Archive for December, 2003

Date: December 30th, 2003
Cate: Geekism
2 msgs

Y2K!

“Here’s the world famous computer programmer, placing a test order at the dot com site he works for, at Y2K + one second. (note the ball that just dropped on the TV) Will it work? WILL IT WORK!?!?!?!”

Actually, it didn’t work! The order showed as placed on Jan 1, 1999! But it wasn’t a Y2K problem. Some bonehead had used the unbelievably arcane and incorrect “IYYY” date format on the order confirmation page, which uses all these crazy week numbering rules (defined by ISO8610) to determine that it really isn’t the new year if there hasn’t been a Thursday yet. What? Who wants that? It had probably been broken since the site existed and nobody had noticed. So I quickly changed it to the proper “YYYY” and all was well.

Any of the other geeks out there have a good story from that (not very) fateful night?

Date: December 30th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Chu2 – Remove, Divide

除夕 – Chu2 Xi4 – New Year’s Eve

Date: December 30th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Fei1 – Fragrant

Mark Rosenfelder really likes 王菲. But that’s one of the less interesting pages on his site. Here’s some other pages that I particularly liked:

If English was written like Chinese: The step by step transformation of English into a pictogram based language. You’ll learn a lot about why Chinese is the way it is.

The Zompist Phrasebook: Such useful phrases as “We kicked your ass in World War II”, “Where can I find the dissidents?”, “So far as I can see, Heinlein is just a second-rate Ayn Rand.”, “There’s a corpse on the bed. Please change the sheets.”, and “Oh sure, you’re going to shoot me, right?”

Virtual Verduria: An entire fantasy world he created, complete with 10 different languages (for example: flaidish), an atlas, and a Civ style chart of which cultures were powerful at what times in Almean history.

The numbers 1 through 10 in many languages: How many languages? 4500. That has to be all of them, right? Including hundreds of Chinese dialects.

Hiragana Flashcards, Fun facts about Quencha, language of the Incas, How to create your own language in N easy steps, his own comic strip, his other own comic strip, his own line of t-shirts, and a simple explanation of the events of the past 100 years.

He also has a weblog type section and innumerable other things. You can spend several days reading the whole site. Have fun!

By the way, Mark, if you ever notice this: What’s a zompist?

Date: December 29th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
2 msgs

– Zuo4 – Sit

坐月子 – Zuo4 Yue4 Zi5 – Sit Month

坐月子 is the traditional thing to do after giving birth, if you’re Chinese. You are really supposed to just sit for one month, and you and the new baby are taken care of by somebody else, usually a grandmother. There’s special foods you’re supposed to eat and a whole list of things to do and not do to help restore your body. This site has all the details.

This tradition is so strong in Taiwan, that for mothers who don’t have an extended family member available there are 坐月子中心 – Zuo4 Yue4 Zi5 Zhong1 Xin1 – Sit Month Centers! Here’s one, called 樣媽咪 – Yang4 Ma Mi – Model Mommy. You go in and live there for a month, and specially trained 坐月子 professionals take care of you and baby. I’m not sure how much that costs, but they also have the take out version, for NT$50,000 (about $1500).

Date: December 28th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Du2 – Poison

Tonight’s main feature: 五毒 – Wu3 Du2 – Five Poison — Five Venoms

Date: December 27th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Hui4 – Benevolent

惠伶 – Hui4 Ling2 – Benevolent Clever — Sharena and Janice’s new sister, AKA “Mira” – FINAL NAME

(by the way “Mira” is pronounced My-ra)

Date: December 26th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
2 msgs

– Ren2 – Person

聖誕老人 – Sheng4 Dan4 Lao3 Ren2 – Christmas Old Person – Santa Claus

Or 聖誕老公公 – Sheng4 Dan4 Lao3 Gong1 Gong1 – Christmas Old Grandpa – Santa Claus

Santa brought Jenny a present! He even apparently reads her wishlist. I got nothing! Nothing! Jenny says it’s because I was bad, but I think it must be some mistake. Maybe he only checked his list once this year.

Date: December 25th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Sheng4 – Holy, Sacred, Saint, Sage

聖誕 – Sheng4 Dan4 – Holy Birth — Christmas

Best present received: Remote Control Helicopter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Too bad I can’t fly it until it’s at least 50°F out.

And in other birth-related news: Sharena and Janice have a new sister, possibly named “MIRA”? More as it develops.

Date: December 24th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Qian2 – Front, Forward, Preceding

前夕 – Qian2 Xi4 – Preceding Evening – Eve

Date: December 23rd, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
2 msgs

– Xie3 – Blood

流血 – Liu2 Xie3 – Flow Blood — Bleed

Dear Hyundai Owners: For your convenience, we have mounted razor sharp blades just out of view on the inside of your trunk. We hope you have as much fun finding them as we had placing them.

Thanks!

Hyundai Motor Company

Date: December 22nd, 2003
Cate: Video Games
1 msg

The 8bits of Christmas

BEST THING EVER! THE 8BITS OF CHRISTMAS! Christmas songs played on 8-bit PCs and game systems. My favorite is Let it Snow, on the Gameboy.

You can then scroll down on that page to descend into “chiptune” madness.

Date: December 22nd, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Pai2 – Brand, Cards, Dominoes

老牌 – Lao3 Pai2 – Old Brand — Old Style, Old School

That’s what type of game Viewtiful Joe is. You run from left to right, and punch and kick an endless stream of bad guys. That’s it. It’s great! It’s incredibly fast paced, completely crazy, and great fun. Everybody should try it. At least rent it.

You can get a good idea of the style (equal parts comic book, power rangers, animation, and pure strangeness) by watching this music video, Viewtiful World. Or this one for a look at the gameplay.

Date: December 21st, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Shuang1 – Double, Pair

I have determined that Mario Kart Double Dash!! is very good! The new added twist is that each kart is controlled by two people, and that adds more fun. You really have to work together to win.

雙胞胎 – Shuang1 Bao1 Tai1 – Double Womb Embryo — Twins

Two of Jenny’s sisters are 雙胞胎. But you wouldn’t know it unless they told you, because they’re 異卵 – Yi4 Luan3 – Different Ovum — Fraternal, not 同卵 – Tong2 Luan3 – Same Ovum — Identical.

Need more 生物學 – Sheng1 Wu4 Xue2 – Living Things Study — Biology terms? Here’s a Chinese/English Biology dictionary, everything from Abdomen to Zymogen.

(One last thing: 中文.com says this character is supposed to look like two birds in a hand. I like it!)

Date: December 20th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
1 msg

– Cha1 – Error, Discrepancy

Some people think my Chinese is 越來越好 – Yue4 Lai2 Yue4 Hao3 – Better and better. That’s nice to hear because I thought it was 越來越差 – Yue4 Lai2 Yue4 Cha1 – Worse and worse.

(in fact, here’s the proof: the first version of this post I said my Chinese is 越來越錯, which is itself, wrong!)

Date: December 18th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
1 msg

– Ling3 – Neck, Collar, Lead, Receive

領養 – Ling3 Yang3 – Receive Raise — Adopt

三喵 has adopted two kittens! I think she should call them 一喵 and 二喵.

Date: December 18th, 2003
Cate: Regular

Uncanny Valley

Have you heard of the Uncanny Valley? Here’s a good example:

More

Date: December 17th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
2 msgs

– Wang2 – King, (a surname)

I think looks cool. – Di4 – Emperor, too.

Date: December 16th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– La3 – (onomatopoeia)

喇叭 – La3 Ba5 – Trumpet, Speaker

Christmas came early this year! Jenny’s sister sent us a set of speakers that we got today. Jenny couldn’t wait, so we opened them and put them up. Test discs: Jacky and the last good movie John Woo made. Sounds great! Thanks Judy!

Neat. It just so happens that the project i”m doing at work right now is called 喇叭水仙 – La3 Ba5 Shui3 Xian1 – Trumpet Narcissus – Daffodil.

Date: December 16th, 2003
Cate: Geekism

Hacked by Chinese: USS San Antonio?

According to a message that just came in off IP, here’s the latest US computer system that has been hacked into by Chinese spammers:

The USS San Antonio! Hacked before even leaving dry dock.

Date: December 15th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Yong3 – Always, Forever

Zonble says, if you want to learn Chinese calligraphy, you can start by writing . It contains most of the basic strokes. If you can write it well, you’re on your way.

Date: December 15th, 2003
Cate: Class

Crypto + Seminar

I am now about to enter THE FINAL SEMESTER! I’m taking Crypto & Net Security. I guess I’ll be hearing about Alice and Bob a lot. I’ve also got to finish and present my research paper, on my top secret new method of cookieless session persistence. URL rewriting is for suckers.

Date: December 15th, 2003
Cate: Geekism
4 msgs

Atom

Remember that new syndication feed format project thingy? It’s still going, and there’s a new release of some specs that Mark has documented nicely. For fun I’ve created an Atom 0.3 feed. b2 and (maybe) Wordpress users can find the template here. It has a good chance of working for you as-is, if you want to play this new game.

Date: December 14th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
4 msgs

– Miao4 – Temple

is the answer to yesterday’s riddle! Do you see it? On top is a dot, underneath is a dash, then there’s a slash on the left, two crosses and sun (日) and moon (月).

The clue was the word – Zui4 – Drunk. This riddle is from the movie 大醉俠 – Da4 Zui4 Xia2 – Big Drunk Hero, aka Come Drink With Me, which is like the Gone with the Wind of Kung Fu movies or something.

Looking up information about that riddle led me to several new amazing Chinese language resources. Here’s a list of the names of the basic strokes (like dot, dash, slash) that Chinese characters are made of, at The Chinese Outpost. I’d never seen this site before, but it is full of information!

Another site I have seen before, but I ran into again is Omniglot. It is a definitive, well researched and well written site about just about all human (and some non-human) writing systems. Here’s their page on Chinese.

Finally, I found the USC Chinese characters page. They have animations of how to write all the most common characters. For instance, here’s – An1 – Peace. And, for each character, they have a link that you can click on to hear how to pronounce it! (click on the word, next to the record player)

Date: December 14th, 2003
Cate: Geekism
3 msgs

Personalized future light cone RSS feed

This is one of the geekier things to come along in quite some time. Get your personalized future light cone RSS feed!

Good thing this is now available, it turns out my future light cone will intersect with Beta Comae Berenices in just a few weeks.

Date: December 14th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
1 msg

– Zui4 – Drunk

Here’s your riddle: What has a dot, a dash, a slash, two crosses, sun and moon?

Date: December 13th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
3 msgs

– Che1 – Car, Chariot, Vehicle

車子 – Che1 Zi5 – Car

Lots of car trouble lately. Catalytic converters, timing belts, and flat tires, oh my.

Date: December 12th, 2003
Cate: Geekism

Today’s new Google features

Package tracking? And patent lookup?

They’re also working on a new clean look, which will be the first portal redesign in Internet history that actually makes the ads LESS prominent.

Date: December 11th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
3 msgs

– Liu3 – Skate, Slip, Slide

溜溜球 – Liu1 Liu1 Qiu2 – Yo-Yo

I wonder if the origin of the English word yo-yo is “Liu1 Liu1″? Or maybe with French “joujou” (toy)? Anyway, I’m mentioning this because I think everybody should go watch this video: Japan National Yo-Yo Contest 2003.

了不起 – Liao3 Bu5 Qi3 – Amazing.

Date: December 11th, 2003
Cate: Regular
6 msgs

Galactor or Galactus?


Galactor

Nemesis of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. aka Katse, Zoltar. Reports to strange floating eye/bird. Master of disguise. Super genuis. Hermaphrodite. Cool hat.

Galactus

Giant planet sized guy. Eater of worlds, devourer of planets. It has always been so, and so it shall ever be. Created, and now feuding with, the Silver Surfer. Cooler hat.

This has been a public service announcement from messy-78.

Date: December 10th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
2 msgs

– Tan3 – Blanket

地毯 – Di4 Tan3 – Floor Blanket — Rug

The long and entirely uninteresting story of our rug, which I have humanely spared you from, is over. It’s here.

Date: December 9th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Ji4 – Border, Boundary

星際大爭霸 – Xing1 Ji4 Da4 Zheng4 Ba4 – Star Border Big Struggle Master — Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica comes in two flavors: Original, and extra crispy. The new series, amazingly, is not all that bad! I especially like the space battles. They’re like a huge 3D version of Asteroids or something.

Date: December 9th, 2003
Cate: Geekism

DANGER! New IE exploit!

Click on this button, and then check the address bar. Are you where it says you are?

This is bad because I could have tricked you into thinking you were anywhere I want, and then created a page that looks indistinguishable from the real site. I could have made a fake CNN, or Paypal, or anything. And it didn’t have to be a button either, I could have done it as soon as you came to this site. The next Google search result you click on could do this.

More on this vulnerability.

Date: December 8th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Chan3 – Shovel

鏟子 – Chan3 Zi5 – Shovel (noun)

鏟雪 – Chan3 Xue3 – Shovel Snow (verb)

Rake the roof, shovel the leaves, mow the snow….

Date: December 8th, 2003
Cate: Geekism
4 msgs

A man, a plan, a spam, Bayesian!

I have implemented Bayesian spam filtering for this weblog. I have no idea if it is working. Well, I think it’s working. I’ve trained it with all the comments in the database. They’re all considered not spam, since I always delete spam when I see it. Then I had to go back into some archives and find spam comments that have been posted, to teach it what spam tastes like. I could only find 19 such spams, which I have a feeling isn’t quite enough.

When asked to score the good comments in the database, it is currently giving scores like .00000000000000000000001% chance of spam. And when I ask it to score some of the spams I’ve used for training, it says 100%. So it is not obviously completely broken. But I’m not sure what it’ll do when it sees stuff it’s never seen before. I can’t wait to find out… so Allez Spam!

I haven’t thrown the switch that consigns comments that rate highly on the spam-o-meter to oblivion yet, because I’m not too confident in the system. For now, it’s just working behind the scenes, rating and learning.

I first tried to use an existing free implementation of Bayesian filtering in PHP by Loic d’Anterroches. I couldn’t quite get it to work, and it was a little too general, so instead I rolled my own.

I based it on these two articles by Paul Graham, and partially on the Bayesian spam filter for MT. Translating Paul’s oatmeal and fingernail clippings into PHP was…. entertaining:

(let ((prod (apply #'* probs)))(/ prod (+ prod (apply #'* (mapcar #'(lambda (x) (- 1 x)) probs)))))

becomes

for($i=0; $i < $nprobs; $i++)
{
  $ptop *= $probs[$i];
  $pbot *= (1 - $probs[$i]);
}
return $ptop / ($ptop + $pbot);

I’ve got it integrated into b2, but I’m not going to “officially” release the code until I know that it’s working and useful for comment spams. Of course, those of you who just can’t wait, want to see my horrible slapped together code, and know how to use my view-source feature, be my guest. If it does prove to work, I’ll release it as a b2 hack, and hopefully the Wordpress guys will like it. (I really have to upgrade to Wordpress one of these days…)

(By the way: While I was working on this, I did introduce a bug that completely broke comments for the past day or so. If you tried to post during that time, sorry! It’s fixed now.)

Date: December 8th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Rong2 – Velvet, Woolen

絨布 – Rong2 Bu4 – Flannel

床單 – Chuang2 Dan1 – Bed Sheet

Date: December 7th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day
2 msgs

– Hai3 – Ocean, Sea

海盜 – Hai3 Dao4 – Sea Thief — Pirate

Today’s crime: I watched a movie based on an amusement park ride. And liked it!

Date: December 6th, 2003
Cate: Chinese Word of the Day

– Tu2 – Dash, Charge, Sudden

突變異種 – Tu2 Bian4 Yi4 Zhong3 – Sudden Change Strange Type — MUTANT

Date: December 5th, 2003
Cate: Regular
2 msgs

A chicken should…

Here’s a reasonably interesting description of interview and clearance process at the NSA. Sorry, it’s a PDF. One of my proudest possessions is my NSA mug. It has a secret code on it. When filled with a hot liquid, the answer is revealed. It rules.

I found that PDF at Cryptome. By the way, when you click on that link, it will set off all sorts of alarms in the Carnivore boxes installed at your ISP. (the FBI considers Cryptome a source of information that could harm the United States)

One time I interviewed at a big defense contractor. The interview process was crazy. They would say stuff like “This position involves Unix, and… a database. I think that’s all I can say. You’ll have lots of fun, but never be able to tell anybody what you do.” They told me if I started work there, the clearance process would take 6 months to a year. During that time, I’d be paid to sit in a room called “the leper colony” and do nothing. I did get a job offer from there, to work in their “SPACE SYSTEMS” division (how cool is that!) But, I turned it down. I didn’t want to move to Texas. I probably missed an oppurtunity to work on the EXOATMOSPHERIC KILL VEHICLE or something.

Instead I went to Pratt and worked on everything from their coolest stuff all the way down to the bottom of the barrel: the mainframe based payroll system. Y2K was coming, you know. That COBOL wasn’t about to remediate itself.