Hello, my name is Zachary Weinberg. I go by Zack, except on paper. Pleased to meet you.

I’m about forty-five years old, and I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California. Presently, I teach the Introduction to Computer Systems course at Carnegie Mellon University, while continuing to do Internet security research with my collaborators at ICLab. From 2010 to 2018 I was a doctoral student in Nicolas Christin’s group, also at CMU. Before that I worked for the Mozilla Corporation; before that, I studied how people understand language at UC San Diego; and back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I was a core GCC developer.

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.


If 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 to the Galaxy 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.

Headings are set in Mostra Nuova. Body fonts depend on your operating system and browser. All graphic decorations were drawn by me. The owl in the top left (if your screen is wide enough) is a modified tracing from a photograph of the decorative owls in the elevator lobby of the Chicago Board of Trade Building. The chevron pattern in the background is based on the black and gold pattern seen on this moribund website; if anyone knows where it came from, please tell me.

The CMS is Pelican, with a theme customized from the ground up for this site. I write all my posts in Pandoc-flavor Markdown. Hosting is at NearlyFreeSpeech.NET.