A house among the trees

I just finished Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. I’ve read three of his books (or five, depending on how you count), and my favorite was the Wind Up Bird Chronicle, followed by Kafka, followed by 1Q84. I saw a lot of similar themes in Kafka and 1Q84, and it’s pretty clean advice to read Kafka before 1Q84, if you read 1Q84 at all.

I connected to a passage in the end of Kafka: “I don’t feel right unless I’ve got the sea and the mountains nearby. People are mostly a prouct of where they were born and raised. How you think and feel’s always linked to the lay of the land, the temperature.”

Living in Chicago for ten years, I found I really missed the forest I knew as a child. There’s something really calming about being among trees, and there are studies into how time spent in the woods improves one’s well being. When you live in the forest, you don’t have to go far to get that benefit. Chicago is a city of concrete and industry, and the trees were pushed from its limits. That’s one of the reasons my wife and I left.

Phonetic Similarity

I realized that the best first step, the begin, is to research topics in the NLP space. This involves reading papers, which I’ll start outlining here:

Phonemic Similarity Metrics to Compare Pronunciation Methods
This paper outlines a novel algorithm to score the similarity of pronunciations that based partly on how biologists compare protein sequences. A score is calculated based on the length and phonemes in the word, and the number of blank entries inserted to achieve that alignment. They also leverage the alternate pronunciations for words in the CMUDict, splitting out their different phonemes and use that as a basis for what should be considered similar.




In three minutes, it will be Thanksgiving. When that time comes, I’m going to sneak downstairs and quietly eat our entire pumpkin pie with a spoon.

I’m hung up on starting a project because I don’t know where to begin. One of my favorite quotes, or actually my favorite quote now that Papa John has revealed his true colors*, is “To begin, begin” by William Wordsworth. I did a project on him in high school and I can’t remember a single additional detail on him.

*Papa John’s Pizza has the marketing slogan “better ingredients, fresher pizza, Papa John’s”. I always used to say that when I described my cooking or drink-mixing philosophy. If you really care about the taste of something, forget about using dried or canned ingredients. Buy the source ingredients and build it up from there. That’s why my fresh lemon Tom Collins is always a hit. Recently Papa John revealed himself as someone who drops the n-word casually in conversations, so I’m really not trying to quote him anymore.

Pointless Games

I get addicted to video games sometimes. I get hooked, and I need to fully beat the game before I can give it up. Even after beating it, I sometimes still mess around in a game for a couple weeks before I’m willing to let it go. This is in no way unique to me, but I guess it feels better to lay it out. I actually just uninstalled FTL again. This time it’s for real. I’m an hour past my bedtime for the second night in a row, and I had to put a stop to it. Also, I just lost on the final boss on hard difficulty, and I can’t see myself dropping a dozen more hours to get back to that point. I have a lot of projects to complete in my free time, and it’s time to move on. Do you hear that, FTL? I’m breaking up with you and you can just toss all the stuff I left at your apartment.

I eventually forgave MF Doom

MF Doom, the masked polysyllabic master rapper, has a tendancy of sending imposters to his shows. These “doom bots” front around on stage and lip sync poorly to his songs. The dejected audiences pretty much instantly recognize them as frauds. I know because I attended one such show back in 2010 at the Congress theater in Chicago.

The Congress, shuttered in 2013 for flagrant safety violations, was a terribly managed theater and this show was a sour one. I was drawn to it because it featured two of my favorite MCs: Yasiin Bey (then Mos Def) and MF Doom, among other lower tier artists. It was clear that something was wrong early on. The time between artists kept dragging out, and one artist stayed on stage performing past the point where he had any songs left to play. I remember him trying to create mix up new songs on the spot. By the time Yasiin Bey came out much later, the audience wasn’t really there for him. He tried, but he just couldn’t recover the mood of the rowdy audience. His set ended, and “MF Doom” immediately burst onto the stage. Who was this guy in the MF Doom mask? What’s happening? Even Yasiin Bey looked confused

I left shortly after, and met some people at the el stop who had done the same. They were at least thankful they saw Yasiin Bey, and I connected with someone who said Black on Both Sides changed their life in the best way possible. Leaving that show, I felt an equivalent change, albeit a negative one. I couldn’t listen to MF Doom with the same respect and admiration I had previously. I felt betrayed as a fan.

It took me until this year to let those feelings go, when I heard Talib Kweli describe MF Doom’s booking philosophy on Hannibal Buress’ podcast. Apparently MF Doom never leaves money on the table and will always book the show if he’s requested. If the money’s not enough, though, he just won’t attend. It changed my perspective. He wasn’t doing this to be a jerk to his fans. He was doing this because the Congress, which I also detested, didn’t pay him enough.

I wish I knew that before I waited the entire night to see him.

Don’t overthink this

Today I disassembled the foldable keyboard prototype that I posted about a few days back. I wasn’t using it, and in truth, it was an over-engineered design. It was a keyboard with  three different layouts, and really only one layout that interested me—the vertical one—and in practice, it didn’t do that well either. It was wobbly and that rubberband’s placement was pretty annoying. No worries, though. The benefit of building things quick and mean is that you can tear them down just as quickly and start fresh.

Which brings me to my next prototype: the pedestal.

A scrap wood laptop base

Your first impression is probably: “did he buy that or make that?” The answer is that I built this puppy with pieces of scrap wood and my Viterbi keyboard. It’s likely a self-explanatory photo, but here’s one with the laptop installed just in case.


A scrap wood laptop stand with a laptop installed.

As you can see, this stand orients my keyboards vertically (and permanently) and elevates my laptop so the top of the screen is closer to my eye level, which is the ergonomically prescribed position. This stand is also portable enough that I can take it from my work-at-home desk to my work-at-home armchair, while only adding maybe 65 lbs to my lap. 65 or 6.5. I’ll get the scale and give you an exact answer when my legs get their feeling back.

So far, I’m actually using this prototype, which is winning out over the last one. I’ll let you know if I keep that up, or if I add any changes to it. Also, I’ve been keeping up yoga for these past few days, which is another win for new habits. I’m still falling asleep on the couch, though.

This one’s not about sleep.

Hey! Although it’s approaching my bedtime, I took a nap today, so I’m not especially tired, and this post shouldn’t be about how much I wish I were sleeping.

I want to build something new, and rather than tell you what it is, I think the best thing is to write about the principles behind it. If I can establish a better understanding of this topic, than I can use that to build it.

When it comes to poetry, there are many established ways to stylize a passage. Perhaps the most obvious one is rhyming. There are two categories of rhyming that I’ll cover today: true rhyming and slant rhyming.

According to the free dictionary, true rhymes are: “rhyme[s] in which the final accented vowel and all succeeding consonants or syllables are identical, while the preceding consonants are different.” Examples would be dutiful and beautiful, or slippery and chicory. 

A slant rhyme, according to, is “when the vowels or the consonant[ sounds] of a stressed syllable are identical”, but not both. Examples include park and parse or hearse and church. There are two subcategories under slant rhymes, assonance and consonance. Assonance is the rhyming of vowel sounds (e.g. gray and fade), and consonance is the rhyming of the consonant sounds (e.g. pit and pat).

There are more ways to rhyme (homonyms, eye rhymes, and identical rhymes) but these are the two which interest me right now as they’re a bit harder to achieve and they sound better in the ear.

Thinking about sleep

Waiting until before I go to bed to write these posts is not ideal. I’m doing my best to try to stay awake and write this. Ideally I’d write these when I’m wide awake, but I’m busy doing other things then, like thinking about napping. I have a long and intimate relationship with sleep. And in that sleep, what dreams may come? Often anxiety dreams, usually a recurring one (or variation of one) in which I awake in the dream realizing that I have little time to submit an important assignment. Completing that assignment is impossible in dream land, extending that anxiety into the night. I also regularly have a dream where I realize that I’ve missed courses in high school, and I need to go back and retake them. The idea that I’ve already graduated college makes no difference as I resign myself to being a 35 year old high school student. No real conclusion here, just stating my love of sleep.

Starting another habit

I’ve already done this for over a week, and I’m happy to report that this blog-post-a-day idea is officially an unbreakable habit. I no longer have to worry about missing a day or running of things to say. Every post has been on time and of glittering quality and wit, and it’s practically muscle memory now.

Now I can repurpose the block of time that I was previously using to fret about writing boring posts. I’m going to fill that time with yoga, or more seriously, at least 15 minutes of yoga a day. One of the perks of my job is a hour yoga session each week, but I haven’t been attending since I started this work from home arrangement last year. I think it’s starting to add up. That, and the fact that I don’t bike to work anymore. So, I’ll start doing yoga once a day, for a cumulative total of at least 105 minutes per week.

My all time favorite free class, and one that it easy to fit into my schedule, is this one:

Virtual Flea Market

I grew up going to flea markets on the weekends and thrift stores on the weekdays. Not every day or every week, but enough to get me addicted to examining at other people’s lives through the stuff they decided they no longer needed. As an adult, I don’t really go to these destinations, and I don’t need to because I have enough unnecessary crap, but I still miss that activity. Recently, I’ve been randomly dropping in on CraigsList’s “all for sale” link, which shows the most recent posts of uncategorized items. It’s kinda like visiting a flea market, except there’s less walking, and connecting with fellow people, and the tactile feel of picking up an item. And it’s missing other things too, but at least it’s something.