of sorts at the plumber's other job site, so he was delayed. CC gets bored, so she goes to the store. When she gets back, CC and I watch the show House at its special time at 7p.m. in its entirety.

At around 8p.m., the plumber shows up. They first go downstairs to see if there is any way to isolate the leak and turn on water to the rest of the building (who are pretty furious now). There is not. The plumber then says we have to move the washer/dryer and he'll come back when we've done that. I start unhooking the washer/dryer from the wall when Q shows up to help. That was no small feat either; I almost lose the tip of an index finger... We succeed with that, but cannot move the washer/dryer.

CC calls the janitor from a nearby building she knows to help. He first sees if he can isolate the leak, but to no avail. Then he moves the washer/dryer out. Now we wait for the plumber to return! Around 10p.m. or so, the plumber magically reappears. He works quickly, removes the busted section of pipe, and turns on water to the whole building. Hoorah!

Of course, our washer/dryer is still in the middle of the kitchen, not hooked up, and there is a hole in the drywall behind where it should sit. The next goal is to have the hole fixed (with some insulation inside), and return our washer/dryer to its rightful place.


Strawberry Häagen-Dazs

Mmmmmm, good.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Oh, and did I mention our phone wiring is messed up? I think the contractors downstairs did it. Many times we'll get very short rings. The answering machine won't pick up. Grr!

Good intentions...

This place is so frustrating. When that interloper made his appearance, the landladies came over very quickly, and brought the contractors. They sealed up the basement, and the next day the contractors fixed the hole in the wall. A few days after, the landladies changed the padlocks on the side and back gates. They made sure to give us keys (but we almost never use these gates).

At some point between then and now, they replaced the door (and locks) to the basement. All nice and good, except we don't have access. Our circuit breakers are in the basement. Since we run space heaters constantly (because it's so drafty and cold), this presents a serious problem. Our first circuit has already paid his fare to Charon. (OK, that's over the top.) Let's see how long it takes, and how many circuits die before we get keys to the basement.

The great affair is to move

I want to go bike riding down by the lake, but my computer keeps reminding me that it's right around 0 degrees, with a wind chill of 15 or 20 below. Seems like I'd regret the idea pretty quickly. I think I'll have to wait a few days.

Friday, February 17, 2006


I know it's sacrilege to talk about anything but chocolate. However, I've been into the strawberry cheesecake ice cream lately. I also discovered the cherry vanilla. Yummy.

The vanilla fudge is not so good.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Any other me's?

87 percent of Americans can be identified by knowing only their date of birth, gender and 5 digit ZIP code. Any other men in the 60615 area born on August 14, 1980?

(The statistic comes from research of Latanya Sweeney.)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Music that gentlier on the spirit lies, than tired eyelids upon tired eyes

A friend is going to be playing at the Double Door on Thursday. You should come. :)

Man, being reasonable, must get drunk

My flatmate arrived home at 1 a.m., a little bit intoxicated. Scratch that, very intoxicated. Speaking of such, did you know that the National Women's Christian Temperance Union headquarters is located in Evanston? I just learned this.

(Oh and the post title is from Lord Byron. In the interest of fairness, let's also give Seneca his say. He said, "Nihil aliud est ebrietas quam voluntaria insania." Translated, that reads, "Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness.")

Unwashed masses

Hmm, I still find "hoi polloi" weird to read in English. I think it was that semester on classical Greek. In Greek, it's ὀι πολλοι. Seeing the "h" seems off.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Meet the Honorable Pat Roberts

On "Meet the Press" today were the former ranking members of the Senate and House Intelligence Comittees. (Daschle was defeated in 2004, so he's currently at Georgetown.) I'm sure you all know who I'm talking about: Roberts, Daschle, Harman and Hoekstra. The topic for the day was the NSA domestic surveillance program, and the banter ran down party lines. Everyone agrees that catching terrorists is good; only Democrats think you need to follow the law in doing so.

The administration has given at least 4 reasons for its authority: first, that the President has inherent constitutional authority, second that Presidents have done this before, third that the Act signed on September 15, 2001 gives him this power, and fourth that FISA is outdated, onerous and doesn't apply.

The first excuse is the one I understand least, but it seems to stem from his position as Commander in Chief and the oath he swears to defend the constitution. This has been interpreted as giving the President extralegal powers especially in a time of crisis. It's disingenuous not to remember this in context. The "domestic spying" program was begun very shortly after 9/11. No one knew what happened, or what else was going to happen. There was a palpable fear of another attack and an unmistakable grief. All the Congressmen (forgive the gendered pronoun) on the show unremarkably agreed that the surveillance program was necessary. And it has been argued that even in its current incarnation of murky legality, it was ok for a little while. When it was begun, it was an emergency. A very sad emergency. So the better question is why it continued. If the extralegal powers are intended for critical situations, and there is no imminent threat...

Regarding the second excuse, the example cited by Roberts was Roosevelt. Unfortunately this isn't as supportive of the Presidential power claim as Harman aptly pointed out the Truman-era Supreme Court decision that clearly stated Presidential power is "at its lowest ebb" if Congress has already acted. And here Congress has acted in the form of FISA.

The third excuse is very interesting. The Act gave the President power to track down those responsible in other nations. The administration specifically requested adding a phrase giving them power in the U.S. and Congress did not agree.

The fourth excuse is also questionable. Harman pointed out that the PATRIOT act updated the FISA in 8 different ways. It has been modernized, it is not onerous, and even if it were, it can easily be further modified. Daschle kept returning to the fact that this could've been done lawfully. If FISA was burdensome, Congress would have dutifully changed it.

What's so wrong about going to a court? The FISA court rubberstamps warrants. (There were a total of about 8 denied of thousands.) Russert played campaign footage of Bush from 2004 where he said that in wiretaps, he was seeking court approval. He flatly lied.

All this being said however, I feel my ideology clashing with reality. I feel like a guy I saw on Nightline or Dateline or some other indistinguishable nightly news program recently. He had lost his house, and he needed government money to rebuild. He was a doctor, obviously educated, and ideologically Republican. He had voted for Bush, and was a fiscal conservative favoring small government. He noted how helpless he was, and that despite his ideology, he needed the government and the government should act. The irony seemed to be missed by him, that there are others who struggle everyday with poverty and illness. A little bit selfish to think the government should help you when you build your house below sea level in Hurricane alley, but they shouldn't help someone who (maybe through their actions, but maybe not) has no access to health insurance or food. (Watch me turn into a socialist here...)

In my case, I'm ideologically something other than a Republican, but Roberts was the only one who could speak with some emotion. That gutteral appeal does contrast with my desire for social programs and civil liberties, but the irony is not lost on me. The Democratic party is utterly lost. We will not have a Democratic president in 2008. Of that I am certain.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Pure irony

Congress wants to hold hearings on Internet companies in China and their compliance with Chinese government censorship.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the Justice Department is trying (with subpoena) to get various information from search engine companies to reprosecute their pornography law. Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft complied. Google decided to protect the privacy of its users by fighting the subpoena.

If you want a potentially onerous law, why can't you do the research yourself?

Thursday, February 9, 2006

No one reads this

I need to find a replacement for the pool team. Anyone up to it? :)

Thursday, February 2, 2006

The ties that bind

My parents are unhappy.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Home Alone

It's rather surprising it took this long. In our building, the basement has been under renovation for the full two years we've lived here. The landladies want to turn it into an apartment like the other floors, and then to sell the building as a whole. (The potential buyer we met would continue to rent out the apartments.)

The basement though has many windows, not all with functional locks, not very secure at all. And there's a stairway coming up to our apartment. You see where this is going... The top opening of the stairway has been shut over with drywall.

So today at about 9:40 p.m., I am watching Grey's Anatomy. I was looking forward to the show; I like it. (Nem says nurses take issue with it...) Then I hear some rather large pounding noises, and what sounds like tape ripping. I think NJ is doing something stupid, so I get up to yell at him. As I walk into the hall, by the stairway, I see two unknown arms peering out of the drywall. The arms are uncovered of a medium complexion. As I approach, they recede back into the dark stairwell. It would seem a young man climbed through an open window in the basement, climbed the stairs, and punched through our drywall. One must assume an opportunistic burglary would've ensued had the TV not been quite so loud. :)

I get NJ out in the hall, and he calls the UC police. They say to also call the CPD, so he does. Then he calls the landladies. The UC police show up first, and fast. There are three of them, one in plain clothes. One officer said he was at 55th and Cottage Grove, so it only took 5 minutes or so. The plain-clothed detective heard the report of "arms coming through the wall" and decided he just had to see this. All are very cheery. They go down to the basement and look around, with flashlights and guns drawn. (I must say it's a little bit scary to be 3 feet behind a guy holding a gun at his side, poised for whatever. I was going to tell them where the stairway is, but I decide to go back upstairs.) They are very helpful, and tell us we should hound the landlords, and tell us how to shore up the hole for the short term. They seem to believe that the intruder is a crack addict. After we all share some banter and amazement, all but one leaves. He fills out the report, with my help. He tells us a summary of the report will be available on Wednesday. He again is very nice and cheery. In the middle of this process, two of the landladies come, and they bring the contractors who are rehabilitating the basement. They nail windows shut, and generally secure the basement. This seems to be a weird occurrence to everyone. The officer tells us this may be the weirdest attempted burglary he's seen.

The UC officer tells us upon leaving that we should call CPD again. Apparently both departments really do need reports. An hour or so later, the CPD officer shows up. He is unaided, and seems green. He writes his report rather laconically, but warms up after a bit. He finishes after some time, and tells us that an evidence technician may come take photographs of the hole. The CPD report will be available in about 6 weeks.

It seems the evidence technician will not come. The contractors will fix the hole in the drywall tomorrow. Everyone's acting a bit crazy though. I would've been the one to greet the fellow had he not second-guessed his brilliant idea. It seems reasonable enough. But I guess I've had enough things stolen in my lifetime. I also used to have dreams where I walked around late at night, and saw a burglar out on the roof. (I lived on the second floor over the garage, and I could see the roof over most of the first floor out the window.) Quite scary dreams actually... But really now.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

post Dinner

That dinner was actually pretty fun. I get to play a certain rôle for the second time this August.

I had a friend whose birthday was August 26... I haven't talked to her in a few years now. I had this really stupid way to remember her birthday. Shortly after she mentioned it once, I was opening a new checking account. The bank officer asked me to choose my PIN for my check card. So I used her birthday for half of it. You aren't supposed to use birthdays or addresses or such for PINs, but there's no way anyone would've figured it out. To do so, they'd have to make a list of all my close friends and try all their birthdays... Easy to remember (the PIN and the birthday!) and secure. Besides, I used another scheme for the other half of the PIN.

I still have the account, but the PIN has long since been changed.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I'm invited to dinner. Just me. It all seems a little artificial.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Whereabouts unknown

I'm in the usual place. Some people freak out a little bit too easily. (And Rob, I was no more than a foot away from you at 7 p.m. I don't think you noticed.)

Sunday, January 8, 2006


I've tried this Google sitemaps thing now for a few months. At the very least, it hasn't hurt. I do wish more statistics were available.

One thing I can't figure out: why does Googlebot see my site as US-ASCII?

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Christmas post mortem

Where are the snowdens of yesteryear? Or for that matter, the good movies? The ones with ensemble casts, or at least developed supporting characters; the ones that brashly surpass the 170 minute running time, and that despite following so many others are based on some World War II story; the ones where almost all of the lead characters die? I just watched The Great Escape.

My sister's car was recovered Thursday after a high speed chase. they used it to steal from construction sites, dented in the top of the car with heavy stuff, probably totalled

Friday morning marked my return. I absolutely love flying in the morning. My flight departed at 7 a.m., so I was up two hours earlier. Unsurprisingly, the plane was only about half full. I had an empty seat beside me. The cabin lights were off the entire flight. Everyone was silent but for one oblivious infant in the back. It felt surreal.

It was 30 or so when I got here. Rather than 70 or so in Texas.

La la la

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Public TV

I just saw Priya on a WTTW 11 commercial.