Friday, December 31, 2004

(Potentially relevant link)

Due to the lack of one-to-one correspondence of words in natural language, translating a word such as 'hot' (spicy? high temperature? sexy?) into German (which has a word that covers high temperature and sexy, but uses a different word to mean spicy), one must consider the context of the word. In doing so, one must consider the context of the surrounding words.
It sounds analogous Google's PageRank, and seems like what you need is a recursive analysis that slowly approaches a correct translation. But there's a difference: PageRank gives you numbers for each item, but words aren't numbers. You can't really say the German word 'scharf' (sharp/spicy/sexy) is somehow closer to the meaning of 'hot' (when used to mean high temperature) than the word 'Gürteltiere' (armadillo). They're just both 100% wrong.
Now, perhaps you can say 'ganz gut' (literally 'entirely good', actually just 'alright') is closer to 'fabulous' than 'Gürteltiere' (armadillo), but further than 'sehr gut' (very good, and quite high praise indeed). But if we could get it to the point where we were only worrying about such minor things such as that, we'd be mostly done. The tough part is taking 'hot' and knowing whether it's 'scharf' (sharp/spicy/sexy) or 'heiß' (high temperature/sexy). Recursion only helps if you get closer to the correct answer as the number of iterations increases. This problem, is perhaps more attuned to a backtracking solution as you might use in Chess: if one branch doesn't make sense, go up your line of reasoning a level and try the next option. (Prolog may be the language of the future. :-)
But then you have the difficulty of determining whether a particular branch 'makes sense'. How is the software to know when to give up on that line of substitution and backtrack?

Friday, December 24, 2004

A kid asked me what mass was. Just out of the blue.
I tried to explain. It's just the measure of matter, as height and weight are measures. But how is it different from weight, they want to know.
At this point, it gets strange. Insofar as weight!=mass, the distinction is that mass is how we think of weight and weight is something much more complicated. We're all backwards. It's silly that a six-year-old knows what weight is--in a rough intuitive sense--but not what mass is. We should stop talking in terms of weight. I don't care that I weigh 63KG at the Earth's surface, or that the bag of salt I'm buying weighs 80LB at sea level. What's actually relevant is how much of me or of salt there is. The mass. (Actually, according to Wikipedia, in commerce, 'weight' means mass. So use the term 'mass', darn it!)
Instead of having kids grow up possessing (or thinking they posess) an intuitive sense of what weight is and only teaching mass in science class, they should grow up with an intuitive idea of what mass is, and weight should be a weird scientific concept discussing relations of gravitational fields, which are caused by mass.

Maybe once we colonise other planets we'll switch. But I doubt it. Few would hesitate to say the Sun rose this morning, after all.

I've been browsing some blogs today. Some interesting. Most not. But that's not my point.

I like to comment. I don't care what you have to say about your life. That's not what your blog is for. Your blog is so /I/ can comment on your life. But you have comments turned off. Where am I to leave my brilliant commentary and polite chit-chat?

It's my own fault, of course. I tried getting Annozilla working before, but couldn't get it to connect to any servers. I should try again. But I'm using Elinks now. Oh well.

Sidenote: silly people I know think nothing's wrong with posting personal attacks on public blogs. They have absurd arguments for it having to do with stores in malls not being permitted to kick out disruptive patrons and such. Well, they're wrong, mostly. You're welcome to post comments here, and you're welcome to tell me that I'm wrong and that I'm a grotesquely ugly freak, but do not troll and do not spam. I get to make these rules; the mall does not disallow my making such rules. Optimally, act like this is the Internet pre-September 1993. Minimally, don't troll and don't spam. Really, you shouldn't need to be told that acting badly is bad.

(I've been thinking about renaming my blog to something descriptive, but given this sort of post, I don't think there is a more accurate name.)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

It's raining pretty dark here, and it's all dark (which is intriguing because the sky--while not particularly blue--is far from dark; not grey, but more a grey-blue white, really). I don't have to go outside (but I can if I get the urge), I don't have to drive, and I didn't have a picnic planned this afternoon. (Do people really go on picnics?)
It's just dark and busy outside, making it dark and reclusive in here. Who needs the open and welcoming sunshine of Spring? /This/ is the world the way it was meant to be.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

In German, words like 'my' aren't the genetive pronouns, but merely adjectives. I don't know if Anglo-Saxon is the same or not. My textbook isn't extremely helpful.

And I'm still wondering about their helpful 'how to pronounce this stuff' section. I can distinguish the A's in 'has' and 'sat', but the two A's in 'aha'? Maybe the second syllable is chopped short, similar to an apostrophe in Klingon. The first between 'has' and 'cought'?

then there's the y and y|. They're described as being like the 'i' in 'tin', but with lips in whistling position (French 'tu') and as the 'ee' in 'seen', but with lips again in whistling position (French 'ruse'). I don't know French.
And I can't whistle.

I'm a bit of an audial learner. I want to be able to mentally hear the words when first learning them. I guess I'll try to did up a good phonology site later. I'm stymied without.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

In Anglo-Saxon (Old English), the 'f' and 'v' were the same character. It was typically voiced ('v') in the middle of words and unvoiced ('f') at the beginning and end. Hence, the voicedness of the plural.

This, of course, explains quite a few English words.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

This girl--a senior in CS--just came over to ask one of the professors how to compile C++ on Solaris. 'It's something like g++ -o and then something' (She says 'minus oh').
The professor, I kid you not, didn't remember but tried searching online.

I tell her 'g++ -o output_file source_file' and she's like, 'but I only have one input file'.
Dr. Collins then found the command on another professor's website. And, oh look!, I was right!

I told Dr. Collins, 'If I was the professor, I'd fail you both', but I don't think she heard me. (I suppose the professor can be forgiven; at least she was able to look it up. But the student must die.)

I got to do the student evaluation of Dr. Wirth this morning. Wrote a short lecture on letting incompetents learn stuff on their own time.

This is a Java course. Dr. Wirth constantly tries to say, 'you know how it is in C++, well here's how it is in Java...what? You don't know how it is in C++? God! You people really need to learn this stuff. *endless lecture on C++*'
All The Time. Intro C++ and Data Structures (which also uses C++) are both prerequisites for the Java course. These students have taken the those courses. They just Don't Know Anything. For the first month or two, we wrote more C++ code in this course than we wrote Java, because he'd have us write a bubble sort in C++, or a simple command line interpreter in C++, because these fools would be clueless. He sees major holes in our education and takes it upon himself to try to fill them in. He's explained the basics of DOS commands and environmental variables in several of my courses, when what he really should have said was, 'In order to program a computer, you need to know how to use one. Go learn that on your own time'.

He's an interesting professor. Entertaining. Teaches interesting stuff that's very useful and not taught anywhere else. But that leaves very little time for the actual material. Several of us would like to see 'Computer Science 0001: Dr. Wirth's Rantings'. I'd actually like to see two of them, an intro level and a senior level. (Basic DOS commands are intro level [or below], whereas details of C++'s switch implementation should come after intro C++.)