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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in AJD's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, February 14th, 2017
6:42 pm
Recursive email bouncing
I don't like the interface on the University of Toronto's webmail system, so I forward my U of T mail to another email account. Today that other server is down. Which is an inconvenience, but not too bad, since I can still receive my U of T email on the actual U of T email server; I don't like the interface, but it's there.


My U of T account forwards my email to the other server. The other server is down, so a failed-to-deliver message is generated and delivered to my U of T inbox. Which automatically tries to forward it to the other server, but fails because the server is down, which generates a failed-to-deliver message in my U of T inbox. Which is automatically forwarded to...

Fortunately this appears to top out after four iterations for some reason. But it still means every message to my U of T address today is causing me to receive itself plus four bounce notifications.
Monday, January 23rd, 2017
3:18 am
30 hours' worth of puzzles
Here are some puzzles from the 2017 Mystery Hunt that I found especially interesting or worthy of comment! I have more to say about puzzles earlier in the Hunt, since I did substantially more puzzling on Friday than Saturday—I stayed up late solving on Friday, and then because of that, on Saturday I was less focused and less involved.

Collapse )

A few other puzzles I worked on and enjoyed, but have no specific comments on: Get Her! Together!, Net Work, International Holdings, Corporate Chains, Half and Half, Non-Local Anesthetic, and Oh, You!

This was a really excellent Hunt, with almost uniformly clean, elegant, and clever puzzles. Thanks very much to Setec.
Saturday, January 21st, 2017
8:11 pm
Also I'm delighted that they had a character called "the Linguist".
This is the time of year when I write a review of the Mystery Hunt, and so despite how distracted & distraught I am by what else is going on in the world, here's my thoughts on the 2017 Mystery Hunt.

The Hunt this year was excellent but short! The winning team found the coin after less than 16 hours—which is not only the earliest coin find in modern-era Mystery Hunt history (I don't know about, like, the '80s), but by such a margin that my team, coming in 7th in about 30 hours, also finished the Hunt earlier than the coin was found in any other modern-era Hunt.

And that's... fine, I guess? I mean, one of the main reasons it was so short was just because the puzzles were all really clean and elegant: there were no, or almost no, long broken frustrating puzzles that took forever to solve, which is what often prolongs the Hunt. So it was short in part as a result of good puzzle design! And it's great that the Hunt was short enough that as many as 17 teams were able to finish it. And it was a fun novelty to be able to hang out with my team in a relaxed atmosphere on Sunday without solving puzzles; I so rarely see these people in a non-solving context.

But also, I go to the Mystery Hunt because I like solving puzzles, you know? Especially long, complex, creative puzzles. And a Hunt ending so early means there's just less puzzle-solving to do, which is disappointing. I especially feel bad for people on leading teams who couldn't be there on Friday (which is, after all, a workday) and showed up on Saturday morning to find that the Hunt was over already. And although the puzzles were all clean and elegant, it's also the case that some were just flat-out easy, in a way that seemed too simplistic for the Mystery Hunt. I'm on record as having said that I think the Hunt should contain some easy puzzles, and I know that Setec's goal was for the puzzles in the six character rounds to be comparable to the round of easy "School of Fish" puzzles in the 2015 Hunt; but even given that, I feel like the average puzzle difficulty level in this Hunt was pitched a little low. (I mean, I guess it must have been, since the Hunt was finished in 16 hours.) I assume Setec overestimated puzzle difficulty somewhere in the test-solving process; I wonder if this might have been a case of the thought process "Setec Astronomy consists of better-than-average solvers; therefore we should assume our puzzles are more difficult in actuality than our test-solvers perceive them to be."

This year's Hunt points to a potential problem that's been looming on the horizon of the Mystery Hunt for some time: As the sizes and/or skill levels of the top teams increase, is it still possible to write a Hunt that can give top teams a full weekend of solving, while still being fun for everyone else and short enough for a team to write in a year? Signs are pointing toward no, which is distressing.

I don't have a lot to say about the Hunt structure. It didn't seem particularly groundbreaking, though the use of levels from the character puzzles to unlock puzzles in the quest rounds was kind of interesting, and a good way to keep puzzles in solved rounds relevant. Dungeons & Dragons was a Hunt theme that had to happen eventually, and they pulled it off excellently. Oh, and the anagram "Mystereo Cantos" was a very good find.

I think I might sound a bit down on this Hunt in this post, since I spent so much space talking about how short/easy it was. That's not an accurate reflection of how I actually feel about it though! I had a really great time and thought it was an absolutely first-rate Hunt; I just wish there had been more of it!

In a later post, I'll talk about specific puzzles!
Sunday, January 1st, 2017
11:16 am
Itinerary, 2016
Places I spent the night are in bold; places I'd never been before are in italics; places I went to on multiple unconnected occasions are underlined.

Ocean Grove, N.J.
Ocean Township, N.J.
Bradley Beach, N.J.
New York, N.Y.
Toronto, Ont.
Cambridge, Mass.
Rochester, N.Y.
Brighton, N.Y.
Beverly, Mass.
Danvers, Mass.
Stratford, Ont.
Peabody, Mass.
Corinth, N.Y.
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Syracuse, N.Y.
DeWitt, N.Y.
Plymouth, Vt.
Rutland, Vt.
Ogdensburg, N.Y.
Montreal, Que.
Vancouver, B.C.
Shrewsbury, Mass.
Arlington, Mass.
Somerville, Mass.
Salem, Mass.
Neptune City, N.J.
Monday, November 7th, 2016
2:12 pm
Amazing language-contact agreement error
Okay, so in English, third-person possessives agree in number and gender with the possessor: He loves his parents; She loves her parents. But in Romance languages, possessives agree with the possessum, as in French: Elle aime sa mère; Elle aime son père; Elle aime ses parents.

Which means when a native speaker of a Romance language is writing in English, they might get the agreement backwards, and have possessives agreeing in the Romance way rather than the English way:

Their parents, her mom, his dad—all meaning Connie's, but the possessives are agreeing with the possessum in each phrase rather than with Connie.

(Source: Silver Liveblogs Things, Steven Universe episode "We Need to Talk".)

...Actually it's even better than that, since to the blogger is a native speaker of Spanish, not French, and the best of my knowledge Spanish doesn't even have gender agreement in third-person possessives (though it does have number). So he's applying the direction of Spanish number agreement—from possessive to possession—in English, and extended that to apply to gender agreement as well.
Sunday, October 16th, 2016
1:01 am
Bob Dold
There are five living former Republican nominees for president: George Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. All except Bob Dole have refused to endorse Donald Trump for president. But although Bob Dole hasn't withheld his endorsement from Trump, Bob Dold has, and he looks like a typo for Bob Dole, so... close enough, right?
Friday, September 30th, 2016
9:44 am
How much care?

I feel like whoever at Johnson & Johnson came up with this brand name probably should have given it a little more thought.
Friday, September 16th, 2016
9:48 am
Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
1:41 am
Norsemen giving Arctic islands misleading names
The story goes that Erik the Red named Greenland "Greenland" in hopes that the friendly-sounding name would attract settlers to what was in actuality a pretty inhospitable piece of real estate.

This example was echoed 900 years later by the explorer Lauge Koch, who first set foot on the next island north of Greenland—a forbidding piece of rock in the Arctic Ocean, the northernmost island in the world—and decided to name it Coffee Club Island. No word on whether any Danes have been induced to settle there by the warm, comforting name, though.
Wednesday, September 7th, 2016
5:46 pm
I'll never get over how, on Blackboard, the way you make your course materials available to students is under the "customization" menu. As if "being available to students" is a fine-tuning option like the background theme for the pages and the directory path in which course files are stored.
Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016
4:05 pm
Does the sky need a name? Does the river?
I know they say you can't cross the same river twice or whatever, but I get very excited about the fact that you can. When I visited Cooperstown for fieldwork in 2008, I wasn't excited about the Baseball Hall of Fame; I was excited about the fact that I got to cross the Susquehanna River right at its source—especially since earlier that month I'd driven across the Susquehanna at almost its endpoint, the I-95 bridge where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. It felt like I had accomplished some epic journey, making it to the source of this mighty river at a lake up in the hills.

Anyway yesterday Cendri and I were driving through the Adirondacks and I saw this sign and audibly yelped and I immediately stopped the car and asked her to photograph me with it:

And I mean, it's not even accurate? There are varying claims as to what counts as the real source of the Hudson, but it's definitely not the place where Route 28N just happens to cross it. And I knew that. But I still got way more emotional about it than I expected to—this stream in the middle of nowhere is responsible for the existence of the city of New York. I'm very thankful I had someone with me to document the encounter.
Monday, July 11th, 2016
2:00 pm
Saturday, June 25th, 2016
3:32 pm
Two possible reactions
I'm reading a dialectology paper in Journal X, a linguistics journal that does not specialize in sociolinguistics.

1. ...Hm, I should remember not to submit dialectology papers to Journal X. There are enough elementary factual errors here that it's clear that the journal editors don't know how to find reviewers who know anything about dialectology.

2. ...On second thought, maybe I should submit dialectology papers to Journal X. Clearly they have low standards in that regard and are more likely to accept them.
Tuesday, June 14th, 2016
2:05 am
Tony awards notes, 2016
I really love the Tony Awards, you guys. Some thoughts on this year's show:

  • James Corden was a pretty good host. Certainly better than last year's unfunny and uninteresting combination of Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth. Corden was funny and seemed sincerely delighted to be there, and he didn't take up too much space in the show either—he did a few bits but was mostly out of the spotlight. The exception was his Carpool Karaoke skit, which was entertaining, but we don't watch the Tonys for pre-recorded content, and since it was pre-recorded, haven't we all already seen it on YouTube anyway?

  • "The Oscars, but with diversity"—sick burn, after a year in which #OscarsSoWhite was a trending hashtag, and then they made good on that: half of the winning actors (and all of the winning musical actors) were black.

  • The opening numbers utterly won me over. I love a good Hamilton parody, especially one performed by the actual Hamilton cast. And then James Corden's actual opening song was both a really sweet and sincere love letter to theatre in general—and set one of the main themes of the whole show, which was "we're all here because we think theatre is just the coolest thing ever—and a hilarious showtune medley. (The "Luck Be a Lady" segue into "Tonight" was a joke I've hoped someone would do for ages, but I didn't foresee the transition from there into "Tomorrow".)

  • "You're in the Band!", the performance from School of Rock, was ideally placed as the first show to perform; it's very similar in theme to the opening number and it was able to ride that wave of enthusiasm for the concept. Also, watching the performance at first I thought, wow, Alex Brightman really looks a lot like Jack Black; but then when we got a closer look at his face I realized, no, he's just really good at acting like Jack Black.

  • The concept of doing Ham4Ham-style mini-performances on the street in front of the theater was really smart, I thought—taking advantage of a clever concept Lin-Manuel Miranda thought up to make the experience just a little bit more inclusive. The performances themselves I could mainly take or leave, but I thought the cast of The Color Purple doing "The Circle of Life" was great.

  • "Only on CBS," eh? Ha! Shows what you know! I'm watching on CTV!

  • Shuffle Along looks like so much fun. One of the things I really love about musical theatre is just getting to watch people doing some really great dancing and just enjoying it so much. And to this Ragtime fan, getting to see Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell share the stage was something special.

  • I'm sorry, I mean Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. Very amusing to hear the presenters have to announce the full title of the show every time. (And to a lesser extent, the same for Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge.)

  • In the categories where multiple Hamilton actors were nominated—Best Actor and Best Featured Actor—they made the right choice in giving the awards to Leslie Odom, Jr., and Daveed Diggs. Also Daveed Diggs's acceptance-speech anecdote was one of my favorites, and his jacket was outstanding.

  • See, this year they put the award for Best Score in the show. Last year it was during the commercials. I suspect they only put it in the broadcast if Lin-Manuel Miranda is winning the award. (Do the people who schedule the program of the awards show know who's winning?) I suspect everyone was disappointed when Miranda announced he wasn't going to rap his acceptance speech ("I'm not freestyling, I'm too old")—and then he said he wrote a sonnet instead. Which sounds like a joke, of course, but the result was a beautifully sincere poem about love and art. The laughs when he said "I wrote you a sonnet" reminded me of the laughs he got in 2009 when he said "someone who embodies hip-hop: Treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton." You laugh, but it's true.

  • Miranda's sonnet also contained one of a few mentions and allusions to the homophobic hate crime that took place in Florida the previous night. Frank Langella's acceptance speech is also worth watching in this respect. I think overall the Tonys responded in the right way—by emphasizing inclusiveness as one of the fundamental themes of the show and of theatre in general.

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda's other acceptance speech, for best book, was rapped, more or less. But this award wasn't in the broadcast. (By the way, for show that's fully sung-through like Hamilton, how to they decide what to evaluate for "best book" vs. "best score"?)

  • Why is Meg Ryan here? Oh, hah, she's introducing She Loves Me because she was in You've Got Mail, which is based on the same story. Okay, I guess that makes sense.

  • You've Got Mail and Fiddler on the Roof are two of my favorite shows (and both by Bock and Harnick), but I wasn't really that blown away by the performances from either of them. Well, with the exception of the blocking and staging of "Ilona" from She Loves Me; I can see how Jane Krakowski earned her nomination, and she doesn't even sing in that number. (Both performances were marred by odd technical glitches, too—the spotlight didn't find Zachary Levi until a few bars into his performance of "She Loves Me", and the camera never found whoever was playing Perchik for his solo in "Sunrise, Sunset".)

  • On the other hand, I don't really like the score of Spring Awakening, but the performance from that looked amazing.

  • Who decides how to pair presenters? The Best Director award was presented by Lucy Liu and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Both of whom are great, but as far as I know they have nothing in particular to do with each other. I wonder who made that decision, and why. (I don't mean to imply it was a bad decision; I just don't really see the motivation for it.)

  • Similarly, how do they decide what music to use to play on people who aren't associated with a specific musical? Claire Danes came onstage to "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered"—who made that choice?

  • The best-named director this year was also the winner of Best Direction of a Play: Ivo Van Hove. I also loved his anecdote about someone asking for his autograph when he was a kid, in case he should become famous later. Runner up for best name is Jonathan Kent, who I assume spends his time raising Superman when he's not directing A Long Day's Journey Into Night.

  • Josh Groban described the "message of Fiddler on the Roof as being "a beacon of life, love, and tolerance"—I'm not sure that's the message of Fiddler on the Roof. But pulling out the video of him in his high school production of Fiddler was hilarious—and it actually tied really sweetly into one of the recurring themes of the night, along with Ivo Van Hove's autograph, the "this could be you" refrain of the opening number, "You're in the Band!" from School of Rock, etc.

  • Hamilton lost only two of the awards it was nominated for—She Loves Me won for set design, and Cynthia Erivo from The Color Purple beat out Philippa Soo (and three other people) for Best Actress. The performance from The Color Purple made it clear why.

  • Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones gave a speech thanking Andrew Lloyd Webber for donating a lot of money to support theatre education. I got the impression that Andrew Lloyd Webber is kind of the Bill Gates of Broadway—made a ton of money producing hugely popular but arguably second-rate products, and devotes a lot of it to supporting good causes.

  • I say this every year, but I wish they would show us something from the Best Play nominees. This year we got silent video clips of the plays while the presenter gave plot synopeses of them, but I'd really prefer to actually see just a bit of an actual scene.

  • I thought the performance from Waitress was delightful, but I wish it hadn't been interrupted by Sara Bareilles singing one of the songs in a non-theatrical way, just sitting at the piano. Jessie Mueller was amazing, and people don't come to the Tonys to see songs being sung non-theatrically.

  • Okay, getting the Obamas to introduce the performance from Hamilton, that's pretty impressive. ...Except they didn't actually introduce the performance, because after the video from the Obamas, the performance was actually introduced by the rapper Common. Under Common's introduction, the orchestra started playing the introduction to "Satisfied" and I got very excited, but then the song they actually performed was "Yorktown". Which is a great number for the Tony Awards show, totally, but don't tease me like that, Tony Awards.

  • Although "Yorktown" shows off the ensemble, I was kind of disappointed not to get to see a performance from Leslie Odom or Renee Elise Goldsberry or Philippa Soo. Which is why I was so thrilled when the show closed with a performance of "The Schuyler Sisters"! It's a great song to end the Tony Awards on, especially this year—"history is happening in Manhattan, and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world!"

In conclusion, I really love the Tony Awards, you guys.
Friday, June 10th, 2016
4:47 pm
Academic confession
When I download a paper on a topic related to my research, the first thing I do is ⌘F for my own name to see whether they've cited me.
Friday, May 6th, 2016
1:27 pm
"Sanction" is a terrible word

"Harvard to sanction final clubs, Greek organizations"

I thought this Crimson headline meant the opposite of what it actually means.
Friday, March 25th, 2016
1:03 am
Counties named after counties
The historic counties of England, sorted by the number of counties in the United States named after or sharing a name with them:
(Including New York County NY, New Kent County VA, and Warrick County IN)

Lincoln(shire): 24 (AR, CO, GA, ID, KS, KY, LA, ME, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, NC, OK, OR, SD, TN, WA, WV, WI, WY)

Cumberland: 8 (IL, KY, ME, NJ, NC, PA, TN, VA)

Kent: 6 (DE, MD, MI, RI, TX, VA)
York(shire): 6 (ME, NE, NY, PA, SC, VA)

Essex: 5 (MA, NJ, NY, VT, VA)

Cheshire / Chester: 4 (NH, PA, SC, TN)
Lancashire / Lancaster: 4 (NE, PA, SC, VA)
Middlesex: 4 (CT, MA, NJ, VA)
Somerset: 4 (ME, MD, NJ, PA)

Bedford(shire): 3 (PA, TN, VA)
Hampshire / Southampton: 3 (MA, VA, WV)
Northampton(shire): 3 (NC, PA, VA)
Sussex: 3 (DE, NJ, VA)

Berkshire / Berks: 2 (MA, PA)
Buckingham(shire) / Bucks: 2 (PA, VA)
Gloucester(shire): 2 (NJ, VA)
Hertford(shire) / Hartford: 2 (CT, NC)
Northumberland: 2 (PA, VA)
Stafford(shire): 2 (KS, VA)
Suffolk: 2 (MA, NY)
Surrey / Surry: 2 (NC, VA)
Westmorland / Westmoreland: 2 (PA, VA)
Worcester(shire): 2 (MD, MA)

Durham: 1 (NC)
Huntingdon(shire): 1 (PA)
Norfolk: 1 (MA)
Oxford(shire): 1 (ME)
Rutland: 1 (VT)
Warwickshire / Warrick: 1 (IN)

Cambridgeshire: 0
Cornwall: 0
Derbyshire: 0
Devonshire: 0
Dorset: 0
Herefordshire: 0
Leicestershire: 0
Nottinghamshire: 0
Shropshire: 0
Wiltshire: 0
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016
10:50 am
Mysterious domain name
The website for the computer science department of the University of Toronto can be found at cs.toronto.edu.

That seems very sensible, except for one thing. There is no toronto.edu. The domain name for the University of Toronto is utoronto.ca. There's nothing at www.toronto.edu, for example.

But there's also nothing at cs.utoronto.ca. It's like the computer science department exists in a nearby alternate universe where the only difference is that the university has a different domain name.
Saturday, January 23rd, 2016
2:59 am
I dream of puzzles
This year's Mystery Hunt happened!

I don't have that much to say about the overall plot or structure of this year's Hunt. The structure didn't seem particularly complex—which is totally fine, I should say! Nothing wrong with just writing a solid Hunt that consists of a series of rounds with metapuzzles. (I did enjoy the fact that a couple of the rounds had multiple mini-metas within them and an overall meta-meta.) And honestly my team didn't pay any attention to the plot of the Hunt whatsoever, up to the point of never even watching the videos that were released to us when new rounds were unlocked. The Hunt server problems were a pain, but I salute team Luck for hacking together a solution that got us through the Hunt.

I don't really like obvious fake themes, though. The dog show round was cute, but when people show up at Hunt kickoff and they're like "It's a dog show!" nobody for a second believed that that was the theme of the Hunt, and I just found it tiresome.

My solving experience was pretty up-and-down. The rounds my team got stuck on were the fourth and fifth—so I spent a while frustrated when those were the only new rounds we had open. Then as new rounds were released things picked back up again—until the last few hours of the Hunt, when we had finished most of the later rounds and still had nothing but those fourth and fifth rounds to go back to; and that was when our enthusiasm as a team really started to flag. That said, I did have all of the basic satisfying solving experiences you want to have at a Mystery Hunt: I managed to spot key ahas, find the answer extractions for puzzles that other people had been stuck on, work whole puzzles from beginning to end, and solve metapuzzles. So overall it was a pretty good Hunt for me, even though we didn't finish.

Now I'm going to skip to the part where I discuss specific puzzles I have comments on! Collapse )

Other puzzles I liked but don't have any comments on: the Whistle Training meta (I didn't even work on this; I just found out about it afterward!); Ladder Dogs; How Far?; Emergency Deportation; It's a Long Story; the Dreamtime Day 2 meta; Who?

That's really a ton of puzzles I liked, and almost no real clunkers. Thanks to team Luck for a great Hunt, and see you all next year!
Thursday, December 31st, 2015
3:13 pm
Where I've been, 2015
Here's the list of places I've been in the past year! As usual, places I spent the night are in bold; places I'd never been before are in italics; places I went to on multiple unconnected occasions are underlined. Not that many distinct areas this year, I think? But still a lot of distinct towns.

Ocean Grove, N.J.
Ocean Township, N.J.
Asbury Park, N.J.
Toronto, Ont.
Mississauga, Ont.
Cambridge, Mass.
New York, N.Y.
Brampton, Ont.
Markham, Ont.
Philadelphia, Penna.
Beverly, Mass.
Peabody, Mass.
Stratford, Ont.
Niagara Falls, Ont.
Corinth, N.Y.
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Algonquin Highlands, Ont.
Vaughan, Ont.
Oakville, Ont.
Hamilton, Ont.
Newton, Mass.
Boston, Mass.
Revere, Mass.
Danvers, Mass.
Carlisle, Mass.
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