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I've joined OKCupid and have been spending my bored moments answering multiple choice questions in the hopes that it will lead to true love. After all, if I could score in the 99th percentile on the LSATs, I should be able to ace a match-making test!

OKCupid's schtick is that they give you lots and lots of multiple choice questions, which you answer. They then use an algorithm to translate your answers into a percentage match with all other OKCupid users. There are something like 3,500 questions that you can answer at your leisure, and the more you answer the more accurate it supposedly becomes.

Each question has three parts. The first part asks how you would answer the question. The second part asks how you would like your ideal match to answer. While you can only pick one answer in the first part, the second part allows you to indicate multiple acceptable answers. The third part asks you to rank how important you consider this question, with your options being Irrelevant, Slightly Important, Somewhat Important, Very Important, or Mandatory.

Once you've answered 500 questions, you gain the ability to submit your own questions to be added to the rotation. As a result, there are a lot of... interesting questions that cater to certain peculiar tastes. A classic example: "How would you feel if your partner urinated on you during sex?" I actually really like this. Having a huge swath of questions that deal with odd tastes allow more vanilla people and more kinky people to inhabit the same site and get potential unpleasant surprises out of the way up front. Which is to say, I would not be too thrilled to be urinated on during sex, and OKCupid allows me to register my personal distaste beforehand. I'd much rather answer the question now than be unpleasantly surprised in the bedroom. And, if you are into certain things, you can use OKCupid as a conventional dating site while also finding out who's into whatever your kink might be.

The downside of user-written questions is that many of them are redundant (No! I am NOT interested in a polyamorous relationship! Stop asking!), poorly worded (Is homeless primarily caused by laziness or impossible odds? Actually, I think it's primarily caused by a combination of mental illness and substance abuse, but that's not an option), or too abstract to be really meaningful in a dating context (If someone offered you a million dollars to marry them and make them a citizen, would you do it? I don't know, I'll tell you if the situation ever comes up). My favorite questions, though, are the really bizarre hypotheticals. An actual example:

You're given one chance to travel through time. How do you use it?
Alter events in history for the greater good.
Use past/future info for personal gain.
Alter something you regret
Do nothing--time travel could invoke chaos

I realize these goofy hypotheticals are intended to be only minor factors in your match algorithm, but what if you decided to mark a question like this as Mandatory? "I WILL NOT DATE ANYONE WHO DOES NOT TAKE THE INTEGRITY OF THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM SERIOUSLY!!"


I recently got a webcam (under protest!). Now I can finally make all those self-aware YouTube webcam parody videos I've been meaning to make. Or I can put up a live feed and allow the internet to watch me at all time. It'll be like Big Brother in 1984, except that I actually paid money out of my pocket for the privilege of enabling others's voyeurism.

Incidentally, if one were to tune into my live feed, one would discover that my computer activities consist principally of 1. staring at the screen while manipulating my mouse, 2. staring at the screen while typing, and 3. staring at the screen while eating.

In other technology-related news, I finally bought a cell phone. No, you can't have the number; I don't want to talk to you. Or anyone. I dislike talking on the phone and hate all cell phones, in theory and in practice. I've gotten the cell phone out of necessity for work, since lawyers are expected to be on-call at all hours of the day and night. In the best of all possible worlds, I would be paying $40 a month to receive and place no calls, ever. And a further warning: I haven't paid for text messages, but it's impossible to get a cell phone these days that isn't text message-capable. That means that it costs me ten cents for every text message I receive. DO NOT TEXT MESSAGE ME. If you text message me I will personally break your thumbs.

Fun with Word

I'm currently using Microsoft Word 2007 to write a take-home exam. So far the spell-check and grammar check haven't given my much trouble, but if stumbled upon something odd. The problem involves the generally useless Sentence Fragment checker.

According to Word 2007, this is a sentence fragment:

"The credit card companies and banks that Company X deals with have a significant amount of power over the market, as they are free to set interchange and other fees at whatever levels they like."

This, however, is not a sentence fragment (change in bold):

"The credit card companies and card issuers that Company X deals with have a significant amount of power over the market, as they are free to set interchange and other fees at whatever levels they like."

Weird. For reference, I've since re-edited the sentence to be less awkward and gangly. Also, the company's not actually called Company X; since it's a take-home final I don't want to disclose the company's name for fear of tipping off those who haven't picked up the exam yet.

Basic Instructions

Via Lore Sjöberg, I recently discovered Basic Instructions. Basic Instruction's high concept is that each strip presents a simple how-to lesson, such as how to give directions or how to plan a vacation. The visual style is very simple; it's all black-and-white and appears to consist of a handful of original pieces of art that the author copies, pastes, and photoshops to suit the framing needs of each panel. The comic makes up for its lack of visual style with deft wit, and Scott Meyer manages a nice mixture of observational and absurdist humor.

I'm not Eric Burns, so I can't write a 10,000 word essay on the literary and rhetorical significance of the main character's goatee, so instead I'll just link to a few favorite strips:

How to train your back-up
How to apply the laws of physics to personal relationships
How to apologize without accepting any blame

Commenting Update

Due to the extraordinary preponderance of comment spam, you must now be registered to comment on this webog. It's quick and easy! Just click the links at the bottom of the entry you wish to comment upon and sign up for a TypeKey login.

I Don't Hate You

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Comments have been temporarily disabled due to SPAMSTRAVAGANZA! (150+ spam comments in about 15 minutes) Will tentatively peek out from comment-free hole in a few hours to see if it's subsided.

UPDATE: And we're back. I think I might have just caught the tail end of the Spam Wave. Anyhow, comments have been enabled for about half an hour now with no more spammage, so hopefully that'll be the end of it.

Teetering Uncomfortably

My backup harddrive has rather unceremoniously decided to crap out on me.

For the last two years my entire computing solution has been a single hand-me-down laptop. This is not the most secure way to store one's data. Moreover, my laptop has a pathetically small 30 gigabyte harddrive. So last Summer I bought a 50 gigabyte external harddrive, the largest I could afford at the time. I use the external harddrive for two essential purposes: First, it backs up important files that are too large to save via e-mails to my gmail account. Second, it serves as primary storage for large amounts of data of secondary importance (things like my music collection and various videos that had previously stuffed my laptop's hard drive until MP3s were leaking out at the seams).

My laptop has never had its harddrive formatted and Windows re-installed from the ground up. After three years, winrot has left the thing so slow that it takes fully a minute to launch my web browser and three minutes to load Outlook Express. It takes five minutes for it to get from the user log-in screen when I come out of stand-by mode to a point where I can actually issue commands that it will obey. It is, in short, in dreadful need of a bootstrapping.

"No problem," I thought to myself, "I shall simply scour my harddrive for all remaining essential files, move them temporarily to my external harddrive, then spend the weekend re-formating the laptop, re-installing windows, and restoring my files to their former state on my laptop." Mais non! The external harddrive has decided it does not care to accept my files any longer!

It's a bit curious; I can read data off the external, I can copy files from it, and I've encountered nothing on it that seems damaged or corrupted (though I haven't checked every single file on it). Yet when I try to copy files to it I receive a Cyclic Redundancy Check error, which, according to the internet, is a sign that either a harddrive/cd/other data medium has catastrophically failed or is on the precipice of catastrophic failure. Poop.

Needless to say, the Precipice of Catastrophic Failure is not a place I like to frequent. I generally prefer, when at the height of my daring, to venture no further than the Bluff of Irksome Setbacks. I am left, again, with only my laptop to rely upon for data storage, which naturally worries me. I have, once again, backed up those essential files that can be backed up through gmail. I've ordered a new desktop computer (not out of paranoia from this incident; I ordered it somewhat before these latest annoyances played out) and once it arrives I should have a little more breathing room. If the external should crap out entirely it won't be the end of the world; the videos are non-essential, the music is all on my iPod and I have some programs that will allow me to treat the iPod as a harddrive and remove the files I need from it, and most of the essential files are also stored on the laptop, so hopefully they won't both die at once before the new computer arrives. It will be annoying, though, not to be able to use my external harddrive as a conduit through which to channel the files I want to transfer to the new computer.

Searching the internet has yielded no easy solution to the external harddrive's breakdown. I've used Windows's check disk utility to search it for bad sectors and it came up empty; when I try to repair the file system, though, it fails within 30 seconds. The only solution the internet has offered up is a piece of professional harddrive repair software that costs $90 for first time users. I'd prefer not to lose my data, but I don't $90 prefer it. Does anyone know of any cheap/free disk repair utilities I might throw at the problem?

Not Censoring

Since not everyone who reads this reads the CementHorizon front page, I should point out: The host for this blog, CementHorizon, has been experiencing a wave of comment spam, and comments have been temporarily disabled. Sorry if anyone has tried to post any comments only to have them rejected. Comments should return shortly.

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