25 April 2009

we left Tyler for dead – or: how I became a Zombicidal Maniac

Aaron, Stace, and I spent over 12 hours one day trying to beat the No Mercy campaign of Left 4 Dead on the Expert difficulty setting. We made memories but not victories.

Tonight Tyler C joined us. And in about 2 or 3 hours we did it! Having a fourth human player really helped.

Unfortunately, Tyler didn't make it on to the chopper that saved us. He was literally inches away when he suddenly got yanked up into mid-air for no obvious reason. (This was right after I valiantly saved him!) We three were already on the chopper so the level immediately ended with Tyler being eaten by zombies as we somberly rose to safety. I actually screamed "noooo!" in absolutely sincere horror and disbelief when I saw it happen.

I'm sorry Tyler. But – that said – I am proud to be among the 12.7% percent of players to have pulled it off. And in my book, I know there were four survivors.

21 April 2009

my intentions

[Let me know if this image is making trouble.]

That's the hair plan. Foxy. I am willing to use product.

16 April 2009

annoying on Mythbusters, awesome at TED

I thank whoever Rory->Greg is. This is a terribly endearing and extremely entertaining TED presentation by Adam Savage.

14 April 2009

sweet sweet relief

Oh, and I just wanted to thank everyone at the Africa house for taking such good care of my favorite jacket while it was lost for three weeks. 'Preciate it.

(I didn't tell anyone, and they have a lot of jackets there.)

just venting really

Rory shared this article, so I'll yell at him the next time I see him. It's a bunch of basic computer science ideas that I already understand surrounded by unfounded claims that I'm wrong. Fun read for the layperson, however.

Once I get to the end, his claim is less drastic than I thought throughout and bothers me less.

The rest of this post is a jumble of tangents my thoughts took.

Chinese Room

Searle's Chinese Room is prominent in Schulman's article.

I don't like it, because understanding Chinese isn't really the question, it's understanding what the other person is saying. A language like Chinese or English is empty – the incoming notes could be a well-formed but completely non-sensical Chinese statement and the person in the room wouldn't know what to say back. The Chinese Room example just wraps a known intelligence – a human – in a layer of machine (the rules of translation).

This relates to the misstep that I see Schulman taking: he talks about "intelligence" or "understanding a children's story" as if such things exist separate from humans exhibiting them. We have no real definition for "intelligence". I believe it's because it doesn't exist separate from us &ndash we are machines interacting and we think we do it in a special way called intelligence. The Chinese Room, like the Turing Test before it, involves a human in the intelligence test because we need to sprinkle in some "real intelligence" into the scenario, since we cannot otherwise characterize how to pass the test.


I don't even know where he's going with this, but I disagree with it. He eventually squirrels it into relevance with one of Searle's apparent contradictions.

But it would be incorrect to take the notion of a hierarchy to mean that the lowest layer—or any particular layer—can better explain the computer’s behavior than higher layers. Suppose that you open a file sitting on your computer’s desktop. The statement “when I clicked the mouse, the file opened” is causally equivalent to a description of the series of state changes that occurred in the transistors of your computer when you opened the file. Each is an equally correct way of interpreting what the computer does, as each imposes a distinct set of symbolic representations and properties onto the same physical computer, corresponding to two different layers of abstraction. The executing computer cannot be said to be just ones and zeroes, or just a series of machine-level instructions, or just an arithmetic calculator, or just opening a file, because it is in fact a physical object that embodies the unity of all of these symbolic interpretations. Any description of the computer that is not solely physical must admit the equivalent significance of each layer of description.

The layers are not equivalent. He earlier spoke of the duality between the symbols manipulated by a formal system (as a computer implements, e.g.) and the represented real object. I think he 1) chose a bad example regarding "opening a file" since it's a very computer-centric concept and 2) leaves out the notion that the monitor connects all the electronic state changes back to the real world &ndash the file is open because we see it presented to us on the screen. That is the result, showing the file's contents to the user. All the lower layers are just how it was done – a distinction he had previously pounded away on.

Ray Kurzweil

When I say the brain is a machine, I mean there's nothing unnatural about it – no magical piece (nothing playing the role of the man in the Chinese Room). I do not mean it needs to be digital. In fact, I'm doubt it is. Schulman points out that Kurzweil does too. Maybe I should read his book.

An old friend

Also, Shulman doesn't smell the problem of induction.

As an empirical hypothesis, the question of whether the mind can be completely described procedurally remains open (as all empirical hypotheses must), but it should be acknowledged that the failure thus far to achieve this goal suggests that the answer to the question is no—and the longer such a failure persists, the greater our confidence must be in that answer.

There's no basis for this claim.

11 April 2009

laptop sunscreen (HA!)

I'm on my porch today because it's so nice out. But it's also sunny, so it's tough to see my laptop screen. I was fidgeting with it and found that it's actually easiest to see if the sun is over my shoulder shining straight on it. I then noticed that changing the brightness of my screen's back-light has no effect. It's all the way down (and so saving me considerable battery time) and I can still see pretty well. The colors are all washed out, but it's fine for stuff like writing and programming.

09 April 2009

'cause I know him

Loveline and Liquid Buzz ("under construction" is so lame) Liquid Buzz (MySpace... really?) are an utter waste of an otherwise wonderful radio station. Who decides to air this crap? Especially at 10pm! Come on.

Jason! Save me!


Kate's email -> isthisyour.name
  -> Carl's blog I didn't know about
  -> Boys' State photo
      -> guy I got along with
  -> Carl's Boys' State photo
  -> other friends' Boys' State photos

Thanks, Kate!

05 April 2009

"Quit doggin' people."

My friend Sean sent this article along.

I suggest not reading the comments. Comments on the Internet are a cold and ugly thing.

01 April 2009

Wonder Woman should smack some sense into them...

Remember my anger? It peaked again today.

I bought this big 99-song album (for .99 cents!) but didn't want to download it all at once, so I paused it after 20 songs. A few days later I tried to download 20 more but it wouldn't budge. I got feisty again.
To Amazon.com:
I downloaded 20 of the 99 songs of a recent order, then paused. When I went to resume them earlier this week and again today, but the Downloader application says "Download no longer available. Please contact customer service."

In my unpleasant, last interaction with Amazon.com, I was reassured: "... .amz files do not expires". Should that statement have been qualified?
They re-enabled my download rights today and I got the songs. But beware:
From Amazon.com:
Also note that if more than 3 hours have passed since you first made your purchase, your files may no longer be available for download. If this happens or you experience any additional problems, please contact us again so we can determine the best way to help you.