Crowds made bonfires… threw objects into them… [a] favorite object was cats—cats tied up in bags, cats suspended from ropes, or cats burned at the stake. Parisians liked to incinerate cats by the sackful, while the Courimauds (cour à miaud, or cat chasers) of Saint Chamond preferred to chase a flaming cat throughout the streets. In parts of Burgundy and Lorraine they danced around a kind of burning May pole with a cat tied to it. In the Metz region they burned a dozen cats at a time in a basket on top of a bonfire. The ceremony took place with great pomp in Metz itself, until it was abolished in 1765. The town dignitaries arrived in procession at the Place du Grand-Saulcy, lit the pyre, and a ring of riflemen from the garrison fired off volleys while the cats disappeared screaming in the flames.
I feel it is relevant and particularly enlightening to note that the French national anthem has a special verse, only to be sung by children, in which the singer pledges to enter the military, die in battle, and share a coffin with his or her parents.
I’m still not up to the blog-update-frequency at which I’d be content, however, this is partially due to my attending another conference. I am currently in Utrecht in the Netherlands for AAMAS. It’s very rainy here, and pretty chilly, but I am having a great time. I’ll post some pictures in the coming days, but, in the mean time, here are some interesting quotes that were uttered during a simulation workshop I attended the day before yesterday (most of which can be attributed to Moss and Castelfranchi):
For 10 years, the agents community has struggled to do something useful.
Formalism gives precision.
Game theory is a failed paradigm.
Verification does not imply Validation.
You can have prediction without a description of process. In social science, we know the process but cannot predict.
Parameterizing competition is not legitimate.
In agent-based simulation, formulation does not require quantification.
And my favorite…
The ‘Real World’ is a special case within the set of all possible worlds.
Spammers are getting smart!
In which spammers finally realize that OCR has yet to pass the Turing Test.
I received my first CAPTCHA spam today! It was basically a blank e-mail with an attached JPEG image. The image was altered such that it could not be read by any current optical text recognition (OCR) software. By stochastically altering the modifications to the image for each piece of spam that is sent, no two pieces of spam will look alike. Furthermore, the content is still human-readable, but, as mentioned above, is not yet discernible by any spam filtering software. The content of the image read as follows:
Профессиональные E-mail рассылки! Тел: (095) 968-76-23 Более 4-х лет на рыенке рекламы!
Basically, they are advertising a professional E-mail distribution service that’s been around for more than 4 years! I find it mildly amusing that they are advertising a phone number rather than an e-mail address or website.
Note: they misspelled “рыенке;” it should really be “рынке.”
I made my national television debut on August 1st 2004 at 22:30 EST. My parents finished building their dream house a year or so ago; they bought a barn up in Allentown and had it moved, re-assembled, and modernized. They, my sister, and myself were interviewed for House & Garden TV. Pretty exciting, but it’s not exactly the way one dreams of making his or her mass media debut. On the bright side, the host of the show, Troy Norton, appeared in the movie Hoodwinked! with Andy Dick, who appeared in Road Trip with Rachel Blanchard, who appeared in Where the Truth Lies with Kevin Bacon, giving me a finite Bacon Number bounded above by 4. This combines with my current Erdős Number of 4 to give me a finite Erdős–Bacon number bounded above by 8. Eat your heart out, Carl Sagan, for I am the master of inane metrics!
Speaking of mass media, I was lucky enough to sit in on a recording of Fresh Air a couple weeks ago. Did you know they still record it on reel-to-reel?
Kompressor, made popular by his industrial musik beat, is running for president. I guess no one told him that one needs to be born in the USA to be president. Oh well, at least he’d be marginally more entertaining than Dubya. Kompressor also would promote dental hygiene, vitamin use, and mathematics. Thanks to my “partner in crime” Joshua Shaffer for pointing this out.
I’ve been postponing updating my blog for a while now, partially because I have been waiting on getting a digital camera so I can post some pictures. I have finally decided on a digital camera, although it has yet to arrive (I’ll post a lot more once it arrives, in a few days). In the meantime, however, I have to recount my ride home from work today. But first, some background…
I’ve started commuting from West Philadelphia to my job in Camden (~8km each way) on a “Fixed Gear” bicycle. What does that mean? Basically (if you don’t want to follow the link), it means I can’t coast; my pedals move whichever way the rear wheel is moving. Yes, I got a “fixie,” as they are often called, and it is beautiful. I’ll post pictures and a more lengthy description of my specific bike once my digital camera comes in (see above).
Fixies allow one to do cool things like track stands. Also, since one is able to backpedal, brakes aren’t required since one can simply resist pedaling to slow down. I’d recommend using a break, though, unless you are crazy like Klint and want your collar bone broken… again. If I don’t hit any exceedingly long red lights on the way, I can get the entire way from West Philly to Camden without putting a foot down and without using my brake.
Okay, back to the story. So I am riding home from Camden, and I just got off the Ben Franklin bridge. I had waited until 17:30 to leave work, because the weather forecasts predicted rain between 16:00 and 17:00. Boy, were they wrong. It hadn’t rained yet, and I wanted to leave because the bridge closes at 19:00 (and sometimes, randomly, earlier). I started riding up Spring Garden, when it started to drizzle. It was very clear that the storm was over North Philly, so I decided to play it safe and head back down to arch street where the sky looked less gray. While waiting at a red light, a man driving a blinged-out, huge Ford F-150 (possibly Harley Davidson Edition), blaring rap music over a system while talking on his cell phone, yells to me, “Hey! Is that a fixed gear?” This was very surprising to me, because he was about as far from the stereotypical fixed gear (posenger (bike messenger poser)) rider possible. I said yes, and asked if he did too. He informed me that fixies look awesome, but he currently rides a Canondale road bike that he had Bicycle Therapy build for him. Very weird conversation.
By the time I got to the Ben Franklin Parkway, the skies opened and it instantly started pouring. It was one of the worst downpours I have ever experienced, at least while on a two wheeled vehicle. This was my first time in the rain on a fixie, and it was amazing; I felt so connected to the ground, even as my rear tire skidded/hydroplaned all over the place. It really gave me a lot more control. I found some government building off of vine street that had an overhang, and sat there for the next ~30 minutes while I waited for the deluge to pass.
As I was sitting, out of the rain, I observed a van drive up next to a park across the street, open its trunk, and some people take some bags out of it. They brought the bags to a nearby bench, and a large group of people gathered. Apparently this was to be some sort of picnic, because they started handing out hot dogs and such. This went on for a good 20 minutes or so, as they all got thoroughly soaked. I still haven’t figured out what this picnic was for, because they all seemed to be of different races, some of different nationalities, and none of them seemed to know but one or two of the others. Finally, as the rain started to die down, they all realized that they too could come and sit in dryitude, where I was. And they did. By that point, the “hosts” wanted to get rid of the rest of the food, so they started pushing hot dogs to everyone there. A bunch of people just took handfulls of dogs and stuffed them in their pockets, for what I assume would be a later meal. One man had a plastic bag that he filled with no fewer than 10 hot dogs. Another man, standing next to the dog-hogger, turned and said the following:
I know you ain’t gonna eat all dose! What you do’n?! You be so greedy! You just be’n greedy do’n dat!
Only in Philly…