April 12th, 2007


Powerful Stumbling

On the way to lunch today, I passed by some people who were putting (shower-removable) dye in people's hair to meet some pledges for some recent disaster somewhere. In theory, I have some silver colouring well below my hat-line now - hopefully it looks decent (I'll check the next time I use the restroom). I've occasionally thought about dying my hair the real way, but apart from letting my mom use lightener on it at some point in the past (which got it almost as light as Collapse )Katie and Andrea, my youngest sisters)...

Before coming to campus today, I had to pay my rent for this month - I apparently didn't pay at the end of last month like I usually do. After a bit of thought, I remembered that I normally pay my bill by habit by noticing the change of month while randomly checking the date on my cellphone, and that didn't happen this month because I was on the road. I don't think I remember very much directly - while there are a few things I can make myself remember by becoming temporarily neurotic about them (a thread of my mind randomly pops up doing IF_CONDITION(...), and it eventually dwindles well after it's no longer relevant), and for some things I repeat them in my head until I handle them, I'm much better either tying things by habit to conditions that relate to whatever I'm doing, arranging for my reality to be different in a way that reminds me what I'm up to (e.g. when walking towards a store, I can think about other things as much as I like because if I forget, the fact of where I am and the direction I'm going makes it obvious what I'm doing, or if carrying a letter, chances are it needs to be mailed), or for remembering between alternatives, I can temporarily tie them to something abstract, and if needed also temporarily alter my thoughts on that abstract thing to help me remember (e.g. if I need to remember between 2148 and 2147 Fnord Avenue, I might temporarily remind myself that I like even numbers for the first, or decide that I'm in an "odd" mood (or lucky, for lucky-sevens)) because somehow that's easier for me to recall than numbers. I'm not sure how much of it makes sense in a CS-ish way (sometimes it might, based on clever tricks with constraints on address spaces), but then one of the things we know about the brain is that memory is not centrally stored (regardless of mode) in one region. I wonder if other people do the same kinds of tricks (consciously or not) - a moment's worth of daydreaming or thinking about something else is startlingly effective at making me lose track of things, but maybe other people arn't like that. I suspect that all this is tied to my love of wordplay..

Things of possible interest:Collapse )

It seems like a lot of people recently have been too busy to have time to hang out (at least I hope that's the case).. it's a bit of a bummer. There are some friends (and people in the borderland near acquaintance) I haven't heard from for awhile - it's hard to know when I should press to avoid being forgotten and when I should wait for them to contact me (or assume that I pissed them off somehow and acknowledge a break).. Meh.

I've been playing accordion a bit more recently. I wish I had a piano too (and maybe a string bass)... Oh, last night, I had a very vivid dream that one of my personal servers was compromised and being used to send spam, and I was undoing the damage manually (reconfiguring sendmail, removing the large spool of outgoing mail) rather than reinstalling the OS. Weird. I suppose after almost ten years of Unix as my primary OS (with scattered remote use before then), it shouln't surprise me so much to remember the Unix commands I used in my dreams. To my current memory, I don't recall ever having similar dreams about DOS...


Virtual Lines

The USB sticks I ordered for my research group are kind of weird - in times past, I learned that when configuring a computer, it's usually best to completely remove the operating system and reformat, to remove programs bundled by the vendor. This is the first time I've had to do it for a USB stick - I initially was surprised to find that what I put on the stick in Windows wasn't visible under Linux, as well as that the device registered as a CDROM as well as storage under both Linux and Windows(!). Under Windows, it also automatically installed some software to manage the device. Removing the partition table (and making a new one with new filesystems) under Linux confused Windows a bit, but didn't remove the "CD" contents. Eventually, I prodded under windows at the contents, seeing some linux bootloader components, mention of "compatible software" running "on the device", and eventually an option in the menus to convert it to a regular storage device, after which it registered simply as a storage device and behaved as expected. I'm bothered by this in the sense that it means the stick's management of its content type (and how it registers with the computer) is configurable - I wonder if at some point the sticks and hard drives will take virtuality to the next level, understanding their filesystems, fetching remote things on I/O, perhaps implementing IP controls.. but then I think I remember reading about drives that are moving rapidly towards that very thing. Sufficient abstraction breeds mistrust of many kinds..

I find it frustrating when people make an argument on philosophy or politics in a movie or book that I want to respond to. Right now I'm watching "The Quarrel", and there's a speech on moral absolutism that I would *love* to respond to - but this is something I tend to love to jump on - this boils down to the notion that having a value system isn't satisfying unless it is absolute (or, in a more confused form, that morality is meaningless unless it is absolute). The other character in the film (it being a Quarrel, after all) regrettably takes a different tack. On the other hand, with this viewing, I'm starting to see some metaphors that I missed in the first few watchings (namely allusions to multiple paths to truth being followed by literal wandering down various paths in a park).

I'm beginning to really feel embarassed when rereading blog entries that I wrote while only half paying attention and finding grammar/style/spelling problems.


Lost Dreams

I've been thinking about it for awhile, and I'm convinced now that my decision not to go to Qatar had bad reasons.

  • My being left handed, while always a minor issue, is something I could've easily dealt with. I'm close enough to being ambidextrous that this really wasn't an issue to begin with.
  • My wanting to visit Israel sometime could've also been dealt with - my understanding of relevant policies was incomplete on this
  • My obligation to be a pretty face for CMU was something I could've dealt with while there (and while it would've been a burden, the learning experience would've made it worthwhile). After leaving Qatar, it would have neither legal weight (if they made me sign anything) nor moral weight (being against the public good, any agreements of that sort would be null on their face). I had legitimate concerns on both legal and moral concerns here.
More than being based on bad reasons, it was a bad decision. I would've been good at the (very high level technical) job I was offered, I would've had much more varied life experiences, and I realise in retrospect that my life is and was in need of a big shakeup. I can't believe that I passed up that opportunity.. I doubt anything remotely that interesting will come up anytime soon. Given a time machine, I would go back and direct myself to do it..

What would I have missed?Collapse )

Well.. shoot. Oops. Maybe instead I can get an awesome job with Google somewhere in Europe sometime late this summer.. some part of me, maybe based on moving around a lot before I was 7, has a mix of fear, excitement, and sadness at the idea of moves, but I really need this.