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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statistics

“These are your father’s parentheses”

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:58 PM, local time.

Wow. Sorry guys, I know how you all hate it when I make a blog entry saying how awesome dinosaur comics or xkcd happen to be today, but seriously folks, this is why I love xkcd: I just read it and had to comment.

Seriously, with lines like “These are your father’s parentheses. Elegant weapons, for a more… civilized age.”, while an Obi-wan stick-figure carries out a stack of parentheses to a bewildered Luke, few things could make me laugh harder. This is just great stuff!

Wow, three new posts in under an hour. Now I’m just tired and should go to bed. Goodnight!

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webcomics
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Broken Weltanschauungen

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:27 PM, local time.

Please, no one hate me.

From time to time, I come across a worldview, that just seems broken to me. I feel slightly bad using that terminology, but there it is. (Many feel that worldviews are something that can not be inherently “broken”, just different… If you choose to view things that way, then the worldview I am about to describe is just so contrary to my own worldview, that I have to describe it as broken to make my own worldview seem self consistent. There. Feel better? Anyway…)

So, I have heard phrases like, “Oh, I am really excited about seeing this new French film, you should see it.” When I inquire as the subject matter of the film, I merely get “I don’t know… it’s French” as the only response.

For all I know, the film could be great. Or it could suck. But this has nothing to do with its “Frenchness”. Or it shouldn’t have anything to do with it. But if someone uses “Frenchness” as the only reason for seeing a movie, (or “Japaneseness”, or “German”, or what-have-you) then the worldview of that person seems a bit broken to me. I think the movie should be judged on its own merits.

What’s ironic is that such Weltanschauungen are likely caused as a backlash of an older worldview that some people call “Nationalism”. By deciding that America is such an evil nation, or run by evil people, or whatever, then deciding that all things not-American are obviously better than all things American. Its a simple leap from that point to saying that because it is “French” it is more worthy of being seen than another movie that is “American”. A further irony is that most movies made in America are made by people with a similar worldview as those not wanting to watch American movies because they are American.

Anyway, maybe I’m wrong. Certainly there are degrees here, but if ever you start thinking about how you’d like to do something merely because its French, then maybe you should rethink things a bit, and start objectively analyzing your motivations. Unless you happen to be French. Then its OK. =)

I don’t mean to offend anybody with this, just making an observation about people, and I was trying to figure out why I got mad when such people made such statements. I think I know why. Their Weltanschauungen are broken, and it makes me sad to see a broken Weltanschauung.

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So, uhm, yeah. Take that.

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 27th day of December, anno domini 2005 at 10:41 PM, local time.

So, yeah, I updated my blog with several new postings. And here I am again with another meta-post. Thats just the way it goes. I need to put up a disclaimer that merely says, please do not mock my attempts at self-analysis here. I’m sure I’ll hear plenty for it, and it doesn’t need to be as negative as I am currently expecting it to be. As much as some of you may find it strange, I am a person, with feelings and everything.

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Make the first Comment

My lack of Discipline.

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 27th day of December, anno domini 2005 at 10:32 PM, local time.

Recently, I’ve been backed into a corner and forced to take stock of my pitiful life. Not that I’m not a generally happy person, with a good family, good friends, and a good job. But rather that I have no discipline, lack direction, and just generally am not good at doing the things I want to do and am fully capable of doing.

Now, as I have said, I have been forced to see this about myself, and definitely see it as a Bad Thing. More difficult, however, is figuring out what to do about it. And even more difficult than that is to actually do something about it, since, as mentioned previously, I lack discipline.

Now, one might wonder, what are the sorts of things that I am not doing that I wish I were doing? Why, says I, a wide variety of things, both boring and less so. Call me a dork if you wish (though really, ahem, thats not actually necessary, I do believe…)…

I want to read more.
Now, now, I know what you are thinking. I read too much already. But I disagree. I think that I need to read quite a bit more. More specifically, I need to read different kinds of things. I already have the books to do so, I just don’t. I need to be reading the Bible more often. I need to be reading my math and physics books (I don’t even want to hear it) so I don’t start losing it all and end up as stupid as Patrick. I should be reading my history books, and actually spend some time learning the languages I am so fascinated by. I should be reading my books on sociology, and my books on psychology, and my books on music and art. I really need to read more.

I need to exercise more.
Again, I know what you are thinking. Surely a buff, in-shape, jock such as myself need not exercise even more! Alas, I surely must. I rely entirely on my overactive metabolism to keep me as fit as I am, which is really not fit at all. In the winter, I should be taking walks and utilizing the exercise and weight room in my apartment building while I still have it. In the spring, I need to be jogging and running and rollerblading on the trail that goes right past my freaking apartment!!! And all year long, I need to be walking to work, since its not going to be next door forever. I should be doing calisthenics in the morning and walking in the evening. I used to do these things, why do I no longer?

I need to eat more.
Shut up Adam, I have a high metabolism. But seriously, I really do need to eat more. Not irregularly, as I am now. There are days that I forget to eat lunch or supper, when left to my own devices. Since I hardly do anyting, it doesn’t actually matter. And when I do eat at home, I eat cereal, or yogurt. Seldom anything nutritious and substantial. I should be making my bread at greater volumes and eating it every day. I need to be bringing home more fruit and meat and eating that every day as well. The cheese that I love so much and sits in my refrigerator needs to be eaten as well.

I need to shave more.
I am a lazy lazy bastard, and the fact that I grew a pitiful beard is really just an expression of that laziness. Its easier to occasionally maintain a beard than it is to actually shave every day. How sad is this? That I find this extremity of laziness and flock to it? I need to shave more often. No more of this beard nonsense.

I need to water my plants more often.
Scarcely relevant right now, since I only have about 6 plants indoors through the winter that need to be watered since they are not dormant, like the other 30. And I will grant that last summer I did keep almost all of them alive. But I think they would have grown much better and more regularly if I had kept a closer eye on them all and watered them as often as I should have and fertilized them regularly and properly instead of just buying more plants. Of course, this brings me to my next problem:

I need to finish more projects that I start.
I have such wide ranging interests that I find myself starting many projects all the time, often with no real hope of finishing any of them, since I just start more. I had a great plan to help me water my plants more regularly, but I apparently just lost interest in the project and there it sits, doing nothing for my plants but mocking me with its unfinishedness. As well it should! In the wood shop, I have even more unfinished projects:

I need to spend more time in the workshop.
I enjoy wood working so much and have invested heavily in being able to continue doing so, yet lately I just have not done much at all. I have so many projects that I outline and would be wonderful to work on and finish, but I just don’t give them enough time. I need a new tool to continue, or I need more materials, and I just put the whole thing on hiatus for months. My plant nursery/growing box has been 70% finished for a month now, and my stool just needs some stain and varnish, yet I do nothing. And my experiments into the joinery necessary for my wine cabinet and bookshelf need a new miter gauge to continue, which I have even located and confirmed will work, yet I don’t buy it and use it, because I am lazy.

I need to spend more time cleaning.
Why is it that I always wait until I am completely out of clothes before I begin cleaning the old ones? Why do I wait until there are no spoons before turning on the dishwasher??? Why must the dust make the television unwatchable before I actually clean it off? This makes no sense! I may have had a breakthrough recently with this one, and hopefully it keeps on, but some may have their doubts.

I need to spend more time sorting through old records.
I have piles and piles of old bills, receipts, statements, purchase records, etc., etc., sitting around waiting to be sorted, collated, and filed away into the proper folders in my filing cabinets. By doing this, I would gain more room around my apartment and also would be able to start the next stage of this project: analyzing my old receipts and bills to see where my money goes and how to better leverage it. The problem is that I am too ambitious and want to enter it all into a database, see, where I can easily query all sorts of information, such as how much money did I “invest” in Barnes and Nobles in the year 2003? Or how much money do I spend in a typical March on food? This would be invaluable information in the formation of a dynamic, accurate, and streamlines budget for myself. Instead, I am left to simply guess and estimate, making my budget fat in places where it could be far leaner, and making it lean in places where I could do to spend more. Surely this is a noble ambition, if a rather ambitious one (yes, I know).

I need to paint more and draw more.
Ha! Bet you didn’t see this coming! Once upon a time, I took great pleasure in pencil and ink drawings, and would like to once again. I also would like to learn to use the watercolors that sit on my bookshelf to do some simple paintings or letterings. I have blamed my non-doing of these things on my lack of a suitable table on which to do them, but, as was pointed out to me, that is utter crap. I need instead to just sit down and begin to paint.

I need to become more musical.
Such lofty ambition for one who has never played an instrument other than a recorder in my wee years. I have long wanted to learn to play the cello, as many people surely know. But I have made no effort whatsoever to actually begin to do so. And the piano! I love the piano, but I have not even tried to learn. Many times, my sister has offered to help me learn, but each time I was too busy. Even now she plays softly downstairs. Perhaps later, Alaina. Perhaps next time I’m home. Perhaps when I’m old and grey. Perhaps when I’m dead! Why should I wait? The window where I could actually learn to play well may have long since passed, but at least I could gain some semblance of ability even now. And really, if I learn to play neither piano, nor cello, nor anything else, I will never learn to write the music that I so love to hear and that constantly plays in my head. Will my whistle forever be my only instrument with which to share the music I love so dearly? Perhaps I am better off merely listening to what has already been created, but I had so long hoped not.

I need to write more.
I still remember the days of my youth, when it was assumed that all the days of my life would be filled with writing. In grade school, a great number of my teachers encouraged me to no end in my writing and were certain that I would become an author one day. But what to write, said I? Scattered everwhere in my room at home are half starts at fiction, poetry, philosophy, and other such writings. Volumes I have written, but nothing that is coherent, nothing that is finished, nothing that is worth reading, nothing that has been written in the last five years! What has college done to me, that I no longer wish to write each day? That I no longer wish to ignore all else for long stretches of time and simply commit thought to paper? Now even this “blog” is sparse and empty. What I do write here is barely worth reading and is more of a general complaint than anything else. The most I have written, other than for school, are my detailed accounts of my beer making, and even that is formulistic and mathematical.

Where, I ask, is my ambition now? Where is my motivation? Why do I nothing? Why do I go nowhere, seek nothing, and merely exist? I lack discipline, but where can I find it? Where has it gone? Surely once I had it. I had such plans, such loft goals. I would do research, I would start a company, I would make millions. I would travel the world, I would be famous. Such foolish goals. I am a simpler man now, but I still have goals, I still have things I would like to do, things I should be doing, things I must be doing. Why do I do them not???

A simpler man, who seeks only a good life, a good family, and the discipline to take those things as they pass me by.

Lebe, du Narr, da dir Leben gegeben worden ist.
God put me here for a reason, but rather than seek it out, or in fact do anything at all, I sit here and wait for him to take me away again. At that time, I will say, “See? I am a good little boy, who sat still and waited for his Father to come retrieve him from where he was left for a while.” So deceptively simple to say that. So pat and perfect. And yet, and yet, the parable of the Foolish Steward comes to mind, it surely does.

Leben, Lieben, Dienen, Sterben.

For so long, I assumed that the first step on der Weg was a given. But I see now that I am wrong. The second step I assumed would come in time if I just waited. It seems that is also not the case. The third step was the one I knew all along would be difficult, and it has not proved otherwise. The fourth is out of my hands, I assumed, and would come when it came. Well, surely it will, but to have completed the other three in time may prove more difficult than I had originally assumed.

My my, what a strange and twisted path this post has taken. An interesting introspective though, and I thank The Instigator for sparking it off.
I still have not yet discovered how to best get a move on with all I wish to do, but Wish me Luck! And wish me luck also, as I do my best to follow the way.

Its funny, that a bit of fiction can be so relevant to der Weg, but it surely happens from time to time:

The Way comes but once. Be Steadfast. (With apologies. I like it better this way.)

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