$"  $$
                                   o "$o
                                  o"  "$
             oo"$$$"  oo$"$ooo   o$    "$    ooo"$oo  $$$"o
o o o o    oo"  o"      "o    $$o$"     o o$""  o$      "$  "oo   o o o o
"$o   ""$$$"   $$         $      "   o   ""    o"         $   "o$$"    o$$
  ""o       o  $          $"       $$$$$       o          $  ooo     o""
     "o   $$$$o $o       o$        $$$$$"       $o        " $$$$   o"
      ""o $$$$o  oo o  o$"         $$$$$"        "o o o o"  "$$$  $
        "" "$"     """""            ""$"            """      """ "
          "$$$$"$$$$" $$$$$$$"$$$$$$ " "$$$$$"$$$$$$"  $$$""$$$$
           $$$oo$$$$   $$$$$$o$$$$$$o" $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ o$$$$o$$$"
           $"                                                  o


/^Research for personal theory that Regular Expressions & cheat codes extend into the real world$/

    working hard or hardly working?

    04 Mar 2016

    One of my favorite Twitter bots, from Casey Kolderup, is called Sailor Clones. It does something deceptively simple: slowly but surely it trawls thru a secret list of terms, emitting iterations on the classic "red sky at morning / sailors' delight" rhyme. For context, here's the original rhyme:

    Red sky at night, sailors' delight.
    Red sky at morning, sailors take warning

    And here are a few recent iterations, generated by Sailor Clones:

    AMERICANS at morning, fish trimmers take warning.
    AMERICANS at night, fish trimmers' delight

    silence at morning, aerobics instructors take warning.
    silence at night, aerobics instructors' delight

    getting blood on it at morning, timekeeping clerks take warning.
    getting blood on it at night, timekeeping clerks' delight

    What's wonderful about this bot is that in re-examining a venerated turn of phrase ("Red sky at morning..."), it suggests an alternate universe where there might be other, equally-valid versions of the same aphorism. Which in turn reminds me of brute-force attacks, where a computer is put to work trying to guess a password or secret by trying as many combinations as possible.


    The Sailor Clones bot has the advantage that the rhyme under attack already has some notable variations, making it feel natural to substitute pieces of it to find new versions. But this suggests that there might be other source material out there so stubbornly "canonical", that any brute-forced iteration on the original phrasing might result in a new version that is so unambigiuously "right" that it would feel like discovering a new element in the periodic table of elements.

    One such phrase presented itself to me while I was doing the thing you do where you say something over and over until it sounds dumb — that phrase being working hard, or hardly working?. This is such a dumb phrase, it makes me laugh out loud to even think it. But would it be possible to invent a new "working hard, hardly working"?

    My humble contribution towards this endeavor is the Twitter bot @hardlyworkingor. As with bots like this, you need not follow it to derive value from it; you can rest quietly knowing that one day, it might discover a new "Hardly working" and we will all be the better for its efforts.

    non-lethal sentences

    07 Mar 2015

    An excerpt from Valis by Philip K. Dick:

    I've always told people that for each person there is a sentence — a series of words — which has the power to destroy him. When Fat told me about Leon Stone I realized (this came years after the first realization) that another sentence exists, another series of words, which will heal the person. If you're lucky you will get the second, but you can be certain of getting the the first: that is the way it works. On their own, without training, individuals know how to deal out the lethal sentence, but training is required to deal out the second.

    Good random numbers

    29 Jun 2014

    I’m struck by this piece of advice offered by GNUPG, a piece of software used in cryptography:

    We need to generate a lot of random bytes. It is a good idea to perform
    some other action (type on the keyboard, move the mouse, utilize the
    disks) during the prime generation; this gives the random number
    generator a better chance to gain enough entropy.

    The idea that random keystrokes help to make a “good random number” is pleasantly analog. A connoiseur might look at a random number and deduce that it was generated with an old computer, or a computer with a sticky keyboard, or a computer that was infrequently used.

    When first encountering computers in elementary school, I remember a kid in my class who invariably tried to convince other kids that his random keystrokes, made while the computer started up, were the only thing that allowed the computer to startup at all. It’s wonderful that this turns out to be, in a twisted way, true!


    I’m reminded of a favorite (fake) theory about ancient greek pottery:

    A pot or vase could be "read" like a gramophone record or phonograph cylinder for messages from the past, sounds encoded into the turning clay as the pot was thrown.

    The underyling myth notwithstanding, it's somehow easy to imagine ancient potters choosing to make pottery in purpose-built rooms because it "sounds better" — that the ambience of the room somehow makes its way into the clay form. In the same vein, you might imagine someone who downloads music mp3 "naked" or "while on vacation", on the theory that it sounds better that way.


    15 Dec 2013

    I've written a small program. The program does one thing very simply: it draws a random record from the list of businesses incorporated in New York State since 1800, and posts the name of the business, along with the date of incorporation, to a Twitter account.


    26 Oct 2013

    I used the yes command (Linux/Unix/Mac OS X) for the first time the other day. Here's a description of what it does:

    YES(1)                    BSD General Commands Manual                   YES(1)
         yes -- be repetitively affirmative
         yes [expletive]
         yes outputs expletive, or, by default, ``y'', forever.
         The yes command appeared in 4.0BSD.

    By way of example:

    17:01 ~ $ yes

    Seems like an invaluable tool for promotion:

    17:01 ~ $ yes "the regex king"
    the regex king
    the regex king
    the regex king
    the regex king
    the regex king
    the regex king
    the regex king
    the regex king
    the regex king
    the regex king
    the regex king
    the regex king
    the regex king


    06 Oct 2013

    From 20 public-spirited lawyers could change the world:

    ...law enables individuals and institutions to send laser beams (of varying quality, depending on cost) from one point in time and space to another, saying "this is what will take place; this is what we agree has happened; this is what must happen; these are the conditions of co-operation". Law, more than the media, allows money to be converted into publicly-agreed and enforceable statements.

    This reminded me of "fine print" from radio ads. An example (from the internet):

    This advertising style is very funny, but very possibly legally binding as well! Which seems to illustrate this legal "beam" concept: that by witnessing a spew of specially chosen legal words, you convert a virtual premise into a real premise. And that the only tools at your disposal are legal words pointing in the opposite direction.

    Rip Van Winkle logout

    15 Sep 2013

    As "username and password required" has become a de facto internet standard, a number of odd patterns have emerged.

    I like this list from a free password generator site:

    A strong password:

    • has at least 15 characters;
    • has uppercase letters;
    • has lowercase letters;
    • has numbers;
    • has symbols, such as ` ! " ? $ ? % ^ & * ( ) _ - + = { [ } ] : ; @ ' ~ # | \ < , > . ? /
    • is not like your previous passwords;
    • is not your name;
    • is not your login;
    • is not your friend’s name;
    • is not your family member’s name;
    • is not a dictionary word;
    • is not a common name;
    • is not a keyboard pattern, such as qwerty, asdfghjkl, or 12345678.

    Given these definitions, it seems like a "strong password" might (strongly) correlate with having a "boring account", while a "weak password" might lead to more of a "leisure account".


    Jacob wrote in about a video game called Faxanadu, which uses transcendental passwords to save state:

    the way you save the game is by visiting a a Guru, who tells you your mantra, which usually looks like LlkjjIOuJNLkjJ. when you restart, you enter your mantra and it takes you to the place you were at.

    The mantras also reward saving state. Compared to playing the game straight thru, saving with a mantra gets you extra health, money, etc. He describes the mantras as less like cheats, more like "advantageous save states", which is a useful category to define.

    If passwords confer advantageous states, it stands to reason that logging out (saving state) often is the only way to get more money and health from an account. I've come to think of this practice as doing a Rip Van Winkle logout.

    In Rip Van Winkle's case, logging out for ~20 years conferred "the luxury of sleeping through the hardships of war". The state that emerges from logging out of Gmail/Facebook/Twitter is quite a more opaque. Nonetheless, a few recommendations:

    The Rip Van Winkle logout

    • use a password that includes:
      • a friend's name
      • a family member's name
      • a preferred dictionary word
      • a common pattern such as "666", "420" or "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog"
      • a previous password you remember fondly
    • logout & login with this password as needed (when the winds of health/money/luck change)

    Allen's addendum to International Art English

    02 Sep 2013

    Allen inadvertently participated in a panel on International Art English, the Triple Canopy analysis of the English language as represented in art press releases.

    I didn't listen to the entire panel, but enjoyed Allen's small contribution:

    Using the traffic example, if formal language is my work is about traffic, or this is a depiction of traffic and you describe how it’s doing that, then theoretical language wouldn't actually be my work questions traffic, it would be what is traffic. And you’d write a text about traffic that accompanies the piece. You wouldn't even describe the piece. That would be theoretical writing.

    So International Art English is the language that results from saying that my piece is questioning traffic, and this is how it does it.

    Where the International Art English article is concerned with objectively pointing, Allen's description speculates that metaphysical consequences are implied (if not intended) by this style of writing.

    Presumably most writers of art press releases don't seek physical powers from their writing. But it's interesting to consider how the writing might change if they did. By way of an example press release from the Triple Canopy article:

    “Through an expansive practice that spans drawing, sculpture, video, and artist books, Kim contemplates a world in which perception is radically questioned. His visual language is characterized by deadpan humor and absurdist propositions that playfully and subversively invert expectations. By suggesting that what you see may not be what you see, Kim reveals the tension between internal psychology and external reality, and relates observation and knowledge as states of mind.”

    In Game Genie style:

    All perception questioned (World)
    Expectations become inverted - playful
    Expectations become inverted - subversive
    Kim will show you false seeing
    Add tension with internal psychology
    Add tension with external reality
    State of mind now has observation
    State of mind now has knowledge

    Go to any level / jump higher / stay bigger / live forever

    29 Aug 2013


    The Game Genie is a "plugin" that sits between a video game cartridge and the video game's player. Because eletrical signals pass thru the Game Genie before hitting the game console, it allows the player to "fold, spindle, and mutilate" how the game is played. Usually this meant inputting cheat codes.

    Some cheats mumbled at the end of a game genie commercial:

    I've never used a Game Genie, but it's a funny frame for how technology ends up getting used. There were a number of legal battles with Nintendo about whether or not it was legal to produce an unsanctioned "cheating system". One wonders if the device was somehow the secret result of a fever dream of some Nintendo employee.

    Notably, Wikipedia sez that the stress put on the cartridge by the Genie sometimes caused "units to be unplayable without the Game Genie present". Perhaps over time, Game Genies slowly start to displace their hosts. If you leave them in long enough, the Genie plays.

    Genie codes were released in booklets (periodically delivered by mail) which look like this:

    CODE    KEY IN . . .    EFFECT . . .
    1   AATOZA  Start players 1 & 2 with 1 life
    2   IATOZA  Start players 1 & 2 with 6 lives
    3   AATOZE  Start players 1 & 2 with 9 lives
    4   VATOLE  Start player 1 with 8 lives and player 2 with 3 
    13  AEVAVIIA + AENEEITA Permanent turbo running
    14  AXSETUAO + ESVAPUEV Super fast run for Mario
    15  AZEEGKAO + EIEEYKEV Super fast run for Luigi
    16  AXNAIUAO + ESNEAUEV Fast run for Toad
    17  AZXALKAO + EIXATKEV Super fast run for Princess

    The grammar and syntax are insanely consistent throughout. And there are reams and reams of these!

    Speech Acts

    27 Aug 2013

    In the distant past, my friend Josh described a category of speech which performs an action in the process of being spoken. The existence of this category has stuck with me because it endows speech with powers similar to a spell or a computer command.

    I wasn't able to recall the name until finding a reference to How to Do Things With Words, a posthumous book by J. L. Austin. He defines a performative utterance as "the senses in which to say something may be to do something". These utterances constitute a "speech act". Wikipedia gets a little more nasty with the definition, referring to setentences "not being used to describe or state what one is 'doing', but being used to actually 'do' it." The classic examples:

    If you say "I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth," and the circumstances are appropriate in certain ways, then you will have done something special, namely, you will have performed the act of naming the ship. Other examples include: "I take this man as my lawfully wedded husband," used in the course of a marriage ceremony, or "I bequeath this watch to my brother," as occurring in a will.


    The way that Wikipedia phrases the Queen Elizabeth example is particularly striking, almost reading like a recipe or folklore! If you say [x] when "the circumstances are appropriate in certain ways" you will have done [y].

    It's easy to imagine footnotes buried in legal codes, stipulating what marriages emerge when you mess with the syntax of "lawfully wedded husband": "legal wedding husband", "wedding-law husband", "legally weddable husband", etc.

    Some additional criteria for Austin's performative utterances, found elsewhere:

    • they are typically first-person singular present indicative active or second or third person passive ('I promise' vs. 'you are hereby authorized')
    • some examples of just-barely-performative utterances: ‘Hurrah’, ‘Damn’, ‘I’m sorry’, ‘Out’ (said by an umpire)
    • sometimes they don't work (these are called "infelicities"):
      • when the utterance ends up breaking (example given is ‘I pick George’ (when George is not playing))
      • when the utterance is insincere (example given is ‘I congratulate you’ (when I think you don’t deserve the credit))
      • slow build insincerity ‘I welcome you’... if you go on to make the person feel unwelcome


    Selections from O'Reilly's Regular Expressions Pt. 1

    26 Aug 2013

    • Knowing how to wield regular expressions unleashes processing powers you might not even know were available.

    • Regular Expressions can add, remove, isolate , and generally fold, spindle, and mutilate all kinds of text and data

    Excerpts from Mastering Regular Expressions