I noticed that my recent post about dividing cake had appeared on lobste.rs, a Reddit-like site that I usually find considerably less obnoxious than Reddit itself. Sometimes the folks there say interesting things, so I went to see, and this time I got what I deserved:
Gosh, I feel so stupid for missing this completely trivial solution.
Almost as stupid as if I had forgotten that 4 × 3 ≠ 9.
The OED's citations for the “franken-” prefix all relate to genetic engineering, mainly involving “frankenfood”, with a couple variations such as “frankenscience”, “frankenplants”, “frankenfruits”.
I mentioned recently that I had seen “frankenblog”, to describe an ill-advised mashuip of Tumblr and Wordpress. Today I learned of “franken-FM”, which, if I haven't misunderstood, is a radio station with a license to transmit low-power television signals on VHF channel 6, which actually transmits a null video signal, because the audio portion of the signal can be picked up on an FM receiver tuned to 87.7 MHz.
Searching for other combinations of “franken-” is hard because the results are full of chaff about Al Franken. But I made a not-very-inspired guess about “frankenburger” and found a great many news articles about test-tube meat from 2013, and a second guess turned up this article about a “frankenshower”.
The famous case here is Katko v. Briney. The Brineys owned an old vacant farmhouse which was repeatedly vandalized. They set up a booby trap which, if tripped, would fire a shotgun at the trespasser's legs. Katko, trespassing, tripped the shotgun and had to be hospitalized, and sued the Brineys. The Iowa Supreme Court found that the Brineys were civilly liable for Katko's injuries, plus punitive damages. I don't know if the Brineys were charged with battery or reckless endangerment or anything like that. (Katko pled guilty to a petty larceny charge.)
I have forgotten the details, but I remember another case involving prison inmate X who made a credible threat that he was going to kill inmate Y at a certain time in a certain place. Y then pre-emptively killed X. (Knowing this kind of case, there was probably also a side issue that when Y reported the the threat to the prison authorities, they blew him off.) My recollection is that the court told Y he could not claim self-defense for a pre-emptive attack, regadless of how credible the threat was. (X had made similar threats to other inmates in the past, and had acted on them.)
But the situation I describe is different from both of these. In my hypothetical situation, X is actually trying to kill you, not at some future time, but at the moment you actually employ deadly force to stop them.
Suppose you suspect that person X is going to attempt to kill you when you next meet with them. So you prepare a gun, which, if used, will backfire and kill the person using it. Then you leave it in the place you expect to meet X. During your meeting, X seizes the gun and attempts to kill you with it. It backfires and kills X instead.
Have you committed murder?
And if so, are you entitled to claim self-defense?
I thought it meant to swarm around in a crowd, like chickens in a farmyard. (From pullulus, a chick, akin to English “pullet”.) But it doesn't. It means to teem or swarm abundantly, from pullulāre, to sprout or send forth new growth.
(Which is also akin to pullulus and “pullet”.)
I would like a word something like “mill” in the sense of
but with a connotation of a crowd of chickens, or perhaps a swam of insects, instead of the systematic circular motion of a turning millstone.
Surely someone has invented a language for querying relational databases that is less of a shitpile than SQL.
Unexpected sentences from the weekend:
“You're not as funny as you think you are.”
“I disagree, I think I'm exactly as funny as I think I am.”
Today I got email inviting me to "an invite-only recruiting event" where I would be able to speed-date fifteen to twenty local tech companies, for five minutes each. It wanted me to RSVP, but it didn't specify a location, so obviously I couldn't commit to attend.
At first I attributed to the run-of-the-mill incompetence that affects everything having to do with tech recruiting. But then I got to wondering about it. Sometimes those 419 scams are just the front end of a kidnapping scheme. Maybe something similar is going on here: invite a number of professionals to a “recruiting event” at an undisclosed location, and when you hook a big enough fish, reel them in.
Probably not, for many reasons, but sometimes it can be really hard to distinguish incompetence from malice.
AirBnB wants me to write reviews of the places I've stayed. For whatever reason, I find this painful. Writing is hard work for me. The breezy online-review tone does not come naturally to me.
But a happy inspiration: I can skim the previous reviews to find one that says the appropriate amount of cheerful nothing, and copy it verbatim.
William Gibson, Idoru, chapter 16:
The characters have never met in person; they are interacting in a virtual space. Zona Rosa lives in Mexico, and is speaking (or writing) Spanish. She has actually said “chinga tu madre”, which in this context is an idiomatic expression of amazement and disgust. The machine translator that has been automatically rendering all her dialogue into English has mistakenly opted for a literal translation.
Wikipedia reminds me that:
In William Gibson's Idoru, Two of the characters meet only online, in a virtual space. At one point they are conversing. The first character says something innocuous, and the second remarks “Fuck your mother.” She is Mexican, has been speaking in Spanish the whole time, and everything we have read has been an automatic machine translation.
I used to know a guy who, whenever someone said “an infinite number of…” would reply primly with “infinity is not a number”. Which, if you are speaking mathematically, as this guy was, is complete bullshit.
As I mentioned elsewhere, “infinity” in mathematics refers to several different ideas. For example, transfinite cardinal numbers. Oops, I said “numbers”. Transfinite numbers are not numbers. Um. I mean, “transfinites are not numbers”. Just because you can add them and multiply them and raise them to powers and they mix together with finite numbers and they are a generalization of finite numbers and the addition and multiplication and exponentiation are consistent with the way thouse work for finite numbers does not mean that transfinites are also numbers! No no no!
Think of this analogy. Suppose there was some entity that was halfway between two and three. And suppose we could add with that entity and multiply with it and compare it with numbers and so on. And suppose there was a notation for it, I don't know, something like “!!\frac52!!” or something. You wouldn't consider that strange entity to be a number, would you? I mean, how could you possibly have !!\frac52!! children or !!\frac 52 !! automobiles? Ridiculous.
Zuleika Dobson The Cyberiad Great Expectations
So I was invited to fill out a form asking about my customer service experience, and since it wasn't good, I went to fill in the form. There are several thing about the design of these surveys that always perplex me.
I am in a bad mood today. This morning I spent ten minutes along in the kitchen monologuing about what a great idea it had been for us to invade Afghanistan, because every country knows that when your country is feeling a little down it can get an easy win and a little quick cash from stopping in at Afghanistan. Hey, it worked for the Russians!
Thex Git folks are sending me invitations to their annual conference which is in Brussels next February.
The 2018 conference year it was in Barcelona and I considered going. Because it seemed possibly useful, and also who doesn't want to go to Barcelona? Or rather, I wanted to consider going. But the invitations went out before the program was announced, so I had no way to know if, once I got to Barcelona, I would actually learn anything of interest.
Okay, no problem, I could look at the 2017 program to get an idea of what is typical. Except no, I couldnt find it, and looking again now, I still can't find it. Here's what I found:
Great, and the technical content consists of what exactly? It doesn't say. There are links on that page that purport to go to “General Sessions” and “Pre-conference Workshop” but they go nowhere. There's a list of 14 speakers, some of whom I know are generally interesting, but there is no hint about what topics they might be speaking on.
There is also a “2017 recap video”. No thanks.
Now they have invited me to 2019 and I am in the same position. Brussels is no doubt lovely but I am not going to haul my ass across the north Atlantic in February, in the hope that when I get there the conference will be worth attending, and I am not going to request that my employer foot the bill unless I can plausibly imagine that they will get something out of it. Okay, maybe they have information online about what happened at the mysterious Barcelona conference I skipped?
This time they're doing better! Last year's schedule is actually on the web site!. I could attend a
Say there are N conference talks and M attendees. How can we have a system where attendees bid on which talks they want to attend, with 1. Larger rooms allocated for talks with more demand 2. Attendees more likely to get into talks for which they bid more 3. Talks most likely to be attended by the highest bidders
One idea that might become part of the whole thing: if you bid x points on some talk and don't get in, the x points are automatically reallocated to your other bids proportionally.
I had assumed that the term “fishy”, meaning suspicious or unlikely ((for example, “ I always heard he was fishy about money matters.”)
Git has multiple, distributed repositories. To abandon that feature would be to go back to the dark ages of galley slaves, smallpox, and SVN.
If you find yourself chasing an endless series of definitions, that's because you're trying to learn mathematics from a mathematical encyclopedia. Well, it's worth a try; it worked for Ramanujan.
This version is !!O(n^2)!!, but who cares.
An oculus can also be a hollow stone.
(Thomas Firminger Thiselton Dyer, 1892. p. 133))
On the trolley a couple of days ago Toph and I were discussing the problem of what happens if you travel back in time and murder your parents before you are born. I rather thoughtlessly said she should try it and see, then decided to withdraw the suggestion.
“Maybe we can find a less bloody way to figure this out,” I said, and suggested the following variation:
On Monday, make a peanut butter sandwich and put it on a plate in the refrigerator.
On Wednesday, open the fridge.
If the sandwich is there, eat it, and then get in your time machine, return to Tuesday and eat the sandwich on Tuesday. But if there is nothing but a plate with crumbs, go do something else.
Much simpler, fewer complications.
Katara is taking geometry this year, and is having the usual problem of someone studying axiomatic proofs for the first time: the theorems are all obvious, but to understand what is a proof you have to detatch your spatial intuition from the statements.
This is something mathematicians have to learn to do. “Why is this not obvious” is a legitimate mathematical question, one that mathematicians often ask.
Yesterday Katara mentioned the theorem that a line, and a point not on that line, determine a plane and asked why this is something that has to be proved.
Well, I said, you have this postulate that any three non-colinear points determine a plane. So you have a point and a line, and you pick two points on the line, and with the third point, that determines a plane. Now you pick two different points on the line, and with the third point, that also determines a plane. But it's the same plane! It doesn't matter which two points you pick, you always get the same plane. That's interesting, and it's a special property of the particular siutation. There's this rather complicated relationship between all the parts.
Another way to approach this kind of thing, hard to do at this stage but easier later on, is to learn that many things that seem obvious to the senses turn out to be false in more complex situations that our senses are not accustomed to. Katara was excited yesterday to learn about skew lines. This is a great example of something that does not exist in lower dimensions. I said “suppose you were a two-dimensional person, and someone told you that there could be two lines that are not parallel, but they don't intersect. You'd be puzzled, right? But to a three-dimensional person, it's clear.”
“Okay, and you know that any two planes intersect in a straight line, right?”
“In four dimensions, that's false. You can have two planes that intersect in a single point.”
Because talking to yourself is a sign of impending mental collapse.
Today I got to thinking about how amusing it would be to have a shrunken head (presumably fake) of the current president of the United States. Then I thought, why not a whole set, say back through Reagan?
Shrunken heads of Ford and Carter seemed less amusing, so I was willing to stop at Reagan, until I thought about owning a shrunken head of Richard Nixon, which would be too good to omit. But then a Lyndon Johnson shrunken head would be good to have also, I could look at it and think about the Vietnam War and ballot stuffing. And Kennedy, famously young and handsome, would make an excellent shrunken head.
So I decided that the best thing would be to have a complete set of the shrunken heads of all the presidents, starting with Washington, and the question that always comes up in such situations is: what do you do about Grover Cleveland? In this case the answer seemed clear: you include him twice.
Then I didn't get any work done for a quarter of an hour because I was laughing.
That conference attendee who wrote on their evaluation “thinks he's funnier than he is” really had my personality figured out.
Today on the way to the trolley I thought of how if MAD Magazine had been published in the 17th Century it would have had a parody (illustrated by Angelo Torres) of Don Quixote or maybe Hamlet.
Other than that I suppose it would have been pretty much the same. The Fold-In might have been a woodcut.
Also, the Dave Berg feature would have been something like “The Lighter Side of… Sumptuary Laws”.