New WordPress and bbPress — 17:08

WordPress 2.0.5 Ronan and bbPress 0.73 Not as cute as Ronan have just been released.



Filed under: automattic,neat!,news @ 17:55

As of September 1st, I have taken a leave of absence from Caltech. Actually, they technically call it a sabbatical; I’m totally on sabbatical.

As of September 4th, I am an Automattic “Engineer” (though I sometimes call myself “Consul General of Los Angeles” when I think no one can hear me).

I know what you’re all thinking (“Wait, he’s working at home now? Where will MDA go when he’s slacking off…?”). Allow me to respond to your aggregate thoughts by means of a friendly question and answer section.

What’s Automattic and why can’t it spell?
It’s a company devoted to making things simple on the web. Everyone communicates in some form or another; we want to give people the tools to make that communication easy. We can’t spell because we all grew up with spellcheck making our communication easy.
Hang on, didn’t you start life out as an Engineer?
Yes: Chemical Engineer -> Chemist -> Physicist -> Complexity Theorist -> Engineer (if I may play fast and loose with the labels). I find the whole cyclic nature of that chain a bit disturbing.
What about Caltech? Grad school not your thing?
Grad school is awesome. Yes, things have been a little slow lately, but I still think it’s all very interesting. Maybe this is even better, though. Besides, now I can say I was part of the web when it was still 2.0. (Plus, I wasn’t slated to graduate until 2017, anyway.)
So if you’re not working on amplifying QMA(k) anymore, what will you be doing?
A list parties. Casual disregard for social mores. First class flights from LAX to ONT. You know, typical engineering stuff.
A list parties?
OK, so I’ll be working on bbPress and other Automattic projects. But I will be cultivating a casual disregard for the term “Web 2.0”, if that helps.
Sounds like you’re excited. You do realize this all sounds very 1990’s.
You bet I’m excited. Good People. Good Products. It’s going to be a great year. And, hey, no 90’s bashing. Those were the formative days of my youth!


Pluto is not a planet but Neptune is?

Filed under: news,physics @ 16:28

Today’s IAU vote reduced the solar system’s planet count to eight. No, Pluto has not been forcibly removed from orbit for bad behavior, it has merely been demoted; Pluto has been designated a “dwarf planet” since it fails to meet the newly defined criteria for planetary status.

A “planet” is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

It is the third test that Pluto fails; it has not “cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit” (whatever that means) since its orbit and Neptune’s overlap.

Fair enough. Too bad, Pluto.

But just as Pluto’s and Neptune’s respective orbits overlap, so too do Neptune’s and Pluto’s. Neptune, then, has not “cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit” either.

Perhaps I’m missing something in the highly rigorous definitions of “to clear” and “neighbourhood”, but it seems the new rules have been inconsistently applied to yield an ‘eight planet system’.

I should also point out that the new definitions do nothing to define the status of bodies orbiting other stars since all of the language used refers to “the sun” and “the solar system”. Are the IAU resolutions science, then, or just self-important verbiage?

I hope my confusion comes only from my ignorance and that there’s a good answer to all of this.


I wear glasses because contacts make you go blind — 12:01

Contact solution harbours blinding eye fungus!


Black Eyed Peas – My Humps

Filed under: a group of folks,music,news @ 16:43

Jeff recently lent me Monkey Business by Black Eyed Peas, and I’ve been listening to it on and off over the past few days.

It’s good. There’s several tracks that have, in the immutable words of our generation, huge, catchy hooks. “Pump It”, “Don’t Phunk with My Heart” and “My Style” among them. A couple are pretty sweet remixes of old classics including “Union” (of Sting’s “Englishman in New York”), and “Pump it” again (of Dick Dale’s “Miserlou”). And one track’s just plain fantastic: “Don’t Lie”. Though a couple lines are overly steeped in poppy vocals, the song manages to make it despite.

But the quality of the album as a whole is not what I wanted to comment on today. Rather, I’m more interested in dissecting the lyrics of one song in particular: “My Humps”, a fair to middlingly catchy song about a… shall we say ‘curvaceous’ hot girl. Allow me to reproduce a stanza of the lyrics here.

Tryna feel my hump hump,
lookin at my lump lump.
You can look but you can’t
touch it. If you touch it, I’ma
start some drama.
You don’t want no drama.
No no drama.
No no no no drama.

Consider those last two lines in particular: “No no drama. / No no no no drama.”

That’s one of the worst lyrics I have ever had the misfortune of hearing. I think I can honestly feel a little rivulet of blood pouring from my ears every time I hear that song. What was the songwriter thinking? “Uh… Something that rhymes with ‘drama’. How about ‘drama’? Yeah, that”ll do. And for the next line I’ll use… meh… ‘drama’ again. And for the forth… screw it. Slap another ‘drama’ in there, throw in a few ‘no’s for rhythm’s sake and call it good.”

Well, allow me to retort. You’re a no talent ass-clown. That’s right: no no talent. No no no no talent. And for this reason, I proclaim “My Humps” by Black Eyed Peas a work of sheer Musical Genius.


Stick it to Breast Cancer

Filed under: a group of folks,news @ 09:37

Jeff points out that

3M is donating 50 cents to City of Hope for each of the first 200,000 notes posted on its website. It literally takes fifteen seconds.

There’s currently 108,619 notes, and the effort ends on October 31, so get to it!


Dvorak Switch

Filed under: neat!,news @ 15:46

As you may have heard on the streets, I’ve been using the Dvorak keyboard layout for some time now. I started after spookily hearing several Dvorak tales (most notably from Ellen and Matt) within just a few days of one another; clearly it was a sign from the heavens. The switch on my laptop is now permanent; the meticulously placed sticky notes I had pasted to each of the keys on my laptop have now been removed, and the keys themselves have been ripped out and put back in their new positions. It is the beginning of a new era.

Though I’ve not gauged it in a long while, I bet my words per minute is in the triple digits on a QWERTY keyboard. You may, then, wonder how fast I can type on the new layout. Not too quickly, as it turns out, though I have gotten dramatically better over the past two weeks. So what’s the advantage? Far less hand and finger movement. I still make lots of typos and I’m yet fairly slow, but I imagine those things will continue to improve whereas the reduced hand stress was an immediate benefit.

And speaking of lots of typos, it’s been really interesting to see what kind of typos I most regularly make. The most common, obviously, is hitting a letter’s QWERTY position instead of its Dvorak position; “s” is particularly dangerous in that regard. More surprising are the ‘look ahead’ typos (hitting the key that should come immediately after the one I actually want), and the ‘second order’ typos. The latter only happened during the first week or so but were truly bizarre and came in two different varieties. The first was the ‘flip-flop’. Suppose I need to hit the “i” key. On a Dvorak keyboard, the “c” key sits where a Qwertyst might expect the “i” to be. A flip-flop typo would therefore be hitting the “j” key which is the key occupying the “c” position on a QWERTY keyboard: second order. The second sort of second order typo I call the ‘flop-flip’. It’s the same except that the error pattern is Dvorak-QWERTY-Dvorak instead of QWERTY-Dvorak-QWERTY as is the case for the flip-flop.

Additionally, some letter combinations, like “or”, are more deeply QWERTY ingrained in my mind than others and, indeed, more so than their constituent letters are by themselves.

In short, the process is still in the ‘adventure’ stage.


Rejected — 17:31

I will not be serving jury duty anytime soon. My name was never called.


It is finished — 14:51

As of 11:30 this morning, I have officially passed both of my physics quals.


Bad news — 20:47

I hate to be the one to inform, but the Pope’s collapsed into a black hole. He really should have used protection.

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