Wednesday, October 31, 2001

For all of you who need a good story about airline security:

This actually happened to my artificial learning systems professor, Peter Bock, and was recounted during class yesterday. I'm writing it here because it should be preserved for posterity. My apologies to professor Bock if I get some of the details wrong.

Professor Bock does some contract work the Bosch Corporation in Germany. Last week he flew to (I believe) Hamburg for a few meetings. On his return flight, after waiting in line for hours at security check points, he sat in his business class seat watching all of the other passengers trickle into the plane. Just as they were about to 'button up' the plane, he was approached by a very serious German official.

"Are you Peter Bock?" asked the official in English.

"Yes, I am." Replied the puzzled professor.

"Could you please come with me?"

Professor Bock was escorted out of the plane with every available passenger eye glued to him. Outside he was greeted by even more serious looking German officials and three fully armed soldiers. He was taken into a little room and his bag was placed on the table as he sat down.

Peter Bock speaks German, but he was very glad that they addressed him in English in such a tense situation. After a few questions, they asked him to describe what he had in his bag.

Professor Bock racked his brains trying to think of what he could be carrying that would land him in an interrogation room. "Umm...I have clothes and books in there. Uh…A nail clipper? I'm carrying a nail clipper. Umm..."

"Could you be carrying a human brain, Mr. Bock?"

He paused for a second. "Why, yes. I am carrying a brain, a model of a human brain." My professor carries a brain model when he travels so he can relate structures of machine intelligence to portions of human cognition. He reached into his bag and pulled out the model. The tension in the room broke and all of the Germans had a good laugh, even the rifle bearing soldiers.

They of course let professor Bock back on to the plane and all of the passengers had a good laugh about the college professor who left his brain in his bag.

posted by Alison 10/31/2001 11:46:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Hooray! Today I don't have to teach my computer science 51 lab. I'm spending Halloween with Alice, who luckily enough is the person in charge csci51 couse this semester.

"Hello, class. There won't be labs this week because your TA and I are going to a They Might Be Giants concert."

I'm pretty sure that no one wanted to be in a 8:30-10:00pm lab on Halloween night.

posted by Alison 10/31/2001 11:37:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

We eventally changed it from 'touch keith' to 'spank keith'

posted by Alison 10/31/2001 12:32:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

This collection of hauntings is truly staggering with over 3700 personal recollections. I found my hometown, Jonesboro, Georgia, on a list of haunted places. The list of famous hauntings is also really fascinating, I had no idea that there were so many haunted places in and around DC. I'm tempted to visit the Octagon tomorrow, it's only three blocks away and is one of the most haunted buildings in the US.

posted by Alison 10/30/2001 11:15:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Today I swam laps for the first time in a few months. I've been running tons of stairs and walking constantly, but after swimming a mile I realized that by pool standards I'm pretty out of shape. I don't have any complaints about my body, but sometimes it would be nice to have a torso like the ones you see rotating rotisserie-style on those 5-minute abs commercials.

posted by Alison 10/24/2001 12:30:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Saturday, October 20, 2001

Wow. I had no idea that Dan Rather was so cool. Maybe I'm just too young to remember all of the times the CBS anchorman has been beat up, including the famous "What's the Frequency, Kenneth" incident. Now there's a web site where you can read about all of the times that he's been randomly assaulted or generally harassed.

"A cabby picked up Dan Rather, the CBS correspondent, at Chicago's O'Hare Airport yesterday, and things began to happen. According to a spokesman for the Chicago police, the cab driver refused to go where he was told and instead 'drove wildly through the streets' with Mr. Rather shouting and gesturing for help."
There are also a ton of video clips. I think the best one is of him getting punched at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. And of course, it wouldn't be Dan Rather without the long list of weird quotes (a sample):

"They say California's the big burrito; Texas is a big taco right now. We want to follow that through. Florida is a big tamale." --Election Night 1996
I doubt that this particular web site wants Dan Rather to be seen in a positive light (it's called "Rather Biased" for a reason) but hearing about all of the random physical attacks and bizarre comments just makes me like him more. This is probably because I don't watch the news for information any more when I can find the same thing without commercials on the internet.

posted by Alison 10/20/2001 12:19:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Thursday, October 18, 2001

We have arrived at a name for our two AI entities: AC/DC, that is Average Creature and Deviant Creature. Now we just have to build the darn things and hope that they work like they're supposed to.

elevator parts
And here is a picture of some elevator parts I found on the sidewalk. This has nothing to do with my AI project, but I have too many photographs in the queue to organize them into anything meaningful.

posted by Alison 10/18/2001 10:16:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Friday, October 12, 2001

This weekend the DC Metro is dropping all fares for bus and subway use. I've planned an afternoon out with my friends that will take advantage of this worthwhile event.

To anyone who thinks I shouldn't be using public transportation during these times of crisis:

Please don't tell me about any of the rumors you've heard about shopping malls or buses full of nuns. I'm tired of everyone being paranoid. Let's just calm down and consider the differences between legitimate threats and hysterical email forwards. If there isn't any hard evidence and you only heard this second hand or worse, please resist the urge and let me get on with my life. I'm talking to my relatives, friends, most media organizations, the Japanese Embassy*, and of course, the FBI. Yeah, that's right, I'm talking to you, Mr. Ashcroft.

Twenty-four hours after the FBI warned of an "imminent" threat that could come at any place at any time, workers, tourists and families in one of the nation's highest-risk areas seemed more apprehensive than at any point since the days following the Sept. 11 attacks.
A few words of advice for the Federal Bureau of Investigation: If you are going to issue a warning, please give us specific information. Otherwise, you are just making my parents worry for what is likely to be no good reason. Secondly, people in DC are no fools. We know that by living in the nation's capitol we are taking on extra risk. I remember on my first tour of GWU; I was told that during the cold war there was a nuclear warhead aimed at the exact center of our main yard. This little piece of legend has served my university well. If you're paranoid about nuclear Armageddon or the increased risk of living three blocks from the White House, then GW probably isn't for you. This leaves us with a student population of people who don't panic easily. And like the rest of DC, we think it's worth the increased risk for the benefits of being in one of the most powerful cities in the world.

So, FBI, when you tell us to be alert, we already are. We've been noting suspicious people and packages for weeks. Have you walked by the State Department lately? Those people are would up tighter than clock springs. Please, give them a break.

As for me, I'm going to get on that train tomorrow and I'm going to enjoy my weekend.

*I've heard from a Japanese citizen that their embassy has been warning people not to go into federal buildings. This might be second hand information to you, but for me it's backing up my source.

posted by Alison 10/12/2001 04:47:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Thursday, October 11, 2001

I have now idea how I did it, but I managed to tear up most of the muscles running along the left side of my spine (the lower trapezius to be exact). Posts will be a little infrequent as long as I am having trouble doing things like sitting and typing. Actually, they probably that's not true considering that I'm typing right now. I've even managed to teach through this, although I've been shortening my lectures to 'Please do lab number six. Here is the attendence sheet.' Then I collapse into my chair and answer all questions without getting up. I admit that this isn't a very effective way to run a class, but once I heal I'll go back to my wacky metaphor/wild hand gesture way of teaching.

posted by Alison 10/11/2001 11:49:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Sunday, October 07, 2001

Greg has been watching professor Chaves' house for the weekend and he was kind enough to take Ben and me for a spin in the professor's G20. Of course, riding from DC down to Virginia usually means taking 395 and riding past the Pentagon. This was the first time I had seen it since flying over it a few months ago. I have learned over my short life that pictures can only give you an idea of what things really look like. Looking at a hundred photographs of the wreckage is never the same as seeing it with your own eyes. But more than the charred beams or the debris, the crowd of people standing on the hill opposite really brought this into focus. Yeah, this really did happen.

posted by Alison 10/07/2001 11:09:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Tuesday, October 02, 2001

National will open on Thursday and return to (approximately) full capcity soon. The article listed a host of new security measures that will be put into place within the next two days. Some of those measures sound pretty vague. What will these new limits on carry-on luggage enatil? How many hours will I have to come early? Dulles Airport is asking passengers to come 4 hours early. I wonder what you're supposed to be doing during those extra 3 hours. Are you waiting in line or sitting around? Is that time request exaggerated? I guess I'll find out when I go home for Thanksgiving.

posted by Alison 10/02/2001 03:32:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Monday, October 01, 2001

I've been throwing around a few names for the artificial learning system that I'm working on. Actually, it's two separate systems that play a game against one another. The catch is that one of them will be designed to cheat, while the other one will strictly follow the rules. My research group is interested in how breaking the rules will effect the rate at which our collective learning automata (CLA) develop strategy.

So, for names for the two systems I was thinking "perfidy and veracity" would do the trick.

per·fi·dy (pûrf-d)
n. pl. per·fi·dies
  1. Deliberate breach of faith; calculated violation of trust; treachery: “the fink, whose perfidy was equaled only by his gall” (Gilbert Millstein).
  2. The act or an instance of treachery.

ve·rac·i·ty (v-rs-t)
n. pl. ve·rac·i·ties
  1. Adherence to the truth; truthfulness. See Synonyms at truth.
  2. Conformity to fact or truth; accuracy or precision: a report of doubtful veracity.
  3. Something that is true.
Perhaps we should just call them "Captain and Tennille."

posted by Alison 10/01/2001 11:23:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

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