Greyhound Tales

Hello! I'm at Stanford, California! It's kind of amazing that I'm all the way on the other side of the country. I haven't writing anything for a while, because I was busy and also because I didn't get my internet connection set up until yesterday. I won't talk about Stanford/CTY stuff for now, because I have a few stories to tell about my cross-country journal.

I told a number of people that I would be taking the train over here. However, my Amtrak plans were derailed by the flooding in Iowa, which made it necessary for me to travel by Greyhound instead. It was what people call an experience; I wouldn't do it again, but for what it was worth it was eye opening.

For one, the passengers were mostly from middle-lower class, as compared to my usual travels in airports. Through out the trip I was a little afraid to bring out my laptop, because it might show that I'm not of the same background. There was only one person I saw with a laptop, at the layover in Kansas City. Only when I got into California, and was going between major cities there, did I see people with more advanced gadgetry, like an iPhone/iPod Touch. That said, the people on the buses are not bad people, they're just less intellectual and slightly more vulgar. They are people with less fortunate lives, although that doesn't mean they're not happy. I thought about the representation of homeless people in video games for a bit, but I realized that some of these people more closely resembled our white water rafting guide over spring break; probably enjoyed life at some point, but it wasn't glorious or clean in any way.

Having spent 54 hours on a bus with these people, I do have a few stories to tell though:

The person I talked to the most on this trip was Andrew. His journey started in Upper Peninsula, Michigan and ended in Reno, Nevada, which took him into Chicago and all the way along my route. He had longish hair, an inch above his shoulders, and he always has a University of Michigan cap on. He was young, high school or college freshman age. My first impression of him was not that good, but it wasn't his manner so much as his conversation material. In fact, my thinking was, "why are you telling me this?" Although he gave less detail, our first conversation contained essentially the same story as I eventually found out. Andrew (which I read from his luggage tag first, before we shook hands and introduced ourselves before we part ways) was moving to Reno, because his was-girlfriend-now-fiancee has a kid. He didn't know until 4 months ago, because she never told him. They met in September of 2006, in a Walmart of all places. One thing led to another, and they ended having sex... which also makes that date the conception date of their kid. They knew the condom broke, which is why they're in this situation now. The girl left, and they didn't communicate until they found each other's MySpace. The girl is from Reno, which is why he's going there, even though he has not been there before. Andrew has family, of course, but he doesn't think too highly of them; his mother (he never even mentioned his father) neglects him, and he has several siblings, including a brother who is violent. Before he got the news he had a $40,000 football scholarship to University of Michigan, but while moving something he broke his thumb, which evaporated his chances of getting the scholarship. Not surprisingly, he had wanted to be a football player before that. What is surprising was that he now wants to be an author. It's possible: he's 18 years old, and his fiancee still lives with her parents, whom he has never met. After knowing all this, I'm not sure what to think of him. On one hand he is stupid for letting this happen. I don't like how casually he tells people this, as though he wasn't taking it seriously. Although, I feel like he really does care for the girl. Considering that he's marrying her, that he's giving up his (albeit abysmal) life to move to Reno. His choice of words when talking tell the latter story, of how he's lucky he found a significant other, and how he will "make love" to her when he gets to Reno.

Most of the people are like this on the bus: not good, but deserving of sympathy. The few other people on the bus I know less detailed stories of:

There was an old guy from Dayton, Ohio, who had lived there for most of 47 years. I heard the story in the dark, so I'm not sure who it was, but I think he got off in Reno as well. Where ever he was going, he had a business proposal waiting for him there: ghost hunting, at "the most haunted building" in the world. He has a meeting with "tuxedo execs" the day after he arrives, and if everything goes well, he and his partner will get exclusive rights to that haunted hotel.

There's another youngster, this one around my age, whose travels started in Gainesville, Georgia. He was taking the bus to Hays, Kansas, before flying to California to find his mother and siblings. From there he's driving them out to Georgia, before returning the truck in California and finally flying back to his Georgia home. He painted life in his California town to be violent, and to another guy who has been in his neighborhood he said, "you'd better shoot first and ask later, because they damn sure are gonna do the same to you."

There are a couple other people:
  • a guy who has post anterograde amnesia, after a motorcycle accident. He chews tobacco, after his grandfather tried to warn him off it by letting him try when he was 3 years old. There was a running joke that he likes trees, and every time we stop for breaks he says, "There're trees! I'm good."
  • There was a pair of siblings Craig and Lindsey, together with girlfriend Emily. Craig was older than Lindsey by at least 15 years, which made the trio stand out. At first I thought Lindsey was their kid, but found that wasn't the case after a little eavesdropping. I only talked to Lindsey, while the other two were outside on a smoke break. There were from Culver, Indiana and were going to Oregon for unknown business. She was a nice kid, but I don't like the environment she's growing up in. They had met a Mexican kid, Roger, on the trip, and Craig and Roger spent part of the ride from Chicago to Denver verbally "harassing" a pair of girls.
  • The pair of girls were from Kazakhstan, as one of their shirt says, and have never been to the States before. The two guys tried hard to tell then what's great about America, focusing mostly on the variety of fast food available. I don't know where the girls were off to, but they were here to be maids - strange. The Kazakhstanis were not the only pair of girls I met.
  • There was another pair on the ride from Salt Lake City to San Francisco, who spoke to each other rapidly in a foreign language. It wasn't Spanish or French, and it sounded eastern European to me, perhaps Bulgarian or Romanian.
  • Finally, there were another pair of foreign girls at the San Francisco station, booking or changing their tickets. They looked closer to the Kazakhstanis than the Europeans, but I didn't study them as deeply.
I think the stories are quite something to listen to, but I feel different knowing that I've met these people, and it's not just fiction from the imagination of an author.

Pun Count: 1
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Canceled vs. Cancelled

The first 9 years of my education was in a British setting, and so I spelled a lot of words the British way. When I switched to an American school in 2002, I took a lot of that spelling with me. Some words I adapted rather quickly, but others I have been reluctant to change. One such example of the latter is "favo[u]rite", because the British version has all five vowels (maaah).

An cool phenomenon I recently discovered is that my journal shows when I adopted certain words. The word in question is "cancel[l]ed"; a quick search of my journal gives the following:

$ ./tools -Sd cancelled
$ ./tools -Sd canceled

A quick glance shows that all the way through 2006 I used the British version, and the in 2007 I abruptedly changed to the American version. The only disrepancy this theory leaves is the single uses of the American version in 2003 and 2005. I guessed, correctly, to be quotes I put in from other people.
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Tracking Finances

I was buying something the other day, and in the change was a five dollar note. It's nothing unusual, except was stamped with, "This bill is registered with". I went and checked it out today, and find the project somewhat interesting.

For the curious, the bill in my hand only has one previous entry: Norman, Oklahoma in April of this year.
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Music Animation Machine

I was listening to Tommy Emmanuel's rendition of Classical Gas, and got sidetracked to Vanessa Mae's version. My favorite piece of hers is Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, but after that another video caught my attention. It was a scrolling bar score of the piece, created by the Music Animation Machine.

Although they put it in nicer terms, what they have is essentially a visualization for music, and only for MIDI. However, I was taken by the idea, because the mapping from music to visualization is so clear. It is simply a slightly simplified rendition of the music score, and therefore is a homomorphic (I think) function. In this sense, the scrolling bar score is the music, just as any normal score is. With this simplified score though, the structure of the music becomes much clearer, espeically for complex orchestral pieces.

I encourage you to go over and play with the software (which is unfortunately Windows only). You can look at a few videos of what it does first on YouTube, but it's more fun to put in pieces yourself. I particularly enjoyed its output for Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (the last link), as well as some of Bach's fugues (here and here).
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The State of Things

Hi! I have written in a long while, so I thought I'd talk about what I've been up to.
  • First, I am clearly done with this school year. I am however still in the dorms, as I am helping out with convocation and get to stay an extra week.
  • Next week I'll be headed to Stanford in California, to work as a robotics TA for the next month and a half
  • I will be keeping a (lightly) encrypted blog for that purpose. The previous post is to test whether I can dynamically change blog content, which I can.
  • We played four square and painted the rock, the final result of which is on North by Northwestern's Rock On.
  • That was also when I fell off my bike and got a lovely gash on my chin. I had to get stitches for it to heal, but it was fun to have anesthetics applied. It was also fun to not shave for a week so I won't break the sutures.
  • I went rock climbing in Red River Gorge this past weekend, to celebrate a friend's graduation. Here are some pictures I stole.
  • I was bored these past few days, and made a owl button: Isn't the small own cute? For people interested, the font is a great small size font called Silkscreen.
  • I also put it in data: URI format (as the button is too), and used it as the favicon for my calendar. The button also appears on my Google page.
  • What else... I watched Lion King. Twice. Once when Norris showed it, once with my project team. The best part of the movie by consensus: Timon and Pumbaa do the Hula. You can be a big pig too! Oi!
Yup Yup Yup.
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Dynamic Blog Test

Old Text

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Longest Word in English

I was working on my Speech to Text engine, and I needed a cutoff for the word size. I arbitrarily chose 30, which turned out to be the length of ' pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism', which appears in the OED.

On the other hand, the Wikipedia entry for Longest word in English has the following section at the end:
According to an old riddle, smiles may be considered the longest word in English, as there is a mile between the two s's. A retort asserts that beleaguered is longer still, since it contains a league. The riddle and both jocular answers date from the 19th century when standards for humor were considerably lower.
I didn't agree about the standards of humor being high now (considering I still find these funny!), but the last observation apparently references Wayside Gleanings for Leisure Moments, a book published in 1888. There was a second note for that sentence, which says:
Even "longer" words exist (e.g., gigaparsecs, with a gigaparsec before the final s), according to the logic implicit in the jokes.
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Rock Sunrise

I was supposed to guard the rock today/this morning, but someone beat me to it. Instead, I went and watched the sunrise. It was a nice, clear morning.
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