Lots of activity all of a sudden on virgule-dev. It looks like I dropped it prematurely. On the other hand, some of my work has undoubtedly made it into Advogato, so I still feel like it was a net productive diversion.
My sister was just accepted to graduate school to study cognitive psychology. I think there's a lesson for me here. I just said "I wanna go to graduate school for computers" and didn't get in. My sister said "I'm interested in studying cognitive psychology" and started talking to professors who were studying that, then narrowed down her choices to the professors who expressed an interest in her, and only after all this did she apply.
As a result of this realization, I'm trying to decide what I'm really interested in. One of my initial thoughts is that I sure do enjoy learning new languages, and that even though I'm still endeavoring to really grasp it, ML strikes me as the Right Thing. My new plan is to finish up The Little Schemer, write everything in Guile for a month or two, then get cozy with a good book on ML. My goal is to install the Hello Project and start hacking it. At that point, I'm hoping it will be pretty clear to me whether or not I'm really interested in doing graduate work in ML, and I presume I'll have a good idea about what people I should contact, at what universities.
I finally understand comments Raph made a year or two ago about SMTP needing a successor. I have a fairly decent (but very simplistic) trust-based email filter: a whitelist constructed from my address book. Wouldn't it be cool if in addition to that, I could query some of those peeople about incoming email? For instance, what if my procmail recipie could automatically ask firstname.lastname@example.org a question like "What do you know about email@example.com?" Better yet, bob's email could carry with it a certification from alice that bob is a good guy. I already trust alice, so I could put bob's mail in a "probably not spam" box.
This isn't a terribly difficult concept. I'm surprised it hasn't already been implemented on a wide scale. It's been in PGP for decades.
I've been doing a lot of reading lately. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've ever undergone such a surge in voluntary reading. And to think, it was all begun by reading the Harry Potter series. I suppose it just took reading something that made reading fun, and the realization that I'm not required to read things in which I have no interest.
The best book I've read in this recent literary explosion has got to be Civilization before Greece and Rome by H.W.F. Saggs. It's just a history book, but the subject matter fascinates me. Right now I'm reading about the government of ancient Egypt, and I keep drawing parallels between their bureaucracy and various bureaucracies today. If nothing else it's encouraging to know that the good old days really weren't all they're cracked up to be.
Another thought-provoking and fun read was Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. If you liked the movie "Deep Impact" but felt like it could have done with more science and more exploration of the before and after on earth, this book is for you.
Powell's Bookstore would be a good place to visit if you're trying to find an alternative to Amazon. This store has been around for quite some time in Portland. In the Pacific Northwest it is generally agreed that Powell's is the best place to go for books, especially technical books. That they're privately owned is a plus in my book, as well.