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Entries from July 2005
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What I do (31 Jul 2005 at 21:38)
When I am depressed I watch a lot of movies. I like low-budget movies because they make me feel good about my imagined post-copyright future. Mike and I saw "Saw" last night, which is a recommendable psycho-thriller. The main thing I had against this movie is not really its fault, but the genre's fault: why is everyone so obsessed with "trick" endings, where the bad guy turns out to be one of the incidental characters or one of the good guys or whatever? In MacGyver, which is the best television series ever, bad guys were just bad guys, and that works just fine. (I must admit, though, Saw did get me.)

Today we watched Primer, which is an indie time travel movie. I liked this one too, although it was very hard to understand (see this timeline for a sample of the plot's twistiness). Just as Saw cannot beat MacGyver, Primer cannot beat Back to the Future. Still, I'm sure it was better than Timeline, which I did not see.

Other recommendations?

Also: I found while listening to the KCRW sessions that the Shins song that they played at CMU that I thought was new and awesome was actually "When I Goose-Step", which is a very mediocre song on the EP. But their live version is super great. I'm a little sad that it's not representative of their new record, whenever that comes out, but happy that I already have the song and can download live versions of it.
(16 comments)   [ comment ]
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Some things. (19 Jul 2005 at 13:53)
Some things.

I gave a talk this afternoon about my research for the students and faculty of the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program. It's called What is modal logic and what is it good for? and it has a lot of nice animations in it.

I put up a web page for blam, which is that bioinformatics software I wrote, because Heather is using it in her paper. That web page has a plaid background.

I programmed in Java. It was not that bad. I was surprised to find that you can code up lexically-scoped closures (very verbosely) with anonymous inner classes. I knew that one could make anonymous inner classes, but did not appreciate the fact that they could capture local variables. I am making a little GUI application for Windows and Java seems to be the path of least resistance for this.

Now I am going to work on my thesis proposal.
Category:  talks (9 comments)   [ comment ]
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trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and alone (15 Jul 2005 at 15:01)
Warning: This is fairly depressing/embarrassing and so intended for close friends (and family), and also for people who hardly know me. If you are not interested in—for the sake of accuracy—having some objective evidence that I am not really cool and invincible, please skip.

(Damn, I'm sure that sounds like a dare more than a warning. How about this: The following is very long and boring!)

Also: Since this is part confession part exploratory memo-to-myself and part plea for sympathy, I will probably feel somewhat isolated if nobody responds to this. But if you want, you can just reply "Bummer." and I will say "Yeah." and I think that will actually make me feel better.




Here it is: I made a long series of minor and lazy and selfish (but ultimately simply irrational) decisions and now I am fucked, and I have hurt someone that I care about. This concerns my relationship. Yes, I admit it publicly: I have been in a relationship for almost three years with a wonderful girl named Heather. Yes, I admit it: Now she insists that the relationship is beyond repair. Yes, I admit it: I insist in return that I am agile enough to admit wrongdoing this time and because of that, to change my behavior, and insist that, because I see that my behavior is not just lazy and bad for her but also bad for me, that this change would not merely be for reconciliatory purposes but something that I actually want.

"What is the bad behavior?" a reader asks. "How can I avoid similarly torpedoing my own precious relationship?" he continues.

The bad behavior consists of two parts. The first is easier to explain, and I alluded it to it in the previous, uncharacteristically whiny post. It consists of me avoiding certain traditional romantic things (or even just traditional things-that-friends-do-for-each-other things), like paying for dinner, or offering a ride that cannot possibly be repaid, or buying flowers, merely because they are a minor pain to me. (I may or may not also have minor philosophical objections to these, which may or may not simply be the result of rationalizing my own laziness, but that is also irrelevant; see below.) Individually, these are not very serious (though it does depend on the occasion), but cumulatively they lead to a substantial hurt for someone I care about, and that is ridiculous.

The second is probably more serious: that I have cultured an aloofness, that I have had for a very long time, and which is part of my self image and so is difficult to delte. I think that this self image is somewhat obsolete, but it is also very comfortable; it helps me deal with and avoid many kinds of pain and disappointment. How does this manifest itself? It prevents me from talking about uncomfortable things, or even just about things that seem to require some kind of emotional commitment (an example is "talking about the future" which is code for convincing her that you are serious and committed about the relationship). An emotional distance is not great, but I think it can be fine to ease into that, as long as it is done at a mutually agreeable pace. For her my pace is not agreeable; she has a lot of hurt in her past, is extremely extroverted and so finds comfort in externalizing this hurt, and also has very strong anxiety about being stuck in a bad relationship and so feels the need to be thinking about the future. Boy, I must be an idiot, huh? Yes, but not for failing to realize this: Of course I perceive and appreciate these facts and of course I know that emotional distance is damaging and of course I even knew that these things were important and that I had to deal with them and that I was being stupidly oblique and evasive as I deflected them and thought that we can talk about these things later, because I don't feel like it right now and plus, isn't it cool to be so nonchalant? And then, when the issues didn't come up again right away, I guiltily congratulated myself, because, obviously, problem solved. Right?

And here is the keystone of this mess (okay, there are three bad behaviors, but this one is not entirely my fault): whenever one of these problems comes up for discussion, be it in mild form or in relationship-rocking torpedo form, I rationalize my behavior, and I think I convince Heather and I essentially do convince myself that what I am doing makes sense. (I take so much intellectual joy in the sport of argument that I even find myself generating silly beliefs that I do not even hold in order to defend them. That kind of thing is great for lunchtime conversation with friends and awful for adult relationships!) But it doesn't make sense, because on no count is one of these minor inconveniences to myself (or manufactured straw-men) even close to being worth what it means to her, and then reflexively, to me. That is what I mean when I say that the bad behavior is actually bad for me, and that I now realize this.

Now, let's not get carried away: I am in fact a caring and faithful and generous person, I do have a dimple when I smile, and I have been totally unlazy (even manic) many times during our relationship. Noted examples: I recorded a whole album of songs about and for her, some of which are actually touching; I spent many many hours helping her learn to program, and even took a class with her that is totally outside my research area, and wrote software for her project that she uses today; I made her a series of unprompted mix CDs with illustrated booklets; I paid my own way to visit her and her family in California, and even had a good time; I committed to being flexible in post-graduate plans, to avoid the apparently common practice of the woman getting the worse end of that bargain; we have talked sometimes about private things that were hard to talk about (and in fact she was probably the first person to ever hear those). Et cetera. Not all of these were easy.

And, in fact, a really bad thing is that we get along so well. We have similar tastes, similar viewpoints on the world, mutual admiration, and really just have a great time with one another. I believe that you guys have observed this. Even in this awful crisis week, filled with depression caused by each other, the highlights for me were easily in the time we spent together, laughing at dinner, and even commiserating in our mutual, well, misery. I can see that she obviously cares for me and enjoys being around me (in fact, she has cited this as one of the reasons that I "get away with" the bad behavior for so long), I see that it takes deliberate, painful effort to push me away, as if she has to rationalize that it is for her own good, and I think that our relationship actually made a great deal of practical sense (in terms of graduation timelines and post-graduate plans, among other things). This is the ultimate incongruity to me: how could it be possible to heal and then achieve an adult relationship/emotional closeness with someone new, faster than it would be to heal and achieve an adult relationship with me?

A very similar crisis has come up before, under eerily identical circumstances last summer, which gives her very reasonable grounds to suggest that I will just do the same thing again. From my perspective, it also gives me grounds to believe that my behavior does not work, which is enough to make me realize that I have done wrong, to admit that, and to fix it. (If I didn't think I could do better, it would be intensely hypocritical of me to propose that we try to fix it, since the last thing I want to do is hurt her more.) It's clear that I matured too slowly, and—more seriously—allowed that maturation to show itself too slowly. But still, it seems reckless and unfair that my retarded emotional growth should be grounds for early dismissal, because it is indeed growth, and how far, really, is there to go?

I can't shake the feeling that I have been mentally preparing myself for game day but then, idiotically, slept through it. Indeed I feel as though based on my Mario Kart skills, she's not letting me drive her car...

Unfortunately, I have a conundrum of diagonalizable scale. How could I possibly convince her that I am done trying to convince her that I am right? Of course that is impossible. So I believe then that she is correct, that she needs to figure this out "on her own", and that the best I can hope to do is to post a lengthy depressing analysis on my weblog, hope that she reads it, and is able to put aside her sensation that she needs to do something painful for her own good, in order to try the experiment in light of these realizations. I hope that you miss me enough to let me try it again, but to do it right.
Category:  momentous (27 comments — almost 9 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Yikes! --or-- Tom Learns his Lesson (11 Jul 2005 at 00:04)
Ouch, BAD DAY! (This does not refer to the very early morning hours spent working on round 2 of the ICFP programming contest with my good friends in the cluster, although the sleepiness from that may be contributing..) In fact, since I didn't wake up until 2pm, this was actually a very short day, perhaps with one of the worst badness-to-time ratios of all time. I made some important realizations, at least.

To my friends (if indeed you guys ever read this): I'd like to apologize for the numerous times that I have been inconsistent over the years. Although I am very industrious with regard to certain things, I am posessed by an almost crippling lethargy as respects some small things like returning phone calls and e-mails, bringing food to parties, buying presents for scheduled holidays, offering rides, overpaying for dinner, comforting the gloomy, and others. Although some of this can be explained by specific hangups (e.g., my driving anxiety), it is mostly due to my intense laziness, which really is just selfishness, and for that I am sorry.

(Making this apology in a public forum might seem like a lazy cop-out itself. Although, since I am not apologizing to anyone or for anything specifically (at least, to whom I have not already extended this same apology in person), it's hard for me to know how to make it otherwise. But let me then just apologize for that, too, and we'll end the regress there.)
(4 comments)   [ comment ]
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July, July!! (03 Jul 2005 at 12:26)
Now it's July. Someone actually complained to me about the paucity of radar posts, so it must be time for an update.

The major, constant occupation in my life has been my thesis proposal. The thesis proposal is, for me, one of the trickiest parts of.. wait, this reminds me of a strange part of my dream last night: I was reading archives of Gödel's blog, I guess, in which sixteen minutes after he published his seminal paper, he wrote:
22:16 Sixteen minutes later. I am now utterly convinced that this result will need to be billboarded thoroughly. I trust that someone will be hired to deface the advertisements...
and sure enough, I found while grinding rails Tony Hawk style at the local mall, some math vandals had spraypainted over all of the posters touting Hilbert's program. I guess the point is, looking for fame in mathematics is rather silly.
.. graduate school, mainly because the process is so different (spell out problems but don't spend too much time trying to solve them; pick something ambitious but not a tarpit; write a single-author paper that involves often talking about what the author will do, minimizing the awkward use of "we" to refer singularly to myself). But amazingly I can see how this 24-page collection of disconnected text and citations can become an actual thesis proposal—a thorough one, even—and mounting guilt is making that actually come true. Soon, friends, soon.

Other intellectual interlopers (and banal buttinskies) have been punctuating this mission:

ICFP programming contest. We reprised our team called "tycon mismatch" [2000, 2001, 2002, 2004] in order to make an entry for this two-phase contest. Phase 1 was fun, but I suspect our showing will be fairly mediocre, due in part to the difficulty of coordinating a geographically diverse team. Phase 2, which happens next weekend, is what really matters, so wish us luck. Our team was not localized because Mr. Spoons is on an internship in New York, Noam was on his way to LICS, and I was in:

Go to Connecticut. My brother and I drove back to CT for a weekend to attend my grandmother's wake. This was, you know, bad and good in each of the ways you'd expect. Unexpectedly interesting: Since we buried her at a small family plot, Toms 7, 6, 5 (living), and 4 (who died before I was born) were in the same place for the only time I can remember. Unexpectedly bad: early ct-plates targeted speeding ticket (PA trooper: "please slow down while you're in our state") causes us to drive conservatively for the rest of the trip, which conspires with other unlucky traffic events to deliver a 12-hour return journey.

Read an excellent novel called "The Last Samurai" (Helen DeWitt), which I am continuously embarrassed to be seen reading in public, but only because someone seeing the title must assume that it says in smaller font "Now a major motion picture from Universal Studios!!!!" or "the epic tale of samurai masters", when in fact it is set in the modern day in England, and is about a boy and his mother and hardly at all about samurai. Now I can get to reading "Infinite Jest", which I can be embarrassed to be seen reading in public because it's like, so 1998, but at least that's true. Is it true that he's more obnoxious than Dave Eggers? If that is possible and so, then this book may be the first experiment in my new "violent reading" policy, in which the book is physically violated during scenes of exceptional misconduct.

Play some new video games: Doom III Resurrection of Evil mission pack (quite boring, but mercifully short compared to the original; humorously, they snag the "gravity gun" from Half-life 2 and "bullet time" from Max Payne/Painkiller/etc. You can almost taste the jealousy!), Evil Genius (in which you play a Dr. Evil-inspired criminal mastermind in a sort of Warcraft slash Risk slash The Sims base-building exercise; fun so far), and Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix II (which began as an attempt to get Heather to play video games with me, but now I am totally addicted to it).

Prepare to go to Oxford for the CSL 2005 conference in August. Does anyone have suggestions about things to do while I'm there?

Category:  contests (10 comments)   [ comment ]
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