Archive for March, 2005

More, more, more — they always want more

Kate wants me to post more. She’s right; I probably should. Still, it always seems like a hassle.

Kate’s family came and visited, and Kate now has a wedding dress. It’s very attractive, and I’m sure she can’t wait to show it off. We’re really moving forward on this wedding thing. I guess now we just have to invite people to it.

While they were here, we did plenty of touristy, sight-seeing things. The best was probably when we went out on the bay in a sailboat. It was windy, but it was a lot of fun. All we could hear was the wind and the sails, and there were lots of pretty sights.

See why I don’t write? I don’t really have that much to say. Life continues. Things exist. Other things happen. Thre’s really nothing that interesting in it all.

I guess the most interesting thing was that it was generally a bad spring break. I didn’t do anything exciting, yet I still didn’t get very much work done. At least the apartment is nice and clean, now, and my taxes are done. And I did get to play lots of Baldur’s Gate with Kate. It could have been worse.

Oh. And our stocks are tanking, because Japan’s economy isn’t doing that well. Maybe that’s not the best place to invest our money. Japan’s economy is tied closely to ours, so if we do badly, so do they. Europe, or even developing countries, might be a better bet. It’s hard to know, yet there’s a lot of money to be made if you choose right. And a lot to lose, even if you don’t make any choice at all.

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UPS sucks!

This morning, I went to Circuit City to fix a faulty iPod. They wouldn’t fix it, only return it, which is infuriating. Furthermore, I forgot that they didn’t open until 10am, so I was stuck waiting there for 20 minutes.

While I was waiting for the store to open, a UPS truck pulled up to deliver some packages to Circuit City. The delivery man clearly had no respect for the packages. He didn’t treat them with much care, and the inside of the truck was a jumble of packages rather than anything orderly.

What’s more, 2 of the 13 packages were dripping wet when they came out of the truck! They weren’t soaked through all around, but each had one edge that was sopping wet. There is no way that can be good for the packages.

Clearly, UPS is doing something wrong. I always knew their deliveries sucked, but now I know that the transit process is just as bad.

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Impulse buying

I was out buying a grading pen and photocopying my tax documents. On my way back, I passed by the herb and spice store. (You have to go out of your way for that sort of thing in St. Louis, but here in Berkeley,it’s just a few blocks away.)

Unable to resist, I went in and bought 1 gram of saffron for $8. That’s right–it sells for $3600 per pound. I’m not sure if we’ll like it, but we’ll finally be able to try it out. Maybe we’ll enjoy it in our paella. Maybe we’ll never buy it again. Still, it’ll be interesting.

In any event, saffron is an unusual thing to impulse-buy.

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About confidence and assertion

Although Kate thinks I’m being a pushover, I actually feel like I’ve been more assertive than normal lately. I actually told Russell off for only giving us a few hours’ warning that we were expected to spend last night grading. This is actually the second time he was rude to me, but I’ve finally realized that I have a voice, and complaining when people are rude isn’t wrong. This is a major breakthrough for me.

In the end, Russell’s rudeness may well have been a good thing for me. It broke Berkeley’s aura of greatness, so now all of a sudden I realize that I’m as good as these people. I may not be as smart as all these professors, but I may well be (though I certainly don’t have their knowledge). Russell has shown that he’s not actually a particularly good person, and Feldman is clearly in the wrong on the issue of computer intelligence. So, I am a better person than some professors here, and I understand things more clearly than some others.

This is great news. It means that I’m good enough to be here. I can face professors with confidence, secure in the knowledge that they’re merely human, and by recognizing that, I am as good as they are. They may have more knowledge and power than I do, but they’re not better than me.

I’m in a very good mood. I have finally reached the point where I fit into Berkeley. I have proven (to myself) my worth, and I am ready to take on the world. I can fight back when they are wrong, and I’m no longer wandering around in the dark. I’ve realized that I see as much of the world as they do, and I’m ready to stand on my own and control my own fate.

In summary, I’m a grown up. I moved from being an undergraduate to being a graduate student. I have finally become an arrogant young man.

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an idea

I have an idea! I’ve been studying a fair amount of natural language stuff lately, which is something I’m not sure I want to keep doing. However, it finally inspired an idea.

In most computer science models of natural language, the crucial issue is language generation. To think about a language, you think about how it is produced. However, that is secondary. The critical thing is how it is understood. My idea is just that we shouldn’t be studying how language is produced, but rather how it is understood.

Obviously, this is a stupid idea because lots of people study how language is being understood. Still, I think that I may have a good way of looking at the problem, which is why I’m writing it down here before I forget it.

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Nature can be nice

It’s a fine spring day outside. It’s the kind of day when I can enjoy capitalism, when Microsoft doesn’t seem to be so evil, after all. Good weather can really brighten up my mood.

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One, two, Brazil

Let’s set the stage: I was in a graduate computer science class, with an ultra-smart Theory professor at UC Berkeley.

The professor was talking about very large numbers, and he said, “billions, trillions, Brazilians.” He has an accent, so it took a bit for the class to realize what he’d said, but once they did, everyone started laughing.

I’m not sure whether it was intentional or not; I would believe it either way. It’s really easy to say stupid things when you’re teaching, but this is a professor with a sense of humor. This doesn’t quite qualify for a “mock the stupid” post, but it was a really funny incident.

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To ruin a perfectly good morning

I started my morning off right. First, I had a good breakfast. Then, I called the synagogue (in St. Louis) about having their rabbi officiate our wedding in October. We have to meet with the rabbi first, but when we tried to do that once before over winter break, the rabbi went out of town and they couldn’t call us because they wrote our phone number down wrong. Therefore, I was hoping we could tele-conference. I have a webcam, so we could have a phone call with video, which is just as good as us being there.

However, the secretary (perhaps speaking for the rabbi) said that videoconferencing is not acceptable; Kate and I must physically go to St. Louis. That really makes me mad. Because they wrote our phone number down wrong, we need to spend $600 to fly to St. Louis? If you know me, you know that I hate stupidity and waste, and the majority of one thousand dollars to be able to touch us (rather than just seeing our faces and hearing our voices) is unreasonable. We can afford it, but that’s because we’re careful not to do stupid things like this with our money.

I keep wanting to call back and say all this. I want to ask what they would do if we told them we would donate $800 minus the cost of the plane tickets to the synagogue. I bet they wouldn’t demand our physical presence then. If it was their money that was being spent to bring us to St. Louis, they’d be plenty happy to meet with us in telepresence.

The waste of it makes me so angry!

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