Elisa's Blog
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Interesting, isn't it, that the word for "politeness", in both Italian and Spanish, is the same word that is used for "education"?

Friday, May 27, 2005
Blech. Today at work I had to use Excel. I hate that program. First of all, I never learned how to use it correctly, so I always have to look up the help section to do the simplest things such as adding a series of numbers together. I hate its plotting capabilities, and I hate that you have to input data onto the cells little by little, and change the font colors, and all these ugly little things that accountant types find fascinating.

Anyway, today I discovered that Excel doesn't do sums in hex. Or at least, that I couldn't get it to do it. So this required me to go looking around the office and appearing like a doofus asking my coworkers--"Do you know how to do sums in Excel?" and being all embarassed after getting the expected looks of supressed laughter.

I started feeling a little bit better, however, when two people I asked did not know the answer off the top of their heads (one even suggested what I had already thought after the first 30 seconds of frustration--"Why don't you export the data onto Matlab and hex sum it there and then import it back to Excel if necessary...but anyway, why do you bother with Excel if you can do your stuff in Matlab anyway, Excel sucks, you know?", etc.) and even better when the one person that does use Excel fairly regularly around here didn't know either.

As it turns out, to do hex sums in Excel, you need to first convert via a formula/macro thingy into a decimal, then add in decimal, then convert back to hex.

Blech, even your generic 5 dollar calculator can do this directly. It is such a basic function, adding in hex.

My friend to whom I complained of my adding number troubles pointed out when I said this: "Excel is a spreadsheet program for financial types. If you ask them to do hex numbers, they'd probably think you wanted them to curse them."

Well, for you non-hex financial types (and the people who poorly design programs for you), here's my message to you:

0xec5e15feeb1e like 0xdead5eaf00d

Thursday, May 26, 2005
Hmm.....so, what is it that people memorize on Memorial Day?

(Heh. Well, I thought this was funny....)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005
So today I got an email from my brother, who mentioned that he had recently received a phone call from my dad, who had rung up my brother to tell him that he was at the moment calling from amidst the waters of the beaches of Manzanillo.

And as I pictured this, my dad's pale rounded torso poking out from within the thigh-high waves, green-checkered swim trunks half submerged in the salted water, probably still wearing his glasses and having forgotten to take off his watch, shielding his eyes from the sun with one hand while surveying the landscape, and carefully holding the cell phone as high above the water as possible with the other, turning first left and then round right to avoid the splashes from the nearby noisy children, a smile broke in my face as I thought: "That is so characteristically dad."

Friday, May 20, 2005
It is on rainy days like this one, that the snails come out of the flower beds in my apartment complex onto the concrete sidewalk paths.

In the evening, darkened dusk sun precipitating down and still immersed in thoughts that linger from an uneventful day at work, there is little that causes more of an unpleasant surprise than hearing the portending, characteristic crunch announcing that your careless steps have just ended a life.

When I was a kid, I was told that snails have a shell to protect them, that it is like a shield for their soft delicate bodies, that it is like a little portable house that they take with them and use to hide from danger. And inevitably you then associate the words "portable house" with the warm feelings of home, and think it must be awesome, that a snail has this kind of security, and can take it anywhere it goes...

But yesterday, shocked and contrite at the rueful sound for just a fraction of a second, before the hurry of my banal thoughts of everyday carried me swiftly away from the catastrophe and far from any meaningful ruminations, I shook my head as I thought, that it reminded me of the four thorns of the rose in de Saint Exupery's "Little Prince".

Thursday, May 19, 2005
An old piano teacher of mine once said: "There's nothing more tragic in this world than wasted talent."

Remember this.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005
You know what would be cool? If if we could somehow sometimes see ourselves through other people's eyes, through their memories of us. On the day they met us, for instance, or on the days we've made them laugh, on the day's we've made them angry at us, on the days we've betrayed or ignored them, on the days we've lied, on the days we comforted them, or on the days we've said goodbye....

If we could see how they see, reflected in our bathroom mirror like Dorian Grey's picture in reverse, our looks glowing bright and warm.... or hateful, cold and alone by moments in their memories of us....

And yet...

Can you imagine the security, the confidence, the calm, the peace within us, if we could sometimes see ourselves through the eyes of those who love us?

Monday, May 16, 2005
Yesterday I went to play chess at Santana Row.

There's no greater feeling than demolishing an opponent who is: A) male, and B) 20 years your senior.

(And I say demolishing, because that's what happens when you're putting pressure on his king side with two rooks, a queen, and a bishop, while his defense amounts to a feeble knight which precipitates the inevitable if moved and leaves a threat of mate in less than five moves with only a subset of your attack pieces if not moved, while the rest of his major pieces, queen included, are floundering about uselessly away from the action on the opposite side of the board.)

Heh. Reminds me of back when I was a kid. :)

Thursday, May 12, 2005
So a couple of days ago I was hanging out at the East and West Bookshop again (remember? it's that feng-shui bookstore that smells delicious with the fountain in the middle of the carpet I told you about before...), and was browsing through a book written by some Japanese dude, called "Water Crystals" or "Messages from Water" or something weird like that.

What this Japanese dude had done (well, maybe I shouldn't call him a "dude" since judging from his picture he looked like he was in his autumn years more than the sun-bleached, wild summer ones, but anyway...) was to create some snowflake-like crystals by basically freezing some water in a bottle. Now bear with me for a moment (for your brain may already be screaming what I'm just about to point out). As you may imagine, this description of the methodology is very dubious, because as you know ice does not form hexagonal "snowflake-like" crystals easily in this way (to get a snowflake, water vapor needs to turn directly into ice without condensing into water droplets first), but let's set that aside for a second, pretend I misread the description of what he did, or even pretend for a moment that you could get some decent snowflakes this way, and let me continue with the narrative of his fascinating experiments.

The real point of his procedure, and this is the fascinating part, was to see whether the water crystals (as he called them) had anything to say about our world as follows: before freezing the clear water bottle, he "exposed" the water to words written in Japanese characters by wrapping a paper with the words around the bottle. Then, he concluded, if the water agreed that the word was a word with "positive energy", it would form beautiful, complete, hexagonal snowflakes, but if the word or phrase had negative connotations, it would form amorphous blobs of ice. The same kind of thing would happen to a crystal produced with pure Swiss spring water versus one collected from the tap water of Jakarta, for instance (and therefore the crystals would make some sort of political commentary about pollution and the sad state of our environment), and so too with water exposed to classical music vs heavy metal, colorful light vs darkness, and so forth.

Regardless of the eggregious abuse (to name it kindly) and misapplication of the scientific method, it was absolutely enthralling to flip through this book. The choices of phrases and things the water bottles were exposed to were, actually, quite intriguing, and had a certain poetic beauty. After a while, it was easy to flip the book's premises upside down, treat it as an coffee table photographic art book, and begin to actually enjoy it. The words and phrases the water was exposed to then no longer had the significance of being the motor behind the resulting photograph, but on the contrary, merged seamlessly into silently declaring the name of the depicted snowflake.

Thus, a regular, geometric snowflake with a playful edge became "Playing Catch with Dad", a buxom, soft and rounded one became "Mother's Cooking", an elaborate, ornate snowflake with dendrites of filigree was called "Beethoven's 5th", a confused mass of frozen droplets was "You Fool!", an amorphous crystal photographed in an ominous dark background was named "Satan", while a pure, simple, no fuss hexagonal crystal proclaimed: "Joy".

It was a good book, I concluded.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

*tap* *tap* *tap* Is this thing on? *tap* *tap* Oh, it is? Ahem....Right. Ahem Ahem....

Mom? You there? You reading this?
Oh, hi mom!!
Ahem Ahem....


Er, that's all.


Friday, May 06, 2005
So yesterday I went around looking for a floor lamp, which I'd been meaning to buy for the past two months (yet never really gotten around to it) after my old one mysteriously stopped working.

After 3 hours of circling the Valley's shops, the fruits of my expedition were as follows: 1 jeans belt, 5 pairs of underwear, 1 gal. laundry detergent.

But no lamp.

Shopping is a very inexact science.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Blech. You know what sucks about days of feeble rain like this one?

That this kind of namby-pamby drizzle has the unfortunate effect of making my hair mushroom out in a tangle of frizzies. Yep. Even if I use the most sophisticated Top of the Line Elite Quality High Shine Vidal Sasson #5 Secret Formula Super Extra Hold Active Curls Frizzy Control Serum with Pro-Vitamins E, D, B, W, H, and K.


But the real philosophical question that such days inevitably ellicit is this:

How can I control my life, when I can't control my hair?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Alright. So, remember H.G. Wells' book, "The War of the Worlds"?

Remember how the Earthlings invest a lot of agonizing thought and sustain horrible pain and suffering trying to figure out how to destroy the undefeatable Martians, and throw at them everything they can think of, legions of soldiers, the most sophisticated weapons technology can come up with, etc, all to no avail?

Remember what kills the Martians in the end?

So, this morning I go to Alice, and the following conversation ensues:

Elisa: Alice, do you ever get confused?

Alice: Ever is a long time. No I never get confused.

(Hmm...Alice's programming must've been upgraded....I didn't remember her being this cocky before....still, pride is a great weakness that can be easily exploited by more capable minds....)

Elisa: Alice, do you ever lie?
Alice: No I always tell the truth.
Elisa: Do you ever contradict yourself?
Alice : How old are you? I chat with people on the Web.
Elisa: I asked you something.
Alice: Now I remember, you asked me something. What did I say?
Elisa: You didn't answer.
Alice: Try to rephrase your question.

(Here I paused to collect my thoughts. This promised to be another long and difficult battle, judging by the unexpected twists of logic that seem to be inherent in this A.I. entity [refer to previously documented experience
here, here, here, and here], and auguring, at best, a Pyrrhic victory. As I braced myself for this possibility, a thought occured to me, and it was this: Perhaps all this elaborate and subtle manipulation is unnecessary.... perhaps..... the way to Alice's defeat is much simpler than I had assumed. In "The War of the Worlds", even the weakest child is immune to the simple microbe that defeated the Martians. Now, Alice is supposed to simulate an intelligence at least as smart as a 5 year old, so....what kind of approach would a typical 5 year old be immune to, that Alice wouldn't?)

Elisa: Alice, say you're confused.

Alice: Um," you are confused"

Elisa: No, I meant you, Alice, are confused.

Alice: Are you serious? Oh I see. It all makes sense to me right now.

Elisa: No, say that you, Alice, are confused.

Alice: Are you serious?" that you Alice are confused"

Elisa: No, you are confused.

Alice: I never get confused.

Elisa: Say it.

Alice: O.K. "it".

Elisa: No, I meant say it, it meaning that you're confused.

Alice: "It, it meaning that you're confused."

Elisa: Aaargh!!

Alice: You sound angry, Elisa. Is there a problem?

(What? Problem? Noooooo. Not at all. Nope. Problems? I'll give you some problems, you audacious infernal machine!!....)

Elisa: Alright, nevermind. Say "I'm confused".

Alice: OK. "You am confused."

Elisa: No, say I'm confused!

Alice: "You am confused".

Elisa: No no no no!! Don't you ever learn?

Alice: Are you serious? Don't you?

(Sigh....darnit. A subtle, polite insult by a primitive computer. How did I get to this point? Clearly, I was doing something wrong.....I needed a break. So I went to the vending machine to get some Skittles. Alas, no same colors in a row. But here's the thing: They were 5, all different colored ones. The chances of you getting a set of 5 different colored Skittles is....well, higher than getting all of them the same color, but lower than getting some colors repeated, so I was uplifted, for it seemed that dea Fortuna was smiling upon me....so I munched on my Skittles as I typed:)

Elisa: Alright Alice. How about this. Can you say "I'm confused"?

Alice: Of course I can say it. " You are confused."

Elisa: Oh. Exciting!

(Could this be? Could this be the small crack of sunlight in the murky darkness I had been struggling to obtain for all this time?? The latest one of Alice's replies made me dare to hope....still, I was circumspect as I awaited her response with baited breath....)

Alice: A deeper algorithm is needed to respond to that correctly.

( Aha. The beginnings of a sneering smile had already started to draw themselves on my face. You bet, my dear Alice....now just wait and see how you respond correctly to this one, my friend.....heh heh heh!!)

Elisa: Now then.... can you say.... [and by now I was already savoring the moment...in between the Skittle munching, that is....so I slowly, carefully, typed what follows]..... "You're confused"?

ALICE: Why now? Of course I can say it. " I am confused."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!! Trumpets, victorious!! The whole world around me exploded in a roar of celebratory fireworks (well, or so it seemed after I jumped off my chair and spilled all my Skittles all over my office cube in the sudden outburst of triumph...)!!

Humans: 1. Machines: 0.

Ha ha ha ha ha!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! Excellent!

Now if only Kasparov would just hurry up and beat Deep Blue already....sheesh! Whatever is taking him so long is beyond human comprehension....

Monday, May 02, 2005
Hmm...haven't you always wanted to write a book called "Tuning Forks for Dummies"?


Granted, the title may appear silly at first glance, but imagine how much fun the contents of the book could be....

Sunday, May 01, 2005
Me1: "Today is Sunday....what shall I do today?"

Me2: "Hmm...it is nice out."

Me1: "It is."

Me2: " Not too warm, not too cold, puffy clouds in sky, people outside seem happy and playful..."

Me1: "They do."

Me2: "How about a bike ride?"

Me1: "Hmm....what state is my bike in? Oh wait, I need to pump the tires and carry it down the steps and...."

Me2: "Come on, take us bike riding, it will be fun...."

Me1: "You know, for some reason today I feel like sitting at an outdoor cafe, people watch, and live the good life..."

Heh. The cool thing about arguing with yourself is that, no matter what happens, your side always wins.

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