Thursday, December 30, 2004

"If you take a brick and drop it in a bath you're going to generate quite a big splash. But if you break the brick up into 10 pieces and drop them in one by one you're going to get 10 much smaller splashes."
- Russell Wynn of the Southampton Oceanography Centre, contending that the threat of a mega-tsunami is vastly overstated.

One Nobel Prize, coming right up...

Sunday, December 26, 2004

k3b (KDE's CD burning program) has the annoying habit of converting the file names to upper case (in addition to mangling them). I am sure there is an option somewhere to prevent this, but being too lazy to locate this option, I installed the Gnome version (nautilus-cd-burner). No such problems; works like a charm. In addition, nautilus has the option of zooming in and out using the scroll wheel when viewing images (comes in really handy for porn ;-) )
Continuing my foray into Lisp, I thought I'd implement the Wondrousness Test for a number. Here's what I ended up with:

(defun is-wondrous (n)
(do ((val n))
((eq val 1) t)
(if (evenp val)
(setf val (/ val 2))
(setf val (+ (* val 3) 1)))
(print val)))

Here's the (almost) equivalent code in Smalltalk:

WondrousPropertyTester class>>hasWondrousProperty: aNumber
Transcript clear.
temp := aNumber.

Transcript print: temp; cr.

[temp > 1] whileTrue:
temp := (temp even)
ifTrue: [temp / 2]
ifFalse:[3 * temp + 1].
Transcript print: temp; cr.
[Transcript show: 'Yes'; cr]

Chalk one up for Lisp.

Update: Smalltalk code pruned to bring it closer to the Lisp code's behaviour (I had written the Smalltalk version earlier with checks to stop after a prescribed number of iterations; there was some leftover code from this).
Earthquake in Chennai. Never thought I'd live to see the day when the sands of Elliots Beach would be covered with sea water. There were also scenes reminiscent of the doomsday movies where there are traffic jams everywhere and pedestrians are running helter-skelter.
There is a great picture of a 'penguin' receiving an anal probe from a monkey in today's Hindu. I have not been able to locate this picture in the online edition. Some more proof that monkeys are more intelligent than we give them credit for.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Read The Code Book recently. Entertaining read. Simon Singh does a good job of explaining things very lucidly. But I am somewhat skeptical with regard to the future of cryptanalysis (quantum computing). Seems to belong to the realm of sci-fi. Quantum cryptography -- using polarised photons for transmitting messages -- has already been demonstrated to be feasible; it's only the cryptanalysis-using-quantum-computers part that I have issues with.

Interesting tit-bit from the book:
...young lovers in Victorian England were often forbidden from publicly expressing their affection, and could not even communicate by letter in case their parents intercepted and read the contents. This resulted in lovers sending encrypted messages to each other via the personal columns of newspapers. ...On one occasion, Wheatstone deciphered a note in The Times from an Oxford student, suggesting to his true love that they elope. A few days later, Wheatstone inserted his own message, encrypted in the same cipher, advising the couple against this rebellious and rash action. Shortly afterwards there appeared a third message, this time unencrypted and from the lady in question: 'Dear Charlie, Write no more. Our cipher is discovered.'

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Quote of the day:

"He shouldn't be on the cover of TIME, he should be doing TIME."
- Comment about Bush being nominated as Time magazine's person of the year.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Is it just me, or is anyone else fed up with The Hindu's saturation coverage of the life and times of M S Subbulakshmi?

While on a rant against The Hindu, somebody should tell them that it is the subject of an article who is more important that the reporter doing the piece. Take a look at any of the Sunday magazine articles and you'll see what I mean; the byline will always be along the lines of -- pay attention to the case -- 'VIP REPORTER talks to Not-so-important Celebrity'.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

I have earned the princely sum of $0.27 from the Google ads on this blog. At this rate, I will become a millionaire in 2027 or thereabouts ;-)

Update: The amount is $0.03, actually. The number I mentioned earlier is the Effective CPM, whatever the heck that is. Add another 25 years to my millionaire plans.
Giving as good as one gets.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Why oh why should Windows software need to write stuff to C:\Program Files during installation? I am not talking about system DLLs and things like that, just regular application files.

The network login IDs at work have been set up such that one requires administrator privileges to create files in this directory, making it impossible for me to surreptitiously install any software that cannot be installed in any other location.
Talk about getting ripped off. I spent Rs 250 on a 10 CD-R pack recently at a Higginbothams store, only to find that I could have bought two such packs (same brand) for Rs 210 at the friendly neighbourhood computer store. Meanwhile, the price (MRP) printed on the pack is Rs 550, which is nowhere near either of the prices. Wonder what's going on here...

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Walmart is being sued for not placing a 'Parental Advisory' sticker on Evanescence's new album. I would be OK with this if the suit didn't ask for a hefty sum ($74,500) in damages as well, which exposes the suit for what it really is -- a money-grubbing attempt.
My esteem for the American government, as low as it already is, has just gone down another notch (registration required).

Friday, December 10, 2004

Quote of the day:

"Co-founder of AmWay dies at 80. Everyone in the pyramid just went up a level"
- Fark reporting on the death of Amway founder Jay Van Andel

Some good stuff about Amway's pyramid scheme can be found here.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Valencia used to be one of my favourite teams, but not any longer. They thoroughly disgraced themselves by their behaviour during their match against Werder Bremen. A team that cannot handle defeat sportingly doesn't deserve to be called great. Their supporters didn't cover themselves in glory, either, throwing bottles and what-not at the Germans.

This match also takes the cake for the lamest goal celebration I've ever had the misfortune of witnessing. Valdez, after scoring his first goal, ran over to the corner post and mimicked a golf putting shot. One of the minions from his team played the role of his caddy, obligingly removing the corner flag as the imaginary ball rolled into the hole.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

At long last, I got around to reading Lila. I had to read the entire book with a pen in hand; there were that many passages and sentences that struck an immediate chord in me. Some of these gems:
  • So today we have as a result a theory of evolution in which "man" is ruthlessly controlled by the cause-and-effect laws of the universe while the particles of his body are not.

  • ...the evil of disease which the doctor is absolutely morally committed to stop is not an evil at all within the germ's lower static pattern of morality. The germ is making a moral effort to stave off its own destruction by lower-level forces of inorganic evil.

  • The intelligence of the mind can't think of any reason to live, but it goes on anyway, because the intelligence of the cells can't think of any reason to die.

  • A scientist may argue rationally that the moral question, "Is it moral to murder your neighbor?" is not a scientific question. But can he argue that the moral question, "Is it alright to fake your scientific data?" is not a scientific question?

  • No scientific instrument can be produced in court to show who is insane and who is sane.
  • And, finally, my favourite:
  • A person isn't considered insane if there are a number of people who believe the same way. Insanity isn't supposed to be a communicable disease. If one other person starts to believe him, or maybe two or three, then it's a religion.
  • Found this nugget in a article:
    ...the 27 November Edition of the Financial Times furnishes a telling account published in its letter-to-the-editor section. The writer, who just returned from a business trip to Vietnam, recalls how when a 7-year-old street urchin asked him for money, the child refused his offer of a dollar, instead specifying euros.

    Saturday, December 04, 2004

    Memo to The Hindu: why not wait for a couple of more months before printing this? If you are going to be late in writing about a story, why settle for half-measures? Or, did you guys wait to confirm that it was really Jackie Chan by watching the commercial 200 times?

    Friday, December 03, 2004

    Lycos' screensaver that targets spam sites is working too well, it seems:
    Two of the sites being bombarded by data have been completely knocked offline. One other site has been responding to requests only intermittently as it struggles to cope with the traffic the screensaver is pointing its way.
    For some reason, I am siding with the spammers on this one, much as I hate spam. The plight of these poor sites being subjected to these attacks somehow doesn't feel right. My sympathy probably has more to do with my attaching anthropomorphic qualities to these web sites than anything else.