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The Rise and Fall of a PoMo Space Messiah

Credibile quia ineptum



God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.
- Voltaire


18th February 2009

So we now have a Roomba. Now that I have a domestic robot slave, I finally feel like I've arrived in the 21st Century. We've decided to call him Epictetus. I anticipate large numbers of you will not be very surprised by this decision.

In other news, I am in possession of a streaming cold. I doubt you envy me. If it persists, I may be skipping Contempt this month.

Work. Hmmm... I am working miracles with C# for the last two weeks. A language, I might add, that I've only been coding in for... um... two weeks. It's a nice little language but marshalling unmanaged resources is painful.

Apart from the ceremonial Activation of the Roomba - a ceremony, I might add, redolent with images of anthroposophic accomplishment - this evening has principally been marked with take-away pizza. I asked for a glass of Sangiovese while I waited for it. A note to denizens of the Old Country, here pizza places have a bar where you can enjoy a glass of wine while you wait for you pizza, the streets are paved with gold and men are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Okay, the last one might be a bit of an exaggeration. But anyway, the woman serving me was confused until a voice echoed out of the back of the restaurant, "Sangiovese is the same as Chianti." I really need one of those voices.

I'm listening to VNV Nation right now. It is somewhat shocking to consider that this marks me as damn close to middle age.

22nd January 2009

No great surprises here. My political leanings are somewhat less volatile than my religious leanings.

Really, you won't be surprised...Collapse )

ETA: For those wondering about my religious leanings, this week Belief-O-Matic is calling Reform Judaism.

19th January 2009

So it's been a rather decent weekend, all told. the_lady_lily has abandoned me for the manifold vices of Britannia but I've managed to keep myself amused.

A more extended discourse on the weekend's diversionsCollapse )

Now I'm hanging around waiting for the_lady_lily's plane to get in to JFK. Back to school tomorrow.

12th January 2009

So I have been thinking about a couple of logic problems. Both are original as far as I know. I haven't worked out either of them at time of writing.

Beans in Boxes
I have six boxes of equal weight. The boxes contain beans of equal weight. A box weighs the same as a substantial number of beans. One box contains one bean, one contains two, one three and so on up to six beans. I also have a pair of scales. The challenge is to find how many beans are in each box, weighing as few times as possible.

Some observations... there is a good guesstimate of the minimum number of trials required. There is probably more than one solution. Most solutions are likely to be labyrinthine. What we are after is a reasonably elegant solution.

Magic Beans
Magic beans work like this: They are either white or black. Every day there is probability p that a bean will change colour. Every night there is probability q that a bean will split into two beans of the same colour as the 'parent'. You start with one white bean on the morning of the first day.

The question is this: After an unknown length of time you have n beans. What is the expected difference in the numbers of black and white beans as a function of p, q and n? We are talking about the absolute value of the difference here.

An explanation... The question as it is, is pretty straightforward, I'm sure. What I'm really after is an expression for the expected (Shannon) entropy over the maximal entropy (i.e. the entropy of the same number of beans, each having 50% chance of being either colour). The absolute difference is a plausible inverse proxy for this. You can assume that p is less than 50%. Anyone who has been on the wrong end of a teleological argument will understand the use of this.

ETA: The ultimate goal is to find a (reasonably simple) system where the ratio of the entropy and the maximal entropy (as defined above) decreases while the actual entropy increases.

8th January 2009

This is simply... amusing.

How the hell anyone manages to maintain a Christian faith without a sense of humour I have no idea.

Aaah... Christian Voice! That would explain it. How you make us want to eviscerate you in a most un-Christian fashion!

2nd January 2009

For this sort of thing...

...there was an extra-terrestrial event on Earth...

...from the BBC.

To be fair, it seems to be a quote (from a geologist no less!) but it deserved at least a "sic", one feels.

25th December 2008

הנרות הללו


Merry Christmas everyone!

20th December 2008

Ange plein de gaieté


This is your Economist.

This is your Economist on crack.

18th December 2008

We had team drinks this evening at a horrible little Irish bar on 3rd. I chanced to walk back to the subway with an Israeli colleague. As we were walking back he began lamenting the collapse of the financial markets and the atmosphere of fear that surrounds us poor (yet frankly well compensated) souls who toil therein.

"גם זה יעבור" I said.

He registered some surprise that I was able to say something apposite in Hebrew. So I explained that I had heard the story. He didn't know the story so as we walked the rest of the way back I related the tale of Benaiah ben Yehoyadah and the magical ring that King Solomon commanded him to find and bring to him.

"It's a good story," he said. "And it works. Now we're both smiling."

16th December 2008

I'm back in New York!

It was so very thoroughly splendid to see those of you back in Albion that I did see, and a sorry thing that I did not see those of you that I did not. The familial duty ended up being a trifle more consuming than I had anticipated. It is - alack! - the problem with not going home for nigh on two years. They colonise your time, the fiends.

Special mention must go to my brother who sabotaged my final push on NaNoWriMo with an interesting problem he's been working on to do with fuzzy clustering. It's nice to dust off the maths brain from time to time. Note, this isn't at all the same thing as furry clustering, which, frankly, hardly bears thinking about.

I had a fantastically smooth journey back yesterday, despite stiff headwinds. I watched Mummy III on the flight and it was as awful as anticipated. Mummy Returns was B-movie balderdash but made it work somehow. Mummy III essentially tried to reproduce that in as cynical and formulaic a way as humanity is capable of. As a result, it was closer to taxidermy than cinematography... although given the subject matter that is perhaps not inappropriate.

I breezed through immigration control. There were not squadrons of putti to scatter rose petals before me as emerged from the baggage reclaim. Clearly there was some sort of mix up and people were not informed as to the hour of my advent. The taxi driver was one of those who just refuse to know their way around Brooklyn. I guided him as far as BAM and then opted to walk the rest of the way. Steering him through the backstreets of Fort Greene just felt far too difficult, particularly as it was about 2am for me by then. I had dressed for a New York December and the temperature was absurdly balmy. I arrived back at the Chapel Perilous in a state of some overheating.

Today I have spent in a very leisurely fashion, drinking duty free champagne and catching up with correspondence. I've also been rehashing a piece of juvenilia that I came across in my papers back home and had thought lost. The problem with unlosing these things is that they are rarely the masterworks that you remember, so I am in the process of rendering it as something closer to my memory. At the moment it reads like Rupert Bear written by an adolescent Philip Pullman.

Back to work tomorrow. I'm actually sort of looking forward to it.

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