Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Moving On:

Adolph: Vat ist dat?
Andrew: This is data from my experiment.
Adolph: Vat are you doink vis it?
Andrew: I am making pretty plots out of it. Look at this one. Isn't it pretty?
Adolph: Vat does it mean?
Andrew: I don't know.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Cold War II

ole, ole!"


What do you...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


So, I spent a couple of hours this afternoon trying to find an authoritative... answer to this question. Nothing I found satisfied me, though I'm not exactly an anthropologist or child psychologist or anything like that, so I shouldn't expect to be too successful.


Where do kids learn their games from? The three answers to this question are: other kids, older kids, and grown-ups. I just wonder what the proportions are. I'm pretty sure that I learned tag and hide-and-go-seek from other or older kids. Though, it is conceivable that my parents taught me the games when I was too little to remember. People should suggest their intuitions to me. Is there a self-perpetuating children's culture underneath us all, with tag being passed largely from generation to generation of children, without much significant input from adults?

Also, where does the "nyaah nyaah nyaah" song come from? I don't know the name of it. You sing it when you beat someone, or when they can't catch you. You can sing it with "nanny nanny boo boo, you can't catch me!". What is this song? Why did Freddie Mercury write "We are the Champions" around it?

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Should it be "materiel support", or "material support"? Materiel is like military hardware and supplies and stuff, whereas material is just stuff. So if you say, "Iran is providing materiXl support to our enemies", which materiXl should be used? Is "materiel support" the natural form of the phrase, but people use "material" just because it's a normaler word? Or is it just a coincidence that you can use "materiel" in a more generalized phrase while talking about military stuff?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Introducing Bongo and Jingo Jango

Bongo: Man, that new library addition is so cool!

Jingo Jango: What are you talking about, Bongo? We spent 14,000,000 dollars to build a robot to do things for us which we've been doing for ourselves, for years, without even thinking about it!

Bongo: You mean taking a book off a shelf?

Jingo Jango: Right! Just a couple of years ago, if you wanted to get an article from the journal Vision Research, all you had to do was go up to the third floor, take the volume off the shelf, and go to the copy room. The copy room on the third floor had lots of tables, and three copiers.

Bongo: But now you can ask a robot to do it for you! Isn't that just cool?

Jingo Jango: No, Bongo. Now I have to ask a robot to do it for me. If I climbed into that giant, gymnasium-sized room with all the stacks of metal crates, and tried to find the metal crate with the volume of Vision Research I wanted, a security guard would probably shoot me.

Bongo: Come on, Jingo Jango. You're just a Luddite. Do you miss the days of the card catalog?

Jingo Jango: No, Bongo, and I don't miss riding a horse to Wal-Mart either. Putting the card catalog online made things easier, as long as you had a computer. And, naturally, libraries nowadays always have a few terminals with immediate access to the online catalog. But that was cool; it wasn't even that big of a change. A card catalog is naturally a type of database, so why not just make it a computer based one rather than a paper based one?

Bongo: But this thing is so cool! And it saves so much space! Now you don't have to walk to the engineering library across campus to get issues of the Journal of the Optical Society of America. Isn't that convenient? Plus, isn't the library itself like a big database? Isn't it natural, even, just to put all those books online and do away with the 'place' once and for all?

Jingo Jango: They could do it right. They could do more than put one crappy, old, half-operational copy machine on the first floor, halfway across the library from the 14,000,000 dollar robotic librarian. If I go to the kid at the desk with my list of 6 volumes of some journal, and say, "Hey, this journal isn't registered properly in your big gizmo over there. Get these for me", I could, in theory, wait fifteen minutes while they figure out how to get my books and wait for the robot to respond, and then carry all 4000 pages across the first floor to the copier, dump them on the floor, copy my articles, and then carry all 4000 pages plus copies back to the kid at the desk, and leave.

Bongo: You sound pissed.

Jingo Jango: But I don't. I make a point of saying, "I'm going to leave these here, on your shiny desk, while you sit and watch cartoons, and I'm going to take them one at a time to the copier, and don't you think it's silly that there aren't any copiers around here, given that that stupid machine is full of thousands of volumes of journals which no one is allowed to check out of the library, and please don't do anything with them while they're there."

Bongo: Stop complaining. You're such an asshole. I'm sure one of these days they'll tear down the new Starbucks next door and spend the next 14,000,000 dollars on a room full of tables and new copiers.

Jingo Jango: You're funny, Bongo.

Bongo: Anyway, they'll work it out. And I'm right, you know. A lot of journals aren't even printed on paper anymore. Eventually everything will get scanned, and it will all be online. The library will be nothing but kids sitting at desks watching cartoons.

Jingo Jango: They could at least let me into that room so I can get my books myself. If it's so simple, anyone should be able to use it.

Bongo: I wonder what happens when the license on the software runs out. I remember a story about a robotic parking lot in New Jersey, which worked just like the library robot, and the city was refusing to pay yearly software licenses after a new council got elected, something like that.

Jingo Jango: So everyone's car gets stuck in the garage if they don't get it out by the license expiration date. That's nuts. What if the Russians detonate an EM weapon over the library? How will anyone know what's inside all those metal boxes?

Bongo: No one will care, they'll be too busy eating their cellphones.