Things I do with my free time...

On Having Ridiculous Amounts of Free Time
     I think the big problem, and the big boon, for modern civilization is that we all have too much free time. My friends are always complaining that their days are simply too long; that even after classes, job, food, studying, sleep, and buffalo maintenance, there are 3, maybe 4 unclaimed seconds in every single day. This is dangerous because people have an alarming tendency to produce things when they're bored. Some of these things, like the full screen dancer are obviously a great benefit to society at large, but others, like nuclear weaponry have some definite, though subtle problems. I have not yet managed to get enough weapons-grade plutonium for the big projects, but here are some other things that have occupied my brain. In no particular order. In the spirit of inconsistency, several of my AI ramblings are not here, but on my school page instead.

PalmPilot Stuffs
     I tell ya, I just love this little thing to pieces. This section will hold my personal palm pilot creations, which are probably only appealing if you're me... but what the heck. :)
  • English Letter Frequencies - For all you amateur crypto freaks (and I mean really amateur, this isn't gonna be effective except against caeser ciphers and other REALLY weak stream ciphers). Compiled from a couple LARGE (encyclopedia sized) sources, good for breaking newspaper crypto puzzles. Also breaks even the most devious ROT-13 encryption. :)
  • Caffeine QuickRef - Caffeine contents of pretty much everything. Big hit around exams. This is adapted from the Caffeine FAQ, an excellent resource with a helluvalot more information. The author's also a nice guy, and let me put this in palm pilot form without even so much as a cattle sacrifice. Check it out here.
  • The Hacker Crackdown is a book written by estwhile Sci-Fi author Bruce Sterling during one of his non-fiction moments. It is a very interesting read and the coolest part is, he has made the distribution of the electronic version completely open (go Bruce!). I made this version (which is how I read it the first time) for the iSilo reader, which is not a standard PalmDoc reader, but happens to be really cool instead.
  • UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Also in iSilo format and exactly what the name implies. Next time someone tries to argue that things like privacy aren't rights, they're privileges, pull out the ol' pilot and cite article 12. :)

The Streetcar Problem
     Stand outside waiting for the streetcar every day for two years, and you start to wonder if maybe there isn't a better way. I started wondering a lot. Far, far too much. Click here and be afraid.

The Artificial Intelligence Tutorial
     Summer of '99 I co-wrote this tutorial with Eyal Reingold, a psych prof at U of T. He wanted to teach third year psych students with presumably no AI background everything they needed to know to understand how AI could be applied to psych. The tutorial was written by me to be accessible, and the Eyal took it and stripped it down further, so it should be comprehensible to anyone willing to take the time. If you're interested, click here to check it out (assuming the psych web server is functioning).

Pragmatic Anonymity
     If all you want is to send anonymous mail, there are lots of ways to do it. One rather poor approach, is to use some webmail service like hotmail to create a dummy account, and then use that to send messages. If you spoof the personal info, that's fine, it'll stay spoofed. But these services attach your IP address to every outgoing message, meaning that recipients that know even a smidgin about the structure of the internet will pretty quickly figure out who it's from.

     A better approach is to use something like an anonymous remailer, special servers on the net that will strip out identifying information along the way, so that you can't be detected. These systems are really very good, but here's my problem - most of my friends would never use one. How am I supposed to send anonymous mail to someone? I could use all sorts of impressive anonymizing techniques, only to have someone on the other end say "Wow, this is really well anonymized, must be from Johnath". Gah. Instead, I've done this.

A Primer on Truth-Tree Construction and Derivations in Predicate Logic
     Scanned copy of all my notes from the 4 lectures in PHL245 (Modern Symbolic Logic) in which we covered the aforementioned topic. I have included this here as a reference for others who are interested in the kind of content a second year logic course offers, especially to those who have already taken logic twice.

     Regarding the bottom half of the page: If anyone can show me how to draw a six-pointed star without lifting pen from paper, I will give them a gabillion dollars ($CDN).

     Dateline: December 1, 1999, 1:43AM EST I have solved it! The mystery of the six sided star has been crushcrushcrushed beneath the crushing strain of my stubborn-assed pursuit of The Truth. My solution (aka The Gadzooks Document), in it's original form, is provided here.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Freecell: A photo essay
     The freecell help file makes the ludicrous claim that it is "believed" that all freecell games are winnable. I think these screen captures settle it once and for all. Thanks to Matt for supplying some helpful negative integers.

Get a job with Microsoft!
     I have a TA who applied to Microsoft(TM)(R)(C)(patent-pending)(we break thumbs) before deciding on grad school, and he tells me that they ask this question to potential candidates:

Four men are stranded in the woods after a plane crash and are forced to walk their way out. They reach a bridge that must be crossed for them to escape the forest, and it must be crossed immediately, since some of them require immediate medical attention. However, it is pitch black night, and the bridge has missing boards, and thus must be crossed with a flashlight. They have only one flashlight, and the bridge can only take two people at a time, maximum. Because of their various injuries, the speeds at which they can each cross the bridge are different: one can cross it in 1 minute, one in 2 minutes, one in 5 minutes and one in 10 minutes. They cannot risk throwing the flashlight, so someone must always take it back to the people on the first side (remember, only max 2 can cross at a time) and if two people are crossing, they must obviously cross at the slower man's pace.

Find a way to get them all across in 17 minutes.

I tossed this around in my brain for half a tutorial (about 20 minutes) before seeing the light... it's not terribly difficult, but I gotta hand it to MS, this was a lot more fun than most job applications. :)

Note to self: Read more Danny Hillis
I went to my first computer conference at the New York Hilton about 20 years ago. When somebody there predicted the market for microprocessors would eventually be in the millions, someone else said, "Where are they all going to go? It's not like you need a computer in every doorknob!"

Years later, I went back to the same hotel. I noticed the room keys had been replaced by electronic cards you slide into slots in the doors.

There was a computer in every doorknob.

-- Danny Hillis

     I mean, how cool is that? A while ago, I was trying to fend off boredom online, when I stumbled onto a Wired article from the old Wired days, when they had articles that didn't use the word 'IPO'. It was Very Very Late (EDT) but the thought there, the mad non-sequiturs, the whole - feeling of it, had me jazzed for hours.
     I go there when I'm tired, and for about two weeks after that, I'm not tired anymore. Never fails. Remember that this is old stuff, early 90s, so some of their thinking has (eventually) come into being and may not seem that revolutionary. Remember that when this was written, there's a good chance you had never received an email. Go there, now.

     So I wrote this little program for linux that beeps. That's all it does, just beeps. You pick the frequency, you pick the duration, you pick a whole whack of stuff, but really it just beeps. You can get the program here. What makes this program exceptional is that I have, to date, received more than 200 emails, two dozen suggestions/patches, and more praise and thanks than I ever would have expected. My best estimates at the time of writing this are that it has been downloaded more than 2000 times, and it's still getting hits.
     It was the first program of mine that I ever made public, and being as simple as it was, I was totally not expecting the replies it garnered. I don't remember the last time I've felt so positive about humanity. Pretty cool for a program that just beeps.
     UPDATE [July 24th, 2000]: Okay, so I've cut my medication dosages and am not feeling quite as corny anymore. :) I still think the response was amazing though, and will continue to open source anything even remotely useful that I may produce.

     In Smith Falls, Ontario, Hershey chocolate has a factory that has, among other attractions, a store that allows visitors to buy hershey products at Low Low Prices. As a matter of tradition, I purchase at least 1.5kg of Reese's Pieces each visit (approximate cost: $6.00CDN). At the time of counting, there was probably about 1kg left, which would imply that each piece is just under a gram, which seems about right. I sorted, then counted them, for no reason that can be explained. The universe is quite simply divided into those organisms that count coloured chocolates by colour and those who don't. 575 orange, 306 brown, 243 yellow. As far as I know, I do not exert a preference when eating them, so you can take it, for statistical purposes, as an unbiased sample. I did eat roughly twelve (12) pieces that, for whatever reason, seemed to have a physical deformity, in order to ensure sample quality.
Death of a List
     This is a part of how I said goodbye to being an undergrad. A photo-essay, or at least, a storyboard.