September 2003 »
Ironic Faucet

I have a sore throat right now, so I'm drinking a lot of hot water at work. And that's why I have become aware of the Ironic Faucet.

The Ironic Faucet is a nozzle which dispenses boiling water from the water filtering machine, presumably for tea or whatever. The nozzle has a bright red handle which you press to get the hot water out. The trouble is that the handle is some kind of Safety Handle, and it has this weird kind of safety catch, so that you can't press it accidentally.

But you also can't press it deliberately; you have to do this kind of dexterous push-then-pull maneuver, and it takes a good bit of strength to hold it so that the boiling water will come out. And because I have to contort my hand over the handle in this weird way, I almost always get burned trying to get water. I think the older people in the building just avoid it.

Jumping the shark

I was going to post this on my blog, but it looks like Seth beat me to it. So I'll just link to his entry:

The most inexplicable thing ever

Cereal marketing is so complicated

I sort of thought that Apple Jacks' marketing strategy (making fun of the fact that the ancient cereal brand that they're stuck trying to sell you doesn't even taste like apples) was sort of clever. But now it's just getting kind of abstract and weird.

You're not fooling anyone

Last night I made Pho. I didn't even look at a recipe. And you know what? It totally came out perfectly, and tasted exactly like it tastes at the noodle houses. This leads me to regard pho houses as a bit of a scam, because the truth is that it's just a bunch of stuff boiled. ANYONE can boil stuff.

well, i'm offended

A friend of mine pointed me at this essay, The Hunded Year Language, which I read and then subsequently was compelled to spit on. Here is why I spit on it:

I think my main gripe is that the author sounds like every other white tower language weenie I've ever had the displeasure of debating when i was at school. (Did you like my aliteration?) They all seem to be obsessed with the "cleanliness" of a language, which they usually define as being conceptually simple. Paul's specific peeve appears to be that he wants the language to have as little sugar in it as possible, i.e. it shouldn't be possible to express one language feature in terms of another. (This implies redundancy, and redundancy isn't clean.)

The problem, though, is that language weenies get very excited about what properties a language has (like "cleanliness"), but don't seem to talk much about the experience of using the language, or who would use it, or what it would be used for, or how efficiently it lets you do something. I think of them as a bunch of old men in suits with top-hats and monacles, exclaiming about the pleasing curves and fine polish of a hammer. Some of them have even picked up the hammer. But none of them have actually ever built a house with it. Because if they had, they'd know that a hammer is fucking useless, and you need a goddamned nail gun if you want to finish within 100 years. The nail gun is expensive, it's ugly, it jams, it stinks, and it's loud. But it's the only practical way to build a house these days.

Another irritating property of the Monacle Set is that they always have a pet hammer. Whatever the argument's about, regardless of the issue at hand, they're only ever getting at one thing: their pet hammer is the best tool for solving your problem. For this Paul person it's clearly LISP; everything in the essay is so transparently slanted toward LISP... starting with the unexplained and (I think) fundamentally flawed assumption that a language with few keywords is the wave of the future. Who the fuck cares about keyword count? Every human on the planet is fluent in at least one language consisting of thousands of words. If that's what it takes to make the language more useful for solving problems, they can learn a couple of extra keywords! Geez.

And LISP, of all things! I could find you 50 people at CMU who would point out all of the things that are stupid about LISP (mostly because it's typeless, something I personally find offensive). But then again, even if they start out talking about what's bad about LISP, they're always going to finish up by talking about what's good about ML, because ML is their pet hammer.

Ungh, I've become so angry at academia. Can someone suggest a major for me? I'd happily go back to graduate school if I felt it would serve a purpose.

i don't know

I just don't know where this came from.

The Final Event

The results aren't up yet, but here's a picture from the last event of the season. I got second place at the event, which gives me 3rd place for the season. TROPHE!!!

Space Geeks

Last night we went up to the Lick Observatory for a tour and a look through the scope. I learned:

  • Observatory volunteers are very sweet and enthusiastic, but have very bad hair.
  • adaptive optics is just about the coolest thing imaginable. This makes image processing look like banging two rocks together. Using it, they've been able to surpass the image quality of Hubble using ground-based scopes, which is very impressive.
  • Size does matter. The Lick telescope (36") is too small to be useful anymore, which I find very sad, because it's a beautiful old instrument, kind of Terry Gilliam-esque. Lick now has the Shane scope (120") which is more useful, although still not as useful as Keck in Hawaii (10m). And they're trying right now to scrape up the $600M they need for CELT, which would be a 30m telescope based, um, somewhere.
  • The world of astronomy is filled with hilarious acronyms like ESO's plans to build OWL ("Overwhelmingly Large Telescope").

Fan fiction is one thing...

Today on my company's internal network I discovered a folder full of someone's StarCraft Fan Techno. I threatened its owner that my silence would cost $100.

Karmic Traffic Lights

Today, possibly for the first time ever, I drove really serenely and politely on the way home from work. There wasn't even anyone in front of me on my favorite exit ramp (101 southbound to 280 northbound interchange; estimated speed 97mph), but I just left the cruise control on instead of speeding through it.

And after that, I got all green lights and no traffic in front of me, the whole way. It was amazing. Maybe I was being rewarded for not increasing Bay Area Road Rage.

What is a strut tower brace?

First let me say first that I'm a bit alarmed by the speed with which people who I haven't heard from in years start reading my brand-new weblog. Not that I'm complaining, though. In fact, I'd just like to say thanks, Craig, for being my first (and probably only) reader. (What the hell are you up to these days, anyway?) As a reward, I'll pretend to answer your question while in fact just blathering more about my car (my second favorite subject):

THIS is a strut tower brace. I installed it on Sunday night. It involved cutting up the interior of my car with a blunt knife, which was extremely upsetting. But the results don't look too horrible:

I can just imagine trying to sell the car later to some poor old woman:

- "What's that?"
- "What's what?"
- "THAT."
- "Oh, THAT. Um..."
- "..."
- "Um, it was like that when I got it."

The supposed purpose of the strut tower brace is to reduce chassis flex, which makes the initial turn-in more crisp. (Crisp! It's not just for lettuce and uniforms anymore!) In practice I noticed only a very minimal improvement, if any. But I'm going to leave it in because it's shiny.

Results are up

The second-to-last race of the Autocross season was this weekend, and they've finally gotten the results up. I think I've sprained my finger from clicking "Reload".

But it's official! I won my class, which means that I'm tied for second place going in to the last event. Granted, I only won because the guy who always wins didn't show up. In order to hold onto my position I'd have to somehow beat him, which seems impossible; he is a better driver and I suspect also that his car is superior to mine. But I guess a small taste of victory will have to suffice.

Apart from the win, I am surprised to see that I PAX'd 15th, which is very good. I think other people were having a bad time on the gravelly surface.

Oh my GOD winning is addictive. I've never been good at anything before, and now I REALLY want that trophy! Jake was right, you can never go back. At least autoX is the cheapest type of car racing.

It's here!

I finally got my strut tower brace which I ordered 50 years ago. (Okay, it was last monday, but still.) I couldn't find anyone who sold the part except the original manufacturer, which is based in Australia. (Free wallabe with every purchase, mate!) I still have no idea how much I paid for it, because the price was in Australian dollars.

Also in Australian dollars was the unknown additional amount which I paid to ship via "Courier" rather than "Post", which sounded slow and incompetent. I imagined that "courier" would mean FedEx or something, but it turned out to be TNT Express, which is by far the cruelest shipper I have ever worked with. Check out their temptress tracking system which taunted me all last week:

TNT Express Tracking

My bar was within 30 miles of me on Thursday, but I wouldn't get it for 5 more days. I could just see the driver getting within a couple of blocks of my house and then just saying "eh..." and driving back the way he came. Oh well. Perhaps they couldn't deliver it because they expended all of their energy by transporting the brace from Sydney to LA in negative 93 minutes.

First post

Hey, this blogger client is totally sweet. Thanks, Seth!

Unfortunately, this Delicious Recipes of Martha's Vineyard stylesheet is totally harshing my buzz. Gotta get rid of it...

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