april, 2003

Tue Apr 1 17:48:50 EST 2003

Argh! Systran beat me to my thesis. Half the motivation behind looking at nominal compounds in German from a computational standpoint was sure, to dick around with Perl and encode some syntactic rules in discrete ways, but the other half was that when you would type a sentence with a compound in it, Babelfish would barf. And now it doesn't! Bastards. I want their algorithm, if only for comparison purposes.

And while I'm at it, why don't I just go ahead and skewer all of NLP? What is their problem?? Why is AI with respect to natural language still hung up on searches, back where any self-respecting branch of AI was in the 1950's? Why are we using stochastic methods, or even trying to encode human concepts of linguistics? The most you can ever hope for with such an approach is a system that performs in the high nineties, but will by definition not be intelligent. Intelligence is not even the goal here -- it's the Turing Test gone awry, parlor tricks all over academia as computer scientists try to make better and better stemming algorithms, encoding the entire lexicon as a trie or the entire grammar as a finite state automaton. Interesting from an academic standpoint, for a few minutes (or, if you're me, semesters -- and you write a thesis on it)? -- yes. A valid continued approach to the AI-complete problem of natural language? -- no fucking way!

Fear! Uncertainty! Doubt!


And what I said yesterday about caffeine not negatively affecting me? A lie. I'm so dependent. My first cup of black tea this afternoon was the first semifunctional hour I've had today. I might cave and have coffee with dinner, so I can be productive this evening. Write it off as a college thing (which I won't have the luxury to do much longer!) -- I need to work, and caffeine helps me work ... therefore, coffee it is, as long as I can sleep at night and am not too tired without it.

Sun Apr 6 12:20:01 EDT 2003

We just lost an hour today. But we lose hours all the time. Yesterday, for example, staring at problem 5.4.2 of the Theory of Computation homework -- It's decidable. Okay, so how do we prove it? ... Maybe it's undecidable. So then how can we use it to solve the halting problem? -- the belltower tolling the quarter-hours like seconds, we accomplished nothing in what was apparently two hours.

The loss of an hour isn't much, but it will likely throw me off a bit today. Like the jetlag will in four days. But in each case -- oh, so worth it! -- an extra hour of sunlight; Paris!

Wed Apr 9 24:59:07 EDT 2003

It's funny how we expand to fit our surroundings, or at least I do mine. I got a pink purse this afternoon (and am feeling very girly for it!), and in the process of transferring from my orange bag (decrepit, much loved, and still for use -- just not to haul around Paris) to the smaller pink one, I realize how much space I've been living in. It's really a question of inhabiting the bag ... where what goes, how a certain pocket accumulates teabags, a spoon, and a digital camera. I never liked my old backpack because I never moved into it the way I wanted ... I think that was because it didn't contain me the way I liked.

me and mike playing with C,
assembly, and webcams

Mike and I were up till six last night, writing video processing in assembly and C and drinking my Tia Maria and gin. Tonight I'm finishing this draft of my thesis, and then sending it off to my advisors, before I leave for Paris tomorrow afternoon. Trying (inadvertently, albeit) to throw off my rhythms enough that I won't be too jetlagged once I get over there. I hope. But even if I am, at least I'll have a cute purse!

Tue Apr 14 09:38:45 EDT 2003

Charles de Gaulle, Paris

The less foreign the language, the more I like Europe. His French is no better than mine -- both rusty -- though he uses it more frequently. For once on a linguistic par. Specifically, the less foreign it is ... suppose that also comes with repeated exposure. And repeated Leffes.

He drinks blanches in Paris. I found the Belgian Leffe on tap and had to restrain myself from drinking it for breakfast. The six pains au chocolat (4 for him; 2 for me) and two bowls (Claire, you're vindicated about your cappucino mug size preferences!) of café au lait (so good I take no sugar), chez le Cliquelicot down the rue from the Hôtel Bonséjour for two mornings in a row were more than enough petit déjeuner. Usually supplemented by some kind of crêpe (au marron; oeuf et fromage) and/or a Leffe/blanche a few hours afterwards, and a martini/Lillet/pastisse a few after that.

It wasn't quite as far west as the Pont Mirabeau that we broke up -- more along the lines of Pont Neuf -- and a good thing, too, or I would have screamed with Apollinairian irony (Sous le Pont Mirabeau / coule la Seine / et nos amours / faut-il qu'il m'en souvienne / la joie venait toujours après la peine). Not quite my ideal of a romantic weekend -- though the flowers were out, and leaves on the trees, the weather ensoleillé and beautiful -- I paraded around in my pink dress and got a pink scarf à la parisienne to go with.

Watching les bateaux mouches go by, I finally remembered the word for tissue (mouchoir), and he went looking for some for me.

Fucking hell. I guess some things never really change -- or at least the circumstances have not been altered enough. It's completely circumstantial, situational -- and it just so happens that the circumstances involve 4000 miles of distance and not enough space. Ironic. I'm almost laughing.

The cheese is amazing. Being végétairienne in Paris might cramp some's style, but those assiettes de fromage (avec du vin blanc, bien sûr) could keep me going for a while.

Didn't get a chance to wander into some coiffeuse and chop my hair all French (too busy breaking up and drinking beer on Saturday). Next time.

I hate the circumstances. I most hate that I understand, and that he's right.

Thu Apr 17 24:28:50 EDT 2003

One of my favorite things about this campus is the springtime, no matter how unseasonably cold or seasonally stressful (they say April is the cruelest month) it is -- the magnolias and dogwood in blossom; things I didn't even know were alive turning pink. But recently, the petals have been beginning to fall, making way for the leaf-buds slowly replacing them. A carpet of magnolia petals is wilting beneath the tree next to Sproul.

It's very similar, in a way, to the second movement of Beethoven 7 as I've always perceived it, in orchestra tonight different -- leaf subsiding to leaf; the hocket and counterpoint to which the initial viola melody (so rare!) subsides after two iterations.

I've always loved the leaves and the counterpoint, but I've never seen past the first twenty or thirty bars. Maybe, what with recent events, it's time to go with the flow of the seasons. I'm not saying so Eden sank to grief, just that I will enjoy the leaves, and roll with the seasons as they come.

Sat Apr 26 18:25:06 EDT 2003

I think it's the big-fish-small-pond mentality that's kept me playing viola at Swat all these years -- certainly this one. It's a kind of pessimistic view of things, but the problem is I'm good enough to know that I'm not good enough. I played David January's Canon for Viola and Piano at his senior composition recital yesterday afternoon; Ravel's Piano Concerto and Beethoven 7 at the orchestra concert last night (which was excellent -- Daniel took my tempi for the Beethoven, removing the fast lead bat we've been rehearsing with, and it clicked into place. I love that piece). I no longer get nerves the way I have, but perhaps that's due to less practicing, and a general can-do attitude. The double stops were fine, the intonation mostly on -- but it's clear to anyone in the audience who was listening that I'm taking five academic credits this semester, and did last, too.

My sound card's still not working. When I called Hollis at Underhill the other day and heard Fauré's songs in the background, and while playing these concerts these days, I realize how much I need the music. It's a blood-level thing, like caffeine for some. And between not playing as much as I have, and a broken sound card interface, I've gotten less of it. Finally hooked up my speakers to my discman, and now Cerberus Shoal Mr. Boy Dog is echoing through them (skipping with every thud of my coffee mug or my data structures textbook (reviewing for an Amazon interview Monday)), the melodic pizzicato like the three-four-in-six second movement of the Ravel, through which I cried in Thursday night's rehearsal -- a Parisian organ grinder, this café au lait from Borders that I'm drinking, pretending it's French.

all this ©nori heikkinen, April 2003

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