Friday, April 29, 2005

Suffocated by Bush

Group: Less air pollution nationwide
The association attributed the dip to cool and wet weather in the years studied, government controls on Eastern coal-fired power plants and improved vehicle emissions standards. Areas of the Southeast accounted for much of the drop in pollution.

Wait... Didn't Bush say something last week about looking to replace our dependence on oil with a dependence on coal? And didn't he just give a huge tax break to vehicle manufacturers so they could continue to use the oil that the power plants would save? Isn't that exactly the wrong thing to do? This policy stuff is confusing.
 

Sex is Overrated

Yet another reason to hate kids: Official: 3rd-grader stuck 19 schoolmates with needle
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AP) -- A third-grader stuck 19 schoolmates with her mother's diabetes blood-testing needle this week, and one pricked student tested positive for HIV on a preliminary test, officials said.

Health officials said the virus could not have been contracted from the needle stick, and they noted that preliminary tests can yield false positives.

The risk to students who were stuck after the possibly infected child depends on factors including the depth of the stick, health officials said.

[ The juxtaposition of those last two "paragraphs" sorta gives reason to hate the media (or, perhaps, health officials?) too... ]
 

Scientists Confirm Earth's Energy Is Out of Balance

I got this NASA press release today:

Scientists Confirm Earth's Energy Is Out of Balance
Scientists have concluded more energy is being absorbed from the sun than is emitted back to space, throwing the Earth's energy "out of balance" and warming the globe.

Scientists from NASA, Columbia University, New York, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif. used satellites, data from buoys and computer models to study the Earth's oceans. They confirmed the energy imbalance by using precise measurements of increasing ocean heat content over the past 10 years.

The study reveals Earth's energy imbalance is large by standards of the planet's history. The imbalance is 0.85 watts per meter squared. That will cause an additional warming of 0.6 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) by the end of this century.

To understand the difference, think of a one-watt light bulb shining over an area of one square meter (10.76 square feet). Although it doesn't seem like much, adding up the number of feet around the world creates a big effect. To put this number into perspective, an imbalance of one-watt per square meter, maintained for the past 10,000 years is enough to melt ice equivalent to one kilometer (.6 mile) of sea level, if there were that much ice.

There are some neat images and animations on that page.
 

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Another Seminar: Andy Teel, today

Andy Teel came to OSU today. He is a huge name in nonlinear control and has contributed an enormous amount over the last 15 years. It was a big deal that Professor Serrani convinced him to come and speak for us.

It was a good lecture. The topic was "Hybrid Dynamical Systems and Nonlinear Feedback Control," so he talked about these Lyapunov-like aggregate functions we can use in nonlinear systems that have both continuous and discrete counterparts. One good example was a bouncing ball -- it's continuous in the air, but every time it touches the ground it becomes discrete.

He used the development in this area to change how to approach some more classical problems. In particular, he addressed the problem of swinging up a pendulum so that it balances up vertically on a sliding cart that ends up in the same position it started in. This was fun. However, he had a really fun example dealing with HAART treatment of HIV patients.

One of his doctoral students was interested in this application, so they dived in. You see, (I'm going to screw this up) the HAART treatment reduces the number of infected cells. However, the body manufacturs Killer-T cells at a rate proportional to the product of the number of infected cells and the number of Helper T cells. So while you want to treat the patient, it would be nice to convince the body to produce more Killer-T cells so that the patient could be taken off treatment.

This, at first, suggests an open-loop control method, and this method has been tried and has some success with models. If you get the TIMING just right, you can take someone off treatment for a short period of time, allow the infected cells to accumulate, and the body will start producing large numbers of Killer-T cells. Then you start treatment again and the Killer-T's combined with the HAART treatment are very effective at lowering infected cells. Eventually, you remove the treatment completely and the Killer-T's keep the patient from needing treatment again. You haven't cured HIV, but you've treated it to the point where the body can take over.

However, this open-loop method isn't very robust. You simply don't know what timing is right for each patient.

So you "sample" each patient's blood every week and treat this as a hybrid dynamical system. And you know what? This feedback system was effective with up to 100% of sampling error (there's a lot of noise with those blood samples) and up to 15% of parameter error (as in, different patients, etc.). It was pretty sweet. I wonder if anyone's actually trying this? It was great to see controls applied this way.

And on top of this, Teel is just a regular American guy. It's not common to see a regular American guy giving an advanced engineering seminar. Kinda made me ... hopeful.

So that was fun today. I enjoyed it much.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Joan Roughgarden, May 2 and 3

So I found out today that Joan Roughgarden, of Stanford's Department of Biological Sciences, will be visiting May 2 and 3 to give two lectures:

"Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity of Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People"
Monday, May 2, 2005
4:00 PM
Faculty Club
main dining room (free and open to public)

"Reproductive Social Behavior: Cooperative Games to Replace Sexual Selection"
Tuesday, May 3, 2005
12:30 PM
Hamilton Hall
Room 107 (EEOB seminar series)

That should be fun. I hope I can get out of ECE858 (scheduled to get out at 3:48) on Monday to make the first lecture, but the second lecture is the one I'm most interested in.
 

Stop saying "up or down vote"

No compromise in filibuster fight
White House press secretary Scott McClellan, traveling in Texas with Bush, said "our view is that Senate Democrats need to stop playing politics and give all judicial nominees an up or down vote."

"It's unprecedented, the steps they've gone to to prevent highly qualified judges from receiving simply an up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate," he said.

When you say, "up or down vote," you imply that you'll be okay with that nominee being rejected by the Senate. You imply that you'll back off and take the hint. You imply that you'll use the extra debate period in the Senate to convince Senators in the minority to give an "up" vote.

So since you don't mean any of that, then stop saying "up or down vote." Instead, tell it like it is. You want to change the STRUCTURE of government to allow the executive branch to have complete control over the appointment of justices into the judiciary. You want to allow Senators to debate on everything EXCEPT for items involving the separation of powers. (and who knows, eventually you might get rid of all debate in the Senate)

When Dixiecrats filibustered civil rights legislation, they didn't get rid of the filibuster. Instead, they compelled the Dixiecrats to back down so the civil rights legislation would pass. And you know what? That was the right thing to do.

If you're convinced that your nominees are the CORRECT (and not just "right") choices, then convince the Democrats who don't agree. Despite what Karl Rove tells the rest of the world, Democrats aren't evil, and if you have a rational argument, then they'll back down. People voted for those Democrats. Respect Democracy and allow those Democrats to do the job that their constituents wanted them to do.

And *THEN* ask them for an "up or down vote." It'll make your nominees look much better to the rest of us (the public) if you can convince Democrats to vote for them without these nuclear tactics.
 

Spaghetti-Ode

Many years ago I would often prepare SpaghettiOs for lunch over the electric stove. I liked the zesty cheesey taste of the non-meatball variety's sauce, but I really liked the meatballs too. However, that was as far as I thought about it. Yeah, I knew the heating procedure. I knew that with the meatball variety I had to turn the heat down to low for a little bit before I took it off the stove, and I was told this had something to do with keeping the meatballs warm, but I didn't really understand this. I just followed orders.

Now, I don't find myself making SpaghettiO's that often. However, every once in a while I visit my parents' place, and mom will often keep SpaghettiO's on hand for the grandkids (as in, my nephews and nieces), so sometimes I indulge myself and make a can of it. However, now I actually appreciate that the meatballs heat up differently than the rest of the sauce, and you need to keep the stove on low for some time after the sauce is done in order to make sure the meatballs are nice and warm.

It actually goes a lot farther than that. You see, mom has one of those fancy shiny surface stoves that doesn't have any metal exposed. It actually has a closed-loop control system controlling the electric. As a result, rarely do things boil over. As I cook something on it, the on-off controller pulses the burners (like HVAC turning off and on to keep a house warm or cool) and I think about "DC" component of this waveform and the RMS power being delivered to the SpaghettiO's. I think this is pretty exciting.

And then, after I dump the SpaghettiO's into a bowl, I take the saucepan over to the sink and fill it with cold water. Magically, when I dump the cold water out, the water is still cold, but so is the saucepan. When I was a kid, this was just some magic of water. However, now I understand things like heat capacity, and I do know it is some "magic" with water, but I understand that magic (and how it relates to the steel in particular), and that's pretty exciting too.

Richard Feynman used to discuss how his understanding of the physical world enhanced all of the observations he made during the day. When he looked at a flower, he would be taken by its beauty just like anyone else, but he had an added respect for the cellular processes going on within the flower. He had an added respect for the material characteristics that gave the flower its texture and color and made it behave in the way it does as the season evolves. When he looked at the flower, he saw an inner-beauty as well.

Brian Greene had similar things to say. To him, the existentialist who says that an examination of the physical world is just masturbation is missing the point that a real examination of the physical world is an examination of reality itself. It's not proper to to evaluate why someone should refrain from suicide without first really understanding the physical world that gives that person a contextual reality.

And I think all of that comes back to my SpaghettiO's and the magic ability of water to cool red-hot steel in a short amount of time without itself heating to a boil. Life is "better" knowing these things. I mean, sometimes it's scarier. If you think about it, your body is fighting cancer every day as it, like some giant parliametentary government, tries to convince ALL of your cells simultaneously to resist the temptation to reproduce out of control. I mean, in that case, isn't it better to be ignorant? I dunno. It's kinda neat that it works. That's beautiful in itself, and if we appreciate that it can be done, maybe we can forsee a human population that is able to regulate its own reproduction in a similar way. That's a neat thought.

Yeah, so that's not quite an "Ode," but I couldn't resist the temptation to use the title...

People make me so mad...

Meteor shower sparks flurry of calls to police
BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- A meteor shower Sunday night sparked a flurry of frantic phone calls to police departments across New England from people who saw bright lights moving in the sky, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Someone is making the American public really really stupid and really really afraid, and that person needs to put behind bars. If we can finance a war on drugs to fill up prisons more than any other crime, we can put fear and stupid mongers behind bars too.
 

Monday, April 25, 2005

Girls (not women) are abusing steroids, too

Well, isn't this fascinating?

Girls are abusing steroids, too
TRENTON, New Jersey (AP) -- An alarming number of American girls, some as young as 9, are using bodybuilding steroids -- not necessarily to get an edge on the playing field, but to get the toned, sculpted look of models and movie stars, experts say.

One day girls will have no access to birth control or condoms but complete access to steroids. America, land of the brave and home of the fertile pretty baby factories. Somewhere, someplace, Jesus has a hard on.
 

Sunday, April 24, 2005

I'm so damn clever and funny and cute...

Yay! I won Jenn's contest for a second time.

Results: What's So Funny?

The contest was to describe what Jenn was thinking in this picture:

I made several entries, but the winning one (inspired by John Stewart and his America: The Book (The Audiobook)) was:
"So Hamilton thought the only way the separation of powers could be defeated is if one party takes ahold of the executive and legislative branches and gets their own justices appointed to the judicial? Oh, gosh, that could NEVER happen!"

Aren't I cute?
 

Sometimes It Snows In April (Part 2)

As I mentioned in Sometimes It Snows in April, sometimes in Ohio it snows in April.

Today is another one of those sometimes...

It's not so cold out. It's pretty windy though. Definitely need a defroster for the car windows.

So this is great. Maybe I'll have chili tonight. Wouldn't that be a fun April thing to do?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Ice sheets and nonlinear resonance

Antartic glaciers retreating
Analysis of more than 2,000 aerial photographs dating from 1940 and more than 100 satellite images from the 1960s by Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and the US Geological Survey show glaciers along the Antarctic Peninsula retreating at an increasingly rapid pace and almost 90 per cent have melted significantly in the past 50 years.

It is unclear, however, whether the increased temperature causing the shrinkage is a natural regional effect or a result of global warming, said the scientists who conducted the study, published this week in the journal Science reports ABCnews.


Some of the electrical engineers out in industry are working on an interesting problem. They're trying to reverse the effects of aging on neurons. You see, everyone knows that your vision and hearing decays with age. What they don't realize is that your proprioception also decays. That is, with age you lose your ability to figure out where your body parts are. Close your eyes, extend your arms, and close them at your elbows until your index finger's touch. Your ability to do that without seeing your arms move is due to your proprioception. As you get older, you won't be able to do that as well.

This is also why we fall as we get older. In order to maintain balance, there is a complex control system that causes us to rock back and forth to receive feedback that our balance systems can respond to to keep us upright. If you've ever ridden on a Segway (or one of those wheelchairs that can go up stairs on two wheels) you've noticed that it rocks back and forth constantly. It's a gentle sway, and it's necessary to maintain that equilibrium (which is an "unstable node"). Our bodies do something similar. Trouble is, the "amount" of rocking until those neurons fire increases with age. Our natural balance systems need to rock more to keep us upright, and so sometimes when we need them for balance, they don't kick in soon enough.

So engineers are working on insoles that can be inserted into shoes that excite the neurons on the bottom of the feet with white noise (in other words, noise that is uncorrelated in time). They cannot use any periodic signal or the neurons will be accustomed to it (this is why you don't notice your clothes throughout the day; it's an attentional control system). Turns out that the white noise is a sort of nonlinear "bias" that puts the nerves into a region where they trigger more quickly. People with these insoles inserted (which vibrate too delicately for people to notice) do not sway as much to keep balance.

Now, getting back to climate, this work was actually inspired by studys of CLIMATE CHANGES over time. You see, we get ice ages every 100,000 years or so. Why? Well, the earth as it rotates around the sun also wobbles like a top. This precession is exactly the reason why the Zodiac signs do not fall on the actual zodiac plane today. (sorry astrologers. Try looking in the sky rather than looking in the newspaper) It turns out that the period of this wobble correlates with these particular kinds of ice ages. The trouble is that the wobble does not cause enough of a temperature change to justify the planet covering over with ice.

So you see, the answer was in the random fluctuations in our natural atmosphere. Those fluctuations are like the white noise that "bias" the atmosphere into an ultra-sensitive state. The atmosphere is just ready to trip. It only takes a SMALL TEMPERATURE CHANGE to flip it.

So this is what we like to call "nonlinear resonance." I know, most of you think of "resonance" having something to do with sine waves. That's "linear resonance." This is a more general form of resonance where a small perturbation is made very large simply due to the noisy bias.

My point is, the environment is so very delicate. We don't know what sort of "nonlinear modes" we're going to excite. We don't know where the equilibrium points are, and we don't understand their attractivity and stability properties. Articles like the one I posted above should really concern people.

And yet the Dennis Miller's of the world continue to tell old jokes everyone's heard before about global temperature rising being just like moving to Phoenix -- a small adjustment easily fixed by an A/C unit. These are the same people who have large families who hopefully will grow up to disown their parents for being wastes of breath.
 

E-mails 'hurt IQ more than pot'

E-mails 'hurt IQ more than pot'
LONDON, England -- Workers distracted by phone calls, e-mails and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana, a British study shows.

The constant interruptions reduce productivity and leave people feeling tired and lethargic, according to a survey carried out by TNS Research and commissioned by Hewlett Packard.

 

Thursday, April 21, 2005

An Apple a day keeps the Dell away...

So I have a little dilemma, or maybe it's a DELLemma...

Years ago I purchased a Toshiba Satellite Pentium 4 laptop that has upset me ever since. It had four damaged pixels (which is within Toshiba's pixel quality standards, so there was nothing I could do about it) and had a DOCUMENTED feature of turning off unexpectedly whenever it overheated, which it does all the time. Toshiba tells me I'm supposed to save my data frequently and that this has been a feature of all Satellite's since the 486 series. Moral of the story: Don't buy Toshiba, and if you do, don't buy Satellite (and if you do buy any of these things, expect customer service to give you funny answers like these).

So I figured I had been very happy with the Dell I use at the office (a Dell Precision workstation: dual Xeon system) so maybe I'd try Dell at home.

[ Note: This idea of buying a computer from a company is foreign to me. I've always built my desktop machines, but I can't really do that with a laptop. I just feel like laptops have the potential to take advantage of me... ]

Now, I need a performance workstation. Dell's Precision M70 looked like a good buy for that. It only had a 15.4" screen, but it was a WUXGA screen, so I get a really sharp 1900x1200 resolution. Yes, everything's tiny, but I can fit so much on the screen! It's really great. Unfortunately though, when I got the laptop on 3/29, Dell screwed up some of the order, and they're not going to be able to get the replacement to me until 4/29 despite me calling customer service on 3/29. To keep a long story short, Dell has really upset me. The customer service people themselves have been OK, but the actual problem resolution capability of the company itself is poor.

So this month I've been using the machine (it's not complete, as explained, but I can still get work done on it) and I have been happy with it. I like the feel of the keyboard. I like the layout. I wish there was a volume control (perhaps an analog control) on the side of the laptop so I didn't have to open the lid to adjust the volume... Oh, and I really like the touchpad/stick combination with the new Alps driver.

[ If you're not familiar with the Dell setup, the touchpad has two very "clicky" buttons at the bottom of the touchpad and two softer more "key-like" buttons below the space bar as well as a little eraser-like stick at the vertex of the G, H, and B keys. You can configure the stick and touchpad to "turn off tapping" while you type, that way you don't get that annoying thing where you accidently tap your touchpad, highlight your whole document, and overwrite it with your next keystroke. You can also configure your stick to just be used for scrolling and configure the touchpad with "hot spots" and with narrow border areas also for scrolling. It's very nice. ]

The thing is, I'm really disappointed in Dell. This was a $3600 purchase, and they're treating me like I'm a charity case. So I'm thinking about returning the whole laptop just for that reason alone.

So I've been looking at HP models. There's a nice performance HP for about the same price that looks nearly identical...

HOWEVER, if I was willing to make the leap to Apple, I could get a 17" Apple PowerBook G4 (their top of the line laptop) for $2600 ($2800 if I want 1GB of memory).

My adviser is a life-long Apple user and recommends them. I grew up using UNIX, so both Windows and MacOS are a little odd to me, but I've gotten used to them, and OS X is BSD/Mach-LIKE so there's that. Additionally, all of my important applications (MATLAB, a LaTeX compiler, a LaTeX editor, Adobe Illustrator) run on Macintosh, so I think it might be neat. Oh, and about the touchpad, Apple does this cool thing where if you use TWO fingers on the touchpad, it scrolls and such. No stick though. And no extra set of nice key-like buttons.

The MAJOR downside for me is that Apple doesn't have a WUXGA LCD. That means that the highest resolution I can get is 1440x900, and in store everything looked ENORMOUS on the screen because of it. That's partly because it's a bigger screen though...

So I'm perplexed. I really like my tiny pixels... I really do. But I really hate Dell, despite liking their hardware, and the Apple is SO MUCH CHEAPER (which seems surprising considering everyone talks about Apple machines being so much more expensive)...

So, like I said, I'm in a DELLemma...

Tetris *LIVE*

Thanks to Snap Judgements for this one.

“Redefined, an a cappella group from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, sing and act out a medley of Nintendo theme songs.”

The picture below is the Tetris segment. They pantomime as they sing.

 

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

You want answers? / I want the proof! / You can't handle the proof!!

You're goddamn right Jessep ordered the code red. Kaffee got him to admit that. But if it wasn't for that, Kaffee would have to formally prove that Jessep did so, and he simply couldn't do that. It was a big risk on Kaffee's part.

In research, we often play a different game. Formal logic gives researchers a context onto which their results can be painted. With formal logic, we can show the ultimate limits of a process. We can show that certain configurations are actually OPTIMAL -- you can do no better. In the case of software, we can PROVE that software is bug free. As the problems we engineers and scientists face become more and more complicated, we draw upon mathematics even more. Unfortunately though, mathematicians through history have not been as rigorous in their statements as logicians. It has been adequate to say, "At this point, it should be clear to the reader that B follows from A," because the reader has always been an experienced mathematician that either can connect the dots from A to B or is well-read and knows of the chain of literature that can back this claim up.

However, as mathematics becomes more general and is needed to solve more of the world's problems, the disciplines it cuts into simply do not have that sort of experience. These disciplines call on mathematics because they need the CERTAINTY that can come with mathematical RIGOR. When a mathematician doesn't fill in ALL the blanks, some or all of the certainty is lost.

And so there's a new movement in proof methods. We're moving into the era of computer-aided proof and long-winded meticulous proofs that are accessible to ALL.

And that's what a recent article at Economist.com discusses. It's a short and good read.

Proof and beauty

The very last paragraph: (emphasis added)
Why should the non-mathematician care about things of this nature? The foremost reason is that mathematics is beautiful, even if it is, sadly, more inaccessible than other forms of art. The second is that it is useful, and that its utility depends in part on its certainty, and that that certainty cannot come without a notion of proof. Dr Gonthier, for instance, and his sponsors at Microsoft, hope that the techniques he and his colleagues have developed to formally prove mathematical theorems can be used to “prove” that a computer program is free of bugs—and that would certainly be a useful proposition in today's software society if it does, indeed, turn out to be true.

 

Halmos Square

Quick side note: You know the little square that replaces the "q.e.d." at the end of proofs? It's called the Halmos Square.

There was a guy named Halmos (University of Indiana, maybe?) who came up with the idea. You know what it represents? A TOMBSTONE. It is meant to say that "the proof is dead." Or "that kills the proof."

I'm dead serious. Really.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Bunny, so they say / It is the root of all evil today

30 second versions of popular movies all played by cartoon bunnies.

Oh, and by the way, Hey, Real Torino.

Impedance is complex...

So I saw this in the profile of a girl who I used to mentor who is now an undergrad engineer at Brown university...
Me (looking at a graph): Where do you think the highest impedance occurs?
ADD: It's not between your legs, I can tell you that much.

[ If it helps, impedance is the 'grown up' version of resistance; it includes reactance too. ]

What a strange, vulgar, insulting, and geeky thing to say.
 

Caused an audible chuckle...

Thanks to grrrbear at Argonatucal Ramblings: Quickie for this. Click on the badass penguin picture below (or here).

Not to make snap judgements, but...

So I noticed one of the random "Next Blog" referrals to my blog came from a blog called Snap Judgements for the Undeserving by a woman from Wisconsin who calls herself Anna. I thought some of her posts were kinda fun and free form, which I'm a fan of. So I'm mostly posting this here so I remember to check it out when I have more time, but maybe some others would be interested too.

One of her postings involved this fun image. In the caption, she thanks her dad for giving her an X chromosome rather than Y:

I'm just an ideas man... or maybe I'm an ideas *young* man....

So it's not too uncommon for me to say, "I dunno, I'm just an ideas man." You see, that's what I am. I come up with ideas. I brain storm. I try to think out of the box. I'm not meaning to come to a productive end immediately; I'm just trying to stimulate other ideas. Not everyone seems to understand that when they ask me, "Okay, but how could we do that?" I dunno. I'm just an ideas man.

Now, if I'm on the team doing the thing, then I'm a little more conservative with my wild ideas... But I still think it's productive. The idea to fly helicopters down power lines to shake off the ice came after someone suggested unleashing gorillas to climb up the poles to shake the lines. Someone asked, "How do we get the gorillas there?" And the answer... "By helicopter." Well, if you have the helicopter, then you don't need the gorilla. You see how this works?

Anyway, I want to focus on the "man." I'm 24. I'm not married. I have no kids. However, I pay taxes, I'm independent, I have a small apartment, I have a job (if you can call being a grad student a job), I vote... I do lots of "adult" things. I'm even maybe willing to call myself an "adult." But a "man?"

When does someone like me go from being a "young man" to a "man"? Personally, I don't feel like "young man" seems appropriate. That sort of groups me in with the sophomore doing the keg stand down the street. However, I would feel kind of dirty calling me a "man," and I don't think it would be received well by too many others.

The hosts of the Man Show are certainly men, right? They're in their 30's and have kids and houses.

However, there are people my age that have kids and houses. Hell, that brat on The Apprentice is only 21 and is a millionaire. Is he a man?

I asked this to a girl I know (who is turning 24 in October). She graduated from college earlier than most and is a sort of producer at CNN. She lives in Atlanta and is completely independent. Her response to my question was. "If I knew the answer to that, I'd know where to find men. C'mon now." However, she usually dates people who are in their LATE 20's...

However, she's thinking of heading back to school to get an advanced degree. An old boss of mine who is 29 is heading back to school to start his MS/PhD at Stanford. He's also getting married this summer. I'm technically "ahead" of him academically since I started grad school before him, but he's been working in industry for a number of years and is clearly older than me. Is he a man?

So maybe it has something to do with a rite of passage. Maybe you don't really become a man until you get married and/or have kids. That might be why my friend in Atlanta can't seem to find men; if you could find a man, he'd already be taken. However, Dave Letterman hasn't ever been married and recently had a kid. Does that mean that he only recently became a man? Bill Mahr is in his late 40's, at least, and is not married and has no kids and probably smokes a lot of pot. Is he a man? Why?

So this is puzzling to me...

So maybe I'm not an ideas man. Maybe I'm an ideas young man (or a young ideas man?)... I dunno. Either way, I have no idea, and to any ideas person, that's kinda distressing.

Hang the DJ, Hang the DJ, Hang the DJ

So April has been a CD101 "essential artists" month, which means that every day they feature a certain "essential artist" and play lots and lots of music by them that day. That's not all they play that day, but every hour you can be sure to hear at LEAST one song by that artist, and often more, and different songs throughout the day.

So the other day it was The Smiths, which means that all day I got to hear Morrissey whine about being the saddest gay (or not gay?) Englishman alive.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy The Smiths (the music itself is great; go Johnny Marr go), and I get a kick out of Morrissey; however, a whole day of Morrissey is a little tough to take. OKAY, I GET IT. BAD ENGLAND AND SAD AND ALONE MORRISSEY. WE CAN MOVE ON NOW.

So "Watershed" is the band today, NPR is still running, and I have my audiobook and batteries for my MP3 player, so all is right in the world again... At least, for a while.

A New England

So Billy Bragg has a song called "A New England" that has some lyrics that caught my attention... (emphasis added)
I saw two shooting stars last night
I wished on them but they were only satellites
Is it wrong to wish on space hardware
I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care

"Is it wrong to wish on space hardware" ? Not only is that sort of a funny statement, but it's really... really SAD!

I liked the sentiment of the song though...
I loved you then as I love you still
Tho I put you on a pedestal,
They put you on the pill
I don’t feel bad about letting you go
I just feel sad about letting you know

I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new england
I’m just looking for another girl
I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new england
I’m just looking for another girl

I loved the words you wrote to me
But that was bloody yesterday
I can’t survive on what you send
Every time you need a friend

Right on. You go, boy.

But what's interesting to me is that there's a version sung by Kristy Maccoll as well. Its lyrics are feminized a bit, which changes the sentiment of the song, but one big thing is that does is add two extra stanzas at the end... (emphasis added)
My dreams were full of strange ideas
My mind was set despite the fears
But other things got in the way
I never asked that boy to stay

Once upon a time at home
I sat beside the telephone
Waiting for someone to pull me through
When at last it didn’t ring, I knew it wasn’t you

Now, I'm sure that last bolded line wasn't an original.

But that adds a little... twist to the story, I guess.

It's fun to me that this song is sung by a female and a male... It's like a call and response that really gives a better feel for the texture of the tension between these two people. I think that's fun.
 

Monday, April 18, 2005

Matlab 7 makes me hot... and I'm not alone

I've changed the other person in this saved IM conversation to "OtherGuy" to protect his identity. It's worth noting that he too is a controls engineering graduate student with me. These are the sort of things we get excited about, I guess...
TedliMan: Wow... in matlab7 you not only can save/export a figure
TedliMan: but you can "generate M file" to take all the figure data and put it in an M file
OtherGuy: yeah, I tried that once.
OtherGuy: It was crazy.
TedliMan: I get so hot using matlab7
OtherGuy: I know, me too
OtherGuy: I was telling Pat that tonight

 

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I'm a flake, aren't I?

I really like Grey's Anatomy. That doesn't make me a flake, does it? I'm pretty sure that makes me a flake. Does it? Oh... :(

You see, I liked the ending of tonight's episode, with Grey having breakfast with Patrick Dempsey's character. And then they go and play Tegan & Sara, and you know how much of an alternative junkie I am...

So it's hopeless. I'll just have to learn to live with myself. :(

Box Full of ... Voltage References

Something reminded me of this...

Years ago, while at National Instruments, I had to setup an experiment to test the long-term voltage drift (essentially the pink noise, but it turns out it also gave a good indication of the temperature coefficient for shorter time scales) of 48 voltage references over a few months. There's a long (and very interesting, trust me!) story involving how this experiment was setup and why we needed the results, and it leads to me building a fancy box... On the outside of which I wrote,
"Box Full of Voltage References" -- Wilco 1995

I'm pretty sure I also wrote something like...
"Think you might like to read"

after it... (you see, I was continuously reading all 48 references over and over and over and over again...) In fact, I'm pretty sure I parodied almost the whole song in a sort of tru-geek speak.

I got a chuckle out of it. I think my boss (he's pretty "hip") got a kick out of it too. However, because the experiment going on inside the box was pretty loud, we had to cover the box to keep it from disturbing the people sitting near to the box. We didn't have much to cover it with, but LUCKILLY my boss had a bunch of his dirty clothes in his office (for some reason?), so we piled them on top of the box, so no one else got to share in my chuckling. So now you can, and everything in the world is right again.
 

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Bush has slime-mold beetle named after him

Bush has slime-mold beetle named after him (emphasis added)
Entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly B. Miller, who recently had the task of naming 65 newly discovered species of slime-mold beetles, named three species after the president, vice president and defense secretary.

The monikers: Agathidium bushi Miller and Wheeler, Agathidium cheneyi Miller and Wheeler, and Agathidium rumsfeldi Miller and Wheeler.

According to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the first word of a new species is its genus; the second word must end in "i" if it's named after a person; and the final part of the name includes the person or persons who first described the species.

 

G.O.Pee-Pee

GOP's Filibuster Strategy Could Backfire (emphasis added)
A looming power play by Senate Republican leaders to clamp down on filibusters against judicial nominees is a high-risk strategy. It could change the balance of power in the Senate, erode the rights of the minority party and backfire against Republicans in the long term.

The Senate is "not always going to be Republican," former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the 1996 GOP presidential candidate, is reminding fellow Republicans. "Think down the road," he advises.

 

It's like that thing Elmo said, but without the "far" and with a different word for "near"

There was a guy in college we called Elmo. He was very tall and looked just like him. Poor Todd. Todd was a good guy though. Nothing bad to say about Todd, unless you count that Elmo thing...

So not too long ago Jenn posted Go rent 'Closer' and said lots of nice things about the movie. I was happy to read these things, because when the movie was first being advertised, I thought it looked potentially very good and was thinking there would be lots of things said just like Jenn's comments. However, I didn't hear a lot of good things said. A friend of mine, who I think saw it with his girlfriend (perhaps not the best test audience), didn't sound too thrilled with it.

So on Jenn's recommendation, I finally saw it, and you know what? I did like it. I even did something pretty geeky. I wrote down some quotes from it. I was going to find some way to post them, but then I realized that if you have red hair AND live in Chicago, you will insist that it's pointless to empathize with movies. However, I would insist that circles are pointless and yet we haven't gotten rid of them. On the other hand, if you're someone else, then you probably just find the whole practice of quoting a movie sort of creepy and "twelvish." I agree. So I won't. But I have them written down here, and just like the "But" that started this sentence, I think they are conversation starters that people will notice, so perhaps I'll leave them displayed on my coffee table to promote healthy discussion of human behavior.

(is a "coffee table log" a "clog"?)

So there.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Reality Bites

Reality TV winners get tax reality check
Reality TV winners get tax reality check

Having a contractor create your dream
home for a television show is great.
Then the tax bill comes.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Some reality
television winners apparently got a
brutal reality check this tax season.

Daily Variety reported Friday that
families featured on the ABC hit show
"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and
Fox's "Renovate My Family" not only
are getting their dream homes, but
also nightmare tax bills.

One Illinois husband and wife, according
to the entertainment industry publication,
discovered it owes $529,000 in taxes
after Fox-hired contractors tore down
their old house and built a new one with
special accommodations for their paralyzed
son. The renovation aired on Fox this past
summer.

 

How Anonymous Are You?

I thought some might be interested in this. It's a CERT security tip for Internet users that came out this week.

US-CERT ST05-008: How Anonymous Are You?

It's definitely for real too. Not only is it easy for web site authors to see what web browser is visiting the web page but also from where the page was linked. You can even see what search words were used on the search engine query that linked to the page. And, of course, you get the IP. Now, an IP used to give very little information. It would be registered by a big corporation often HQ'd far from its actual location at all... But now there are organizations that have simple tools like:

IP Address Locator

These give access to databases that actually map geographical information to IPs. If you only have the first three bytes of the IP (without the third period), it works just as well.

So just be aware that you're being automatically tracked all the time as you browse the web, even if you've turned off all of your persistent cookies...

MIT students pull prank on conference

This was in today's "Science & Space" section on CNN.com. I think some of the academics reading will enjoy this, and other people too... (and you know who you are)

MIT students pull prank on conference
MIT students pull prank on conference

Computer-generated gibberish submitted, accepted

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) -- In a victory for pranksters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a bunch of computer-generated gibberish masquerading as an academic paper has been accepted at a scientific conference.

Jeremy Stribling said Thursday that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with "context-free grammar," charts and diagrams.

The trio submitted two of the randomly assembled papers to the World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida.

To their surprise, one of the papers -- "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" -- was accepted for presentation.

 

For you Napoleon Dynamite fans...

LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF IDAHO - HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 29
HCR029........................by WAYS AND MEANS
NAPOLEON DYNAMITE - Stating findings of
the Legislature and commending Jared and
Jerusha Hess and the City of Preston for
the production of the movie "Napoleon
Dynamite."

 

Thursday, April 14, 2005

In Ohio, identity theft is done by the police, and it's legal

This is true. It really was in the Sunday Columbus Dispatch.

In Ohio, identity theft is done by the police, and it's legal

A snippet. I think the identity theft is a big deal, but the whole investigation procedure is in general very creepy.
Authorities gave Michelle Szuhay another woman’s
identity to use while undercover.

Haley Dawson has never been a stripper.

But Ohio liquor-control agents took her identity and gave
it to a 22-year-old college student who they had recruited
to work undercover as a nude dancer.

As part of an investigation that resulted in nothing more
than misdemeanor charges, police paid University of Dayton
criminal-justice student Michelle Szuhay $100 a night to take
it all off in early 2003 — as liquor-control officers drank
beer and watched in the audience for three months, court
papers show.

Other officers watched her strip on the Internet, using an
account created under the identity of a dead man.

The officers did all this by using Dawson’s driver’s license
and Social Security number to hide Szuhay’s identity while
she worked at the targeted strip club, the now-closed Total
Xposure in Troy.

 

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Day of TRUTH?

Conservatives counter 'Day of Silence'
NEW YORK (AP) -- Irked by the success of the nationwide Day of Silence, which seeks to combat anti-gay bias in schools, conservative activists are launching a counter-event this week called the Day of Truth aimed at mobilizing students who believe homosexuality is sinful.

Participating students are being offered T-shirts with the slogan "The Truth Cannot be Silenced" and cards to pass out to classmates Thursday -- the day following the Day of Silence -- declaring their unwillingness to condone "detrimental personal and social behavior."

When the President and a number of states move to end (no, wait, PREVENT) same-sex marriage, they encourage this sort of activity.
 

Finding the roots of modern humans

Finding the roots of modern humans
(CNN) -- "Genographic" is not showing up in many dictionaries yet. But two global institutions, IBM and the National Geographic Society, hope the idea it conveys becomes well known in every corner of the planet.

The Genographic Project, launching Wednesday, is a five-year genetic anthropology study designed to chart the migratory history of humans, and help fill in the blanks of how and where people moved to populate the planet.

Population geneticist Dr. Spencer Wells, an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, is director of the project.

"Genetics, I think, resoundingly has answered the question of where we ultimately came from, we came out of Africa. And we came out quite recently, within the last 50 or 60 thousand years," Wells said.

"But the question of how we migrated around the planet, how we populated the world, in effect, is still an open one."

Fun stuff?
 

Terrorists are the LEAST of our problems...

And we worry about TERRORISTS and biological warfare? Perhaps we're a little optimistic...

Labs scramble to destroy deadly flu virus

Idiot

SAT scores: 2400 is the new 1600 (emphasis added)
"I put in my left contact lens and blinked a couple times and saw a little Post-it note, and it said just one thing: 2400," Weiss said Tuesday.

"I just leaned my head out and screamed at the top of my lungs and said, 'Are you serious?"' She was.

First of all, I'm not quite sure you can take seriously any standardized test that allows you to get a perfect score on it. There's no way a college can compare a 2400 to another 2400. Scores at the upper edge just become meaningless.

I knew several people who got 1600 on the "old" SAT's. You know what they're doing today? Exactly the same thing everyone else is doing. You know what colleges they got into? Exactly the same colleges everyone else got into. In fact, one of them was denied from MIT because there were too many Chinese students there already. He went to Berkeley instead; poor kid... (don't worry -- I think he became an Electrical Engineer, so he's probably better off there anyway)

Next, clearly the kid from the article has not been properly challenged, and because of this he has some pretty screwy priorities. He apparently also has trouble with the concepts of "inside voice" and "outside voice."

Now, it's pretty obvious that this kid was surprised about his score. How can you take a test seriously that warrants this much surprise?

I liked the GRE's. It made sense. It's a computerized test that assumes an average score and keeps giving you harder and harder questions until you get one wrong. With each new question, you are awarded (or penalized) with less points. This allows them to converge on a score that hopefully means something. However, the analytical test scores are biased very high (I think 5% of all test takers get an 800/800), so there probably needs to be an adjustment there.

You know what I also liked about the GRE's? No one remembers their scores. Maybe that just means I like GRE test takers more than SAT test takers... But I think it says something either way.
 

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

iPod one

I don't know why, but when I learned about this, I felt the quality of my life rachet down a notch...

Bush bares soul with 'iPod One'

EXPLOSION at campus lab

So at OSU we have your average crappy campus newspaper (The Lantern), and today they ran the story:

Fire breaks out in campus lab

When I read this headline, a vision of a bunsen burner getting tipped over and lighting a lab notebook on fire comes into mind. You know, a fire. A simple fire. Maybe it was in a freshman lab and the TA happened to be worthless... so the fire spread... Something like that.

HOWEVER, if you read the story, you'll see that this headline probably isn't that appropriate. For one, the story includes a picture:

The windows of Newman and Wolfrom Laboratory were blown out from the fire that occurred on Friday.

That image had the caption (emphasis added):
The windows of Newman and Wolfrom Laboratory were blown out from the fire that occurred on Friday.

And then if you actually go into the article:
"The accident happened when a shelf collapsed while containers (filled with the chemical hexane) were being loaded onto it," Coleman said. "Since hexane is somewhat similar in form to lighter fluid, any sort of spark after the spill would have caused a fire. We still have to inspect the damage further, but we may decide to go around and weld all the shelves to the wall in the future."

I see... So the windows were blown out after a spark ignited some lighter fluid... So you're saying that there was an EXPLOSION.

So I think a better headline might have been "Explosion at campus lab." Ya' think?

That's kind of a silly quote too. "Oops, so we used rickety old shelves to store explosive chemicals. We might think about changing that later... Maybe..."

Also note that this was the first story about this, and it ran today, but the event happpened Friday...

It's good to be a Buckeye...

(aside: when I interned in Texas, a number of times I had to explain what a Buckeye was to those poor Texans...)
 

Behavior: Compassion and a Little Conspecific Attraction

So I just read two mildly interesting articles from SciAm. Excerpts are below.

The subject of the first article is a near toothless skull that was found that suggests that early Homo may have not only been social but very compassionate. This skull had tooth sockets that had grown over and thus clearly had been toothless for a long while during the life of the individual.

Toothless Skull Raises Questions about Compassion among Human Ancestors
In order to survive without the ability to chew or bite meat, the gummy individual would have needed to collect sufficient soft food, including bone marrow, brain matter or soft plant food. Such gathering or processing could have been done alone, but the scientists posit that other individuals may have helped because of the individual's advanced age or illness, either of which could have been responsible for the loss of his teeth. The discovery, the authors conclude, "raises interesting questions regarding social structure, life history and subsistence strategies of early Homo that warrant further investigation."

The second article discusses a new finding that some fish are attracted to coral reefs that contain certain sounds. Other studies have been done (on birds, for example) very similar to this that show that many animals have a sort of conspecific attraction that draws them toward the sounds of their own species. This is usually a pretty honest signal of the quality of a nest site (it's good to know that other of the same species are surviving there). Something similar may be going on with these fish. What's interesting is that animals tend to have pretty good memories of these sorts of things. This indicates that you can lead animals toward a managed area as a conservation measure. This also indicates that certain areas, however wonderful they may be, may not draw any animals to it if it isn't appropriately attractive. However, a big thing is that this indicates that foreign sounds (sonar, for example) may prevent an animal from ever returning to a perfectly good area.

Sounds Guide Young Fish toward Home
The discovery that fish respond to reef sounds suggests a potentially valuable management tool, the authors say. "This is a significant step forward in our understanding of their behavior, which should help us to better predict how we should conserve or harvest populations of reef fishes in the future," Simpson remarks. "It should also alert policymakers to the damage that human activities like drilling and shipping may have on fish stocks because they drown out the natural clues given by animals."

The main point here is that behavior is important. You cannot have a good conservation strategy without understanding behavioral ecology. Behavior tells us a lot about how human beings will respond to certain measures, and similarly behavior tells us how animals will respond as well. It even allows us to communicate things to the animals, like where good places to nest are.
 

Acadiversity

S.Dogg Speaks: We clean up okay! (emphasis and diverse color added)
But the big issue I found with the whole 'rankings' deal on the site was that it compared student comments at schools like UW with places like Carleton. And students at those two places have very, very different expectations about things like academics, social life, etc. In fact, UW and Carleton got the exact same grade for academics - huh?!? And it seemed like having a great party atmosphere was going to get a school a lot further than a bunch of dorks sitting around talking about stuff on a Friday night, even if the dorks are a lot happier doing that than they would be negotiating a room full of drunken people trying to hook up with each other. There should be schools for both types of people rather than all of them trying to meet some sort of 'norm' of what a college experience should be like.

 

Monday, April 11, 2005

Opportunity to suck again? Suck, Part Deux?

So there have been more links to my blog from NSF'ers who either need to verify either that they're wonderful or that they're not stupid, and following their searches, it's led me to the blogs of other grad and pre-grad students.

I thought this one was particularly harsh.

Anyway, in another one, someone mentioned that this was their third time applying, and they finally got it. Third time? You can only apply as a pre-grad and as a first-year grad. Maybe they're not talking about the GRFP? Or maybe I'll get yet another chance to feel disappointed NEXT YEAR?! Wouldn't that be great?

I really am happy with my funding now. But it leaves me hanging for two years in the middle of it. Yeah, I'm guaranteed a GRA or GTA during that time, but I'd much rather be footloose and fancy free and I LOATH the thought of grading papers again. I graded papers for four years in undergrad, and I NEVER could do it quickly. It was always a major bitch. I just hated it. Teaching was fine. Office hours were fine. In fact, I enjoyed all of that. I just HATED the distracting grading of papers. (there are tax reasons why I'd also like to have something like the GRFP, but I won't get into that)

So I dunno... Is Suck, Part Deux coming up? I should look into this... later...

Sunday, April 10, 2005

House of God: Doctor Dictionary

So in the new show Grey's Anatomy, they use the term "007" to describe new interns that have a "license to kill." Now, I have a friend who is on her way to becoming a doctor, so I asked if she had heard this term before. She hadn't, but she mentioned that most medical lingo comes from a book called House of God, which is apparently an enormously popular book among doctors.

I don't plan on picking it up anytime soon, but I thought I'd let people know just incase they were interested.

I miss SeaQuest

Is that so wrong?

I really think that SeaQuest filled the Star Trek void that TNG left and STV and DS9 were just not able to fill. DS9 had a great story line and a good way to carry over from one episode (and even season) to the next, but it was too exhausting to keep up with. STV was designed to be fun and sexy, but it was just too fun and sexy. The new Enterprise was just too little too late. I think it was supposed to bring back something TNG like, but they approached it like they did STV, and it just was too thin (and, more importantly, just too obscure and too late; people gave up by then). Plus, I think that Scott Bacula really peaked during Quantum Leap, which tried to combine science fiction with reality... If you got over the time travel thing at the beginning and the end of the show, then it wasn't that weird of a show. But because it wasn't that weird, it simply wasn't a contender to take over for TNG. Sliders was fun, but when Jerry O'Connel's brother Charlie (aka idiot) entered the show (and then later Jerry left) it really went down hill... and it still was too different to fill the TNG void... Additionally, it just got frustrating that they kept jumping from universe to universe. Each season had a new chance at getting home... but eventually you realized they'd never actually get there.

(I can see how the last part of that paragraph might turn into a commentary on Crossing Jordan as well, but I really don't know enough about that show...)

SeaQuest, however, had a good cast and a decent premise. It was fun because all of the older adults in the show would have been my age (or younger?) when I was watching it. They explored the sea, treating it as something so vast that it might as well be space. And they had neat technology, smart Wesley-like industrious kids, and lots to keep you coming back week after week.

But SeaQuest came out at a bad time. There were lots of shows trying to fill the TNG vacuum. Remember that other one? With the humans who find themselves on a planet (wrecked?) with all of those underground people that would shoot up out of the ground? What was that called? That took the DS9 path, and because of it it was too obscure to really catch on; plus it and SeaQuest split viewer numbers between them, I think. Good TV science fiction just died off.

Yes, I know there was Babylon 5, but that was also a bit too weird. It got lost in the realm of syndication too...

So we've had Stargate SG-1, but it started on showtime so people really missed the first good shows. Plus Richard Dean Anderson appeared to be the anti-MacGyver, and I think that confused some people. Now there's that new StarGate. I guess it hopes to bring in a fresh cast and introduce fresh stories. I think it'll be gone by next week.

So, to me, I really think SeaQuest seemed the most practical, and I really miss it because of that. I can't even find re-runs on anywhere.

Oh, SeaQuest, where are you? Do come back, won't you?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

People Are You Ready? "Callin' Out" by Lyrics Born

So a long while ago, I posted People Are You Ready? Let's Start the Show. It's been getting a lot of hits lately, so I thought I'd make another post to make it easier for people to find this info.

A number of very recent Coke "Bounce" commercials have featured the first few bars of "Callin' Out" by Lyrics Born. These same few bars used to be a part of Anderson Cooper 360's opening music. The first few lyrics of the song go something like,
People are you ready?
Let's start the show.

So if you're looking for this song, you can stop your search. It's "Callin' Out" by Lyrics Born.
 

Disappointing (but beautiful?) Weekend

So Mark won tickets to see Ash in the CD101 big room. You see, it's CD101 day today, and so later on tonight they'll have a big show at the PromoWest Pavilion with The Black Keys, Dresden Dolls, The Bravery, Ben Lee, Ash, and The Shatters. So today, they're having big room shows for those groups.

Now, Mark won tickets to see Ash, but he couldn't go, so he put them in Rachel's name (his fiance), who also couldn't go, so she was trying to get them transferred to Tom, who asked me. So I got all ready to go... Then Tom tells me he hasn't got a confirmation... and stops me from calling the station, because he actually doesn't want to go.

So I guess I won't be doing that. I really did want to go. I won Big Room tickets years ago, but I couldn't go that day... Mark's gone and had a really good time. I think it would be fun.

So I guess that's that. :(

Friday, April 08, 2005

Honorable Mention; Worth Mentioning?

[ This is a follow-up to Teddy "Not Top 4.904%" Bear ]

So I received the NSF fellowship rejection e-mail today. (emphasis added)
Your application for a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship has been evaluated. Although the Foundation is unable to offer you a fellowship, it is my pleasure to inform you that you have been accorded an Honorable Mention. Unless you have previously requested otherwise, your name will be included in the Honorable Mention List, which will be posted at https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/.

So I received an honorable mention. I suppose that's good, right? Right?

So I think if I would have applied before my first year of grad school, I would have had much better chances. That's what everyone else was saying then. I guess I took that for granted. I feel bad. I feel like I've let all my references down. Ya' know?

Alright, so all you people who have been searching for "NSF" and "NDSEG" all week and keep linking here from your searches, well, now you can feel better about yourself. Yes, another loser. Another reason for you to feel better than yourself. Take that feeling and a ten spot and you'll be able to get a You-Pick-2 at your local Panera. Freaks.
 

Also from Jenn...

Also from Jenn: The Farting Preacher (WMV file)

Amburgers and Wootbear

From Jenn: Amburgers and Wootbear (flash video)
This is a story about amburgers and wootbear.

It's a story about A&W.

No, it's not KFC.

Not from Jenn: Bush declines to endorse DeLay's comments
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE -- President Bush on Friday said he supports "an independent judiciary" and declined to endorse comments by House Majority Tom DeLay that were critical of judges.

"I believe in proper checks and balances," Bush said.

I don't know why I chose to juxtapose those... I think I'm just trying to compare my two sources of information...
 

CNN.com/GangTurf

So this is a fascinating piece of information:

Gang turf in Hollenbeck

You see, CNN is going to do a documentary on Hollenbeck, and all of this very detailed info came from the LAPD. It's really very detailed. It's kinda weird it's so detailed.

It's also weird that there's a vacant area on the map. Why is that one area vacant?

And why did the gangs decide that these were good names? "Krazy Ass Mexicans" and "Tiny Boys"? "Michigan Criminal Force" maybe could be renamed "Lost"...

And what about those areas where gangs coexist? Do you think it's a peaceful coexistence? Or do you think the cops just didn't have the resolution? Certain gangs just had so small territories that they grouped them in with others?

Don't ya' think?

Prince did a cover of "I Can't Make You Love Me"...

And, yet, that makes me love him.

Isn't that ironic?

Running to Monte Carlo

So I just installed this Audioscrobbler plugin to my media player (WinAmp) on a couple of the machines I use. Basically, every time a song crosses 50%, it gets logged to my Audioscrobbler profile where there's lots of things that can be done. The simplest thing to do is to see what the last 10 songs I've listened to are and to see what are the artists I listen to the most.

Now, I usually put WinAmp on shuffle and just let it pick songs for me. However, if I don't like its choices, I skip them and move on to the next choice. After I run through a bunch of songs, I look at my profile and see what I've been listening to, and you know what? I usually learn something.

I don't know if you can tell anything about someone by the music they listen to, but let's assume for fun that you can. The combination of WinAmp's shuffle and Audioscrobbler is kinda like running Monte Carlo runs on me. (or, from a systems point of view, running white noise through a linear system to discover its transfer function)

So I think Audioscrobbler will have a better picture of my musical preferences than anything I could come up with myself.

HOWEVER, there are downsides. I mean, if I leave WinAmp on when I leave the room, it'll play music, even the music I don't want to hear at the time. However, because I have the music in the first place means that I'd be willing to listen to it SOMETIME. Additionally, because I know Audioscrobbler is "watching" then I tend to try to populate my Audioscrobbler profile... and I'm not sure I'm being honest with myself, ya' know?

So there's that.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Evolutionary medicine...

So this is scary...

Risky staph infections emerge outside wards
(link fixed for bogus login)
Dangerous drug-resistant staph infections are increasingly showing up outside hospitals -- including among inmates, children and athletes, alarmed researchers find.

Dangerous drug-resistant staph infections are showing up at an alarming rate outside of hospitals and nursing homes in the United States.

New research found that in one part of the country, as many as one in five infections were picked up out in the community.

Until recently, these hard-to-treat cases were seen only in hospitals and other healthcare settings where they can spread to patients with open wounds or tubes and cause serious complications. Now doctors are seeing resistant strains among inmates, children and athletes.

In the past 50 years, treatment for staph has had to change four or five times due to strains evolving complete and total resistance to treatment. Staph is one of the best examples of how penicillin simply is not the panacea for infection. Penicillin stopped working on staph before I was born...

Hospitals become giant staph laboratories, where in this case the human beings are the specimans and the experimenters are the staph. The most resistant strains show up in hospitals.

This is exactly why doctors are very hesitant to treat someone with staph (well, and with other things too) with a very strong antibiotic unless it is absolutely necessary. Sure, that antibiotic might cure all of the infection, but there is a finite probability that there is going to be some variation of the agent causing the infection that is going to be resistant, and exposure to the treatment will kill off all of its competition and it will THRIVE. Treating someone can end up just growing even more dangerous strains inside a person.

[ Note that examples like these are EXACTLY the thing that convinced some creationists to become intelligent design "theorists." They could not deny that natural selection described this phenomena PERFECTLY, but they were not willing to accept that natural selection could act at higher more complex levels... ]

Well, these dangerous strains are finding their way outside of hospitals. That's a scary thought. Sorry, I mean, that's a scary reality.

You know what's even scarier? People want to teach creationism and intelligent design in elementary schools (and at higher levels?). Not only do people have an apathy for the fact that there simply are no science role models accessible to children, but people don't think it's important that their children be taught science and its methods. They'd rather their children be taught "fair and balanced" myth. So their kids grow up to become football players with sub-2-point GPA's and share towels with other such alpha-male apes, and they get staph, and there's no one around who has any idea about how to treat them. Fiction?
 

Two headlines, that's all...

Yay Connecticut! : Connecticut to challenge education law
HARTFORD, Connecticut (AP) -- Connecticut is preparing a lawsuit to challenge President Bush's No Child Left Behind education law, and become the first state to challenge the federal mandate in court.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday the federal lawsuit will contend the law illegally and unconstitutionally requires states and communities to spend millions more than the federal government provides for test development and school reform programs.

Probably a good idea? : Congress may extend daylight-saving time
WASHINGTON (AP) -- If Congress passes an energy bill, Americans may see more daylight-saving time.

Lawmakers crafting energy legislation approved an amendment Wednesday to extend daylight-saving time by two months, having it start on the first Sunday in March and end on the last Sunday in November.

 

Next Time I Fall - Strange Sentiment?

Circa 1986 Peter Cetera released a hit song "Next Time I Fall (click for lyrics)" that is still played today on soft rock stations. Today I happened to be sitting next to a radio that was tuned to such a soft rock station (it was not voluntarily) and the song came on the radio, and it got me thinking about it...

There's really a strange sentiment behind that song.
Listen, I really think I should write a song for you, but I'm not quite in love with you. I don't really think I'm ready for love, but I still think that it's appropriate to write a song now.

So here, let me level with you, I'm not in love, but I feel like I could be in love soon, and if I do fall in love soon, you're on the short list.

Now THAT's romantic. There's no reason to be skeptical about THAT. He's NOT just stringing the girl along for sex. Nope. No chance of that.

What ever happened to Peter Cetera? I don't really care.
 

Shameless Photo-Op

From today, NYTimes Editorial: Shameless Photo-Op, on the topic of Bush's arguments for social security reform requiring the stupidity of the American people:
Shameless Photo-Op

Published: April 7, 2005


Imagine this: On his next trip to Japan, President Bush visits the vault at the Bank of Japan, where that country's $712 billion in United States government bonds is stored. There, as the cameras roll, he announces that the bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, are, in fact, worthless i.o.u.'s. He does the same thing when he visits China and so on around the world, until he has personally repudiated the entire $2 trillion of United States debt held by foreigners.

Mr. Bush rehearsed just that act on Tuesday, when he visited the office of the federal Bureau of Public Debt in Parkersburg, W.Va. He posed next to a file cabinet that holds the $1.7 trillion in Treasury securities that make up the Social Security trust fund. He tossed off a comment to the effect that the bonds were not "real assets." Later, in a speech at a nearby university, he said: "There is no trust fund. Just i.o.u.'s that I saw firsthand."

Social Security takes in more money than it needs to pay current beneficiaries, and the excess is invested in the Treasury securities that Mr. Bush was discussing. They carry the same legal and political obligations as all other forms of Treasury debt, every penny of which has always been paid in full and on time.

In his speech, Mr. Bush went on to acknowledge that future generations would have to make good on the debt. But the intended meaning of the photo-op was clear. In the hope of persuading people to privatize Social Security - a move that would only add to the growing debt burden for future generations - Mr. Bush wants Americans to believe that the trust fund is a joke. But if the trust fund is a joke, so is the full faith and credit of the United States.

Fortunately, the governments, institutions and individuals who hold United States debt can tell a publicity stunt from a policy statement. Still, casting aspersions on a basic obligation of the United States government is insulting and irresponsible.

 

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Without DeLay?

So if you haven't heard yet, on March 28, 2005, the WALL STREET JOURNAL's EDITORIAL SECTION (which is typically very conservative) published a scathing editorial about Tom DeLay, the house majority leader:

Daily DeLay: Drum beat got VERY LOUD: Wall Street Journal weighs in

It turns out other conservatives are coming out against him too. When DeLay said that the out-of-control courts would have to answer for their actions (implying IMPEACHMENT?!) Senate majority leader Bill Frist said that he agreed with the courts.

Recent ads have drummed up public support for ousting DeLay. He's done plenty of evil in his own district, but Shiavo was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Want to sign a petition to get rid of DeLay? Go here. Want reasons to do so?
Want to do more?
So there's that.

Obesity studies

So a little while ago I got into a research-defending argument at The Carnegie Vandertramp: This is what I love about Obesity. I was told to stop commenting and keep it at my own blog...

So today I read SignOnSandiego.com: Flabs runs up tab, study indicates and thought it was a good opportunity to post here. (that article kind of has a rude title, doesn't it?)

You see, the article indicates that "Californians' weight hikes medical costs, hinders productivity":
Overweight, obese and inactive Californians cost $21.7 billion annually in medical care, workers' compensation and lost productivity, according to a study commissioned by the California Department of Health Services.

And this is exactly why these studies need to be done and their results need to be made public and perhaps influence public policy. This isn't meaning to give people an excuse for being obese. It's meant to show that, for one, there may be other factors that make it easier for some people to be obese ont he same diets as other people who are thin. It's mainly meant to show that if these studies aren't done, then obesity is going to have economic consequences that affect everyone, not just the obese.

If there's anything science can do to thin out the obesity numbers, then I think that's a good thing. Besides, making food healthier and leaner is probably going to be good across the board, right? (unless it makes it zaps food's density so much that thin people with hefty metabolisms end up having to eat lots and lots more...)

Anyway, I don't really have much more to say on the topic, but I didn't want to post that link on that old topic... So I figured I'd post it here.

And they fought like... engineer poets... or something...

So I meant to post about this earlier, but I forgot. However, because the April 15 deadline is coming up, I just got a reminder e-mail.

So the College of Engineering (and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences) is sponsoring a poetry form. This forum is just for engineers and scientists. You see, as mentioned in the February 14 announcement,
Research has suggested a need for more liberal arts education and experiences within the undergraduate curricula of technical and science-based majors, particularly exemplified in recent updates to engineering accreditation standards. Humanities-based experiences – particularly in the form of creating writing activities – have been recommended to provide students with tools to communicate better with the public and across disciplines. It is a strong belief of the organizers of the forum that students within CoE and CFAES are talented individuals whose interests lie not only in the scientific and technical arena but also within the humanities and the arts. The 2005 CoE/CFAES Poetry Forum seeks to enliven interest in creative self-expression amongst students and faculty within the department, as well as create a Renaissance learning experience for all involved.

And they're not kidding about accreditation standards. This recommendation comes straight down from ABET, the organization that accredits all engineering programs. Engineers should, at least intellectually, be Renaissance professionals. Most engineers spend a majority of their time writing, and those who are at least competent write in so much third-person omniscient passive voice (I know the academics who are reading this are probably cringing) that they start *THINKING* that way. Some of them even TALK that way. So there's definitely a need of some reform.

Now, I'm not passing any judgement. I know that a lot of very proud engineering students are passing judgement, and a few of the know-it-alls are submitting masterpieces to show just how much better they are than everyone else (it's an engineering complex)... But I do think it's an interesting topic.

Now, something else that I think is funny is that the title (as in, what's at the very top of the window) of every page is "Department of Food." Now, I looked at the page sources and saw that the poor author was using Frontpage to compose those pages, so I'm assuming that she was editing her template for all of the rest of those pages when she pulled up the properties to edit the title. She was going to type "Department of Food, Agricultural, blah blah blah," but someone interrupted her, and she never went back to fix it. And so now you have "Department of Food," which is just kinda silly.

So that's that.
 

What a mess...

There is so much mess surrounding the topics involved in this article.

Taiwan head to be at Pope funeral

Ugh...
 

The Taming of the Blog: Are you an Odelay or a Sea Change?

Going along with the sentiment of Guys Suck...

The Taming of the Blog: Are you an Odelay or a Sea Change?
Are you an Odelay or a Sea Change?

Listening to Beck while riding the bus to campus this morning, I realized that you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite Beck album. Then I realized that's total crap - no, you can't.

posted by J.Bro @ 4/6/2005 08:28:00 AM

L-O-L

I think a lot of the humor is in the timing of the execution, but in my head it's well-timed, and I think it's pretty funny.

Alright, enough of that.
 

Ruffles have ridges! And so does ham...

Recently I had to cut up a ham. It was a cold cooked ham. Basically a left-over from someone's dinner. It was in the fridge, but I noticed no one was eating it (because it was a big slab of ham) so I cut it into slices. And that got me thinking...

Every ham I've cut has always had these nice ridges down its outside (like the way your skin wrinkles up when it gets soggy) that make perfect guides for cutting slices out of it. There is usually about a quarter inch (on average) distance from trough to trough, which makes for decent-sized slices.

Now, are those ridges there naturally? Or have they been added somehow artificially just to make cutting the ham that much more fun?

This is what I get for not growing up on a farm... Well, that and a lack of conservative values...

Convulsive space: Guys suck.

Convulsive space: Guys suck.

Guys suck.

Guys are so effin lame. Do they have feelings?

posted by Sophist at 3:18 PM

1 Comments:

J.Bro said...

I have eight feelings - hungry, tired, bored, angry at Bush, vaguely worried about global warming, lustful, envious, and shiny.

8:44 AM

L-O-L... Shiny

That J.Bro humor really gets me every time.
 

maps.google.com now has satellite

maps.google.com now has a satellite view (in the upper-right hand corner). It's pretty nifty.

No Constitutional Right to a Lap Dance?

Court: There's No Constitutional Right To A Lap Dance
LA HABRA, Calif. -- There's no constitutional right to get up-close and personal during a lap dance.

That's the gist of a ruling from a federal appeals court. The panel has refused the appeal of a Southern California strip club owner who wanted a local "2-foot rule" overturned.

The city of La Habra requires that lap dancers stay at least 2 feet away from customers during their performances.

Badi "Bill" Gammoh, who owns the Taboo Theater, contends the rule infringes on freedom of expression. The strippers said they also lost money because of the requirement.

A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider a January ruling that upheld the 2-foot rule. But Gammoh's lawyer said their fight isn't over yet.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this because I frequent strip clubs; I don't frequent strip clubs.

However, I think the 2-foot rule is a little silly. I suppose without it some girls who don't want to get closer might take a cut in tips... However, I'm not convinced with it every girl doesn't take a cut in tips.

And it might just encourage some guys to stop going to strip clubs and start hiring prostitutes illegally. That hurts a legal industry and helps an illegal one (though I'm not saying I completely understand that law either).

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Convulsive space: Those little white earbuds

Convulsive space: Those little white earbuds

Sometimes I put on my headphones for this same reason when I sit in my office. I could just close the door, but there are two other people in my office to deal with... And I don't want to be OBVIOUS.
 

Audioscrob...what?

So I just ran into Audioscrobbler, which really gives a better answer to Yes, but do *I* like sad songs? and Okay, I like sad songs.

From www.audioscrobbler.com:
Audioscrobbler builds a profile of your musical taste using a plugin for your media player (Winamp, iTunes, XMMS etc..). Plugins send the name of every song you play to the Audioscrobbler server, which updates your musical profile with the new song. Every person with a plugin has their own page on this site which shows their listening statistics. The system automatically matches you to people with a similar music taste, and generates personalised recommendations.

 

Scientific American: Okay, We Give Up

So on April fools day, the editors of Scientific American published a really great editorial. You see, not only does it fit in with the discussion of evolution, natural selection, intelligent design, creationism, etc., but it also fits in with the topics surrounding Al Franken's Lying Liars... book.

Plus, it's just plain funny.

Scientific American: Editorial: Okay, We Give Up (We feel so ashamed) (link is now fixed)
There's no easy way to admit this. For years, helpful letter writers told us to stick to science. They pointed out that science and politics don't mix. They said we should be more balanced in our presentation of such issues as creationism, missile defense and global warming. We resisted their advice and pretended not to be stung by the accusations that the magazine should be renamed Unscientific American, or Scientific Unamerican, or even Unscientific Unamerican. But spring is in the air, and all of nature is turning over a new leaf, so there's no better time to say: you were right, and we were wrong.

In retrospect, this magazine's coverage of so-called evolution has been hideously one-sided. For decades, we published articles in every issue that endorsed the ideas of Charles Darwin and his cronies. True, the theory of common descent through natural selection has been called the unifying concept for all of biology and one of the greatest scientific ideas of all time, but that was no excuse to be fanatics about it. Where were the answering articles presenting the powerful case for scientific creationism? Why were we so unwilling to suggest that dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago or that a cataclysmic flood carved the Grand Canyon? Blame the scientists. They dazzled us with their fancy fossils, their radiocarbon dating and their tens of thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles. As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence.

Moreover, we shamefully mistreated the Intelligent Design (ID) theorists by lumping them in with creationists. Creationists believe that God designed all life, and that's a somewhat religious idea. But ID theorists think that at unspecified times some unnamed superpowerful entity designed life, or maybe just some species, or maybe just some of the stuff in cells. That's what makes ID a superior scientific theory: it doesn't get bogged down in details.

Good journalism values balance above all else. We owe it to our readers to present everybody's ideas equally and not to ignore or discredit theories simply because they lack scientifically credible arguments or facts. Nor should we succumb to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their fields better than, say, U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do. Indeed, if politicians or special-interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction. To do otherwise would be elitist and therefore wrong. In that spirit, we will end the practice of expressing our own views in this space: an editorial page is no place for opinions.

Get ready for a new Scientific American. No more discussions of how science should inform policy. If the government commits blindly to building an anti-ICBM defense system that can't work as promised, that will waste tens of billions of taxpayers' dollars and imperil national security, you won't hear about it from us. If studies suggest that the administration's antipollution measures would actually increase the dangerous particulates that people breathe during the next two decades, that's not our concern. No more discussions of how policies affect science either-so what if the budget for the National Science Foundation is slashed? This magazine will be dedicated purely to science, fair and balanced science, and not just the science that scientists say is science. And it will start on April Fools' Day.