it's a mad world

Mimic the motions.
Attend real life like it counts,
Evermore watchful.

People who seem to be really dedicated to their field impress me a lot.  I probably have babbled about this before, but I don't care what people do as long as they care.  And that's shockingly hard to find.

This weekend is the Lotus Fesitival that I've been blathering about, and yesterday I had the privilege to attend/host a lunch for some of the performers--members of a band called Los de Abajo ("Those from Below").  Only 3 of the 8 members came, but it was delightful to talk to them.  Their band was founded in La Ciudad de México, and their focus is on giving a voice to the people who aren't politically powerful enough to have one of their own.  Yes, this sounds trite, I realize, but they are really living like unos de abajo in that they travel from show to show, staying in hostels, avoiding the rockstar life, and having a ball with us normal folk.  They definitely knew their stuff, and they gave us a couple of fairly lengthy discourses on lots of problems in Mexico (including drug-related violence, underfunded arts programmes, illegal immigration to the States, etc.).  One spoke very respectable English when addressing the group-at-large of honors students, but it was fun to converse with them individually and flex my Spanish muscles.

The GRE was this morning, and that was pretty interesting, I guess.  I struggled into Franklin Hall (one of our administrative buildings), bleary-eyed at 08:30, and wrote argumentative and analytical essays, solved some math problems (NOTE: I definitely didn't realise that there was a calculator button on the screen... yes, I am a moron who didn't read the directions.  I still did okay with my pencil and paper, but eff that.), and attempted some inane analogies.  I was actually really embarassed by my score on the verbal section... until I realised that it was not bad at all relatively.  It would appear that most people just suck at English.

Last night my dear roomies took me out to another bar in Btown to check it out, and it was hilariously full of hipsters.  Welcome to the Root Cellar.  I'll probably go back.

Oh!  I guess I can ride fixed-gear bikes now.  The major difference between these and other cycles is that in order to move, one must pedal.  The gears are affixed to the rear tyre in such a way that there can be no coasting.  This also means that one brakes with one's legs as opposed to traditional brakes (although many fixed-gear bikes come with those, too), which is way hard to get used to.  Generally they are reserved for the creme de la creme of cyclists who know about ratios and that sort of thing, but I guess I can't help but become one of those sorts of people, tooling around as I do with these guys.  Maybe someday I'll be brave enough to try skidding around like a madman (hi, Chas and Patrick).  For now, though, I'm still pretty excited every time I don't die going someplace on one of their bikes.


less hurried, more ninja (?)

Point and dereference,
Then index, convert, and print.
What am I doing?

It's been a shockingly productive day here in Bloomington.  I finished up that OS assignment, wrote some proofs for analysis (which I am still not a fan of... hand-waving gets my goat, and we don't seem to have formal definitions for half the things we are trying to prove statements about), baked a pizza (dericious... recipe below), worked through most of the packet-sniffer for networks, practised piano, and bathed.  Crazy, I know.

Ok, elaborations, for those of you still reading:

Analysis:  So the prof for this class is a topologist who is teaching analysis.  If you are unfamiliar with these words, it's not really important to know what they mean, just that that is a very weird thing.  Those fields are, while not diametrically opposed, quite dissimilar in focus.  This leads to the prof sometimes deciding that we don't know and don't need to know something, whereupon he promptly draws a picture, waves his hands, says some semi-meaningful things, and moves on.  It can lead to very frustrating homework sessions with Chas where we realise that we have no idea what we are actually trying to prove.

Pizza: It was my cooking night tonight, and I didn't have anything particular in mind.  On this occasion, that meant that I just took a bunch of things I love and threw them on dough, put it all through the oven, and called it pizza.  I don't know how many of you have made pizza crust before, but it's super easy (and way tastier than bought crusts).  Venus asked me for the recipe recently, so it's basically like this:

Run water until it gets pretty hot.  You should still be able to touch it, but it should get rather uncomfortable quite quickly.  Put some of this in the bottom of a bowl or cup or whatever you'd like (about 1/2 cup or so).  Add a tablespoon-ish of sugar and swirl it around in the water a little, then get some yeast and sprinkle it over the surface of the water (probably a teaspoon of yeast is plenty).  Shake that around a little bit and let it rest for 5 minutes or so until it gets all frothy and yeast-looking.
Put some flour in a bowl.  Obviously how much varies directly with the volume of bread product you hope to produce.  I used about 4 cups today, I think, for two big pizza crusts.  Add some more sugar (maybe 1/2 cup, probably a little less), then add the water and some more hot water.  Mix it up and add flour or water as necessary until you get a nice doughy consistency.  Mine is usually a little stickier than most people like, but it should be such that there's no flour stuck in the bottom of the bowl and the lump of dough doesn't stick all over your fingers.
Put some olive oil in the bowl and roll the doughball around in it.  This isn't strictly necessary, but it is yummy.  Put the bowl "in a warm place" to rise.  I actually hate when sites say that.  I usually turn the oven on and set the bowl on one of the back burners (oven heat escapes through them on most models, except probably the kind of stoves that have the flat little doodads cooker thingies).  Let it sit for an hour, then abuse it a little to get some air out, then let it sit another half hour.  Then bake it!  I usually bake at 425.

The pizza toppings were just things that I like, as I mentioned: chunks of butternut squash (which I pre-baked for about half an hour before I baked the pizza), garlic (minced), spinach leaves (rough chop), and mozzarella cheese.  It was a hit.

Networks: Georgi and I are chugging away at this packet sniffer.  It has to do things like determine how many packets use which protocols (network layer and transport layer), count occurences of flags on packets, calculate overhead, and check data validity.  Anyway, there's one line that we wrote that I particularly liked:

printf("address %s : %d\n", inet_ntoa(((struct in_addr*)(ipaddrit->first.c_str()))[0]), ipaddrit->second);

inet_ntoa takes a number and turns it into a nice, printable IP address string (like, which is one of the machines in Lindley).  struct in_addr is a struct that is essentially not a struct at all, but instead an integer representing an address.  Unfortunately, some of these addresses don't play nice with the string functions: they print crazy characters and change all the following output into crazy wingdings.  I just really liked the shitty way we had to access that data to make it printable.

Piano: hearing is on Thursday!  Yike!  We learned what sharps and flats are this week, so now I know what all the keys are for.  ;)

Bathing: god, I love that claw-foot tub upstairs.

a little ninja

Cats, mice, noms, threads, locks,
Arrange, coordinate, debug,
Op'ratin' Systems!

I'm having a fair amount of fun with the OS class now that Nate and I are almost done with the first assignment.  Synchronizing data is a kind of interesting problem.  The assignments that we had for this week were to implement locks, CVs, and semaphores (which are three ways to protect shared data in multithreaded environments), and to code a problem related to Harry Potter (the new book's come out!  there are 2 copies of each book and 2 librarians and 30 readers who each want to read some subset of the books) and one related to cats and mice (the cats and mice are pseudo-friends: they share 2 food dishes, but only one species can eat at the set of dishes at a time; the cats will eat the mice if a cat and mouse try to eat at the same time).  There's just one issue related to even and odd cats for the second problem that we'll probably iron out this afterlunch.

I was excited yesterday when Chas asked me to set up the wireless on his little Linux box.  It's running Arch, which is a Linux distro that I've never dealt with before.  Just in case you ever find yourself setting up wireless on one of those things, I found their wiki about it very useful.

Coming soon: the GRE!  I registered this morning.  Eep.


a long wrap-up

A large enough curve
Can appear flat; go find
Once again its end.

I'm sure some of you collected Beanie Babys, too.  I was all into that stuff.  I started after they had been around for a year or so, and this left me at a distinct disadvantage.  Many of the damn things had already retired, which led to their being unavailable in the price range of and 8-year-old.  At some point during my collecting, I decided that I wanted to get all the cats in the set, but there was one that had been a part of the original release and had gone away before I could get it: Flip.

Well, good news!  No one cares about Beanie Babys any longer, and this has led to a drastically improved availability.  I was out with Roy and Jill and Chet on Friday night, and we happened upon FLIP THE WHITE CAT AT A MARSH.  I got the IU nomination for the Churchill scholarship (officially!  woot!), so Jill offered to get it for me as a celebratory present.  This thing ain't leavin' my sight.

In other news, Atomic Age Cinema is still going strong in Bloomington (god, I can't believe I just linked to MySpace for that), and I went last night for a delightful showing in FULL 3-D of the original The Mask from 1968.  It was on a VHS tape, for crying out loud.

Other random occurrences from this weekend: I won a couple dollars in poker, I rewatched Kung Fu Panda (it's still awesome), I closed my window for the first time to keep my room warm enough to sleep in, I watched a train go by, wrote more synchronization code for OS, worked on the packet sniffer for networks (which I will probably write a real post about sometime... I really think it's cool), got some dericious sake from big Big Red, went to big Big Red for the first time, practised piano (my playing test Wednesday will include "This Land is Your Land," and "When the Saints go Marching in."  tough, I know) and ineptly played some Lego Star Wars.


graduation and grad students

Leaves outlined yellow,
Nights cold, snuggle into bed,
And watch the sun rise.

I'm now a few steps closer to graduation: all of my degrees are officially going to be complete, my minors are recorded as they should be, my general honors notation is filed-for, and I'm going to get (ugh) senior portraits.


I've been hanging around grad students a lot this term (unsurprising, considering that I'm in three graduate courses and fully half of my fourth course is graduate students), and life seems good for them.  I know that I don't have nearly so much work as I was anticipating, which leaves good swaths of time to do things like go to the Lotus Festival next weekend, which I definitely recommend to anyone who'll be in the area.  It's a show that takes up all of downtown with performances from artists around the globe: last year I watched some throat singers, which was basically crazy.

Good news!  My LaTeX equation editor, which launched in knol a month or so ago, is now available in Google Docs!  YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

I'm a bit shocked at how fall-y it's getting.  It's easy to tell what time people got dressed when you see them--those with sweatshirts were probably up before 10, and those without, after.  I am excited about cold weather, though, and wearing sweaters and all that.  Oh, and the Pikachu hat, of course.  :D

the tubes: no longer clogged

O, Internet, o!
Wherefore art thou digital?
A rose... whatever.

So I didn't actually feel like finishing that haiku.

Anyway, we once more have the Internet flowing through the tubes to the Llama School, and that means an update!

For my cooking night this week, I made bagna calda, which seems to be a pretty unknown dish, at least among the people I associate myself with.  It was a staple (oh, Lordy, no) in my childhood, and it's pretty delicious.

For one batch (I made three to feed 7 hungry college students):

1/4 cup of butter or margarine (that's one stick of butter)
2/3-3/4 head of garlic (chopped up or run through a garlic press)
2 black olives (chopped up... usually this is anchovies, but we're veggie here)
splash olive oil
1 pint half and half
1 pint heavy whipping cream

Basically, melt the butter and let the garlic simmer in it and get all yummy.  Then add everything else and let it reduce--this took about 2 or 2.5 hours for my batch--over low heat until it's really thick and saucy.  Eat it with chopped vegetables and bread.  Voila!  It's a dip.  :D

Anyway, that stuff's awesome.  I don't have too much else to say... I posted some photos on Picasa of the Bloomington Bike Project and stuff.  Guess that's all for now.  Those of you who are in Bloomington should come to the HHC Coffeehouse Night at the Art Museum tonight: I'm hosting from 19:45-20:45, and you get free delicious Haitian coffee and snacks.  ^____^



What's right is right, and
The wrong is not, but where's the
Line to be drawn at?

Informatics is that weird school at IU that sort of houses the Computer Science department (which, I have been informed, is actually no longer a department, but instead just a... well, there's not a word for it, but it's still slightly separate from Informatics), and they have some neat projects.  I went to a talk yesterday by one of their professors, and she is in social informatics: a field which deals mainly with the ethics of pervasive computing and computers/data in general.

One of her focii is using computers in the homes of the elderly and what sorts of data should be transmitted to caregivers of those living alone.  One system that she helped build tracked a number of things, including bathroom habits, kitchen/eating activity, etc.  It also included a board that could be used to switch the system off--which would show to caregivers as "off"--and one to pause the system, which is much more controversial in that caregivers would be sent average data rather than notified that the system was indeed off.  It was designed to only function in pause mode or off mode for a set amount of time (1hr for pause and 2hrs for off were the test values), but it brought up interesting questions.

She also talked about a project that would theoretically be in conjunction with RPS (Residential Programs and Services... essentially the food and dorm people at IU) that would allow students to track the food they bought and how many calories and grams of fat and things they were consuming.  But who else should have access to that data?  Their parents, if they are paying for the plan?  Healthcare providers, if they think that poor eating habits correlate strongly to poor health?

There were a few other things she discussed, and her talk was really interesting, but I actually have to finish up some math homework that's due in an hour.  Ugh.

add-on: Did you hear about the German anti-AIDS campaign featuring Hitler having sex?  They are trying to show AIDS as a mass-murderer... kinda freaks me out.  I gotta say that I'd be discouraged, though.



From strange places sprout
Beautiful things, if you take
Time to notice them.

I've had a rather strange set of days lately, but I still find myself learning from them, so it's all good.  I think that this blog is going to be rife with these bullet-pointed lists... and for that, I apologise, but I really don't have time to commit coherent and flowy thoughts to text right now.

  • The play on Friday went really well.  We performed in a really strange space: it was essentially a garden party (so acoustics were terrible) with audience on three sides.  Weird.  I have to decide if I'm going to do the real VIDA play or not.  Argh, time commitments.
  • Memory structures are really interesting.  So working memory is usually about 8-10 items; an average person can remember 8-10 numbers or whatever at a time.  This is why we chunk for things like phone numbers and addresses: remembering a number as thirty-three twenty-four is less mentally taxing than remembering it as three three two four.  I remember learning about a guy who could memorize huge sequences of numbers because he correlated them to running times; he was a distance runner, and it was easy for him to "chunk" in this way.  When Alex came, he remembered where he was based on the location of the fraternities and sororities in town, which I thought was a riot, since I've never even bothered to learn any of their names.  I find myself attaching thoughts to objects, and seeing or handling those objects can spark my memory.  Anyway, that was random.
  • Bikes are awesome.  Roy, Chet, Jill, and I spent some time volunteering at the Bloomington Bike Project yesterday afternoon, and we learned how to rebuild headsets (that's basically all the parts of the bike at the front: the handlebars, the front fork, and all the ball bearings and stuff).  The headset that I was working on was apparently pretty strange and sexy; instead of a compact/connected ball bearing setup, mine was built with the ball bearings just loose in grease.  It was both messy and awesome to rebuild.
  • I got nominated for the Churchill scholarship, which, if I get it, would mean that I could get a master's degree at Cambridge (in England) for free.  That would be ridiculous.
Anyway, I have 547 meetings to go to this afternoon, not to mention that I still have analysis homework to do.  So I gotta peace out.  Sorry for the hurried post..



Leaves fall silently,
Don't break, don't bother, just ghosts,
Mem'ries of summer.

So I have to say that I really like the new Blogger text editor.  It's way cuter than the old one.

Other than that, I guess it looks like I haven't put anything on here for a while, so here's some things that I've been thinking about/doing in no particular order:

  • Alex came to visit me over the weekend.  We went caving (Sullivan's Cave, for those of you in the know), I gave him a tour, he met some of my friends, and we went out one of the nights with "the crew" (hi, Thabang, Brett, and Matt).  We saw Comedy Caravan at Bear's again, and this time it was improv.  A couple of the dudes came over to chat our table up after the show, and Alex had the somewhat dubious pleasure of experiencing drunk guys hitting on me.  I don't recall if I mentioned, but I got asked for my phone number in a very sly (and somewhat amusing) way last weekend at the same bar.
  • I read an article recently about "anonymizing" healthcare records.  I can't, unfortunately, find a link to a full paper, but the gist of the article was that 87% of Americans can be found uniquely by using just zipcode, birthdate, and gender.  Maybe you're just as unique as you think you are.
  • I am performing in a play on Friday!  It's about a family of three: a woodcutter father, an imaginative mother, and a pushed-around daughter.  I am the third.  The script is here, and for those of you who do not read Spanish (and don't like Google translator's version :) ), it's basically a story about the father coming home, saying, "Oh, wife, I thought about planting an olive tree today."  The wife saying, "Man, this is going to be great!  We can sell that shit!"  Then they bring me in and argue about how much they are going to charge for the olive oil (when the olives are barely thought of and certainly won't be ready for many years), eventually getting so into it that they slap me around a little and our neighbour has to come over and point out how ridiculous we all are.
  • There is a lot to writing an operating system.  This OS class that I'm in is going to be pretty intense.  Our assignment for this week was to look through the source code and answer a few questions about it, and it's a crapload of C.
  • I'll be awesome at C by the end of term.  My networks class will all be in C, too, so EXTRA PRACTISE.
  • I'm still looking for an internship/short-term job for spring, for any of you out there in real-world-land who might happen to know recruiters.  ;)
  • I was recently informed that I am not too tall to be an astronaut.  Also that Bill Stone, the guy who I was all excited about working for, is a total jerk.
  • I forgot a lot of parkour over the summer, but Roy is whipping me back into shape.  We'll see how that goes.  :D
  • My roommates are thinking about fostering a puppy!  We can't adopt one, mainly because we have no idea what we would do with it after the school year ends, but fostering is totally doable, and our house would be so puppied and happy.  ^____^
  • There is going to be a live-action Akira movie?  That should be interesting.
  • I saw Ponyo (the new movie from the Miyazaki, the guy who did Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, etc.), and it was pretty trippy/awesome.  Also recently, I saw Up, Coraline, and Jabberwocky.  All of these are great.  Up is by Pixar and is soooooo cute, and parts are really hilarious.  Doug the dog is awesome.  Coraline is really weird and disturbing, but it's by Tim Burton, and that guy's gold.  Jabberwocky is by Terry Gilliam, and I don't think I need to elaborate on that.
  • I'm planning my grad party, and it looks like it's going to be an excursion up to Chicago for New Year's.  It seems dumb to have a grad party before I actually graduate (plus I'm going to be absurdly busy before that), and there's no way to cram it in between graduation and Christmas, and I have a lot of friends I want to see who are from far away, and I like Chicago, and I don't have plans for New Year's.  So I think that's going to be it.
  • Moebius strips are always more awesome.  A friend shared a link to a moebius strip music box on Google Reader recently.
  • Grad students don't always seem more dedicated to their degrees than undergrads.  Being in some grad classes, I've been exposed to people who are really just in it for the paper.  :-/  It's sort of disappointing, but I guess you never get away from some kinds of people in real life.
  • I gotta decide what to study in grad school.  I'm leaning towards some kind of engineering, maybe?  I want to do something thoughtful but not entirely sedentary.  Doing some kind of natural science would be fun, too.  Really, I still want to just be Bill Stone, just not an asshole.  Getting paid to be an adventurer still ranks highly on my list of priorities.
  • Cooking is awesome.  Not only am I treated to the dinner rotation creations of my roommates, but I've been hanging out with another friend the past couple of days, and we made anise (basically licorice-flavoured) ice cream root beer floats.  Mmmmmmmmmm....
  • Funny things are changing their legality status.  Facebook's TOS was determined to violate Canada's privacy laws (didn't they just get in trouble for that earlier this year?  Jeez, guys.), certain amounts of drugs are being legalised in Mexico (I believe the language is an amount appropriate for "personal and immediate use"), parts of California are raising taxes on their medical marijuana sales (a fairly sound economic idea if you look at the numbers), and I'm endlessly amused by international copyright laws, of course.  While in Germany, it was like pulling teeth to find a fecking Youtube video that I could listen to music from that wasn't blocked due to copyright, and things like Pandora didn't work their, either.  I've been reading a little bit about Canada's changing copyright laws for music distribution, and a bit about the DRM blocks that Apple had put on their iTunes tracks, but that stuff's just so silly.
  • What's up with people accusing celebrities of hiding their genders?  It's all the rage, of a sudden.  Lady Gaga, that African runner, who next?
Anyway, that's really just a braindump of some general things that I've been pondering.  I felt like I should make a blog post, and... well, that's what came out.  :)


last fun before work?

Splash!  Head-first, a sea
Of work, a pool of pals, and
Enough to keep busy.

Two days down (three, really, since I'm done with class for today, now), and everything is still going smoothly.  I just officially switched from taking 2 undergrad and 2 grad courses to 1 undergrad and 3 grad courses.  I think the real work starts next week.

My Operating Systems class is going to be awesome.  Andrew Lumsdaine (he was the guy who ran the Cluster Challenge stuff the past couple years) is the professor, and he's quite a guy.  Plus I'm stoked about learning exactly how these damn things that I program on every day actually work.

Analysis will be a little less awesome, I think... the professor seems like he's a little confused (and he's quite furry, in a nice way :P), and this is his first time teaching the course, but he seems to know what he's doing, and I hope that things will turn out alright.

The trend of excessively large classes hasn't ended... there are like 35 people in each of my Tuesday/Thursday classes, too.  Argh.

I went to the Honors Seminar this week, too, and my networks prof was the speaker: she talked about cybercrime and DNS cache poisoning and fastflux IPs and all kinds of cool things.  I wonder if we will learn hax in Networks.  I friggin hope so.

Other than that... I've been keeping myself occupied.  There's not much homework yet, so I got time to hang out with Roy and Chet and Jill in a pool for a while, and Roy happens to have an underwater camera (like mine!), so we got some pretty glorious photos.

My roommates continue to make delicious food, including lasagna and curry.  And the food attitude here is "everybody please eat stuff before it goes bad, because right now it's delicious."  The sharing is way cool, and I'm glad that people are actually home when I'm home this year.  Last year we were all way too busy to ever hang out, but living so close to campus really facilitates it this time around.

Tonight brings play practice, volunteer sign-up (for the Honors College and some of their events), and more delicious food, although I don't know what yet.  School!