When are the Oscars?

Is there something wrong with my machine, or are the Academy Award-givers unable to count? When I visited oscar.com, the countdown clock tells me that there are 31 days and and 21 hours until oscar night. It's currently sunday. The oscars are held on a sunday. Shouldn't this be (one less than) a multiple of seven -- in particular shouldn't it be about 34 days? And what are they doing, starting at 4 in the afternoon?

I'm sure they will fix this as soon as they read it, so check it out now before it's too late. WARNING: Oscar site contains some truly horrible flash, including a video that starts playing with sound on, whether you want it to or not.



Your spoonerism for the day:

Chai Tea

Should be good for any crossword compilers out there.

Talking of which, the latest edition of the Atlantic Monthly warns me that "the puzzler" (Cox and Rathvon's decennial(?) cryptic crossword) will no longer be available in the magazine, and you'll have to go to their website to get it. Except that everything on the website is locked down behind an impenetrable barrier, requiring a subscription to access [OK then, not strictly impenetrable, but you gather my meaning]. Thus my carefully constructed plan to get the crossword, (see this old post that details the method in full) will no longer work. What am I to do? I don't really want to subscribe just to get access to the puzzle (since I can never be bothered reading the rest of the magazine) -- that would set me back about $2.50 per puzzle. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind paying a nominal fee just for the puzzle---$0.50 to $1 say--- since I probably get that much value from it. But TheAtlantic has no facility for micropayments for a single article as yet (EDIT: this is of course total garbage as even a tiny amount of research would demonstrate. In fact they do allow complete access to their archives for a fee schedule; unfortunately, this is no help at all. Either I have to pay $2.95 for each puzzle as it comes out, or else time my accesses carefully and buy them in blocks of five for $1.19 each, which is not ideal since it severly affects the regular stream of new puzzles). So what am I to do? I might just have to wait till march and see if things improve at all by then.

Still, it could be worse: at least Private Eye still has the full crossword online, even as the rest of the magazine sinks deeper behind a subscriber only barrier.


Today's special

I give you "I predict a fry-up" by the Kaiser Chefs (which jumped into my head unbidden this morning). Now all I need is a wannabe morning show DJ to fill in the rest.


A new kind of spam...

I received a message today with the following title

"Subject: Request for an opprtunity to work with you"

and the first line

"I, the undersigned, am furnishing my resume along with this letter."

Spam, surely? No, actually an entirely serious and reasonable request to work with me over summer. Of course, I have no resources with which to support such a request, and so the most I can do was politely decline, and file the message somewhere deep within my hierarchy of folders. But given the antiquated state of my anti-spam system (which is me reading the messages and deciding which ones to delete, after processing through some very crude procmail filters), it could so easily have been deleted without reading it. Which would have been unfortunate, since the net effect is the same, I still like to give every genuine message to me its proper attention. Paf.


Stoopid Monkey

I've recently noticed that the "...for Dummies" range has experienced a fairly significant amount of brand extension. Remember when it was just computer software, like "Excel for Dummies" and so on? Then they branched out into all manner of things, such as "Buying a home for Dummies", and "Cat care for dummies". But lately it seems to have gone a bit far... I was in a bookstore this weekend and saw "Breast Cancer for Dummies". Really?

Of course, nothing compares to the ambiguously titled "Building a website for Dummies".



Why does IE suck so much at rendering animated GIFs? I was browsing that latest of the twisted mr sheep's efforts through Avant, which is a relatively sensible wrapper around the IE rendering engine, and it almost choked. I loaded the same page in Firefox, and it worked fine. Of course, I use Opera for my serious browsing, but now I'm wondering if I should remove all traces of I.E. from my system (and also wondering why I didn't do this years ago).


Damned by faint criticism

Possibly the lamest indictment of MSWord I've yet seen:

"What I hate about this WYSIWYG word processor is that it doesn't display other people's documents the way *I* want them to be displayed."

By the way, here is how I deal with word documents:

cat wasteoftime.doc | strings | less
rm wasteoftime.doc

Easy, huh?


Astonishingly bland joke!

Hey, I've just seen the most tediously bland joke ever!

pdflatex and letter paper

One of the slight irritations in my life was getting pdflatex to output on US letter paper. For some reason, whatever I did, setting [letterpaper] options in the documentclass settings, trying to edit the pdf configuration files and so on, I didn't seem to have much luck. Eventually I found a fix: putting the lines

in the preamble seemed to work, but seemed a bit clunky.

Then today, I found a new fix: putting
in the preamble seems to fix the paper size. I have no idea why. In the event, I seem to have this line in a lot of tex files I write since it's used to include graphics. That explains why it's only in a few cases that I've struggled with this problem. It's funny, in all the searching I've done for this problem, I've never seen anyone suggest this solution, so I'll post this here on the offchance that it helps someone else. Or rather, for next time I have the same problem and can't rememeber what I did last time to fix it...

Edit June 06: It seems to have broken again on my system, and the graphicx trick doesn't seem to work anymore. I tried something called 'texconfig', but this didn't seem to make any difference. So, back to the tried and tested pdfpagelength technique. (This seems to partly be a problem with the ACM's sig-alternate style, I think, since it was working fine till I switched class files.

Edit November 06: Here's a slightly cleaner way that means that people still living in the past and using latex -> dvips -> ps2pdf can still compile the same file: include

Of course, then you need ifpdf, but it's part of most modern tex distributions (as indeed is pdflatex, which rather renders the whole effort redundant, but means that I can just send people the ifpdf file to get it to compile if they don't have it).

Edit April 2008:
Another thing to remember: when compiling with the ACM style files, remove all use of the 'fullpage' package (and probably other packages that play around with the page size, such as geometry). Otherwise, for some reason, LaTeX creates a never-ending stream of blank pages.


What do lawyers want?

What do Enron lawyers want?

Find out here!

House Call

I saw a very odd recent episode of House recently. House was in Baltimore to sort out some Medicare billing issues. I thought that this would be an interesting subplot, but it was dealt with in about 30 seconds. He then had to get back from Baltimore to the Princeton-Plainsboro Teachning Hospital to fix another patient. So far, so good. But how was he getting back? He was flying.

Thus a major feature of the episode was that he was stuck in the airport as snow delayed the flight, and had to offer sage advice over the telephone. Here's the problem: Baltimore is only 150 miles from Princeton. It makes very little sense to fly from Baltimore -- he'd have to go to Newark, I suppose, and then get down from there. Heck, he might just as well go from Philadelphia, it's about as close, and that's saving only 100 miles. Given that snow was a likelihood, and that there's all that hassle of checking in, why on earth would you fly? You can fly from BWI to EWR or PHL, on Continental Express for a sky-high fee, and it'll take about an hour.

But here's a thought: why not take the convenient rail option: for a significantly lower ticket price, you can take the train either from BWI or Baltimore Penn Station direct to Princeton Junction on Amtrak, and the total travel time is about an hour and half to an hour and three quarters. That's a heck of a lot faster, cheaper, and less prone to delay from snow than the flying option. And it gets him pretty much to the front door of his hospital.

I know that the show is actually made on the West Coast. I know that, for some bizarre reason they chose to set the airport scenes in the fictional "Baltimore Libery International Airport" instead of the more standard BWI. But you have to wonder, if they make the transport so convoluted, how many liberties are they taking with the medicine? It's probably a good thing I'm not a medic.


First we got the bomb and that was good

From a press conference yesterday with dear old GWB and Mrs Merkel (am I the only person who gets her confused with Mrs Merton?), on the subject of Iran:

And countries such as ours have an obligation to step up working together, sending a common message to the Iranians that it's their behavior -- trying to clandestinely develop a nuclear weapon, or using the guise of a civilian nuclear weapon program to get the know-how to develop a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.

WTF? The guise of a civilian nuclear weapon program? Surely that's even worse than a military program -- now everyone can have the bomb? Who's next -- Alabama?

"He's doing his homework"

I was taking a break from the stress and strains of working for a multinational company today by doing some reviewing for an international research conference in a nearby coffee shop. While wrestling with a particularly complex mathematical proof, a small child ran up to my chair, and started staring at my fevered computations.

"Leave him alone," the yearling's mother said, "he's doing his homework."

Well, that put me in my place.


Blog Journalism

Yet more evidence that blogs are making traditional approaches to journalism, such as reading the story being reported, increasingly redundant:

Boing boing headline: Snuppy the cloned Korean dog: Faked.

Text of quoted story: In his string of splashy papers, his one legitimate claim was to have cloned the dog he named Snuppy, the panel said.



"A trendy new bar in the Mission in San Francisco has a "Flickr photo booth" where patrons can have their photos taken and automatically uploaded to a Flickr stream for the bar:
The photo booth at Shine, at 1337 Mission St..."

Trendy? 1337? Really?



Not my spicy nik-naks! At least frazzles are safe (for now).


The Shipping News

I finally worked out what it is that "Love Machine" by Girls Aloud reminds me of. It's Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses. I then listened to both songs back to back, and of course they sound nothing like each other. But the one still reminds me of the other.

Following on from this musical bent, but for no particular reason, here is a haphazard list of bands and musicians that I think sound like places on the shipping forecast:

Fischer Spooner
Fleetwood Mac
Jethro Tull
Britney Spears
Black Uhuru
Lonnie Donnegan

Can't think of any more just now, so add your own in the comments, and I might just care.



I don't know if it's just the Christmas season, but my search logs have taken a notedly pervy turn of late (well, more so than usual). Here are some of the searches that are currently attracting visitors:

swoosh bidet
"fiona nude" shrek
Dervla Kerwin nude
nude drawer
Kelis nude
keira nightly nude pictures
clemence posey naked
hilton sistors
private sex bloggs
keira nightly
spear bottom drawer ep --- I've had this one before, about two and a half years ago. Still no idea what it means.
Lena Headey nude
"victoria's egret"
clemence posey
kelis nude
"clemence posey" nude

So, good to know that I rank highly for the keyword 'nude'. Also must be doing pretty well for those mis-spelled favourites, Dervla Kerwin, Keira Nightly and Clemence Posey. People continue to be strange.


One of the tasks in This Academic Life is to read other people's papers in minute detail, and then write scathing criticisms of them for all to enjoy. Being a tedious anal retentive type, I keep detailed records about everything I've reviewed, and am thus able to produce detailed analyses of what I have looked at over the past year. So, here for your delight and my anality, is a careful look at exactly what I've been reading since records began (1998):

2005: 62 (including 12 journals)
2004: 52 (including 6 journals)
2003: 7 (including 6 journals)
2002: 4 (no journals)
2001: 0
2000: 2 (no journals)
1999: 6 (3 journals)
1998: 1 (no journals)

Note that journal papers are meant to require more effort and time to referee than conference or other papers. These numbers are getting quite large. I'm averaging roughly one conference paper a week and one journal paper a month. Since papers typically receive three reviews, and I had seven conference papers and two journal paers published in 2005, I figure that I'm putting in much more than I am getting out. Maybe I'll start saying 'no' in 2006.