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Semiformalishmaybe

Tazza d'Oreo, redux

Third trip to Tazza d'Oreo. Thoughts, events:Ohh their sandwiches are good. I did not know they had them for trip one or two, because they have a million menus hidden away of things they are willing to make. This sandwich comes with a tasty salad too. It ranks very highly on my list of sandwich places, their mushroom sandwich being on par with that from Craig Street Coffee (their ingredients are slightly fresher with a slightly better taste - note that both are extremely fresh, although their bread is ever so slightly harder, and I like slightly softer breads because they poke my mouth less).

Douglas Adams was quite right in stating that making of sandwiches is a common task that can be elevated to a high art. This is the style of cooking highly valued in French cuisine - the ingredients are not unusual except in their quality - preparation and presentation of common dishes are all the art.

Revised and shortened repost from a private post on that:

Friday after the prey left, at Tazza d'Oreo, the MLM guy noticed all the dirty looks I was giving him and gave me an oddly friendly hello, upon which I've delivered my rarely administered "you are the scum of the earth" speech (most people I know have never even seen me angry), outlining why MLM is inherently deceptive and how he was a huckster in a barely-legal and definitely-harmful enterprise. I judge such people very harshly - even those who advocate strict Sharia or are crazily anti-gay have a coherent system into which their beliefs fit, and while the notion of the public good they're seeking is very alien (and worth opposing) to my perspective, this is a difference between universalisable value systems. In the case of the huckster, the irredeemably selfish, and some others who have no notion of public goods, their actions merit no such consideration - they are harmful in all reasonable civilisations (the word 「reasonable」 has a lot of nuance here (and use of the term this way might constitute playing games with the term - consider it potentially philosophically sloppy) that I don't want to get into right now). After a few futile attempts to stave off the criticism, he went off, redfaced.

A few tables over, there was an older guy who turned out to be from the Merton centre (a local radical leftist foundation, originally founded by Christian Socialists (but with the slow decline of christian socialism in the US, shifted vaguely towards anarchosocialism) that provides legal, educational, and other support for all sorts of causes). We had a rather long conversation about activism, political philosophy, failures of the soviet union, etc. We had a few areas of major disagreement (he advocated an immediate and total pullout of Iraq, and felt that invading Afghenistan was mistaken) and a lot of areas of substantial agreement. Although I've rubbed shoulders with pog folk before, I've never met a Merton person before - if the centre itself is well represented by him, their philosophy is much more worked out than that of POG (which is, for better or for worse, the voice of proper activism in Pgh).

I've been wondering whether the kind of people who do research at an academic institution who focus on finding a neat heuristic given lightly relaxed constraints overlap much with the people who focus on finding an algorithm. Distinct yet is the aim to find heuristics in fields where there are no generally accepted algorithms.

  • Here we present a means to approximate doing X with markedly better performance, if we allow the following $generally_reasonable_thing
  • Here we present a minimal solution to problems of type X
  • Here we present a system to do X
Perhaps the proportion of papers in each is a strong hint as to the maturity of a field?

Twitter is in fact kind of neat, even if it takes a bit of a mental shift. I still don't use it in the normal sense because it makes me more lonely when I see other people invited to things and all, but maybe it's fun to experiment with being Oscar Wilde. It's not hard to hook it into my monitor-the-world application that would offend privacy experts :P Unfortunately, like usenet, Twitter appears to have been discovered by marketing types and botters. My longtime internet handle, 「Improv」, is proving irritating to have there because all these piddly comedy clubs do searches for the term and add every match to friends. It'd probably be a lot more irritating if I used twitter in the regular sense, but still...

I am slightly creeped out by my new camera never needing to be charged. It has been weeks since I got it (I think), and it is still running strong on the initial charge. Perhaps it has learned to do cold fusion.

It appears I am being summoned by the slices of pecan pie here. Maybe I will further have to swing by 「Fuck Yeah Icecream」 on the way home - being less depressed today means actually having appetite! In theory, I am here to sketch.

Comments

my monitor-the-world application

This sounds intriguing. Details?
It's the evolution of old scripts written in perl that were designed to keep track of people and events that I knew. Among other things, it tries to keep track of where people are and what they're doing, where they typically access the internet from, what systems they use, etc. To a certain extent it also tracks politically interesting people by news stories and gathers other info that can be gotten about the state of things (although most of this functionality is broken now).

It does a lot of screen scraping, log parsing (pidgin, apache, etc), and the like (fingerd, etc) to try to build/maintain the info.

If I cared enough about the personal side of things, I'd rewrite it - it's not as powerful as it should be and the screen scraping of some sites is presently broken - in theory it should be possible to do this more robustly. As-is, it's still mostly running, but if it stopped I probably wouldn't bother putting it back together. It might be best to think of it as an automatic feed generator from before atom/rss conquered the world (although having it actually make and use feeds might not be terrible if I could be arsed to do it).

The last code chunk I wrote hooks into Twitter, probably the last new development it's seen in years and also probably the last it'll ever see unless I ever rewrite it. The thing's a mess.
Very eeenteresting! I do not have the automation you do; I have a manual database in which I track people, places, things, accounts, relevant facts, etc. But your stuff sounds pretty useful and interesting. I keep meaning to do more screen-scraping, but it is in fact so brittle that I've only attempted it once and was frustrated rapidly.