GSB Emails Volume 0002

April 20, 2017

More silly emails from November through April. Check out volume 0001 for more.

Three Course Lunch

My fellow GSB Czar Thomas brought it to my attention this week that in France school children are given a 3 course lunch to eat over the period of 2 hours. Having gone to public school in the US with short lunch periods [1], this blew my mind. Of course, not only is their lunch period almost 4 times longer, the food is supposedly pretty good and relatively healthy. I tried to extrapolate my 35 minute lunch experience growing up to fill 2 hours and 3 courses.

1st course: Probably required to be some fruit or vegetable. Congress says pizza can count as a vegetable for the purpose of school lunch so it’s likely a gross pizza square.

2nd course: Mystery protein. Likely some meat that couldn’t be sold to anyone but a public school district. Large glass of soda [2].

In between 2nd and 3rd course: Picked on by slightly more popular kids for half an hour [3].

3rd course: One of those frosted brownies I’ve never seen outside of school lunch. These were actually pretty good though.

  1. My high school lunch break was only 35 minutes!
  2. My high school also had some exclusive deal with coca-cola. I’ve heard foreigners are often surprised to learn that we have soda vending machines in school cafeterias here.
  3. On second thought maybe limiting lunch to 35 minutes was a good thing.


After three long weeks without GSB we are finally returning! I know what you’re thinking, “but Brett, since you guys have carelessly canceled GSB three weeks in a row I haven’t spoken to anyone! How can I be sure that I can still speak at all?”

Fear not mute CSAILor! As Thomas and I have both seen the new documentary “Arrival,” we posses the necessary skills to teach you to speak from scratch [1].

After we’ve retaught you how to speak in thirty minutes you can follow us down to the mixer with BCS on the 4th floor at 6pm confident in your ability to converse again.

  1. So long as you’re OK learning a language of circles with little fringes on the edges. Cool ink jets in your hand not included.

DRM Enabled

With the W3C considering the addition of DRM to open web standards GSB is considering adding it’s own DRM to the GSB experience. Here’s what you can expect from DRM enabled GSB:

Memory management: Memories are a serious copyright violation and people who can remember coming to GSB might not want to come back! Therefore, we will be employing memory wiping technology after each meeting.

Exclusion: When a non-GSB participant glances in our direction they are stealing our intellectual property. Therefore, GSB will now take place behind a large curtain with directional speakers blasting white noise in every other direction so non-participants cant steal our proprietary conversations.

Access Revocation: Just because you got into GSB doesn’t mean that you can stay. At any point we can revoke your access at which point the floor will open up and you’ll be ejected to the 8th floor.

We welcome all EME supporting W3C members to join us and have their dreams realized.

Shift/Reduce Conflict on “it”

Yesterday marijuana became officially legal for recreational use in Massachusetts. While at least one CSAILor was very happy about this, there is an unforeseen consequence that has gotten very little attention: the phrase “legalize it” is now ambiguous.

No longer can a band shout out “legalize it” at a concert and get instant cheers from the crowd. Now, they’ll be met nothing but confusion. Our kids will grow up hearing mediocre music about the legalization effort [1] and have no idea what hell “it” is. Therefore, I propose that we find a new “it” to push for next. I hereby cast my vote for the next “it” to be Kinder Surprise Eggs. I believe that if we follow the path of marijuana legalization effort we will, in a few decades, be able to enjoy chocolate eggs with little toys in them.

What we learned from the marijuana legalization effort is this: we must first legalize kinder eggs for medical use. Then, after public hysteria dies down we shoot for recreational kinder eggs. The medical benefits are clear, depression can be temporarily alleviated because:

  1. Chocolate tastes good.
  2. Toys are fun.

Moreover, although alcohol and tobacco kill millions of Americans, chocolate eggs with toys in them kill approximately zero Americans over the age of 21 [2].

Since the legalization effort will take a while, we’ll get a few more decades out of the phrase “legalize it” and our kids will still be able to relate to songs about marijuana prohibition.

Help us create NORCEL [3] at this week’s GSB.

  1. It took us too long to take advantage of Peter Tosh’s promise to advertise marijuana for free.
  2. Sorry kiddos, these things are gonna have to be adult only initially.
  3. National Organization for the Reform of Chocolate Egg Laws

The Great Bitcoin Conspiracy

Anyone who has learned a bit about Bitcoin knows that the cryptocurrency was created under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto and the real identity of the developer(s) is unknown. However, I claim that the answer to this longstanding mystery is hidden in plain sight. Often, author’s names are written in <last name>, <first name> format. What happens when you arrange Satoshi Nakamoto this way? You get:

Nakamoto, SAtoshi.

That’s right, NSA [1]. Why would the NSA invent Bitcoin? Thanks to one redditor we know the answer. The NSA created Bitcoin to indirectly fund the development of ASICs specially designed to crack SHA256. Right now they’re mining bitcoins, but in the future they’ll be using these machines to reverse your password hashes!

  1. Side note: the government loves these little tricks. Take Neil A for example, the first man to walk on the moon. If you reverse his name you get “Alien.” Undeniable proof that the moon landing was staged by aliens in Arizona.

Ham Radio

I bought a new shortwave radio this week and I discovered something while listening to the HF ham radio bands: ham radio operators only talk about radios. Ham radio is sold as something that can be used to talk to anyone around the world about anything but in practice these people don’t seem to have any shared experiences other than the fact that they like radios leading to conversations exclusively about power levels and new transmitters.

Can you imagine if other communication worked this way? Individuals talking on phones only have conversations about phones. People emailing each other only talk about email communications [1]. TV shows are exclusively about how televisions work [2].

  1. I just got a new email client this week and my email has never been faster.
  2. Jerry Seinfeld famously said, “have you ever noticed how a cathode ray paints the screen of a CRT monitor in successive passes?”

Laundry Tokens

One of the major downsides of paying with cash for something is that you’ll often get these metal disks back if what you’re buying doesn’t cost a whole dollar amount. While these disks technically have value, they’re effectively worthless. There’s no good way to carry them around and they’re a pain to count out and use. There is one exception however: quarters.

Quarters are still useless to most people, but for those of us who use coin-op laundry machines they feel like they’re worth more than 25 cents because they save you a trip to the bank. Therefore, I’ve started calling quarters “laundry tokens” to capture the rift in quarter value between those who use coin-op laundry machines and those who don’t [1]. If Coin Star can convert your change to cash for a fee [2], can I buy quarters for less than face value from those with laundry machines? After all, quarters are a burden to them and I would be doing them a favor by exchanging the quarters for money you can actually spend.

Sell me your quarters for 20 cents each at this week’s GSB.

  1. The last time I moved to a place with free laundry I had a roll of quarters that went unused for 2 years! Where could I spend $10 in quarters without feeling like a jerk?
  2. The existence of a business that just takes your money and gives you less money back and nothing else proves that coins should be abolished.

Email Tips for Busy People

Do you feel like emails are consuming your life? We at GSB have a few email tips to help you cut down on the time you spend staring at your inbox.

  1. Don’t read them. You’re a grad student. You don’t get important emails.

  2. Give all of your contacts a time range within which to send you emails. For example, 1015-1045. Delete any emails that arrive outside of that range; they probably came from a stranger and mom said not to talk to strangers [1].

  3. Completely drop out of society. If you never interact with other people or services you’ll never get any email. Using tip 2 will put you well on your way achieving this tip.

  4. Require proof of work on all emails. Everyone who write you an email should attach [2] a proof of work demonstrating that they spent a few seconds cracking some hashes. This will virtually eliminate spam! Unfortunately, making this change will take a bit of work (heh). First, you’ll need to add a proof of work field to the email standard. Then, you need to convince everyone to use your new standard. While completing these steps will take a significant amount of time and effort you will likely spend less time on this than a lifetime of reading emails.

  5. Use the NSA. It’s time we got something in return for all that bulk data collection. If the NSA is already reading our emails, would it hurt them to delete some spam? Or maybe draft responses for us? Write a bill requiring the NSA to take email out of our hands completely.

  1. Or even worse, it could have come from someone who doesn’t respect your arbitrary rules! Cut them out of your life.
  2. My email client is freaking out that I used the ‘a’ word here and didn’t attach anything.

Late Policy

As professors employ more complex late policies of dubious usefulness [1] we here at GSB have invented a late policy that maximizes entertainment at the expense of usefulness.

We propose a lookup table based late policy where the table is not known at the start of the semester. The table should be at a minute granularity and the penalty need not be monotonically increasing. For example, an assignment turned in 3600 minutes late may result in a 10 point penalty while the same assignment turned in 3601 minutes late may result in a 2 point penalty.

A professor implementing this strategy should also make a forum available for penalty discussion. Students can slowly figure out the elements in the table using this forum. This gives students two choices whenever they turn in a late assignment:

  1. Turn it in at a time with the lowest known penalty
  2. Take a risk and turn it in at a time with an unknown penalty, which could be lower than any seen so far!

Add an entry with a negative penalty to incentivize students to fill out the lookup table! Let the students know this entry exists and watch them compete to find the extra credit. If a student finds it, lie that there is another entry that nets even more bonus points.

  1. I’m looking at anyone who makes me evaluate a function [2] to determine how many points I’ll lose.
  2. Preemptive note for the pedant who will respond to this email to tell me that many late policies are functions even if they aren’t formalized: You know what I mean here.

Proof of Engagement

With Bitcoin hitting all time highs and continuing to grow, many people are wondering: is this really a good use of energy? While there have been quite a few proposals to move to non proof of work systems to reduce energy usage, we here at GSB have solved the problem with our Proof of Engagement (PoE) system. This system is revolutionary because it is technically a proof of work system where a human being does the work manually. Here’s how it works:

  1. You sit at your computer and start the mining program
  2. The program shows you an advertisement. This could be a video, image, or even just text.
  3. After you’ve seen the ad, the mining program quizzes you about the content of the ad.
  4. If you answer all of the questions correctly you are given the right to publish the next block with probability p where p is set to achieve an average block time of 10 minutes.
  5. The published block is sponsored by the company that created the ad from which the block was mined [1].

This process can be repeated as many times as the user likes! Although it may take months or even years to find a block, users will become very knowledgeable about the brands surrounding them every day.

If you’re noided that advertisers will somehow take advantage of our brilliant plan, consider this: abusing the PoE mechanism will cause the underlying currency to crash. This will reduce the consumer’s spending power and hamper their ability to purchase products.

  1. Sprite presents: The genesis block.

Abstract Expressionism

Recently I had a conversation with a fellow grad student about how Vaporwave will be taught about in music history classes in a few decades. I likened it to abstract expressionism or avante-garde poetry and she rolled her eyes so hard that if she rolled them any harder they would have fallen out of her head. Although we disagreed, this conversation got me thinking back to the art history classes I took in undergrad.

As background for the rest of this email, here’s a quick and overly-simplified art history lesson:

  1. People painted realistic paintings. They were painting objects or scenes and the fact that these were paintings was secondary to the content of the painting itself.
  2. Cameras came out (and a bunch of other stuff happened too) and painting had a bit of an existential crisis. Why paint when you can take a picture? Artists started to think more about the medium they painted in (2 dimensional canvas) and their tools (paint) and began focusing more on the features of painting that are unique to painting than the actual subjects of their paintings.
  3. This thinking continued and compounded for a few decades until we got abstract expressionism (Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, etc). Clement Greenberg (a controversial art critic) loved this stuff. He saw it as art without meaning [1]. It required the viewer to question what they were seeing and really think.
  4. Some people continued painting realistic paintings. Greenberg called this “kitsch” and claimed it was for the uncultured masses as it required no thought to understand [2].

Right now I think email is in stage 1 in the art history time line. I’ve yet to see an email that embraces the form of the email medium over the content of the message itself. I don’t even know what this email would look like, but I plan to think about this for a week and send what I come up as a GSB email [3]. Here are some starting points:

  1. I will be working in plain text email. HTML email feels like a different medium to me, more like a website.
  2. csail-related sticks a footer at the bottom of every email. This is an unfortunate restriction on my artistic freedom and will have to be incorporated in some way.
  3. Email is 2-dimesional, but the monitor it’s displayed on affects the dimensions. This can be somewhat remedied by using a narrow column width and ensuring the email isn’t too long. Or maybe scrolling IS an email specific feature to be highlighted.
  4. It’s hard to find features that are email specific and not available to other text based computer mediums.
  5. I encourage responses to this upcoming abstract email to be similarly abstract

After this email is sent all further email with clear meaning on csail-related will be kitsch, emails for the unenlightened masses. Meanwhile, I’ll be up in my ivory tower sending abstract emails to myself.

  1. The abstract expressionists themselves often ascribed meaning to their work.
  2. Clement Greenberg, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch”
  3. You’ll know it when you see it.

FWD: FWD: FWD: RE: GSB Tonight: ###########

[[[ @# $@! $## #@*( *#(@*#($@#*($&(#*@$$: #@#$@) ^&*(@#$|  ]]]
[[[ $#$%#) ---------------+++++++++++++++++==\\\\`~~~~~~   ]]]
[[[ ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  ]]]

>>>> %%%%$$$(()))))){{]]]]]]]]??
>>> !!!!!!!!!!!
>> $$$$$???$$$?[}}}}{[{{{]]]]!!!\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\?
> !@#$%^&*&^%$#@!@#$%^&*()(*&^%$#@!@#$%^&*!!


........................................................! [$]

1. )))))((((((($#*%&(#$)!(*&#)!?????
2. *****************************!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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@(#*$(@&$*(@&$(*@($#&*#@( (@#$) @#(*$@#(&$(@#&$*(#@]
@)#)($  @#)$)#@$( -- ((@$**(@00000000000

[#]: (@*$**(*@((*? !!!!!
[$]:                                                            +
[^]: ____________________________________________________________

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Sweep the Heap!

I was looking at the proposed changes for C++17 and was shocked to see that the C++ standards organization is removing trigraphs from the language specification.

This removal shows how out of touch bureaucrats at the ISO are with us everyday programmers. Who are they to limit our artistic expression??! Now my exciting program that prints the executable’s name

int main(int argc, const char* argv??(??)) ??<
  printf("%s??/n", argv??(0??));

  int* a = nullptr;
  // What's this?  A null pointer dereference????????/
  printf("%d??/n", *a);
  // nah

  return 0;

has to be changed to this boring piece of junk

// Ugh, braces and brackets are so boring
int main(int argc, const char* argv[]) {
  // Who still uses the backslash character in 2017????
  printf("%s\n", argv[0]);

  int* a = nullptr;
  // What's this?  A null pointer dereference \
  printf("%d\n", *a);
  // nah, but you already knew that because getting rid of trigraphs
  // made this trick obvious

  return 0;

Join me and the powerful obfuscated C++ lobby to sweep the heap and put new leadership in the C++ standards organization. Together we can make C++17 great again.

Sometimes you come across a popular website feature that was ported to an unexpected place. For example, this week I discovered that Wolfram Alpha sometimes gives you queries they think are related to what you searched for. I can’t think of many cases where this would actually be useful, but it gives some insight into what other people use the service for. For example:

millionth digit of sqrt(0)

I often forget the millionth digit of 0 so it’s nice to be able to look that up when I need it. It’s too embarrassing to admit this though, so I look up up the millionth digit of sqrt(0) instead.

Am i too drunk to calculate?

If you have to ask, the answer is yes. Also, the user who asked this query didn’t specify what they were calculating. Could you measure drunkenness by ability to calculate? For example, I could be sober enough to do basic arithmetic but not sober enough to take an integral [1].

analyze Captain Marvel-like curve image

I have no idea what this user was going for.

  1. Though it’s been 6 years since I took integral calculus so I’m not sure I could do this sober most of the time either.