31 January 2008

What [not] to watch: NUMB3RS

NUMB3RS is a show about a mathematician helping the FBI solve crimes. Mathematician... After seeing "A Beautiful Mind" and "Proof", I had really high expectations and they unfortunately haven't been met.

The first two episodes were based on real events. I didn't get to watch the first one, but the second one was amazing. Watching it felt like being at a math lecture and seeing a long proof: you put a lot of effort and spend a lot of time on collecting many facts. Some of them you have, some you try to assume and see where they lead you. At the end, they all of a sudden all make sense, all are related and alltogether form a beautiful and consistent proof. The plot followed the way the mathematician's mind worked, collecting information, deducting, trying assumptions, then trying stronger assumptions, deducting again... yummy!

Sadly, the writers aren't as good as real life can be. In the following episodes, the mathematician was much more like a superheroe: he guessed something amazing now and then, and nobody knew how or why. When he noticed something, it was okay (math works like that quite often), but when he discovered a mathematical structure that allowed him to recover data deleted from a hard drive... when every kid knows that deleting files doesn't really delete them... I quit.

Too bad mathematicians are too busy to write screenplays. Hmmm, maybe students... Man, wouldn't this world be an amazing place if science geeks replaced the striking writers?

[Picture source]

29 January 2008

Allergy to God

I'm writing today about a phenomenon I've been noticing quite often recently, which I call "allergy to God".

Allergy to God is when I asked people about their opinions on an article and one person replied:

"I didn't read the article 'cause I saw in the comments that god was mentioned a lot, not my thing."
Does this word bite? I have no problem with reading articles mentioning Buddha or Allah or ancient mythology or even atheism. Okay, yesterday, I decided not to watch a documentary about treating pedophiles, as it showed like they don't understand the harm they did to the victims and speak of what they did with a terrifying indifference. But if you feel in a similar way when it's about God, I say it's allergy.

Allergy to God is when people don't want the Pope to visit an University:
The students and some professors say the Pope's reactionary views and "anti-science" attitudes made him an unsuitable speaker.
So that's what democracy and freedom of speech is about?

Allergy to God is when Young People Who Rock reports about the the organizers of "I Am Worth the Wait", saying:
We hear about sex all the time -- sex scandals, sex tapes, sexual marketing. The young organizers of I Am Worth the Wait don't want to hear about it anymore. And they certainly don't want to hear how cool it is. (...) The goal of the group is to bring together teens and 20-somethings of all races, religions and backgrounds to talk about something other than sex.
And people reply (I'm quoting an anonymous comment here, there are many others alike):
So, this group is discouraging kids from talking openly about sex? That's EXACTLY what we need! Denial! Then again, that's always been the conservative religious way, hasn't it?
Where's the denial? Where's the religion? If you need to talk about sex, there are many opportunities, there's a lot of information easily reachable. The group doesn't forbid anything to anyone, it just offers something different.

Allergy to God is everywhere. However, I believe it's easy to cure.

22 January 2008

Bruce Schneier facts

You've all heard the Chuck Norris facts and you're all fed up with them. I recently came across
Bruce Schneier Facts. They're all crypto-related and I've spent hours browsing them.
Here are my favourites:

Bruce Schneier puts the "cry" in "cryptography"

Bruce Schneier uses a different salt for his soup every day.

When Bruce Schneier counts, you can't predict the next number he's going to say.

When Bruce Schneier uses double ROT13 encryption, the ciphertext is totally unbreakable.

Bruce Schneier isn't saying what you think he's saying.

Bruce Schneier mounts chosen-ciphertext attacks without choosing the ciphertext.

Bruce Schneier shaves with Occam's razor.
"Who's this Bruce Schneier anyway?" you might ask. He's a cryptographer and he owns a blog about security. His most famous book is Applied Cryptography, which of course, is on my bookshelf. (Although it's not mine but my friend's, but I'm buying my own as soon as she wishes it back.)

21 January 2008

4:51 a.m. on a Monday

It's 4:51 a.m. ... My Dad is going wake up soon. Then my brothers. I hope I will be in bed by then.
It's dark and quiet, but I'm listening to loud music not to fall asleep. My back hurts. So do my wrists. They never did, but there is a start to everything.
Most importantly, my kernel patch is ready. I just have to do some testing and I can go to bed.

I'm gonna sleep as hard as I can with my new friend Insomnia. And then I don't know what I'm gonna do. Not much anyway. I just stole this day and used it tonight to complete my project.

18 January 2008

On my wishlist: a ball pit

I'm not easily influenced by ads. I'm also not the kind of person who wants something because everyone around has it. However, when geeks around have it and document it with pictures like these: ...I want it!
The Last.fm geeks have it. The xkcd geeks have it (that's their picture). I have to have it!
I've only been in a small one as a kid and it was already too small for me. Time to get [into] a big real one!

Geek goes to school

I went to school yesterday. That's a big event now, last time I set foot there was 8 days earlier (and only for two hours). It was cool, I got a nice break from kernel hacking. Instead, I was chillin' with the guys (I had semantics and operating systems and I'm the only girl in both classes) and talking about partying and movies and games... Nah, I'm fooling you. What do you honestly think we were talking about?

I learned a few useful things at school, like the fact that the number of major page faults is indeed in the task_struct (click here for exclusive information!) and that the semantics teacher still doesn't want to teach us about program verification. Why would he? The verification assignement was due that day and everyone did it somehow. Oh yeah, and I learned how to do the verification assignement on a short trip to the computer lab and did it too. See kids how useful going to school is?

Going to school has also some major disadvantages. My coffee milk got kindly donated to Fifa. Two classes strategically planned can take the whole day (2-6p.m. but I had to get there two hours earlier to do some administrative stuff, getting there takes an hour...) and I'm still tired. Still, it was a nice break from kernel hacking, but now I'm back to it.

16 January 2008

Webdesign: wavy underlined links

When I first saw the wavy border in CSS3, I was really excited and couldn't wait. But, the same applied to rounded corners. A year later, still not much CSS3 support, and rounded corners are everywhere (even here! though I didn't make these myself). By the time most people will have browsers tha support CSS3, rounded corners will be totally out. So, I decided I wouldn't wait and do wavy underlined links right now.
I used this image as a background for my links and obtained the following effect on embrion.pl:
Today, I ran across LaurenConrad.com and noticed that the same idea has been used:
Very pretty. But I wonder if this effect was intented:
I don't think the images should be underlined. Seems like someone hasn't paid attention to classes. Worse yet, no contact with the webmaster (hello usability!) and the menu uses Flash. I don't approve of Flash at all, and if you're using it for stuff that could easily be done with CSS and JavaScript and only make the site a little less fancy for users with no JS, you're dead.
Anyway, I'm going from one subject to another again, Lauren's site looks good anyway, and I was talking about wavy underlined links and how much I like them and how they were my idea (do you think echomusic copied from me?).
I wonder what the next rounded corners will be.

15 January 2008

You know you do it too much (again!) when...

These days, I'm only sitting at home, mainly browsing http://lxr.linux.no/linux+v2.6.17.13/ in order to find out how to write my prefetching kernel patch and typing a bit. Anyway, kernel hacking all the time.
All the time is too much. It's not right. It's not sane. And you know it when you feel the urge to try this:

/usr/bin/time halt
(The first command measures how long the second one is execuded, and the second one shuts the system down.)
Here's the result:
Broadcast message from root@ubuntu
(/dev/pts/0) at 14:29 ...

The system is going down for halt NOW!
0.00user 0.00system 0:00.05elapsed 16%CPU (0avgtext+0avgdata 0maxresident)k
0inputs+0outputs (2major+379minor)pagefaults 0swaps
Well, I guess this means /usr/bin/time behaves right when it gets a kill signal. But what does it say about my behaviour? (I don't think I wanna know...)

13 January 2008

Just a little security reminder

I hope most of you, dear readers, don't need to be reminded to double-check every e-mail that asks you to update your account information, especially from sites like eBay or PayPal. But I got a spoof today and I just wanna make fun of it.
Imagine that, from service@paypal.com:

Activate Your Account!
Update Your Information,
To complete your PayPal account, you must click the link below and enter your password on the following page to confirm your email address.
Plus such useful security tips:
Protect Your Account Info
Make sure you never provide your password to
fraudulent websites.

To safely and securely access the PayPal
website or your account, open a new web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer or
Netscape) and type in the PayPal URL (https://www.paypal.com/us/) to be sure you are on the real
PayPal site.

PayPal will never ask you to enter your password in
an email.

For more information on protecting yourself from
fraud, please review our Security Tips at https://www.paypal.com/us/securitytips
Whoah. Too bad my e-mail account wasn't the PayPal one. And the links didn't lead to PayPal.com. And once it says to activate your account, and once to update your billing information. But, to wipe my tears, I just got another e-mail from the real PayPal:
Thanks for taking an active role by reporting suspicious-looking emails.
The email you forwarded to us is a phishing email, and our security team
is working to disable it.
So guys, be careful, we don't wanna end up like this guy from bash:
Ben174: fuckin paypal.. they need new databases or something.. seems like every other day i get an email and have to go update my account information.

12 January 2008

Geek busy again

I'm really busy again and I'm afraid you won't see much relevant content anytime soon here.
This time, I'm working on a kernel patch that does some prefetching. I hope I'll finish this assignment in time and won't have to fix it in March. It's due next Monday and I'm already tired. It's no good when you find solitaire interesting. It's much worse when you wanna switch places with Britney Spears because she doesn't have the operating systems class. I know she's double-divorced, her kids have been taken from her, photographers follow her all the time, she's addicted to smoking, she has family issues, her mental health is questionable, but at the moment, I claim she doesn't know her luck.
Wait, didn't I say I was happy, I wanted this myself and stuff? I still do, but the end of the semester is coming and I'm really tired of it, and my health issues (which I didn't exactly ask for and don't make me as happy as compiling the Linux kernel) don't really help.

10 January 2008

What geeks do according to xkcd

My bro sent me a link to xkcd yesterday. It's a great comic site and describes geeks really accurately.
First, what does xcfd mean?
1. My boyfriend did it a few days ago, but to the left.
2. I did it with my boyfriend a few days ago (the phone was next to his glasses). I did it with a friend recently... I don't think that's really geek though. Normal people do it too.
3. I'd never do that. That's sick.
4. I did that a lot when I was a kid. I've moved on to bigger and geekier things.
Here are some social issues geeks face. Oh, how well I can relate!
[Source, source]
These illustrate the science obsession well. Really true.
Yep, I've caught myself thinking about math in romantic situations. That's why I only date geeks - then we can talk about it together. [Source]
Factoring time, I've never done it. But when you leave your coat at school, you can always hear a "Hey, mine's prime!". I always factor the number I get. [Source]
Geek on Wiki:
That's totally an everyday situation. [Source]
This one is really funny:
I've caught myself fantasising about SQL injection a lot recently. Too bad it's mean and illegal. [Source]

07 January 2008

Other bloggers: "Young people who rock"

I ran across an awesome blog today: "Young people who rock". It's so inspirational! A girl (Jen MacNeil) who tries a new thing everyday for a year, teen AIDS activists, a 11-year-old fencing champ, a guy who went to Lebanon and Iran to interview Hezbollah members at McDonald's... WOW!
Not all stories inspire me equally, of course. For example, Isha Jain, a science geek:

In the fifth grade, she started a math camp. By sixth grade, Jain was breezing through college-level work and trigonometry classes. When she was in the eighth grade, she aced advanced calculus. Her taste for science started at 9 when she created a paradigm to explain the molecular structure of candy.
Great. Respect. But, does it inspire you? Most of us are not half that talented (I am definitely not), plus, you won't turn back time. But most of all, things you achieve at such a young age really depends on how your parents raise you, how your teachers support you and things of the kind. I was always told to have good grades and never learned for my own curiosity. Don't get me wrong, I've got loads of respect for Isha, but I'm just not inspired. I can't follow her example.
Brittany and Robbie Bergquist, however, inspire me a lot. They started a thing called "cell phones for soldiers". That's how it works:
People donate their old phones to the teens. They came up with the idea to sell them to a recycler for $5 and use the money to buy calling cards. Since they started three years ago, the pair has raised more than $1 million in donations and sent 400,000 minutes to troops. They hope to increase that amount nearly tenfold in the next five years so that more soldiers can call and say, "Hey, Mom."
That's my favourite kind of help: you start with few, people contribute few, but in the end you can give so much! Plus, the kids started it at 12 and 13, they just had an awesome idea! Anyone can do that! (Just find the good idea... think!)
A similar example: Rebecca Kousky, the founder of a non-profit organization called Nest that helps women all around the world create their own security.
Nest offers micro-finance loans to women from India to Israel. Female designers and artists worldwide come to Nest for small loans to help them with their businesses typically involving the fabrication and sale of goods like jewelry, pottery or clothes. In return for the loan, the artists have the option of paying back the loan in cash or with their product which is then featured on Nest's online shopping site, buildanest.com.
Again, you give few (50$), and someone gets so much!
Another one (man, they're all great!): Matthew and Emily Leinwand, two kids collecting crayons for kids in hospitals. If kids can help so much, co can we!

05 January 2008

My Dad found a new star!

My Dad has this detector designed for continuous observation of night sky looking for optical flashes of astrophysical origin called "Pi of the Sky" and he recently found a new celestial object! Check the publication here or the news in polish here for more information.

04 January 2008

On my wishlist: " Ballet Conditioning by Element" DVD

I just saw this today on fitsugar and instatly started wishing for it. The reviews on Amazon are extremely encouraging. Besides, I've always loved ballet but never had the chance to practice it (expect learning some stuff from a book as a kid, but how much dancing can you learn from a book?). And man, 9$, that's so affordable (well, not for me at the moment, my budget really says "student budget" right now). I think that would be a wonderful change from yoga in spring or summer.

03 January 2008

What [not] to watch: Memento vs. A Beautiful Mind

Wow, "A Beautiful Mind" wins on Google Fight! I'm very surprised as it's an English title, but maybe Google Fight is limited to sites in English? Anyway, that's not my point. My point is that the Geek Chick loves both movies, however, not equally.
"A Beautiful Mind" is a really wonderful movie about how a mathematician and his wife deal with his schizophrenia. It's true (both based on facts and realistic) and constructive, he really deals with the illness and achieves a lot.
And old friend (a mathematician, those really dominate among my friends, I wonder why) recommended me "Memento" and I got to see it on New Year's Eve. I was expecting another Beautiful Mind about amnesia and I learned a lesson about reading some reviews before assuming anything about a movie because seen that way, it was quite disappointing. It's a good, original, kinda make-you-think-about-life movie, but relating it to reality doesn't really work and the amnesia in the movie isn't 100% realistic.
The best thing about both movies is that they really put you in the shoes of the protagonist. You get to see how it feels to see things that don't exist or to forget everything. The tensions isn't bad either. The acting is excellent. The rating on Rotten Tomato (because my taste in movies is still really immature) is impressing.
Any film producer run out of ideas on board? I'd really love to see a mix of the two: a movie as realistic and educative as the first one and about amnesia like the second one.

02 January 2008

Your blog alone is not enough

I grew very fond of blogging and just started a second blog: "Lila loves yoga". It's more personal, intented to keep track of my yoga progress and not really share something new with the world, but if you find interesting, it's cool. Can't wait to find a bit of free time and style it nicely.
I also started a Picassa Web album and loaded loads of pictures of my private life. It's here.

01 January 2008

New year's resolutions

I never believed in new year's resolutions. Why wait for the 1st of January when you've got a good idea about changing your life for better? Or what good ever came from the cliche resolutions like "loos weight" (but how much and how?), "exercise more" (again, how?) or "improve my English"?
Whenever I get an improvement idea, I'll make a resolution or I'll forget it forever. I wrote about reading more just a few days ago. On the other hand, I also have a "it would be great to..." list which contains for example volunteering and getting a job, which, well, would be good, but school keeps me too busy at the moment.
This year however, I've been surfing on more motivational sites and right now, there are plenty of resolution ideas running around. So most probably, I'm gonna have some 2nd or 3rd January resolutions.
I set up an account on Joe's Goals to keep track of my goals. I don't really have problems with my willpower, still writing your achievements down always helps. I used to do it on a Gnumeric spreadsheet, but Joe's Goals is nicer, simpler and goal-oriented.
So what's on my list? Eating right, ab workout and yoga. Reading a bit of a book. Socializing (cause I'm a freaky geek glued to the computer). Amazing how "socializing" and "updating the damn blog" are popular, by the way. And last but not least, my only new year's resolution so far:

Read some lyrics.
I know, sounds weird. I'm a lyric-oriented songwriter and still, I don't read much lyrics. Most of the time, unless you gimme the plastic disc with the paper booklet, I will listen to a song 1000 times, get bored and never search for the lyrics. This happens to music I get from people, like the entire White Stripes discography I got from my boyfriend.
Here's another funny idea from persistenceunlimited.com:
One push-up a day.
Sounds weird? "Now let me ask you question. How many push-ups did you do last year? Was it less or more than 365?" Well, in my case, it was something around 4. No that I care about push-ups when I got my dear yoga, but that's not the point. The point is that the "one a day" method can be better than many others.
I'm looking for some more resolution ideas.