Hello, my name is Zachary Weinberg. I go by “Zack,” except on paper. Pleased to meet you.
I’m about thirty-five years old, and I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California. I’m presently a researcher of Internet security at Carnegie Mellon University, Silicon Valley. Before that I worked for the Mozilla Corporation, and before that I studied how people understand language at UC San Diego.
My interests range all over the sciences and a little way into philosophy, plus some of the arts (notably, candle-making, pottery, and game design). This website is intended to capture all of the ideas that to date haven’t made it out of the back of my mind, so will be wide-ranging as well.
Everything dated prior to August 2009 on this site was originally posted on my LiveJournal. I don’t plan to continue doing this—new stuff will appear either here or there, not both.
GlossaryIf you meet me in person, you may hear me say some of these things:
- Have fun!
I often say this when people are departing to do something not normally considered fun, like grocery shopping. Probably picked up from Pam and her mother, who also do this.
- I’m turning into a pumpkin
“I’m exhausted,” or “I need to leave soon.” I also say “I will turn into a pumpkin at (time)” to warn people that I will be leaving at a particular time.
A Cinderella reference, naturally. I used to think I was the only person who said this, but it turns out that my mother and grandmother say it too.
- I think we all know what consciousness is
Pam and I say this when someone has just skimmed blithely past a major unresolved scientific or philosophical question. We’re quoting someone who said it without a trace of irony, during a discussion on a cognitive science mailing list.
- Say again?
I have trouble hearing people over background noise. I use this bit of military/aviator jargon instead of “Huh?” or “What?” because it unambiguously expresses “I didn’t hear what you said” rather than “I didn’t understand what you said.”
- The thing my aunt gave me that I don’t know what it is
I never say this verbatim, but I use this construction (“that” or “which” followed by a complete sentence) all the time, contra typical English usage. I think I got it from the object with a very similar name in the Hitchhiker’s Guide text adventure.
- Who shuffled this mess?
When playing cards, means “This hand is so terrible that I don’t believe the deck was shuffled properly.” By extension, can be used to complain about any sort of bad luck.
From my grandmother, who would often say it and then go on to win the round anyway. For maximum humor, say it when you shuffled the mess in question.
Site design was done by me, with a great deal of help from Pam Griffith, whose design-fu is far superior. Body text is set in Quattrocento Sans, headings in Cardo (subset), and monospace (e.g. code samples) in Inconsolata. The face in the top banner was constructed by me using Mr. Picassohead. The owl which may or may not be visible at the very bottom of each page, depending on your browser and screen size, was originally a pen-and-ink drawing of two owls on a branch by Alanna Risse. The background textures are based on the handmade paper texture from Subtle Patterns.
The CMS is WordPress. I don’t actually like WordPress, but it is less trouble than anything else so far, and the things I dislike about it have more to do with me than with it. The theme started out as Roots but only a few remnants of the original structure remain. It is highly specialized for this site, probably not of interest to anyone else, and will receive no further development; the next major change will be to switch to a static site compiler, probably the first one I notice has gained production-grade support for locally hosted comments. It doesn’t look terrible in old versions of Internet Explorer thanks to the HTML5 Shiv and Respond.js.
I write all my posts in Markdown, because HTML is far too verbose to put up with while composing, but WYSIWYG ceased to be my friend in the days of Microsoft Word 4.0.