heroic mechanar, and facebook
Music: Avenue Q - "It Sucks To Be Me"
Posted on 2007-06-14 11:20:00
Tags: facebook worldofwarcraft programming
The day off yesterday was really nice. We watched some TV - BSG season 1 finale (shocker!), Lost season finale (also shocker although hard to figure out what's going on!), and I worked on getting a Facebook app working. I partially succeeded, and started to try to hack around the problems with the Friend of a Friend application before deciding that, even if I could get it to work it wouldn't be very reliable. So, my new idea is to have a Daily/Cool Links app which will be kinda like Digg/Reddit except you only see links/votes from people that you are friends with. I don't know how useful or interesting it will be, but at least it's technically possible. I'll let y'all know when it's done :-)
Another thing I did yesterday was run my first Heroic instance! Details behind the cut for you non-WoW people...
After an abortive attempt with djedi earlier (we didn't even do one full pull before the tank said he had to leave :-/), I got in with a different group, and after some trouble (some people don't realize you have to be keyed...) we got going. It was four people from Daggerfall - two paladins (one tanking, one healing), a warlock, hunter, and me (mage).
One thing I had always heard about heroic instances is that the trash hits hard. This is incontrovertibly true. The normal guys were OK, but the big guys (guardians, maybe?) consistently one-shotted me if I pulled aggro. One time we were running away to the elevator and he killed me without even stopping. We wiped I think five times just pulling one of those guardians (to be fair, the healer was having lag issues, but yikes).
The first "interesting" boss was the guy that in normal mode, turns green for spell reflect and red for melee reflect. In the heroic mode he does something totally different! Every so often he will cause each person to be either positively or negatively "charged". If two people with opposite polarity stand near each other, every five seconds they both take 2000 damage. If two people with the same polarity stand near each other, both of their damage is increased by 100%. So we had the rule that the healer would stand still, and depending on your charge you'd run up to him or away from him. Not too difficult but kinda neat :-)
We killed three bosses but couldn't kill Pantheon the Calculator - got him down to 20% a few times before giving up. I collected my three Badges of Justice and went home happy. It would be nice to run an easier heroic first, but I still need to rep grind with Thrallmar, Cenarion Expedition, Lower City, and Keepers of Time.
Posted on 2007-06-13 10:59:00
The aforementioned camping pictures are up.
Yay day off! It's nice to know that, despite our general unhappiness with not having friends and work and such, we're not so bad off that we can't enjoy a nice summer day to ourselves :-)
Posted on 2007-06-11 12:27:00
Tags: facebook programming
This weekend blamantin and Alex and djedi went camping. It was, in a word, fun! We hiked on a trail in Rocky Gap State Park (in western MD) that was 4.5 miles - quite a good workout! After swimming in the lake, We drove to some campgrounds and played games, roasted marshmallows (mmmmmmmm), etc. We had been a little worried about the weather, as there was a chance of rain, but the weather for the hike was pretty darn good, felt around 80 degrees or so. It ended up being pretty cold at night - luckily djedi and I had brought sweaters so we wore them to bed and huddled together to conserve heat, which worked decently well :-) I took a bunch of pictures that I'll put up soon.
I'm planning on writing a Facebook application as my next project. My thought was to make a "friend of a friend" sort of thing, like LiveJournal has (but you have to be paid or maybe plus to see it - sorry!) which shows people that lots of your friends have friended but you haven't. It seems like a good way to discover people on Facebook that you didn't realize were there, or people that you might be interested in meeting :-) Anyway, for various technical reasons step 1 is to upgrade my Apache web server from 1.3 to 2.0, so hopefully I can make that work tonight.
For your amusement
Posted on 2007-06-08 10:37:00
A "map" of North America from a Japanese RPG. (via digg)
Also, if you like crazy programming goodness, check out the entries to the calculator contest at worsethanfailure.com.
good music ftw
Posted on 2007-06-05 10:26:00
Wow, I've listened to 30 seconds of "Kid A" (the album, not the song) and I think I'm going to love it.
Also awesome: "The Bends", Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"
what if money were no object?
Music: Radiohead - "The Bends"
Posted on 2007-06-04 09:27:00
Tags: music poll
(this is by no means an original question) Let's say that you won the lottery today, and you'd be receiving enough money to live on comfortably (maybe a little lower than your current standard of living) for the rest of your life.
My thoughts, cut to avoid influencing your answers :-)
For me, work is more than just a way to earn money; it's a way for me to make a difference (however small) in the world. I guess even if I couldn't find a job that I liked/was sufficiently good at, I would spend my time doing work-like activities. (contributing to open source products, etc.)
We had a good weekend. The weather was pretty nice on Friday and Saturday - we got together with a work friend and played some Mario Party 8. (verdict: not much different from previous Mario Parties, but still fun, and the minigames that use Wiimote functionality were neat) Saturday was gorgeous in the afternoon and I went out and got new CDs: 3 Radiohead, 2 Wilco, the new Linkin Park, and the Muse one with "Knights of Cydonia". The last I got because I was reminded of the songs existence via wildrice13 who was excited it was going to be on Guitar Hero III. I heard it at New Year's, and really liked it. The sample on iTunes was OK but not the part I remembered. Anyway, I listened to it later, and at first was disappointed because it was neat but not awesome like I remembered. Then it got to the good part with the great harmonies and stuff and I was happy and listened to it like 6 times :-) Point being, all the albums are up on my music site if you'd like to listen (if you don't have access, drop me a line!)
quijax came later that evening, after it started raining. (I think, anyway...it was definitely raining most of the time) It was fun having a guest! (and somewhat reinforced our feelings of missing our friends and not getting to hang out with people)
where's my burrito? where's my burrito?
Posted on 2007-06-01 09:19:00
Tags: pictures links
I posted a few pictures - nothing earth-shattering, as I haven't been in the mood much to take pictures lately. With people visiting and our visiting people during June, hopefully that'll change :-)
I have a plan: rewrite the hat problem solver in Haskell. Maybe I'll get to it this weekend? I'd be interested in running timing tests to see the speed difference...
Wil Shipley argues for smaller, less flexible code. Yay!
Bush calls for global warming summit. Why do I get the feeling this is like Ronald Reagan not talking about AIDS until well after it was a problem?
I didn't watch the game, but LeBron James took over the Cavs' playoff game last night, leading them to victory in double overtime by scoring 29 out of their last 30 points. That sounds Jordanesque to me!
Blizzard's suing peons4hire, the most prolific in-game gold spammer that I've experienced. Yaaaaay! Although I played a lot last night and don't remember a single gold spam, which would be unheard of before the 2.1.0 patch...
Hope everyone has a nice weekend.
new music for moi
Posted on 2007-05-30 10:55:00
So I have this $20 Best Buy gift card that's burning a hole in my pocket. Given the insane amount of music I need to keep me sane at work, I was thinking of getting some more Radiohead. Summize is this neat review aggregator that shows a nice 5 color bar summary of reviews (from super-awesome to wow-this-sucks), so I thought I'd see what it had to say about Radiohead albums. (although for some reason The Bends has very few reviews) Based on y'all's suggestions, I was thinking about picking up The Bends, Hail to the Thief, and maybe Kid A as well.
Wilco's good, too, right? I heard Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was good, but it's kinda countryish which I'm not thrilled about. (saw it described as a "Hillbilly OK Computer", which sounds...interesting) I need to listen to some samples when I get home...
Posted on 2007-05-29 11:03:00
So we spent Memorial Day weekend with djedi's family in Houston. It was fun, despite the rain and usual hecticness that typical associates large family gatherings. (there were 10 adults and 2 kids) I took a few pictures that I'll post sometime this week. Our flight back was delayed due to rain (as were at least 80% of the flights leaving IAH), but only by half an hour, and we slept late this morning so I'm feeling fairly decent.
- There are lots of little "road signs" in an airport along the runway, etc. One such set of signs is a distance marker that lets you know how far away you are from the end of the runway - when you're taking off you can see the signs count down to 0. (the flights I've been on usually become airborne around 3) They're just numbers, though, and I wondered what the units were. So, on the flight out, I noticed that the highest number was 9, and it took us around 35 seconds to reach the end of the runway. (we were in the air by then!) So, assuming constant acceleration and that our final speed was 300 mph (a ballpark number), I did the calculations and determined that we were accelerating at 13 ft/sec^2, and that gave a distance of .5*a*t^2, which is around 8000 ft. So, I figured the signs were spaced 1000 ft apart, so the whole runway was 9000 ft long. (I later saw in the magazine that the cruising speed of the 737 we were on is 520 mph, which puts us even closer to 9000 ft traveled) Yay for math! And I just found this diagram of the airport which indicates we were probably on the 9501x150 runway going northwest to southeast.
- At the baggage claim at IAH (which was pretty darn busy) we saw a Lyndon LaRouche supporter. It seemed like an odd location...who wants to talk politics when you're waiting for your bag/ride?
- On the ride home, I saw an HIV/AIDS prevention billboard that said to text your zip code to KNOWIT, which I did, and I got back my nearest HIV/AIDS testing location. Neat!
- Did you know the Petersen graph can be constructed by labeling each vertex with a 2 element subset of a 5 element set, and then connecting the vertices whose sets are disjoint? I didn't.
A Tale of Two Stories
Posted on 2007-05-24 09:22:00
Tags: car story computer
So, djedi looks in the trunk and finds no spare tire. Ack! So I call AAA (the fact that I have a membership gives me great peace of mind, as I'm not so good with cars), and after they transfer me to the Maryland office (I hadn't changed my address...) she sends a tow truck out. Luckily we remember there's a Firestone just down the road, and they're only open until 7 (it's around 6:40 by now) but I can drop the car off out front.
While we're waiting, we both think it's awfully odd that the car, which definitely came with a spare tire, doesn't have one now, despite the fact that I've never used it or anything, so we go back to the trunk to check. Turns out all the storage is done origami-style - so you fold up some stuff to get to the jack and stuff, but then if you fold it up again there is a spare tire! Whoops. I read the instructions while djedi changes out the tire, which goes pretty smoothly. Just around the time we finish I see a tow truck driving the other way that honks as it goes by, and sure enough it turns around and stops. I explain to the friendly driver that we did in fact have a spare and so we could drive it ourselves :-)
Anyway, djedi walks home to start dinner and I carefully drive over to the Firestone. It's already 7:10 but they're still around finishing up, so I watch some "Jeopardy!" while I wait and finally tell them the situation, drop off the key and jog home. I don't like jogging, but this wasn't a long way and it was really a beautiful day out so I didn't mind.
Afterword: Since the hole was in the side of the tire, I'm getting four new tires. I needed an oil change anyway, so this works out decently. (and I'm not getting a Firestone charge card despite getting halfway through the application before realizing what the guy was trying to sell me...)
I went to my computer and did the timing tests with
hdparm -tT /dev/hdc. The "Timing buffered disk reads" came back with 1.67 MB/sec, which even my years-old book says was laughably low. Encouraging! So I tried turning on lots of stuff with
hdparm -d1 -u1 -X66 -c3 -m16 /dev/hdc. Unfortunately, it said that turning on DMA was "not supported", but everything else was turned on, and that got the speed up to around 3 MB/sec. (it turns out the old
hdparm settings weren't working because my hard drive had changed from /dev/hda to /dev/hdc)
Not bad! But I wondered why I couldn't turn DMA on, as that would in general help the most. So after doing a little research I discovered the problem was that support for the IDE controller wasn't built in to the kernel. I decided to go ahead and download a new kernel anyway and (after eventually finding the right option) turned on the IDE controller supported. After installing it, I was indeed able to turn DMA on, and now the speed is anywhere between 30 to 60 MB/sec! I had to recompile a couple of times to get my sound and iptables filtering working again (I think the options changed between kernels), but I finally got it all up last night. My system is noticeably more responsive, and loading WoW screams (at least comparatively).
This makes me a happy panda!
Posted on 2007-05-21 09:24:00
Over the weekend, I wrote some code to find strategies for the hat problem I mentioned last time. The results are here - for 7 people I found a strategy that works 67.2% of the time using a genetic algorithm. The theoretical maximum (I think) is 7/8=87.5%, so there's still more that could be done...
Had a good time this weekend with my mom visiting.
vi, ngrams, hats
Posted on 2007-05-18 09:42:00
Tags: vi ngrams
I found this great article on why vi is so awesome yesterday, which includes some handy tips that I didn't know. (my vi-fu is not particularly strong, although I do use it a lot) On the same site there's a wonderful graphical cheat sheet that I now have at my fingertips. (literally!)
Here's the first little applications using the Wikipedia n-grams - a simple interface to count the number of times a word shows up. Problems: it doesn't work in IE (sigh...I'll fix it soonish) and there's no progress indicator, so wait a minute after clicking "Submit". Edit: also, there are some crazy results: "zi" (1841) is more common than "carrie" (1361). Another sigh.
So there's this neat hat problem that's been making the rounds. n people (who are allowed to discuss strategy beforehand) each have either a red or blue hat put on (so you can see the other n-1 hats but not your own). Then, without communicating and simultaneously, each has to guess what color their hat is, or decline to guess. If at least one person guesses and all guesses are right, they all win; otherwise, they all lose. Here's an article that describes the problem and the optimal solution for 3 people. Apparently there are very good solutions for 2^n-1 people (3, 7, 15, ...), but the solution for 7 people, say, is way less elegant than the one for 3.
A coworker and I were talking about this problem yesterday and how to find the optimal solution. For the n person problem, a strategy for one person can be described in 2^(n-1) characters of "R" (guess red), "B" (guess blue), "N" (don't guess), since this covers all the cases of the hats that person can see. So, a complete strategy is 2^(n-1)*n such characters. It's pretty clear how to evaluate what percentage of the time a strategy will work (just try all 2^n possibilities), so if the number of strategies (3^(2^(n-1)*n)) is small enough you could just try everything. For the 7 people case this works out to 5.6*10^213 strategies - clearly too many! But you could use a genetic algorithm to breed solutions together based on their fitness.
So anyway, I may take a break from n-grams to code up some stuff relating to this.
a personal confession
Posted on 2007-05-16 13:01:00
I don't get Lolcats. They were kinda cute at first, but now I hate them. I find the pidgin English annoying. (and usually not clever) Feel free to correct the error of my ways or (more entertainingly!) call me old.
Two good articles from Slate:
- Alberto Gonzales browbeats the critically ill
- Jerry Falwell's hit parade (a bunch of Falwell quotes)
I like Slate a lot, especially since I don't read any of Mickey Kaus's stuff, which used to make me roll my eyes angrily.
obsession #12358: bsg
Posted on 2007-05-14 12:53:00
So destroyerj gave us many seasons of Battlestar Galactica as a present, and we sat down kinda late Saturday night to watch the miniseries. (i.e. Disc 1 of Season 1) I had heard from a few people that the miniseries was kinda slow since it had to introduce all the characters and such. To the contrary, I enjoyed it a lot, and we stayed up until 1:30 or so to finish it. Good stuff, although I liked the first "real" episode less than the miniseries. My mom's coming this week (she has a conference in Columbia...what are the odds?) but I guess we'll pick it up next week...
As one obsession waxes, so does another wane. My licensing problem with the Google n-grams led me to try to find my own. I found a corpus based on Wikipedia that I'm currently using, but the parser I wrote to extract words isn't very good, and I'm not sure that it can be improved due to inconsistent data. So my data is not particularly clean. (sometimes two words are strung together, sometimes a single word is broken into two) I wrote a quick little thingy to just do a simple lookup on the popularity of a word, and I'll probably make a web interface for that, but I'm highly doubtful that a cryptogram solver would actually work. (and I've basically given up with trying to extract 2-grams, 3-grams, etc. that would generate English-looking text)
So I'm really losing motivation to work on it, and not having an exciting project to work on leaves me in a weird and unstable condition. I like having a drive to do things like this, but sometimes it's kinda irritating. Maybe a little time off from the n-grams will give me some more inspiration...or maybe I'll give up completely and move on to something else. In a very real way it shouldn't matter (it's just something I'm doing for fun, not for anyone in particular), but I still feel bad starting a project, then giving up and moving on to another one a week later.
No n-grams because of the license
Posted on 2007-05-08 14:13:00
So it turns out that to get the Google n-grams, you have to sign a user license agreement that forbids the more interesting things I'd like to do. Bummer. So I sent them an email:
Firstly, I'd like to thank Google for making this gigantic corpus available to the public. When I first read about it I was excited and immediately thought of a number of neat applications I could do using the data (see my post at http://gregstoll.livejournal.com/114129.html). Unfortunately, it looks like I won't be able to use the data as provided.
The first issue was the price - I would be just doing these projects in my free time, for noncommercial use, but the page at the Linguistic Data Consortium ( http://www.ldc.upenn.edu/Catalog/CatalogEntry.jsp?catalogId=LDC2006T13) lists the price for nonmembers as $180 (including a $30 shipping fee). A fee for processing and handling is certainly reasonable, but $180 is a bit steep for 6 DVDs. Admittedly, this price may be set by the LDC itself, as most corpora are at least this expensive, but I had to carefully consider whether it was worth the price for a side project.
Eventually I decided it would be worth it to get my hands on such a great resource, and I even sent in the order to LDC. Unfortunately, I sent in the wrong license agreement, and was dismayed to find the agreement specific to this corpus. (http://www.ldc.upenn.edu/Catalog/mem_agree/Web_1T_5gram_V1_User_Agreement.html) Since I wouldn't be allowed to "publish, retransmit, display, redistribute, reproduce or commercially exploit the Data in any form", except for "limited excerpts from the Data in articles, reports and other documents describing the results of User’s linguistic education and research", this means that the more interactive ideas I had (a cryptogram solver, algorithm to calculate the probability of a given sentence, generator of English-like text) wouldn't be allowed.
So I'm forced to rethink my plans and try to gather my own corpus from the web, which will be undeniably smaller and less accurate. Of course I understand that Google was under no obligation to provide this data in the first place, but it is a little frustrating to have it so tantalizingly close and yet be unable to use it.
(crossposted to http://gregstoll.livejournal.com/115202.html)
Posted on 2007-05-08 09:40:00
I couldn't help myself and ordered the Google n-gram set. Don't know when it will arrive, but I'd suspect it will take a while. Maybe 6-8 weeks? :-)
In the meantime I'm working on algorithms and running them on the data set Peter Norvig used for his spelling corrector. Did you know "the" is the most common word? It's true! Tonight I hope to compare the distribution of words to Zipf's Law. (which is a very cool law!)
If you like MST3K, you'll probably like RiffTrax. (NYT article) We should try this sometime!
As I post, the #3 bestselling book on amazon is The Secret, which is about the secret to getting everything you want. Apparently it's (spoiler!) just wanting it enough. Oh, and if you get sick or bad things happen to you, it's your fault for not thinking about good things enough and you should be shunned lest your lack of good thoughts spread! Slate does a nice Human Guinea Pig about it.
I love data
Posted on 2007-04-25 16:05:00
Tags: programming ngrams
Thanks to Peter Norvig's (he wrote my AI textbook! and is director of research at Google!!) article about writing a spelling corrector, I was reminded that Google released a giiiiant list of n-grams found on the web. Unfortunately, it's only for noncommercial use unless you join and pay thousands of dollars (noncommercial is OK) and costs $180(!) to buy and ship. On the other hand, it's 6 DVDs of compressed data (24 GBs of gzipped files). This is soooo tempting.
new heroes tonight!
Posted on 2007-04-23 15:22:00
It's about time!
Recap of what everyone's up to (I have a terrible memory!)
Cute article about Hiro
score your representative!
Posted on 2007-04-23 09:39:00
Tags: movies homepage congressvotes
So over the weekend I finished congressvotes - check it out! (I also prettied up my homepage a little bit...maybe I'll actually make it look nice some day)
We did see Hot Fuzz this weekend, and it was awesome. Like Shaun of the Dead it's a good mix between a comedy and a serious movie (cop drama/mystery in this case). Highly recommended!
a few birthday links
Posted on 2007-04-20 13:02:00
Who's to blame for the Virginia Tech massacre. A helpful guide. (via kottke, yet again)
I think I believe that God doesn't control the world/our lives on such a low level as to determine the weather, etc., and I don't think He "made this happen" as some sort of punishment for something.
How to beat that traffic ticket. Am I alone in guides like this irritating me? It seems the point is to find any technicality ("Scott McCoy, a driver from northern California, recently beat a ticket by filing motions until he found erroneous paperwork.") to avoid punishment for something that you did. (obviously this is different if you weren't actually speeding) Taking responsibility for your actions FTW. (I might feel differently after getting a ticket)
happy birthday to meeee
Posted on 2007-04-20 09:39:00
Tags: movies congressvotes
Yay, I'm 25! I get a discount on my car insurance (I think at least), and I can rent a car without any problems! Also a perfect square, and the smallest hypotenuse squared in a Pythagorean triple. And (25 mod 10)^2 = 25. I think I'll stop now.
I hope I never get blasé about my birthday. I love special occasions! Tonight we're gonna eat at Copeland's (note to self: eat small lunch) and maybe see a movie. Hot Fuzz opens today, made by the same people who did Shaun of the Dead which I really liked, so we might go for that :-)
I joined Facebook yesterday, which probably makes me user #1 billion or something. It seems neat enough.
Article about long commutes and why people do it. Yikes!
Last night I worked on congressvotes and it's almost ready to go! The weirdest problem I had was that in most votes "Yea" and "Nay" are used, but some use "Aye" and "No", confusingly enough.
Posted on 2007-04-18 14:28:00
Will someone please invent some sort of nose headphones so I don't have to smell things??
congressvotes moves forward
Posted on 2007-04-16 14:23:00
So it's been a while since I've had a lot of time to work on congressvotes, but with the holidays being over and hitting level 70 in WoW (yay! flying mount!) I've been a little less busy.
The previous hangup I had was parsing the XML files and getting data out in Haskell - I figured out how to do it with HaXML, but the code I had took like half an hour to run and a ridiculous amount of memory just to get some basic data out. Maybe it's because my code was bad, but I couldn't figure it out and got frustrated and took some time away from the project.
So, I kinda gave up and wrote a script in Python to convert the XML into a simple colon-delimited format, and everything works much faster now.
While I had some time off I thought about what exactly I wanted it to do, since I had a bunch of related ideas. My current plan is this: the user selects a year, and then picks from a list of interest groups that had opinions on votes that year. You can then decide whether you care about the votes or not (and whether to vote for or against the interest group's position!) and then you get a list of all representatives in congress sorted by how many times they agreed with you. (in a neat Yahoo! UI DataTable) You can then sort by state to see how your legislator did, etc.
Last night I wrote the code that actually compares the votes, and I also spent a bit of time this weekend gathering congressional scorecards from interest groups. I also did some work on the webpage, so it looks like I just need some glue pieces to tie it all together. Hopefully that won't take too long!
(oh, and I have to make the page work in Internet Explorer which always frustrates the hell out of me. Maybe I can set up IE debugging on David's computer...)
Posted on 2007-04-13 15:14:00
It has been a long week in terms of stressfulness. I can't wait for the weekend, to relax and go flying around the Outlands :-)
A story about a kid's first day as a NY Yankees batboy - this story really brightened my afternoon. (via kottke)
Posted on 2007-04-11 14:26:00
Tags: pictures music links
Pictures from Easter are up.
The author of the Joshua Bell street performer article I linked to earlier took part in an online discussion with Washington Post readers. Good stuff!
Now that "The Show with ze Frank" is over, you can buy an album of songs from the show, including the very catchy "Where the Fuck Do Ideas Come From?"
Recent developments have left me a bit jittery.
American Airlines just launched a website for women who travel. Umm, what? Someone please explain to me how this isn't horribly insulting and stereotypical and stupid.
This backup was done by LJBackup.