log (2006/03/03 to 2006/03/09)

"But that's ridiculous."

"Oh, you know."

"I don't know why you put up with it."

"Well, he has been pretty successful, after all."

"Come on, that's --"

"I know, it might have nothing to do with it. Maybe he's succeeded for some other reason entirely. But I'm willing to play along for awhile and see."

"You're way too easy."

"It's one of the great tragedies of human existence."


"Each of us lives for such a short time, we don't really get to try out very many different things. And except in a few tiny cases we're not very good at passing our experiences along. So we only make progress once in a long while, when someone finally says 'Hey, you know, a million people have tried this for a century now and it hasn't worked; maybe we should stop doing it'."

"Yeah, and when we finally do say that and stop, things have changed enough that if we'd only kept doing it a little longer, it might finally have worked."

"And I thought I was being depressing..."

(We have a new washing machine now and it works just fine; thanks for asking!)

I am so tired! Time is so full of things.

The washing machine broke and there was water all over the floor (apparently some big part had rusted through as it was like fifteen years old), and the guy said that we'd probably be best off buying a new one, and today they delivered the new one and took the old one away, but the new one leaks and when I tipped it up and looked underneath it looks like there's this big plastic tub inside, and the tub has a crack in it, and there's water all over the floor. (At least it's plastic and can't rust, har har har!)

And by the time we discovered this they were closed, so we left a message on their answering machine but who knows when they'll get around to calling back, much less doing anything about it, so the average dirtiness of our clothes is increasing (and the basement floor is pretty wet, and the vast mounds of unknown objects stacked everywhere in the basement are to some extent wet, and that might turn out years from now to have been a bad thing, say). And we're going to have to make sure someone's around to let them in when they come to do something about it.

(Oh and arg come to think of it the big wet/dry vac is still sitting down there with lots of water and general ick in it and I should do something about that.)

And we had a mouse (a couple of mice) and so all the stuff (pots and pans and miscellany) that's usually in the cabinet where the mouse was living is now piled up in the back room on chairs and the table and stuff and generally being in the way (and some more of it is piled up next to the kitchen sink in the drying rack threatening to clatter unnervingly down some dark midnight).

And there's this pile of mail sitting here waiting for me, and some child might want to make brownies and we had to buy yet another new power cord for one of the iBooks (notebook powercords must be Apple's most-hated product; you'd think they'd fix them) and La Strada just came from Netflixxxx but fnord knows when I'm going to have a chance to watch it, and I hardly ever write in my weblog anymore and we're almost out of Miracle Whip for the little daughter's sandwiches and and and and...

And I'm puzzled by Red Pine's interpretation of the Diamond Sutra, which is that Subhuti is all Lesser Path and limited in his understanding, and that Buddha is correcting him and exemplifying the Greater Path, whereas I don't see that in the actual text at all and it's always seemed to me that the two are more or less playing a symphony here, and it'd be neat to like talk about that with someone but again who has the time and who would I talk about it with anyway?

So anyway I have to go empty out the vacuum device and change the stacking of the mail and maybe mop the floor some more and stuff now, but at least I've written in my weblog...

On the ongoing fever, a doubting reader writes:

Hmm. "FEMA" doesn't seem to be on the WNYC playlist. I suspect you're making this up. Or hallucinating. [link]

Make me do work, will you? It wasn't a song as such, it was a small fragment of a song played as part of a story; this story I'm pretty sure.

So there. *8)

A reader who perhaps thinks that I should stop running so many items from readers writes:

You should fear the grimey masses who splatter words like giblets into your otherwise well sponged web log.

Is it a soft warm sponge? With maybe some fragrant oils?

Another reader or something writes:

I must confuses your site is really cool!!! Great site, great idea, just all round great work, everyone.

Like the similar unaccountable input we mentioned the other day, this one seems both completely pointless (payloadless), and also very common. Explanations most welcome.

So we've been very meta so far today, haven't we? People who aren't long-time readers, and who get here by following links from other places, or while searching for Iris Chacon Pictures or Hack Yahoo Webcam will be terribly confused. We feel for them, but there's only so much we can do.

Cosma Shalizi (to whom we look constantly up for his notebooks and his understandings of things that we think look interesting but don't understand) is posting Lecture Notes on Stochastic Processes (Advanced Probability II) to the Web (speaking of things that we think look interesting but don't understand). See also Causal Architecture, Complexity, and Self-Organization in Time Series and Cellular Automata.

Slang o' the Day: ZOMG.

Patent application o' the day (tx to dwl): Walking through walls training system. Notable among patent applications for (among many other things) the sentence "The woman who gave me the statue told me that he would walk miles and miles each day to visit the poor." Highly recommended.

Now here's Solving the Symbol Grounding Problem: a Critical Review of Fifteen Years of Research. The Symbol Grounding Problem is interesting, at least at a meta-level, in that I can't quite decide whether there's actually a problem there or not. The problem is figuring out how symbols get grounded; how they come to have meaning and all. The thing I can't decide is whether or not there's some additional problem here besides the question of (1) how beings like us come to behave as they do with respect to symbols (a scientific and empirical question that, while very hard, doesn't seem to pose any deep philosophical puzzles) and (2) how our subjective consciousness comes to be properly attached to the world (which is known to be very hard, but isn't primarily about symbol grounding).

The Critical Review of Fifteen Years of Research is somewhat disappointing, in that it seems to put strange and arbitrary restrictions on what kinds of experiments with artificial symbol-understanders would Count. F'rinstance:

"... it is already clear that, by adopting the Q-learning algorithm, the intentional model is importing from the outside the very condition that allows CLARION to semanticise, since tasks, goals, success, failure, rewards and punishments are all established by the programmer. The semantical commitment could not be more explicit."

The absurdity may not be clear out of context like this, but essentially what he's saying is that if some entity sets up a (real or virtual) universe for systems to evolve in, and some of them come to use and understand symbols, they don't really get credit for it, since the creator of the universe set up the evolutionary fitness conditions, and therefore smuggled "semantics" illegitimately into the situation. (The author says this even more explicitly when he dismisses artifical evolution as similarly having a disallowed "semantical commitment".)

But if that's not allowed, then what's being asked for is a way for systems to come to make and have and understand symbols without any incentive or contraints whatsoever: no training, no surrounding external environment with an implicit or explicit fitness function, no physical laws imposing conditions on existence, etc, etc. And why would anyone expect that to be possible? We don't have any evidence it's ever happened.

Video Shows Bush Warned Before Katrina Hit (and similarly):

At the August 28th briefing, the president was told exactly what to expect:

  • The chief scientist of the National Hurricane Center warned that a major levee breach was "obviously a very, very grave concern." Bush lied to the entire nation about this point just 5 days later.
  • Michael Brown told the president that if New Orleans flooded the Superdome emergency shelter would likely be under water and short on supplies, creating a "catastrophe within a catastrophe."
  • Experts and officials implored the President to prepare for, as the AP described it, "devastation of historic proportions."

President Bush didn't ask a single question during the briefing. In the next two days he campaigned, attended birthday parties and played guitar while the worst natural disaster in American history killed over 1,300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Sims geekery: Inquiring readers want to know

cheats for sims 2 how to make meadow thayer to grow up

The simplest way to make Meadow (a popular teen ingenue in the game; seen for instance looking appalled or something here) grow up is to send her off to college, if you have the University Expansion Pack. She'll immediately become a Young Adult, and then when she graduates (or otherwise leaves) she'll become a normal Adult.

If you don't have, or don't want to bother with, college, and you don't mind hacks, see the Teleporters which can both cause anyone you like to appear on the current lot, and can also cause them to become part of the family. So you could teleport Meadow into your favorite household, and then magically make her part of the family, and she'd starting aging and growing up normally.

Of course hacks are dangerous; use at your own risk, and back up constantly.

In other boring hackery, I've upgraded from the old NVIDIA GeForce 4000 MX (AGP 8X 64MB) to a brand-new NVIDIA GeForce 6200 (AGP 8X 256MB). (Have to remember to send in those fifty $US worth of rebate forms that came with it.) This was so a game that the little boy really wanted would work; as a side-effect we can now see the cinematic cut-scenes in The Sims 2 (which is nice), and the pillows in The Sims 2 tend to turn actinic purple and green (less nice, or at least unexpected). Bugs in virtual worlds are so odd!

Found while googling on "Vingian singularity" to check the spelling the other week, but apparently a member of our extended ontogroup: inanis et vacua. (Another one not to have the time to read.)

And I've just finished doing the taxes (ewwww ewww ewwww ewwww). So now I'm going to collapse somewhere for awhile.

(Oh! And I went to an actual Party (with grownups!) in New York City last night, and that was great, but I don't feel cogent enough to say anything about it right now. I hope to visit a city again someday.)