Archive for the '@Uncategorized' Category

A thought experiment: Negative money

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Excerpt (with permission) from the Adium channel on IRC.

00:51:25: <Mac-arena> Heh, I just had a wacky idea.
00:51:38: <Mac-arena> Replace the 1- and 5-cent coins with +2- and -3-cent coins.
00:51:55: <Mac-arena> So, for example, 7 cents would be a dime and a -3. 9 cents would be a dime, a +2, and a -3.
00:52:10: <Catfish_Man> people don't want to carry negative money dude
00:52:19: <Catfish_Man> it's like debt that weighs something
00:52:18: <Mac-arena> It would make robberies interesting.
00:52:33: <Mac-arena> Robbers would run up to people and shove rolls of -3s into their pockets. :D
00:52:39: <Catfish_Man> hahaha
00:53:05: <LostBurner> lol
00:53:45: <LostBurner> people couldn't even handle that kind of math though
00:53:59: <Mac-arena> I know. It'd have to be smart people's money.
00:54:09: <Mac-arena> Only usable by people with a certain level of brightness.
00:54:23: <LostBurner> smart people would throw away their negative money
00:54:52: <Mac-arena> The other way would be to cast it as a status symbol.
00:54:58: <Mac-arena> "Only the cool people use negative money."
00:56:51: <LostBurner> So you'd give someone a real dime, and a negative 3
00:56:59: <LostBurner> Presumably you've given them 7 cents
00:57:08: <Mac-arena> Right.
00:57:13: <LostBurner> but you're out a whole dime
00:57:16: <LostBurner> and they're up a whole dime
00:57:29: <Mac-arena> No. Because you're also out a negative three, and they've gained one.
00:58:15: <LostBurner> So would you say that it was a better transaction if you could give someone more negatives?
00:58:29: <Mac-arena> Yup.
00:58:34: <LostBurner> Dime and 3 neg3 coins, ooh you've only spent a cent
00:58:46: <Mac-arena> Yup.
00:58:55: <LostBurner> but then you could make money by throwing them away!
00:59:04: <Mac-arena> Yup. That's the only problem.
00:59:17: <LostBurner> Negative monies only count if you can force the person to keep them
00:59:24: <LostBurner> hey, negative monies... that reminds me
00:59:38: <LostBurner> did you get this inspiration from aarond?
00:59:38: <Mac-arena> That's actually where I got the idea.
00:59:39: <Mac-arena> 00:39:01:   <aarond> I have minus monies :)
00:59:50: <LostBurner> I beat you to that one by 1s
00:59:52: <LostBurner> I knew it!
01:00:32: <Mac-arena> Anyway. If you pay a retailer with -3s, and they throw them away, YOU haven't re-lost any money.
01:01:00: <Mac-arena> Unless you went around back and picked them up so that you could spend them again.
01:03:43: <LostBurner> besides, it takes more coins with your way to pay for something
01:04:03: <Mac-arena> Depends on the amount.
01:04:25: <LostBurner> Average of the number of coins needed for each of the first ten integers
01:04:36: <LostBurner> your way: 2.8
01:04:50: <LostBurner> current way: 2.6
01:04:16: <Mac-arena> And actually, we're thinking about it wrong.
01:04:35: <Mac-arena> You wouldn't necessarily have to give the seller anything. If it cost 9 cents, say, they could give you three -3s.
01:04:52: <Mac-arena> Though if it cost two cents, you could give them a +2.
01:05:47: <LostBurner> Mac-arena: the idea is an interesting thought experiment, but it's entirely implossible.
01:06:51: <LostBurner> (impossible and implausible)
01:07:03: <LostBurner> hehe, I could see cops citing you for dumping your neg3s
01:08:23: <LostBurner> I just remembered the blank media tax for supposed intended piracy
01:08:24: <LostBurner> grr
01:09:40: <Mac-arena> Ooooh. Suppose you paid your taxes in negative money.
01:09:54: <Mac-arena> Send them a box full of -3s.
01:10:18: <Catfish_Man> they'd just send it back with more :P
01:10:25: <Mac-arena> Hahaha. True.
01:10:29: <Catfish_Man> hell, they'd charge taxes by shipping you -3s

Some English rants

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

I’ve been compiling a list of maltreatments of the English language. Here are my top 10 so far.

  • compatability; definate(ly); desparate(ly); seperate(ly)

    You mean compatibility, definite(ly), desperate(ly), and separate(ly) (respectively). The first one arises from confusion with “ability”, and certainly the conflation of “desperate” with “separate” is easy enough. I don’t know what excuse there is for “definate”.

  • compl[ie]ment

    A compliment is praise. A complement is the inverse of something (for example, 0b101010 is the two’s one’s (thanks, CHz!) complement of 0b010101, and a film negative is the complement of the positive print).

  • [ae]ffect

    When you affect something, you effect a change in it.

  • Held accountable

    Can’t happen. A person is accountable if they can be held to account.

  • classified

    Classified what? USDA Choice? The correct usage is “classified secret“.

  • X Department (of the United States Cabinet, e.g. State Department)

    You wouldn’t say “United States State Department”, would you? No, you wouldn’t, because that sounds redundant. It’s “Department of State”. Also “Department of Defense”, “Department of Energy”, “Department of Justice”, etc. Some of the Departments have a “the”, like the Department of the Interior. But deviation from the rule doesn’t go beyond that.

  • Dilemma (as problem)

    A lemma is a course of action or line of reasoning (dictionaries define it as a subsidiary proposition … used to demonstrate a principal proposition; in this case, the principal proposition is often a course of action). A dilemma is two of these, from which a person must choose. Not every difficult problem is a dilemma.

  • “Welcome to …” (telephone system, website, etc.)

    “Welcome to” should only be used for a place. “Welcome to Huntington Beach, population 189,594“. It should never be used for anything else, including web sites and phone systems. When I hear “Welcome to (mumble). Please choose from the following selections:”, I want to reach through the phone and unplug that answering system.

  • Lower 48 states, Continental United States

    First, Hawaii is lower than the lower 48. Technically, the lowest 48 states include Hawaii and exclude Maine. Also, “lower” would be only correct when there are two (e.g. “lower case” vs. “upper case”). We have never had fewer than 13.

    As for “continental United States”, you have to include Alaska on this one. It’s on the same continent.

    Just use “contiguous United States”.

  • x, y and z

    No, no, and no. Use the “serial comma”, the comma after the second-to-last element in the list. It just looks better that way. (This does not apply when the list has two or fewer elements.)

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Unscheduled downtime

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Last night, my hard drive started making some unpleasant noises (click-of-death-ish). So I backed up my C and Obj-C programs (annoying my dad, who wanted to watch NCIS during that time). They resumed with renewed vigor tonight, so I’m now backing up everything, and today I’ll be going to CompUSA to buy a new hard drive. It’s more than twice as big as my current drive (250 GB rather than 120 GB), and it’ll be $60 after rebate.

Preceding that will be lunch at Sizzler, and following it will be photocopying the rebate form and the receipt so we can mail the required documents to Maxtor. I don’t know when I’ll be back — probably a day or two.

A musing

Friday, March 24th, 2006
Bad dream:
You have fallen out of a plane and are hurtling toward the ground.
Good dream:
You are skydiving.
Middle-of-the-road dream:
You are still on the plane.

GNU bloat

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

gcal: The Gregorian calendar program (GNU cal) 3.01

I installed gcal to test my ISO 8601 parser. I have some differences with it.

First, if you type gcal --help, you get this:

gcal: The Gregorian calendar program (GNU cal) 3.01

Copyright (c) 1994, 95, 96, 1997, 2000 Thomas Esken

Usage:  gcal [[OPTION...] [%DATE] [@FILE...]] [COMMAND]

Usage:  gcal [-|/{[?|h|??|hh|L|V]|{CDFIPHKNORSXbcfijnpqrsuv}}] [[MM] [YYYY]]

  -h,  --help          Display this help text and quit program
  -hh, --usage[=ARG]   Display extended help text and quit program
  -L,  --license       Display software license and quit program
  -V,  --version       Display version information and quit program
  -p,  --pager         Direct output through external `less' pager

Use `gcal --usage[=ARG]|[=?] --pager' for more information.

Email bug reports to 
or (if this fails) to .

So the –help option returns no actual help. Seeing this, I tried -hh. Here are SOME of the options it prints out.

Set EXIT status of program to 127 on `–help’ etc.


Create response file for the `@FILE‘ option

ARG = Store arguments of command line in file ARG



Create shell script which contains the arguments of command line

ARG = File name of the shell script

Export local date variables from file to file
Export local text variables from file to file


Suppress output of calendar sheet explicitly


Direct output through simple internal pager
Send output via `mail’ program to user

[ARG] = Email address, otherwise eMail is send to user `boredzo’

Set reference value for rise/set time respectively shadow length

ARG = Angular value respectively factor in range: -90.0…+90.0

Set base data of Earth’s atmosphere

ARG = Air pressure and temperature separated by `,’ character

Air pressure in Millibar (actual: 1013.250)

Air temperature in degrees Celsius (actual: +15.000)

Limit rise/set times of Sun to the day
Represent astronomical times and data with utmost precision
Execute `%![ARG]’ shell commands and “TVAR[?|\:]COMMAND” assigments

finally, at the very end:

------------------------oOO      \\\_''/      OOo---------------------------
Thomas Esken               O     (/o-o\)     O  eMail: deleted
Im Hagenfeld 84                 ((  ^  ))       Phone: +49 deleted
D-48147 Muenster; Germany    \____) ~ (____/    MotD : 2old2live, 2young2die


  1. Why does this program reproduce functions (e.g. pipe to mail) already provided by the shell?
  2. Why does it need to know about the atmosphere? (UPDATE 2006-12-06: Thomas Ptacek says that it is to compute sunrise times.)
  3. WHY does it have such an awful email signature in there?

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Wendy’s is trying to take over the fast-food industry

Friday, February 17th, 2006

I had my lunch at Wendy’s today, during the lunch rush. there was a line, which I fully expected. I noticed that one of the people in the line was wearing a Wendy’s uniform — I figured that she was in line to get her lunch. but then she moved back one person, and it was then that I noticed the pad in her hand.

turns out she was taking orders. then she handed the customer an order slip to give to the cashier. this makes good sense to me; one customer can give his order while another customer is paying. multitasking++.

another employee was floating around, checking on customers and seeing if they needed anything. this was the first time I’d ever seen anything like this at a fast-food restaurant.

when I gave my order to the employee with the pad, I neglected to mention that I wanted my baked potato plain (no chives nor sour cream). so when I got my baked potato, it had chives on it. I figured that I would just scrape them off. that didn’t work too well — chives are apparently quite adhesive, to both the potato and the plastic knife.

it was only a few minutes before the floating employee came over and asked if I was having trouble. yes, I explained, I didn’t want chives on it; I wanted mine plain. she offered to take the potato back and exchange it, and I accepted. “all you have to do is ask!” — perhaps a bit out of line, but I accept some of the responsibility as well, as there’d have been no harm in asking. and the offer to exchange it more than made up for it, IMO.

both employees (the floating one and the one with the pad) came around and checked on how the customers were doing, and the floating one came by later and asked if I needed a refill. I should have checked my level; I thought my cup was still nearly full, so I refused, but it was actually at half. oops.

I already liked Wendy’s because they let you swap out the fries from a combo in exchange for a baked potato — choice is good. and now they have this. so, props to Wendy’s for proving that price isn’t the only way to win in the fast-food business.

Microlight: New and Improved

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

some of you know that I’m a fan of the Inova Microlight, a small LED flashlight. we bought some more today, and I noticed that they’ve changed.

A quarter, an old-style Microlight, and a new-style Microlight.

for those who’ve never seen a Microlight, a quarter (which is 24 mm in diameter) is provided for size reference.

as for the two Microlights, the one on the left is the old model, whereas the one on the right is the new one. the obvious differences:

  • the new one is black with a smoky-black shell; the old one is smoky-black with a clear shell.
  • the new one is slightly larger.
  • the new one’s clip has notches at each end. I don’t know what this accomplishes.
  • the new one’s clip is held in place differently. see photo below.

Side views of both Microlights, with the newer model in the foreground. The older model's clip is crimped on both sides; on the new clip, there is only one crimp, and it is larger.

but there are other differences. first, the new one is much brighter. second, the interface has changed. the old version had two ways to turn it on: you could press the ribbed face (the face you’re looking at in the first photo) to turn it on momentarily, or you could slide a slide-switch on the other side to keep it on as long as you needed.

the new version has four modes. ‘signal mode’ is the same momentary-on from the previous generation, and is the default setting. the slide-switch is gone; it is replaced by three other modes. if you hold down the light button for 15 seconds, the light exits signal mode and turns off. then, you can turn it on in any of three ways:

  1. one press: high-power mode. this is the direct equivalent of the slide-switch.
  2. two presses: low-power mode. same thing, but it approximates the brightness of the old version.
  3. three presses: strobe.

all in all, I like the new design. certainly the improved brightness is a win. Mag-Lite had better make their Mag-LED really cool if they want to top this.

and no, I’m not on the Inova payroll.

Separated at birth?

Monday, February 13th, 2006

The Apple Hard Disk 20, with a Macintosh (128K, 512K, or 512K Enhanced) sitting on top of it.
the Apple Hard Disk 20.

The NewerTech miniStack, with a Mac mini sitting on top of it.
the NewerTech miniStack.

dun dun dun…

photo credits: each photo was ganked from the page that it’s linked to.

Folding at home

Friday, January 13th, 2006

there’s a website (probably not the one you’ve seen) that tells you how to fold your shirt. unlike the one that usually gets linked, this one does not have Japanese narration or text, the video quality is much higher, and most importantly, the motion is slower so that you can actually see what’s going on. a very nice job.

they have a step-by-step photo tutorial too, but it’s not very useful. the MPEG movie is the better demonstration.

Watch your back

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

I’ve heard a lot of mentions of the free Flip4Mac for WMV since it was announced. I want to point out a danger in its EULA:

Section 3. Audit Permitted.

Telestream shall have the right, upon reasonable prior notice to You and during Your normal business hours, to audit Your use of the Licensed Materials and to inspect Your records related to any copies of the Software, or portions thereof, made by You.

Not a miracle

Friday, January 6th, 2006

I just want to point out one thing, regarding something said by a family member (Anna Kasto [sp?]) of one of the dead miners (Otto Withers). I heard her say this on the 2006-01-04 edition of NBC Nightly News:

We’re Christian people, ourself. We have got some of us is right down to sayin’, that we don’t even know if there is a Lord anymore. We had a miracle, and it was taken away from us.

Not so. The miracle she’s talking about is the survival of 12 of the 13 miners, instead of just one. She basically says that this miracle was somehow withdrawn, but in fact, it never occurred. Human misreporting is not the same as the divine repossession of a miracle.

The quote starts at 8 minutes and 8 seconds in the Nightly News podcast for that night.

UPDATE 2006-01-06: I just corrected the date above. I did not hear her say this one year before it happened. (Yes, I’m still used to writing “2005”.)

New and interesting ways to boot your Mac

Sunday, January 1st, 2006

This technical Q&A lists some of the keys you can hold down to make something happen at boot. Most people know about C, and some might know about ⇧⌘⌥⌫, but how many know about D or Z?

IRC games

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

On Undernet #macintosh, a long time ago, we invented a game called ‘in your pants’ in your pants. The idea being to take any sentence or sentence fragment in your pants, put ‘in your pants’ after it in your pants, and thereby form a double entendre in your pants. Good for when you’re really Bored in your pants.

I just thought of a new IRC game OF DOOM. Awhile back, Colin set his away message OF DOOM to ‘Sleep… OF DOOM’. So the new game is to put ‘OF DOOM’ after any noun OF DOOM.

Enjoy in your pants OF DOOM.

Ask your doctor if Panexa is right for you

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

I want to be able to lick through steel.