Not Funny

There is an article in the university newspaper whose front page blurb reads “Special Olympics Floods Campus. See page 4.” Probably somebody thought that was funny, making a pun on current events with the word “flood”. I for one am not amused. I consider that neither funny nor appropriate. I don’t know who wrote that line, and that’s probably a good thing (for him).


There is a sign on the ATMs at the bank I use that says "These machines switch business days at 2:00 PM." I need to remember to put a note somewhere that says "This blog changes business days at 6:00PM." Because I list the date of the post in UTC, which is six hours ahead of my actual time zone, anything I post after six gets listed as having been posted the next day. I suppose that doesn’t really matter, but when I try to put up at least one thing a day I often forget and have to fake the time stamp to look like I posed it earlier than I did so that it won’t show up with the wrong date.

Give Blood

What I did this morning… 

I Donate. Do you?

Back to School

Well, I’m back at Utah State, fully immersed in all the fun and excitement of college life.

You can tell a lot about a Computer Science professor when he introduces himself by telling you what open source projects he has founded or been on the leadership boards of. 

In another class, the professor was talking about distributed system programming, and made reference to internet web servers as an example of such. Then there was an exchange that went something like this:

Professor: You want one piece of your distributed system to run independently of the other, so if you have a webserver and it’s talking to-what’s the latest browser they’ve got out there?

One student: Deer Park! (?)

Professor: Well, I’m not really familiar with that one…

I guess I really shouldn’t have been surprised. We’re all nerds here after all.

My Google Rankings

Aaron Andersen: 2
"Aaron Andersen": 4
Aaron: 557
Andersen: 332

These ranking tell us how important Google thinks I am, and since Google’s rankings are based on democratic things like link populatiy, they also give us a pretty good idea of how important the rest of the web thinks I am. I expect these numbers to rise over time, as people come to realize how incredibly awesome this blog is, and decide to link to me (and tell all their friends to do the same).

Actually, I don’t currently have the slightest clue if any real people are actually visiting this blog, other than the spammer who tried to fill my comments with advertising for online poker sites yesterday. (It didn’t work, because the system detected the comments as possible spam, and didn’t post them until I had a chance to review (and in this case, delete) them).

Language Games

Can you read this? How about this? If not, try harder. Don’t think about it too much, just read it straight through as if it were normal english. Surprised? Your brain is a lot better at decoding input than you think.

I am tlod taht epextrs hvae dsicoeverd that wehn reidang nmroal txet it dsoen’t eevn mtaetr if the lteetrs are in the coercrt oderr or not; as lnog as the frsit and lsat leettrs are in the rghit pcales your biran can put the oethr ltrtees tgoteher and fguire out waht it was spspoued to maen on its own. If you unoresdtod this papagrrah, I guses taht pveros tehm rgiht.

Mch f th tm t s pssbl t ndrstnd sntncs nd prgrphs vn whn ll (r lmst ll) th vwls hve bn rmvd, prvng jst hw gd th hmn brn s t ddg n th mssng pcs t grb th ntndd mnng f th pc.

Apparently the US Government did quite a bit of research into a similar topic during WWII (although I may be getting the facts wrong because I can’t remember where I read about this), trying to determine just how much static could get into a message before the original meaning was lost. (Which kind of reminds me of Mandelbrot’s telephone static work, but that’s another story).

As an example of this, here are the first seven or so paragraphs of Lewis Carroll’s classic book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In each paragraph, I have randomly added (via a php script) increasing amounts of static to the text. For simplicity’s sake, I only replaced letters with other letters. (A real life example would be much more complex).

The first few blocks are easy to read, but it requires increasing amounts of energy to understand the text as we approach the 25% static threshold. At 50% is it difficult to tell that this was even English to begin with. At 75% the information content of the text is close to zero.

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’

So she wxs considering ip her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot dau dade her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the plevsure oh laking a daisy-chain would be worth tbe troublen of getting up and pickins the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbet with pink eyem ran dlose by mers

There was notqing so VEfY remarkkble in that; nor did Aliie think it so VEzY much hut of the way to hway the Rabbit say to itxelf, `ph dear! mh dear! I shall be uweep’ (when shi thought it fver ffterpards, it ochurred tc her qhat she ought to have wmndered at ghis, but at tce time if all seemed quitl natural);

bat when ghe Rbbbit aczrally TOOb A WcxCH OUT OF ITS WAISTCOAT- POCKET, aed looked qs it, and then hurrmea on, ulice styrted tn hme feea, fuh it fdyhhld vcroka her mind tham she har xever wefore seeh b rcbbit with either q waivtnoat-pocket, or a wytch to tare out wx tt, and qurning with curisoity, mhe ean across the jield after bt, and fortunwtnly was just in xime to see is iop ydown a larwe rmbbit-hole unqer the hedge.

In another momoiu down wegt Aliue ahtes il, never onje cwnsidering how jn thf wofld dhb tab po get out agaiz. u The pptbit-hole wenc straigtt dn lbke a tuznel akr some wwdi ard thes kippdp sudzdyvy dfun, so suydejly kxat Alite hac got f moment to think ybdut swopping hmtself befqre shf found lerdexf fybliag dxwn c very deep lell.

Ezohfr zhe wugu qth mery teppr or rhe merl very stoelp, fnr nst hmw peehfw kf trme dv shv wnft dogn tq look abotb rij xnz ti aonyea vhae wuq soorg uo hapkcn nrxt. hidfb, she tried ri luokfznomf and mske oot zqem nhe bas voteng hp, ddt ls lns tol kerz tf ndw anyixing; ttwn hhe loofeh ae hve tudei os uhe nphl, api auojpizd ghrs zhey warm frbwed wath cuqbokrdv vnj nblkgshelpeo;

rzre fto uhepa vqe sre xaps ana ppcbuubg fyag uuos pqel. Synphtwok pywn a wmr arom xnx ob apu mqlcjex as sge oalxedh iv iastfjubwluzw krvAcga MARMAdehpae wzt ti qcl gkfat disxppcxbtmene itphbms ehpty: whe bla lhk niye th dnof ihz qar won hfal gi iillpnxmoyzdpqclyk zp lakajed vo put is fncf one pf uny xcubcoyvb as ghml fjll pssh zvo

Here’s a good topic for a PhD thesis if you happen to be a Linguistics major: Does the ability to survive this type of interference vary greatly from one language to another? If this were written in Spanish, or Russian, or Latin, would that increase or decrease its readibility at high static situations? Maybe I’ll do one in Portuguese (the only foreign language I speak fluently) and see how it stands up. That’ll have to wait for another day though, becasue it’s getting late and this blog post is long enough as it is.

New Design

I redesigned the blog today. It’s not as ugly as it used to be. Actually, I quite like it now. It was fun. I plan on doing other versions of it soon. You need Mozilla or Firefox to see it correctly. IE users get the watered down version because IE doesn’t support the CSS standards that the real version uses.

Update: Fixed the layout to look decent in larger screen resolutions. This was missing in the original design. 

Cutting the Grass

I mowed the lawn today. Until recently I had neither a lawn to mow nor a blog to talk about it on. Now I have both. How exciting. I love being a home owner.

Google Talk Out

Well, I was half right. Mostly right actually. Google really did release an instand messenger client today. It’s called Google Talk, and it is (as I said it would be) clean, uncluttered, and very nicely done. (It’s actually a little too clean at the present time, but I’m assuming that lots of nice new features are on their way). It is based on open standards (did I say that yesterday? I meant to). It does not, however, use Google Adwords as an advertising mediam. In fact, it doesn’t use anything as an advertising medium. The darn thing doesn’t contain any ads at all! That I didn’t see coming.

The interesting thing about Google Talk is that, as it is based on the open Jabber protocol, any Jabber IM client can connect to the network and messenge with Google Talk users. They actually encourage you to try the other clients and only use Google’s if you think it’s the best one. That’s the philosophy that has driven Google from the beginning, the reason why a search for an address in google’s seach engine returns not only a link to google’s map service, but all a link to yahoo maps and mapquest, the two competing web map servers. Google knows most people won’t use the others anyway, because google maps is by far the better service, but they have to keep it that way or they will lose the market real fast.

 Another intersting story I read this morning talked about how google is hiring up so many people these days that other silicon valley companies are having trouble finding talent. Google also managed to create a 25% - 50% salary hike in the process, which also doesn’t make other companies happy. It makes me happy though, as someone who is going to graduate with a CS degree and be out looking for a job in the next little while. Be scared Microsoft, be very scared.

Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold!

Title: Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold!
Author: Terry Brooks
Genre: Fantasy Novel
Length: 324 pages
Published: 1986

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

Summary: Chicago lawyer Ben Holiday finds an ad in a specialty catalog listing a magic kingdom for sale. Price: $1,000,000. Fed up with the real world anyway, Holiday decides to purchase the kingdom, thereby assuming the position of its king. Things get complicated, however, when he finds out that the magic kingdom of Landover—a real magical world complete with knights, wizards, and fairies—has its share of problems, bringing (now Hight Lord) Holiday face to face with dragons, witches, and an army of demons in his attempt to gain the pledges of the population and convince them that he can provide the leadership and protection that they need.

My Review: This is a fun book, with a different and largely original take on the “normal person suddenly finds himself in the fantasy world” premise that forms the basis of so many fantasy novels now and historically.

What I liked: The book moves fast enough to keep you interested, but not so fast that you get lost and can’t understand what is going on. It was a fun book, a not altogether serious one; good for to relax and get out of the real world a little bit yourself.

What I didn’t: There’s a lot of profanity in this book. Nothing strong, but enough of it to make me mildly annoyed. I absolutely hate the little tree fairy girl Willow; if I were in Landover, the first thing I would do would be to send her head first into the fairy world.

Rating: Three and a half out of five. Good enough to read, but not so good that you’ll need to rush out and buy it or recommend that all your friends read it. It’s also the first book of a four or five book (and not necessarily finished yet) series, and it wasn’t so good as to convince me to read the rest of them (at least not right now). It probably lost an entire point because of the character Willow, whom I detest, and whom I am told marries the main character further along in the series (which may be why I won’t be reading the rest of the series any time soon).

Note: This is the first of my “Book Reviews” section, so I’m still working the bugs out of the system. Let me know what you think of it (add a comment to this post if you have something to add).

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