Hello everyone! I am in Germany. A common funny idiom here is to say "welcome at _____" (also "welcome in _____" or "welcome on _____") instead of "welcome to _____". That cracks me up every time. Did you ever consider underlining the underscore? It looks like this: ____. Actually it turns out that a lot of people prefer to speak their native language instead of having people like me chuckle at their speakos but I will still laugh anyway since I can't understand what they're saying so what else am I going to do? Getting to Germany like all international travel was a bit painful. I rebroke my glasses on the plane and since superglue is not a TSA sanctioned gel or liquid I had to put them back together using tape from the post office at the airport. Sometimes they fall apart when I'm just sitting there, like they slowly peel off my face like I'd imagine glasses would do if the frames were made of ice and I had a very hot bridge of my nose. That's okay, post office tape means my vision is First Class durch Flugzeug nerdstyle. Yesterday I was so jetlagged or food poisoned that I was up almost the whole night vomiting. I call such traveling sickness/food poisoning La Giardia, ha ha. Now that I am more synchronized with the rising and setting of the sun I think I'm doing okay.
The reason I came to Germany is for this conference on Web Programming, since my thesis project is sort of about web programming now. People here are very concerned with some words that I don't know what they mean, like "ontologies". I guess it is pretty ironic to not know what "ontology" and "semantics" mean. The conference is in a German computer science castle called Schloß Dagstuhl. This castle is way out in basically Nowhere, Saarland. (One of the locals asked us Americans, "What are you doing out in such a village?") I'm not sure I really understand what we're supposed to be doing here, but I think tomorrow when we break out into smaller groups I'll get it better. I prepared a ~30 minute talk about my work but when I got here someone forwarded me an e-mail that I didn't get that said our presentations should be 3 minutes, so I made one of those early this morning and then they changed their minds and said 2 minutes. Here is my 2 minute talk of a 'burning question'. If you don't have Flash 9 then you will probably only see pictures of fire and Skeletor.
Tonight while playing Scrabble I discovered a loophole in the rules. From the official game rules:
9. [Ending the game] The game ends when all letters have been drawn and one player uses his or her last letter [...]
8. [Challenges] Any play may be challenged before the next player starts a turn.
From this it seems the only conclusion is that your last play is unchallengeable—once all of the tiles are gone from the bag you might as well play ZYMURGYQXUAVMK on the triple word score with the +50 bonus for using all 7 tiles and nobody can challenge! Anyway, just wanted to get that one out there so that you guys will be ready for it when I whip it out next game.
Happy New Year everyone! Fun fact: 2007 is the biggest year number that anyone has ever experienced ever. Since today is back to work day I spent the day catching up on things so that I could procrastinate my thesis work. For instance, I updated the Album-a-day page with 30 new albums—it hadn't been updated since June! Phew. It's badly in need of a database backend; I feel like a Web 0.5 typewriter blogger.
Every year my mom gets or makes each of the kids ornaments that represent our year in some way. This year my mom found one of my drawings (from the ICFP Programming Contest) and deftly reproduced it on a ceramic ornament (above). Mike got one of his drawings surreptitiously reproduced, too. Nice!
Hello friends! My brother and I drove back to Connecticut on Wednesday, and now we are having a relaxing time here getting sore throats and hanging out with the family. Some stuff I thought, at the time, I might blog about and so maybe I can wrap it all into a bullet-pointed blogdate. It's pretty much all about computer or game stuff:
The semester is over. At its end Jason and I spent a lot of time on our project for Logic Programming class, called "LFton". Basically the idea is to use the soul-splinteringly fast MLton compiler as a backend for the paint-strippingly slow Twelf execution engine. That would allow us a pretty short path to having reference implementations of languages that have been specified in Twelf. (We can already do that, it's just really slow.) Anyway, we almost got it working but didn't get time to do any of the optimizations that we had planned, so it's only about 1.5x faster than Twelf right now. We ought to give it another shot after the break, because I don't think it would be much more work to make it really fly and maybe write something up about it.
Right around that same time my laptop (Sony TR3A) started acting up: It would blue screen and then reboot immediately after using it for a few minutes. I think that this was due to overheating caused by the video card, which I hardly ever use for 3D stuff but Cortney and I were using to play Syberia, since we have recently gotten into playing adventure games together (BTW Syberia was pretty good, at least I want to say that because I don't want the adventure genre to die, although I will complain that the pace (by which I mean slow pace) of running around from screen to screen was totally maddening). Since we finished that and I uninstalled the game I haven't had any problems, which is good because I like my laptop despite its age, but at the time I was shopping around for new laptops in the eventuality and admit that the new Intel MacBooks were high on the list. Since I know the Apple product designers read my blog for insights into how to sell me Macintosh, I will say that there were three major turnoffs: (1) the lack of a two-button mouse standard on the laptop (I predict this will happen soon without any more complaining from me: They already make an external mouse that looks like it has one button but really has two, but they won't really admit it; the trackpad on the MacBook supports an awkward gesture where you can put two fingers on the trackpad and then click the one gigantic button to get the right-click effect, I mean, how could anyone think this is simpler than using one finger to press one button?); (2) the fact that the OSX still seems difficult to me to navigate by keyboard (is there any faster way to launch an application from a list than to alt-tab to finder, then hit the shortcut key for the Applications folder, then go to the app and Apple-O that thing? Why does the enter key try to rename applications instead of launching them??); but maybe I'd get used to that and (3) the just slightly unsvelte heft of the machines (it is painful to paradoxically be buying larger and large laptops since my first one in 1999. But other than that, I want! Cortney, whose laptop is actually dying of like the screen falling off, did in fact just buy a replacement MacBook and I find it to be pleasantly fast and well-built.
Right before we left for CT we had a games night at the Spopix residence... we played a card game called "Category 5" which nobody could quite figure out a strategy for until the last round, and then we played Apples to Apples and I wanted to relay to you the I think extra-funnifying twist that we came up with (you can stop reading if you don't know Apples to Apples because this won't make sense). Spoons complained that he often does better in the game when he just plays cards randomly, so in each round we added a "house" entry drawn from the top of the stack of red cards. If the judge picked the random card, nobody gets the Green. Otherwise, we go around the table (starting with the judge), each person getting one chance to guess which card was the random one. This is fun because we get a chance to guess what the other players would play, and it gives a natural disincentive to campaign for your card (so as not to give any of the other players information about which ones are legit). Anyway, good twist. Sorry.
Now that we're back in CT nursing our sore throats with like gallons of Peppermint tea, and looking for ways to escape parental friends parties, Mike bought an XBox 360 (partly to make it easier for for siblings to find presents for Mike and me since he was thinking of getting one anyway and also because we can't find the console we really want, the Wii). Recommendations for good games? We are playing Gears of War which is a delightful sequel to Halo 2, except with oddly crippled characters who can't jump for some reason (certainly not a lack of buttons on the monstrous controller). If it were Wii I'd just toss my controller up towards the ceiling to execute a grand cart en l'air.
Finally, I have been taking some time to work on projects. You may know that some of my friends are doing a "50 book challenge" this year in which they try to read a grand total of 50 books throughout the calendar year and blog reviews on them. (I don't think anybody is actually going to get 50, but I think they're at something like 40 which is pretty amazing.) I am a slow reader and don't do it very often so I was working on my "0.05 book challenge" (not 0.05 page) in which I try to complete 0.05 of Infinite Jest mostly while in the bathroom. Turns out 0.05 of that book is still only like 3 pages, which I completed easily the first day, and I also technically read another book—the first in the Griffin & Sabine trilogy that Cortney got me for Christmas in like 45 minutes, so while home I decided I could mindlessly wade through the 5th 'Arry Potta book, which is also like 1000 pages but all of the words cost 10 or less. I was really annoyed by the length of the previous book and especially its repetition (it seems that every time something happens or it is going to happen to 'Arry he needs to then mull about it for a chapter and then talk to each of his friends and teachers about it for another chapter). This book seems no better but I hear it gets a bit tighter starting with the 6th. But my favorite projects are the creative ones: I am working again on my Flash adventure game engine and the humorously shoddy demo "Let's Adventure!" (don't bother playing that grimy old version; there will be a new demo soon). That is fun. See you soon!