Sunday, October 26

Wrestling angels

This site is going on hiatus for a while. Hopefully only a week or two. I have some things I need to sort out without distractions and without my usual obsessive self-documentation. If you really miss it, drop me an email at [my name][AT][my university].edu and I'll let you know when I resurface.
posted @ 10:02 AM -

Thursday, October 23

more email woes

Just what I needed right now: my email turns out to still be playing up. I think it's time I gave up on my eldan.co.uk address altogether, because it's causing me nothing but trouble. If you have my CWRU address use that; if not then ask me for it (it's pretty obvious but I'm not putting it on a web page because so far it doesn't get too much spam).
posted @ 9:56 PM -

Award time

I'm gradually whittling down my pile of papers to be graded. Many of them are good, to the point that I'm worrying about giving full marks to too many people. However, there are also some prizes I would like to award:
  • Stupidest comment
  • Most extreme masochism (for people who solve problems in such a bizarre way that it must have added hours to the amount of time required to write the program)
  • Ugliest typography
  • Most illegibly formatted submission
  • Ugliest program (which still seems to work)
  • and finally the Rube Goldberg award for the most lines of code used to achieve a task that could be achieved with 3

posted @ 9:14 AM -
It's when things go wrong that you find out how good people can be.

Update: I added the following as a comment, but it seems my comments are playing up (you can leave them, but there's nothing to tell me or any other reader that a comment's been left):

I often think I should be more concise on my weblog. But then when I finally put something succint up, people invent layers of meaning that just aren't there.

A reader, who shall remain nameless, wrote to me asking if I was having a go at someone in this post. Therefore I feel the need to do a Nicholson Baker and add an explanatory note longer than the text itself:

There was no hint of sarcasm in this whatsoever. Several people I know round here—people I hang around with or work for, but don't feel I know well enough to ask for help—have offerred practical assistance and/or moral support way beyond the call of duty, and I felt like saying something about how much I appreciate this. All I meant by the original post was that without a crisis it would have taken me much longer to find out that these people are as good-hearted as they evidently are.
posted @ 7:16 AM -

is there a competent administrator in this country?

I have been waiting interminably long for a reimbursement from medical insurance. It has just arrived. To London. Of course it's a US$ cheque drawn on a US bank, so my parents can't even pay it into my UK bank account for me, not that that would be much use.

If it wasn't for the generosity of my parents I would have had to drop out by now due to lack of money, in spite of the fact that America collectively owes me over $4000, all of which I'm sure will reach me eventually.
posted @ 3:51 AM -

Wednesday, October 22

Looking after Number One

Well things seemed to be getting better after the minor disaster of last week, but I think I spoke too soon. It all came crashing down again yesterday, just as I was coming close to catching up with my backlog of work and lack of sleep.

First of all I became violently ill. I think it was food poisoning, and in fact I hope it was, because the symptoms are also rather close to a bug that's apparently been going round and takes a few weeks to shift. At one point last night I was running a terrible fever, and I threw up, which is something that hardly ever happens to me. At this point my temperature's back to normal and I've held down a simple breakfast (porridge). If I can eat my lunch (I have some congee on the go at the moment) I'll revert to real food for dinner. I'm still feeling pretty grotty, but I think this is down to having slept very badly and needing to replenish sugars.

Coincident with this, just to make it even more fun, we had the first significant rain since my roof was supposedly repaired. And guess what? It still leaks. Far less drama this time, because I was at home when it started, so I managed to move everything out of the study before anything important got wet, and catch most of the water in buckets (of which I now have 6 in the room). More ceiling collapsed though (in the middle of the night, as if fever and puking weren't disturbing my sleep enough), and now I just have a strong feeling that this is going to be an ongoing saga.

I have decided, therefore, that I have to move. Anyway I had been thinking it's about time I lived alone, partly because that idea no longer scares me in the way it used to, and partly because I seem to have lost my tolerance for sharing space (let's be perfectly clear on this—I live in a spacious house with a couple of easygoing, quiet people—the problem is with me), but the many good things about this house combined with the amount I have on my plate already had left me thinking I shouldn't bother for a while. Now I just have to wash my hands of this leaking roof situation.

I told Richard (from whom I sublet) this morning, and I felt absolutely terrible about telling him. He's trying to convince me to stay, and I'm being far too weak in the face of this, but really I know I have to go. I don't understand why I find this so hard. Sure I'm leaving Richard with trouble on his hands (both the leak itself and the difficulty of filling a room at a time that isn't a natural break in the academic year), but it's trouble that I didn't create for him, and I keep telling myself that nothing I've done has made anything worse.

The importance of not being my brother's keeper is a lesson that it's taking me a very long time to learn.
posted @ 10:13 AM -

Monday, October 20

the news in brief

My cousin and my brother have gone home; it was great seeing them. Hanging around with my brother made me painfully aware that I am picking up traces of American speech. I'm a long way from picking up the vowel sounds (which is just as well), but I'm turning 't's into 'd's even more than I used to, and certain choices of word (sick vs ill for instance) have changed.

My parents are still in town, but I'm working during the day and just meeting them for the evening, because I have a large stack (at least two inches at the start of the day) of grading to do by Wednesday. I have had time to plug in test all of my electronics, and everything works except the wireless keyboard and mouse, which is annoying but not crucial, and my palmtop, which I barely use these days because I take my main computer to and from work. The hard drive is a bit temperamental though, so I'll be claiming that on the insurance too, but at least no data's been lost, and it works enough of the time that when its replacement arrives I'll be able to straightforwardly copy the entire contents over. The minidisc player makes strange rattling noises when I press play or seek, but it plays just fine. Another one for the 'could have been so much worse' file.

Oh, and grading LISP makes my head hurt because it has (so (many (bloody (parentheses)))) that after only a few scripts I start seeing stray punctuation marks in the corners of my eyes.
posted @ 2:33 PM -

Sunday, October 19

The clan

L-R: Selmin, Beri, Eva, Alick = cousin, dad, mum, brother

It's been good seeing them. My brother is on his way back across the pond right now, and I'm meeting up with the rest very shortly.
posted @ 9:14 AM -


Someone actually said the following to my mother:
Do you have Swiss cheese in Europe?
posted @ 8:30 AM -

Saturday, October 18

woohoo!. Sadly I couldn't watch it. It seems the only way to get games is pay per view, and we don't even have the right cable package for that.
posted @ 7:34 AM -

Friday, October 17


I have just found myself separating the stuck together pages of a book. Why does this bother me? It's a programming textbook.
posted @ 9:22 AM -

China awakes

Once upon a time, China led the world in science and technology, only to stifle its own creativity and let the once-backwards Europeans overtake it. Recently they have making great strides in putting this right, and this week they sent a man into space. There are more missions planned, but so far what useful things have we learned from this? The Great Wall is not in fact visible from space.
posted @ 9:11 AM -

Thursday, October 16

some of my friends are cool

I noticed last year that while I was off having my fun in far corners of the world, many of my friends were in London actually starting to be successful. It was striking over the summer how many more of the people I knew were in worthwhile jobs, as compared to the number who were working out what to do with themselves a year earlier. I guess this is one of the better things about growing up.

As far as I'm concerned everybody has just been upstaged by Esther though:
Well, the point of this email is, for those of you that I haven't told already: I've accepted a job as an epidemiologist on a Malaria control programme working for the NGO Merlin in Tajikistan
That makes her the first person in a while who I've really envied.
posted @ 9:07 AM -

Wednesday, October 15

the sun also rises

Some progress has been made today. I have a roof now, and the roofers helped me clear the debris out of the study, so by the end of the day it may even be useable again (have to let it dry and then do some cleaning). I have reason to believe that the fees issue has been sorted out, though it would be nice if I could get through to a human being on the phone to confirm this. I know what document is missing from my CWRU file, so while it's an unnecessary hassle at least I now have the means to sort it out.

More importantly Melinda came round, and was just the generally calming presence I needed, and my mum's on her way to Cleveland. I'll be spending most of my free time for the coming week with family, because my dad and my brother are joining us tomorrow, and my cousin will be here for the weekend. I don't know what we'll be doing yet, except that I probably will have to ignore everyone and work normal hours during the weekdays, and that we're bound to get some U2 idolatry in over the weekend.

posted @ 4:12 PM -

arse-elbow differentiation reconsidered

When I started at Case, I was initially very impressed with the efficiency of the bureaucracy here. People who had been here for longer laughed at me for this, and now I am compelled to take it all back.

As well as dealing with water damage, I have two other very irritating problems to deal with:

I was billed recently for a semester's fees by the university. I thought nothing of it, seeing as I am on a fellowship for the year, so my fees are covered. However, it turns out that the system still had me down as owing the university the fees (which I probably don't need to specify are orders of magnitude more money than I can afford), so I looked into it yesterday. Here is the apparent problem:
there are two accounts in the main student data base with the last name of Goldenberg. There are two different student ID numbers and the first name, although similar, differs by one letter ( Elden vs. Eldan). The Memo of Assistance [document that tells them to get off my back because my fees are covered by my fellowship] is posted to the second account that has no registration, therefore the credit can not be posted.
Or in other words, I have a doppelgänger who is taking my stipend and grant.

As if this wasn't enough, I got the following email today:
Our records indicate that your admission status is still conditional. In order to have the condition removed, you must supply the following documentation to the Graduate Studies office as soon as possible:

Please arrange to have the necessary documentation sent to this office and notify us when the arrangements have been made. If you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us.
I haven't cut this. Spot the crucial missing information.
posted @ 11:09 AM -

the morning after

Four times this morning I woke up feeling reasonably OK, then saw the plaster marks on my carpet and remembered how they got there. Each time I still managed to get myself out of bed and do one useful thing (emptying buckets is a priority as one overflowed last night) before giving up and rolling myself in duvet again. Eventually I got up properly, but only with the help of an extremely strong bacon smell from someone else's breakfast making me hungry.

I have a lot of cleaning and tidying to do, and then I must get back to finishing the programming assignment that I should have finished last Friday, and was going to finish last night, had I not been interrupted by my study becoming uninhabitable. I also have some intensely irritating admin messes (not of my own making) to sort out, which I will describe shortly. Meanwhile I have an evil headache and my back aches like that of an old man. Both psychosomatic, I'm sure, but that doesn't make them any less real.
posted @ 10:43 AM -

Tuesday, October 14

that joke isn't funny any more

The trouble with not believing in a supreme being is that there's no-one around to answer one's prayers.

Until today, whatever irritation I was feeling about my lack of roof was at least slightly tempered by finding the whole situation at least mildly amusing. This evening I got home, and first noticed a puddle in the basement (my bike lives in the basement so I normally enter and leave the house that way). Then I went upstairs and found this:

the consequence of a fucked roof:  a fucked ceiling

the consequence of a fucked ceiling: crap all over the place

all the paperwork on the floor is currently translucent.  Some of it is also important.

In between screaming my fucking guts out and fighting the temptation to punch walls, lest the damp wood simply collapse, I moved the following items:
  • several files full of notes, not all of which are even my own, much of which are saturated.
  • 12 minidiscs, many of which may now be unplayable due to plaster being attached to them.
  • a minidisc walkman. It's due for replacement, but not until I have more money.
  • 2 CDs, both of which should be OK but the packaging is certainly ruined.
  • a printer, which seems not to have been rained into. Here's hoping.
  • a lovely new $400 monitor that is rather damp.
  • an external hard drive which contains roughly 600 albums of music, much of which I do own the originals of, but the originals are in London and collectively rather heavy. It electrocuted me when I picked it up (in spite of the plug apparently being switched off—I learned my lesson and physically unplugged everything after that), which can't be a good sign.
  • a pair of speakers.
  • a Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera.
Somehow I am keeping a lid on my temper. Two things are going through my head. Firstly, that I've been observing my own smugness over the past few weeks expecting something to go wrong, and there are plenty of worse things it could have been. Secondly, that I could have taken much better photos if only I had a wide angle lens. This may make me a tool, but such distractions keep me sane at times like this.
posted @ 6:04 PM -

'virtual girlfriend inspired internet attack'

Sometimes it is nice to be reminded that however low I sink, there will always be someone worse:
Caffrey said that although Jessica was his girlfriend at the time, and he had known her for about a year, the relationship had been carried out solely over the Internet--the two had never met in person.
From CNet.
posted @ 10:53 AM -

praying for no rain

I got all excited when the roofers arrived so quickly a couple of weeks back, but it turns out I had too much faith. They quickly removed all the old tiles (which clearly were still achieving something) and then disappeared. The roof of my study is still a blue tarp, and there is rain in the forecast. This is getting ridiculous.

I suppose I could pretend I'm just observing Succoth.
posted @ 7:46 AM -

Monday, October 13

you know you've been running around too fast for too long when

You're doing tax accounts for 2001 (the fact that I forgot to do them at the appropriate time is a bad enough sign, and I'm going to have to pay a fine for that... doh), and you're wondering why you don't have any invoices from a specific job in your your 2001/2002 file, so you do some digging around in archived emails... and discover that the job in question was in 2000 but you're mixing years up in your head.
posted @ 2:24 PM -

you know you're having a bad programming day when

you go out for a coffee, come back and just mindlessly press F5 to compile and run the program again, without having changed any code. Because, y'know, that bug might have fixed itself in the last half hour.

Still, at least I'm not yet reduced to celebrating the writing of a single paragraph.
posted @ 12:45 PM -

Sunday, October 12

a London thing

Scott linked to someone's photo page the other day, and as well as reminding me that I really ought to get more of mine online (which I always say but never have time to do), one of them really struck me as capturing what I enjoyed so much about London this year.

Cleveland actually has some pretty cool buildings, but there's nothing anywhere near as evocative as the better views across the Thames.
posted @ 11:49 AM -

whatever the size of your election

It's no surprise really that California should produce worrying election results, when according to some reports there are less voters than candidates there. It could be worse though: at least they weren't given the Robin Cook poll.

links courtesy of Need To Know
posted @ 8:34 AM -

Friday, October 10

Quote of the Day #2

The board of Jarvis has decided to focus on the business of delivering its core services to even higher standards of excellence
The chairman of Jarvis, the contractor which has been implicated in several train derailments in the past two years, announcing that they are pulling out of rail maintenance for reputational reasons.
posted @ 9:10 AM -

Quote of the Day

I almost forgot. Here's a little snippet of conversation from just before the exam started:

Student A: Will we need calculators?
Instructor: No. You're only expected to show working, not calculate actual values.
Student B: It doesn't matter. We're all doomed anyway.
Instructor (laughing): Resistance is futile.
Student C: Yes, but the degree of failure could still make a difference.

I know exactly how he was feeling.
posted @ 8:28 AM -


I don't really know how it went, which of course means it could have been a whole lot worse. I didn't write I am a fish all over my paper, and I did at least have something non-random to say in response to each question, but I'm not confident enough in the material to know whether what I wrote was actually any good.

Going to a gig last night was something I had been doubting the wisdom of, but I really wanted to see Spearhead, and in the end it was a very good move. It's not that there was no more revision I could have done—not by any means—but no more was going to get done yesterday evening, and if I hadn't gone out and done something fun I would just have allowed myself to get more nervous. It especially helped that the band played for hours and were fantastic.
posted @ 8:18 AM -

Thursday, October 9

good news and bad news

The good news: I'm seeing Spearhead tonight in town, and Kid Koala tomorrow in Columbus.

The bad news: in between I will lose my midterm virginity. It's the course I'm having a really hard time with, so will be something of a baptism of fire if you can excuse the mixed metaphors. Wish me luck.
posted @ 2:23 PM -

Wednesday, October 8


Today I will post nothing apart from this. It is a day of mourning, for yesterday's events make it unambiguously clear that the world's only superpower has in fact lost its collective mind.

I have only one thing to add: in recent discussions with various people about what the future holds for Messrs. Bush & Blair I had been stressing an argument that no matter how unhappy an electorate is, the leader is safe until someone suitable comes forward as an alternative. The implication was that both of these leaders are safe because their opposition is so useless. If I can draw any solace from the circus in California, it's that I might have been wrong.
posted @ 10:24 AM -

Tuesday, October 7

Burgaz burning

Yesterday there was a big fire on Burgaz, the island where my grandmother spends her summers (and which I associate much more strongly with her than her Istanbul home, perhaps because I tend to visit in Summer, or perhaps just because it's such a pleasure to be there). No-one who I thought to ask after seems to have been hurt (and my grandma is safely downtown anyway), but apparently it came very close to her house.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I am now able to see pictures of the fire in spite of being very far away. I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand it is good to feel in touch, but on the other I actually found these pictures a bit wrenching.

Clearly the smallness of Burgaz (if there were a coast road it would probably take an hour or so to walk round) means this is nothing like the disasters that have befallen such places as Canberra over the last few years, but this is a place that actually means something to me. I have walked these streets and spent many summer weeks there, and it's been much more of a constant in my life than anywhere I've actually lived. It hurts to see that burning.
posted @ 2:21 PM -

rent boy

Because I have work to do today, but I don't have an impending deadline of Damocles, I've been looking through my web server logs. Having nuclear warheads in the title of this page always makes the search terms section slightly creepy, but I was nevertheless surprised to see that I've had two hits from searches for warheads for rent. I'm sorry guys, they're all out at the moment, and somehow once people get their hands on your warheads the threat of late fees doesn't do much to encourage a punctual return.
posted @ 10:41 AM -

Monday, October 6

What went wrong with British food

I was talking to Michael Jennings today about many things, including what happened to British food, which apparently was once good. He pointed me at a short article that I feel I have to share (and which has nothing to do with Marmite): Supply, Demand and English Food
posted @ 4:11 PM -


It looks like my email is back to responding in good time, but that some things I know were sent to me last week are still being held up in a queue somewhere. If you sent anything to me in the past week or so that you think should have had a response and hasn't, it may be worth re-sending it. Of course, there is also the fact that I'm very busy and not that good at answering emails promptly, but I'd hate for my rudeness to be exacerbated by technology.

Correction: it's not fixed at all. My mum sent something to both addresses, and only one copy reached me. Back to the CWRU account if you're likely to be bothered about things taking their time to get through.
posted @ 7:46 AM -

Grad School makes you dumber

So true. Link courtesy of Sean.
posted @ 7:39 AM -

Sunday, October 5

Balancing the Books

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement in the Jewish calendar. I observe very little of the religion, because I am a devout unbeliever, so doing things because a religion instructs me to makes little sense. However, there are a few bits and pieces from which I pick and choose because for my own reasons they have significance.

For one thing, although I don't pray, I should make it to the Yom Kippur evening service one year. A Jewish prayer is usually a beautiful thing (when it's not marred by the congregation gossiping - I have occasionally found myself in the odd position of being the unbeliever in the house who is offended by the disrespectful behaviour towards the service of the believers), and few more so than Kol Nidre (you can listen to a reasonable rendition here, though the cantor isn't quite up to the standard of the shul my parents frequent).

More importantly, I am in the habit of fasting. For religious people, this is a day of asceticism and contemplation—one forgoes food and other worldly pleasures in order to focus the mind on the past year, and to atone for one's shortcomings. I may not feel that I have an account to settle with a supreme being, but I still have one to settle with myself, and in the past I've used the fact that other people I know do similar things on this particular day to make it easier to do myself. I strongly believe that the occasional experience of hunger is a healthy thing, for much the same reason that a Jewish groom smashes a glass in his wedding ceremony (to remind ourselves that not everyone has it as easy as we do right now), it does focus the mind in an interesting and useful way, and it's much easier to do (and not to have to explain to everyone exactly why I'm doing it) on a day when others also do.

Unfortunately, for the last few years I've been unable to fast because I've been cursed by gut problems, and one of the few things that I'm totally sure of with respect to managing this illness is that extended periods of hunger do terrible things (a nutritionist explained this in terms of my digestive system digesting itself if it has nothing to work on - you can probably imagine why I don't submit myself willingly to that experience). This year, I had quite a hard time deciding whether or not to fast, because I'm very close to being over this problem. In the end I decided not to, because of the risk that doing something like that might set back my recovery, and remembering how terrible my state was a mere two months ago makes me very wary of doing anything that risks that.

Anyway, without fasting, and without taking the day off (because I can't afford the time - I almost had a proper weekend just now, and I'm going to have get right back into gear to make up for it), I will try to make some time to sit disconnected from the outside world and look back on the year that has passed. It isn't merely a matter of atoning for my sins, though until such time as I can look back and say this year I have been the model of moral perfection (in other words, never) that will be an important thing to do. First I have to simply look back at all I have done this year, and it's an unusually large amount. This afternoon I woke up from a short doze and had to take a couple of minutes to retrace my steps and work out that I was no longer in Australia, and that if anything is a sign that I need to collect myself. It's hardly surprising considering that a year ago I was excitedly discovering Russia, but I really do need to ground myself after such a lot of experience in 12 months. This will mostly be a pleasant thing to do; reliving what were almost without exception good times, and just trying to put them into more context. I may even have to revisit my assertions about not growing through travel; while seeing lots of places wasn't the life-changing experience that 18-year-olds tend to claim it was, spending large amounts of time on my own has done me no end of good.

I may also perform a Tashlich. Reading the linked page I see that for years I have been wrong about this particular ritual, thinking it belonged on this day when in fact it belongs on Rosh Hashanah, but in any case it's a ritual that I think has important symbolism.

After this comes the repentance. I may not be concerned with sinning against God, but like everyone else I sin frequently against other mortals. However, as my rabbi (OK, so not being part of any congregation means that technically no-one is my rabbi, but for a couple of years I've been getting a weekly email from Rabbi Rosenblatt, with commentary on the week's Torah portion, so he is my primary teacher about Jewish traditions) put it, this is:
...not a solemn day. Quite the opposite, it is meant to be a day of great joy and happiness. The feeling is meant to be one of spiritual uplift, not pain and depression
In other words, this is not a day to indulge in beating myself up over my shortcomings, because that doesn't achieve anything. It is a day to look at myself and say how can I be better next year? I'm not quite sure how to draw all of this to a conclusion, so I'll finish with more of someone else's words, this time James Joyce. What I want to be saying is:
Well, I have looked into my accounts. I find this wrong and this wrong. But ... I will rectify this and this. I will set right my accounts.
posted @ 6:39 PM -

Saturday, October 4

I have just received an email 71 hours after it was sent. If I appear to be rudely ignoring anyone, please bear in mind that this may be why.
posted @ 11:03 AM -

Friday, October 3

it's that time of year

The 2003 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded yesterday.
posted @ 2:56 PM -
French "launch toaster" onto moon
posted @ 11:56 AM -
My email is playing up something chronic. If you know my CWRU address then I suggest you use that to contact me for the time being. If you don't, don't worry about it - as far as I know nothing is actually disappearing, just getting delayed.
posted @ 11:34 AM -

Summer's gone

The seasons change much faster round here than I'm used to. I'm already starting to get the cravings for a ski trip that don't normally start until after my birthday, and I might well have to do some more clothes shopping soon because waiting for my parents to deliver winter clothes might make me ill (and it's only 2 weeks till they visit). I've been a bit taken aback by this, so it was with some relief that this morning I read that the weather has turned faster than normal.
posted @ 7:53 AM -

Thursday, October 2

recipe for a lovely evening

  1. Have a range of things disturb my sleep for enough consecutive nights that finally getting a good night's sleep is joyous in itself (there's a good reason why this list had to start with a negative)
  2. Finally get that good night's sleep
  3. Have a lab meeting in which, while I still felt like I didn't have enough to say and what I did have to say was too vague and incomplete, it was clear that my supervisor liked what I was showing him
  4. Go out for a quick drink with two great people
  5. Pop back into the lab for just long enough to see that what I had set up earlier was working, which makes a nice change
  6. Get to kung fu, sweat a little, stretch a little, and feel like I'm starting to get some of the things we've been training for the past few weeks
  7. Go home and find a sweet email from Melinda, which goes some way towards alleviating my I've forgotten how to be a decent boyfriend as a result of years of no practice anxiety
  8. Turn on the radio to hear WCPN about to start playing highlights of a semi-legendary Dave Brubeck Quartet gig; a performance so outstanding that I was glad there was no-one else around to desecrate it with idle conversation
  9. Cook enough bacon and winter vegetable slop to feed a small army (or be my lunch for at least a week), and eat a couple of bowls of it before freezing the rest
  10. Listen to the last 10 minutes or so of Dave Brubeck in dumbfounded silence, in a darkened room
  11. Write a little, then go to bed before something breaks the spell
posted @ 9:25 PM -
and they say Germans have no sense of humour.
posted @ 2:21 PM -

Just what I've always wanted

Today I've finally managed to spend some quality time with my research, and having gathered lots of statistics, I'm now in a phase of watching the graphical output to try and make a subjective assessment of what the things are actually doing, which hopefully help me work out what to look at next. The graphical output is quite primitive—the agent is a circle with rays drawn to represent its field of vision, and it moves left and right to catch two falling circles—but even so it can be quite hypnotic, to the point that sometimes I forget to actually watch it properly and just stare blankly. I'm also finding myself watching these things as though they are alive.

Jacob (my infinitely more able sidekick) has evolved a batch of these agents, which all have reasonable but less than perfect success rates at catching two balls. My task is to tease out the differences in performance between them, because it's more subtle than just a outperforms b: certain agents are much better at certain trials than others, depending on whether they can keep both balls in view, which order the balls fall in, and so on. It looks like getting a comprehensive picture of this will take a long time, but at least I'm starting to get a handle on it.

The thing that's been really striking today though is how much I'm watching these things as if they were real creatures that I was trying to train. One in particular is extremely bad at the test trial I had just set up, and I'm mentally cheering it on as it seems to move towards the first ball, and cursing it when it lets it go anyway. I think I've finally found the pet that doesn't die when I neglect it for a week, doesn't soil the carpet, and doesn't wake me up at night.

Update: in the lab meeting Randy suggested I should name the different agents to make it easier to remember which one was which. What shall I call my new pets?
posted @ 11:21 AM -

rugby world cup

Clive Woodward has started playing mind games. This serves to remind me that I still have to find somewhere to watch the games, which start in just over a week.
posted @ 9:43 AM -
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