Friday, May 16, 2003
Exam detox

The exam went okay, I think. I can't say that it went brilliantly - it was pretty hard - but I think I passed. I still have the oral next week, but I don't think there's much I can do to prepare for that. Everyone at work (except the francophones) has agreed to speak nothing but Dutch with me until the exam, and that's about the best I can do.

I have a long essay to write today justifying my existence, or more precisely justifying what I'm doing at work. What I'm doing is building statistical models of the translation process in order to improve the usefulness of automatic translation output. My boss is an anglophone Swede with limited French and no Dutch, so at least I don't have to write in a foreign language. Unfortunately, he is - as far as I can tell - very limited in his understanding of natural language processing and even less literate in statistical information processing, so this has to be an essay for dummies.

Got a new stress ball from Franz, Inc yesterday. They gave a presentation on their Lisp webserver. Actually, it looks pretty cool. I'm thinking of telling the boss that if he intends to continue to make his NLP people do web work, he should get it. The stress ball also helped with studying. I like being in school, I just hate exams.

Anyway, this weekend I will try to get some more substantial stuff up on the blog. I have tickets to see The Matrix Reloaded tonight, so this evening is out of the question. The reviews are less than stunning, but it's like the new Star Wars movies. There was no chance that I wasn't going to go see it no matter what the reviewers said.

Anyway, in the mean time, I leave you with Doonesbury highlighting part of the problem with manditory education:

Update: Let me leave you with one more last thing, culled from the comments on Matthew Yglesias' blog from one "Jupiter Tyrannus":

Top Secret "Matrix Revolutions" ending

[Neo wakes up and finds himself in San Dimas, CA circa 1989.]

Neo: "Bill!!! I had the wildest dream! I was in a computer and I could fly and I made it with this chick in a skintight latex suit!!!"

Bill: "No way Ted!"

Neo: "Yes way Bill!"

Bill: "Your dream sounds most righteous..."

[Bill morphs into Agent Smith]

Agent Smith: "...but Mr. Logan, how do you know when you wake up?"

Neo/Ted: "Bogus"

Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Brief post

The machine is building a big correlation matrix (sort of) so I've got a few minutes to blog.

I've added No Symbols Where None Intended to the blogroll and congrats to Jason on his recent fatherhood.

Also, Dave Johnson over at Seeing the Forest for the Trees has blogged an interview with George Lakoff (Part 1, Part 2)

And D^2 Digest has good piece up on statastical analysis. It's not everybody's thing, but if it's yours, then you'll enjoy it.

Monday, May 12, 2003
Need help from the lazy web

I need a quick, generic and free implementation of Quinlan's ID3 decison tree algorithm, and I need it in Common LISP. If anybody out there knows where I can just download one, I'd be sorely grateful. I have a problem in statistical NLP at work, and my current quasi-Bayesian methodology is not cutting it.

Another first

David Weman over at Europunditry is, I think, the first person ever to call me a libertarian. Usually I get stuff like "commie", "pinko", "bleedin'-heart-librul", "tree-hugger", "long-haired pot-smoking hippie", "ivory-tower radical" "anti-rationalist threat to western civilisation", and I was once even called a "crypto-Zionist" (there was alcohol involved), but this is a first for "libertarian."

Actually, I'm not wholly discontent with the label, although it does associate me with some disreputable people. (Yeah, like being a Marxist doesn't?) Libertarianism was once one of those ideas that was on our side of the aisle. I do think, for the most part, that the world works best when people are told in no uncertain terms what their neighbours are willing to let them get away with, and that otherwise everybody should do as they please. I'm not impressed with arguments that start with "it's for your own good." That may well make me a libertarian by some definition.

What I'm afraid of is people perceiving me as the worst of both traditions - like some freakish combination of Ayn Rand and Joseph Stalin - instead of the best of them - Thomas Paine and Rosa Luxemburg, for example. But, I suspect I have little to fear on that count. No free-market messianic cult is ever going to want anything to do with me - nor I them - and I'm afraid I really am an ivory tower academic leftist who will probably never be of much use on the streets.

Still, the word "libertarian" probably does accurately describe my ideas about school. Go read David's comments on my thinking about educaiton reform. I don't think the positions he's arguing against are exactly the ones I took, but he admits that it is an incomplete post, so I shan't be critical.

Sunday, May 11, 2003
Arguments in favour of a European military

Some good ones from Harold Meyerson in The American Prospect:

But an armed force controlled by democratic states, employed only in instances of genuine threats, and suited not just for combat but also for intrusive inspections of a dangerous rogue state or the tedious task of nation-building, would be a welcome addition to the forces for good in the world. Particularly as these are not purposes to which the Bush administration cares to put our own forces. [...]

An American monopoly on power is a great idea -- so long as there's also an American monopoly on virtue and on smarts. [...]

Indeed, in their commitment both to multilateralism and a mixed economy, the Europeans often seem a good deal closer than the current administration does to the America that emerged from World War II. Let them have their army. Without the Old Europe, where could we still see the Old America?

Nationalism and political realism

I promised below to put up a post about nationalism, and I will when I can get the time. Until then, however, I want to direct you to the post that just moved Silver Rights from a blog that I read occasionally to one with a place on the blogroll.

This post touches on much of what I intend to say. It concerns primarily a post on The Gweilo Diaries and the response. "J" of Silver Rights outlines quite clearly what is wrong with nationalism, even in its modern cultural integrationist form and gets exactly right the kind of attitude that needs to replace it, without ever using the word "nationalist."

Probably a first in the history of language policy

I direct you to this from CNN, found via Eschaton. If there is a similar precedent for a public institution being compelled to offer services in a language devised for fictional purposes, I am completely unaware of it.

Update: Just about every blog in the western hemisphere couldn't resist this story. Magpie, however, has actually checked into the story, and finds that the original version published in a local Portland paper contains some important information missing from the AP wire version. The salient text:

The county would pay a Klingon interpreter only in the unlikely case he or she was actually called into service.

"We said, 'What the heck, let's throw it in,' " Jelusich says. "It doesn't cost us any money."

The county's purchasing administrator, Franna Hathaway, greeted the request with initial skepticism. "I questioned it myself when it first came in. "

But, she adds, "There are some cases where we've had mental health patients where this was all they would speak."

Jelusich says that in reality, no patient has yet tried to communicate in Klingon. But the possibility that a patient could believe himself or herself to be a Klingon doesn't seem so far-fetched.

"I've got people who think they're Napoleon," he says.

Well, the folks over at the Klingon Language Institute will probably be crestfallen. Cryptolinguistics will have to wait for another opportunity to come into its own.

Nonetheless, go read Magpie's post. As insignificant as this particular story is, she says that it speaks volumes for how the press distorts - among other things - how the government actually spends money. That is an important story. If more Americans read the Federal Budget information on the front of their 1040 instructions, I think it would be much harder to sell demands to lower government spending to voters.


I got frustrated of having people realise with surprise that I'm really "Scott Martens" instead of "Sam." It was amusing the first few times - now it's just old. I finally figured out where Blogger lets me change this stuff. So I'm testing to see if it works.

Update: Well.. I see that it retroactively changes old posts too.