Archive for May, 2005

I was feeling really good, since I finished my final exam and have made decent progress on my last project. Slav and I aren’t getting terribly good numbers in our experiments on the project, but we feel we understand what’s going on, and that means we’ll have a good writeup. I’m almost done!

Then, I remembered that tomorrow is the final exam for CS188. That means that tomorrow I have to help proctor it, and tomorrow night, I’ll be grading exams until late. Then, I’ll probably have to continue grading exams over the weekend. Eh. That really puts a damper on things, especially since I don’t want to put much load on Slav for this project. We’ve split things pretty evenly so far, and I don’t want to cop out now.

Well, off to pick up Kate and then run to FedEx. Apparently, they won’t accept my signature on the little card. No one knows why. Those delivery companies are so shady and unreliable. I put my faith in the USPS, and it has always come through for me. Media rate is amazing, and they get our Netflix movies to us promptly.

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Review of recent (boring) events

This weekend, Kate and I saw a new SNL. In it, there was a character (who appeared previously in another similar skit) who was answering phones in a telethon, but someone seemed to be telling him something terrible. Every few seconds, he would loudly exclaim, “Oh nooo!” Kate and I both laughed very hard, although I suspected that this skit would not pass the test of time. If I see it as a rerun, I doubt I’ll laugh like that, but it was sure funny at the time. All weekend, I was tempted to do the same thing on a cell phone somewhere. There would probably be someone nearby who would understand what I was imitating. Still, I never had the courage, and it wasn’t exactly a top priority anyway.

My Spring class projects have been going acceptably. I feel like an equal, which is very good for my morale. It’s vastly better than doing a project as an undergrad, when partners were notoriously unreliable. It was usually easier for me just to do the whole damn thing on my own.

The story I always tell is that once, I partnered up with someone else who seemed to feel the same way. When we three split up the work, he let the other two of us take early parts of the project, and then he was going to write everything else at the last minute–obviously a recipe to compensate for however terrible we might be. But, I put together some good support code (decent comments, sensible classes & methods) with a full week to go, and he seemed astonished that I would do something like that. I just thought it was weird to be on the other side.

Unfortunately, Slav’s and my project is not producing very good results. We’re adding a mixture of grammars to the basic unlexicalized parser; unfortunately, it seems to overlap quite a lot with the vertical annotations, so we don’t see very much improvement. It helps the unannotated parser out, boosting it from 74% to 77% or 78%. Tomorrow, we’ll discuss it with Dan Klein, who may have some pointers.

The take-home Theory final is a bitch. It’s harder than the homeworks were, and we can’t talk about it with the other people! That’s the worst part; I know how to solve some of it, but Theory problems are always easy to get stuck on.

Well, off to bed. To think about my final as I drift off to sleep, and again when I awake. I always hope that sleeping on my problems will help to solve them, and it usually does help. Still, I’m stuck enough that I don’t think I have enough nights until it’s due. Perhaps I’ll have to nap.

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People. They’re crazy.

Today, I had a weird experience.

I was sitting at my computer when I heard a knock at the door. I saw a flash of pink through the window, so I naturally assumed it was Kate, home early for some reason. But no, it was a young woman I had never seen before. Strangely, she didn’t try to sell me anything–she just wanted me to help jump her car. I, a nice guy / sucker, agreed to help.

I spent some time looking for jumper cables, but none were to be found. So, she went to get her friend and walk down to the gas station a block down the street to buy some. While she was gone, I looked for jumper cables in the car again, and then waited around a bit. I saw a pair of (apparently) homeless men coming my way, so, wanting to avoid a confrontation or conversation of some sort, I moved away from the sidewalk and towards the open hood of her car.

However, the homeless people came over to me, and one asserted that he was a “17-year certified mechanic.” He asked what the issue was, and when I said, he poked at the battery. I tried to stop him, since I had always been warned that it was dangerous (and because who wants a homeless person poking around in their car’s engine?), but I failed. He wiggled the connections and said it was probably just a loose connection, but he didn’t say it very convincingly. He gave off a bit of “crazy” vibe, and his friend asked, “What can you even say to people with cars?” When the girl came out, he insisted that she should try starting it again. However, a bit weirded out, I think, the girl soon came out and closed the hood, and then set off to the gas station. The one homeless man then convinced his friend to leave.

I decided that waiting around was stupid, so I went to do laundry and make dinner. I kept checking to make sure that she and her friend weren’t knocking on my door, but I wasn’t going to wait around.

Finally, when it was time to move the laundry to the dryer, I looked to see if she was at her car, but it was gone. She had evidently gotten it started somehow, and gone to wherever she was headed. I guess the most likely thing is that the homeless guy was right (!), and his wiggling of the connections fixed her problem, but it’s possible she got someone else to jump her car.

Anyhow, the whole thing was certainly unusual.

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