I Write Like…

Statistical analyzer that takes a sample of your (or anyone’s) writing and claims to match it based on similarity to a known author: I Write Like.

I pasted an excerpt from an email I had written a while back, and I got the result “I write like Cory Doctorow”. Really? My emails read like Doctorow? This sounded too good to be true, so I dug up my recipe for mushroom-peanut lasagna and pasted that in, and I got the result “I write like Mario Puzo”!

I swear this thing was written by a wise guy.


You know the arXiv. Here’s the snarXiv.

As its name indicates, snarXiv is a parody of arXiv. You can test your bogus-title detection skills at snarXiv vs arXiv. I didn’t get over 60-65% myself (after some 15-20 trials); I could detect the really blatant fakes (“Towards some general examples”), but really my performance is only modestly better than a coin-flip. In my own defense, I’m not a physicist, leave alone a high-energy theoretical physicist. How did you do?

When Thermodynamics Goes Meta

While running a simulated annealing program, lowering the simulated temperature too slowly will make the CPU temperature rise too much. That’s thermodynamics.

Law of computer thermodynamics

The other lesson in here, particularly for systems engineers, is: “The system always kicks back”. (Paraphrased from John Gall’s satirical takedown of systems-thinking in his three Systemantics books, which are a little over the top but nevertheless recommended).

GreatBong on the Kolkata Knight Riders

From this heartfelt writeup from GreatBong on the Kolkata Knight Riders:

Then on days where we were playing among ourselves on the streets and there were not enough players to make teams, we would play by what was known as “lottery”. In this form of “gully cricket” every player essentially forms a “team of one” and all that was left to be determined was in which order we would bat (this would be the reverse order in which we would bowl). Everyone would field and he who made the most runs won.

So how was this order decided? Someone (let us call him A) would stand and the second person (let us call him person B) would hold his hand behind the first person in a way that A would not be able to see. B would then show a random number of fingers and A would call out a name from among those assembled. And the number represented by those fingers would then become the called out person’s batting position.

Thanks to the Knight Riders, I am once again in touch with my past in a way I never thought would be possible.

Leaving aside the zinger about KKR deciding their batting order using a random permutation algorithm, not only is the algorithm to obtain a secure permutation of the team’s batting order remarkable in its simplicity, the childlike political compromises that made such a permutation algorithm necessary in the first place are truly endearing. Those kids would bring a tear to Bruce Schneier’s eye.

Amazon Product Reviews as a Literary Art Form

There seems to be an online subculture that treats product reviews on Amazon.com as a literary art form and an outlet for creative writing urges. Consider these:

For Perry’s Chemical Engineers Handbook:

A riveting book from start to finish!, October 17, 1998

Perry has outdone himself once again. The seventh edition is even more of a show-stopper than the previous editions. I read this book from cover to cover in one sitting, unable to put it down for a moment, not even to relieve myself! The molecular weights were so accurate and the heats of reaction made my spine tingle. Once I reached the section discussing distillation and tray efficiencies I [k]new I was hooked. I won’t give away the ending but it’s definitely a shocker. Bravo to Mr. Perry’s and I am counting the days to the release of your 9th edition!

For Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable (a $500 Ethernet cable to connect your music system to your IP-based speakers) (via):

A caution to people buying these: if you do not follow the “directional markings” on the cables, your music will play backwards.

Another for the same product:

After I took delivery of my $500 Denon AKDL1 Cat-5 uber-cable, Al Gore was mysteriously drawn to my home, where he pronounced that Global Warming had been suspended in my vicinity. Additionally, my cars began achieving 200 mpg and I didn’t even need gasoline. I was able to put three grams of cat litter into the tank and drive forever.

One heck of a cable.

Didn’t notice any improvement in audio quality though.

For How to Avoid Huge Ships:

I’ve been plagued by huge ships all my life. Ever since I can remember. This book tells you all you need to know about avoiding these everyday hazards. Now I can come and go with complete freedom. Even my weekly shopping is a pleasure!

For A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates (as a point of interest, 24% of people who view the page for this book buy “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!” instead):

Such a terrific reference work! But with so many terrific random digits, it’s a shame they didn’t sort them, to make it easier to find the one you’re looking for.

Speaking of random, you just know that someone is going to compile all these reviews into a book and try to sell it on Amazon or eBay:

You can do this one in every 30 times and still have 97% positive feedback.