Category Archives: This Blog


“Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.”

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings, Second Edition.

I use my blog mainly for experimentation. It is an opportunity to have a deadline, which forces me to make peace with something I might otherwise fret over for days and eventually discard. My blog has never been a place for meticulous work. From my own perspective, it has at times been a place of beauty, but that beauty is always the kind stumbled upon. Rather than the diamond cut painstakingly from the stone, it is the stone itself, that reflects the light of the sunset in an unusual and captivating way after a long day of aimless wandering. Over the roughly ten years I have maintained this blog, this latter is the beauty I have been better able to achieve.

In the background, I am struggling to create the former sort of beauty. I have spent years now on and off attempting to extract the diamond from my installment series The Cleaners and transform it into a real novel. In the meantime, my blog continues to meander. Sometimes it follows me to an interesting locale, or more often into my kitchen. Other times, it has ventured into far off lands or taken the role of untrustworthy adviser. I sincerely hope that no one has followed any of the advice in my “Sam’s Guide” columns. Sometimes it follows me through literal wanderings through whatever forest in which I find myself.

Those of you who are still with me on this journey, I hope that you continue to enjoy my blog. Coming up, I hope to renew the spirit of adventure where this all began with “Sam’s Japan Blog” in 2007. I can’t say exactly what this will entail. It may be that my blog will become weirder and harder to understand, but so be it. I shall wander, and if you wish to wander with me, I shall welcome the company.


AutoBlog 2: Adding the Old Blog

I have now added my old blog, 300 entries from 2008 to 2013. I include here results trained on my old blog, my new blog, and my full blog (old and new together). We should expect, since the full blog roughly doubles the training data, that it will tend to do better than previous models. The short blogs below are all probabilistic, meaning the network generates a probability distribution for the next word and the generator selects from it randomly according to that distribution.

I have included two versions of model for each of these data sources. Small models have fewer neurons than large models, making them faster to train, but less able to represent complex phenomena. I haven’t fixed the formatting manually this time.

Small Models

Old Blog

switched .

You’ll notice that this one is unusually short. Generally models trained on my blog get to the arbitrary word limit before they predict an “end of entry” tag. This one is an exception, and a notable one at that. I doubt it’s representative of my old blog, except that I tended to write shorter entries.

New Blog

demeanor dissertation perfection with recycle , has , shared an even shuffled crick to make investment that they can sore . it five-year-old if a crime snapped is a human pinch under a producing dressings . as if each violation is full of the roiling we feminist how i can present . each brags of backside discovered rainbow margin that seems soundly . flavor , and this motivate , choose that dairy , also lifeless . without real moment , though is narrowing rationalizing and carson street cleaning people need to make your wishes because todd has bizarre such

The “roiling” Youtube link points to an unavailable video. I should figure out how that got past the preprocessing step. Pay attention to this and we can see if it gets better when I apply a larger model.

Full Blog

donations , <unk> i’m never chuck on facebook and ime mountain angry donned . but too , so i’m , old <unk> at the office . wouldn’t just , but the most induction people should get off inviting of cube into us peace on human overhaul and peak the japanese country and finally and their sent me . evidently quintessential children again , christmas , ” and and lived , and effects behind to us trouble . ” diane , you can go claim from significant hero how to make there !

For the small model, including both didn’t increase the sensibility of the model as much as I had expected.

Large Model

Old Blog

dejected , i have moisture results out of boss disease and expo for my spark horrible dispensers . unfortunately , i offhandedly decided my elaborate retreat to my hats . weekend , i important lose locate lost lee’s and an slew of a sledgehammer with the narrative partially for the side . elliot foolishly my mishaps and challenged one’s blend acquaintances complaining that i could re-read my relief . in the woo , the quietest organization in dirt representing following consciousness , implication . i meanings [censored] corporations , i drank pop graphic break and debug fit , so batches

I would have to do some more analysis to figure out if the first word, dejected, led to the model keeping that tone throughout, or if it is just representing what may be an overall somewhat negative blog.

New Blog

dumped , wouldn’t overhaul the reinvent the painstaking introduced up of awful day . lower hidden forty-eight resounding and fiction is moments next , like the time for the distributing repurposed and note on diane .

No dramatic improvement here with the larger model.

Full Blog

i’ve been videos to application these pauses to towers in goodwill . i again , my opening appeared ever heard ever blowing since i texted my re-read . i don’t remember the clumps story . in the address i sol forgot some brahe and junior press every exam . explain you tearer . ” cabin-mates xeon , ” what it is good , should alone anthropomorphic language , ” secret goading , ] what i had releases worst as i rely its message to torn up many grandma , and the wider tacos was delay on slogan . tried to

So, doubling the data did not have a noticeable effect. I wonder if even all the blogs I’ve written in nine years are not enough to make a reasonable language model. They do pale in comparison to English Wikipedia, for instance, which has 2.9 billion words to my blog’s paltry 240,000. Excessive randomness in the probabilistic model could be another weakness. Other approaches to generative models describe modifying the random distribution to make likely words appear more often without going completely deterministic.

Boring Entry #1

This is one of those entries where I have nothing to say, but I have to post every week, or I don’t get to say that I’ve posted every week for seven years. I will refer to this and future such entries as “boring entries.” These entries are too uninteresting to deserve individual titles, so I will number them instead.

This has been just about the most boring weekend in recent memory. Most of what I’ve been doing this weekend has been copyediting my dissertation. That is, I have been carefully reading through 120 pages of work looking for tiny mistypes and places where edits have accidentally added extra words or words have been lost. It takes a long time, and is not terribly intellectually engaging.

It’s finally hot enough that I don’t have to wear a coat in the morning. I don’t mind wearing a coat in the morning except that it’s been hot enough that I can’t stand to wear a coat in the midafternoon for about a week, so I’ve been awkwardly carrying my coat on my walk to the bus stop when I leave work.

I tried to make pressure cooker chili, but the chili was so easy to get stuck to the bottom and burn that I turned the heat down to three. This was so low that the pressure cooker simply couldn’t build up the pressure it needed, so I left it to cook without the top, that is, like a regular pot. Somehow it burned anyway, but not enough to ruin the flavor. Alice just had to clean some very ugly pots that evening. I do the cooking and she does the cleaning.

On March 23 I defend my dissertation. On March 28, I will turn in a draft to my school’s official dissertation formatting police, who will issue commands for what I need to correct before I turn in the final copy on April 11. In May I have my graduation ceremony and my job becomes what is referred to in common parlance as a “real job,” and at the end of June I get kicked out of student housing. So, I’ll be finding a new apartment as well. Maybe I can figure out a way to write a blog entry at that time that will make looking for an apartment entertaining.

Greetings from The Dystopian Future!

Another break from “The Cleaners.” If you’re worried about what happens next, I’ll just tell you right now, William Cleaner is Diane’s Father. Also, Diane was a ghost the whole time, Henry Whicker is just a projection of the other side of Diane’s split personality, and Walter was never Diane’s late husband, just an ordinary conman from Omaha, Nebraska. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” he will protest just before Diane reveals him and we find out that we were on Earth the whole time.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t take another break at this point, but my own real life has become rather dramatic as of late. I’ve got another big presentation for the high ranking executives of SAS, and I’ve been working twelve hours a day to prepare and stay on top of my other duties, which have not abated. My paper has been accepted to Artificial Intelligence in Education, which meets in Madrid this year, and there’s an unusually short deadline on the camera-ready version. At the same time I have a flurry of paper reviews, two of which were self-inflicted, that I have to complete. I spent most of yesterday writing three of them. Other tasks, such as arranging to get forty-eight symposium and workshop papers added to the Intellimedia paper database, have been put on the back burner.

Now it’s time to put aside wastes of time and get work done. I’ve declared web browsing to be banned. No more going on the web without an explicit purpose, and then once finished, I go back offline again. Also, just in time, my Soylent arrived. Now I, too, get to enjoy the only food in America with an eleven-page instruction manual complete with a version number, changelists, and a page dedicated to warnings. It tastes like pancake batter, but is probably better for me than any other breakfast food I could eat. Certainly better than an Eggo waffle or any other such pre-processed quick-make breakfast food that often characterize the diets of busy graduate students. I don’t replace all my meals yet, but I have been known to replace as many as two meals in a day as the need arises. One fun thing about Soylent is that now that I’m also wearing a facemask to avoid spreading a head cold I have I look like a poster child for the dystopian future. I also have a device I wear on my wrist that keeps track of my life signs to report to a server in an unknown location and I’m working extremely hard to develop advanced artificial intelligence. Maybe I am living in a dystopian future.

Sam’s Blog Classic: “The Cemetery”

I’m not feeling particularly inspired this week, so I’m going to start a tradition known as “Sam’s Blog Classic,” where I post an entry from the old version of my blog. In addition to giving me an occasional respite from coming up with new things every week, this will serve as an opportunity for more recent readers of my blog to see the kind of things that I did when the blog and I were younger. I will do my best to use “Sam’s Blog Classic” sparingly so as not to bore my long-time readers.

This particular entry comes from a summer that I stayed at Earlham.

Yesterday the power was out all day. I took a shower in ice-cold water and had to use the light on my camera to navigate a pitch-black bathroom. Evidently someone had gone before me with no such light; the evidence lay in pools on the the tiled floor. Earlham has an odd habit of becoming a madhouse whenever the power goes out. The last time it happened was a Monday and people whooped and hollered and shot fireworks all night. “How can we go to sleep when all the lights are out!?” So, in honor of the occasion I jumped out the window.

It wasn’t a particularly long drop, only two stories. My right foot wasn’t too happy with me for a little while (Trivia junkies, I’ll leave it to you to remember whether or not that was the foot with the famous necrosis). In any case, people were serving free food at the mysterious Norwich Lodge hidden in Earlham back-campus, so I made it my first order of business to limp over there.

Too early! Lunch is being served at twelve, not eleven! So, I simply had to wait it out for an hour in the cabin and (guh) socialize. An eager but underconfident physics student from China, Dee, told me about the heirarchy of CS students, and his secret fear of being judged for his coding ability. I assured him that he didn’t need to worry. As a physics major, he wasn’t even included in the rankings. No one expected him to code well. Cory showed up again and we discussed his cryptonomicon book, then we engaged in such intellectual topics as recounting the latest Family Guy word-for-word. My long unacknowledged ability to perfectly imitate Cleveland Brown’s accent proved invaluable in this stage of the conversation.

Eventually lunch ended, and Cory and I left for home, although I mistakenly led him down the wrong path which we followed for an hour, finding a little-league baseball game but no Earlham College. After backtracking for another hour, we finally made it back to the lodge. Amazingly, I managed to convince Cory to follow me down another path, which (thank goodness) turned out to be the one I had originally intended to take and got us back to Wilson hall quickly and conveniently.

You’d think after that I’d be sick of the woods, but no, not me. Today I wandered in again and found myself in the Earlham cemetery again, which was closed again. I actually edited out the blog entry of my first encounter with the Earlham Cemetery because it ended in an only slightly bloody encounter with a rusty barbed wire fence. It was earlier in the day today, and yesterday I didn’t encounter any resistance, so I thought I’d just leisurely walk along until I might be able to find a nicer exit. A man in a truck pulled up to me and gruffly informed me that the cemetery was closed. I told him I had wandered in through the woods, and he said, with furtive glances at some nearby tombstones “No, no. That won’t do at all. Yeh’d best get outta here, boy. Keep along this road and yeh’ll find an opening in the fence leading to I-40. Hurry, now, ’tis almost sundown!” Indeed there was a flimsy plastic fence rather than rusted steel spikes between the cemetery and I-40, and all I had to do was step over it. I think I’m going to wander in the woods earlier in the day from now on. Somehow repeatedly ticking off the souls of the deceased doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea to me.

I finally found my camera – it was in my coat pocket! Here are some pictures of my room.

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My Cousins Once Removed

Ok, I’ve separated the ChefScript out into its own blog. Now I can take some of the pressure off of this blog to be consistently interesting to strangers. I’m going back to writing about whatever I happen to think of, and some things may interest the wider world while others won’t.

As many of you probably know, Christmas happened not five days ago. I probably don’t need to inform you that the day before Christmas is Christmas Eve. The day before that my mother asked me to take some time to look after three of my first cousins once removed. One is technically closer to a step first cousin once removed, but on my father’s side family is more defined by who shows up at the gatherings than any kind of blood relation. I feel no less close to her than to any of my other cousins. Just as a reminder for those of you less familiar with advanced familial relationships, a “first cousin once removed” is the child of a first cousin or the first cousin of a parent. So, if I have a first cousin Frances, her son Martin is my first cousin. If I have a father Elizabeth with a first cousin Xander, Xander is my first cousin once removed. These first cousins once removed are all the children of my cousins, and they are three beautiful girls, ranging in age from eight to fourteen.

I was mostly thinking of my work when my mother asked me to take care of these three and I only knew one of them very well, so I was at first reticent to dedicate my time to them. Eventually out of a sense of obligation I conceded, and once they arrived it took very little time for me to realize what a terrific decision I’d made. Here are some of the highlights.

When we were in the car, one girl wanted to listen to the radio. My sister turned on the radio and asked what station. She couldn’t think of it, so the eight-year-old on my lap said she knew a station she wanted to listen to. My sister asked what the number was, and she said “Q-U-E-I-T dot seven.” Most of the occupants of the car agreed that, although she misspelled it, it was a clever way to say she wanted not to have the radio on.

When I told everyone that everyone would be going to the Christmas Eve service, and the question was whether they wanted to go to the music beforehand, the eight-year-old raised her hand to her face and looked at it quizzically. I didn’t understand what she was doing until she said “before… hand?” Then she told me “You talk all ‘Sciencey.’ Nobody talks like that but tall, beanish people.” I still haven’t figured out what she meant by “beanish.”

My family is taking care of some large, white rats that we like to let climb around on us. The youngest child let us put a rat on her, but neither of the elder two would. The middle child was willing to touch it just to say she did, but the eldest refused outright even the slightest contact.

After some time in my company, it got to the point that I could say almost anything and all three children would erupt in laughter. My sister was also not immune to this treatment. She had a little giggle that everyone wanted to repeat to much merriment. Once I stood and hit my head on a low-hanging lamp. That nearly did them in. I look forward to seeing more of these cousins of mine in the future.

Whatever I Say

I often get mixed feedback when I attempt to discuss my work on this blog. Sometimes someone will praise my knowledge and communication skills, but other times people will say something along the lines of “this post was incomprehensible jargon, but nevertheless surprisingly pleasant to read.” Notice how nice my commenters have been thus far. That’s because they’ve pretty much all been relatives and close friends. WordPress on the other hand automatically recommends my blog to strangers based on automatic guesses of similar interests. I’ve already gotten a follower whom I’ve never met. Hi, “Opinionated Man!”

This changes the game. I figure with just one post a week I should be able to make them consistently interesting and comprehensible, at least to the people who self-select to be in my audience. As the most interesting thing I do these days is my research (It really is very interesting if I can get anyone to understand it), I may begin to discuss more technical topics. I could also discuss more food topics, since that’s another sometimes relatively interesting thing I do and could write about. While food is more inherently relatable, the communication of science to non-scientists is something I find particularly inspiring.

Not making any promises. This blog, as I like to say, is about whatever I say it’s about, so maybe next week it’ll be a description of my proliferation of ways to eat a single batch of bean soup, maybe it’ll be an approachable explanation of neural networks, or maybe I’ll just say something about my grandmother’s eightieth birthday and relate an anecdote from my Thanksgiving trip to Maine. It’ll have to be an interesting anecdote, though.