Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Just when I've lost interest in the internet, I get the following random email on my Gmail account (found it in the Junk folder):

Dear Outlook client, Notification ID: KG932J ========================================== - Please reconfigure your Microsoft Outlook information again . - Click on the link below to setup . ========================================== Microsoft Outlook 2012 .

Obviously this is a phishing thing. What's interesting is that the url refers to an IP address at MIT. The address is no longer active as far as I can tell, but it seems to have belonged to the MIT VPN network, because other addresses on the same /24 block are attached to urls.

So, my guess is that someone set up a site on the MIT VPN to direct their phishing business. That's all I've got.

Oh, coincidentally, just yesterday I was reading about VPNs, wondering about a convenient way to get past the China firewall from the inside. Seeing that MIT has a VPN makes me wonder if Harvard has one, and if I can use it...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Typical Monday through Friday

In the morning, at eight o’ clock, two alarms go off. The clock is next to his bed, and he reaches over to stop it, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. The radio is in the hallway, just outside the bedroom door, and he comprehends it to varying degrees.

Sometimes his wife is up before him, but usually not. He gets out of bed, finally, usually before nine. He makes coffee and takes a shower. He brushes his teeth and gets dressed. He packs his lunch and makes a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast. He fills a coffee cup and a thermos with coffee, adding enough milk to make it cool enough to drink quickly. He sits by the front door and listens to the radio news, eats his sandwich, and drinks the cup of coffee. If his wife is up, maybe they talk, or maybe she’s in the shower.

If he’s planning to go to tae kwon do that night, he takes his uniform, which is hanging from the radiator in the bedroom, folds it, puts it in a plastic sack, and packs it in his backpack. He gets ready to leave, puts on his shoes, speaks with his wife, kisses her, and goes out the door. If it’s raining, he takes an umbrella. If she’s up, she locks the door behind him, otherwise he takes his keys and locks it.

He steps outside and picks up the newspaper. He stops by the wall in front of his building, sets the thermos down, and puts most of the newspaper in his backpack, except for the front page. He sets off for Reservoir.

Walking down Sutherland Road on the right side, he may encounter some other people, but usually there are few, because most have already gone. He passes several other apartment buildings on his way. Often, there are workmen at one building or another, unloading things from their truck. Maybe he can hear them speaking Spanish to one another.

When he arrives at Cleveland Circle, he’ll try to walk straight through. Half the time, it’s not hard to do, since half the time the traffic is running across Beacon Street. Even if Beacon has the light, they might all have gone. Sometimes he stands and waits. This crossing is a convergence point from several directions, and more people seem to arrive from along Chestnut Hill than from Sutherland. Sometimes he sees someone interesting here, and can watch them until they all arrive at Reservoir.

At the other side of the Circle is Reservoir, but before he gets there he passes his dentists office. He owes the dentist money. He thinks he might have a toothache, but he’s not sure. He wonders if you can give yourself a toothache by focusing all your attention, and the tip of your tongue, on one healthy tooth. His mouth tastes like metal sometimes, since he got all those fillings last summer.

He arrives at Reservoir. It’s random. Sometimes he’s just in time; sometimes he’s just missed it; sometimes he waits. If he waits, he watches the people accumulate. Most of them he doesn’t recognize, but some he does. The people trickle in, then arrive in a wave when one of the buses arrive upstairs, then more trickle in, then the train arrives. He always tries to get on first, on the very back door. Usually he manages to be one of the first.

Unless he’s really late, there’s probably not a seat. He stands or sits, finishes his coffee, reads the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and people crowd on the train. More get on at Beaconsfield. He stares at people when he thinks they aren't noticing, but he assumes everyone else is doing the same thing. He compares nose shapes between two people. He tries to find two noses that are most different, and two that are most similar. He looks for noses that look like his. He is ceaselessly amazed by the irrational variance of noses.

More get on at Brooklines Hills and Village, but some get off there too. At Longwood, half the train gets off. Postdocs, doctors, students. Most of them are Asians.

Station by station, he gets closer to Government Center. Sometimes they make everybody get off at Park, and get on the next train. At Government Center, he always tries to be the first person off the train, out the back door. He can usually do it. By the time the train gets to Government Center, which is the last stop for the D train, there aren’t usually many people still on board.

If the escalator is open, he walks up and out of the station. If someone is standing on it, he curses under his breath and runs up the stairs. It’s a narrow escalator, no room to pass someone who’s just standing there. If someone is just standing there, they might clearly be a tourist and he forgives them. If they're looking at their phone, he sneers. He wonders why the others all line up to stand quietly behind, when he knows they all really want to climb.

Outside is Government Center, City Hall, the Federal Building. The plaza is bleak and impressive, every day. He walks down Cambridge Street towards Mass General. To cross Staniford, to get into the Institute, he usually dodges through traffic stopped at the light. He enters the Institute through the front door now, since his office moved to the other side of the building, and the receptionist always tries to talk to him about the weather. He doesn’t slow down, though.

He goes up the stairs to the second floor, down the hallway by the human resources offices, past the elevator and the second floor wetlabs, past the conference room, across the bridge to 2West, takes a right down the hall by the driving simulator, past the little kitchen where he microwaves his lunch every day, past the meeting room, past the restrooms, take a left, through the research assistant office, says good morning to Jackie at her desk, steps into his office, sets his backpack on his desk, hangs his jacket on his chair, sits down, and wakes his computer.

Andrew has gone to work.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

not writing

He couldn’t think of how to start.

He couldn’t even start! If you can’t start, how can you continue? How can you then finish? Starting is fundamental. It’s the first thing. Starting comes before everything else. He decided that instead of starting, he’d circle around, try to sneak up on it. The frontal approach wasn’t working, but maybe there was a soft spot somewhere in the back. I’ll circle around, he thought.

He started to write about not knowing what to write about. In its own way, it was working. Letters were coming out. The letters came out through his fingers, pooled into words on the page, the words clumping into phrases and sentences. Was this the right way? The flanking maneuver continued, but the result had not yet been achieved. This isn’t what I want to write, he thought. I want to write something else. It’s up ahead now. Right up ahead.

Or is it? Have I gotten lost on the way? In avoiding the actual confrontation with the thing to be written, he had tried to creep around, to surprise the thing, to tackle it from an unsteady angle. But how long should the creep take? Should it go on and on like this? When should it stop? When has it failed? When has it almost succeeded?

His mind wandered, dragging with it the stream of letters and words and phrases and sentences. He thought about waiting for a bus when you’re going a distance that you could reasonably walk. A twenty minute walk or a three minute bus ride, that’s usually the choice. The problem is when you don’t know if you’ve just missed the bus, or if it’s about to come up over the horizon at any minute. The more time that goes by, the more likely it is that you have just missed it, and that it really might be another good long while before it shows up.

That’s what the flanking maneuver was like, but not really. Because really, a flanking maneuver fails in one of two ways. One, you get lost, or you arrive at position too late, and the enemy is just gone, and you have to start over again, and by the time you find them again you’re likely to be face-to-face, just like when you started. Two, the enemy might notice what you’re doing, and you arrive exactly where and when you intended, but they’re ready for you, and it’s face-to-face again. The first is worse, because then you have time to be demoralized and disappointed. The second is better, because when you arrive you’re ready to fight anyways, even though now the situation is maybe not exactly what you had planned.

It would be best if they didn’t know you were coming. If the thing to be written could just suddenly find itself being written, without knowing that it was being written, that would be ideal. But how realistic is that? The flanking maneuver was never a good idea. It could never work in this situation. No matter what, you wind up at the same point, with the thing to be written, waiting to be written, not being written.

Friday, September 09, 2011


So, my office moved to the other side of the building a month or two ago. My lab is still over there near my old office, and that's also where the copier room is, and the kitchen where I get hot water to drink. So, I do still go over there frequently.

One thing I don't do over there so frequently is use the bathroom - there are two restrooms near the new office, so now I usually go there. These two restrooms are both unisex, and are next door to eachother, and are basically mirror images in layout. The old restroom is laid out differently.

So, just a few minutes ago, I go to the kitchen to get some water, set my mug on the coffee maker to wait for me, and go into the old restroom. This whole time, I'm thinking about the talk that Shrinivas gave a little while before. I do my quick business in the restroom, turn around to leave - and realize that something is wrong. I don't recognize my surroundings. I don't know where I am.

At first, it was kind of terrifying - I thought that I didn't know where I was at all, but quickly realized that, really, I just didn't know which bathroom I was in. The lighting, i.e. the color temperature, was unfamiliar. The layout seemed wrong. "Which one am I in?" I thought. "The left one or the right one?"

I stood there for a few seconds, and thought hard about what was wrong, then finally figured it out. I remembered the water, and that I must be in the old restroom.

That makes two times now that I was in that restroom and thought I was having a stroke. First time was the first time I had experienced a visual migraine aura, which was much more awesome than this.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Got over 1000 page views for the month of august, basically because last week was HUGE for my classic comedic dialogues and self-indulgent essays. No no no, really, it was MS-WBT server. Observe:
Yeah, I don't know what's going on. Whatever it is that causes people to google "MS-WBT server", and wind up here for a few seconds, got a little worse last week - visits increased by something like 30%. Google is weird, the internet is weird, MS-WBT server is weird.

Going to Nashville tonight!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I have been thinking frequently about who I am, and about whether who I am has changed over the years, and if so, how.

One thing I keep returning to is this feeling that I am losing myself, or that my self is somehow diminishing over time. What I mean is, I feel more and more that I am what I do, and what I see and feel, and the people I interact with - mainly Jingping (not that I think I am Jingping, no) - and the random thoughts that run through my mind when I'm away from things to do or people to interact with.

This isn't necessarily a problem. I don't mind being my thoughts, or being an interaction with my wife, or being the work that I do, or the procrastination that I put between myself and my work. These things, or parallel things, are what I think we all are. But parceling your self into these discrete components makes them identifiable, and subject to direct analysis, which can reveal things in stark detail that you realize you just don't like. There are some specific features that bother me.

When I was younger, I spent a large portion of my free time writing. I wrote stories, essays on my thinking, letters, etc. I did this because I wanted to. Now, I write because I have to - I do research, and I have to write about it to sustain my personal profession. There is always work to do, and when I feel willing to write, I feel I have to apply this will to work, not fun. So, I almost never write for fun anymore. Even worse, I realize that I distract myself from this sort of unease by reading what others have written. It's as though I'm replacing parts of myself with parts of other people.

Also, over the years, I more and more began to think of my self expression as excessive, or pretentious, or useless, and so I suppressed it. I think that my entire character is suppressed. This has not had the result of simply bottling up my character, but instead I think that in some ways I am withering away - I feel that even if I tried to go back to my old ways, of writing out my thoughts regularly, there would be less to write. This is why I am writing this entry, which even as I write it feels excessive, pretentious, and useless. I feel like I have to get a ball rolling, though.

Another thing that bothers me is what I think about. We all have recurring thoughts that irritate us, things that we don't want to think about but that we do anyways. Some of these things are fine at a high level, because they are features of our lives. But other things - news, politics, etc., I find myself repeatedly going through these internal monologues, not daily but frequently, on topics like the American military, US history, religion, politics. Why? I tell myself that I don't care about these things, or I try not to care - I have no effect on them, and they seem to have no effect on me. I feel infected. I want to think about my life, my wife, my work, about things I enjoy. I'm not a politician or a columnist - why do I obsess over these sorts of things? I have not figured this out. I do get a strong feeling that these sorts of thoughts erode my self - they are not me, they are other people, other places. They make me forget who I am.

I am not bothered by thinking about sex or violence, or obsessing about the aesthetics of the Green Line tunnels, or wanting to see if someone sent me an email or a Facebook message, or my shabby piano playing. These are aspects of my life, they are fine in themselves - some of these things may specifically implicate odd aspects of my personality, but so what?

Conclusions: I still exist, but I have doubts about the vitality of my existence. I have suppressed myself too much, and the empty spaces in my mind are more and more taken up with irrelevant puzzles. I'm thinking that a solution may be to do something like this regularly, do more writing for fun, try to be more expressive with other people, stop always trying to hide myself from the outside.

Friday, August 26, 2011

hypothetical question

Okay, so let's say you run the following experiment:

You want to compare different states of adaptation. The yardstick you're going to use to compare them is is a matching function. You have two stimuli, x and y, and you're going to assume that the associated matching function - your matching function model - is simple, like y = mx + b. You want to know how those function parameters, m and b, vary when the adaptation state changes.

To do the experiment, you keep one adaptation state constant in all conditions. You can do this because you have two stimuli, and you can adapt them separately. So, you have two adaptors, X and Y. You keep adaptor X the same in all conditions, but you vary adaptor Y. Since X doesn't change, you can then compare the effects of Y across conditions. Adaptor X is your baseline.

Within a subject, this design is fine. You can take your xy data from different X conditions and plot them on the same axes. You look at how the data for X1 differs from X2, for example. You fit your model to the X1 and X2 data, and find that mX1 is higher than mX2. You repeat the experiment with another subject and find the same pattern - the m values are different across subjects, but you see the same relative difference between mX1 and mX2 for every subject you test. You average the results together to show that mX1 is higher than mX2. This constitutes a result of your study.

But then...

You start to look at the individual data, at how the m values vary so much across individual subjects, but that within-subject difference is always there. You think, something is covarying between these two things, what could it be? Why is it that whatever value mX2 takes for a particular subject, mX1 is always higher?

Then you realize: Y. mX1 and mX2 might not vary at all, at least not to the extent that they appear to. Maybe its mY that's varying.

Look at that model from the point of view of Y. Then you have x = (mY)y + (bY). Turn it around, and you get y = (1/(mY))x + (bY)/(mY). This means that mX is inversely proportional to mY, so that measured values of mX1 and mX2 will be similarly affected by differences, across individual subjects, in the value of mY.

Well, this led somewhere, anyways.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

zipper trucks

Yesterday I learned about the existence of zipper machines. We were driving back from Foxboro and there were all these little movable barriers on the interstate; I might have said something about them, and Matt explained that they were moved every day by big, slow-moving machines. I couldn't believe it, but you could see that the barriers were all linked together with springed, metal joints. I came home and looked it up, and found that link, and some youtube videos. I have to see one of these things in action...

Also, my poem output was way up over the last few weeks (like, above zero per week). They're all in drains like google or weekly report or facebook, so for posterity let's put them here. For my birthday, I made a haiku:
thirty-two years down
won't pick up another bit
for as many more

I thought that was clever.

Then, Murf decided to institute a Thursday google+ rhyme circle. Murf started with:
"i'm a serial gangsta, so don't you be hatin';
these rhymes are coming at you - 9600 baud ratin'.
i'm a cereal gangsta, pouring as smooth as silk
all o'er these fruity pebbles some quality soy milk."

I responded with:
why's your baud so slow, must be messin' with your flow
don't hate, i got infinite bit rate,
symbols at the speed of light
like nuclear fission, constant information transmission,
a meltdown, crossin' synapses,
no lapses, my latency's good, it's understood 'cause i drink real milk
fortified, omega-3,
carbon chain, developin' my brain, got to sustain that spike train"

I was proud of that. Then one night this week I generated this for facebook:
no frogs,
no crickets,
no bugs at all. 
just air conditioners, 
and echoes of air conditioners. 
no, wait, 
i hear something- 
i hear a bug. 
what is it? 
what is it?"

That was kind of lame, but it was accurate. Then yesterday the Thursday rhyme circle was late. Murf began:
Subjective speckle, what do you say?
650nm class IIIA
Black spots moving as I'm delighted;
Not in my same direction means I'm near-sighted."

And I responded with this:
myopia, that's some shit
some negative lenses would fix it
stimulatin' those long wavelength cones
seein' red, thinkin' about homophones

I am such a genius.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

binary gregorian chronometry


this is my age. my chronometer is about to roll over. about to get my sixth bit!

i've been posting these numbers on facebook for more than a week, and nobody has figured out yet what i'm doing.

i posted it once to google+, and murf got it right away.

so, win for murf!

this reminds me of my old toyota. we met when it was at 86,000 miles, and i was a spry 10010. we were together when it rolled over 100,000; when it crossed 111,111 and 123,456; when it crossed 186,000, and when it rolled over 200,000. we even made it to 222,222 miles together. then i had a crisis of faith when it was time to drive from louisville to boston, and we parted forever. i'll never see that odometer roll over to 238,000 miles, or to 300,000, or 333,333... we could have been together when my binary gregorian chronometer rolls over - it won't happen again for 32 more years.

but we won't be together tonight. the camry is gone. i miss you, 1991 blue toyota camry LE. we were friends. i'm sorry i left you behind.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Here's a mystery which I don't have time now to investigate, but I want to remember it for later.

Matlab has a constant open connection with.. itself.. through ports 4079 and 4080. All I can find is that 4080 is associated with something called "lorica", and 4079 with "SANtools". SANtools is a some sort of general utility for disc access, network storage.. I don't know what. It's familiar, I've encountered SANtools somewhere before, but can't remember. I have no idea what "lorica" could be.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I got an interesting email this morning - actually two of them. They were spam on my gmail account, which is interesting because I almost never get spam on that account. They were sent from the account of someone I know incidentally - actually by way of two incidents. That's a funny story, I'll tell it now, in parentheses:

(I go to a Taekwondo club, and most of the other people who go there are like me, normal slobs, not genuine atheletes or fighters, though there are many of those. Anyways, one of the people I had conversed with a few times was the mother of a child student, who would come to classes when her son was there. So, okay, we "knew" one another, saw eachother maybe once every week or two. So then, last summer, I'm shopping for a piano, looking at Craigslist ads. I see a total of 4 pianos. The second one (I bought the 3rd), I show up at the person's house to check it out - and it's the lady from Taekwondo. Very weird, in a city of a million people, that 1/4 piano ads answered contain a person you know. Oh well, that's the story.)

So, I'm apparently on this lady's email contacts list because of the piano interaction. She must have fallen for this Tubely thing - I'm still not sure exactly what Tubely is - and it dumped "invites" to everyone on her contacts list. It sounds like this is the typical Tubely MO.

The interesting thing about the emails (I got two simultaneous copies of the invite) is that they contained the sender's IP address. I have no idea why. I knew it was the lady's work address because 1) I know that she works at another Harvard-affiliated research institute, and 2) the address resolved to another computer on the Harvard network.

The emails were sent around 7:40am today, so she gets to her office at least by 7:40am. It's creepy that spam can reveal that sort of detail about you. Embarrassing and creepy.

And, it seems pretty weird, that spam would want to be giving out your exact location on the internet, through a Webmail service. Maybe it's an effort to *not* look like spam, by showing that you originate from the actual sender, as if IP addresses are obviously familiar or not. Oh well, who knows.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


For the first time in a while, saw an outgoing packet that I didn't recognize.

It was a TCP packet sent to This seems to be part of the domain, though this address doesn't actually have a domain name. Telia is a Swedish IP that extends throughout Europe. Hostsearch says the address is maintained by Akamai, which is based here in Cambridge MA, but that it's located in London - so this is an Akamai International host, accessed through the Telia network. The packet was sent by one of those generic svchost.exe processes, and I didn't notice it in time to see if netstat could have told me anything else.

The host has open http ports - my packet was sent to port 80, so maybe it was an attempt at opening an http session. Maybe some Microsoft component was checking for an update - I've noticed before that Microsoft updates are often hosted on Akamai servers - but it's weird that it tried with a single packet and gave up. Other option (more likely maybe) is that it was a long delayed "close connection" packet, from a website I had opened much earlier - the web browser had been closed for a while, though I don't remember how long it had been.

The packet was sent from port 22095. This doesn't appear to be associated with anything interesting...

Oh well, this was pretty boring.

Friday, March 25, 2011

How To Escape the Web

I have finally found a browser configuration that can reliably keep me from screwing around on the internet.

For a while I've had the Leechblock add-on for Firefox, which lets me dynamically (i.e. on-the-spot) add a site to a list, and then keep me from seeing it for some period of time. But I figured out early on that I could remove sites from the list with just a little work. Apparently, I just didn't know how to use Leechblock to the fullest of its abilities, because it's also possible to set it so that no changes at all to its configuration - except for adding addresses - are possible outside certain circumstances, which can be made very restrictive.

So, with Firefox, I am now prohibited from visiting my favorite places to read, visiting my favorite forums, and periodically checking Facebook to make sure that, still, no one has left me any messages.

But that leaves IE, which I quickly discovered is basically un-uninstallable. You can roll back to earlier versions, but you cannot, without more expertise than I have, remove it from XP. So I persisted this way for a while, with an old version of IE that at least made me nervous to go wandering around the web, for fear of Java trojans. I could sneak over to stupid IE to check for Facebook messages, or to see what the others were talking about on the forums, or to see what country was on fire today. I was basically controlling myself relatively well, but still not satisfied.

Solution: rather than try and figure out whether there's some Leechblock equivalent for IE, I rolled IE back up to the current version, went into the "content advisor" settings, and told it not to let me visit any websites that I haven't already rated as okay. I'm not even sure what a content advisor rating is - I was just testing to see what the setting did. It prevented me from looking at basically any website at all, making IE useless. But the key is that the content advisor has a password option, so that without the password you can't change the settings.

I set the password to something I made up on the spot, and I have no idea now what it was. It was actually a word, something like arduvon or.. I remembered it for a few minutes afterwards, and worried that I had memorized it, but it's gone!

I'm not completely protected, however. I could always download Chrome or something else, or roll IE back again. The first option can be prevented by just adding the Chrome site to the Leechblock list.

Anyways, I'm pretty satisfied with this.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another boring Sitemeter post. I'm so sorry.

Several interesting visitors recently, though I haven't kept notes and have forgotten the names of several. Someone in France came here and spent something like an hour viewing several dozen pages, I don't know why - they came in through the MS-WBT server page, though.

Someone came here through my link in Facebook, which never happens, and he looked at a few pages. I know who it was, but I won't embarrass him.

Anyway, page views are up for some reason - every day or two, someone flips through several pages, I don't know why that's happening now but not before - the MS-WBT page isn't changed, nothing is. Random winter boredom maybe?

Today there was a visitor about whom Sitemeter seemed to know nothing at all. I was curious, so tracerouted the entire IP block, and it led back to a cluster of sites named This, apparently, is the Russian Google, a search engine suite. I don't know what hit the site, exactly, but maybe it was a yandexbot - the Googlebot comes every few days or weeks, maybe the yandexbot will start dropping by.

Anyways, that's pretty boring. Sorry.