Wednesday, December 27, 2006

paradigm shift

I spent a fair bit of time at the office today doing some work on my grade program. In the past, everything had been done with a lot of command-line arguments (number of quizzes given so far, number of class days, etc.), and I had two identical copies with different names, because what name you used to call the program determined how detailed was the information you got back. (Someone got too used to having symbolic links in Unix-like operating systems.) But no more! Now all those parameters live inside the student data file (along with all the student data), and the only command-line argument determines what used to be determined by the name of the program (plain output or fancy output). So hoorah!

Friday, December 22, 2006

game show musings on a Friday

Who doesn't know the Beav when you see him? He could be a guitarist, I suppose. College professor?

I wonder why Penn Jillette needed the money and didn't care about his career anymore. Did Kari What's-her-name divorce him and now he owes her some impressive alimony? I don't understand.

And then 1-vs-100 is a repeat from last week. They're already out of episodes?

Friday, December 15, 2006

game show musings for a Friday

I've always liked the red background behind negative scores on Jeopardy!. I am enough of a traditionalist to have really liked the seven-segment displays, but the red background makes up for it.

Duke got some free publicity on J! as well. I remember driving my parents down Erwin past Lemur Lane and pointing it out.

Poem titles: 30 seconds to get from bird to albatross to "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" should be plenty of time, depending on how fast you can write "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" with one of those weird pens. Especially when Alex tells you that "the" is an "important word" that can't be left out.

1 vs. 100: I wasn't completely sure about the Matthew Miller question, but "A" was my favorite as well, since I knew it wasn't "B" and I was pretty sure "C" was made up. Brad Rutter missed it, so hooray.

The static spark question was interesting; it was a good thing that the contestant help eliminated protons, since neutrons was obviously incorrect. (Someone should tell me whether it's possible to build up protons. Obviously the electrons are what flows, but one person would have to be positive, wouldn't they?)

I don't think they've ever shown the next question before on 1 vs. 100. He got it right, although that was an obscure thing (that Southwest trades as "LUV").

And I didn't miss, again, for a show. I'm not going to make a five-minute videotape to get on the show, though.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Or, perhaps, the role of faith in life. Not faith in Something Higher Than Oneself, but rather faith in one's self. The idea runs something like this: I "know" that X is true, and (double) checking that X actually is true is boring/painful/etc., so I don't check. (Here X should be taken to be a statement about another person's behavior.) The line here between a healthy self-esteem and arrogance, closed-mindedness, condescension, and all the rest is not clear to me. In fact it's not clear that there even is a line; it could all be arrogance, closed-mindedness, and condescension.

This is a bit of a shame, as I do this all the time. Past performance may not be indicative of future results, but I'm such a creature of routine that I automatically assume the same of everyone else. And just because I've been right 347 of the past 349 times doesn't mean that I'll be right this time.

For example, this can make student interaction troubling and time-consuming, as students often ask questions with "false" suppositions. Technically, when a student with a 35 average asks if they can pass the class if they get an A on everything that's left in the term, the answer is "Yes" (depending on your grading scheme, of course). However, the compulsion is strong to answer "Yes, but if you had the ability or drive to get an A in the rest of the class, you wouldn't have a 35 now." I'm usually not that blunt, but I do make the point that you will need an A on everything else, no margin of error, and do you really know what it takes to get an A on a quiz, let alone the final? (Side story: in my current class, I have 175 homework questions assigned throughout, all officially due at the end of the term. I have several students who don't understand why I'm getting on their case about their poor homework record; they have a whole weekend left to do it all. There's only one who didn't even try to start until this weekend; the rest had at least done a set of 15 or so.) And I know if I asked four different higher-ups the appropriate tone to take, I'd get seven different answers. (Five different ones in person, with a couple of carefully-worded e-mails.)

And of course, the same is true in personal relationships as well. (The post is tagged "whiny narcissism" for a reason, people.) I remember arguing with my therapist back in college about whether it was a good idea to cruise bars looking for women. My points back then (and they're my points now too, 'cause I'm that stubborn) were (1) bars are both boring and sickening (that much cigarette smoke gives me large headaches) and (2) "she likes bars and I don't" is not the greatest basis for a relationship that I've seen. Her point was (3) you've got to do something, dammit. The problem is that I "know" what the results are going to be (with a record like mine, who wouldn't?), and I don't like headaches, so why even go out when you can do interesting Google searches?

I need a crisis of faith.

Current number of Christmas presents purchased


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I'm a geek, week fourteen

9-7 again this week. Still, above .500=good, right?

1. Chargers (10-2, +2) 15.6
2. Bears (10-2, -1) 14.5
3. Cowboys (8-4, -1) 14.0
4. Ravens (9-3, unc) 12.4
5. Colts (10-2, unc) 10.8
6. Patriots (9-3, unc) 10.0
7. Jaguars (7-5, unc) 8.4
8. Saints (8-4, +3) 6.3
9. Eagles (6-6, -1) 5.4
10. Bengals (7-5, -1) 4.8
11. Chiefs (7-5, -1) 3.2
12. Falcons (6-6, +5) 2.0
13. Vikings (5-7, +3) 1.6
14. Giants (6-6, +1) 1.4
15. Rams (5-7, -2) 0.9
16. Dolphins (5-7, -4) 0.7
17. Broncos (7-5, -3) 0.4
18. Steelers (5-7, +1) -0.4
19. Panthers (6-6, -1) -1.4
20. Seahawks (8-4, unc) -2.7
21. Jets (7-5, unc) -2.7
22. Redskins (4-8, unc) -6.5
23. Cardinals (3-9, +5) -7.1
24. Packers (4-8, -1) -8.0
25. Bills (5-7, -1) -8.3
26. Titans (5-7, +1) -8.3
27. Texans (4-8, +2) -8.5
28. Lions (2-10, -2) -8.7
29. 49ers (5-7, -4) -10.1
30. Raiders (2-10, unc) -11.7
31. Browns (4-8, unc) -12.3
32. Buccaneers (3-9, unc) -15.7

Just one week after complaining about the churn at the bottom, the Bucs seem ready to prove they belong at the bottom, taking a huge "lead" over the Browns. Oh well.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Quiet Normal Kind of Week

Very little going on here. Meetings. You know. I spent Friday being very tired, but not actually getting any sleep, so I've been off all weekend.

I've started playing mah jongg against the computer without the English numerals/letters on them, because that's the way the tiles will be at Denmark this summer. I can count dots and sticks just fine, and I think I've gotten the numbers down (1-4 are just that many lines, 5 is all complicated looking, 6 is "running man", 7 is an X, 8 is an upside down V, and 9 is a pi). I can tell red from green from white (not colorblind yet!), and I know East and North (the latter just somehow looks like a N to me), but I still haven't gotten South and West yet.

The carpet is scheduled to arrive on the 14th, so I need to get everything in boxes. Fortunately I still have a big piece of plywood in the apartment, from when the utility crew was out pruning trees and broke my window, so I can "extend" my patio to get all the furniture out there without setting it in the big mudhole outside my house. Hopefully.

I think I've figured out how to get double-paid for working over the holiday week (salary + not having to use my vacation + extra pay--granted I do have to actually work), and my frequent flier miles aren't good this time of year anyway, so it looks like I'll be here at the end of the year.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I'm a geek, week thirteen

It was a very good week: 11-5 for the spreadsheet. Things are looking up!

1. Bears (9-2, unc)
2. Cowboys (7-4, +1)
3. Chargers (9-2, -1)
4. Ravens (9-2, unc)
5. Colts (10-1, +1)
6. Patriots (8-3, -1)
7. Jaguars (6-5, +1)
8. Eagles (5-6, -1)
9. Bengals (6-5, +8)
10. Chiefs (7-4, +1)
11. Saints (7-4, +2)
12. Dolphins (5-6, +4)
13. Rams (5-6, +1)
14. Broncos (7-4, -5)
15. Giants (6-5, -1)
16. Vikings (5-6, +3)
17. Falcons (5-6, -7)
18. Panthers (6-5, unc)
19. Steelers (4-7, -4)
20. Seahawks (7-4, +1)
21. Jets (6-5, +4)
22. Redskins (4-7, +1)
23. Packers (4-7, -3)
24. Bills (5-6, +2)
25. 49ers (5-6, -3)
26. Lions (2-9, -2)
27. Titans (4-7, +2)
28. Cardinals (2-9, -1)
29. Texans (3-8, -1)
30. Raiders (2-9, +2)
31. Browns (3-8, -1)
32. Buccaneers (3-8, -1)

Lots of movement this week. I'm kind of surprised at the churn at the bottom of the standings; there doesn't seem to be a true cellar-dweller between the Bucs, the Raiders, the Browns, and the Texans. I guess that means look for the Bucs to have a better-than-normal performance this week, although whether that will actually mean they beat the Steelers is doubtful.

It's a good thing anyway

So a few weeks ago, I got a letter in the mail from my apartment complex telling me I had 21 days to completely clean and sanitize my apartment, or be evicted. (Of course, that deadline was today.) Well! I knew I wasn't the best housekeeper, and in fact I had at that time a pair of garbage bags sitting there waiting to go out to the Dumpster when it wasn't raining, and a few pizza boxes as well. So I spent the last three weeks stressing about getting this apartment as clean as I, a single male, could make it. (I knew it wasn't going to match my aunt's standards, or even my mother's, but why let the perfect be the enemy of the good?) I will say that I can see much more carpet now (not that I don't have a lot of books, it's just that instead of a lot of really small piles, I now have fewer, larger, ones). I scrubbed down the kitchen, and as much of the bathroom as I could given the fact that the drains went wonky over Thanksgiving weekend.

It turns out that that wasn't the point *at all*. The point, as far as my apartment complex was concerned, was that since I was supposed to get my carpet replaced (see water heater, above) they wanted *everything* out of my living room. In fact, during the walkthrough this morning, the maintenance person went straight to the living room, looked around, and said, "You know you'll still need to have all this stuff in boxes to get the new carpet in." I agreed, we set a date for new carpet (which I cannot decline, since I didn't make the first one), and that was that.

The place needed to be cleaned up anyway. Good thing I had three weeks.

Friday, November 24, 2006

It may have taken an extra day

... but I did come up with things to be thankful for.

I'm not going to tell you what they are, though.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

God works in mysterious ways

"We wanted to express God's love to you in a practical way--no strings attached! Let us know if we can further assist you."

So says the note in the bag that was left on my door (and everyone else's door, looking around) by the local non-denominational church*. The bag also contains one (1) trick-or-treat-size bag of M&Ms (plain), one (1) 9-V battery, one (1) teabag (no idea what brand; the cardboard tag just has a picture of a rose), and one (1) tea candle. Oddly enough, the teabag does have a string attached. I seriously doubt if I'll ever use three of these things (bet you can guess which three), so I guess our ideas of practical don't match. And I can't imagine any of these things being ... Biblical ... in any way.

*Consider the following analogy: Denominations are like conferences in NCAA sports, making these sorts of churches the Notre Dame of religion. Discuss the accuracy of this analogy in your religion, and determine the religious/societal equivalent of the BCS exemption for Notre Dame.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I'm a geek, week twelve

Another 9-7 performance for the spreadsheet this week. There are some very-nearly-tied teams this week, so I'm providing the computed score for the teams as well so you can see where the big gaps are. (The real reason I'm doing so, though, is so that these posts now contain an example of each of the four levels of measurement: nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio.)

1. Bears (9-1, unc) 16.8
2. Chargers (8-2, unc) 14.6
3. Cowboys (6-4, unc) 12.2
4. Ravens (8-2, +1) 11.1
5. Patriots (7-3, +2) 9.6
6. Colts (9-1, -2) 8.8
7. Eagles (5-5, -1) 7.6
8. Jaguars (6-4, unc) 7.3
9. Broncos (7-3, +3) 3.4
10. Falcons (5-5, unc) 2.6
11. Chiefs (6-4, +3) 2.5
12. Rams (4-6, -1) 1.7
13. Saints (6-4, unc) 1.6
14. Giants (6-4, -5) 1.6
15. Steelers (4-6, unc) 0.4
16. Dolphins (4-6, unc) 0.3
17. Bengals (5-5, unc) 0.3
18. Panthers (6-4, +2) 0.2
19. Vikings (4-6, -1) -1.2
20. Packers (4-6, -1) -5.3
21. Seahawks (6-4, unc) -5.8
22. 49ers (5-5, +6) -6.1
23. Redskins (3-7, +1) -6.4
24. Lions (2-8, -2) -6.4
25. Jets (5-5, -2) -6.5
26. Bills (4-6, -1) -7.1
27. Cardinals (2-8, unc) -7.2
28. Texans (3-7, -2) -9.0
29. Titans (3-7, +1) -9.3
30. Browns (3-7, -1) -9.5
31. Buccaneers (3-7, +1) -11.3
32. Raiders (2-8, -1) -11.4

How about that NFC West?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Things you discover when Googling your own name

University Microfilms Inc. has apparently partnered with to bring Ph.D. dissertations (from fine participating institutions, such as Duke) to the masses at $69.99 a pop. All the ones I've looked at have sold a grand total of 0, based on their (lack of) sales rank. And one of my classmates' dissertations is unavailable, or at least I can't find it either by author or by title. (Granted, I never knew that there was an Victorian (Australia) premier with the same name in the earlier parts of the 20th century, so I learned two things here.) I don't know how far back they go--random names from a year or two earlier weren't finding anything either. It seems that, for whatever reason, they're not in a huge hurry.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


It's bad form to talk about yourself, but I don't have any readers anyway, so why not?

I've always had a weird relationship with pain. I am extraordinarily non-pain-tolerant; and if I have to "cause" the pain myself I become positively pain-avoidant. I put up with allergy shots for seven years or so, but I could have never given them to myself. If I ever become diabetic, I might as well just shoot myself.

I've always thought that my inability to work the social/dating scene (or, for that matter, to even find it) was mostly laziness, with some fear-of-crowds thrown in. And while I am still an amazingly lazy person, and I don't like crowds, I am starting to think that the pain issue might be the biggest block. High school was what it was -- no one expected any better and that's all right then. But the women I went to college with were experts; they could make borrowing a pen a painful experience. (Compare "Have you ever had Professor X before? Is he any good?" with "Have you ever had Professor X before? My boyfriend's on the football team. Is Professor X any good?" For that matter, compare "You can give me a call; if I'm not in, leave a message" with "Give me a call. No one will be there to answer it, because both I and my roommate really live on the other side of campus in our boyfriends' rooms, but we check our messages every day or two" in a situation where I was being asked a favor. And I did it anyway.)

But I find myself avoiding any situation where someone could make any sort of personal comment at all. Work--no problem--even out for drinks afterward. But talking to someone who doesn't have to remember that they have to see me in the office every day? I'm avoiding it (I can't even bring myself to look things up on the internet, and you know that's bad), and I can't see how it's going to happen (even when someone has tried to shame me into leaving the apartment, it hasn't happened). But in the long run that's okay, because I am Broken.

(This has been part one of many in the series "Whiny Narcissism".)

I'm a geek, week eleven

Well, we did a little better this week, at 9-7. I don't know that we're ready for Vegas yet. Here goes:

1. Chicago (8-1, +1)
2. San Diego (7-2, -1)
3. Dallas (5-4, +2)
4. Indianapolis (9-0, unc)
5. Baltimore (7-2, -2)
6. Philadelphia (5-4, unc)
7. New England (6-3, unc)
8. Jacksonville (5-4, unc)
9. NY Giants (6-3, unc)
10. Atlanta (5-4, +2)
11. St. Louis (4-5, +2)
12. Denver (7-2, -1)
13. New Orleans (6-3, -3)
14. Kansas City (5-4, unc)
15. Steelers (3-6, +2)
16. Miami (3-6, unc)
17. Cincinnati (4-5, +1)
18. Minnesota (4-5, -3)
19. Green Bay (4-5, +2)
20. Carolina (5-4, +3)
21. Seattle (6-3, -2)
22. Detroit (2-7, -2)
23. NY Jets (5-4, +1)
24. Washington (3-6, -2)
25. Buffalo (3-6, +1)
26. Houston (3-6, +3)
27. Arizona (1-8, -2)
28. San Francisco (4-5, +3)
29. Cleveland (3-6, -2)
30. Tennessee (2-7, +2)
31. Oakland (2-7, +1)
32. Tampa Bay (2-7, -4)

Yes, I know a lot of teams that lost moved up and a lot of teams that won moved down. I very carefully avoid thinking about that sort of thing.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It's that time

Finals are graded now. Yay. :(


It's a day late, for weekend reasons, but I can only give my thanks to all veterans, who have far more courage in their little toenail than I have anywhere.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bad Sign

When your skin is so dry that you can't successfully apply lotion, as the lotion merely slides over the hard surface.

I'm a geek, week ten

And because I'm a geek, I have a spreadsheet with statistics from the current NFL season and home-brewed power rankings based on those stats. I think I'll have to improve the algorithm, as the model only went 6-8 last week. Did you think you weren't going to see them?

1. Chargers (6-2, +1)
2. Bears (7-1, -1)
3. Ravens (6-2, +2)
4. Colts (8-0, unc)
5. Cowboys (4-4, +1)
6. Eagles (4-4, +2)
7. Patriots (6-2, -4)
8. Jaguars (5-3, +3)
9. Giants (6-2, unc)
10. Saints (6-2, +2)
11. Broncos (6-2, +4)
12. Falcons (5-3, -5)
13. Rams (4-4, -3)
14. Chiefs (5-3, +3)
15. Vikings (4-4, +1)
16. Dolphins (2-6, +2)
17. Steelers (2-6, -4)
18. Bengals (4-4, -4)
19. Seahawks (5-3, +4)
20. Lions (2-6, +5)
21. Packers (3-5, -2)
22. Redskins (3-5, -2)
23. Panthers (4-4, -2)
24. Jets (4-4, -2)
25. Cardinals (1-7, -1)
26. Bills (3-5, +2)
27. Browns (2-6, +2)
28. Buccaneers (2-6, -1)
29. Texans (2-6, +2)
30. Raiders (2-6, unc)
31. 49ers (3-5, +1)
32. Titans (2-6, -6)

Just think--week by week proof of how bad statistics are as predictors of sports events!

The lake is gone

You wouldn't think leaving an industrial-style fan stuck under your carpet blowing air from 7:30 am until 11:30 pm would dry a carpet that well.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The perfect wording

You ask a question about a change that's recently been made above your pay grade. The answer comes back: "We need to discuss that issue." Does that mean that we need to discuss that issue (so you can tell me the answer), or that you need to discuss that issue (so that someone knows what the answer is)? I don't know the disambiguating, yet politically correct, question for this.

First Posts Should Always Be Cryptic: A Haiku

Hot water good to have.
Carpet surely does reek, though.
Febreze can help some.