Friday, November 15, 2002

Belated catching-up
So I'm finally getting around to reading the backlog in some of my political sources that I've let accumulate for the past couple of weeks. Fortunately, my strategy seems to have completely worked -- the time interval has made it less bad, and absorbing it all in one large dose allows me to just feel disappointed at the beginning and get it over with rather thhan my disappointment just continually increasing over time.

I suspect that this interval of coping will only last until the next ridiculous happening, though, but I'll enjoy it while it is here.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Ow. Ow ow ow.
So, perhaps not surprisingly, all of this DDR-playing has caused my calves to ache something fierce, which means that my guilt about always driving to campus is now balanced by the fact that walking would be considerably more unhappy.

I will eventually stop feeling this way, right? Right?

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Low-level worry of the day
Computerized voting.

One of the things I read regularly (namely, the comp.risks digest) has had quite a bit of coverage about voting machines in the days before and after the election, and it's made me much more aware of the problems that are going on. While I don't quite subscribe to the "voting machines are a plot by to rig elections!" theory of thinking, the truth is that I'm inherently highly suspicious of these systems, especially when they're pathetically lacking any kind of redundancy, as seems to be the case.

It also annoys the heck out of me that the CEOs of these voting-machine companies are going around making statements like, "No one's discovered a problem in our systems," when the reason for that is that it's a felony to look at a voting machine (presumably to ensure that they can't be tampered with, but sadly this is a two-edged sword). Every system has a problem, and I seriously doubt that they've discovered the magical cure.
Hmm, do I really need another addiction?
So Mike and I went out and got ourselves a copy of DDR. This promises to occupy a large chunk of my time, although on the bright side at least I can pretend it's for a good cause (namely, getting myself in better shape -- and that even has a kernel of truth to it).

While buying the pads, I was thinking -- I owned one of the old Nintendo PowerPads, and I enjoyed it immensely, but of course there weren't any games available for it. There was World Class Track Meet, which I played quite a bit of, until I became really good at it, but there was nothing else. I think there might have been one dance game, but I don't remember anything about it -- plus, the design of the PowerPad (just 12 buttons in a grid; nothing in the way of directions, really) didn't really lend itself to dancing in the first place. Now, of course, the concept of DDR is quite popular, and the pads are much more plentiful (not to mention cheaper -- the PowerPad was $99, while the pads for DDR were $25 -- though that's not as large as it might seem, since the PowerPad did accomodate two players), so perhaps the technology was just ahead of its time (it's true that the PowerPad wasn't all that great, or perhaps just not all that well-synchronized with the game, since there would be countless times that you would try to jump and your character just wouldn't jump; it really encouraged cheating by using your hands instead of really jumping).

Actually, between the DDR pads and the fact that I've recently noticed a Power Glove-esque item being sold (its original incarnation was absolutely terrible, at least in my experience playing it at my friend's house, but I'll bet the technology has improved), I wonder if there's a revival of old-school Nintendo hardware going on (the robot notwithstanding). Ironically, the light gun, which was by far the most popular of the alternative input devices that Nintendo pioneered (didn't everyone have Duck Hunt, after all?) seems to be the most left behind in this -- I know the Playstation has a light gun, but I don't think I've ever seen a game which uses it, or anyone who owned it. I wonder why?
Always with the excuses
This time I have a good reason for not posting. Yesterday, I accidentally spilled a bit of my favorite beverage, water, into my keyboard. Since it seemed that I had only spilled a bit, I wiped the water I had spilled off the top of the keys, and left. I did not (a) turn the keyboard over to drain or (b) unplug the keyboard. The error of my ways would be revealed when I returned home to see that water was leaking out of the bottom of the keyboard, showing that the amount of water I had spilled was more than I initially surmised. I went back to the drying, but the keyboard still failed to work, and taking a look inside revealed that some of the traces had burned out. So I had to head out today and get myself a new keyboard.

On the bright side, where my old keyboard had "" and "Dell Support" buttons, surely two of the most useless buttons ever put on a keyboard by man, this keyboard is almost identical, but has "My Computer" and "Calculator" buttons in their stead, decidedly more useful.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Today's lesson: abuse of statistics
(1) From a Wired article on European sites outlawing Internet racism sites:
"Many European countries have existing laws outlawing Internet racism, which is generally protected as free speech in the United States. The council cited a report finding that 2,500 out of 4,000 racist sites were created in the United States."
Actually, I'm surprised that the percentage is so low. Consider: 2500 out of 4000 is 62.5%. I'd be surprised if the total fraction of Web sites which originated in the US was significantly less than 62.5%. Of course, I could be wrong -- but the point is that this statistic is completely meaningless without a baseline for the total to compare it to.
(2) Len Pasquarelli claims that the fact that only three teams in the NFL rank in the top ten in offense and defense is evidence that the salary cap creates unbalanced teams. Well, no. Suppose the two are uncorrelated. Well, there are 32 teams in the NFL, so the top 10 represents a fraction (10/32) = 0.31 of the total number of teams. Consequently, if we assume that offense and defensive ranking are uncorrelated, we would expect the number of teams in the top 10 of both to be (32)*(0.31)^2 = 3.13, which is exactly the number that we see! Maybe he's just really worried about that missing 0.13.

I could go on and on, but I have a feeling it's a losing battle.