On the marshmallow test

Wednesday 30 June 2010, 09:46

Show a four-year-old child some marshmallows and a bell. Tell them that you're going to leave the room for a while (fifteen or twenty minutes). Say that if they ring the bell, you'll come back and give them a marshmallow. However, say that if they don't ring the bell, but wait until you come back without ringing it, then you will give them two marshmallows. Record what happens.

Ten years later, assess the child's personality and general success in life by means of a questionnaire sent to their parents. What you discover is that the ones who rang the bell, or who rang it earlier, score relatively poorly on questions that measure social adjustment, "emotional intelligence," and so on. The ones who didn't ring the bell, or rang it later, score much better on those measures, and also score better on the SAT. Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., Peake, P. K. (1990). Predicting adolescent cognitive and self-regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification: Identifying diagnostic conditions. Developmental Psychology, 26(6) [PDF]

The part I think is really interesting is what the authors of that paper don't say about the experimental protocol.

An index for all reasons

Sunday 27 June 2010, 16:52

There are probably as many reasons to save money as there are savers. One of mine is as follows: I don't want to be forced to change my lifestyle. In particular, after I'm retired and living on the savings I create today, I don't want to find myself in a situation where, because of changes in the world beyond my control that affect prices, the money I put aside to buy goods for myself during retirement is no longer enough to cover the kind of lifestyle I intended for myself, and so I'm forced to cut back. I want someone else, not me, to be accountable for cutting back to make sure I don't have to, and I'm willing to pay money up front in order to remove belt-tightening from the list of things I have to take responsibility for.

Gerard Kennedy on copyright, other issues

Thursday 24 June 2010, 10:42

Last night I attended a meeting called the "Community Council on Federal Issues," hosted by Gerard Kennedy, Liberal Member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park and my Federal elected representative. I didn't vote for him; never mind whether I would have, I was living in a different city at the time of the last election. Apparently he holds these meetings periodically as a way of keeping in touch with constituents; this one in particular was advertised as having a focus issue of "Locked out? New Federal copyright laws and you," which was what drew my interest. I didn't take notes and don't plan to report on the entire meeting, but will cover a few points of interest to me.

Writing update

Tuesday 22 June 2010, 19:43

Ever since 2002, when I wrote The Fickle Finger of Fate as a NaNoWriMo project, I've had it in mind to write another book set in that universe but done properly, at publication quality. The NaNoWriMo word-count constraint is interesting as a personal growth exercise, but not really conducive to the output being a good book, and its effects show in the output. Over the years since Fickle Finger I was gradually collecting material for the next book, and as of when I finished my PhD in mid-2008, my plan was that I would work at the University of Toronto for the calendar year 2009 (details are private and beyond the scope, but I was in a position to make them an offer I didn't think they could refuse), and I'd move to Toronto four months early and spend September to December 2008 writing the book at about a third of NaNoWriMo pace.

Another wacky theory

Sunday 20 June 2010, 16:39

I just noticed that the way Téodor gets out of his horrific night of high school fun with Nice Pete, is exactly the same way that Kyon gets out of his horrific time loop of high school fun with Haruhi. You realize what this means, don't you?

Rogers annoyance

Friday 18 June 2010, 14:34

It turns out that although I thought I was connected to the Net again, all outgoing email from my system was being queued until a few minutes ago, because I use a third-party SMTP provider (for which I pay a fee) rather than trusting any connection provider with my email. Rogers blocks outgoing port 25 connections, in an effort to force their customers to use their servers, presumably as an anti-spam measure. This does not please me at all, especially on top of the DNS problems already noted. A complaint has been filed. Seriously considering telling them to go fuck themselves, never mind that I just paid an installation fee I'd be unlikely to get back.

In the matter of the 465 Hz tone

Friday 18 June 2010, 09:41

So, you've got an audio signal contaminated with a continuous tone at about 233 Hz, with a really strong second harmonic at 465 and some others throughout the audio spectrum. It sounds like a swarm of angry bees and makes the main signal hard to listen to. You can notch it out - that means applying a filter that simply removes the frequencies in question - but since 465 Hz is right in the important part of the speech band, the result is going to sound really bad. Any simple frequency-notch filter that blocks the interference is going to destroy things you want to keep, too. Look around the Net these past few days and you can read a lot of broadcast audio people complaining about this issue.


Thursday 17 June 2010, 22:54

I spoke but you were all you'd hear:
You think I've won but you don't know the game
Now I must go where you can't lead
The blame for this is not on you to bear.
What can I say so you will know
What all my words to now could not make clear
How far to ride for one more chance
How much not to give up the pride I claim?
You say that I don't have to leave
You'll hide me from the flame and keep me safe
As if I had not heard that one
As if you had not seen the burns I wear.
To get out of the fire was not my goal
You can't hold on to me that way.

You can't hold on to me that way:
I spoke but you were all you'd hear
Now I must go where you can't lead.
What can I say so you will know
How far to ride for one more chance?
You say that I don't have to leave
As if I had not heard that one
You can't hold on to me that way.

What all my words to now could not make clear:
The blame for this is not on you to bear.
How much not to give up the pride I claim?
You'll hide me from the flame and keep me safe
As if you had not seen the burns I wear.
To get out of the fire was not my goal.
You think I've won but you don't know the game.
You can't hold on to me that way;
I spoke, but you were all you'd hear.

Back on the air

Wednesday 16 June 2010, 12:01

I'm posting this over the new cablemodem connection. The installation went reasonably well; the installer as such came in and did his job and didn't give me a hard time about not having a consumer-level computer setup. There was an extra guy called the "Inspector" who seemed to thoeretically be there to rate the installer's performance, but actually just spent an hour watching me play Freecol while the installer hooked up the wires. I could have done without that and no doubt the installer could have too, but whatever.

IP connectivity even easier than with the DSL, because the cable modem provides a DHCP lease directly over Ethernet, whereas the DSL I'd been using was PPPoE. But every silver lining has its thorn, and it's probably a good thing I didn't discover this one until after the installer and the inspector left, because there would have been nothing they could do about it and they didn't need to hear my cussing at their bosses.

Another modem bites the dust

Sunday 13 June 2010, 10:32

I was away at a workshop from Wednesday morning until Saturday evening, and I didn't have network connectivity where I was. As a result, it was not until I got home Saturday that I discovered my DSL modem had been failing over the course of the past few days. It first flaked out for a few hours on Tuesday night, but since it then was able to connect again I thought when I left Wednesday that the problem was on the ISP's end and fixed by them. Through most of my trip, however, it was dead. I got about half an hour of use from it on Saturday night by dint of repeated power-cycling, but then it failed even harder and seems unlikely to rise again now.

This raises the question of what to do about getting the connection up again. When Execulink fucked up the transfer of my DSL to my new location in January 2009, I resolved to stop dealing with them when I next moved. But since it's looking like I have to go through a few days with no home Internet connection anyway, and I'd probably be having to go through a connection change anyway in a few months, when I may move out of the Execulink coverage area, it seems like now may be the right time to switch away. Accordingly, I've put in an order for Rogers cable networking. They are slime too, of course.