scientology is bad

Scientology annoys the hell out of me, as do all cults, but it was pretty disheartening to hear that Beck is also a Scientologist. My anger stems from personal anecdotal evidence from an ex-church member who is my friend’s stepdad. Having just watched a play about the People’s Temple, I wonder if such a play could be made about those Dianetics nutcases. They’re too smart to have a terrible tragedy like Jonestown, but enough stories put together, and it could be an interesting night of theater.

Koetter-Vardy algorithm in MATLAB redux

Pursuant to my previous post, some raw (and possibly now not as functional) code for the Koetter-Vardy and Guruswami-Sudan algorithms is now posted off of my work page. It’s horrendously slow, but I’m sure others can make it better.

Update: I’ve moved and the code is gone, archived elsewhere. I don’t plan to post it again — it’s just a class project, so people should try to do it on their own for educational purposes.

mr. gould, I salute you

Rediscovering lost loves and finding them fresh and new is always a wonderful feeling. This last year my life became engulfed in singing and I stopped listening to a lot of purely instrumental works. This set of albums is the best of both worlds, since you can hear the pianist humming along with the fugue.

Glenn Gould’s Well-Tempered Clavier is astonishing — it makes me want to lie down on my back in a sunny field, go skipping through the library, tiptoe through a dark cave, fight super-villains, and prove this goddamn theorem. Mr. Gould, you created an inspiration, an instigation, and hopefully what will be an incipient instantiation of some real progress. I salute you.

personal updates

I found a place to live, finally. It’s not far from where I live now. If you want the address, send me email — if you want to help me move (read : masochistic), I’ll be doing that this weekend. Feasts! Fun! Frolic!

Research is going terribly — those things I can prove are at the fringes of things that are more exciting. They are like tide-pools, brimming with their own secret and temporary ecosystems, but insufficient to support my thesis aspirations. Time to go skinny-dipping again, academically, I suppose. Hmmm, academic skinny-dipping.

Ranting on causality and a possible new interesting problem to follow.

Bissap Baobab

(Mission and 19th) This Senegalese restaurant is always busy, like it’s neighbors Cha Cha Cha and Charanga, so be prepared to wait. Senegalese cuisine is like that of other West African countries — starches, stews, and grilling things. There’s a DJ on weekends and some pretty tasty cocktails with ginger, hibiscus, and other “exotic ingredients.”

We started with fried plantains with a tamarind dipping sauce. Actually, according to our Senegalese companion, plantains are not native to Senegal, but to Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire, so that dish was not particularly authentic. We managed to ignore that on the basis of its tastiness. For the main course I had the Yapou Khar, which is a lamb stew with tomatoes and onions over rice. The lamb was tender, but I found the stew a little too watery — I wish they had cooked it a little longer or reduced the liquid more. The centerpiece dish is Thiebou Djen (or Djolof rice for those who know Ghanaian food). This is a spicy fish stew over red rice, and is hearty and tasty.

Bissap has managed to get less and less spicy every time I’ve gone there, and the prices seem to have gone up, so it’s harder for me to recommend it against some of the other places in the area. However, if you have a hankering for these flavors it’s still your best bet.


(Church at Clipper) I’m not sure how they managed to get, but more power to them. This restaurant is a bit out of the way, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a pre-movie meal (unless you trust the J-Church MUNI line to come like clockwork), but it’s the only really good pseudo-Lebanese food I’ve had in the city. The ambiance is nice, although some ongoing renovations make the patio area unusable at the moment.

We split an order of hummus to begin with. It was tangy and flavorful, a moister version than you sometimes get at restaurants, but not at all runny. For the entree, I split the Mansaf and M’sakhan with Liz, both of which were covered with a yogurt sauce. The Mansaf was lamb chunks and rice with a slightly sour/tart (“aged”) yogurt, topped with almonds. A whole plate might have been too much for me, since I found the sauce a bit too aggressive for the lamb, which could have been spiced more heavily. The M’sakhan’s yogurt sauce had saffron and was quite a bit sweeter — a nice complement to the Mansaf. They take chicken and caramelized onions and wrap it in a lavash, grill it, and cover it with the sauce. The spicing in this dish came through much better, in my view.

The dishes are large and dense here, so come hungry! Going “family style” might be a better option for those who get full quickly.