Classic Onion
Classic Onion

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 6th day of January, anno domini 2009 at 5:00 AM, local time.

Hilarious video describing a new laptop by Apple with no keyboard. Apparently keyboards are standing in the way of human progress. Sometimes I forget how funny theonion.com really is. It’s right up there with xkcd and dinosaur comics.

The MacBook Wheel

The MacBook Wheel

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Mmmm… Data…

Posted by me on Monday, the 12th day of November, anno domini 2007 at 11:42 AM, local time.

or, Data is cool, and so can you?

Everybody likes data, right?

Everybody collects databases of the stuff for later analysis; everybody saves all their receipts, just in case, one day, they can get all the data into a computer so that complex statistical analysis can be performed; everybody sets up complex sensor networks around their beer making equipment so that an accurate model of the fermentation process can best be formed.

Everybody reads through wikipedia for at least a couple hours a day to gather data on the world.

Everybody constantly sets of web cam filters to gauge the amount of light sensed at the time, and saves that data off, with the proportion of the various colors in the frame, so that later one can determine what the ambient background light composition and intensity of a room is, so that real-time changes in that light, given background expectations, can be used to indicate event occurrence (maybe intruder alerts?).

Everybody wants all their circuits in their house to have nice ammeters hooked up to them so you can tell how much power each circuit is using, and tell if any surges or drops occur unexpectedly that might indicate faulty equipment.

Everybody makes a note of when they started and stopped reading a given book (such as, started reading at page 5 at 4:15pm, stopped reading at page 10 at 4:30pm) so that later your average rate of reading can be computed, and when coupled with how well you liked the book later on some sort of rating scale, and how often in a yearly period you read the book, you can start to figure out how much your interest in the material, comprehension, and familiarity increases your reading rate.

Everybody catalogs their book collection online at LibraryThing, with a complex set of meta-tags with internally encoded extra information because they just don’t collect enough accurate information about the books currently for your liking.

Everybody catalogs their music collection, and when dissatisfied with the amount of information collected and how loosely its formatted, designs a new database structure to accurately capture all the complex relationships that can be used to reference a given piece of music in any number of ways, and then takes the time to type all the new information in.

Everybody reads encyclopedias and dictionaries for fun.

Everybody likes doing complex statistical analysis on random sets of data, just for practice.

Everybody likes March Madness time… so they can try out their new March Madness predictor algorithms that take into account all past season data and uses genetic algorithms to determine the best prediction metric.

Everybody surfs through the Mandelbrot set for fun, just looking for that amazing piece of complex space that is the most beautiful.

Everybody wants to keep track of historical RAM pricing via an automated process, to enable estimation of future pricing.

Everybody wants to tag all their non-searchable data so that later when the non-searchable data becomes searchable (like images), their will be a better semantic meaning ready and waiting to be applied.

Everybody keeps all their old mail in file cabinets… just in case.

Everybody wants to scan in all their old notebooks, to allow easier searching of one’s pasts thoughts and so you don’t forget what you thought about one Thursday 12 years ago.

Everybody wants to make a Euchre playing program that keeps track of the random legal moves that were made in a given situation, and what the eventual outcome was, so that this can later be applied to real games.

Everybody wants to record all of television and save it off for later analysis.

Everybody records all of the classical radio station, along with song data, so that later all the good ones can be saved off and compressed into the library… seriously, even when they already might have a copy of that song, its unlikely that it was the same performer.

Everybody buys multiple translations of old literature so that the differing translations can be compared and word choices analyzed to gain a deeper understanding of the intent of the original.

Everybody wants to get a stopwatch so that various routes to different places can all be timed, so that the data can be added to a database (with the place trying to be reached, starting point, time of day, day of week, etc.) and the best routes from anywhere in town to anywhere else in town can be determined, potentially saving entire seconds of my day!

Everybody loves data…

…right?

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The problem with bookstores
The problem with bookstores

Posted by me on Thursday, the 8th day of November, anno domini 2007 at 9:58 PM, local time.

Another quote from iGoogle’s quote-a-day:

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?
  - Henry Ward Beecher

I’m thinking that even these quotes must be given to people based on Google’s huge database of knowledge of everyone’s habits and behaviors? ‘Cause I sure do seem to get a lot of quotes about how I buy too many books. I mean, seriously, I feel bad enough already. Ah well.

Maybe I should go buy a book to make myself feel better?

(A few hours later…)

Now that I’ve done that, I do feel much better. Hopefully, I will get to read the books I have bought soon and can comment on them. They are both things I have not seen before, and I am quite excited that they might both be rather good. Only time will tell!

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Sigh. Another apology.

Posted by me on Friday, the 2nd day of November, anno domini 2007 at 11:17 AM, local time.

So, yeah, it had been two months almost. Sorry about that. The longer it got to be, the more frightened I was about blogging. Just too much pressure for a high quality post or two. So, I got that out of the way earlier this week by posting the first random thought in my head: a low quality idea that got soundly berated by all. And that’s OK. Just had to get over my trepidation.

Now I hope to get back into the swing of things. I have taken the time to move all my ideas to blog about from my iGoogle notebook over to my blog’s draft section, hopefully meaning that I can more easily develop them and get them published easier. From opera, book, television, and movie reviews to random thoughts on people, places, and things, there are 46 such items, in various states of done-ness. Some are little more than titles, others are lists of links I should talk about, and some are very close to finished, with sentences and paragraphs and everything. Just need to polish and publish.

So, once again, many apologies for my lack of blogging recently. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I hope to do better in the future.

Also, don’t expect more than one or so posts per day, possibly down to one or so per week. I don’t want to overwhelm my readers with too much to read. I also don’t want the occasional reader of my blog to miss too much if they only stop by a couple times a week and read the most recent post. Not that my posts are so interesting or important that it would really be that big of a deal. :)

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An interesting study?

Posted by me on Monday, the 29th day of October, anno domini 2007 at 4:10 PM, local time.

So, today at work, I noticed that I am often a mere fives of inches away from my laptop screen. I am pretty sure I don’t actually need to be that close (at the moment I am at least 20 inches away), but over the course of the day I just seem to get closer and closer. Eye fatigue? I don’t know. For another data point, I noticed as I walked down the aisle that I was not the only one with this curious malady.

Perhaps someone should do a study? Average distance of face from laptop screen, screen resolution, average dpi, age of participant, and whether they wear glasses (could be good to know?).

Interestingly enough, I want to get a laptop with almost twice the horizontal resolution as the ones I currently have… in only 1 extra inch of width. Good idea? Hmmm…

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Integrals on the Wall

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 22nd day of August, anno domini 2007 at 9:51 PM, local time.

or, Singing in the Shower

So, I’ve noticed I sing a bit in the shower. And I’m not talking like pop songs, here. I’m talking opera solos. Its kinda crazy. I’m usually a low baritone or medium bass, but in the shower, with no pressure and no mocking friends, I can actually hit a moderately high falsetto (by which I mean a rather low contralto…). Of course, it’s hard to remember the words to the songs, mostly because they are all in Italian or some such. “When the foeman bares his steel” and “When a felon’s not engaged in his employment”, along with “La donna รจ mobile” and “Largo al factotum” are typical.

Anyway, as cliche as it is to sing in the shower, what else am I supposed to do? It’s not like I can work out math problems on the shower walls in the steam… not that I haven’t left a few integrals on the wall from time to time…

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McDonald’s

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 20th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 11:13 PM, local time.

So, I was at McDonald’s the other day, since I was way too busy to actually make my own food, and on the way out, I noticed that the exit door was standing ajar, at least two inches. I thought, “That door is still broken? It’s been that way for at least two weeks!”

Suddenly, I was struck with the fact that I shouldn’t know that. I shouldn’t have gone to that McDonald’s enough in the past two weeks to realize that the door was broken. But, I had. That isn’t good. When I drive there, I tell myself that I am simply too busy to make my own food at home, but this is obviously not true. I have survived college on not much more than cereal, bread, cheese, eggs, and macaroni. These things do not take all that much effort to make, and in many cases take less time and effort than going to McDonald’s does. So, I can’t explain it.

To make it slightly worse (though I don’t know that it’s much worse), I always get the exact same thing when I go to McDonald’s. (I get the same thing whenever I go to any fast food restaurant, really, but thats not the issue. It is the choice I make at McDonald’s that I am really concerned with here.) I purchase a double cheeseburger, with no onions, a six-piece chicken McNugget box, with one container of honey mustard dipping sauce, and a small vanilla shake. I then remove the pickle from the cheeseburger and consume the lot. Those cheeseburgers are seriously not very good for you. The McNuggets would be much much better if they were just plain chicken (you know, without the breading and deep frying), and the vanilla shake is not nearly as good as a malt I could make at home, with real vanilla and malt powder. The honey mustard tastes ok, but I have like 8 variants of mustard at home right now, any one of which tastes better than McDonald’s poor attempt.

Today, after my softball game, we went to Brother’s bar, and I had another cheeseburger, as usual (only this one came with a fried egg and bacon…). What a healthy life I lead!

Sigh. Ah well, I’ll probably go back to both establishments and have similar meals again with the week. It was nice knowing you all. :-)

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Coffee Machine Failure

Posted by me on Thursday, the 25th day of January, anno domini 2007 at 11:50 PM, local time.

So, I was at work the other day, getting cheap “break-room” coffee from the coffee machine, and I put in my seventy-five cents and it dropped down a cup and proceeded to do nothing whatsoever.

This has happened to me in the past, and really all it means is that have to walk all the way to the next break-room and get a cup of coffee there. But, now I have lost the seventy-five cents I put into the first machine. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to convince myself that if I buy enough coffee from the machines, my average number of failures tends to zero-ish and so I lose no money at all. That’s how that works, right?

On the other hand, the machine supposedly gives away a free cup of coffee every fifty cups purchased. I have experienced this phenomenon twice, I believe, in the 3 years or so now that I have been at my present job buying coffee from the break-room. So, I guess I’m making money on the deal? It is funny when it happens though, because you put in your money, make your selection, and it spits your money back out at you, as if to say, “Pfft!Your money is no good here, my friend. Have some coffee.” And then the little cup drops down and the coffee pours out and I am happy.

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The Procrastinator’s Dilemma

Posted by me on Friday, the 29th day of December, anno domini 2006 at 2:15 PM, local time.

So, I have long been putting off blogging some of the topics which have been piling up, and that was going well, until today, when I should be packing up my stuff to move to me new apartment and actually moving. The inevitable problem becomes, which is more important to delay? As I could not decide, I found my gameboy on a pile of stuff I was supposed to be packing and played tetris for a bit. After I got bored with that (I am so used to the new tetris ways, of setting bricks off to the side for later, that I could not do very well at the old version…) I decided I should write a bit. And so here I am.

The Procrastinator’s Dilemma is an age old problem that I wanted to be sure everyone was fully aware of. Surely it can be generalized somehow to all sorts of decision problems. I shall even go out on the limb I have imagined to be attached to the tree and say it is the archetypal decision problem! Ha! Well, perhaps not…

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BookMooch. [This title edited to fit your screen.]

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 5th day of December, anno domini 2006 at 8:20 PM, local time.

So, I don’t remember who first sent me the link to an article about BookMooch, but it was a while ago and my memory isn’t all that great. Anyway, I thought I would write a bit about it here so others can learn about it as well. As a disclaimer, I have not started using BookMooch, and I am not sure if I ever will, but that’s just me and I know a lot of other people don’t get as attached to books as badly as I do. On the other hand, I do have some duplicate copies (same editions, don’t worry) of books that I might be able to put up on BookMooch to get rid of.

But anyway, that was a horrible introductory paragraph for this piece on BookMooch. BookMooch is a community site where everybody is trying to get books that they want, and trying to get rid of books that they no longer want. Its all free, except that if you send a book to someone else, you have to pay postage fees. So really the site gets no money what-so-ever from you, it just finds you people to send books to, and finds people who you can contact to get books from, as well as providing an easy way to do that contacting. Of course you can read more about it on their site, but the idea is pretty simple.

Here is an example to illustrate (names unchanged, to protect no one):

Let’s say Darcy is done reading some books that she owns. She will probably never read them again, Andy doesn’t want to read them, I’ve already read them, and Adam is too snooty to read them. Well, she simple lists the books on BookMooch as available. Kyle, in Hawaii, is searching around on BookMooch for the next book to read, and finds one of the books Darcy listed and says, “Hey, look, that might be interesting.” So he asks Darcy to send him that book. She puts it in a lovely little mailing box from the post office, pays cheap book rate shipping charges and sends it over to Kyle. Everybody is happy: Kyle has a new book to read, and Darcy got rid of a book she no longer wanted.

There is a point system involved, where the more books you list and then actually send to people, the more points you get. And in order to get a book sent to you, you have to consume a point. So I don’t really know how well the point economy balances out in the end, but its a relatively new site, so they may make adjustments to the point system until it works out to keep people from accumulating all the books (like me) and to try and give a reasonable amount of trust that if you request a book they are going to actually send it to you. But, even if they don’t you don’t really lose much on the deal (though if you are the only person in the system actually sending books, the postage could build up… but I would recommend not sending any more books if people don’t send you the ones you had asked for).

Anyway, its an interesting little community and I think you all should go and try it out. And let me know how it goes. Maybe I can use it to my advantage somehow…

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