Popular Words

People love to latch on to particular words, and once that latching has occurred there seems to be a real conspiracy to make sure that nobody ever uses that word appropriately ever again. Leaving aside the white elephant of this phenomenon, I am particularly annoyed by the conflation of algorithm and program. Here is some New Aesthetic jagoff claiming that Ada Lovelace wrote the first algorithm, when the very text he quotes explains that she wrote the first program.

I’m not sure why I find this so frustrating. I think a big part of it is having semi-technical people using technical terms that they don’t understand to make themselves look like they have some kind of deep understanding of the world that technology has created. I think it also creates a tendency to look the wrong way for solutions, which is to say that it looks for technical solutions to problems created by power-imbalances of which one is certainly a beneficiary if one has the luxury to abuse the idea of algorithms so thoroughly.

I think this is also why I have always loathed the institution of TED Talks. It seems like the whole institution is aimed at finding creative solutions in order to avoid investigating the root causes of problems. These are always precisely the wrong people to address important issues.


As you are no doubt aware, Errol Morris is a brilliant documentary filmmaker who has revolutionized both our view of pet cemeteries, and Werner Herzog’s view of his shoes. He has just released a book that takes a contrarian view of a murder most people assume was solved long ago.

In the linked article Morris talks about people who are convinced of MacDonald’s guilt and says,

I despise versions of postmodernism that suggest that there is no such thing as truth, that the truth is up for grabs, relative and subjective. . . Narrative does not trump all; it does not trump the facts. The facts are immutable. You may not be able to apprehend them or they may be elusive, but they are there.

This is an unfortunate if popular interpretation, and it allows people to pass over an discredit an idea that we have never needed to be more serious about. Postmodern theories about language tend to do a lot of of focusing on how meaning is created by power. What Morris is mischaracterizing is the idea that power manufactures truth and facts, and that there is a need to dig under the hegemonically-enfranchised “real.” Looked at accurately, he’s essentially denigrating a powerful tool for getting what he purports to want.

It’s sort of a shame, because we are really losing our grip on our ability to call out certain categories of liar. Decrying postmodernity’s unwillingness to admit of the real, we no longer care when the powerful discard it altogether.

Turn it Upside Down

So. . . Markov Garden.

As I work on it, I’ve been finding little bits that I like particularly, and putting them here

Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to find something in particular, and you just have to include the entire output of a run.

“I don’t want dozens of people came to your own father, you young Rip? This boy is a little glass of Bordeaux to his forehead, he seemed to grow to be able to do so; but, no persuasion would extract a word with any reference to George Washington, which was already scrubbed throughout; and between the Concord and the Doctor disquieted. “I would not have gone so far as he used his blue cap. What did you look at, and such earnest youth and beauty, was far more as though it pitted its gravity and longevity against the next pause, the counsel for and against. Among the first of the man who hungered, asked: “Is this rustic to be all of a country still containing himself, that Friday night in November, before the shoemaker replied:

“Indeed!” said Defarge, with three flourishes. She acknowledged their homage by bending her head, though not to be the old clerk; “we all have our various ways of gaining a livelihood. Some of the past.”

“Let me interrupt you for it is possible—that it may be taken down and praying agin me?”

“Is it possible!” exclaimed Mr. Lorry. “Yes—I—”

At any rate, I keep thinking “this weekend I’m going to release the books-only version” and then there’s some snag. One of these days it’s going to happen, but probably not in August. I think I’m going to be keeping busy at Temboo and testing for another belt at Stark Street Academy. Maybe if I take a few days off around Thanksgiving. Seems interminable, but I guess that’s the fate of side projects.


So it turns out that my debugging print and puts statements were a huge contributing factor to how slow my Ruby parser is. That doesn’t mean that I’m not still looking for ways to make the whole thing a bit more compact, it just means that I can definitely forget about it until I start populating an actual site with probability tables.

I also performed the massaging mentioned in the previous post. The probability table now goes between the Ruby backend and the Javascript frontend without trouble. Here was the first success:

“What do you pretend not to like excitement. But it had always made the keeper of the sunken eyes seemed to find this answer in the restitution of the dead of night yet before us.”

“I have invented this definition, this last phrase the Minister of the upright judge. Let me take him into a wall of the seizure of the windows. In the distance was answered by the side of the oppressed, of the approaching end, she had not heard a short intoxication, whose delight one remembered with profound attention. “You have got a priest for me to shame,” he said.

The chairman of the curse of death and putting our trust in God. Were not the heart having no concern with the Gould silver mine, which by every law, international, human, and divine, reverts now to hush Mrs. Gould. “But, my dear mother, for a moment with the fatal spell of an experienced woman. She was, before all these things (which were accessible to His Excellency’s intelligence) in a black grating upon a drum. After listening for a long time he could say. They drove him away with my profound studies in Belgium and

Oops, I Forgot

I meant to put this picture of Portland institution Beulahland in the previous post.

I’m pretty sure that I’m well enough for Kung Fu tonight, so maybe that will help me get past this overwhelming sense of ennui. The Sifu just got back from Thailand recently, so maybe we’ll just drill. That would probably the best possible thing for me. Nothing quite like kicking for overwhelming ennui, right?

Markov Garden is a little behind. I’m looking through it to find places where I can get it to tell me about itself. The tables mentioned here are a good start, but they’re still pretty overwhelming, and the HTML documents build to display them are literally 50 times the size of the input texts. That’s not necessarily a deal breaker (the tables won’t be part of the published project), but it does mean that figuring out where I can make things more accessible requires a lot of thinking.

Periodically I need to remind myself that this is something that I’m doing in addition to my job/other life concerns/etc. I have been prone to despairing about the fact that I haven’t published the damn thing already, which is clearly about as counterproductive as a thought can be. Here’s the resolution: I’m going to work on it tonight after class, and then after that I’m going to use the parser as-is, regardless of its state, and work on putting some of it up on EC2. Even if things are still a wreck, shifting gears should keep me facile in a way that will make an eventual breakthrough easier than focusing too hard on one thing.

Fed to the Lines

So I’m in Ashland for the long weekend, but I managed to do some hacking in the plane. Now the generated text includes paragraphs! Exciting. Of course, the process of adding them has made the random text generator 3 times more inefficient, but we can leave that for later. In the mean time, Machiavelli:

In 1500 he was the kingdom of Naples. But let us return whence we started. I say that, on the pursuit of which he was a case of need. When the “History of Florence,” gives us a picture of the Venetians and Florentines formerly extended their dominions by these continual discussions there could be done. In a short time the emperor ceased to hold securely the state, still less in the enterprise, in exchange for the utmost diligence to avoid those things which ought to entertain the people to arms and fortunes of Florence, and Messer Antonio da Venafro as the governments of Europe rely on his back, or if any of my acting thus for thou hast learnt to believe and to the throne, he moved against the other; which course will always be as keys to that kingdom; because, having always kept both orders in their own laws and good faith, and to bring success and honour to him to it. This occurred on the point to die.

I say, therefore, that in entirely new principalities as I said Nabis the Spartan did.

But concerning his intentions. Ugucionne cursed the hesitation and cowardice of his “Art of War.” It was here that Castruccio far excelled his companions in courage and hope with which all difficulties are prior to getting possession, because they fly, but they are about. Therefore a wise and able man to discuss them, because their alliance will bring thee advantages and security. It is seen also that I may catch a whale”; and this is Il Taro, afterwards Allesandria, Capua, Genoa, Vaila, Bologna, Mestri.(*)

When all the other under Pagolo, and the other hand, Castruccio reached Montecarlo with his greatness of the cavalry. The horses, alarmed by the Church

It is seen also that I may catch a whale!

In One Permanent Sense

So tonight was the beginning of an important transition. Up until now, I have been working with text versions of the input texts. This was always a stopgap. Because I was always going to end up parsing stuff that I got off the web in order to generate chains, I knew that eventually I’d want to take advantage of the fact that HTML was already structured to avoid a bunch of stupid guesswork and, of course, to ameliorate the scope of my second problem.

He turned from the metal bridge an instant. –We are a delusion, said roundly John Eglinton censured, have yet to be next some girl. Who is the only colour to his greencapped desklamp sought the face after fifteen years, say. For instance some fellow that had but gotten into him a leg of her allowed that that player Shakespeare, a ghost by absence, and in a low tone to their lights. Father Conmee and Father Conroy got up and look and christian walking, in habit dun beseeming her megrims and wrinkled like little Rudy’s was. Dwarf’s

Small Potatoes

So mostly I just kind of tinkered with things in a smallish way, but I used “Ulysses” as an input text which mainly matters because it’s fucking enormous. It took a long time and ground pretty hard, so obviously that’s something I’ll need to look into in the future, but here are the results.

And I’ll tell him he needn’t trouble about that little hint she gave a nervous cough and Edy asked her how it fared with the motor. Hooked that nicely. Entertainments. Open house. Big blowout. Wetherup always said that. Get a light bright tinkling measure for tripping ladies, arch and smiling, and for a drink. –God, do you do, Mr Crimmins? First rate, sir. I was with him about getting Molly into the kidney and slapped it out of pinnies. Edy told him no offence and all delighted_… Tenors get wom. Cowley lay back. –Stand

I’d love to be able to read single chapters form “Ulysses” and then compare what each one generates.

In Which We Reiterate the Location of God

So it’s great to be like, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for something to hack on” and to just sort of go for it. Furthermore, it’s great to take the opportunity to learn a new approach or language (or, in my case, two), but going great guns at it tends to create problems. In my case (and I think it’s a pretty common one), I ended up only being able to access the component parts of my program through its overarching mechanisms, which is pretty much backwards (this is, as you know, not particular to computer programs). Right after my post last night I figured out that some small aspect of my program wasn’t working the way I wanted to, and that I didn’t have any way to access it. Tonight I did a little decomposing, making my components a little more autonomous, and a little more responsive to prodding. Of course, the problem was a stupid typo, but at least I got to the point where I was able to figure that out with a test instead of staring at the code.

This is from the apology again.

But, having regard to public opinion, assumes the same gods which the city recognizes–the charge is five minae.’ Happy is Evenus, I said before about the conclusion. He characteristically remarks that he has embodied his conception of him, appearing in the aspiration of the state acknowledges, but some other new divinities or spiritual agencies (new or old, he is speaking an untruth. Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and that the unexamined life is not so ignorant as to those who agree to

It’s sort of cool when you have something that veers this close to actual semantic content, but it isn’t nearly as fun.

Here Goes

So I took some paternal advice and subclassed something instead of wrapping it, and I also tried (without much success) to get the thing to print a summary of the table of probabilities that is used in generating the random text. At any rate, this used Plato’s Apology as input.

Translator: Benjamin Jowett and not far from death. I am almost ashamed to confess that immediately after my departure punishment far heavier than you are mistaken: a man is able to pay, and not to do anything that might pervert the course of his triumph, when he concludes this part of a kind of voice, first began to come forward in public and advise the state. I will tell you. It is an old man already, and the demigods or spirits are gods, and then I dare say that maintenance in