The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Monday, March 20, 2000

The MEGA hardware store

After attending a disapointing meeting (I thought certain issues were going to be discussed but they weren't) and lunch, I decided to head on over to Home Depot. Nearly all the light bulbs in the condo are burned out, and I needed to repair my toilet.

I spend about half an hour preparing to go. Checked what bulbs I needed. Two 36" kitchen lights. Two 48" kitchen lights. Nine regular 60W bulbs. Four decoration bulbs. One three way bulb. One colored bulb, yellow, preferrably yellow. One halogen lamp, 300W, type J. Four bulb light unit for ceiling fan, chrome. And one toilet flapper.

It used to be bookstores were dangerous territory for me. Now it seems to be home improvement, office or art stores.

Rows upon rows of items that can be used for any number of nefarious reasons. Wire. Screws. Pipes. Wood. Abstract styrofoam shapes. Pens. Pencils. Protractors. Art pads. Sewing thread. Stuff. Stuff! STUFF!


I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the selection of light bulbs at Home Depot. Overwhelmed at the types of bulbs availble. Underwhelmed at the selection of any one type. It seems that 36" kitchen lights are only 30W, while the 48" ones are only 40W. I couldn't find a 60W yellow light bulb, so I ended up with a 25W. Found plenty of 60W bulbs. And the three way bulb only came in two different settings, 50/100/150 or 50/150/200 (or something like that). I could not find the proper halogen bulb, but I really don't need one quite yet.

Going through the ceiling fan section, I did find light units to replace the one that's shorting out in the dining room, but it was brass, not chrome. I guess chrome is out this year. And I really don't want to get a new ceiling fan because I happen to like the one I have now, with the transparent fan blades. So I still need a light unit.

And it took me a long time to find the flapper.

It was odd—I picked the correct isle but it took me a long time to actualy find the flappers. I couldn't find them, found one or two that were almost, but not quite right. I almost got a complete toilet repair kit ($7 to replace all the components in the tank—seems pretty cheap to me) when I found a partial toilet repair kit (about half the parts for about half the price) when suddenly I found all the flappers I wanted. Even five-packs of flappers. Flappers everywhere! And cheap. Only a buck.

Got out fast, not wanting to spend any more time or money there.

Got home, replaced all the light bulbs. I now have lightage. I then replaced the flapper. I now have a quiet non-leaky toilet.

I'm happy.

For now.

“Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.”

Noise words.

That's what I'm working on right now. Noise words.

Not words like clang or pththththt but words that can be ignored in Natural Language Processing. Interesting problem. Words like the and a can be stripped as noise words. But what else? And does frequency of occurance count?

Conjunctions, interjections, and maybe propositions can be cut. Maybe.

Doing a quick search for precompiled word lists, I came across the Language Technology Group Helpdesk FAQ which is incredible if you're into this type of thing.

Cool! How'd I do that?

So I'm compiling Eric Brill's language tagger when I see neat quotes pop up during each compilation. I'm wondering how he did that, thinking that's a pretty cool thing to do while compiling a program.

Then it hit me—it was spawning a shell for each compile, and when I spawn a shell, I have a cookie program run to spit out a quote.

Oh. It's me that was doing that.

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