Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cell Phone Snippets From Paula, The Massage Therapist, Blackdog Cafe, Tallahassee, FL

-Hi, it's Paula. The message therapist... PAULA. The MASSAGE THERAPIST... Hi, sweetie, how ya doin? I'm just seeing who's in town and who's out and I'm seeing if you need a massage. I know I've worked on you before.

-I'm going to tell you something I don't tell just anyone. I've got the immaculate conception. That's why they want me dead.

-Hi sweetie, how ya doin? I just got robbed and beat up, so I'm out of money right now and I don't want to ask for anything, but if you give me $2 for gas I can make it out there. If you give me $2 for gas I can make it out there.

-It started in June when a black man killed a white man in Frenchtown and Jesus asked me to come live in his house, and he's Mayan, and so am I. I'm Mayan-Indian.

-Hi sweetie, Daddy says I still need help, but there's just a lot of shit going on right now and I just called to say that I miss you and I love you and I want to see you again. Call me back.

-The devil called my momma and said, "Tell that girl not to go to Frenchtown because that's my turf," but so that's where I went anyway.

-Jesus Christ got me a six-bedroom house.

-I just need some clients. If you know anyone who needs a massage, I can cure anything. I cured leg cancer in three days.

-Sex is spiritual.

-We all have our shit. I'm still human, momma. I still hurt. I laugh, I dance, I play.

-I get all the saints, the apostles... I don't care. Ain't my fuckin problem! I'm not here to save the world, I'm here to save myself.

-I am suing the state of Florida, and maybe even this whole goddamn country. CSI is in our house, and I don't just tell this to anyone.

-The only reason I didn't go to church this morning --- and I'm not religious --- is that I needed rest.

-So I went to go get him injuncted, and get him arrested or whoever's associated with him, and Jesus took the whole package... the next time he comes near me, I can call the sheriff and have him taken away.

-I've had people come up to me in a gas station and punch me in the side of the fuckin face so hard, and I don't even know them! I can't go into a gas station to get a Mt. Dew. I'll just make sure I have sharp objects on me at all times.

-I don't need anything. I'm at the Blackdog. They gave me a free cup of coffee. I'm not hungry or cold. I have everything I need. I have a car, a place to stay, a house, a couple houses. I just don't have gas.

-I told the sheriff, "If he comes near me again, I'm gonna kill him." And he said "Good. We come out here all the time when all these guys come out and hit you."

-They think I'm crazy, but the gods must be crazy.

-The less fear I show the more power I have.

-I'm reading something about Paul McCartney.

-[Reading from the comics section of the sunday paper] "Sir Isaac Newton developed the laws of motion... an object staying still..."

-Well, go pay all your bills and --- or, fuck all your debts, and just go have some fun. That's what Jesus wants.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Plagiarism is the highest form of flattery... right?

One day when I was in the trenches of the FSView, editing hell out of some Word documents that my writers submitted, I nudged my mouse a bit. I was reading through a review for a movie that had just been released, and when I nudged my mouse the cursor on my screen absentmindedly hovered over a bit of text. As I read ahead in the review, out of the corner of my eye, I could see a little yellow box pop up near my cursor.

That's queer, I thought.

What was even more queer was that the little box was a url. To Roger Ebert's website. In two clicks I was reading one of his recent reviews (for the same movie) and I happened to read the same sentence there that I had just read in that Word document. Hmm.

A mediocre newspaper lost an above-average writer that day due to plagiarism. The writer said in defense that she normally looks at other reviews to get ideas, but she ends up changing the words before she "writes" her reviews. Naturally, I began suspecting all of her past reviews of "sharecropping," (I just made that up. Mad copyrights on that!) but I couldn't find another instance of intense borrowing. To be honest, I think I was okay with her continuing to write (so sue me, we were really hurting for writers), but she just stopped submitting things.


One day, years later, while I was sitting at work at my current job, in the front office of the History Department of Florida State University, a professor came in and started telling this story while holding up this paper he had:

"So I get this paper from a student. The front page is full of the instructions he wrote to someone else on how to write the paper. The rest of the paper is plagiarized. And some of the paper is plagiarized from my own work on the subject." [Lots of paraphrasing here; it's been a while.]

I'd heard about cheating before, but this was simply stupefying. I could not believe it.

A few months later at the same job, I came across The Chronicle's piece on "shadow scholars," people who work at companies that write academic papers for students. You know, "for reference use only." It's a good read.


Finally, this morning, whilst checking my social media, I found a tip from someone pointing me to this blog post. Now, I didn't know the person sending me the link, and I didn't know the person who posted on this blog, and I didn't know what it was all about. When I finished reading the post, it took me a second to figure out that I, too, may have been plagiarized.


The above really weird recommendation blog post from Andy "Short Stack bassist" Clemmensen is a huge ripoff. (The Google cache is here. The original post is MIA as of right now.)

The first 1.5 sentences are from the first part of the final paragraph of my Kanye review. And the middle third of the second paragraph is all mine as well.

Does it really take less time and effort to rip people's words from different reviews? You (or, more likely, some intern somewhere) really can't slog together 277 words for your bullshit column?

Give me a fucking break, Short Stack.


Update 12/13/2010. 9:44 AM EST:

Feel free to harangue world-renowned bassist Andy Clemmensen on Twitter!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Library, censorship, wtf

[Note: Despite the questionable subject matter of this post, the links are entirely legitimate. And, outside of some strong language, are entirely safe for work.]

One time in my university's library I was doing research and writing up stuff at one of their many publicly available computers (and this was before they started making everyone scan in with their student IDs to get into the library). During a paragraph I was writing on 19th century copyright practices or some such brilliance, I happened to take a stretch and noticed what the guy no further than a foot from me was looking at on his computer.


He was just searching and scrolling away. Pictures, videos, whatever. Don't exactly remember. So I did my civic duty: saved and closed my documents, got up, and tattled on the dude to the nearest library worker.

Years pass.

Now, this fall, I've been spending most Thursday evenings in my local public library. I work until 5 pm, I head to the library, I have an online class at 6 pm, and Jessica volunteers at the library (teaching people how to do basic things with computers) from 6:30–8:30 pm.

There have been the occasional disturbances: a guy listening to music too loudly on his phone; kids running around screaming. These are usually tamped down in a timely manner by the library workers. But last night, in the library, while I was online, in class, listening to presentations from my fellow students (thankfully after I had done my own presentation), a young man walked up to another young man at my table and greeted him with:

"Yo, cousin, I just got off the phone. I was on the computer when they called. The deal is, you get three days free. You can fuck any bitch you want. Then they set you up with an agency, and if you still like it, and you still wanna do it, it's like $300 to $3000 per scene!"

The first guy, let's call him "Asspiring [sic] Male Pr0n Star" (AMPS) then proceeds to hand the other young man (let's call him "Earbuds"; he spent the previous hour sitting at the table, looking around, rocking out his earbuds, bobbing his head, and nothing else) his cell phone. AMPS asks Earbuds to call the last number in his phone. He then tells 'Buds to talk to the girl on the 800 number.

AMPS: Tell her you're [AMPS' actual name, REDACTED].

Earbuds: (Each time when speaking, removing cell phone from ear, bringing microphone end of cell phone close to mouth.) I'm [REDACTED].

AMPS: Hey, ask her what her name is.

Earbuds: Hey, what's your name? ... (to AMPS): [unintelligble]

AMPS: Hey, hey. Ask her if she's a porn star.

Earbuds: Are you a porn star? (shakes head at AMPS while listening to answer)

It was like some kind of stage play scene. A guy in the corridors telling a man onstage how to woo a lady.

After the phone call was terminated, over the course of the next hour, AMPS continues to encourage Earbuds to do "it" too. Despite being in a public library, AMPS has no qualms with talking about this subject matter at an audible level. He even once turned around, faced the open library, and said at a louder volume, "Who here wanna be a male porn star?!"

So during this time I'm reacting in various ways. I'm:

-Trying to pay attention in class.

-Trying to analyze the characters in conversation in front of me to see if they will be a threat to my well-being.

-Trying to determine if they are making up this conversation (I had my headphones on — maybe they were messing with me?).

-Pulling my laptop a little closer when AMPS starts saying that he just "needs to find a computer. Somebody must have a laptop around here." because the library blocks "adult websites" and he needs to follow up on his online application.

Sooner or later, Earbuds got to thinking. He asked AMPS who he had heard this stuff from:

AMPS: I heard it from myself, cousin. I found the website. I went to — you know, they tell you anything you want to know there. So I put in "How do I become a male porn star." And they got all the websites right there, cousin. They got gay porn, you know, girls looking for girls, and I found this website, [REDACTED]. Just go there, fill out the application, you put your phone number and they give you a call. They told me they got two locations in Tallahassee.

AMPS went on to say something about him having to put $2.97 on his debit card to get the gig. Then he talked about how he spent $100 on Extenze, how he got a month's supply, and how if it doesn't work you get your money back and you get to keep the pills... but it does work and "your dick grow half an inch a day! Girls be running from you when they see that." (I struggled with the logic here: I'm guessing "you" want to take Extenze so "your dick grow" so you can impress girls; however, it works so well that "your dick grow" too much, and you scare the girls off. Yet, this is still a good thing, I guess, because AMPS was still pimping Extenze. Hmm...)

"Pop some Viagra and Extenze, that makes your shit stand up straight like the Statue of Liberty!" (AMPS extenze [sic] his left arm straight up to the ceiling, like he's holding a torch.)

You know, one time one of his friends had to go to the hospital because of it.

So I kept thinking that a library worker would walk by and "SHUSH!" them, but it never happened. Then, after an hour, moving just as quickly as when he first (*cough*) came in, AMPS was headed for the door, with Earbuds trailing close behind.

Monday, November 15, 2010


A plane holding multiple men and their sons crashes alone in the woods on the border of the USA and Canada. One of the surviving sons with two coins (one of which is NOT a nickel) totaling 30 cents in his pockets is rushed to the hospital and the surgeon refuses to operate, saying, "I can't operate on my own son!" What two coins are you paying the surgeon to get the surgeon to explain the meaning of the comment and also to get the surgeon to answer that if this plane crashed in the woods without anyone around, would it make a noise where you bury the survivors?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Living in a house in the woods

What better way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon than listening to Wilco and blogging? I put Sky Blue Sky on the old compact disc player while I was cleaning up earlier this afternoon, but I've moved into the dreamy terrain of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as the rain flutters through the leaves out here and as I try to organize some thoughts on living in the woods.

Oh, I didn't mention that we're living out in the woods? Well, we are. And that's the view to my immediate right in the front office space here. You see, over the summer someone at work wondered if there was anyone available to housesit from August to December. Conveniently, the lease on our (overpriced?) duplex was ending in August, so Jessica and I jumped at the opportunity to housesit: save some money, take care of some dogs, live in the woods.

So now we're about 30 minutes outside of Tallahassee (yes, I am allowed to use driving time as a measure of distance). It's not too bad, though, because at least the roads are paved out here and there are maybe a dozen houses on this street. It was difficult getting adjusted at first: the nights are real quiet, it gets real dark (paved roads, but alas no streetlights), and it's standard operating procedure out here to let your dogs roam around. Which inevitably means midnight barking / howling sessions. Oh yeah, and for some reason the owners of this house are big fans of large windows, but not big fans of curtains. Suffice to say, waking up to dogs going crazy at 2 a.m. and looking out from huge, curtainless windows at the tiny patch of visible woods that are illuminated by a couple of lamp posts is not something I was used to. Scenes from a dozen horror movies flashed through my head.

I'm better now.

A 30-minute drive means waking up a little after 6 a.m. for my 8 a.m. job and getting home a little bit before 6 p.m. It means planning ahead for errands (because driving 2 hours a day is not my idea of a good time), rushing home to sign on to my 6 p.m. online classes (Tuesdays & Thursdays), and generally just long-ass days. The toll all of that takes is washed out by the peace that comes with living out here. There aren't any damn college kids out here blasting their Young Jeezy. There aren't any traffic sounds, car engines starting up, car doors slamming, sirens going off. Pretty much just the dogs and the wind and the thunder when it comes.

Jessica pointed out that the woods are cooler: no buildings and pavement holding in heat, no cars and buses spewing exhaust. It's getting cooler now, but a few weeks ago there was a noticeable difference of a few degrees between here and the city. Of course, these environs also hold more wildlife than the city. We've had a handful of deer sightings; one morning on my drive to work I saw 6 deer in the neighbor's front lawn. But the insects are more intense here too: dusk is our favorite time of day, but the mosquitoes and other things buzzing around get pretty intense. Good thing there's a screen porch that's extremely book-reading friendly.

The setup here is pretty sweet: there are "his" and "her" offices on opposite sides of the house, so it's easy for Jessica and me to extricate ourselves (at times) so we can do our own thangs (her: writing, reading, fashioning outfits, dancing; me: writing, songwriting, sitting around). There are strong ceiling fans and overhead lights and lamps in every room. Big desks. It's great.

At the moment we're in charge of 9 animals. We moved here with Jessica's two pet rats (Sadie & Lolly: I can't spell their full Christian names, so you'll have to go here if you're interested in that) and our little ginger cat, Simon (Anthony Purrkins; a.k.a. Simey, Mr Whiskers, Chairman Meow, Agent Orange, et al.). The house came with two dogs, Doolin & Bear, mixed breeds, one large and black, the other somewhat squat and black. Then, one of the neighbors here asked us if we could drop in and feed their four dogs when they went out of town. We agreed because who doesn't love dogs and helping people out? Plus they helped us out with Doolin & Bear when we had to go away one weekend. Plus one of their dogs is named Lolita. (Awesome.)

Simon has had the roughest time. Jessica thinks he sees and hears and smells things all around and that's why he scurries about and meows constantly. I just think he's needy. Either way, when he's not passed out on the top of the couch, he's scratching cardboard, running about, or meowing. He has settled in a bit, though:

And that, in a nutshell, is what it's like living in the woods. Oh yeah and they have a stickshift car they asked me to drive around and I don't know stickshift but I can drive it well enough sometimes and there's poor tv reception out here and no cable so we signed up for Netflix and we're hooked on it and I got an iPod Touch but I just returned it so I could buy the "new" iPod Touch, &c.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Albums I Kept On Repeat

I think music's saved my life many a times (a bit of an exaggeration, but not much), and I know I'm not the only one. So here's a list of albums that I couldn't stop playing on repeat. It's like they picked me rather than the other way around.

I also wrote a whole column about this for the FSView, but their online archives are trashed. And I don't feel like writing about these albums, because I know I would start writing and wouldn't be able to stop. So I'll let you fill in the blanks. (Roughly chronological order.)

Enema of the State — Blink 182
Losing Streak — Less Than Jake
Weezer (1994) — Weezer
Antics — Interpol
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot — Wilco
Separation Sunday — The Hold Steady
Achilles Heel — Pedro the Lion
The College Dropout — Kanye West

I might have missed a couple. Does this list say anything about me? Yeah, probably.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Request from MTV


I am reaching out to you on behalf of MTV after reviewing the following page:

I have a few questions and would like to get in touch with someone regarding the information on your site. Can you let me know who is responsible for adding resources and updates to your site? Thank you for your time!

I look forward to hearing back from you.


Content Specialist


I am solely responsible for the information on my site. I update the site


Hi Justin,

Thanks so much for getting back to me! I think your page is great. MTV has recently updated our site and thought it might be a great addition for your page. I have provided link details below for you to review. I hope you find value in adding our site. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for your time, I really appreciate it!

New Movies by MTV
“New Movies” can be the hyperlink to: [REDACTED]


Content Specialist


Let's make a deal. You make me MTV's next Twitter Jockey and I'll do it without pay, and I'll post a link to your MTV New Movies site on my webpage. I've worked in music journalism for years; I'm a social media guru; and I have undeniably fierce wit and stunning good looks. If you don't believe me, check out my Twitter feed and a picture of me with The Hold Steady's Craig Finn (guess which one is me, lulz):



Friday, August 27, 2010

Re: Employee question about Distance Learning fee

Dear Mr. de la Cruz,

Thank you for your note and congratulations on completing your MA in Interdisciplinary Humanities.

There are numerous additional costs associated with online courses and we are required to recoup those costs over and above tuition. Thus, we pay the full tuition costs of your graduate degree as we did with your prior Masters degree but it will be your responsibility to cover costs beyond tuition. Although you will have to share some of the costs, they are quite small compared to the benefits you have already received and continue to receive.

I wish you the best with your new endeavor. Larry Abele

Employee question about Distance Learning fee

[FSU President] Dr. [Eric] Barron,

I know you must be very busy in this first week of classes, but I wondered if you could address an issue I have, or perhaps point me to someone who could help me. Since this is a somewhat urgent matter, I am copying [FSU Provost] Dr. [Larry] Abele in case he can better address this.

I am a USPS employee and I have benefited enormously from FSU's employee tuition scholarship. I completed an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Humanities while working at FSU through this program, and I didn't have to pay a cent for tuition, for which I was grateful. However, starting this fall 2010 semester, I have begun studies toward an M.S. in Library Science and I ran into a rather substantial fee yesterday when I went to submit my employee tuition scholarship form: the fee for Distance Learning (for online classes). This fee works out to about $88 per enrolled credit hour, and virtually every course in my current program of study is online. (Only one or two occasional courses per semester are offered "face to face.") So this, in my viewpoint, seems to privilege one employee student over another - as a student in Humanities, I did not pay anything for tuition; as a student in Library Science, I will pay $88 per credit hour.

I was just wondering why this particular Distance Learning fee is not covered by the university for its employees. Every other fee associated with tuition is covered. I'm also unsure of the nature of the fee - Who receives the money from this fee and what does it go towards? From what I can tell, online courses should be saving FSU money: they do not require physical classrooms, nor do they require any of the accommodations that go along with physical classrooms (chairs, desks, markerboards, computers, electronic locks on doors, et al.). The software used for online classes is built into the Blackboard suite, which is available for every class on campus and shouldn't cost the university extra for online classes.

I mentioned that this was an urgent matter because I now owe $528 in tuition within one week for my two classes this semester, and I was unprepared for that fee. Additionally, employees are discouraged from receiving both the employee tuition scholarship and federal loans - we must choose one or the other. So I'm sort of at a loss as to what to do at this point, unless I can take [sic; should have been 'talk'] to someone about postponing payments for this Distance Learning fee.

Thank you very much for your time in reading this.


Justin de la Cruz

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Need Book Recommendations

I'm in a popular fiction class, and I need to pick one book out of each of the following categories to read. Help me out!

Book Genre
(timeframe it was published)

Historical Fiction
(Before 1981)


Mystery / Detective Fiction
(After 1999)

(Before 1981)


Science Fiction
(After 1999)

(Before 1981)


Christian Reading
(After 2000)

Any 3 (preferably one from each time period)

Any 2 current ones


I'm already thinking about "Ragtime," "Blood Meridian" or "Lonesome Dove," and "Sin City" (reading now already!) or "Watchmen" (read already)...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Excerpt from Terry Gross' book, "All I Did Was Ask"

Michael Caine: There was an old theater producer who said, "Use the disadvantage. Always use the disadvantage." So I used that. A lot of things worked for me like that in my life.

Terry Gross: What else?

Michael Caine: Well, I was rehearsing a play, and there was a scene that went on before me, then I had to come in the door. They rehearsed the scene, and one of the actors had thrown a chair at the other one. It landed right in front of the door where I came in. I Opened the door and then rather lamely, I said to the producer who was sitting out in the stalls, "Well, look, I can't get in. There's a chair in my way." He said, "Well, use the difficulty." So I said, "What do you mean, use the difficulty?" He said, "Well, if it's a drama, pick it up and smash it. If it's a comedy, fall over it." This was a line for me for life: Always use the difficulty.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Standard operating procedures

Lately I've been very sore about the standard programs that standard computers and accessories are standardly packaged with. I've always had issues with Windows Media Player, and the version that came with Windows 7 doesn't make it very clear how to rip audio from a CD, a process — like it or not — that is a very standard procedure among computer users today.

Don't get me started on Apples / iTunes. I know this is a great program and it's very easy to do things with it, etc. etc. But it does operate how Apple wants you to operate it, and when you want to transfer music files among friends or among non-Apple products, or do things with your music outside of iTunes, it can be a hassle.

Now, I'm talking about simple things beyond music, too. My computer at work (which is less than two years old) has two disc trays, one of which can burn CDs & DVDs. But when I went to do something as simple as playing a DVD in the computer, Windows Media Player could not do it because it didn't have the right codecs (or some shit).

Why not?

I'd run across software problems like this before, and now my standard solution is to simply download a light program that can do what I want easily instead of fiddling with updates and drivers and whatever else makes software and hardware communicate.

Enter one of my favorite sites, Don't ask me how portable applications like these work. All I know is that I can download a very light program — Media Player Classic, VLC Media Player, GIMP, InfraRecorder — to do basically anything I want to do on a computer. And I don't even have to install a program on the hard drive.

I understand that there's a push and pull in terms of making programs flexible and options-filled while still making them user friendly. But I also know that the average computer user doesn't want to read anything, and that the above-average computer user is simply someone who's willing to Google their computer problems and then read the links.

So, I guess I'm talking to the programmers out there who make you click "Actions > Manage Tracks..." on InfraRecorder before you can rip audio from your CD. Why not put it on your elegant home menu page?

(Img created in GIMP)



Photo by: Joshua Trujillo /

No More 'Bodies' Exhibit in Seattle?

A while back, a small version of the Bodies exhibit came to Tallahassee and I went to see it. It was okay. After a while, it just felt like they were synthetic. I had to keep reminding myself that they were real body parts, but I suppose they're all injected with chemicals and stuff anyway. Might as well be fake.

The controversy is legitimate, I suppose. I mean, my one friend says "If I'm dead, I don't care what people do to my body." Religious beliefs are another thing, but if these people in Bodies are unknown (if their relatives don't know they're in it; if they're too poor to afford proper burials), then, technically, but perhaps immorally, the pros of science, education, and art received from the audiences should outweigh the cons of desecration... maybe.

This argument against (the Bodies exhibit), though, is the kind of argument that leads to a slippery slope (e.g., arguments over abortion, stem cell research)... Hypothetically, suppose a person died from a rare disease or some other scenario where desecrating the body (for scientific research) could prove beneficial for many living people, but this person's family objected. Or, this person didn't have a family but strongly believed in a religion that was against bodily desecration after death and everyone knew this person believed that...

[This post is a comment I left in Google Buzz.]

Friday, July 09, 2010

Reading for Class

I'm reading academic articles for my "U.S. Music History I" class (~1650~1900). Now, I have just enough music theory that I could sit here for a few minutes and figure out this passage. But what's the point, anyway?

Besides his often repeated scheme of following major by minor, he frequently reiterates a passage by an abrupt step to the submediant. Sometimes he does this by substituting, for the tonic triad of his major key, a tonic four-two chord, with the seventh flattened and with the bass resolving it on to the root of the tonic of the major submediant key. He does this in his last work, a duet for tenor and bass, dated February 27, 1813. In this, having reached the submediant B major from D, he stays for sixteen measures in related keys, and then modulates back to his tonic by following the dominant seventh of B with the mediant seventh of D (that is, by merely altering the note A-sharp to A-natural), following this with the dominant seventh of D, and going thence to the tonic.

We're assigned about four articles every day. They're not all this technical, but they're all pretty stuffy and boring.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Blog 3.0

It's been a while since my last blog redesign.

Yesterday, Jess was working on updating the template to her blog. I remembered Blogger releasing some new templates and a way to edit them better, but I hadn't checked it out.

Until today.


You all can tell by now that the blog has been updated (unless you're reading from Google Reader... woot), but I'm posting this for historical purposes, more or less. I guess. I don't know. I'm kind of bored.

I know it's kind of corny, but the birds remind me a bit of Wilco's Sky Blue Sky. And that album inspired one of the last pieces I wrote for the FSView.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fantastic Contraption

One night not too long ago, my friend Matt asked everyone what they would have liked to study in college. You know, if you had to go back, and you couldn't pick the same major. I said mechanical engineering. I don't know. I figured I could have learned something hands-on, where you can plan things, implement things, change things, and see the results. Then, he said if I had time to kill sometime, I should look up this game, Fantastic Contraption.

The first time I found the game, I poked around for a minute or two, then moved onto something else. But when Jessi mentioned that she had been having fun with the game, I decided to give it another shot.

Whoa. This stuff is intense.

Quick rundown:

Okay, so for each Fantastic Contraption map you have this piece, right? It's usually a ball, but sometimes it's a square or rectangle. It resides in (or near) a rectangular patch of light blue. Here are some different looking starting pieces:

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to use a combination of spinning wheels and rods to move the starting piece from the blue rectangular patch to the pink rectangular patch on the map. Here are your tools:

*Yellow wheels spin clockwise, and you will use these a damn lot (since many of the pink patches are to the right of the blue patches).

*Pink wheels spin counterclockwise, and you will use these... not so much.

*Blue wheels do not actively turn either way, but they will rotate with the flow of things if there's motion involved. (Wheels must have a rod attached to their center notch in order to spin...)

*Water rods (blue) are joints that can pass through other wheels and rods and starting pieces, but not through the environment, which includes the green land and the orange balls and other obstacles used on some maps. They're also more flexible, allowing pieces connected to them to jostle around a little bit. Although they can pass through things, they still weigh something.

*Wood rods (brown) are joints that hold firm and weigh a good amount.


The following are screenshots from a map called "Awash."

The blue section doesn't always necessarily contain the piece in question. The blue patch is simply the only area where you may place wheels or joints. Like this:

So you build your Fantastic little creature, and then you set it off to carry / propel / encourage your starting piece to make its journey across the map, like so:

You don't have to get anything except the piece in question into the pink patch. The piece does not have to be connected to anything, and nothing else has to pass through the pink patch. Once your piece hits the pink, you get a victory cloud:

What seems fairly simple and easy in the first few maps soon proves very difficult. ("Awash" was one of the hardest maps for me. My first successful design blocked all the orange balls and had a little car that drove the piece across the top of them.) You develop one way of approaching things, and then you realize a certain map won't allow you to work that way. One of the greatest parts of the game is self-discovery, so if it seems like an appealing game to you now, I'd encourage you to stop reading and to start playing. Seriously. It sort of ruins it when you see a simple solution that you could have come to after a bit of work. I know. I've done it.

The other great part to the game is that you can save your contraptions to share with others. Games are fun and all, but bragging rights are excellent.

It took a few days of intensive play for me to pass all the levels, and then I gave it a break. And then I decided to go back and try to use as few moving pieces as possible. So for all of you who are not keen on playing yourself, now I'm going to list all my solutions, along with the number of pieces I used and whether the idea for the solution was stolen from other players' contraptions (which you can view for each map after you've beaten that map). Oh, and I'll list a few tips / surprises / discoveries I had whilst playing.


*Gravity is an important factor.

*Weight is a crucial factor. Always factor your starting piece's weight into the design of a contraption from the start.

*At least a rudimentary knowledge of catapult design is essential.

*The game has a few prominent glitches (none of which I employ in my solutions here). One minor glitch is when pieces unexpectedly pass through other pieces (such as water rods through the environment) when they really shouldn't.

*You can attach spinning wheels directly onto some of your starting pieces without rods, which can cut down on your total number of pieces dramatically.

*Break down the map into separate elements (that may or may not require separate contraptions).

*One way to get as few pieces as possible is to make your contraption normally and then cut away the fat (redundant pieces).

Okay, on to my final designs. I'm quite proud of them. (I'm less proud of the ones where I stole the idea.) (I suppose now I could devise arbitrary challenges, like "no wheels," or "no wood" or "the piece must pass through ____ once before finishing the map." ... the fun never ends!)

(The only thing is that you have to wait through some ads to watch each solution, so if you only want to see one or two, I'd suggest checking out 15 or 19.)


1) Rolling Away (0 pieces)

2) Reach Up (1 piece)

3) Mind The Gap (2 pieces)

4) Junkyard (3 pieces)

5) The Wall (4 pieces)

6) On a Roll (2 pieces)

7) Full-up (4 pieces)

8) Higher (3 pieces)

9) Around the Bend (1 piece; stolen idea; mine was 4)

10) Up The Hump (3 pieces)

11) Mission to Mars (1 piece)

12) Up The Stairs (3 pieces; stolen idea; mine got to 5)

13) Big Ball (5 pieces; room for improvement)

14) Four Balls (3 pieces; stolen idea)

15) Down Under (2 pieces!)

16) Awash (12 pieces; I've seen it done in 3)

17) Handling (5 pieces)

18) Tube (4 pieces; stolen idea)

19) Back and Forth (11 pieces!)

20) Unpossible (16 pieces!)

21) U-Turn (10 pieces!)


Well, I guess that's it...


Fantastic Contraption 2?!


Death Metal

Death Metal Puppy (Wasn't able to embed. Probably the best one.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Finch's Landing

Summers have become synonymous with reading for me. I think it was a combination of factors:

  • I was a rather attentive student growing up, so my schooltime months (early August to early June in Florida) were crowded with school-related readings, assignments, and extracuricular activities. Since I didn't get a job until the summer before my senior year of high school, those summer months were a great time to squeeze in some serious reading.

  • Summers in Florida are mostly unbearably hot and I'm a quick and steady sweater.

  • As many of people of my previous generation (parents, authors, co-workers) are quick to point out, kids don't spend nearly as much time outdoors nowadays, as compared to the good old days. What with the (perceived) rise of child abductions and (real) rise of indoors technologies (the Internet, video games, iPods, etc.), there are hardly any kids knocking about neighborhoods these days. (So even those kids without those technologies will not have other kids to play with outdoors, and so on.)

Another reason that summer equals reading for me is that American society has partly encouraged this association. Summer's for lazing about in a hammock and reading a novel.

There's a particular Calvin and Hobbes strip (that I couldn't dig up on the Internet; I should catalog all of them and quote them like scriptures) where Calvin's talking about how it's summer and how his dad likes to get a good hardback and sit out under a tree to read it. (I don't remember the punchline. I think Calvin says his dad likes to buy the book with cash so they can't trace his purchases...)

There's another comic strip reference that will allow me to transition nicely into what is supposed to be the meat of this post. I haven't read much Bloom County, but one time I bought a short "Best Of" collection in the bargain bin at Barnes & Noble. Opus (the main character of the strip, a penguin) loves To Kill A Mockingbird and rereads it every summer, and I think in this particular strip, he is addressing the book's author, Harper Lee. Maybe appealing to her to write again. (I don't remember. I'll have to seek out that strip, which is also unlocatable online.)

I saw the movie when I was younger and I've always heard good things about the book, but I never got around to reading it. So when I stopped into our local Goodwill used bookstore a couple months ago and saw a paperback copy available for $0.99, I couldn't pass it up.

I spent most of May and June this summer in a class on Ernest Hemingway, reading some of his short stories and novels for the first time. I was glad to have read them, but it started to cast a real gloom over things. A couple days after the class ended, I went looking for something to read. I have dozens of books I haven't read yet, but for some reason I was drawn to Mockingbird, and I must say that it's a damn fine followup to the doom-and-gloom depression that comes with overexposure to Hemingway.

It took me a few pages to get into the rhythm of (Nelle) Harper Lee's narrative, but when I got there, I was there for the long haul. One of the pull quotes in the front of the paperback (from a review in the Minneapolis Tribune) says "The reader will find . . . a desire, on finishing it, to start again on page one." Damn tootin'. When I got to the end and realized it left off at the incident where the story began, I went back and reread the first page, and had to stop myself from going on.

To Kill A Mockingbird is a refreshing tale of humanity as seen through the eyes of one Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, told simultaneously from her vantage points of (1) looking back on the incidents of her childhood (in consultation/collaboration with her older brother, Jem) when "enough years had gone by to enable [her/them] to look back on them" and (2) as a young girl (of 7~8 years old) during the times of those incidents. This is a clever device that allows the reader access to the unabashed innocence and ignorance of childhood mixed with an older type of wisdom that comes through at certain parts in the narrative. (Hmm... much like Calvin and Hobbes, now that I think about it.)

Scout, Jem, and Dill banging about the neighborhood — deathly afraid at times, surprisingly courageously otherwise — made me (in my third year of "adult life," with my first "real job" out of college) yearn for childhood again, and regret not spending more time outdoors as a kid, putting on plays, scaring each other, etc. (Though I did my share of bike riding, I suppose.)

But the larger theme of the book — treating people equally, placing yourself in other people's shoes — had just as big an impact on me. I'll admit, for example, that I was especially touched after the trial, when Atticus received all that food from the neighborhood. I hate to be idealist (Atticus has a great speach on his "idealism"), but it seems to me that if everyone read this book (and taught this book, if they couldn't properly comprehend it), a lot of people (but not everyone) would think a little bit more about what they do, and maybe even change some things they do in regards to their behavior and actions towards other human beings.

The irony in my belief, then, is that the book has been met with a great deal of opposition.

"The book's racial slurs, profanity, and frank discussion of rape have led people to challenge its appropriateness in libraries and classrooms across the United States." (Wiki)

Wikipedia tells me it's been opposed in the '60s for its discussion of rape, and for Mayella Ewell's attraction to Tom Robinson; in the '70s for not being harsh enough on the racism present throughout. But, I'd have to agree with Ms. Lee's written defense of such accusations, excerpted here in a letter she wrote in 1966:

Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board’s activities, and what I’ve heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.

Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that “To Kill a Mockingbird” spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is “immoral” has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.

I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.

I don't know much what else to say, except that if you haven't read it, this book is definitely worth the time. It's an easy read, and it's constructed in such a way that if you need to remember a detail from earlier, the narrator subtly reintroduces the detail in case you'd forgotten (but never in an annoyingly obvious way). I suppose I'll close with one of my favorite comments in the book. After the trial, as the kids try to get past the bullshit the adults in town set out, Dill (who is apparently modeled after a young Truman Capote, Harper Lee's childhood acquaintance) comes out with...

"I think I'll be a clown when I get grown," said Dill.

Jem and I stopped in our tracks.

"Yes sir, a clown," he said. "There ain't one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I'm gonna join the circus and laugh my head off."

"You got it backwards, Dill," said Jem. "Clowns are sad, it's folks that laugh at them."

"Well I'm gonna be a new kind of clown. I'm gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks. Just looka yonder," he pointed. "Every one of 'em oughta be ridin' broomsticks. Aunt Rachel already does."

Friday, June 25, 2010

National Guard troops for the oil spill

[Sent to]

Governor Crist,

I recently read that Florida is only deploying 37 of the 2,500 National Guard troops available to us for help in cleaning up the gulf oil spill. I’d imagine there are sometimes problems with having too many people on the shores (in the affected areas), but it seems like this would be a good resource for the cleanup effort. Is there a way we could deploy more troops? Is there a good reason we’re not deploying more troops?


Thank you.


Justin de la Cruz

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

RSS Feeds

The Tallahassee Democrat has a pretty good explanation of RSS feeds.

Basically, if you'd like to retrieve all of the new information that's being published by your favorite websites, RSS or Atom feeds are the way to go. Most sites generate these feeds, so all you have to do is find a way to harness them.

My preferred way is using Google Reader. It's a simple tool that allows you to read all kinds of internet updates in one window. You just sign up (or sign in with your Google Account if you have one) and start adding your favorite sites with the "Add a subscription" button. You can also click on the "Browse for stuff" link on the left, and then on the "Search" tab of that window.

If you use Firefox as your web browser, you can use an add-on called Live Bookmarks to have the information display right from your browser window.

If you use Google Chrome, I'd recommend checking out these extensions to achieve a similar effect to FF's Live Bookmarks:

RSS Subscription
RSS Live Links

If you use Internet Explorer, I'd say it's about time to start using Firefox.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mistaken Identity

9:53 me Hi. Don't suppose if you'd know if FSU libraries has a way to access Harper's electronic archives?
9:53 me They have archives on from their magazine's history.
9:53 me Available to subscribers.
9:53 fsulibraries Just a second.
9:54 fsulibraries Harper's Magazine?
9:54 me yeah
9:54 me (there are e-texts available from 1993- via the library catalog search)
9:54 me (i'm looking for much older stuff)
9:55 fsulibraries We have e-texts from 1867...look under Hapers Bazaar.
9:55 me that is a different publication
9:55 me that's a fashion mag

Friday, June 04, 2010

Best of the blog

I've been blogging since February 18, 2004.

I just clicked through to every post.

Most of it is junk. A lot of photos are dead (because I starting hosting stuff on my student webspace, which got migrated elsewhere a year ago), a lot of links are broken, a lot of complaints and references are unable to be gotten by anyone but me, and a lot of it is just plain rubbish.

But I've always wanted to do a "Best of" for this blog, so here it is. I'll list my top 15 picks from the past six years, and then I'll post another 35 that I think are at least readable.

Here's The Best:

I never thought it'd come to this... (Dec 2004: Stats)

Stream of Consciousness Post (May 2005)

Do you ever yearn? (Sept 2005: Extended Seinfeld intro)

Eating Contest. (Nov 2005: OMG, never again)

Having Fun at FSU (Feb 2008: Psych experiment)

Why Write? (May 2008)

For the record. (June 2008)

Cross Country (July 2008: Short fiction)

Ladies Room Code Brown. (Jan 2009: Truth)

SAP. (Feb 2009: Cat)

Make 'em Laugh. (March 2009)

This Is Capitalism. (April 2009: Dav Fos Wal)

Vinyl Fever... (Dec 2009: <3 :*()

Anniversary Edition (April 2010: <3)

Great site! (May 2010)

Here's The Rest:

Chuck Yeager (Feb 2004)

Time. (Sept 2004)

A Meaningful Life, or a lack thereof? (Sept 2004)

NYC (Oct 2004)

Punctuation: A Lost Art (Dec 2004)

The Simpsons: A Linguistic Analysis (Dec 2004)


Sellout. (Dec 2004)

Back in town today... (Jan 2005:

A Psychology Major. (Jan 2005: Undergraduate summary)

Sickness. (Jan 2005)

Portraits of Laughter and Joy. (April 2005)

Snapshot. (May 2005)

Labels. (June 2005: Working at Target)

The End of the Affair (July 2005: Weezer)

uh.. (August 2005: Warning Label)

CLASSES. (Sept 2005)

Much Music. (Sept 2005)

Checklist. (Sept 2005: Comments longer than post)

. [sigh] (Oct 2005)

She weren't even... (Jan 2006: Gpit tour)

.. / -.- (Feb 2006)

Suddenly, (Aug 2006)

Self-Written Horoscope (Nov 2006)

Not in my 50 years... (Dec 2007)

Things To Hate. (March 2008)

The literary Lebowski. (Sept 2008)

Blogging about blogging... (Nov 2008)

Responses to Wilco's... (April 2009)

Historical Prejudice. (May 2009)

Ideas for Academic Success (June 2009)

T-Pain for President. (July 2009)

2009 in Tweets (Dec 2009)

82nd Annual Academy Awards (March 2010)

Monty Hall (April 2010)

Friday, May 28, 2010

On the FSView

My first professionalish writing gig was in college. I had wanted to write for my high school paper, but I never got around to it. After almost two years in college, I decided to respond to an ad in FSU's college newspaper, The FSView & Florida Flambeau, even though I didn't really read the newspaper. (Full Disclosure: I didn't read it after I started writing for it, either. Only when I started editing the section, and then I only ever read the stories I had to edit.)

The recruitment ad, placed by Matthew Gilmour, called for Arts & Entertainment writers, and I was going to nearly every concert I could at that time, so I sent in a sample review for The Feature's Exhibit A (a fine album) and was on my way.

My two-year stint at the 'View was pretty wild. There were a lot of great album releases and concerts to cover; we won a national award for editorial content; and the paper made news for itself when it became the first college newspaper purchased by a major corporation (Gannett Company, Inc.). This was possible because the FSView was an independent paper.

< "Brief Historical Account" >

The original FSU paper, the Florida Flambeau, was a hardhitting, political, sometimes investigative-reporting type affair. Eventually, it upset The Order when it ran a negative piece about Greek Life (fraternities / sororities). As a result, the FSView was started up by Greek Sympathizers and soon got all the Greek advertising revenue. The 'View soon went deep into the red, and the Flambeau made a deal to acquire it.

Thereafter, the 'View and the Flambeau were "one," serving the FSU campus at large, but being financially independent from university money. Which, you think, would allow them some liberties in terms of, uhh, reporting / being critical of University Affairs, but no such liberties were achieved. When I was there, the two-page spread of Entertainment (read: bars / nightclubs) ads reigned supreme, sometimes knocking my section down to one page of editorial content and two pages of ads.

Read more history here, or on Wikipedia (an entry that I wrote and got approved by the Wiki Powers That Be).

< / "Brief Historical Account" >

Moving on.

Despite all the turmoil, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the paper and I learned a fair amount. One of the best lessons I learned is that reaching out to your co-workers (asking them how your job impacts their job and vice versa) is quite helpful if you care about doing your job right. (Note: a lot of people there, from lowly writers all the way up to the newspaper owner did not in fact care about doing their jobs right.)

Anyway, when I left the paper, I had over 100 articles posted online. About a year later, they decided to overhaul their website, and, unsurprisingly, this wiped out their online records. Luckily, I took care to get every printed issue from my time there before I left. But the downside now is that without a massive scanning project on my part, there is no way to share these articles with the general public.

Except one.

That was never published.

Here is my response to a brutally dimwitted op-ed that my then editor-in-chief ran one week:

Op-Ed: FSU Football

That's all for now, folks.

Updated Website!

For the past couple of weeks, I've been working on updating my personal website. It's been a fun thing and I've gotten into the feverishly detailed state of mind that comes with semi-intricate web development.

I soon realized that I had a lot to say about myself (surprise, surprise), so, rather than cluttering up my website pages with tons of prose, I've decided to post longer blog posts here and then simply link to the them from the site. So that's why you'll soon see my thoughts on writing, music, maybe some other things on this blog.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for what to put on my site. I'm planning on adding pages for "my favorite things" (movies, music, books, websites), "miscellany," and other things, maybe.

On Writing

Growing up, I didn't write anything outside of school. But my first writing success was having a blunt story of mine ("The Underground Kingdom," a scan of which will be produced as soon as I find the story from my closet) featured at a young writer's festival when I was in 5th grade. It was the tale of a kidnapped princess, a king who has lost his wits, and an underdog hero. At the end of the story, I even wrote "MORAL: Never underestimate the small guy" or some equally Mother Goose-type thing.

In middle school, I was blessed with my first great English teacher, Mrs. Julia Bradford (Roach) Roach (she had married a man with the same last name as hers, but, which she stressed, a man to whom she — and she had taken care to research this — was not related). We wrote a short story every week in order to incorporate new vocabulary words into our writing. I forget most of what I wrote. One was about a space alien / starship. I remember that an acquaintance of mine at the time, Artus Nemati, wrote a powerful series of short stories about dirt. (Or was it dust?)

Mrs. Roach had drilled us on participles, gerunds, and other high-level grammar that is all but left out of the classroom nowadays. I beefed up on this stuff when I began to study Latin in high school. But I honed my analytical writing in the classroom of Mr. William "Carter" Hammond, my high school's resident AP English (Lang/Lit) teacher, where, for every Friday during the my junior and senior years, for precisely 55 minutes, my pen furiously hit paper in an attempt to express my views on the imagery in "Blackberry Picking or the symbolism in "The Destructors" in a concise-but-non-formulaic in-class essay.

Later, I came to blame this exercise for my hyperdeveloped ability to write quickly and expertly underfire — in college, papers would 90% of the time be left off until the night before (even 18-pagers, if you can believe it) — but I soon came to the conclusion that I was simply putting off work as a defensive mechanism so that later, no matter what the grade, I could say to myself, "Well, I didn't have a lot of time to polish that one."

In college, I began blogging and I also began writing music journalism, first for FSU's student paper, and later, after graduation, for It's a neat process to sit down with new music and try to say something about it that isn't vague, hackneyed, or reductive. It's also very challenging.

In grad school I discovered my love of the personal essay. It's an amorphous, fractured beast that allows for all kinds of tangential asides and non sequiturs (when done right, of course) and doesn't necessarily articulate a well-formulated worldview or moral or lesson in the way an argumentative essay, op-ed piece, or research article does. I'd tried my clumsy hand at short fiction before (and had attempted NaNoWriMo on two separate occasions), but I found it much easier for me to write out personal essays than to write fiction.

See, instead of writing thinly veiled autobiography-as-fiction, I could start from the essential truthiness granted to the personal essay form and start to smudge the truth from that side. That is to say: because of a need to craft the presentation of information into an entertaining prose and/or linear narrative (via omission, conflation, and minor fibbing), all essayists are essentially liars, but certainly not as big of liars as fiction writers are.

See more on the "Writing" page of my website...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Great site!

Matt [Wendus],

Just saw your site and thought I'd tell you how great it is. It takes a lot of courage to attack people on a website, and I'm glad there are still cynical dudes around who uphold some form of justice on the internet. Who are music critics to criticize music?

Who, indeed.

An album takes a whole lot of work, and just because it doesn't add to any sort of artistic realm (or make any sort of artistic statement, or hold any sort of aesthetic value) in the eyes of the reviewer doesn't mean it should be denigrated publicly. Bad albums have feelings too, man. Anyway, since you're out of the game of doing actual music reviews (Pitchfork reject your application one too many times?), I thought I'd offer up my harsh reviews for your site's consideration.

Actually, I'm pretty much out of the game of music reviewing, too (the stress of evaluating something fairly, without resorting to ad hominem attacks, was just too much for me), but feel free to check out my wares and see if any of them are hateful enough for you to hate on. You can find a full list on my website --- --- along with more than enough personal information to serve as fodder for your review of my reviews. (You might start with how noncompliant my website is re: W3 standards. I know, I know. I'm working on it. Sorry, but not everyone has the time to set up a shitty Wordpress template. And I know "uniqueoriginal" might be a little too indie-ironic for you [not to mention the bubbles picture, for crissake!], but not everyone can pick a flaccid tongue-in-chic ripoff website name, either.)

So where was I? Lost my train of thought there (something to consider if you decide to rip one of my reviews).


I was going to say that if you need any more personal details about me so you can more effectively rip my writing, please feel free to ask.

Do you need to actually listen to the albums I reviewed, too, or are my narcissistic tendencies, meta ironies, and bad puns enough to make up the bulk of your rip?

Thank you kindly,

Justin DLC


Fri, May 14, 2010 5:20:07 PM
From: Matthew Wendus < >
To: Justin de la Cruz < >
Re: Great site!

I think you're best left unknown.

-Matt W.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Political Quiz

Yesterday, Jessi called me out for listing "Moderate" as my political view on Facebook. I had listed that because I do not entirely align myself with either of the two national parties in the U.S., but I agree with her sentiment that it's fairly obvious that I lean in one direction more than the other.

So I'm going to start fighting political apathy and say that (according to this website, at least) I'm a non-interventionist / cultural liberal / left social libertarian.

My Political Views
I am a left social libertarian
Left: 5.65, Libertarian: 4.95

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: -8.44

My Culture War Stance
Score: -9.16

Political Spectrum Quiz

Far from moderate, indeed.

Of course, this quiz is not the sole determiner of my political views. I also find myself agreeing with many aspects of social progressivism. But, I suppose I'll have to keep reading around to pin down what sort of political and social views I agree with the most.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Search History

Wednesdays in April around 11 a.m., watch out! I'm on fire.

(A summary of my all-time searches courtesy Google Web History. [It keeps track of your searches if you're logged into your Google account. I just saw that it has an option to keep track of all the websites you visit if you so wish to keep track of that < I do not >.])

Tallahassee Democrat - Whoops

To all:

The Agency for Enterprise Information Technology (AEIT) has received reports from several agencies that some agency computers have been infected as a result of visiting the Tallahassee Democrat website. Our office has contacted the Tallahassee Democrat regarding these reports. The Tallahassee Democrat is aware of the situation and the newspaper is working with corporate headquarters to find and fix the problem. The parent company contracts with external parties to provide advertisements to fill in space on the website and Democrat staff believe one of these advertisements is the problem source.

It is important to note that the end user does not need to click on the affected add to become infected, but opening the page may result in the Trojan being downloaded to the computer. We also have received information that some anti-virus software is not preventing infection.

AEIT is working with SUNCOM network staff to temporarily block this website from agency access.

Please do not access the Tallahassee Democrat website until this issue is resolved.

Mike Russo, PMP®, CISSP, CFE, CGEIT™
State Chief Information Security Officer
Office of Information Security
Agency for Enterprise Information Technology
State of Florida
850) 922-7502

Monty Hall

Alright, ladies and gents. This is the end all be all of the infamous Monty Hall problem, which I encountered a number of years back and which keeps rearing its ugly head in the company of friends, some of whom argue about its explanation re: mathematical probability v. "standard logic."

[Somewhat related detour first:] A while back, I ran across a friend's post of Lockhart's Lament --- one mathematician / educator's criticism of America's standards and practices of math education. It's a compelling document, but if you're interested in arguing about the different sides of that, see the sequel to that column.

Anyway, a co-worker today was talking about teaching math to her daughters (who are home schooled) and so I searched out this document for her. I found it on Dr. Keith Devlin's great column on, Devlin's Angle. After poking around a bit, I stumbled across his entry for the infamous Monty Hall Problem, a very good read if you have about 10 minutes or so. He gives a great description and a few great explanations of the problem (as well as a great suggestion about human psychology), but if you don't have 10 minutes or so (or don't want to click through), I'll quote a concise section of it here.


Suppose the doors are labeled A, B, and C. Let's assume the contestant initially picks door A. The probability that the prize is behind door A is 1/3. That means that the probability it is behind one of the other two doors (B or C) is 2/3. Monty now opens one of the doors B and C to reveal that there is no prize there. Let's suppose he opens door C. Notice that he can always do this because he knows where the prize is located. (This piece of information is crucial, and is the key to the entire puzzle.) The contestant now has two relevant pieces of information:

1. The probability that the prize is behind door B or C (i.e., not behind door A) is 2/3.

2. The prize is not behind door C.

Combining these two pieces of information yields the conclusion that the probability that the prize is behind door B is 2/3.

Hence the contestant would be wise to switch from the original choice of door A (probability of winning 1/3) to door B (probability 2/3).


If that still doesn't work for you (and you still don't want to read the full column with multiple explanations), you can head over to this site (which only appears to work in Internet Explorer) to test out the problem yourself --- you can click through the problem yourself, or have the computer run the test 10, 100, or 1000 times to see how it works out.

This is what I got:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bieberville on Twitter

This stuff scares me.

It's not a secret that Justin Bieber is a tween superstar. But ever since they changed the Twitter homepage to scroll through seemingly random tweets as I log in, I've seen a Bieber devotee posting their love every time I go to the site. I had to click through to a user named "DaBieberVille," and their feed started to scare me.

Then I saw something interesting... the above tweet, posted from the web, which looked like a picture. I didn't know you could do that! I clicked the tweet, and it popped up here. So... someone made an ASCII type post that only makes sense when you view it in a Twitter feed?

Now that's dedication.

Also, check out the bottommost tweet on this screen capture:

"Retweet if you're █████████████████████ 100% Belieber (If you don't retweet, you're not one)"

I have no idea what that thick bar is doing in that tweet. Is it some foreign characters that won't render properly on my computer? Or are you supposed to fill in the blank?

I think the generation gaps are getting smaller... I'm 24, and these 13-yr-olds are stumping me on this Twitter shit.


Saw this today on the Twitter homepage (@TheJonasSource). Lazy, or resourceful?

These Gnarly Beasts

An online music collective that I formed in February has finally released its debut album. You can download it here:

I wrote a blog post about it on the group's Tumblr page here:

Feel free to stream, download, share with friends, and comment. You can email the group: thesegnarlybeasts [at] gmail [dot] com.


A Supposedly Fun Trick I'll Try Again Sometime

The internet is very quick at changing, so this little ditty might not last for long.

I went to Google "Wind wind etc. etc." --- a sentence from one of David Foster Wallace's essays. One of the links that showed up was the full essay, hosted on the New York Times website. When I clicked on the link, it took me to the full essay.

But I usually compulsively open a new browser window and feed a link in directly before sharing it on Facebook or Google Reader. To see if anything changes.

Which. Well, if you go to this link directly, it will ask you to log into NYT:

BUT, if you click over from the Google search returns page, it should let you view the page without logging in:

Furthermore, though, you could simply hit the "Cached" button on the Google link and see Google's downloaded version of the page, complete with highlighting of your search terms:

Because, I don't know if everyone knows this, but Google downloads the internet. This was the main part of their search idea that has allowed them to return search results very quickly. I don't know how long Google caches stay intact (or if they move them around their server space), but in case the internet ever disappears, there will probably be a copy of at least half of it at Google.