zwol: ((mad) science)

I'm doing a research project related to online censorship, which you can help with, by visiting in any reasonably recent version of Firefox, Chrome, or IE. (You must have JavaScript enabled. It doesn't work in Safari, which unfortunately means you cannot use an iDevice.) Press the Start button on the map, wait for it to finish, and then click the "Tell me more" button (which appears when it's done) and read the text and follow the instructions. It is especially helpful if you do this on a computer physically located somewhere other than Europe and North America.

More details )
zwol: (burn zombies burn)

Time for another episode of No User Serviceable Parts!

This time I'm not going to complain about self-tapping screws at all, nor am I going to have pro and con lists, nothing like that. This time I'm just going to ask you what's wrong with this picture.

The picture behind the cut, that is. )
zwol: (commedia dell' arte)

Comment to this post, and I will list seven things I want you to talk about. They might make sense or they might be totally random. Then post that list, with your commentary, to your journal. Other people can get lists from you, and the meme merrily perpetuates itself.

From [ profile] vvvexation:

Years after I abandoned a career in chemistry, it dawned on me that what I had really enjoyed was the lab work. Now I can't help wondering if I coulda made a go of it on the synthesis side instead of the theory side.
Are yummy, but should be referred to as 'scones' or 'cookies' to avoid confusion.
I have spent almost no time around them and would like to know if they're actually as foolish as they are reputed to be.
the Singularity:
In its original form, it was predicated on laughably optimistic notions of progress in AI research. Human-equivalent robots need at least 50 more years of R&D, and disembodied intelligence may never be achieved. That said, it is a useful corrective for people who assume the future will be just like the present day, especially those who, by the present day, actually mean Pleasantville.
Has never really appealed to me.
One time, someone in the Cornell University Marching Band hit me in the face with their trombone. ... Fuck, was that fifteen years ago already?
I read it in ninth grade, more or less back-to-back with The Dispossessed, instead of paying attention in Spanish 1 (still the worst instructor I have ever had). Years later I reread The Dispossessed and was blown away by just how much of it had gone right past me. If I reread Dune, either the same thing will happen, or the Suck Fairy will have visited and I won't get past page ten. I kinda don't want to collapse the wave function. (For the record, the Suck Fairy had already gotten to the sequels when I picked them up for the first time. I did manage to make it through volume two before I gave up; I doubt I'd do the same today.)
zwol: stylized sketch of a face in profile (Default)

A monopoly on the means of communication may define a ruling elite more precisely than the celebrated Marxian formula of “monopoly on the means of production.” Since man extends his nervous system through channels of communication like the written word, the telephone, radio, etc., he who controls these media controls part of the nervous system of every member of society. The contents of these media become part of the contents of every individual's brain.

Thus, in pre-literate societies taboos on the spoken word are more numerous and more Draconic than at any more complex level of social organization. With the invention of written speech—hieroglyphic, ideographic, or alphabetical—the taboos are shifted to this medium; there is less concern with what people say and more concern with what they write. (Some of the first societies to achieve literacy, such as Egypt and the Mayan culture of ancient Mexico, evidently kept a knowledge of their hieroglyphs a religious secret which only the higher orders of the priestly and royal families were allowed to share.) The same process repeats endlessly: Each step forward in the technology of communication is more heavily tabooed than the earlier steps. Thus, in America today (post-Lenny Bruce), one seldom hears of convictions for spoken blasphemy or obscenity; prosecution of books still continues, but higher courts increasingly interpret the laws in a liberal fashion, and most writers feel fairly confident that they can publish virtually anything; movies are growing almost as desacralized as books, although the fight is still heated in this area; television, the newest medium, remains encased in neolithic taboo. (When the TV pundits committed lese majeste after an address by the then Dominant Male, a certain Richard Nixon, one of his lieutenants quickly informed them they had overstepped, and the whole tribe—except for the dissident minority—cheered for the reasertion of tradition.) When a more efficient medium arrives, the taboos on television will decrease.

— “Appendix Teth: Hagbard's Booklet,” Leviathan, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, 1975.

Thirty-seven years later, still relevant, and if you're reading this you know what the “more efficient medium” was.

zwol: ((mad) science)

Upon discovering that Photo Editor A has inexplicably discarded the time stamps on ninety-four photos, causing Photo Editor B to get peeved and file them all under "No Event" instead of a sensible date, there are three types of people in the world:

  1. Those who ignore the problem.
  2. Those who manually re-enter the timestamps on all 94 photos using an interface not intended for this task.
  3. Those who figure out how to write a shell script that would automatically copy the time stamps over from the archived raw files.

Today I am type two. On some other day I might be type three, but probably never type one.

(Technology makes more work for us: if I had been shooting with my old film camera, there wouldn't be any timestamps to correct.)

zwol: (commedia dell' arte)
I need a particular piece of clip art: a black-and-white vector drawing of an eye, seen from the side, styled to look malevolent somehow. I have not been able to find any such thing except on sketchy-looking icon search sites that want money. (I'm willing to pay a small amount of money for this, but not to a site that has probably itself ripped off the image from someone. I can't afford to spend more than about US$10.)

Is there an LJ or DW community where one may commission such things? (This isn't for a journal icon, so those communities seem inappropriate.) Or if you would like to draw me one yourself, please do get in touch. :)
zwol: (burn zombies burn)
The first few paragraphs of this paper are terrible. May I have permission to keep writing, rather than fixing them, please?
zwol: (commedia dell' arte)
After quite a hiatus, They Might Be Giants are coming
back to San Francisco this November (11/12 and 11/13, at the
Fillmore). I still don't know how much the tickets cost or how fast
they're going to sell out, but I have links to where you *should* be
able to buy them -- tomorrow. (The 26th, in case that's today by the
time you get this.)

11/12 San Francisco, CA – Fillmore - on sale 6/26 -
11/13 San Francisco, CA – Fillmore - on sale 6/26

I plan to attend the 11/12 show, on account of that one's on a
Saturday. I would love to see any and all of you there (and do feel
free to send this along to anyone else who might be interested) but I
regret, I cannot coordinate -- please buy your own tickets and make
your own travel arrangements.. (But please do let me know if you'll
be there.)
zwol: ((mad) science)

because i'm sick and playing way too much match-3...

in a standard match-3 game where one move is swapping two adjacent tiles, each move must create at least one line of 3 or more tiles of the same color, all such lines are immediately removed and scored, and there are no special moves or tiles: what is the maximum number of tiles that can be removed in the first scoring round, i.e. before the empty space is filled? from this configuration you can get 14 tiles...


(swap bold tiles) and i don't think you can do better, but maybe i'm missing something.

The number of tiles that can be removed on the second and subsequent scoring rounds is bounded only by the height of the board, because of this pattern:

.B   .

(vertical bars indicate repetition) but it's still interesting to ask what is the largest kingwise connected pattern around the pattern removed in the first round that can be removed in the second round. you might think it's this pattern:

.AA    BB.

with 18 tiles to be removed, but there is no way to create this pattern by exchanging two tiles, from a legal game position.

zwol: stylized sketch of a face in profile (Default)
  1. Packaging for one camera, one spare battery for said camera, two different types of memory module, and a shirt.
  2. Two sets international power adapters.
  3. CAD$4.77 and HKD$1, in coins.1
  4. Four tablets ibuprofen.
  5. One bottle glass cleaner.
  6. One box strike-anywhere kitchen matches.
  7. One whiteboard, 16.5" x 23".
  8. One square cup containing dry-erase markers and a Sharpie.
  9. Two checkbooks drawing upon accounts closed more than a year ago.2
  10. One pen-holding insert for a Timbuk2 brand messenger bag.
  11. Two coasters.
  12. One FedEx envelope (used).
  13. One pair scissors (small).
  14. One prepaid UPS merchandise return label.
  15. One proxy ballot for a company that my parents purchased shares in on my behalf when I was a little kid.
  16. One rubber band.

1 I have never been to Hong Kong.

2 How should I dispose of these? They're too fat for my shredder.

zwol: ((mad) science)
Does anyone within reasonable driving distance of Mountain View, CA (let's say no more than about 60 miles as the wolf runs) have gear for calibrating the colors on a computer monitor and/or a digital camera, that I could borrow for a couple days?
zwol: stylized sketch of a face in profile (Default)
A helpdesk person used the old "please unplug your gadget and plug it back in again (because then you'll actually check whether it's plugged in instead of just saying it is)" trick on me today.

And it was SPOT ON.

I had forgotten that this particular gadget's power cord was unpluggable at both ends, and the gadget end had worked loose enough to break the electrical connection but not enough to fall off.

So I feel silly, but on the other hand, I don't have to ship the thing to Illinois for repairs, so we'll call that a win.
zwol: (commedia dell' arte)

Primus: They're doing the “stump people with the first lines of your books” game over at and I thought I'd repost my entry here, what with the probably massively non-overlapping readership and what not:

  1. I suppose that if I were going to blame our involvement on anyone (which I see no reason to do), I would be compelled to say that it was all Aunt Charlotte's fault.
  2. The dragons came at dawn, flying low and in formation, their jets so thunderous they shook the ground like the great throbbing heartbeat of the world.
  3. She was made after the time of ribs and mud. By papal decree there were to be no more people born of the ground or from the marrow of bones.
  4. Lest details be mistaken for clues, note that Mr. Charles Unwin, lifetime resident of this city, rode his bicycle to work every day, even when it was raining. [Jedidiah Berry, The Manual of Detection — guessed by [ profile] xorphus]

Secundus: This is an actual article for sale not that far from where I live. I'm not sure whether it is more offensive to vampires or to occultists.

zwol: stylized sketch of a face in profile (Default)
I have a bunch of cardboard tiles (specifically, Carcassonne game pieces) on which tea was spilt, and so have come slightly delaminated at the edges. Right now they're mostly okay but it looks like with continued use they might get seriously frayed or even split. Can anyone suggest a way to repair them or at least stop further damage? The only idea I've had so far is applying dilute Elmer's glue to the edges with a brush, but that might only make things worse.
zwol: (burn zombies burn)
I need to be talked out of writing an RFC to define MIME types for fonts.
zwol: ((mad) science)
Suppose for the sake of this hypothetical that magic works if and only if a quorum of observers expect it to work (sort of like in Waldo & Magic, Inc.) You have constructed, in the privacy of your lab, a security checkpoint which works by magic: it casts "detect malicious intent" on anyone who walks through. Perhaps it can even do this to objects, picking up on the intent of the assembler, and so for instance distinguish a bomb from a properly packaged shipment of explosives.

If you could get everyone to adopt this device, security screening at airports and elsewhere would be faster, more accurate, and far less intrusive. But the trouble is, it only works if people believe it will. (Assume it's not a problem if the person being scanned doesn't believe it works, as long as the operator and enough of the other people in the area do.)

How do you persuade people it works?


Sep. 29th, 2010 12:11 pm
zwol: stylized sketch of a face in profile (Default)
I'm going to be at loose ends in Chicago for a day and a half next week (Friday, and Saturday until I have to go to the airport).

Do you know cool things and/or people in Chicago? What should I do?
zwol: ((mad) science)
I wonder if I can get the NSF, or someone like them, to fund an International Scientific Journal Article Line-Editing Service. Native speakers of Standard Written English (TM) will fix your egregious prose! It'd create jobs! It'd improve the scientific discourse! The journals damn well ought to be paying someone to do this already, but they aren't, but maybe if it gets popular enough as an independent service we can start leaning on them to send everything by us, and then to start footing the bills.

(this message brought to you in part by a catastrophically ambiguous sentence in a cryptography paper)
zwol: ((mad) science)
We got ourselves one of those spiffy vacuum cleaning robots to help deal with our vast expanse of hardwood floor that has to be cleaned constantly or else the soles of our feet turn black with grime. It works great, except I have a couple of Persian rugs and the robot's brushes are destroying their fringes.

It seems like I could solve this problem with two flat strips of something, just wide and long enough to cover up the short edges of the rug. As long as the strips were heavy and non-skid enough that the robot couldn't move them, it should just roll over them and proceed to vacuum the rug itself (which most definitely must be vacuumed). I would put them down over each rug before running the robot in that room, and pick them up again afterward, so they don't need to be aesthetic.

The problem is I don't know what to make the strips out of, or how they should be shaped. My first thought was to use a couple of threshold plates, but it turns out that threshold plates are all made of light metal or plastic, and you're supposed to bolt them to the floor. That won't do. Then I went by the TAP Plastics retail front here in Mountain View and they didn't have anything remotely heavy enough either.

Can anyone suggest anything?
zwol: stylized sketch of a face in profile (Default)
It's sort of sad that this todo list from 10 years ago is still the third Google hit for my name. I think less than half of the things in that list ever got done.
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