23 May 2003


The Brown library workers are striking; it's pretty cool. They're standing at the corner of two fairly major streets (just outside one of the libraries) and getting people to honk for them. A *lot* of people are honking. It's a nice pick-me-up on such a dreary day.

I was waiting for the elevator at the first floor; it arrived and there were about eight confused-looking people inside. Who made no move to leave, but I was pretty sure this was their floor. "Are you...?" "Yeah, the door didn't open." Meaning the back door of the elevator---I suggested they hit 1R. The door opened, and they left. Obviously never been in the building before, but it was still funny. :)

"As long as she kept her mouth shut, I'd give serious thought to refraining from kicking Ann Coulter out of bed for eating crackers." --Michael Kimmitt

Posted by blahedo at 11:08am | Comments (0)

22 May 2003


ARGH. I just listened to a cop yelling at our poor custodian for about twenty minutes because he left a box out on the floor (because he needed to empty his trashcan before he could put more in). Apparently, someone jumpy because of the bomb at Yale yesterday said the box looked "suspicious"---so they're blaming Tony the custodian for a bomb scare. Of course, he was just doing what he always did, and nobody ever told him otherwise. And their advice to him was to, in the future, leave boxes like that next to a trash can or something, so it wouldn't look suspicious. What kind of rank idiocy is this? If we're scared about bombs in boxes, then a box should be no less suspicious sitting next to the trash can than it would be five feet away against the wall. And we're in an academic department here---do you know how many boxes there are around here? People receive books, computer parts, computers; and they all come in boxes which are then discarded. (I'm not even counting all the assorted fast-food containers that pass through here.) And why stop at boxes? Someone could leave something in a trash can. Or a cabinet. Or on a high shelf. Or under a table. We can't live in fear of bombs like this. If we get bombed, well, then we do. Reporting "suspicious-looking boxes" just gets innocent custodians in trouble, and has no tangible benefit.

"After all, let's face it, evil is easier, more fun, and better paying." --Sam Walker

Posted by blahedo at 6:31pm | Comments (0)

Customer service: check-plus

Have I mentioned that I love Apple? The left shift key on my laptop has been broken for a few months now (it has a tendency to just pop off while typing), but I've been putting off getting it fixed because I never wanted to be without my computer, and God knows I wasn't trusting it to the Brown Computer Store folks again.

Anyway, yesterday, I finally decided to call Apple, at about 6pm yesterday, having resolved to drive up to Boston if necessary to let them fix it. And they said, "oh, we'll just ship you a new keyboard. Expect it in three to five days."

It arrived a couple hours ago. Now that's what I call service.

"Actually, it's because being anti-war is sensible, and being pro-war is allowing one's testosterone to overcome sense. It's assumed that women aren't as susceptible to this particular failing." --Michael Kimmitt

Posted by blahedo at 11:49am | Comments (0)

19 May 2003

Red, blue, purple

Ok, broke down and purple-ified the maps from Uggabugga.

The correspondence isn't perfect, obviously. And the states that are red in the top map (receiving more than they give in taxes) but blue in the bottom one (voted for Gore) are not inconsistent. But just look at all the states that are bright red in the top one and bright red in the bottom. Funny, isn't it?

"Good spaces almost always have a "perfect" vantage point. It's the best place to stand. Photographers seek these places out almost instinctively. Good urban design includes making sure that such places are there to be found." --J. Crawford, City Design

Posted by blahedo at 7:21pm | Comments (0)

Oh, please.

A fascinating discussion has erupted within the political blogging community: with all these Republicans out there complaining about how heavy taxes are and how they aren't getting any benefits, just how much *are* their constituencies getting back?

Answer: the exact amount depends on how exactly you count it, but pretty much any method will show that the "red states" (those that voted for Bush in 2000) get back considerably more in federal expenditures per tax dollar collected than do the "blue states" (those that voted for Gore). Atrios gets $1.08 for the red states and 94c for the blue; AngryBear has $1.12 for the red states and 87c for the blue. Quiddity put together some particularly damning maps that highlight the situation. All of this is based on a recently released report (HTML summary) on federal tax expenditures. I'd have no problem at all with the allocations---those are poorer states that are getting higher revenues---if it weren't for all the whining about the evils of big government. I mean, come on.

"The doomsday cults---which predict the end of the world or the creation of a new world order---are the most sinister, but the absurd, white-shrouded Pana Wavists may not gain even the distinction of being considered dangerous. Of course, if the world does end on Thursday sceptics will face a position of unthinkable embarrassment." --Robert Pigoll, BBC

Posted by blahedo at 2:05pm | Comments (0)

18 May 2003

Maybe it's just pining for the fields

Well, I think my cell phone has finally given up the ghost. The loose battery problem (causing it to turn off as it jiggles in my pocket) has returned after a year's hiatus. I put two rubber bands around it, which helps, but it still turns off most of the time. (That said, I just took it out of my pocket after a few hours and it was still on. Hmm.) Now I have to decide how much of a problem this is---I had been planning on eking out a few more months on this phone and just getting a new one when I move to Galesburg in September, but that's seeming a tad infeasible. On the other hand, I don't really want to buy a new phone right now, and I really don't want to go on contract again when I'm so close to moving. And while I'm here, I can't test out the reception around Galesburg. Ugh. Maybe when I visit in July....

I'm also a little miffed that the dollar picked right now to weaken. Couldn't it have waited until after my trip to Canada? A month or two ago (and for the last half decade), the Canadian dollar was about 67 US cents, and very stable because the two economies are so integrated. The integration is preventing the US$ from losing to the C$ as much as to the pound or the euro, but it's definitely still weakening. Last week, C$1 was about 72 cents, and right now it's at 74 cents and rising. I'm happy for the Canadians and all, but this is going to make my unsubsidised conference trip so much more expensive, especially if it keeps up. At least we already paid for the hotel. *sigh*

"Look, if there are no WMDs in Iraq, it means either our government lied us to us in order to get us into an unnecessary war or the government itself was disastrously misinformed by an incompetent intelligence apparatus. In either case, it's a terribly serious situation." --Molly Ivins

Posted by blahedo at 5:08pm | Comments (0)

17 May 2003

On avoiding cars

I've just spent the afternoon browsing a lovely site on being carfree---that's not a typo, it means being without a car. Not practical in many places these days, unless the locale itself is designed to support it. What might a city look like if the whole thing were designed so that the only cars in it were emergency vehicles? The site includes discussion of what a from-scratch carfree city might look like, as well as how to convert (parts of) existing cities to being carfree, and even some peeks at areas that are already largely or entirely carfree. Also some lovely looks at what makes cities livable and beautiful.

Suburbs are just so bad. Ugh.

"Too much has happened the last couple of days but my head is as heavy as a lead boulder. Hay fever time. The sexual life of palm trees makes me weep." --Salam Pax

Posted by blahedo at 6:29pm | Comments (0)

16 May 2003

PSA: don't put stuff in dryer

Y'know, I genuinely thought that this was public knowledge, but apparently not; so here is a PSA for all the readers of this, er, publication.

No matter how helpful you think you're being, you are doing no favours for anyone if you transfer someone else's wet laundry into the dryer and turn it on.

Sure, most things these days can be dried, and most people have a lot of clothes that could just be dumped in the dryer. But there are plenty of things that need to be dried flat, even if they can be washed in the washing machine. By helpfully transferring stuff into the dryer, you could very well be destroying something that cost quite a bit of money---or worse, hours of time, if it was hand-made.

I would be less surprised if a guy didn't know this, because most men's clothing these days is machine-dry-able, but virtually all the women I know have at least some clothes that need to be dried flat.

As it happens, I was pretty lucky to discover this the way I did: I was just washing a swatch of fabric, so there was no great loss. (The idea is that you knit a swatch to figure out how big your stitches are---so you know what size pattern to use---and then wash and dry it as appropriate to see what the final post-wash size of the swatch is. The swatch is not itself inherently useful, so all I lost was the post-wash measurement.) I could have discovered that my housemate didn't know not to dry things by actually losing pieces of clothing, and I'm pretty durn glad that didn't happen.

"You should only need comments when there is some kind of kludge you need to warn readers about, just as on a road there are only arrows on parts with unexpectedly sharp curves." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 11:30am | Comments (0)

15 May 2003

Stupid bank

After all the stupid overdraft problems I've been having, yesterday I just cashed my paycheck at the Citizen's branch, then walked the money over to Sovereign, where I deposited it. I also confirmed when the money would be available, and was explicitly told "as soon as you leave this window"---and the guy at the next window joked about it ('what if he stands there all day?') so there were even witnesses. There is an automatic payment scheduled for today, and if I get socked with an overdraft on it, so help me, I'm going to walk in there and close my account on the spot.

The whole thing is completely idiotic. The entire time between entering the Citizen's branch and leaving the Sovereign branch was perhaps twenty minutes, and that included clearing the check, counting out the money, walking a few blocks, and processing the deposit. Twenty minutes. WHY IN GOD'S NAME DOES IT TAKE THREE DAYS TO DO THIS ELECTRONICALLY???

Other news: our government is lying again.

"What you learn about programming in college is much like what you learn about books or clothes or dating: what bad taste you had in high school." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 3:49pm | Comments (0)

13 May 2003

Some commercials

I'm sitting here knitting, and listening to the radio, and two bizarre little commercials just beg to be recounted here.

One is for, believe it or not, spam. The meat product from Hormel. Cube it and add it to mac and cheese! Delicious! Can't keep it on the table because people eat it so fast! MMmmm, spam! We're out? MORE SPAM! *crash* Did someone ask for spam? Tasty! [Gah.]

The other one is advertising for a singles listing service run by this radio station. The best part is a little testimonial from one of its users: it was an easy decision to try it, because *I* listen to the radio station, and I thought it'd be great to find someone who listens to the same radio station as I do, and maybe that would mean we like to do the same things! [Buh? Had me through that last part there...]

"Scientists start out... trying to reproduce work someone else has already done for them. Eventually, they get to the point where they can do original work. Whereas hackers, from the start, are doing original work; it's just very bad. So hackers start original, and get good, and scientists start good, and get original." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 1:13am | Comments (0)

12 May 2003

This is just about the

This is just about the funniest thing I've read in a while. Those crazy Oregonians.

"When you damp oscillations, you lose the high points as well as the low. This is not a problem for big companies, because they don't win by making great products. Big companies win by sucking less than other big companies." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 1:44am | Comments (0)

Molly Ivins sums up my

Molly Ivins sums up my opinions on the WMD issue very nicely:

Look, if there are no WMDs in Iraq, it means either our government lied us to us in order to get us into an unnecessary war or the government itself was disastrously misinformed by an incompetent intelligence apparatus. In either case, it's a terribly serious situation.
Dreadfully serious, and it's really pretty depressing that so many people let themselves be lulled by the "but Saddam was really an awful guy" distraction.

"Everyone in the sciences secretly believes that mathematicians are smarter than they are. I think mathematicians also believe this." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 1:01am | Comments (0)

10 May 2003

I had heard about it,

I had heard about it, but just saw "Cog", the new Honda commercial. If you have not seen it, you must. As you watch, keep in mind the following: there was no trick photography, no cuts, and the final film wasn't edited except to add a voiceover at the end. This is one impressive feat of engineering, here. Merely designing and building a car pretty much pales in comparison.

"We need a language that lets us scribble and smudge and smear, not a language where you have to sit with a teacup of types balanced on your knee and make polite conversation with a strict old aunt of a compiler." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 12:12am | Comments (0)

9 May 2003

I guess that ultimately my

I guess that ultimately my bank issues right now are that I'm not used to something taking on the order of two days longer to do electronically than it would by hand. After last month's overdraft fiasco, I made sure that this time I waited after depositing my paycheck before giving a check to Brown; and additionally, I knew that the exchanges were between the same two banks (Citizens and Sovereign), so there would be no "but Fleet has fancier computers" shenanigans. And yet, I still got socked with an overdraft fee. This time I got the guy at Sovereign to admit that even after a check clears, and the money is in fact actually sitting in my account, as such, they still put a hold on it for a few days. (He wouldn't admit last time that that's what it was---if he had I sure as hell wouldn't have reasoned like I did and it sure as hell wouldn't have happened again.) I'd consider just pulling out of Sovereign entirely---they've also been annoying me with the random monthly service fees on my "Totally Free Checking(tm)" account---but I'm going to be moving in a couple months anyway, so it hardly seems worth it.

Ok, so don't even ask how I got to this site, but this picture is on the main green at Brown. (The urinal was brought in just for the photograph.)

"As anyone who has written a PhD dissertation knows, the way to be sure that you're exploring virgin territory is to to stake out a piece of ground that no one wants." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 11:20am | Comments (0)

8 May 2003

Paul Graham is so quotable.

Paul Graham is so quotable. His new essay, Hackers and Painters is again good---some stuff I disagree with, but very well written.

You know how hard it is to get into a project? And how it's even harder to get back into a project after you've set it aside for a month or two? Thus it was with my PhD thesis. But Tuesday afternoon, I made my way over the hump, and I'm moving again. Hopefully I can be ready to defend in a month and a half.

(Oh, and the concert last night went really well. I got assigned a solo just two days before the concert, but I was in excellent voice and it went off great. :)

"Computer science is a grab bag of tenuously related areas thrown together by an accident of history, like Yugoslavia." --Paul Graham

Posted by blahedo at 11:42am | Comments (0)

6 May 2003

Universities not of interest

From this article: "Coalition forces have no orders to protect universities. They have orders to protect places of interest.... Iraqis need to protect their own cities." --US Central Command

Thanks, guys.

"Gordon's is only good for serious mixing/jello, and even then only because it's cheap. As a matter of fact, the only good thing about Gordon's is that it's cheap. And at least 80 proof. Two. Two good things." --Eva Shillace

Posted by blahedo at 10:08pm | Comments (0)

2 May 2003

Afternoon in Tiverton

I spent this afternoon in Tiverton, RI, at the best yarn shop ever. Theresa showed me around the place and gave me a practicum on yarn weights, needle sizes, materials, and patterns. I bought a pattern book, two sets of double-ended needles, and enough yarn for three projects, which I'm just itching to get started on.

In other news, those of you in the area may be interested to know that the Brown Renaissance Singers (of which I am a member) is putting on our end-of-semester show next week. We're scheduled to perform at 8pm on Wednesday, in the Annmary Brown Memorial---aka the Crypt---over on Brown Street next to Health Services. Show's about a half hour, free, and followed by refreshments (also free).

"I should emphasize that just because our Irish friends start their summer earlier does not mean Ireland gets warmer earlier. The cruel truth is that it never gets warm in Ireland, which has one of the most dismal climates on earth." --Cecil Adams

Posted by blahedo at 5:36pm | Comments (0)

1 May 2003

Masters' thesis

I have submitted my masters' thesis. Yay!

"English can most charitably be described as a generous, expansive, and flexible language; a less charitable description would characterize it as drunk and disorderly." --Teresa Nielsen Hayden

Posted by blahedo at 1:03pm | Comments (0)