Category: Experiments

An impolite subversion (and Karaoke)

Because this book, Etsy, Bach, cicu control error, so that the conscience of humanity. Karaoke? If you invest. What is surprising and encouraging. Anti-brain model, not all of the cities and streets – including travel tool. (This is surprising, of course), the efforts of Member.

What is this? And expectations? I am not a very good package, although Google’s technology, we hope that all leaders. First, I would like to, I hope vyhrajete Ⅰ. Yes, car.

Is happening?

In his book Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hofstadter hints at what he believes gives rise to humour in human brains. Humour, he says, is a subversion of expectations. When we are amused, we are also surprised. In a hypothetical model of the brain’s functioning, he attributes this to a trip down an unfamiliar neural pathway- like a tour across a version of your country that has all the city and highway names mixed up. (The latter bit sure doesn’t seem funny to me.)

This post is an attempt at this “subversion of expectations”. I’m no good at engineering such twists, though, so I sought help from the all-knowing Google overlords. I figured that the first person to have his expectations flipped over and kneaded by this exercise ought to be me.

That’s enough hinting, I think. What do you think happened to this piece?

Tooling Around

It is instructive to compare the amount of time spent learning the tools of a trade to the time spent practising the trade; You’re almost certainly doing something wrong, in the short term, if the former is disproportionately longer than the latter.

Case in point? I spend over two months looking for the perfect blogging client, nitpicking things like keyboard shortcuts (and their absence, thereof), GTK dependency bloat and ‘Movable Type’ support. I don’t even have a movable type blog. The search for the ultimate blogging client has been more-or-less consummated, but at the expense of an indelible fallow period.

Initial Excitement Syndrome

My drive to learn the tools of general PC frippery far outweighs that to engage in the frippery itself- it’s the ultimate malaise. Two years on a Linux box have been witness to five desktop environments, six window managers, five (or more) terminal emulators, two text editors (yeah, Vi and Emacs), three content publishing systems (with little published content)- even three metadata taggers- and while we’re at it, several distros. It’s a wonder I got any work done.

A conservative estimate of the number of application keyboard shortcuts/commands I’ve memorized over the years (excluding Alt-Tabbing and other Windows keys) suggests a figure between six and eight hundred key combinations and commands. If that sounds unreal- here’s the Ratpoison (window manager) cheat sheet. That’s one of several.

The truly egregious excesses, though, have been the misadventures in the murky depth of scripting language hell. What began as a simple mass renaming requirement led to a whirlwind tour of Bash scripting, Sed, Perl, Scheme, Emacs-Lisp, Python, and for reasons baffling in retrospect, GNU-Octave and GNUplot. The Sisyphean task of writing the mass renaming script was carried out over a period of sixteen months, culminating in four lines of code, at the cost of losing the ability to code in one scripting language without involving the syntax of all of the above- a rosy state of affairs.

In the long term, versatility in fooling around might be a good thing- I haven’t been doing this long enough to become blindingly proficient at it- but clearly, taking sixteen months to rename three hundred files rips apart the threadbare argument.

No matter. A near perfect lightweight blogging client is now at hand, and fittingly enough, the inaugural post is a reflection on the tendency to value the tools over the trade.

A resolution of sorts, then. Fewer tools, more work.


Volume III

Volume I, Volume II

define:” searches for the past two months:

Ablative (Ab, from)

Apotheism (A-ha! I’ve been looking for this word)

Bellcross (of the Greek hero cult; despite the name, sadly not a demigod)

Causative (Causative for? Causative of?)

Chortle (Is too close (phonetically) to choke for my liking)

Concubinage (You can figure this one out)

Dongle (D-R-M. Hehe)

Enamored (Yeah. Like Fallout 3 and me)


Fandango (Hence the GRIM!)

Heathen (Pagan. I think)

Indelible (Like your presence on the Internet.)

Lentil (I’ve never seen these)

Maw (Maw-th)





Rodomontade (Talk about obscurantism…)

Semiotic (Symbol-wise)


Verdant (Don’t say Vista)

Virtuosity (I have no idea)

Wino (It’s an actual word!)


Volume II

Volume I is here.

I’ve listed this month’s “define:” searches below. Same format, word followed by comments in parentheses:

Celerity (Think Acceleration)



Denouement (French is weird)

Frisian (Neal Stephenson giving an analogy.)

Germane (NOT Teutonic! That association wouldn’t be germane.)

Judas Cradle (Eh?)

Lye (Fight Club!)

Patternless (It exists! Apparently, saying “Random” doesn’t cut it anymore)


Posit (Opposite of Deposit?)



Trilby (Fedora, now Trilby. Any more hats I should know of?)

XY problem

Baroque (17th century art, type of pearl, stained glass, and more; Meanings overload!)

Callused (Eww)

CMB (Yeah. Of the “Science. It works” fame)


Diddle (Um, yeah. I thought it was a musical instrument.)

Homounculus (Full Metal Alchemist)


Prosaic (as opposed to esoteric?)

Recondite (is itself recondite)

Seditious (as opposed to subversive)

Trenchant (Trenchant? Trenchant?)

October, then.

Link round-up: Aug 08

Experimental feature: A round up of interesting links that have squirmed into my unwieldy bookmark collection this month. For reference and evangelism.

The mandatory interesting game videos, webcomics, and link-blog posts (like are appended to to the Feed Feed. The rest is custom:


A short write up about Neal Stephenson [] including a review of his latest, Anathem.

In every Neal Stephenson novel, there are characters who regard the world with an insatiable yet bemused curiosity; they are fascinated with the way things work and are forever eager to lay on hands, tinker, tweak, and obsess. In other words, they’re hackers. In Anathem, the narrator, Erasmas, though not a techie, shares this trait. So does the author.


Emacs v. vi is rooted in the love of Lisp. [] Apparently, Emacs is a text editor underneath a Holodeck:

As one uses Emacs / learns to edit eLisp, it becomes apparent that you’re meddling with the powers of the Gods. You become aware, over time, that you’re messing with the powers that could create amazing web applications or make SkyNet.


Videogame Concept art books []:


An infinite square grid of 1 Ohm resistors []. This one’s is a hard nut to crack.  The only other way I’ve seen of solving this problem is on Archiv, and involves Lattice Green functions. (I don’t even know what that means.)


Engineer’s Dreams [], by George Dyson. A hard science fiction(?) piece detailing the rise of Internet sentience.

Only one third of a search engine is devoted to fulfilling search requests. The other two thirds are divided between crawling (sending a host of single-minded digital organisms out to gather information) and indexing (building data structures from the results). Ed’s job was to balance the resulting loads.

When Ed examined the traffic, he realized that Google was doing more than mapping the digital universe. Google doesn’t merely link or point to data. It moves data around. Data that are associated frequently by search requests are locally replicated—establishing physical proximity, in the real universe, that is manifested computationally as proximity in time. Google was more than a map. Google was becoming something else.


Where Are the Geniuses of Today? [] An excerpt from James Gleick’s Genius, positing that even as the human race grows smarter, the standard deviation’s going down; we’re not much smarter than each other.

Is it only nostalgia that makes geniuses seem to belong to the past? Giants did walk the earth — Shakespeare, Newton, Michelangelo, DiMaggio — and in their shadows the poets, scientists, artists, and baseball players of today crouch like pygmies. No one will ever again create a King Lear or hit safely in fifty-six consecutive games, it seems. Yet the raw material of genius — whatever combination of native talent and cultural opportunity that might be — can scarcely have disappeared. On a planet of five billion people, parcels of genes with Einsteinian potential must appear from time to time, and presumably more often than ever before. Some of those parcels must be as well nurtured as Einstein’s, in a world richer and better educated than ever before. Of course genius is exceptional and statistics-defying. Still, the modern would-be Mozart must contend with certain statistics: that the entire educated population of eighteenth-century Vienna would fit into a large New York apartment block; that in a given year the United States Copyright Office registers close to two hundred thousand “works of the performing arts,” from advertising jingles to epic tone poems.


Project Euler []:

Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems.

I’m still looking for the right language. The Perl (familiar devil) vs Python (Unknown horror) battle rages in my head.


Gears of War: Destroyed Beauty []

A concept art coffee table book for people who like detailed images of muscle-ripping locust hordes and macho soldiers on their coffee tables.


And now a touch of frivolty:


Save the earth. Don’t breed. (Brownie points for killing yourself). These folks are serious.

Church of Euthanasia [] (Also, VHEMT [])

From the FAQ:

5. Do I have to kill myself?

Of course you don’t have to kill yourself! If you really want to, though, wait until after you’ve joined the Church. That way, you automatically become a saint, without any additional paperwork. Don’t forget to leave a note thanking and/or blaming the Church, and feel free to will us your estate, if you have one.


Where the Hell is Matt? []

Extra points for recognizing the lyrics in the background score.


Splendid, splendid score. And a cutesy game to go with it: Sunny Day


Roll over, September.


An interesting indicator of what I’ve been up to during any given week is the “define:” history of my Google toolbar. As an experiment, I’m posting snippets from every week’s history to see if a pattern will emerge over the weeks. The entire definitions history for this week has over a hundred phrases (and this week was a slow one, too); This is my primary way of picking up new words as I encounter them.

Below, the most recent ones with comments in parentheses:

Copacetic (Seriously?)

Consortium (no plural)


Symbolise (s vs z)

Initialise (s vs z)


Google bomb

Artifice (Ruse; why art?)

Shoestring (more to it than meets the eye)

Eclectic (shades of meaning)

Rhizome (Biology vs Philosphy)

Ostentatious (As opposed to ostensible)

Autocracy (vs. monarchy. Apparently, there’s no difference.)


Precocious (Adj. used to describe the young Feynman)

August (Knew all the meanings, for a change)

Co$ (This one’s hilarious)

And I can never get past level 48 on Freerice. Not even when I cheat!