Nov. 4th, 2008 11:38 pm
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There's something weird about the things I remember, and the things that trigger recollections of those things. Case in point: standing in the kitchen with a girlfriend, trying to open a bag of cashew nuts by pulling apart the seam at the top (as indicated, I might note, on the bag itself). Realising that it's one of those all-too-common bags where the alleged perforation/weak point is in fact stronger than the rest of the bag, I mutter, "this is going to end in tears", and she giggles at that. Now I find myself pretty much reliving that moment any time I'm opening any sort of similar bag in the kitchen. Weird thing to remember, and to remember in such detail no less.

(The bag, incidentally, did not give way showering cashews all over the kitchen, and thus there were no tears.)
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Ok, so not fully operational, and certainly not pushing flat out, but 5k in 22:34, dammit.

Sometimes, when the wind, the gradient, and my pacing is just right, I hit this sort of loose-legged long stride that feels serene. Happened me twice this evening, once coming down Hyde Park Road, and once on Sandycove Road, and there was just a hint of it as I wound up at my front door. I like that. I wish I could hit it more often, and without running.
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Noting the awkwardness of fiddling with the speed control on a treadmill to adapt to my pace, I pondered how you could modify the treadmill itself to adapt its speed automatically. I came up with an idea not unlike this one - filed in 1992, patent granted in 1994 - although rather than ultrasonic rangefinding my idea was to use pressure on the treadmill loop itself to determine the runner's location. Oh well. I guess I'll have to come up with something else for my Get-Rich-Quick scheme.
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I was presented with some bad science at the weekend. Second-hand report, so the details are a little fuzzy but it went something like this: )
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I've recently reread Chandler's The Big Sleep, and watched both the Bogart and Mitchum film versions (the Bogart movie is better, but the Mitchum version sticks closer to the original plot, with the minor exception of relocating the whole thing to England). And I started wondering who you'd cast in a modern remake, notwithstanding the comment I saw recently that The Big Lebowski is loosely based on the same plot. I am thinking, perhaps coloured by his performance in Blade Runner, that Harrison Ford would have made an excellent Marlowe at some point in the 90s, but maybe not so much now. Johnny Depp might be able to carry it off, although I don't think he's quite worn-looking enough. Geoffrey Rush, on the other hand, is probably too worn-looking. James Caan did a good enough version in Poodle Springs in 1998, but his Marlowe was deliberately an older version since some of that movie is about how times have moved on past the character. I'm not going to canvas for further suggestions here, but I do think it's an interesting question.
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I wonder if there's a term for English words incorrectly back-formed from their plurals? Just now I came across an otherwise well-written geometry article which used the word "vertice" where "vertex" was intended; the author evidently assumed "vertice" to be the singular of "vertices".
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Intuition auguments troubleshooting well (in general). Voodoo science does not.
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I guess OCD is the ultimate in being a creature of habit.
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It's a sad enough to realise that the stories I usually end up telling in a bar are the same ones as I've told everyone else before (the time I couldn't play Lou's guitar, the time we stole the giant pint, the time the cat ate a sock, and so forth) but what's worse is realising these stories are several years old and, well, there's nothing to replace them.
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So it was stereotypical to the point of humour[1] for a while (before we all got jaded, dontcha know) that any advert featuring a woman doing something outdoorsy and/or flexible was selling tampons or sanitary towels. Now there are a lot of adverts featuring various diverse outdoorsy things which are for... the British Army. There's a punchline here, I'm sure.

[1] I don't recall if any advertising agency ever took this up; I have a vague recollection of seeing something where a woman is on a street in a wetsuit, walking fifteen dogs, and dancing to uptempo music as she walks, and someone says, "must be her time of the month" or equivalent euphemism.

a thought

Apr. 20th, 2006 11:45 pm
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Maybe SMS flong should be called "phlong". (HI BRO)
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I think reading R.A.Wilson opened my head a little too far. And it's Pandora's box; it doesn't reclose.
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flying post as I'm off to the pub for a pub quiz (no, that's not a euphemism):

soccer stuff )
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Note: This is something I wrote most of a few months back, and eventually didn't post. I'm not sure why not; I think I felt it might offend some people, but fuck it, I can't see why it would, other than the coworker I mention who's not reading this.

I spent a lot of time wanting to be a hacker.

I stumbled across an old version of the Jargon File in 1991; it was one of ESR's early versions, but the last time I checked it was neither mentioned in the JFile history nor was it available for download as a historical artefact. I have a printout of it at home on fanfold paper, probably unreadable at this point as the ink fades and the paper yellows.

My discovery of the Jargon File coincided, more-or-less, with the discovery of the Internet; I had just gotten unrestricted access to the world of IP addresses, and was using Archie to trawl for things with the word "hack" in them, for reasons probably associated with a desire to break into the college computer system. I'd already grokked, if you will, the buzz associated with free software; the writing of some code, then giving it to others so they could appreciate your artistry. But we played on a VAX, and VAXen have a security model that is full of levels and privileges and just begs the intrepid explorer to try and elevate himself from peon to OPERATOR. Being uneducated in the "true meaning" of the word "hack", I saw it as the search term most likely to result in me finding the keys to the network around me. Instead, it was more of a key to a whole new mindset I found.

I devoured the Jargon File at a single sitting; printed it out, took it home, and soaked in it. Read the story of Mel, read the little anecdotes-disguised-as-definitions, and revelled in it. This is what I wanted to do! This is how I would make my mark on the world!

From the beginning, though, I was a bit different from the people I read about in the Jargon File. I had a life outside the computer. Sure, several cold mornings at 4am I was knee deep in some godawful piece of DCL that I'd constructed out of some self-imposed necessity; but several other cold mornings at 4am I was in the arms of my girlfriend either sleeping or, well, not. I worked with the college Entertainments crew setting up the stage for bands playing the college circuit, rather than working in the college IT department. I got a summer job working as a Floor Manager in an amusement arcade, walking around machines for eight hours a day making sure noone was trying to break machines and fixing the broken ones. I tried AD&D, but it simply didn't stick to me.

Still, though, I did build up my own little store of arcane geek knowledge, and write some code that was inscrutable but did the job required of it. I sat at a computer for 24 hours with a fever (real, not metaphorical) and turned out a building-block GUI system for a college project that two friends then appropriated for a never-finished game. I wrote the bulk of the code for my final-year project in two 25-hour sessions, and scored a B or B+ average for it. I wrote a 68000 assembler in BASIC before ever learning what parsing was. I hand-optimised a 3D graphics routine by learning how the floating-point coprocessor on Intel machines worked. I built a DOS-based token-ring network using serial cables and TSRs. I spent hours and hours staring at machine code traces and core dumps, oblivious to the passage of time as I dug through other peoples' work. And so on. Not meaning to dicksize, but you get the picture.

I only recently realised, though, that I'm glad I didn't make it all the way to being a hacker. A coworker was punning incessantly, again, while I was getting frustrated in my attempts to find a particular piece of hardware. And eventually I told him to just fuck off and leave me alone, because he wasn't helping my frame of mind. And it struck me; this is part of what I aspired to. I'm no slouch at wordplay, but heck, I know there are some puns that are just too strained, too dumb, or plain wrong and should just be stifled. And I have a modicum of understanding when it comes to appreciating the frame of mind of other people. I still spend far too much time dealing with computers, but I'm perfectly capable of stepping away from them. I'm happier to socialise with people than computers, or even computer-based people (i.e. people in chat systems). I'm aware of the irony in writing this on a computer, to post on a world-wide computer network, for other people with computers to read, but that's computer-as-tool, not computer-as-life. And while I'd admittedly love to be one of the fanboyed geek-famous, I'm happy that I'm at least not nodding pseudo-sagely at the bit in the Jargon File that says,

The sort of person who uses phrases like "incompletely socialized" usually thinks hackers are. Hackers regard such people with contempt when they notice them at all.
Maybe that means these hackers regard me with contempt. They're welcome to it.

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It's the last of the July, which means I've now been unemployed for a full month. This isn't quite as surprising as it might appear at first glance; beyond attempts at two high-profile companies, and a brief unhappy flirtation with an agency, I haven't really been trying to find new work.

One thing that's been bouncing around my head for the last month is to do something completely different. I'm not simply talking about getting out of computers and into, oh, basket-weaving; more contemplating liquidating what I've got and getting out of Dublin, maybe even out of Ireland, and finding something else somewhere else. It could well turn out to be computers in a different county or a different country, since whatever else I can say for myself, I'm good with computers. The "sell up and leave" aspect opens up more possibilities than anything else, since it removes concerns about rent and that sort of thing. And the things keeping me where I am right now are largely inertia and a good pub.

I'm not looking at this with rose-tinted glasses, mind. I went through this dance several years ago, and ultimately discarded all the options and stayed in Dublin, but back then I at least had a larger social circle to keep me occupied. Since then, most of that circle has dissipated for one reason or another; my closest connection from that group is several hundred miles and at least one timezone away. I guess the bottom line is that I may never have quite this level of detachment again (or I'd like to think that, anyway) so I should maybe grab it while I have the chance. I guess I'll stack it on the thinking pile for now, though.
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"we gonna take your ride from mingin' to blingin'"
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I've been wondering about the extension of the "too dumb to know I'm dumb" theory into other realms. For example, there's a David Sedaris piece that I picked up from [ profile] tongodeon's Christmas Gift collection where he talks about this elf who's really into the whole elf thing and kinda attractive for it and the upshot is that when the elf's off-duty a whole bunch of guys turn up, all of whom thought they were getting the come-on from the elf. The elf says something about how this creeps him out. So I'm wondering is it possible that people who can't read body language, for example, are flinging out "I WANT YOU" vibes without being aware of it. Or to choose a more contentious example, simply because I've run into it more-or-less first hand, someone dressing provocatively1 yet not realising it because they can't or don't grasp the concept of provocative dress.

[1] this is a terrible choice of word because of what it implies, but at least I can be sure that you'll know exactly what I mean, since the terrible choice of word is also apparently the, well, word of choice.
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It's really well and truly over when she no longer recognises the shared humour you once had.
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This fell out of a discussion with a friend this morning, so it may be treated as an ill-considered hare-brained notion, but anyway. I'm very much a real-world-vs-ivory-tower person; I feel very strongly that a delivered but incomplete product beats out a 100% complete product every time. This is sort of the Richard P. Gabriel "Worse Is Better" argument writ large; I feel it has applications well outside the realm of computers. Anyway. As such, I feel that if we spend all our time pissing about looking for 100% secure solutions to electronic voting, we're never going to get there. I'm handwaving the 100% insecure systems already deployed, obviously. What is needed is a system that's as trustworthy as a paper ballot. Paper ballots can be gamed, but their nature is generally that you can't severely game the system. The Canadian voting system is a good example of how this gaming is kept in check: each party can send people to witness the counting to make sure it's done fairly. There's still the issue of people being bribed or otherwise persuaded to vote in a particular way, and the issue of getting ballots from A to B, and the issue of how the final tallies are collated on a large scale. The system has holes, but is largely trustworthy. Waider considers electronic voting )
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Just watched the final episode of Friends and although I've never been more than a fair-weather follower of the programme, I did feel a few twinges of sadness - mostly thinking about my own friends over the last ten years, and how we've drifted apart both physically and in terms of relationships - I think it's pretty safe to say that I was a lot closer to most of those I'd consider friends ten years ago. Also noting that it took Ross ten years to get to the point that J.D. in Scrubs reached in the middle of season three vis-a-vis relationships and speaking your mind and whatnot. My personal jury is still out on the advisibility of such actions, but I guess someone's got to live by the "nothing ventured, nothing gained" maxim. It just ain't me.

In other news, tonight's bike run was almost bang on 10km - I discovered a 10km route that doesn't involve either Dalkey Hill or stopping at some arbitrary point and turning around. I stopped at Teddy's for a 99 on the way back, which is most likely utterly meaningless to anyone who hasn't spent some summer time in Dun Laoghaire.


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