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Brains

Filed under: General,Life — Thomas @ 4:29 pm

2004-7-27
4:29 pm

Yesterday I met a girl that I was sure I had seen before, and she stared at me the same way. She was the first to actually ask, since, you know, coming from me it would just be a cheap come-on line :) So we spent some time trying to figure it out. We were from the same city, and we had two people in common, and could think of a few incidental occasions where we could have met, but none of them seemed to be where we knew each other from.

But we couldn’t figure it out. I stopped naming activities we could have known each other from after she laughed at my suggestion that we could have met in dancing class in the last year of high school, because she made me feel like a geek for having taken those classes :)

And after an hour I remembered. So I asked her if I had her last name correct to check, and then said that I knew her from the inter-scholary student union we had started up in that year with about twenty people from different schools. Heh, so she had been just as much a geek as me. Especially given that one of the projects we had that year was to have a dance as a fundraiser for some good cause, and we were taking classes so we wouldn’t look stupid at our own dance…

But that’s not the point of the story. The point is, as soon as I realized who she was, I knew her last name and her street address in one flash. This was information stored in my brain and not used for over ten years, but it was just as readily available as it was back then. It seems to be stored as factual information – I could have remembered it in my head as being typed on a piece of paper, or someone saying it to me, or whatever. But that’s not how it happened – I just “remembered” it in its processed stored form.

There are things which I of course remember based on smell, sound or vision, but this wasn’t one of them. Makes me wonder again and again how the brain actually works, but I’m pretty positive we won’t know enough about it in my lifetime.

Now, if someone wants to help me on my quest of figuring out what deja-vu’s are about, preferably with decent links to studies, that’d help me a lot as well :)

Friends

Filed under: General,Life — Thomas @ 11:49 am

2004-7-26
11:49 am

So – had a nice couple of days with my friends from Gent staying over. I had a great time, I hope they did too. Having them over has made me realize a few things though.

In life there typically aren’t many moments where you don’t have friends and have to make an effort to make some. The last time I probably had to do so was in kindergarten. After kindergarten, you always seem to carry over some old friends on your way to making new ones. So people see that you already have friends, so you’re friend material, and everything works out fine.

So you start to take friendship in general for granted. On the other hand, moving to a completely different country changes all that, and for the first time I’ve had to think again about how the process of making friends works. I make it sound really boring and calculating now, and it’s not like I sit around all day thinking about it :) But, subconsciously you do tend to mull over it. So having had my friends over I realize I don’t have friends like that here, and it’s unlikely I will any time soon, since these old friends have only become really good friends over a long period of time.

A second thing I’ve realized is how people can behave in certain situations. A long time ago I had a girlfriend that went to live in Venezuela for a year. I went to visit her for two weeks after around seven months. I had looked forward to it immensely, but the first ten days were a complete let-down. She was incredibly distant, unemotional, and cold. And while I could speculate on why, and we discussed it in the final (great) four days, I never fully understood what had happened.

But now I do. Saturday, the last day they were here, I was in a pissy mood because I realized that the next day they’d go back to their lives in Gent, while I’d stay here. And even though I like my life here a lot, the city is great, and so is my job – I still felt homesick. Also, while we had a lot of fun, apart from politics we didn’t really talk about anything serious, and I realized afterwards that I kept my distance on an emotional level. It makes sense when I think about it, and it’s probably the same thing that happened to me in Venezuela.

I’m sure I’m overanalyzing right now. So bottom line is, Kristien and I need to spend more time with people here :)

Anyway, I had a great time, so thanks to all of them for coming over. We did some sight-seeing, formed a five human pyramid in the water (after about twentyfive tries), went for great tapas, had a perfect barbecue (Jeroen’s steak preparation rivals Julien’s), and just had lots of laughs. Hope some of them come over sometime soon again.
It also means we have to invest a bit of time in making good friends.

I just had to vent

Filed under: Hacking — Thomas @ 5:19 pm

2004-7-20
5:19 pm

Spent an hour on trying to figure out a bug. For the sake of argument, let’s say I was trying to figure out why

echo "kaka pipi" | sed 's/\S/./g'

does not substitute every letter with a dot.

Of course, every utility on UNIX systems that USES regular expressions DOES IT DIFFERENT.

grep uses “basic” and “extended”, where egrep uses extended by default, and “basic” is something that is “less powerful”. What the part on regexps in grep’s man page fails to mention (but the list of options has it) is that you can choose a third style, perl-style regexps. Then the usual difficult-to-grok explanation of grep’s idea of “extended” regexps is explained in gory details.

“awk” claims to be using the same regexp style as “extended” in grep, then goes on to explain, in a different way, what that means. Mere mortals have no way of verifying the initial claim. Of course awk comes with some switches that modify the regexp engine’s behaviour.

“tr” works on sets, so the man page doesn’t even use the term “regular expression”, but goes on to describe a syntax of how to specify single characters or sets of characters that sort-of-resembles-regexp-style-but-not-sure-which.

“ed” describes regular expressions, explains what it allows, and makes no reference to any other implementation. Again, impossible to tell if it’s the same as any of the other or not.

The list goes on, and contains vim, emacs, and all programming languages.

So why does this matter ? If you test a regexp with one application, until it works, growing it genetically like we all do, everything’s fine, no ?

Not really.
Running

echo "kaka pipi" | sed 's/\s/./g'

gives:

  • kaka.pipi on FC2
  • kaka pipi on RH9
  • kaka pipi on Mac OSX
  • kaka.pipi on current Gentoo

Interestingly, running

echo "kaka pipi" | sed 's/\W/./g'

gives:

  • kaka.pipi on FC2
  • kaka.pipi on RH9 (!)
  • kaka pipi on Mac OSX (!)

You can’t trust sed to either make sense or be consistent across platforms. So back to square one, and this time add a note to my code that says exactly why we stick to this one piece of evolutionary grown sed syntax – because it’s the only thing that Works.

And next time someone complains that some new code we are writing is not consistent, and “all the UNIX tools can be consistent, why can’t you”, I have something to point them to.

gifts

Filed under: Life — Thomas @ 11:26 am

2004-7-19
11:26 am

I received two gifts that I’m not sure of who I got them from. Sweet. However, I’d like to thank the people who sent them. The Buffy DVD set I have a good idea of who it came from, but I don’t feel up to embarassing myself just yet. The Explosions In The Sky CD contained no additional info whatsoever.

So if you sent them to me, drop me a mail, I received them and am enjoying them :)

It’s the time of the season – for love

Filed under: General,Life — Thomas @ 10:47 am

10:47 am

Finally had enough internet bandwidth to upload pictures of Bas’ en Siska’s wedding. If but all weddings were as lovely as theirs…

Meanwhile, Ross is looking very pretty in his wedding suit. Too bad he’s already hitched, has a prettier wife than I could ever be, and I’m generally not that way inclined, because otherwise …

Congratulations Ross ! Now get back to hacking damnit.

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