Friday, February 25, 2005

Honey, I shrunk the dollar

Taken from Spiegel On-line: Opinion: Honey, I shrunk the dollar
I have just one question about President Bush's trip to Europe: Did he and Laura go shopping?

If they did, I would love to have been a fly on the wall when Laura must have said to George: "George, do you remember how much these Belgian chocolates cost when we were here four years ago? This box of mints was $10. Now it's $15? What happened to the dollar, George? Why is the euro worth so much more now, honey? Didn't Rummy say Europe was old? If we didn't have Air Force One, we never could have afforded this trip on your salary!"

Thursday, February 24, 2005

How could I have missed this?

It turns out Alan Keyes' daughter is a lesbian. She apparently came out at a PFLAG meeting earlier this month. I can't believe I missed this wonderful IRONIC STORY.

CNN.com: Daughter of conservative Republican calls herself 'liberal queer'

You see, the reason it's ironic is that Alan Keyes has been putting his foot in his mouth all of his life, and he really took a big gulp last year just before the election.
Her father, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois last year, created a stir in August when he said during an interview that homosexuality was "selfish hedonism" and that Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter was a sinner.
His actual quote was that if his own daughter was gay, he would tell her that she was being a selfish hedonist. Well, NOW HE GETS THE CHANCE. Isn't it great?

You can't do everything, and so everything can't be done right...

So due to graduate school, I didn't do FIRST this year. It just would have taken too much time, and four years of FIRST really was enough. I thought I recruited some good talent onto the team and left them with enough tidbits of info to help them get start out better than I did. At least, that's what I thought.

You see, FIRST is a national robotics competition that aims to introduce high schoolers to more advanced science and technology by exposing them to real engineers doing real engineering problems (like building large robots to compete in complicated competitions).

Last year Tom and I were in our fifth year of undergrad and both doing some in-depth study of controls engineering, so we decided to extend some of this into FIRST. We did some pretty interesting things (for a FIRST team) with drive train and arm control on the robot last year. And on top of that, we taught the high schoolers about things like PID and heuristic tuning of PID constants. This brought us the "Engineering Inspiration" award, the silver medal at the regional competition we went to. This also won us a ticket to nationals. And it made some of the mentors (like Tom and me) feel pretty proud.

So that was the last year we both did work with FIRST. This year the remaining FIRST memebers were trying to duplicate some of the robust control that we did. In retrospect, I don't think we did a whole lot, but apparently it was more difficult than I remember.

They just don't get it. No matter how much you show them, they all keep reverting back to the naive solutions that, to them, look novel, but to anyone with half a brain, look idiotic.

And there are little things too -- like they couldn't figure out how to turn the relays (just DPCO 4-way switches between the battery and the thing being driven) into simple SPST switches for the compressor (so they don't accidently reverse the polarity on the compressor). This is just simple stuff. Anyone who actually knows what "ground" ACTUALLY means should be able to do this.

In fact, that should have been the test. When they came to me for help (via e-mail advice), I should have said that before I give them help, they have to prove to me that they at least know how to turn a DPCO 4-way into an SPST for driving a polarized compressor. If they failed to do that, I'd say that my help would be useless to them.

It's hard for me to accept that even though I know what's best, there are going to be plenty of people who simply don't know enough to actually be able to do what's best. I guess that's what it's like to be an engineer. A world full of people who appear to be idiots but simply are just stupid.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Pope: Gay marraige part of 'ideology of evil'

This guy (Pope: Gay marriage is 'evil') has got to go.

It all seems so hypocritical because:
  • The Catholic Church makes a business out of taking people up the ass.

  • You know a guy as groovy as Jesus had to have a guy on the side. Maybe Judas was just a disgruntled lover?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

S.Dogg Speaks: Have I failed enough? Probably not.

S.Dogg Speaks: Have I failed enough? Probably not.

Stereotypes

Just because it's a stereotype apparently doesn't make it any less true . . .

Kid Rock arrested on assault charges
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- Kid Rock was arrested Wednesday by Nashville police on charges that he punched a disc jockey at a strip club.

The 34-year-old rapper was released after posting a $3,000 bond on a charge of simple assault, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Kid Rock Gets Arrested

[ Side Note: Kid Rock is a rapper? When did this happen? Additionally, I'm sure $3,000 is the appropriate bail for Kid Rock. Good call there. ]

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

*WEAK* Law of Large Numbers

So recently someone forwarded this RedNova News article to me:

Can This Black Box See Into the Future?

It actually refers to a real project going on at Priceton:

Global Conciousness Project

Now, the RedNova article does a pretty poor job explaining what's going on at Priceton, so this blog is going to appear to be poking fun at Princeton (and in some small amount it is), but it's mainly making fun of the idiots at RedNova.

For one, if the REG was generating 0's and 1's and adding the next flip to the sum of the previous flips, there's no way the line could hover around zero. Neither 0 nor 1 is negative, so it cannot ever decrease! (also note that the REG is man-made, so it will never be truly random)

So I'm assuming they meant the REG was generating a discrete uniform distribution taken from the support set {-1,1} and logging the cumulative sum of those flips (that sum would thus be a random process). Now, this random process IS NOT SURELY CONVERGENT. RedNova is trying to use the law of large numbers to illustrate what's going on, but they don't realize that they're just using the WEAK law of large numbers here. In reality, as time goes on, the probability that this random process converges to 0 actually DECREASES.

So I decided to generate some examples. I simulated this random process (using MATLAB's uniform random number generator) three times for 5000000 trials each. Since each of their trials is a second long, this corresponds to what you might expect to see if you ran this random process for about 58 days straight. Notice that these plots are not flat lines, do not stay near zero, and have lots of strange trends that should not be interpretted as some blip in the global consciousness. Pay attention to the scale too. These are not drifting a little; they are drifting by thousands of points each realization. Note though that if you bin the values coming from the random vector generating this process, it's almost perfectly uniformly distributed on {-1,1}.
REG1
REG2
REG3

Does this mean something really big is about to happen?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October was on TV tonight. I really like that movie. I really do. Such a good movie.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Bombing Iraq: It's Fun and SAFE

So North Korea came out today saying that they're going to "bolster its nuclear weapons arsenal." This is the first time North Korea has actually admitted actually having nuclear weapons. The Bush administration really hopes that China will get involved, even though in the inauguration we were told that spreading freedom and democracy is our number one priority. (not really China's way) But that's not what I want to comment on this post...

Iran also had similar sentiments as North Korea, as seen in Iran says it won't give up nuclear technology.

Now, as everyone [QUOTE]now[/QUOTE] sees, Iraq never had any WMD. At first, people said that it was sad that we spent so much of our military resources on Iraq when North Korea and Iran were a far greater great, but can you imagine what it would have been like if we attacked North Korea or Iran? They might have shot back!

It's pretty clear that Bush was going to bomb SOMEBODY. He's accustomed to lining up babies in his back hard and blowing their heads off for God or some other reason, so it just makes sense that he was going to need to kill SOMETHING while in office.

So he actually made a smart decision. Pick the guy who doesn't have ANY WEAPONS AT ALL. If he would have bombed Iran or North Korea, they might have actually retaliated! Iraq had **NO CHANCE** of retaliating as they had NO WEAPONS.

So if you're looking for a good place to bomb, Iraq is definitely a good choice. You get all the "fun" of "shooting some people" without any worry about them shooting back.

The moral of the story: if you want Bush to leave you alone, build nuclear weapons. It's much safer that way.

SIDE NOTE: Someone being interviewed on Lou Dobbs Tonight (an AWFUL show) just mentioned that people are mistaken if they say we went into Iraq for WMD's. Apparently we went there to change a region of the world for the betterment of mankind. If Bush would have said that then, no one would have been behind him. If he's saying that now, someone needs to play his own press releases back to him.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Agenda Hide and Seek

I am absolutely sick of these people who are using 9/11 and national security priorities in order to convince people to enforce immigration policy.

I'm not saying that it's not important to make sure terrorists aren't getting into the country through unprotected borders. It is. However, when people start talking about reforming drivers' licenses, you know they're just using national security as an excuse to do something that they've wanted to do even before 9/11. It's simply not about national security. It's all driven by their underlying feelings about illegal aliens.

So they're taking a perhaps more complicated issue that needs to be handled with more intelligence and care and invoking images of Mexican terrorists to scare people to legislate off a knee-jerk reaction.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I should start doing this too. It seems to work well.

Okay then, Microsoft poses a national security threat. It cripples the nation into being dependent on faulty software. Gates and Balmer need to be arrested, interrogated, beat up, and put away for a long time. Their money should be redistributed. And this has nothing to do with my feelings about Microsoft. It's about national security, really. National security trumps all, including freedom, logic, and reason.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Napoleon, the Environmental President

Apparently we're getting rid of the entire EPA to pay for the war and Bush's ego.

Bush budget cuts EPA funding

It's nice to have a President so concerned with keeping Americans safe and healthy, preserving our fragile ecosystem, and advancing science and knowledge in general.

Wait, I think I said that wrong... It WOULD be nice to have a President so concerned with . . .

Honeybee Waggle-Run Tuning

So today I was reading a paper by Seeley/Buhrman on nest-site selection in honey bees ("Nest site-selection in honey bees: how well do swarms implement the ``best-of-N'' decision rule?"). Now, if you're not familiar, bees communicate via dance. It's pretty fascinating. However, it leads to some funny passages.
A dancing bee tunes her dance strength by adjusting the number of waggle-runs/dance, and she adjusts the number of waggle-runs/dance by changing both the duration and the rate of her waggle-run production.

WAGGLE-RUNS... Hmm....

Monday, February 07, 2005

Retire NOW Cheney, NOW!

In CNN's, Cheney: 'I will not run' for president, Cheney makes it very clear that after this term he's going to completely retire from politics.
"I will say just as hard as I possibly know how to say ... 'If nominated, I will not run,' 'If elected, I will not serve,' or not only no, but 'Hell no,' " Cheney told "Fox News Sunday," making clear he intends to retire from politics at the end of his current term.

Well, gosh, Cheney -- why not just retire NOW? Do the patriotic thing and get your name out of politics as soon as possible. The nation will breathe easier knowing that you're relaxing and taking care of yourself as far away from power as possible. Retire now, Cheney! Now!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

ODE Phase Portrait and MATLAB: Get pplane !!

I notice many hits to this blog are from people searching for things like "phase portrait matlab".

For those who are looking for help drawing nonlinear phase portraits of ODE systems in MATLAB, I recommend you check out pplane and dfield.

Here's a review of dfield and pplane that gives some screen shots.

I've not used dfield, but I've used pplane a lot. It's a great tool (in new versions of MATLAB, it's a single script file) that gives a GUI frontend to plot nonlinear ODE phase portraits. It then allows you to find their equilibrium points and plot trajectories as well as a number of other fun things. For example, you can Jacobian linearize a system around and equilibrium point and it will give you the linear phase portrait as well as the eigenvalues of the linearlized system and a set of normalized eigenvectors.

Lots of course web pages use pplane (specifically pplane6, for MATLAB6.x). I recommend you download the software and search for pplane or pplane6 if you want more information. However, it's VERY EASY TO USE, so I don't think you'll need much help.

A Voice Made for Photograph

Did anyone hear This American Life on NPR today? Specifically, did anyone hear the third "act"?

I think it was an interesting story about Johnny Cash and June Carter, but it was hard to concentrate on it because the person who was telling it had a voice that may be wonderful and unique in person but over the narrow bandwidth of FM radio was nothing but . . . the auditory version of a bee sting in between your big and second toe. It was awful! It hurt! But there is simply nothing you can do about it.

Again, I'm sure it has a lot to do with what radio is taking away from her voice... but still, the combination of her and radio was just too much for me... but simply turning her off because I couldn't stand her voice would make me feel... like my mother. So I sat and listened and tried to cope, hoping that (like all talk radio) I'd get used to it and it wouldn't be so bad, but that point never came. And now I have a headache. :(

Friday, February 04, 2005

S.Dogg Speaks: F*cking Enron.

S.Dogg Speaks: F*cking Enron.

And relating to social security (emphasis added):
And, one big point that relates to my next post (see below) - the market is not God. The market does not always work. Some people will be screwed by the market - they need to be protected. Some assholes will manipulated the market to their advantage - they need to be shot.

There Is No Crisis

There Is No Crisis: Protecting Social Security

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

'Religion' does not always equal 'conservative.'

S.Dogg Speaks: 'Religion' does not always equal 'conservative.'

Millionaire

From "Millionaire" (Kelis featuring Andre 3000) (emphasis added)
Where there is cheese there are rats,
Where there are rats there are cats,
Where ever there are cats there are dogs.
If you got the dogs you got bitches.
Bitches Always out to put their paws on your riches.
If you got riches,you got glitches.
If you got glitches in your life computer turn it off and then reboota.
Now you back on.
Can't just put the cap on the old bottle once you pop it that will spoil it, gone and drink it and enjoy it.

Mama i'ma Millionaire.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Predicting Behavior of Stock Traders

I thought this was a fascinating little article:

Random Trading Good Predictor of Market Behavior, Study Shows
Fortunes can be made or lost on the stock exchange, a fact well illustrated recently by the dot-com bubble burst. Even in less volatile times, traders spend their days making careful decisions about what to sell and when. But new research indicates that the behavior of the stock market can be forecasted remarkably well by taking rational thought out of the equation.

J. Doyne Farmer of the Sante Fe Institute and his colleagues designed a computer model in which traders placed orders to buy and sell at random. In the simulation, the so-called "minimally intelligent agents" were subject only to the rules of the market. When the researchers tested their approach using 21 months of data from the London Stock Exchange, they found that it successfully predicted two basic market properties with surprising acuity. The model accounted for 96 percent of the variance in the spread, which is the difference between the best buying and selling prices and is the main determinant of transaction costs. It also explained three quarters of the fluctuations in the diffusion rate, which is a standard measure of financial risk.

The authors note that their results do not imply that stock traders are unintelligent. Instead they say that the report, published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "suggests there are circumstances where the strategic behavior of agents may be dominated by other considerations." The new model could be employed to help regulators lower transaction costs and detect irregular market behavior. --Sarah Graham

Musicology

Prince was great...
If it ain't Chuck D,
or Jam Master Jay,
Know what?
They're losin'.
'Cause we got a PhD in
Advanced Body Movin'...