October 2003

I think the only reason I would stay in research is if I could find connections between things. I mean, that’s why I like to learn things all the time. Because if I can say “oh, X is like Y”, it’s like I’m forging a new pathway in my brain between X and Y, and to me, that’s a fundamental contribution to human understanding, on par with learning all there is to know about X. I wrote my grad school applications on this, basically, but now I find it even more true, especially after reading 2/3 of Aji and McEliece’s paper on the Generalized Distributive Law. They basically take 10 different algorithms from information theory, artificial intelligence, etc, and show that they are all doing the same thing. It’s pretty amazing, honestly.

That’s not to say that reinventing the wheel is a bad thing — each wheel gives new insight into the means of locomotion. But showing that all wheels are somehow equivalent or the same to me says something really profound. It’s probably why I like theater so much — if you can tell a story to which people can relate, it’s the same as saying “this story is universal in some sense.” I don’t think it’s the same as Great Truths. Maybe these are Little Truths instead.
Harold Clurman might call it a spine for my life. Such as it is at present.

Went to a talk by Joe Sacco, a journalist who works in comic book form. It was pretty interesting, especially the way he works and his take on how comics fit in with the kind of journalism he does, telling people’s stories from places like Palestine and Bosnia. It’s a way of reporting that is more indirect than text and less detailed than photography. The artist gets to choose more closely what you focus on while still giving you a multiplicity of interpretations in a single image.

My new digeridoo technique is eminently stoppable at the moment. I just can’t seem to get a consistent sound out of the thing. But I will keep trying, perhaps when my roommates aren’t around so that I don’t drive them insane.

Sometimes you have a conversation with someone which rapidly degenerates, and it becomes time to end, lest it get ugly. At that time, one invariably makes a graceless exit, hurried and enraged. I cannot put into words how annoyed I was. It’s a pity you can’t have your cake (ending the conversation) and eat it too (end on the moral high ground). They will always call you a quitter.

The “martingale” gambling system works as follows: start betting with $1. if you lose, double your bet on the next game. That way, when you win, you recoup all of your losses plus one dollar more. Seems like a foolproof way of beating the house, as long your chance of winning is nonzero, right?

Think again.

Actually, thinking isn’t enough. You have to take a graduate course in theoretical probability, it seems.

Random events in the last month: I saw Much Ado About Nothing at CalShakes, I went to the Radiohead concert with Manu Seth, who had 5th row tix, went home for my brother’s wedding, found an advisor and an office, sang in a concert where I dressed up goth, saw the Gotan Project, and won a raffle that gets me a free pint a day at the campus pub until Summer 2004.

I went here with Jordan, Kunal, Jhala, and Kevin, so we were seated at a cozy booth in the back. We went a bit nuts with the food — three appetizers and then entrees. And someone ordered dessert. Pigs, all of them.

I had a mojito, which was quite strong, but nothing to write home about. I usually like them with brown sugar and in a tall glass, but these were in tumblers, more gin and tonic style. Jordan ordered some apple martini thing which was no good, and then a pomegranite juice cosmo, which was quite tasty. Then again, I am a sucker for pomegranite juice.

The appetizers were mussels and fries, which were just that, and none too excititing, a sort of ceviche/seafood salsa on wontons, which was delightful, and a small cheese fondue with bread and apples. I can’t quite remember the kind of bread. For an entree I was feeling a little meated-out, having eaten lunch at In-N-Out, so I ordered the ravioli in truffle oil and cream sauce, which was quite tasty if a little light. The bulk of the entrees were “American food,” which I define as a hunk of meat with some vegetables on the side.

The only problem I had with the restaurant was the pricing — everything was slightly more than it should have been, I felt. Of course, I’m not a huge fan of traditional “American food” of the meat-and-potatoes variety, so maybe that’s why I was a bit put off. This would be a good place to take your visiting relatives from Texas or the midwest. It’ll expand their horizons somewhat, but not too far.

by Frank Herbert. This book was so much worse than Dune that it kind of hurt. I mean, it had some important bits in it, and I found the mentat-assassin timebomb of Duncan Idaho a pretty intriguing philosophical problem, but not enough in itself to recommend the book. Usually I’m a sucker for series, but this time I’m not going to go on to Children of Dune.


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