Toxic Elephant

Don't bury it in your back yard!

Brainwaves at Three in the Morning

Posted by matijs 10/07/2005 at 11h05

Some time ago, I ended up with my friend at Schiphol Airport. It was
three in the morning, and we had to wait for a train to Amsterdam Centraal
Station.

Now, I work for Large Catering Company, which owns a coffee bar there.
So we decided to get some coffee there to pass the time. While we were
enjoying our coffees, we got to talking about the following problem:

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Updated synttree Package

Posted by matijs 11/06/2005 at 15h45

It's been available on CTAN for a while now, so it's about time I made a formal announcement: I have updated my LaTeX package for typesetting syntactic trees. In this new version, the allowed number of branches has been increased from three to unlimited (Yay!).

To make this update, I had to refactor the code that was dedicated to zero, one, two and three branches into a more generic version. I must say, I've always enjoyed modifying code to make it more manageable, but refactoring becomes very satisfying once you have a good test suite to test that it keeps doing the same thing, and a version control system to keep your known good versions. (This is no new insight, of course; it's right there in the book). This is a highly recommended technique!

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Image Puzzle

Posted by matijs 24/05/2005 at 17h46

Via overcaffeinated, here is a very nice and from the looks of it, difficult image puzzle.

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iPod Tax?

Posted by matijs 29/04/2005 at 09h36

This should be fun: The Dutch Stichting Thuiskopie seems to want to tax iPods for a ridiculous amount of money. The article ends with:

Or the Dutch could just become a nation without iPods. I wonder how happy that would make them?

Well, it wouldn't make me very happy. On the other hand, it seems I could just buy one in Belgium or something.

(The Stichting itself on its website denies that any amount has been set yet. Let's make sure the amount they set will be more sane than The Register reports.)

Oh yeah, this is all via Slashdot.

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Blendie

Posted by matijs 27/04/2005 at 23h04

Language log talks about Blendie. I like Blendie a lot. The following conversation results:

N: Hiingnyiiiiiing.

M: What are you doing?

N: I'm trying to be a blender.

M: I still love you even if you're not a blender.

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Hello, my name is ...

Posted by matijs 16/04/2005 at 21h32

Ooh nice, a meme! Via the language log (where someone actually bothered to write something resembling an essay — no such luck here). Here follows my meme copy:

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Brother Hand Grenade of Sweet Reason.

Get yours.

Hm. Sweet Reason. I like that.

Update: Boris Skoric mentions that the other Unitarian Jihad name generator gives me the name Joyous blunderbuss of patience. There is now also a Wikipedia article about the Unitarian Jihad, as well as a LiveJournal community.

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Computer Implemented Inventions Directive Adopted

Posted by matijs 09/03/2005 at 12h57

I'm slightly out of touch with happenings in the digital world, so I only read yesterday evening that the EU Council adopted the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive. This is a sad thing.

Slashdot points to an article on ZDNet about this. The ffii also has press release.

Interestingly, proponents of this directive are mostly not saying that pure software patents are good. Rather, they argue that the directive as it stands will not allow them (e.g., Frits Bolkestein, Robert Evans, MEP). I wonder if we can hold them to this when the lawsuits start.

Oh, and last evening I read it in a paper newspaper (in dutch), in a bar. Go figure.

Updates: Links to proponents added above, a good overview with arguments against software patents and the wording of the current CIID, the European Parliament is not pleased.

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Cut the monospace crap!

Posted by matijs 11/02/2005 at 09h36

I’m ill, so I’m ranting. Bear with me.

I’ve now run across the second site that does something like this in its CSS:

p { font: 11px “Lucida Sans Unicode”, “Trebuchet MS”, Verdana, monospace; }

And, with me running Linux and as a consequence not having any of the three named fonts installed, I get to see the whole body text in monospace. Sure, monospace is a great replacement for Verdana. Very readable, too. What are people thinking? Fucking monospace!

(The style contains more wonderful font insanity, such as giving the input element the choice of fonts Courier New, Arial [why yes, Arial is very similar to Courier New], or, again, monospace. Oh, and for some reason, this rule is !important. Sure.)

(The first site is less bad, but still annoying: Only part of the text is accidentally monospaced.)

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Artificial Silliness

Posted by matijs 25/01/2005 at 22h12

A friend sent me MapPoint's advice on how to get from Haugesund, Norway, to Trondheim, Norway. Very entertaining. Don't forget to look at the directions: there are 116 steps, plus the Start and End.

In fact, though, that was the quickest route. The shortest route is perhaps even funnier. And only 55 steps.

Just in case they fix things (hey, they probably will), here are screen shots of the fastest route, and the shortest route

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Blafoolia!, for want of a better title.

Posted by matijs 24/01/2005 at 19h59

People who visit this site more often than once may have noticed that I changed its layout. It took a lot longer than I expected: It's easy to just whip something up that looks nice, but it's much harder to take a thought sketched on a piece of paper and make that happen in CSS. It's harder still if you want to make it work in old browsers.

In addition to the change of layout, I did a redesign of the URLs my site serves.

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