October 2004

After a riotous halloween party last night (100+ people over the night, lasting until 3:30) and scrubbing the house clean so that my feet no longer stick to the floor, I am really settling down to do my take-home midterm that’s due on Tuesday. We may only use our “own notes from the class, Gallager’s book, and Cover/Thomas.” It seems reasonable on the face of it, but this is a research seminar class where most of the students are doing research in the topics covered by the exam. If one were to literally follow the instructions, almost no research could be done while the exam was out, which seems pretty silly.

Then again, one of the professors for this class was also responsible for the take-home but fixed-time (3 hours) midterm my first semester here. It’s a clever way of circumventing university exam rules, but I really question its usefulness as a method for evaluating knowledge.

Perhaps it’s too verbose, but at least it’s one thing out of my hair until the reviewers rip it to shreds.

From J. Wolfowitz (father of Paul Wolfowitz), in Coding Theorems of Information Theory:

The use of combinatorial arguments is frequent in probability theory. We shall reverse this usual procedure and use formally probabilistic arguments to obtain combinatorial results. However, the probabilistic arguments to be employed are very simple and of no depth, and could easily be replaced by suitable combinatorial arguments. Their chief role is therefore one of convenience, to enable us to proceed with speed and dispatch.

And now to vanquish this paper I’m writing with “speed and dispatch.”

My friend Sin is getting shown up by his own character in The Sims. Apparently the computer can learn a lot about you:

Normally, you have to get a Sim to flirt with another one for any sort of hanky-panky to take place, but mine? Well, he just moved straight in for the kill, no bones about it. I didn’t tell him to do ANYTHING…he just decided to go for the Mediterranean sausage all on his own.


Poor, poor guy. The screenshots are pretty hot though.

Propellorheads and Roni Size remain, after all these years, the best tooling music I have in my posession. Especially for MATLAB coding.

Two albums I really need to buy soon. Tom Waits’ Real Gone and Björk’s Medulla. I’m listening to the latter now, courtesy of Rhapsody ($2 a month for Berkeley students!), and it’s pretty awesome. She overdubs herself over voices — even the percussive effects are done by voices. Tom Waits does the same thing with his album. He recorded himself beatboxing (!) and lays the music over that. From a review:

You don’t own a run-down turntable with a rusted stylus? No worry, Real Gone has been recorded and mixed to make you believe that you do. Percussion clanks and scrapes like a ruckus in a submarine’s bowels, guitars and turntables (yes, turntables) squeal like midnight transmissions from pirate radio, chairs squeak and banjos hypothesize.

I’m very excited.

On a side note, I constantly type LaTeX commands to get special characters in HTML, and it never works. I need one of those “auto spellchecker” things.

[Via Ranjit] Ouch.

Charles Mingus was a true genius. He managed to take the blues and make it sound like something I’ve never heard before but still fits like a pair of old broken-in jeans. Jeans that get you riled up, jeans that make you want to go punch Governor Faubus in the face. You want to sing praises to the skies, you want to dance, you want to run around screaming at the top of your lungs on a beautiful Indian summer day in the hopes that it will prove some goddamn inequalities about random walks.

I just can’t help becoming more impressed as I read more about Wangari Maathai, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Awesome thing: Jack Silverstein posted a reference to a paper of his in response to an earlier posting — I had looked at other papers of his but not the one he cited. I probably didn’t find it due to incompetence on my part, but maybe this blogging thing is sometimes useful.

Not-so-awesome thing: My department’s reliance on IT infrastructure that always seems to be breaking/undergoing upgrades. I know I was spoiled by MIT, but is it too much to ask to have some sort of redundant backup of the mailserver so that service doesn’t go down for hours at a time? Maybe it’s time to get Gmail…

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