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Entries from October, 2010

2010-10-01 | 0 comments

Items meriting more of a writeup:

2010-10-02 | 0 comments

Yesterday, Björn and I took a trip to Willow Garage, the company that makes the PR2 robots that I'll be working with. We were hoping to find out more about how demonstration and teleoperation of the robots are currently done, and what deficiencies existed in current options, and where we might come up with new methods that would be more effective.

Willow Garage as a whole is awesome. There was neat hardware EVERYWHERE - numerous PRs, and these 5 foot tall robots called Texai with a screen, webcam, and speakers. People use the Texai to telecommute from all over the place, and it's totally ordinary to see them just driving around the lab. Lunch was amazing as well - quinoa salad, green beans, build-your-own salad with lettuce, strawberries, cheeses, cucumbers, soybeans, pear, and glazed walnuts, brown rice, and these delicious mini sandwiches with mayo, tomato, and portabella mushroom. Lunch was also amazing because we got to sit down and chat with some really brilliant folks about what we were looking to do, and what's been done so far. I love how at Willow Garage, it's practically assumed that you can get access to whatever fancy hardware you want. After lunch, we grabbed coffee (I had a cup of Earl Grey), talked to different folks for another couple whiles, and then Leila (our host) gave us adorable shirts and PR2 chocolate bars with HILARIOUS nutrition facts (example: Warning! May contain nuts. And bolts...). If I had support for images in this blogging engine, I'd embed them here.

Around 2pm, Björn and I said our goodbyes to that awesome lab in order to make it back to SF before the massive traffic hit (which we did successfully). He dropped me off at the BART station, and I rode back to Berkeley. On the way there, two people sat across from me - one was a young black man reading the book of Isaiah from the Bible, and the other was a slightly-older black man reading the Qur'an in Arabic.

Later that evening, Facebook hosted a technical discussion/recruitment session, which was interesting. The speaker went into great detail about the various languages that Facebook uses (basically: whatever you're most comfortable with, we'll do it), their RPC platform (Thrift) that allows them to do so, a decent bit about the ridiculous scale that their system has to run at, a block model of the ads subsystem that Facebook uses, and details on how the People You May Know functionality was first implemented, adapted to scale up, and made smarter with machine learning algorithms to provide good results. It was quite in-depth, ran 10 minutes long, and was a delight to listen to. The speaker was animated and entertaining, which was nice.

Today, I spent a good deal of time reading papers for HCI, learning about WSGI, reading papers not relevant to my field but still interesting like (pdf warning) The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions, and watching The Last Lecture. I think that last item was the most impactful.

For those who are unfamiliar: CMU professor Randy Pausch was diagnosed with untreatable pancreatic cancer and was given four to six months to live. On September 18, 2007, he gave his penultimate last lecture, titled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" to a crowd of 400 people.

It's not often that I'm brought to tears by a lecture, so let me simply repost some of the quotes that I found most noteworthy:

While I won't write them down, there are names in my head next to each of these quotes. You know who you are. If you haven't seen it before, go watch The Last Lecture. There are few ways to better spend an hour than being reminded of what's important in your life.

I just baked a batch of brownies. I forgot to set a timer, but I calculated in my head what time they should be done based on when I put them in. When I suddenly smelled the brownies in the midst of my coding, it was precisely that time. Baked goods are awesome because they tell you when they're done.

I have ported the backend of the shortlog to Everything works great on a machine with somewhat recent python libraries. Note that as this does NOT include our dedi, you, dear reader, are still seeing the old, feature-lacking version. Oh, Debian stable, I love you, but you make me cry.

2010-10-03 | 0 comments

I shaved today for the first time in weeks. It took quite a while. I can't shave more than every three days or so without my face breaking out angrily, and then when taken with late nights and early classes, I often don't have time to shave in the morning. In any case, now my face is cold, but smooth.

I have also discovered that I don't dislike brown rice! I just tend to dislike dry rice, and people don't tend to prepare brown rice in a sticky fashion.

I wish I knew how to lead a conversation that other people would find interesting. Lately it seems that I'm failing at that. :-/

2010-10-04 | 0 comments

HCI class today discussed fieldwork, and more importantly, ethnography. Interesting snippets (which may or may not have anything to do with ethnography):

  • "A good way to have conversations with complete strangers it to have a notebook." People are very much interested in telling pretty intimate details of their lives to complete strangers, because they're likely safer people to tell. Also, because they're American.
  • People don't know what they actually want. They know what they don't want from the visceral reaction, but they don't think about what they do want, so they tend to not be able to describe it in a way that's useful to people. People don't tend to think about what they want until you probe them. Solution: ask the right questions once to get them to think about it, and then again
  • "In business, success means dollars. In positive terms."
  • "There are two ways to bridge the gap - make everyone rich, or make everyone poor."
  • On Ghanan scammers: "It is a highly...productive process."

There were many more things that we talked about that I've already forgotten.

I love the CS grad lounge in the mornings. The great big windows fill the room with light, it's quiet, and I seem to read papers with an unusual efficiency when I'm located there.

I've been on campus for 14 hours today. :/

2010-10-05 | 0 comments

Looking at the code I wrote yesterday: I produced way more code than I usually do in a day. The numbers:

(00:24:31) zarvox@kraken ~/git/shareboard $ cat *.cpp *.h | wc -l

Compare that to whitepages v3, which I designed and wrote over the course of a summer:

(00:25:47) zarvox@kraken ~/git/wp3 $ cat *.py | wc -l

Not bad for a day's work, even given the verbosity of C++ as compared to Python.

To make this entry display correctly, I added proper support for the <pre> tag to my old blog engine.

Today, our lab cleaned out some of the cabinets. Long story short, I now own a projector and an HP printer/scanner. I love it when labs get rid of cruft.

2010-10-06 | 0 comments

I think I've finally hit stride with my paper-reading. The solution is to be in the grad lounge at 10:30 am with lots of sunlight and a hardcopy printout of the paper I'm to read.

Now, I just have to get into the habit of doing this one day earlier. And then one more day earlier...

2010-10-07 | 0 comments

I figured out why wasn't working: turns out in 0.2 and earlier, you were expected to print the output to stdout instead of returning a string. A few lines of s/return/print/ later, and you have what you see here.

Yes, it doesn't look very much different. You may notice the permalinks. I'm considering adding breadcrumbs, since now I can support those too with urls like Maybe I'll just add those for permalinks.

Note that the backend shift and new features were not without purpose - permalink support is a prerequisite for implementing Atom feeds, as previously discussed. However, implementing Atom is going to wait until I finish my HCI project due Friday.

OMG xkcd map of online communities.

2010-10-08 | 0 comments

This project is exhausting. I don't think I ever had to code so much in such a short time during my entire undergrad experience, and I tended to put off my projects until the last minute, so that's saying something.

That said, this project may become something of a showcase piece. It performs beautifully, and shouldn't be too tough to polish into something that I'd actually enjoy using.

My labmate informs me that the volume and state of my hair speak volumes to how much sleep I've had recently. Yeah...

Rock climbing tonight, which should be fun. I'd be more excited if I weren't so tired.

2010-10-09 | 0 comments

I slept for six hours, then was awake for three, then slept for another seven. I lack the words to describe how much better I feel now than I did 24 hours ago.

Toward the end of my second sleep block, I remember several dreams. The last one involved me pushing a shopping cart (which I think I was using as a luggage cart) around what looked kinda like a hotel courtyard. I got in the elevator after first watching six people pack in to the right half of the elevator like sardines in a comical fashion. Then the elevator started moving laterally, and I realized that it was in fact a train. The six people and my luggage were now gone, and there were seats on the sides (like a subway train, only the car was still the same size as the elevator), and we were passing by large multilevel parking structures. In retrospect, it seems a lot like an airport monorail with very small cars. Then there were two women sitting across from me. One of them offered me a token for my return trip (for some reason, I knew that the trip there cost 3 tokens' worth), which I accepted, mentioning that I might still have a token on my Charlie Card (apparently, my subconscious decided that this elevator-turned-train was owned and operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority). The same woman asked me if I'd been talking to anyone lately, to which I replied that, no, I'd been spending a huge majority of my time on campus working toward my PhD, which was the first thing that's proving to be really difficult for me. Apparently my subconscious is also mildly bitter about this. And then I woke up.

As I ate a sandwich and some yogurt with fruit, I realized that I still pulled about the same number of all-nighters (or at least late-nighters) per semester in undergrad than I'm currently scheduled to for this semester. The difference in my mind is that those I chose to do by putting off my work, whereas here I feel I haven't been putting off my work. This suggests that while I feel that I've been procrastinating less, perhaps I'm just playing the game with the same skill level, except the difficulty just rose. In turn, I shouldn't worry about feeling exhausted all the time - I just need to get more proactive about the use of my time and be more intentional about my downtime, so I feel like I'm getting more out of it. Then I'll feel like the late nights are justified, since I chose to go do $FUN_THING instead of working.

I find it amusing that I'm consciously plotting to subvert my subconscious. I should finish reading Dan Ariely's book.

Why I'm frustrated right now:

--- ping statistics ---
255 packets transmitted, 139 received, 45% packet loss, time 254798ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 6.171/22.678/85.815/13.199 ms
(19:25:34) zarvox@kraken ~ $ ip route dev eth0  proto kernel  scope link  src
default via dev eth0 

Comcast is coming out tomorrow to investigate (and hopefully, fix) this issue. I only hope that the problem remains long enough for their tech to diagnose properly.

2010-10-10 | 0 comments

I have finished implementing an Atom feed for this blog. I'll get around to modifying the site template to link it later; for now, if you want to add my blog to a feed reader, use this link.

The internet is back to normal, and the Comcast guy hasn't made it out here yet. This, too, frustrates me, since it means I'll probably get charged $40 for a service call.

I cancelled the service call. No sense having the company examine my working cable when it's functioning.

My feed generator had a bug where it would also generate feed entries for the vim swapfiles that get created when I'm editing entries. Whoops. It's fixed now. I'll probably break it in other delightful ways in the future - who knows what might happen!

Time to read papers and make slides for my presentation tomorrow.

2010-10-11 | 0 comments

Today's reading for HCI includes a paper coauthored by Ed H. Chi. In searching for background on the authors to better understand their places in the field, I found his autobiography. What I found interesting was this section:

"College was a breeze, but I worked hard to finish early. I had set my goals, and nothing was going to stop me from becoming a famous computer scientist. Little did I know how hard it is to do that. It was the fortune of a young punk who didn't know the limit, and tried anyhow. This drive, which I still carry to this day, was the major reason of being where I am now."

Heh, sounds somewhat familiar. And then this one:

"There is nothing more shocking than the realization of becoming someone who needed change, because of the single-track focus I had. Toward the end of my Ph. D. in early 1998, I started to change my life philosophy and went through a personal metamorphosis. Before this period, I had rejected the possibility of ever becoming a true Renaissance man, because I had thought that, given all the knowledge in the world, it was impossible to be a good and true Renaissance man. But I gradually realized that it wasn't the END GOAL of being a Renaissance man that mattered, but that the PROCESS of trying is what really mattered."

Most people who know me well know that it is (and has long been) one of my goals is to be a Renaissance man (or at least, as close as I can get). I can't remember exactly who first described me as one, but I remember the glowingly happy feeling I get every time I hear the phrase. Granted, I realized a while ago that being a true Renaissance man now is impossible (as my father put it, "You're a couple hundred years too late to be a Renaissance man"), but in my mind I still see that as the impossibly high goal that I want to strive toward. It may be impossible to get there, but as Chi writes, it's the process of trying that matters.

So, Renaissance man or no, I shall continue to strive for greatness, for knowledge, and for what it is to be a Renaissance man.

I know Sarah will remind me that Renaissance men had impeccable physiques, so I will need to start a more strenuous exercise regimen.

I love Felix von Leitner's slides on what optimizations compilers do. The question "how much does a cache miss cost" was raised in OS today, and in about 20 seconds I re-found slide 47. The whole talk basically says "the compiler is smarter than you are" and gives all sorts of evidence. GCC produces very good code in most of von Leitner's tests, and consistently outperformed icc/sunc/msvc. Impressive stuff, though I'd love to see the content updated for 2010.

2010-10-12 | 0 comments

Matt Might, an assistant professor at University of Utah, writes on successful PhD students. I found this posting (and others) particularly interesting, so I'm going to do my best to avoid reposting the entire page and just quote the particularly noteworthy paragraphs:

"Smart" qualities like brilliance and quick-thinking are irrelevant in Ph.D. school. Students that have made it through so far on brilliance and quick-thinking alone wash out of Ph.D. programs with nagging predictability. Let there be no doubt: brilliance and quick-thinking are valuable in other pursuits. But, they're neither sufficient nor necessary in science.

(aside: I need to come up with some CSS and support in my blog engine for indented blocks, so it's clear what's original and what's quoted.)

This matches everything I've heard so far, and it remains scary to me, because I have gotten this far on brilliance and quick-thinking. The questions I have for myself are:

  • Is this all that there is to me? If so, I should figure that out promptly, if possible, so I can determine:
  • Is this something that I can change about me? It seems very often we accomplish something beyond the ability of who we were when we started trying.
  • Is this what I want? And even if not, is anything out there better?

Second quote from the article:

For students that excelled as undergraduates, the sudden and constant barrage of rejection and failure is jarring. If you have an ego problem, Ph.D. school will fix it. With a vengeance. (Some egos seem to recover afterward.)

Hehehehe, I've mostly learned how to not have such an ego that I put others off, but inside I'm still probably a bit on the cocky side. Thus, any future frustration I express here can possibly be attributed to my ego being deflated. I do appreciate the relevant practice certain people have given me over the past few years - I'm getting better, really!

Final quote from the article (emphasis mine, and apologies for quoting four paragraphs without having indent block functionality (I really need to implement that, I see)):

"Generally, grad students don't arrive with the ability to communicate well. This is a skill that they forge in grad school. The sooner acquired, the better.
Unfortunately, the only way to get better at writing is to do a lot of it. 10,000 hours is the magical number folks throw around to become an expert at something. You'll never even get close to 10,000 hours of writing by writing papers.
Assuming negligible practice writing for public consumption before graduate school, if you take six years to get through grad school, you can hit 10,000 hours by writing about 5 hours a day. (Toward the end of a Ph.D., it's not uncommon to break 12 hours of writing in a day.)
That's why I recommend that new students start a blog. Even if no one else reads it, start one. You don't even have to write about your research. Practicing the act of writing is all that matters."

Another excellent reason for me to continue writing (and at possibly greater length) in my blog. Even better - now my blogging can be described in terms of benefit to the larger goal of my PhD and communication in general; thus, blogging is no longer procrastination. Messing around writing code to support it might be, but now I have an (if only in hindsight) adequate rationale for continuing to spend time writing.

That's it for my musings of the day, so now I'll briefly mention a couple events:

Ordering food for lab lunch: this is a rant. I wanted to order food for 15-20 people from Viet Nam Village. I called a day in advance, trying to explain what I was after and place the order in advance, so they'd have time to fill it. I was asked to "call back tomorrow." I thought this odd, but thought "hey, they probably know what they're doing," so at 9am this morning I dutifully called back. No one answered. I continued to call back at 30 minute intervals until 10:30, when a man who sounded like the same man I'd talked to the night before picked up. As I tried to place the order, he informed me that it was "too much!" I explained that, expecting this, I had tried to call last night, and had been told to call back in the morning. He apologized, but there was nothing more he could do. So, note to self: don't try to order lunch for the lab from Viet Nam Village. In a state of mild panic, I SMSed Luke, who is also half-responsible for lab lunch, and he came through with the suggestion of La Val's pizza, which delivered and was delicious. Second note to self: don't bother ordering plain cheese pizza; just get another BBQ chicken.

Microsoft Tech Fest: MS set up five booths for tech talks in the Woz lounge, got burritos, and brought cupcakes frosted in the red, green, yellow, and blue hues that match their windows branding (I need to implement photos for my blog too, it seems). I enjoyed talking to the Kinect guy in particular. It seems that it's still probably a bit early to try using the Kinect skeleton-capture as a video input for my research - currently, the SDK only supports running on the Xbox360, and the PR2 is strictly x86, so it's not likely that I could share a codebase, which is important to me. Further, the resolution is only 320x240, which may not be precise enough for tracking fine movements. I guess I could run some back-of-the-envelope calculations to guess at precision, but I doubt it's anywhere near the millimeter accuracy I'm going to get with the motion capture system that I now have access to.

OH YEAH. I HAVE ACCESS TO A MOTION CAPTURE RIG. Apparently there's one in my building, in the Teleimmersion lab. It's almost directly above the lab I sit in. Björn got permission for me to use it. It tracks up to 32 points at millimeter accuracy in 3D at 480Hz. That is quite impressive, for those of you not familiar with motion capture. I'm excited.

BONUS: From the PhaseSpace (the vendor of the motion capture system I'll be using) website: "PhaseSpace also includes a full C++ and Python API to allow you to write your own custom software. All of our software runs on both LINUX and WINDOWS." Also cool: their appliance that does the processing also runs Linux. I can't wait.

2010-10-13 | 0 comments

Today I saw a random person who I didn't recognize wearing an EC shirt. Small world.

I also went to a talk on full-duplex radio, which was absolutely fantastic. Incredibly cool stuff - basically, in analog circuitry before they hit the ADC, they feed in an inverted copy of the TX output wave. There's some fancy adjustments necessary to get it to line up and cancel just right, but properly calibrated, the team has gotten 55dB S/N ratio. Very impressive work.

2010-10-15 | 0 comments

Apparently, I burned my left index finger a while back, because the whole tip is peeling.

I am not (yet) very adept at statistics. It's a subject I spent one semester on my first year of undergrad, and it hasn't exactly come up again until now. Hopefully I can produce accurate plots and correctly determine statistical significance.

I also seem to have issues with noticing when my blood sugar is too low. I was really grumpy and depressing this evening, and I felt worlds better after I made myself a steak and some veggies.

2010-10-16 | 0 comments

By necessity, I've learned the basics of using matplotlib, a Python library for industrial-strength plotting. I have to say, it's pretty neat. I would not mind getting to be more proficient with it, since I never really learned how to use Mathematica, Matlab, Maple, and R.

I have a team for College Puzzle Challenge. I'm excited - I had a ton of fun participating in (and winning, at the TAMU site) the competition the past two years, and I feel like after joining Death From Above for the MIT Mystery Hunt this last winter, I'm even better prepared.

It's a goal of mine to write a puzzle hunt of my own at some point. It would be an intense intellectual venture to write that many puzzles with varying mechanics, and have the whole thing fit together under a unified theme (which I'm having terrible difficulty coming up with, by the way). This is the sort of thing that inevitably gets put off until a long break period occurs, since writing so many puzzles is not an overnight task for a single man. As described by puzzle hunt writers over many years, one writes the hunt backwards, starting with the meta-meta puzzle, then writing the meta puzzles (each of which belongs to a particular round with a different subtheme), and then writing the individual puzzles themselves.

I wonder if there's a way to tie puzzle hunts into my research. THAT would be an awesome motivator.

I made this quiche for dinner tonight. Well, minus the ingredients that I didn't have on hand, which happened to be the onions, thyme, and nutmeg. Also the sour cream. Nonetheless, it was a great success and quite filling, to boot.

2010-10-17 | 0 comments

Today was notably colder than most days this fall have been. I enjoyed wearing a long-sleeved shirt and my green corduroy pants (that are way too short for me to wear anywhere except home) and having my feet get cold. It pleasantly reminded me of my time in Massachusetts, so I called my aunt who lives there and touched base. Then I called my mom and dad and chatted for a bit. The best part of today was wearing my black trenchcoat. I hope it's cold enough tomorrow for me to wear it again. I love winter.

I went to a ramen place for dinner. Actually, I meant to go to a ramen place for dinner, but got distracted by the street fair that was going on and had three blocks of the street blocked off and tons of tents set up. There were booths with all sorts of foods, scents, textiles, clothing, and jewelry. I particularly like the booth with jewelry that looked like tiny foods - earrings with slices of cake, bell peppers, cupcakes, and so forth. I walked up and down the blocks, trying to see as much as I could before the fair ended. I stopped and listened to the Berkeley High School Jazz band, which made me think of Steven Schrag and his awesome jazz piano skills. And then it was 6pm and the fair started closing up, so I made my way to my original destination, the ramen restaurant. The food was pretty tasty, and the water was flavored with sesame.

I ran some numbers, and since moving to Berkeley, I've spent almost exactly an average of six dollars a day on foodstuffs. This includes eating out on occasion. I'm not sure if this number is high, low, or average. It will probably go up as the number of industry-sponsored free dinners drops off.

2010-10-18 | 0 comments

In a curious instance of software misbehavior, my desktop now thinks the "Media Stop" button on my Saitek Eclipse II is, in fact, another "Volume Down" key. The two keys are different keycodes (174 and 122, respectively), but apparently are both getting mapped to keysym 0x1008ff11.

I was going to put off investigating this until I realized that I still have an old (and broken!) ~/.Xmodmap. Mystery solved.

I got spam in the mail today from the "church" of scientology. Weird.

Also arriving in the mail today was something very much not spam: my ACLU membership card. Yay!

2010-10-19 | 0 comments

I know I'm nearly a month behind on the Not So Humble Pie blog, but oh my goodness, that is a lot of cupcakes. A periodic tableful. And ones with Feynman diagrams. And a benzene resonance cake. So many adorable delicious-looking sweets. This makes me want to bake cookies. I need to go to the grocery store.

A brief discussion with Sarah today led to me thinking about professional tools. In particular, I got to thinking about whether or not professional tools for a specialized task should be intuitive. Background: Sarah is planning to get a DSLR and get more professional at photography. I suggested that she play around with digiKam, KDE's (notably powerful) open-source tool for professional photographers. She replied "I tried digikam's not intuitive." My first thought was to protest, since I love the tool. After a moment more thought, I realized that her statement was valid - digiKam is NOT as intuitive as other tools for super simple editing. Then I thought: "And it shouldn't be."

Back to the interesting and more generalizable question: should professional tools be intuitive? A tool's level of intuitiveness is a reflection of how well the user's mental model aligns with the tool's presented model [1, 2]. I suspect that for professional tools, the user's natural mental model is less efficient in the long run than adopting the superior model used by the tool. This means that at some point, the user is going to have to suck it up and deal with learning a nonintuitive system for a greater long-term benefit. Example: compare the efficiency of a master programmer using Vim against someone using Notepad. The model of the former is anything but intuitive to a first-time user, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a master programmer who didn't accept that Vim is a far more effective tool for writing software than notepad. The same applies to professional photography - there's a reason the pros choose Lightroom over MS Paint - despite being a pain now, it's less of an accumulated pain in the long run.

The second interesting question is thus: how do you know when to force a superior model on the user? When is "good enough" good enough? Or, put in another way, how should a user know when it's a good idea to take a temporary performance hit for a long-term benefit as a result of switching tools? People tend to be bad at making short-term sacrifices for long-term goals (see Dan Ariely's introduction to The Upside of Irrationality), so I suspect that this irrationality keeps people from using effective tools.

I should note that tool "professionality" isn't an excuse for poor design - even the non-intuitive tool model should be well-thought-out and optimized for the user's long-term benefit. It just need not match the novice user's initial mental model. I wonder what other papers I can find on this topic.

  1. Direct Manipulation Interfaces, Edwin L. Hutchins, James D. Hollan, and Donald A. Norman, Human-Computer Interaction, 1(4), 1985, pp. 311 - 338.
  2. User Technology: From Pointing to Pondering, Stuart K. Card and Thomas P. Moran, ACM Conference on the history of personal workstations, 1986, pp. 183 - 98

2010-10-20 | 0 comments

Since I am a technology enthusiast, I tend to be an early adopter and thus, I hit on bugs that other people may or may not see. Since I already write about the random bugs I hit, I'm going to give such postings a name: the Computers Are Magic series.

Computers Are Magic, part 1: audio whine. On Ubuntu 10.10, it seems that when I play a single stream of audio, there is this high-pitched whine that I hear over whatever it is I'm supposed to hear. The addition of a second playing audio stream makes the whine go away, even if the second stream is completely silent. I believe this to be a Pulseaudio bug - no such whine is present when I play straight to the ALSA device. The upshot of this is that I can add or remove whine to my audio playback by pausing or unpausing a muted audio stream. This should have you thinking "Wait, WHAT?"

Sidenote: I finally figured out what the title of Lennart Poettering's blog means. TBFKAYIBYNYAANB = The Blog Formerly Known As "Yes, I Broke Your Network, Your Audio, And Your Boot." Why? Lennart wrote Avahi, PulseAudio, and systemd.

You know you're on Berkeley Time when you arrive in the classroom one minute after your class's official starting time and find one other student and zero professors. Good times.

2010-10-21 | 0 comments

It would appear the bug that I hit yesterday has already been reported. Given more time, I may help the reporter/assignee track down exactly what went wrong.

Oh goodie, the ACLU has finally taken a (rather strong) stance in support of Net Neutrality. I was wondering when they'd get involved - I see net neutrality as one of the issues that will define the future of the internet.

Kirby's Epic Yarn looks...epic. I haven't thought about video games in a while, but this one looks awesome. Aside: that's one of the more awesome domain names I've encountered in a while.

I went to the Oracle infosession today, hosted by Larry Lynn, Oracle's VP of Recruiting. I left with an unusually large amount of loot and two particular salient thoughts:

  1. Wow, Oracle is ridiculously loaded.
  2. Wow, Oracle is ridiculously elitist. (Jury is still out on whether that's a bad thing or not.)

There was food, but it had so much pepper flake that my mouth stopped tasting and just started hurting. My lips were on fire, and NOTHING HELPED. I sought milk, but found none. After a while, the pain subsided and I returned to my normal state of rational thought. Some might debate that last adjective.

Today I learned that T-Mobile has an IPv6 beta. I'm considering signing up, but I don't really have anything else with an IPv6 address. I can't get on the Comcast IPv6 trial any more, and I don't think my dedi will be handing out v6 addresses any time soon. All that said, I definitely DO get globally routable addresses while on campus at Berkeley, so perhaps I can do testing there.

2010-10-24 | 0 comments

Augh. I'm way behind on blogging. Things that will get written up later:

  • Friday's conference at IBM Almaden
  • Saturday's house party and Wii hacking
  • Berkeley's EECS mailserver debugging

2010-10-27 | 0 comments

Nokia released firmware PR 1.3 for the N900. No big UI changes, as far as I see, but syncing with Google Calendar works properly now. I'm pleased.

I do believe I am getting sick. Pity.

2010-10-28 | 0 comments

I threw up this morning, so I stayed home today. Which is a shame, since BiD hosted social hour today for the CS Graduate Student Association.

I have slept 16 of the past 24 hours. I'm going to go see if I can get a mononucleosis test done tomorrow.

2010-10-29 | 0 comments

Update: no longer nauseated. Still super tired. Slept in until it was too late to reasonably wait in triage for a mono test.

2010-10-30 | 0 comments

Today I went to the Tang Medical Center. The staff at the Urgent Care office were super nice and friendly, and the atmosphere was jovial. Their chipper attitudes put me in a good mood. While I didn't show any notable symptoms of mononucleosis (except, of course, the constant sleepyness), Dr. Hope noted that they've had a spate of mostly asymptomatic mono recently. Another possible cause that popped into my head as I was describing my situation to the nurse was that I might have hypothyroidism - my mom does, after all, but I've typically had a high metabolism. Dr. Hope found nothing indicative of worrisome problems, so we decided that if I don't feel better by Thursday, I should come in and have blood drawn for a mono test and a thyroid test.

After visiting the Tang Center, I walked to my favorite sushi restaurant, since I was already on the south side of campus. I had a delicious lunch, and by the end, it was raining lightly outside. I walked home in my trenchcoat, which kept me, my papers, and my book dry.

I beat Kirby's Epic Yarn, with the exception of all the apartment-dweller minigames. Those things feel more like a chore than a game.

I have finally reached 0 unread items on my RSS feeds. This is more of an accomplishment than you would probably guess, considering that I follow 42 blogs, several of which are agregators of a collection of sources. I believe this is the first time in several months that I have reached the equivalent of "inbox zero" for my feeds. It'd be interesting to see how much time I spend reading each one of my feeds to analyze what I find the most interesting or what I derive the most value from. It'd be fairly accurate, since if an article is utterly boring, I'll skip to the next one.

2010-10-31 | 0 comments

I'm interested to know what other people think about the use of focus-enhancing drugs, like Modafinil (aka Provigil) or Methylphenidate (aka Ritalin, Concerta). I came across this article, which prompted several thoughts. Friends and family: don't freak out, I'm not going to go illegally obtain and consume these medications.

  • People who have taken these drugs: how do they make you feel? Did they work as prescribed? What side effects do you experience?
  • People who haven't taken these drugs: go read about them, if you haven't yet. Would you want to take them to enhance your ability to focus and do productive work? Why or why not?
  • Everyone: I note that diagnoses of ADD/ADHD are on the rise. Do those diagnosed really have a problem that requires medication, or might these drugs be overprescribed? How do we draw the line between who needs medication and who just needs to get a grip on themselves and exercise self-discipline? Should people be allowed to elect to take the medication rather than develop self-discipline?
  • Playing devil's advocate: In some sense, we could say that parents/psychiatrists mandate the use of these drugs in what we might call "underperforming" children. Why should or shouldn't we apply this standard equally across society? If your IQ is lower than X, or you can't do task Y as well as we'd like you to, why don't we medicate that?

Really neat compounds, but a stickerbrush of ethical issues.

Reader, if any of this interests you, I'd love to hear your views on this matter.

Random sidenote: I really shouldn't look up diseases on Wikipedia before I go to bed, because the images of afflicted people will inevitably be stuck in my mind as I try to fall asleep, and that generally doesn't help me relax.