Glenn Willen

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January 1st, 2035

12:00 am: Backdated contact info post
No address currently -- I'm in the process of moving. Let me know if you need to mail me something. (August 2011)

Cell: (310) 809-9044
Email: gwillen@nerdnet.org
Facebook: facebook.com/gwillen
IRC: irc.freenode.net (gwillen)

April 30th, 2012

07:33 pm: The Burning of the Man approacheth!
X-posted: Facebook

Hey people I know: Are you going to Burning Man? With whom?

My camp (Camp Cydonia) is trying to add somewhere between 2 and 6 (or so) people, either by recruiting them or by merging with another small camp, to ease our logistical pain. So I'm trying to figure out who I know is going, and who they're camping with.

If you even _might possibly_ be interested in joining us, _or_ if you know someone who might, I'd love to hear from you.

OR, if your camp is already set, but you might be interested in sharing _logistics_ -- transportation of people or gear from SF, shade structures, provision of food, etc. -- please also let me know, since that might help us out too.

Thanks yinz! <3

March 28th, 2012

12:55 pm: Got a spare iPhone I can borrow?
Hi LJ! Got a spare iPhone? Can I borrow it?

I need an iPhone with a good camera (a 3GS/4/4S) for about a month and a half, to test an app. I would gladly pay (with dinner, or cash if you prefer it) to borrow one, so that I don't have to buy one.

Can anybody help me out? Or have a friend who can? I'd love you forever. :-)

January 27th, 2012

09:14 am:

DO YOU WANT TO (1) STOP AT THE NEXT FORT, (2) HUNT, OR (3) CONTINUE
?2
TYPE BANGbang
SORRY---NO LUCK TODAY
YOU RAN OUT OF FOOD AND STARVED TO DEATH

DO TO YOUR UNFORTUNATE SITUATION, THERE ARE A FEW
FORMALITIES WE MUST GO THROUGH

WOULD YOU LIKE A MINISTER?
?y
WOULD YOU LIKE A FANCY FUNERAL?
?y
WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INFORM YOUR NEXT OF KIN?
?y
YOUR AUNT NELLIE IN ST. LOUIS IS ANXIOUS TO HEAR

WE THANK YOU FOR THIS INFORMATION AND WE ARE SORRY YOU
DIDN'T MAKE IT TO THE GREAT TERRITORY OF OREGON
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME


                              SINCERELY

                 THE OREGON CITY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

DONE


"Do you want your possessions identified?"

(To play Oregon Trail, follow the following copy-pasted instructions:)

Instructions cut for PRE-tag line widthCollapse )

January 15th, 2012

05:51 am: I was on a team that won a Mystery Hunt today.

It was pretty cool.

:D

December 10th, 2011

08:23 pm: Cookies!
I have been doing some experimental baking, and am fond of the following cookie recipe. It's somewhere in the space of linear combinations of the Good Eats / Alton Brown "chewy cookies" and "brownies" recipes.

You will notice that it contains as much brown sugar as it does flour; the resulting cookies are quite sweet, but they don't taste like candy or anything. They are definitely much closer to good bakery cookies than the ones I started with (the Good Eats cookie recipe, which makes cookies that are much too cakey for my tastes.)

RecipeCollapse )

The result is much less cakey than the Good Eats version. (The fact that I substituted AP for bread flour when making their version may make my evaluation unfair.) It's pretty chewy (in the gooey sense, like brownies, rather than the cakey sense), but still kind of weirdly fluffy. I haven't decided whether I like this better than the denser, brownie-like texture of what I think of as "commercial cookies", which is what I was aiming for.

November 23rd, 2011

10:18 am: Interesting: Interactive map of United States road accident deaths, 2001-2009. (They say "casualties", but they mean it in the informal sense of "deaths", not the military sense.)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/interactive/2011/nov/22/us-road-accident-casualties

Things I'm curious about:
- For the pedestrian deaths, which ones were jaywalking? Crossing the street? On the sidewalk?
- For the vehicle occupant deaths, what was the speed of the vehicle at the time of the collision? What was the nature of the collision? (Stationary object, pedestrian/cyclist, motorcycle, head-on, t-bone, read-end, etc.)

I notice that a lot of motorist deaths in collisions that were presumably low-speed (i.e. on small roads) are people over the age of 60 or even higher, and in general older people seem overrepresented in reported vehicular deaths, compared with the rate at which I would expect they drive. I wonder what role was played by poor vision, poor health, or seatbelt refusal.

November 15th, 2011

08:24 pm: Essay on puzzles
I have finished the promised essay on puzzles. It is ... quite long. It can be found here:

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1EJreEaPYmkbaNqZDwlZYhzVfLC1DqxTzeSYE1O5p5QU

(I had originally intended to publish it on LJ directly, but making future edits will be easier if I only have to do it in one place.) Please leave comments/questions/brickbats/etc. on this post.

EDIT: If you hate the formatting of that version, try this one:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EJreEaPYmkbaNqZDwlZYhzVfLC1DqxTzeSYE1O5p5QU/edit

Being inside Docs instead of "published to the web" means it respects my margins and line spacing properly, at the expense of being, well, inside Docs.

November 13th, 2011

03:41 am: Puzzles, and hunting and writing.
In the aftermath of the KGB puzzlehunt (which my team "won"!) I have written an essay about puzzle-solving, and how information theory pertains to search space when solving puzzles. Problem: It's 1623 words and desperately needs editing before I can post it. Solution: Remind me to edit it tomorrow, and your reward/punishment will be getting to read it.

(What do I mean by "won"? We were third to complete the metapuzzle. First was a remote-solving team, which didn't do the interactive events or the final endgame puzzle. Second made it to the endgame puzzle, but couldn't solve it and got a "bad ending"; one of them ran away and the other three "had their brains scrambled". We were the first team to solve the endgame puzzle and get the "good ending" in which everyone is saved and nobody dies. Yay! I'll call that a win.)

Also, a reminder: You can follow my ongoing foray into lisp interpretation, doing 15 (down from 30) lisp interpreters in the month of November, at nalintmo . I have completed number 5, in Pike, which is a problem even at the 2-days-per-language rate, since it's the end of Day 12. I have a bit of catching up to do. ;-)

November 5th, 2011

03:13 pm: Capitalism
I responded to a post on Hacker News today, and decided I should post here too, with my pet theory of free market capitalism:

"People's brains can handle optimizing on one or _maybe_ two things when making a product decision, and anything else is overwhelming. For a theater, that's what movie you want to see, and what price you have to pay. Anything beyond that, [such as the price of popcorn,] and you have to start making spreadsheets, and it's not worth it to anybody. So beyond the price and the main desirable quality of the product, producers aren't really forced to compete, because nobody will call them on it."

I think this is generally true of markets, and I think it's something people ignore when doing analysis assuming that markets are free. For another example: airlines are not forced to be competitive on amenties like food and WiFi (which is why food is crappy and overpriced, and WiFi rare, overpriced, and run by a third party.) People searching for flights have the main important qualities in mind, which are 1) dates, times, and locations of flights they need, and 2) price of flights. There's not enough brain-juice, or care, left to optimize for things like WiFi availability, food cost, food quality, etc. And even if there were, the small amounts of utility those things represent are overwhelmed by the large increments of utility between the best flight and the next-best flight, especially on a route where not that many flights are available. And even if they weren't, information about those kinds of amenities is unavailable when committing to the decision to purchase a flight. (Hipmunk makes the "WiFi or no?" information available, but not things like: How much does the WiFi cost? How much does the food cost? What is the food quality? What types of food are available?" Of course, you already know what the WiFi costs, but that's because a single provider has a monopoly on in-air WiFi, which is a different problem.)

A partial counterexample is the housing (rental or real estate) market. In those markets, the decision is rare enough, and expensive enough, and important enough, and has enough factors, that people actually do sit down and make spreadsheets of their decisions. So those decisions account for location, and price, and size, and general quality, and any other factors the consumer thinks are important enough to make a column for. But even there, the market doesn't have an infinite number of entrants; so the large jumps in utility among the top few contenders will overwhelm the market importance of any issues that are of smaller utility to most consumers; and many of those issues are not easily available to measure in any case. For example, landlords will not experience market pressure to make sure their water heaters produce enough hot water, or that their buildings aren't drafty in winter (in markets like Pittsburgh where all rental-shopping is done in the summer). And there's questionable market pressure on things like how responsive they are to complaints from tenants; that information is _sometimes_ available, for larger landlords, if you search the Web for it, and it's _sometimes_ got enough associated utility to tip the scales. (For example, many people I know will never rent from Lobos Management in Pittsburgh.) And (again excepting general measures like "perceived overall quality of landlord") there's little or no market pressure on things like "doesn't try to cheat you out of your deposit." This last item, among others, suggests the importance of regulation in this market.

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