It occurs to me that the computer science community could do more to get its message across to young people, to encourage them to study. With this in mind, I have composed a song in the popular style known as "rap" designed to entertain but also to educate on some key CS concepts. I like to call it...

Smash the polynomial hierarchy!

I got the P! I got the NP!
Yeah, you know me!
I got coNP! I got BPP!
Got them all, don't you see...

Give me space! Give me logspace
Gonna take my place, gonna play my ace,
My AC0, gonna be a hero
People think I'm so bizarre, see
Gonna smash the polynomial hierarchy!

My warring machine is a Turing machine,
Recoil in horror y'all when you see my oracle
And call for your momma, yeah, when you meet my automata
Don't get mean, and don't you get snarky
But I smashed the polynomial hierarchy

Take any 3SAT, I spit it right back
Word to my homies all, it's polynomial
Me always in P-time, committing no crime
I steal RSA like it was your car keys
'Cause I smashed the polynomial hierarchy

I got the P! It equals NP!
I ain't on PCP!
I got RPP, all of NPC!
Million bucks be comin' to me

Stephen Cook better rewrite the book
C, L and R S attend my classes
And Michael Sipser can start calling me sir
Chris Papadimitriou can worship at my feet, yo
...don't you be calling me Aho, I ain't no ho...
[repeat to fade]

It's a work in progress, but what do you expect for 30 minutes work?

Readers Questions

Just a few new queries pouring from the great unwashed.

Firstly, "lays crisps "available in the UK""
To which I can only reply, "Why?". Lay's crisps, for the uninitiated, are basically US boring crisps (to be fair, all crisps in the US are boring; no monster munch, no quavers, no frazzles etc.). They are especially boring: they're like Walker's Ready Salted but without the character. So, if you are looking for lays crisps in the UK -- if you must, then just get some own-brand ready salted, and if you stand the raise in excitement, then they should do the trick. Else, explore, and discover some of the wondrous crisp varieties that the UK has to offer (skips! wotsits! turkey twizzlers!). Find out why the UK is the evil snack capital of the world.

Nextly, "Lord of the Rings: an allegory of the PhD?" Yes it is. Next!

"tim westwood idiot" You might very well think that.

As I recall, it was 1997 or 98, and Tim Westwood was playing at the end of year festivities in a tent. One end of the tent was raised microscopically off the floor, towards where TW was doing whatever it was he was doing. I went over to investigate. A burly bloke from the Westwood entourage impeded my progress, "Sorry mate, the stage is for ladies only". I fell about laughing so much that I was unable to protest the idiocy of this comment.


I see you baby...


This URL turned up in my referrer logs. Picking it apart, it appears to be part of an automated system to find everyone who links to Richard Herring.com. Very clever, Mr Sedgebeer, very clever.


Imitation of Life

Ask Jeeves blog imitates the Google and their weblog.

Insert appropriate comment about other search engines copying everything Google does, including rather having tedious and unamusing weblog entries. Oh well, my fault for reading it, I suppose.


Hacking Reality

EDIT In response to a large number of hits this entry is generating, I'm editing it somewhat to make it less obtrusively fatuous and to move the relevant information nearer to the top.

I was just checking my credit card account on the internet, and I noticed a charge for $29.99 for www.webartoffer.net. Now, I've never heard of webartoffer, and their website appears to be down. A cached copy on yahoo.com doesn't ring any bells. So I called the credit card company and they cancelled the charge. I'm a little concerned that someone may have pilfered my card number, although a much more likely explanation is the generic catchall of "computer error" (ie someone typed the wrong number into a computer). So I'm posting this here in case anyone else gets a mysterious charge from these folks and looks them up, since nothing turns up on google about them. And I'll be watching my credit card statements like a hawk from now on in case any more spurious charges pop up.

Update 20th April 2005
The website has been up most of the time (along with some quite shockingly bad embedded sounds) since I've posted this, and there's no mention of this on their website (it seems quite plausible that the charges have nothing to do with the company, but are just something plausible pasted on the credit card statement to look innocuous; I don't know how merchants verify their details when they post information about the source of the charge). I'm tempted to give them a call later and see if they have any official line on this since there have been several comments and websearches using the "web art offer" or "webartoffer" keywords. The charge has been re-credited to my credit card account, but I'm still wary and confused about exactly what happened.

Hmm, curiously the company does sell templates for $29.99 and $19.99, figures which are mentioned in the comments.

The original post is mostly irrelevant to the rest of this, and went as follows:

I am a l33t hacker. Not only do I pwn teh internet, I also pwn teh reality. Let me give a demonstration of how this is the case.

I enjoy doing xwords. In particular I quite enjoy doing the cryptic crosswords in The Atlantic Monthly. These used to be freely available on the website, but as of a few months ago, they have pushed everything behind a login screen which only subscribers can access. I didn't particularly want to pay up for this, so I looked into ways I could hack the system. All my attempts to bypass the high tech security system were frustrated by prime numbers, so instead I found a way to beat the system through reality.

I went to my local library, where they had a copy of the magazine. I took it to the photocopier, photocopied the puzzle from the magazine, returned the magazine to the shelf and took the copy home. Pwned! I have just completed the puzzle, and a very satisfying feeling it is too.

Lastly, on a completely unrelated note, [stuff about webartoffer]

As I believe I may have mentioned earlier, I pwn teh reality. But no one tries to pwn me and gets away with it. Feer me!



More new episodes of Doctor Who leaked onto the internet. Story by Roland Jimlad.

Yet more previously unseen episods of Doctor Who have been released on the internet in the last few hours. However, these episodes are titled "The New New Doctor Who... and Scrappy Who, Too!". They feature Charlie from Busted as the Doctor, and his assistanct Scrappy Who is played by an older looking Lil' Bow-Wow. Most intriguigingly of all, these episodes have a production date of 2015, suggesting that they have somehow been sent back in time.

A spokesman for the RIAA commented, "This just goes to show quite how wiley these internet pirates are. They will break any laws, including the laws of physics, to distribute their illicit materials. These Scurvy dogs must be keel-hauled, R. Jimlad!". However, the evidence points to a different culprit: the Doctor's nemesis the Master. A BBC drone explained that this was because all the videos were marked with the phrase "Master Copy", identifying the leaker.

Pizza The Action

Just a quick belated observation. The now much repeated Richard Herring yoghurt incident actually happened to me a couple of months beforehand. Look, here's the proof. It's time-stamped and everything so it must be true.

So, Herring, stop having my life experiences. I have precious few as it is, so I can't go on with you nicking them.



Oh, and for what it's worth (and for those to whom this means anything), rjy is updating again, and rlh is getting married (again). oh, and cars -- brm, brm.

probably only njob will get all these references. Come on people, do some more things so I can put in more cryptic, if not to say incomprehensible, references.

More lolly!

Second batch of catch-up lolly stick postings. There may be some more repeats here, but I don't care. The next few all have a household appliance motif going on:

What kind of license does a refrigerator have?
A license to chill.

Note that this uses the usual American spelling of "licence". Unless I can't spell either. Either this is a speculative rumination on the future impact of the Kyoto protocol, where carbon emissions and so on get pushed fown to th emicro level, and every appliance that we buy has to trade its emissions for money, or else it's just a crap pun on "licence to kill", which doesn't make sense. At the very least, you could make some reference to Bond, like "What kind of licence does James Bond's refrigerator" have. Or the Beastie Boys. Or something.

What washes up on really small beaches?

Another canny environmentally aware comment on the growing problem of oven slicks, where ships containing large number of microwave ovens suffer a hull breach, and their contents wash up on the nearby coastline, causing severe harm to local wildlife (mostly seagulls) that end up getting turned into crispy fried duck. Not sure why the qualification "really small" is needed though.

And, lastly:

What gets colder as it warms up?
An air conditioner.

Which shows a basic lacking of understanding of thermodynamics.

A grab bag of whatever I feel like writing till I stop

Much to my surprise, Black Box Recorder seem not to have recorded a cover version of "Is that all there is?", the Peggy Lee song known to some as "the most depressing pop song ever". Somehow, I was sure that they had, and was looking for my copy of it to listen to before I realized that they don't seem to have recorded it after all. I'm probably just thinking of "Child Psychology", which is basically the same song. In addition, seek out their cover versions of "Seasons in the Sun" and "Uptown top Ranking".

I felt strangely drained at the end of last week. Finally I worked out the reason: I had been in my office everyday between Monday and Friday. Since starting this job about 6 months ago, I'm not sure if I've done this before. So, no wonder I'm tired. In explanation, I should explain that usually I like to work from home one day a week, or go to visit someone in NYC or NB to work. Still, weird to go to the same place five days in a row. I need more variety in my life.

I was having a conversation with a co-worker about the database luminaries, Codd and Date. I stated that one was dead, while the other still survives. I suggested that Date had passed on, but he corrected me: "No! Codd is dead". I pointed out that he sounded rather like Kant, but I don't think he got my point. Am I the only person to find this amusing? That's a rhetorical question.

More lolly stick jokes in a moment, but they require their own post.




One for the computer-heads: (requires RealPlayer or similar abominations)
Listen here


Who reads heat? And Alice Sebold as well, it would appear.  Posted by Hello


Probably NSFW

This is what you get for searching for yourself...

101, eh? That's good to know.


A very much overdue lolly stick update, but I start with a depressing discovery. I have a stck of about a dozen used lolly sticks, and I needed to know which ones I have done already. So I entered one of them into google to see if one of my pages would come up and discovered this abhorrence. (note for the uninitiated: popsicle is american for male genitalia). Somehow this page seems to make my amateur efforts quite unnecessary, but I will press on.

Anyway, to make my task easier, I will split this task into pieces, and just do a few thematically linked ones per update. Firstly, see if you can spot the link between the following:

(from last July)
What kind of phone does a turtle have?
A shell-ular phone

What do you call a flying turtle?

Why wouldn't the oyster give anyone his pearl?
He was shellfish.

Now, what links these jokes together? Apart from the fact that they are all rubbish? Yes, they all involve crap puns on the word "shell". I can't help thinking that the author of all these jokes is getting lazy, and is just churning them out one after another all based around the same idea. Such as,

What does a turtle wrap its sandwiches in?

How does a turtle greet its friends?
By saying "shell-o"

What is a turtle's favourite pachyderm?
A shellephant.

And so on.

Actually, if I were a turtle, I think I would get quite incensed by this constant stream of crap jokes. The implication is that all turtles are obsessed and completely preoccupied with anything remotely sounding like the word "shell". Which is a bit pathetic really. I mean, I am a human, but that doesn't mean that I am completely obsessed with everything that sounds a bit like "human". such as... er... Gary Numan. And, while I think about it, wasn't there a lolly stick joke some time back about "what kind of phone does a witch have? --- a spell phone"? I think I detect another incredibly lazy trend here. Fill in the following:

What kind of phone does a skunk have...
What kind of phone does the devil have...
What kind of phone does the popular fell walker, Wainwright, have...

and so on. Honestly. This is rubbish.

Expect more of the same next update.


Memory feats

In my life I've forgotten more things than I care to remember. So, as an exercise last night, I tried to recollect the names of all my form teachers from age five to eighteen. Here is how far I got:

--Infant School
Mrs Jeffries
Mrs ??Linton-Smith
--Junior School
1Cr Mrs Crockett
2Ld Mr Lloyd
3Pa Mrs Patience
4Ti Mrs Titmus
--Secondary School
1MT Mr ???
2JF Mr Jeffries
--Grammar School
3Hd Dr Haddock
10Cd Miss Clifford
11Bn Mr Brown
12Rn/13Rn Mr Richardson

For some reason, the most recent ones were the hardest to remember (at least, the form names are; I could never forget the peculiar character of Mr Richardson himself).

That's it. This is a fun game that you can play yourself at home. Hours of fun for all the family. Not suitable for children under the age of five. Obviously.

Deja Lu

The strange feeling that you have read something before. I experienced a very strong sense of deja lu recently, when I started reading a new book by a favourite author. It seemed very, very strongly familiar, yet I was certain that I had not read this particular book before. As I got further into the book, the familiarity went away.

What was going on? Had I somehow picked up this book before, read the first chapter, and then put it down again?

It took me a while to work out what had happened, but then I realised: a previous book by the same author that I had read must have done that thing where they print the first chapter from a recent novel by the same author at the end. The real giveaway was that this book then had a chapter from a more recent book by the same author, etc., ad infinitum.

When I was a kid, I was always confused by the Hardy boys books. At the end of each book, the last sentence would be something like, "But adventure did seek out the Hardy boys again, when they encountered 'The Secret of Smugglers' Cove'". This always puzzled me. At the end of the first book, there was a pointer to the second book. And at the end of the second book there was a pointer to the third book. And so on. To my tiny child mind, it seemed impossible to publish the first book until the very last book had been written, since the completion of each book was predicated on the completion of the next. Eventually I solved this problem as well: the Hardy boys books were tedious, repetitive, mass-produced and ghostwritten crap, and so I stopped reading them.



"I'll stick with a four".

Why? There's FLAUNTS in there, for an easy seven. Must be some other good words in there. UNCLASP, too. It must be a fake then.

No, I won't tell you what I'm talking about. Should be enough information from those two clues for you to work it out.