Monday, May 30, 2005

Worse than Christmas Music

I didn't think it was possible for radio stations to play anything worse than Christmas music, but then I turned on the radio on Memorial Day, and I realized that my fellow Americans can do MUCH worse.

Patriotic music (specifically songs, but it's probably okay to generalize to "music" here) is possibly the worst music ever written. It's not catchy. When the words aren't sappy they're creepy. The songs don't make any statements. The songs make absolutely no contribution to civilization.

For example, you're not actually "proud to be an American" if the only reason you think your proud to be an American is because the song keeps going around and around in your head. That's not pride. That's brainwashing.

I remember having to sing this rubbish as a grade school kid. (by high school this patriotic crap was replaced with religious crap) Grade school children should not be allowed to say that they are proud to be an American because there is no way they could possibly be PROUD to be an AMERICAN. If you asked them for what, exactly, are their proud, they wouldn't know! They'd just SAY that they were proud because that's what they were told to say!

People who are proud to be Americans make choices in spite of other options being available as an assertion of that pride. People who are proud to be Americans question their leaders and cherish their civil liberties. People who are proud to be Americans know what they'd be giving up if they WEREN'T Americans! People who are proud to be Americans DON'T SING ABOUT IT!!

Well, that's probably being too harsh. It's probably fine to sing about being proud to be an American, but actually SAY SOMETHING. The Boss sang "Born in the USA" as a statement about current events. It showed he was connected to his country and cared about its future. When a country singer tells me how proud they are, it just tells me that they want to make a buck off of masturbating the low lying branches of the population tree.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Sex and the City Reruns

I used to like the show. I got a kick out of it. It was fun.

Now every aspect of the show reminds me of every frustrating part of my last relationship. I'm pretty sure she was in cahoots with the writers. Of course, she wasn't, so that made me even more afraid. Maybe that's just how things are. Any male 24 and up is doomed to a relationship with a lunatic. Sex and the City isn't fiction, it's fate.

Recent chats with Kristen about her own marriage ambitions (emphasis on AMBITIONS) and her own reflections about her similar friends made me start to wonder about the amount of sanity left in the world. Then I figured that was just Kristen.

So I ran into another friend of mine who has been dating someone who I thought was a very reasonable young woman for about a year now. I thought it would be fun to reflect on my recent observations with him, my not-yet-engaged friend. Guys like to have fun talking about this stuff. It gives us strength.

Well, it turns out that his apparently-not-so-reasonable girlfriend has been really pushing him into marriage. She says things like, "I don't want to be your girlfriend. I don't want to be your fiance! I want to be your WIFE!" HOLY CRAP! Don't people get LOCKED UP for saying things like that?! So he starts telling me that he doesn't ever imagine splitting up with her, so he starts coming up with plans. You see, every woman my age has told me that apparently men my age must always ask the parents (specifically the father?) first (something that was unheard of for both of my parents, which I thought was odd because I figured this was just some sort of resurgencce of something old and romantic... turns out it's just contrived!). So he's coming up with ways to meet all the brothers, ask the parents, and ask her all in the same WEEK just because it'd be convenient. Clearly I think he's rushing. I tell him to slow down. I know that what he wants is just to get out of school, line up a job, move with her, and THEN take care of all of this.

So a few nights ago I was a little tipsy and my friend asked me to hold up his girlfriend as he ran to take care of something else (she was a lot more tipsy than me). Somehow the topic of their relationship came up, and I tried to give her as much confidence as I could that she was really important to him... so she asks something like, "So, do you think he'll stay with me?"

EXCUSE ME?! You're PARANOID?! First of all, YES, I think he will. There's NO CHANCE that he's planning on anything else!! This should be OBVIOUS to her!! The only thing that might put a wedge between them is her own INSISTENCE on him rushing into a wedding ASAP. (kinda ironic, huh?) Of course, I couldn't say any of this. All of this stuff between them is very secret. So I say instead, "Well, I don't really talk about this stuff with him, but I know you're more important to him than any other girlfriend, so blah blah blah..." She was drunk, and he was on his way back anyway, so it didn't really matter.

Now, that night was also the 24th birthday of one of our engaged friends. He had to get up early the next day. The guy picking him up at 8AM gave him a phone call around 11PM to remind him of the pick up. During the phone call, our engaged friend told his fiance to hold a second while he took care of the call. Well, she ended up being upset that he prioritized his phone call over her. The rest of the night was filled with explitives between them (originating from her, the faithful fiance). We took him back to their apartment after she was nowhere to be found. She ended up getting a ride home somehow (taxi? random guy in the bar?) later... and I think he counted on her just sleeping it off. Happy birthday, Mark. Poor guy. I have to imagine everything is okay now... I hope.

When you're a teenager you have lots of complaints about the opposite sex. You know what they should teach you in sex ed? It only gets worse. You think you've got it bad figuring out what a guy does on his first date? Kid, you ain't seen nothing yet. Enjoy the minor leagues while you can. Try to take your "Irish Wedding Bands" seriously and pretend you're all grown up... There's no reason to want to go much farther than that.

Father of the Bride is on HBO right now. That's a scary thought... Maybe there's another level after this. Maybe it just KEEPS on getting worse. Think you've conquered marriage? Ha! Now here comes kids. Think you've raised them?! HA! They get married and have kids themselves. It never ends. Enjoy each day like it's your last, because the next one is only going to be worse...

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Why intelligent design isn't.

The New Yorker's Fact section has a good article this issue about the problems with Intelligent Design.

Why intelligent design isn't. (by H. Allen Orr)

If you've been convinced by Behe in Darwin's Black Box that I.D. is worth considering, I really think you should read this article and rethink the issue.

The whole article is very good, but I want to quote a section toward the end that highlights how intelligent design proponents view this as a political issue and not an issue of science. (this paragraph comes after a discussion of how I.D. has not made any nontrivial predictions or aided in the pursuit of science in any way) (The Discovery Insitutue is one of the major groups pushing I.D. upon the world)

In 1999, a document from the Discovery Institute was posted, anonymously, on the Internet. This Wedge Document, as it came to be called, described not only the institute’s long-term goals but its strategies for accomplishing them. The document begins by labelling the idea that human beings are created in the image of God “one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built.” It goes on to decry the catastrophic legacy of Darwin, Marx, and Freud—the alleged fathers of a “materialistic conception of reality” that eventually “infected virtually every area of our culture.” The mission of the Discovery Institute’s scientific wing is then spelled out: “nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies.” It seems fair to conclude that the Discovery Institute has set its sights a bit higher than, say, reconstructing the origins of the bacterial flagellum.

They served their time!!

I cannot understand how people actually think that sex offenders should be treated differently than other citizens with regard to funding for Viagra.

Block sex offenders' Viagra, state says

These people have served their time. Their doctors have prescribed Viagra to them. These people already have to announce their presence to their neighbors. For all we know, these people are having healthy sexual relationships that are greatly helped by Viagra, and those healthy sexual relationships are keeping them from slipping back into sex crime.

This is cruel and very unusual punishment. The media is advertising this issue as if the government is paying for these people's criminal escapades. If these people were doing crime again, they'd be caught and wouldn't be getting prescriptions for Viagra.

You know, John Edwards was right. Our liberties are dwindling like a flickering candle. At any moment, it could go out. That's pretty scary.

Heaven ain't close in a place like this

So tonight was the night of The Killers concert. Hot Hot Heat opened for them, and they did well. The Killers were VERY GOOD. I ESPECIALLY liked how they closed the show with "All These Things That I've Done." I danced and held hands with the woman in front of me. ("I Got Soul, but I'm Not a Soldier!")

Now, before the show we made fun of Tom for something he did recently that I refrain from discussing here because it's really too embarassing for him. Anyway, to move attention off of him, he started discussing a night when they got me drunk and I drunk dialed a number of old girlfriends and confessed many things that were better left dead. Well, Lauren Sweat's name came up during his stories, and this was probably the first time he ever brought up Lauren Sweat's name, and that's why it was especially funny when I ran into Lauren Sweat at the concert.

Apparently Lauren owns a condo on Bethel (and I'm in an apartment on Henderson!) and she's building another condo elsewhere. She's only a month older than me. We're both 24. Hearing about how grown up she was really made me feel young and silly. Apparently Lauren ran into Dave Robers as well sorta recently. That's kinda interesting.

Anyway, she was off after the concert to Grandview. We stayed at Fat Eddie's where I ran into Maryke, an undergrad from my EEOB 740 class!

So we ended up heading to Brother's after that, where poor Mark (the birthday boy, turning 24 tonight) got into a fight with his unreasonable fiance who has the face of most of the Super Vixens on Bravo right now, which is sorta interesting. At Brother's I danced probably a little too close to Schwinn... watched Alan almost pick a fight with three cops... and waited for Mark to resolve things with Rachel (which, of course, never happened)...

So it was a strange night. Oh, and Liza never showed up. I hope she had a better night.

Friday, May 27, 2005

It's Nice When the Hicks Get Together

So last night while walking to the VC, we stopped at an intersection behind four college-aged women and two college-aged men. The four women were holding hands and three of them had a cowboy hat on . . .

[ You see, that's when we realized that there was a Kenny Chesney concert going on at the Schott, and these six people were walking to it. ]

. . . So while we waited for an opportunity to cross Lane Ave., we noticed that these four women were pretty drunk already. They had probably be "pre-gaming" before the big Chesney concert. We noticed this because they were stumbling around and having a hard time forming coherent sentences. I'm guessing they were holding hands with each other to maintain a little group stability.

At this point, one of them decided to tell a joke, and I'm going to repeat it here. I'm not repeating it because I think it's a funny joke. I'm repeating it because the telling of the joke was surreal. The telling of the joke said so much about the four women in front of me, three of them with cowboy hats on...
Female 1: Hey, what do you call a bunch of black people in the middle of some leaves?
Female 2: I dunno.
Female 1: Bran flakes.
<laughter from all four females>
Female 3: It's RAISON BRAN, you idiot!
<laughter from all four females>
Female 1: Oh, whatever, it's the same thing!
<laughter from all four females>

So the joke was bad enough... But the stupidity that led to the poorly executed punch line says even more about the four high quality females in front of me.

Unfortunately, all four of these females would have had no trouble finding a date with any eligible alpha male, so unless they went driving later that night while still inebriated, their genes will live on long after I die. What's really depressing is that once we got to the VC, we encountered lots and lots of other similar looking women with cowboy hats, low cut jeans, and tiny shirts. All of them would probably someday soon have children, and that saddens me.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Last.FM Too?! Oh, my!

I've had a couple of blog postings about AudioScrobbler, which is able to keep a record of which music you've played locally, give you statistics about your music habits, and then find people with similar music taste. If you mine this data, you can then learn about other artists which you have a high chance of liking.

However, I just noticed that AudioScrobbler is just one half of Last.FM, which incorporates all of the features of AudioScrobbler but goes even further!

With Last.FM, it will build a custom radio station for you and as it plays songs will learn from your preferences to further customize the radio station. It becomes your personal station.

Now, here's the fun part. You can listen to OTHER PEOPLE'S radio stations as well! Rather than just SEEING what other people listen to, you can listen to what other people listen to. As you listen, there's a little window up that allows you to add those songs to your profile, say that you "love them," or say that you're "banning them." Thus, listening to other people's radio stations allows you to further customize your own.

It's pretty sweet. And if you're very paranoid about downloading music, this way you're being completely legit. Last.FM is 100% legal and every song you listen to can be added to your AudioScrobbler profile just like you played it locally.

There are lots of other neat things about these two that I haven't explored yet. Could it possibly be even more fun?

"20 Hours in America" (Part 2 of 2)

From Part 2 of 2:

[ The President pauses a photographer before a photo with a man who has met every President since Hoover and met Hoover (and shook his hand) the day before the Great Depression started. Bartlett asks the guy jokingly who is favorite President was after explaining that he assured his grand daughter it would be him. The guy responds, "Oh, no, I would have to say it was Truman." Bartlett responds with something like, "Oh, well, I was kidding, but Truman was a good guy if you're into that sort of thing." As the President keeps thinking about how far the Dow fell (a record) that day and how he's hoping for the Tokyo markets to do very well, he pauses and goes over to talk to Charlie about stopping the photo op because he's superstitious... After a short conversation... Charlie goes over to the photo op guy... ]

Charlie: "I'm sorry, we're going to have to reschedule [this picture] for tomorrow."

Picture Guy: "Oh, ... why?"

Charlie: "You're spooking the hell out of the Presi..."

President Bartlett: "Scheduling."

L-O-L

Hoosiers

In the "20 Hours in America" (Part 1 of 2) episode:

Toby: "What's a Hoosier?"

Teenage Bartlett Local Volunteer in Indiana: "A person from Indiana."

HA!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"20 Hours in America" (Part 1 of 2)

"20 Hours in America" (Part 1 of 2) is quite possibly one of the most entertaining West Wings ever.

It's the one where Josh and Toby get left in Indiana. They miss the motorcade.

Part 2 is more sentimental. Part 1 is just... entertaining. Wonderfully entertaining.

iPod and WinAmp

For all of you kids with your iPods and your pizza-pies and your Windows machines and your WinAmp...

IPod Plug-In Sets Music Free
IPod users are raving about a plug-in that makes the Winamp digital jukebox a better way to manage the iPod than Apple's iTunes.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Concerts

So apparently the Big Free Concert this weekend wasn't only The Roots (with Cody so they could sing "Seed 2.0"), but it was also KEANE. I think that would have been a fun concert to go to... If you didn't mind standing packed among thousands of undergrads.

The Killers are playing at Promowest on Friday. I didn't realize it until after the tickets were sold out. However, today I was pointed to EBay which was selling a single ticket for $40 and two for $80, however if you bought the two you got free overnight shipping. However, most of the people I'd take with me are already going.

So I asked my ex-girlfriend to go with me. We've been getting along a lot better lately (in preparation for Mark's wedding in July), and I think it'd be fun to go to a concert with her and mutual friends anyway. However, she's going to the The Killers' Saturday night Cleveland show though. I guess she's partly worried that the Cleveland show will be ruined by the Columbus show... However, it's not like a movie where the plot is given away. You already know most if not all of the songs, and if there are any surprises, there will be some unique to Columbus and some to Cleveland. PLUS, I've heard that The Killers are *GREAT* live.

So here I am... hoping my ex-girlfriend will give me $40 for a ticket.

Actually, here I am hoping those tickets get here in time. They were supposed to have free overnight shipping from Austin, TX. We shall see...

The Stem Cell Showdown

So this is an interesting mess:

Kirk to get vote on stem cell research, but there's a catch
Here is the backstory to a vote expected Tuesday on a contentious House bill to allow more federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, the pivotal role played by Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), and why he was forced to apologize for using a controversial tactic to advance his cause.

Carol Lin on CNN

I hate Carol Lin
Yes, yes, I do
I hate it when she's on CNN
I even hate her dimples too

CBC Podcasts

The CBC is going to start Podcasting:

CBC Radio Podcasting
This is a pilot project. CBC hopes to explore the potential for podcasting and has chosen the two shows listed above as test subjects. Your feedback on this process is much appreciated.

That's really interesting. I knew Podcasts were popular, but I didn't think they were at the point where radio stations would actually start using them!

Google Quote of the Day

Google's quote of the day today was kinda funny:
After two years in Washington, I often long for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood.
--Fred Thompson

What's also funny is that I read this quote as The Hunt for Red October was on in the background.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Ohio is for Lovers?

Every time that song by Hawthorne Heights comes on the TV or the radio I do a double-take.

"What? Did he just say his heart was in Ohio? What? Ohio is for lovers?"

It never fails, even though I'm well aware that is what he said and that is the title of the song. It's just.. so silly.. and strange.

My So Called Noggin'

So tonight I noticed that Noggin' was running back-to-back episodes of _My So Called Life_, which brought back middle/high school memories. It was nice to see Angela obsess about that one dufus one last time.

And then it got me to thinking... At my parents' place, the cable provider (Insight Communications) does not provide Noggin' (it's a subscription service). For some reason, that really disappointed me for about a split second. I felt like it was some great injustice that a cable provider would dare not provide NOGGIN' as part of its standard package. NOGGIN', the station that plays MY SO CALLED LIFE!!!

Then I realized that it was NOGGIN' and I was talking about MY SO CALLED LIFE, so I very quickly got over it.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

What's a kaiser? Is it like a chief?

So earlier I had heard songs like "I Predict A Riot" and "Oh My God" by Kaiser Chiefs on CD101. I got the impression that they were a good band, but for some reason they didn't sit with me long enough for me to actually look for more music by them.

However, today I heard a really good review of them on NPR's ATC, and they played some other snippets, and I liked what I heard, so I investigated further.

The NPR reviewer was right. The Kaiser Chiefs are yet another good thing to come out of the England. I'm a fan.

Eat right, earn an iPod

Should healthy eating be rewarded?
Secondary school pupils in Glasgow are being offered the chance to win iPods, Xbox consoles and theatre tickets with a new healthy eating swipecard system.

The city council is encouraging pupils at the city's 29 secondary schools to ditch junk food in favour of a healthier diet.

Pupils gain points by eating healthy foods and the more they earn, the greater the prize.

About 30,000 youngsters can use the swipecard and the council says it is confident they will not turn their noses up at salad if it means winning an iPod.

Threat of Bird Flu Pandemic Rises

Threat of Bird Flu Pandemic Rises
"All countries, both those affected and unaffected by avian H5N1 ... should move ahead as quickly as possible and develop or finalize practical operational pandemic preparedness plans," the panel advised.

Scary stuff.

Friday, May 20, 2005

U.S. vs. South Korea ("The Science President")

So it's interesting that these two articles came out on the same day:

U.S.: Bush threatens veto on stem cell research bill

South Korea: Stem cells tailored to patients

Kinda makes you proud to be an American, huh?

What's interesting is that there's speculation that there's enough Congressional support for the bill to OVERRIDE a veto! If Bush feels like he's got some mandate from the electorate, then why would they elect a Congress that is so different from him?

I also remember Bush bragging about being the first President to give support for this research during the 2004 election, which was supposed to spin his 2000 ruling as if it was in favor of the research rather than against it. I guess we now know his true colors, huh?
"I made [it] very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life, I'm against that," Bush told reporters. "Therefore if the bill does that, I will veto it."

It would mark the first veto of Bush's presidency.

Officials said the administration will stress that the president is not opposed to stem cell research but remains concerned about how how taxpayer dollars are spent.

I dunno. To me, he sounds pretty opposed to embryonic stem cell research.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Quadraphonic Shocks

In one of the advanced controls labs we took together, a friend of mine did work with using active noise cancellation to deaden the sound at a particular point. This is the same sort of technology that's built into those Bose headphones that they sell on TV that deadens the noise around you while not deadening the sound you want to hear.

Well, as I learned from this month's IEEE Spectrum magazine, Bose has been applying this same technology to vehicle suspension, and the results are really extraordinary. (Images below should help demonstrate this)

You see, for the past 25 years Bose and Delphi have been trying to use active noise cancellation technologies to improve car suspensions. Delphi's system has decent performance but is lacking in particular areas. Bose, however, has a really impressive system that is very close to being implemented in vehicles on teh market.

Even though Bose was ready to file patents for these technologies in the 80's, they knew it wouldn't be ready to sell until now, so they didn't want to risk the patent running out. That's why they've only recently patented this technology.

What were the "speed bumps?" Primarily it was the actuators. Bose couldn't find actuators powerful enough, so they built their own. Now they have "quadraphonic shocks."

Take a look at the IEEE article: Easy Ride

The figure, Smoothing the Road, shows an example of them working over a bumpy surface. It's really amazing. The top image is without the new system. The bottom image is with the new system.
Smoothing the Road (top: normal; bottom: quadraphonic shocks)

Even more amazing, perhaps, is the figure, Quadraphonic Shocks, which shows how they work around a tight turn. The vehicle on the right doesn't even look like it's turning!
Quadraphonic Shocks (left: normal tight turn; right: quadraphonic tight turn)

That's pretty neat.

Malibu Bushy

I received this e-mail today from the director of the ElectroScience Laboratory. It was sent out over the ESL mailing list to all ESL employees (I used to be one). I thought it was kinda funny in lots and lots of places.

[ A somewhat related topic: President 2000 Barbie: The White House or Bust (a double meaning for "Bust"?) ]
Subject: U.S. President Doll

Dear all,

Yesterday, I was told that a doll of the President Bush was placed next to the mailboxes. Also, several people at ESL came to me and told me that they felt offended and disgusted about this kind of display. Needless to say, such a display compromises the congeniality and disrupts our working environment.

Simply put, such items have no place in any work environment. It degrades our intellectual pursuits, and is an insult to our government, our sponsors and the University as a whole.

I hope that in the future, we will all join together to protect our work environment from such displays or acts of disrespect that destroy our ability to have an environment which is free of intimidation in pursuing cutting edge research and educating students who will one day carry Ohio State's pride and be our ambassadors to the country and the world.

John

--
John L. Volakis
Roy and Lois Chope Chair Professor
Director, ElectroScience Lab.
ECE Department
The Ohio State University

Explaining my success in sports...

So apparently the big reason why I don't have a lot of sports trophies is because I haven't been wearing enough RED!

Scarlet Uniforms Linked to Success in Sports

Alas, my poor fashion sense does it to me again... Damn you, fashion sense. :(

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

So what does 1/1000 mean?

Today on ATC, Richard Harris did story on an hourly earthquake forecast system in California. He mentioned that once the system predicted a 1/1000 chance of an earthquake before a major earthquake occurred, and thus clearly the system was "wrong."

I wonder what he would have considered "right" in that case. Would it be right if it was 300/1000? Or 750/1000? What if it gave a probability of 900/1000 or even 999/1000 and the earthquake did not occur? Would the system be "wrong?"

Later in the report he mentioned that this system has been more accurate in its predictions than weather forecasting systems because so few earthquakes have occurred. I wonder how he determines when a weather forecasting system is "right?" Apparently the earthquake system is "right" when it predicts 1/1000 and an earthquake does not happen, but when a weather forecasting system predicts a 40/100 chance of rain and it rains, then the weather forecasting system is "wrong."

Fascinating stuff.

This I Believe

In April, NPR started running a segment called This I Believe which is a resurrection of a 1950's radio show hosted by Edward R. Murrow.

It's kinda fun. People write a short (350-500 word; about 3 minutes when read out loud) essay stating one of their core personal beliefs. Submissions are then selected and then the author reads them out loud on the air. Sometimes they're funny, but they're often interesting and in general fun to listen to.

They give some Essay-Writing Tips. I'm thinking about putting one together. Even if I don't get selected, I think it would be fun to do. It's like the good ol' "Power of the Pen" prompts from middle school, ya' know?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Coincidence?

So today I was driving behind someone with two bumper stickers.

The first was a small "W" with an even smaller "THE PRESIDENT" underneath it.

The second had two parts. The first was a hand holding one of those puppetteer things (looks like a big plus with the wires coming off of it) that said something about "EMPIRE" on one side and "Join the Phamily" on the other. It had white outlined text on a black background.

Now... I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure the latter bumper sticker was endorsing conservative fasciest neo-Nazi participation, and I think the former was endorsing George W. Bush for President.

It's nice to know that the two things that that person felt enthusiastic enough to place a bumper sticker on their car about were George W. Bush and Nazi participation.

Over-compensating, much?

Personally, I think he's overcompensating for being evil.

Gates gives $250 million additional funds for health research

I mean, that's great. Dirty money is still money. I mean, personally I think money made from selling crack (or our new top fear, crystal meth (eeek!)) would be cleaner, but it's still cash.

I just think, as Bill Gates outlines jovially in his book, Gates has strategies that are inherently evil that he's 100% okay with doing them... and he thinks that might make him look bad. So this is just one more strategy.

Note that this has nothing to do with his conscience. If it has to do with anyone's conscience, it has to do with influencing the conscience of the people who hate him or have cases against him.

I've likened Gates to a mob boss many a time. I think this further confirms that analogy. He's a mob boss, taking care of his people, making people okay with his rule just because they are afraid and in debt to him.

He's a bad man.

The XBox360 Really is THAT BAD

Sony PlayStation Says "Bring It On, Microsoft!"
Donning a processor 35 times faster than PS2, the PS3 will act as a DVD player, DVD recorder, and DVR (digital video recorder), in addition to playing PS1 and PS2 games.

Microsoft touted the new Xbox as an entertainment hub, but the jury is still out as to what it has on Sony's version, as every Xbox feature seems to be answered and one-upped.

The next generation console will use high capacity Blu-Ray Disc ROM technology to answer Xbox's current generation hardware, a 54-gigabyte hard drive to Xbox's 20 gigabytes, and seven Bluetooth wireless remote control support compared to Xbox's maximum of four.

PlayStation 3 also comes with an ability to link to 2 separate screens as well as to PlayStaionPortables.

Other features include Memory Stick, SD, and CompactFlash media slots, a bay for an optional hard drive, and broadband Ethernet connections for real time networking, Internet access, and chat.

The XBox came out along side the PS2, and because of that it failed miserably. Microsoft is hoping bringing out the XBox360 6 months ahead of time will give it an edge before everyone realizes it is a waste of money. Hopefully no poor soul falls for the MS blunder.

If you want to waste your money on a video game console, you really should save it for the PS3.
 

Monday, May 16, 2005

'Gender gap' Stats: USA 'ranks poorly'

'Gender gap' is biggest in Egypt
Women in Egypt are the furthest behind men in terms of economic equality, while no country has closed the "gender gap" entirely, a new survey has found.

Sweden has the smallest difference between the sexes, followed by Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Finland, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The report singled out the US for particular criticism, saying it "lags behind many Western European nations".

It was a "disturbing fact" that women still trailed men, the WEF said.

US 'ranks poorly'

The US, the world's largest economy, came 17th in the WEF's equality table.

It "ranks poorly on the specific dimensions of economic opportunity and health and well-being, compromised by meagre maternity leave, the lack of maternity leave benefits and limited government-provided childcare," the WEF said.

The Cost of Microsoft Being on Top

Microsoft updates desktop search toolbar

This is undoubtedly a response to the Google Desktop search toolbar and Tiger's Spotlight feature. Both have been cited as examples of innovation that is going outside of Microsoft far ahead of anything that MS is doing.

And so it may seem little, but those clever Microsoft execs realized that they needed to squash any competition in this area too. Yeah, it was someone else's idea, but now that it's established and all of the really important research has been done and documented, Microsoft can sweep in and get rid of its competitors.

I know you think it's just a toolbar, but if you add up a few toolbars over enough time, and you get a revolution. Microsoft, like some great communist regime, does its best to put down those revolutions with preemptive strikes and purges like these.

Bill Gates himself has said that patents stifle innovation, but he says that's a reason why big established companies should USE them to stay on top. Bill Gates has said that when Microsoft patents a technology, it's expressly to prevent someone else from taking it and making it better. Innovation is good for the consumer, but it's not good for the seller.

Just think of how much farther along we'd be if it weren't for Microsoft. When Apple debuted the Macintosh, a young Bill Gates said that he felt that was the future of computers. He thought the interface (that Apple borrowed from Xerox PARC) was revolutionary. Then he brought out Windows, and Apple sued him. A judge ruled that Windows and Macintosh were fundamentally different, and that's most likely because the judge had never used a computer before (this was a long time ago) or thought that because Windows was originally a shell and the Macintosh had an entire graphical OS that that was the big difference. In the end though, the interfaces were nearly identical, and Microsoft got away with a crime. (and Bill Gates was right; that was the future. Here, today, in the future, we're still using an upgraded version of the Windows shell)

The guy who came up with the Macintosh concept died recently. He was an artist (his background was in liberal arts, not technology) and was pulled in to try to change the way people interact with technology. The Macintosh was his BABY step. It was an experiment, but he wanted to go much further. But then Microsoft came by and stifled innovation. And since then we've all be using the exact same interface ever since.

People say that I go too far with this. There are more important problems. However, it's nearly impossible to be successful in this country (anywhere?) without a computer now. Computers affect every single person's life in some significant way. The person who controls those computers will have a disproportionate share of influence on people's own freedom and how they live their lives. How is this not an important problem?

So if you care about your freedom, you won't download Microsoft's search bar.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

PBGC the new Social Security?

A shift to a reduction in social security benefits coupled with a move toward private accounts is going to make private pension plans much more attractive. However, the government virtually invites companies to neglect their pension plans and let the Pension Benefit Gaurantee Corp cover the unfunded liability. The trouble us, as more companies realize that they do not need to fully fund their pension plans, the PBGC takes on a far greater liability, and it's gotten to the point where they can't cover their OWN liability!

In short, the PBGC is becoming the new social security, and "fixing" social security by forcing people to count on their own individual pension plans is just going to exacerbate the problems with the PGGC, which is already in trouble because its rules are still too business friendly.

Pension unit chief walks cautious line
Never before have American workers worried so much about their pensions--and with good reason.

An unprecedented wave of pension collapses is straining the nation's insurance system. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which is run by the government and financed privately by plan sponsors, ended last year with a record $23.3 billion deficit.

On the heels of a court-approved deal last week in which the agency will assume $6.6 billion of United Airlines' $10 billion in pension liabilities, other carriers are pressing Congress for relief.

Even bigger problems loom. The agency estimates a $450 billion shortfall in corporate America's pension funds.

GDP vs. Star Wars Revenue

Star Wars - the empire strikes gold
The total revenue generated by the Star Wars film saga would be enough to propel Skywalker Ranch, its nerve centre in California, into the top half of the international wealth league, ahead of Bulgaria, Cyprus and Iceland.

Since the release of Star Wars: Episode IV in 1977, a combination of box office, VHS and DVDs, video games, toys and other merchandise spin-offs have added up to nearly $20 billion (£10.8bn) in estimated revenue. And the final instalment, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which receives its UK premiere in London's Leicester Square tomorrow, is set to push the total even higher.

If Star Wars was a country, its $20bn would place it 70th in the World Bank's rankings of countries according to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), narrowly behind Syria, Serbia and Oman, but ahead of Bulgaria, Libya and Lebanon. George Lucas's brainchild has made twice as much money as each of Uzbekistan, Jordan and Estonia, and four times as much as Malta, Afghanistan and Macedonia.

Star Wars is richer than the large majority of African countries. It dwarfs the economies of the Republic of Congo, Niger, Chad, Swaziland, Malawi, Rwanda, the Central African Republic, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Eritrea and Liberia put together.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Pneumatic Vacuum Elevators!!

Apparently residentical vacuum elevators are available...

INTRODUCING RESIDENTIAL PNEUMATIC VACUUM ELEVATORS

On a personal note, I stole this from a blog of a woman who is apparently helping her parents do some home improvement and just installed these things. This is a personal note because the reason that I'm checking this random person's blog is that her language and her home improvement activities (as well as her hair length) strongly reminds me of a woman I used to know a long time ago who is off the market now and probably will be for a long time but who I always had a thing for... The last time I talked to her she was knocking out a wall in her boyfriend's house as part of a home improvement project the two of them were doing. That's pretty hot. We met in high school. As I explained to some friends then, I really liked her "work ethic." How geeky is that?

(actually, to my disappointment, it looks like the blogger surrogate is not installing these things. However, she does point out that the site says that they have "tax benefits" and are great because they require no lubrication (because if you're installing an elevator in your home, you really don't want to be bothering with lubrication))

Defining Emo

So in the comments on the My Own Dashboard Confessional post, J.Bro challenges me to "define Emo."

To my surprise, there's actually a great deal already available on-line on the subject. For example, Wikipedia: Emo does a very good job. Here they even go so far as to say things like:
Bands such as Bright Eyes are often mistaken for emo but are not.

That's a pretty strong statement that implies that emo isn't fuzzy at all. Also, at the end of that entry, there are links to pages that give helpful hints like, "Don't kill yourself on Friday the 13th. People won't think you're 'emo', they'll just think you're satanic."

To me, emo embodies the musings of young men who have been testosterone deprived far longer than their peers and have just been given a quick shot of it sometime late in life (perhaps early twenties) and are drunk on it. Emo men act like 12-year-old boys because I think that there's something wrong with them that caused parts of their brain that were supposed to develop when they were 12 develop instead when they turn 21. Does that make sense?

The post about Needies might as well be a post about plush emo-fans. Emo degrades women, sets a bad example for men, and is perhaps a key reason for the whiny nice guy's finish last syndrome (WNGFLS, sometimes pronounced "(W)oNe GirlFriend LeSs", as in "Oh, so you're a grown man crying on your pillow because you have one girlfriend less than everyone else, right? Poor baby.").

In most cases, I think you just know it when you see it. It's just like you know when someone's being a whiny little stubborn brat when you see them. Some people have real relationship problems. Other people invent their own because they're afraid of getting into a real relationship with real problems. The latter either perform or listen to emo.

If your boyfriend listens to emo and really identifies with it, there's a good chance that he just wants sex and reassuring affection from you. Don't ever expect that relationship to mature into something worth keeping. Unfortunately, when you do start dating someone who is willing to share a real relationship with you, you'll be accused of favoring an asshole over someone who is devoted to you.

Do you notice that these emo people never know anything about the people they sing about? It's all very generic. "Your hair is everywhere." Oh, yeah? What color is it? What does it smell like? Where was I born?

Emo depicts men who cry about not getting sex on the night that their girlfriend's parents have died in a horrible car wreck. "I just thought the sex would help you cope. I guess since you're not in the mood then you must be a bitch. I'm going to write a song about you. It may have your name in it, but otherwise everything else will be nondescript because I never paid attention to you."

So that's emo to me. You're supposed to grow up. You're not supposed to write songs about how much you aspire to be back in middle school.

And I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. ... I hate it.

I mean, if you're going to be passive aggressive, MAKE IT **GOOD**. If you aren't a modern day Count of Monte Cristo, then you should downgrade to just "passive" and shut up.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

My Own Dashboard Confessional

I hate "emo." I hate it.

I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

I hate it.

I hate it.
I hate it.
I hate it.

I hate it.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

120 Vrms Culture Shock

So I've been talking about the new Powerbook I've been using at home. I've been pretty happy with it.

Today I went into the office at school and started up the Dell Precision 650 workstation I have there. This is a nice machine. It's fast (two hyperthreaded Xeon processors) and pretty sleek for a PC. However, it's magic is just GONE now. It's covered in *BLACK PLASTIC*. The LCD display might as well be square. And Windows XP actually seems to start up very SLOWLY. You see, the ONLY redeeming feature of Windows XP over Windows 2000 is that it boots quickly. That's the ONLY thing different about it. Otherwise it's a step down. Well, now I don't even notice that.

My next desktop machine at home is going to be a Power Mac. I'm converted.

There was a review on the radio earlier today comparing Tiger to the features that are supposed to debut in Microsoft's Longhorn whenever it comes out. The critics agree that Microsoft simply isn't putting out a product that is worthy of comparison. They're far behind. I really think that more people will be making the switch (I've been a PC user for 15 years) in the near future.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Musical Neighbors Have Moved In!!

Yay! Finally my AudioScrobbler profile has "Musical Neighbors" which means that I now have recommendations available.

This is only slightly exciting because:
  • AudioScrobbler often is buggy and nonresponsive and doesn't log songs or process new songs submissions, so there's a big lag.
  • The recommendations so far aren't very exciting; there's not a lot new there.
  • I can't figure out how to get the iTunes iScrobbler plug-in to act like the Winamp one. The Winamp one wouldn't report a song until you listened to 50% of it. This was nice because it wouldn't log EVERY song on a random shuffle (because I'd hit "Next" thorugh some of them).
So, because of that last point, maybe if I delete songs I really really don't ever want to listen to, then the AudioScrobbler will still be useful to me. I dunno. It's something.
 

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Roughgarden Lectures

As I mentioned in a previous post, recently Professor Joan Roughgarden of Stanford came to OSU to talk about her new book Evolution's Rainbow and her views on how Darwin's "sexual selection" might need to be reformed.

Her second lecture included much of the content from the first lecture plus a few more technical details, so the two lectures basically can be blurred together in the one big summary here. Now, keep in mind that the first lecture was given to both science students and humanities students because the first was a joint lecture between the two schools. Thus, the beginning of this summary will seem a little "dumbed down" with respect to some of the biology.

At the beginning of the first lecture, Roughgarden was introduced by the Dean of the Biology school and then played a 20 minute BBC program on herself and her work. She wanted to do this so that we could decide if she was "biased" in some of her research because of her own personal history. You see, she's asking scientists to discard some of the fundamentals of evolutionary biology and reexamine all of their previous data. Some say this revolution is justified, but others say that her new research is completely driven by her own biases, and this behavior doesn't belong in science.

The details of all of this bias talk was outlined in that video, and is also discussed in the a Stanford alumni association article about Roughgarden that Spice mentioned as part of a comment on my previous post.

You see, Joan Roughgarden used to be a man. As a man, she served on the faculty of Stanford university during the time that Condoleeza Rice was provost. Before she made the transition, she went to Rice with a letter outlining all of the contributions that she had made up to that point and an explanation of her decision to become a transgender woman and asked that Rice let her stay on the faculty. She said that during the meeting she could watch Rice read over each sentence of each paragraph, very deliberately, until the end. Rice looked up from the letter and said that she would let her stay. At that point, Roughgarden showed Rice a picture of what she'd look like after the change. Rice said that she'd be a very beautiful woman and suggested some places to buy clothing. Roughgarden said that Rice's choices were a bit conservative for her taste, but she appreciated the gesture.

[ As a side note, Rice has described herself (while being a part of the Bush administration) as being "mildy pro-choice." I wonder if there's a bit of a liberal wrapped up in there somewhere that has been stifled by conservative force surrounding her... I'm not saying I like her. I'm not saying I think she's qualified. I'm not really making any judgement at all. I'm just wondering about her politics... That's all. ]

[ Another side note: Roughgarden mentions that it's impossible to talk about these topics without also talking about humans because questions about the impact on human behavior always come up. This is her justification for why she's started to move into the area of anthropology (she's been criticized for this because she is not an expert in anthropology but she invokes anthropological examples as if she was). ]


Now, why is any of that relevant? Well, you see, Darwin (and Alfred Russell Wallace, a friend of Darwin's who did this independently and co-authored the first paper on these with Darwin) really came up with three big theories:
  1. Evolution from common descent
    • The reason why all living things share so many commonalities is because every living thing evolved from the same one (or very few) things. I can look at a dog's "face" and point out his eyes, nose, and mouth and know what they all do because I'm familiar with the same structures on my own face and I know what I use them for. I share those with the dog because we're evolutionary cousins.
  2. Natural selection
    • Explains the variation in nature -- speciation itself. Just as breeders can "select" for a particular trait, the environment (both biotic and abiotic) can select for particular traits. A breeder can breed for chickens that have high egg yields by preventing those with low yields from doing further breeding. Nature, through survival pressure, can do the same thing. Because nature is diverse (again, keeping in mind both biotic and abiotic pressures), the selection will also be diverse. My eyes see color but require lots of light to do so. A dog's eyes see black and white but do not require as much light so can see in the dark better than mine. It's about tradeoffs. Nature trades off things that aren't as important for those things that are important. Eventually we get speciation.

      [ Intelligent designers have the major problem with this theory. They say that components are too complex to be selected for this way. They say that it's just not probable, so it's more probable that there's a designer that built these complex mechanisms instead. However, scientists can show that "irreducibly complex" mechanisms actually are reducible into simple components that can serve some function even without their sister constituents... ]
  3. Sexual Selection
    • There are certain aspects of species that simply cannot be explained through natural selection. Why would a male peacock have such elaborate feathers that clearly provide no survival ADVANTAGE? Darwin's explanation was that females are selecting these males for their "good genes" and those good genes would be reflected in the elaborate displays. Later work (Zahavi, etc.) elaborates on this with the idea that survival IN SPITE OF having such costly characteristics shows females that this must be a good male.
The first two have been wildly successful. Scientists believe that they are as close to what you could call "scientific fact" as anything could be. The third is the least understood and has had the least contribution. It is that third theory that is the focus of Roughgarden's lecture.

You see, Darwin said that universally all females would be coy and all males would be "passionate" and showy. Darwin believed that females had the greatest investment in the care of offspring, so females would be "choosy." These sentiments have been echoed through research up through today.

Roughgarden thinks this whole theory is wrong and that Darwin was being influenced by his own bias. That is, Darwin said that variation in characteristics made a species robust. Variation was a good thing. Variation brought with it speciation. We should cherish variation... EXCEPT when there's variation in sexuality. Sex roles were set in stone. Sex roles were universal. If there was a deviation from the standard sex roles, then that deviation would be costly. Her point here is that we have thrown out the idea of one "perfect bird" and all others being lower forms of that bird (the basis of taxonomy was based on this idea of a "perfect" specimen); however, we have the same archaic philosophy about sex and sex roles. There is a "perfect" sex trait and everything is is a degenerate form of it.

So Roughgarden is pushing for something she's calling "social selection." She wants to come up with new social models that take into account sex and show that sex may have more to do with the social nature of animals and less to do with reproduction ALONE. She's not saying that homosexuality is a way for men to "practice" sex (in fact, she says that insults the animals). She's saying that homosexuality (and sex in the off season) serves other purposes that help keep a society glued together.

She gives a few examples of how Darwin's sexual selection just doesn't hold in all of nature. Before I give them, I want to stress that the biologist's definition of "male" and "female" purely has to do with the size of gamete (sex cell) produced. If you produce a small gamete (e.g. sperm), then you are male. If you produce a large gamete (e.g. egg), then you are a female. The few examples that I remember:
  • Sea Horses
    • Sex horses (and the related piper fish?) have an interested "sex role reversal." Sex horse males have a skin flap that they use to collect female eggs (picture a stomach pouch -- a sea horse fanny pack). Once collected, the sea horses can fertilize these eggs and nurture them until they're ready to hatch. The males then "give birth" to these sea horse offspring. Because of this shift in "investment," then sea horse females tend to be the aggressive type and sea horse males tend to be more coy and choosy.
  • Certain Fish
    • There are certain types of fish that have three male "genders." All three produce sperm; however, they behave and look very differently. In these cases, the large male is territorial. He secures a territory and waits for a female to swim by. The female swims overhead, picks her territory, lays eggs in that territory, and swims off. The male then fertilizes those eggs. The second type of male, who is noticably smaller, hides near that territory and waits for the female to lay eggs. Wehn she does, he darts outs and fertilizes as many as he can before he is chased off by the larger male. This actually puts a check on the size of the large male territories; if the territories are too large, he will spend all of his time chasing off perimeter males. Now, the third type of male is not only smaller but has female features. On top of that, the large male will actually COURT this third type of male using similar behaviors as are done to court females into his territory. Once the third type of male has been courted, he accompanies the large male back to the territory. These territories that have two males in them tend to be favored by females. When the female lays eggs, both males fertilize the eggs and chase off foreign perimeter males.
  • Similar stories in birds
    • There are nearly identical stories with birds as the fish story above.
  • Gender in Marine Wildlife
    • There are lots of examples of marine animals changing genders throughout their lifetimes. Take Nemo, for example, who is a clownfish who will change gender late in life. There are lots of other animals that determine gender by temperature at a particular time in life. Gender is much more fluid in these cases, and with it behavior is also more fluid.
  • Homosexuality in Animals
    • There are over 300 known examples of homosexuality in animals (and this doesn't even count sex outside of the mating season, which is equally "odd"). Homosexuality simply isn't uncommon.
So she wants to start looking at reproductive social behavior as a part of a cooperative mechanism among groups of animals. This is what she means by "social selection" replacing "sexual selection." At this point in the first lecture she told us that it would be the focus of the second lecture, so she continued discussing homosexuality in particular and how science and religion have a backward view of homosexuality. I'll mention the homosexuality arguments briefly here and then move onto the day two lecture stuff.

She started pointing out that now that people are seeing that homosexual behavior may be something that is natural, then people are looking at it as some form of "genetic disease" that doctors might be able to find in the future and "fix" ahead of time. Now, whenever someone says "genetic disease" you should start thinking about population dynamics. If something is a genetic disease, there should be consequences on how frequently it is expressed in the population. For example, let's say a certain "genetic disease" is fatal. That is, let's say that anyone with that disease will not survive long enough to reproduce. This trait should only be seen in something like 1/10000000th of the population, because that is roughly the mutation rate. As the disease becomes less "fatal," it should be seen more often.

So if we use number of offspring as a proximate for fitness, there is a 100% reduction in fitness for a fatal genetic disease, and thus genetic traits that express themselves in only 1/10000000th of the population correspond to a 100% reproduction in fitness if they are a disease. You can keep doing this up the ladder. You can ask, "How frequently is that trait in the pouplation?", then take the answer and find out what the corresponding reduction in fitness is.

Depending on how you define homosexualiity, there are somewhere between 2/100 and 10/100 of the population who are homosexual. That corresponds to a 0.1% decrease in reproductive fitness. Take any room of people (for example, the room that the lecture was given in) and you have more than that amount of fitness differential among them. In other words, 0.1% gets lost in the noise. It makes no difference.

So this shows that homosexuality cannot be a genetic disease. It survives, and it probably had some function. (unfortunately, M.D.'s don't study population dynamics, so they wouldn't understand this)

She then goes on to talk about different societies and how they view homosexuals and transgenders (specifically transgenders). She pays particular attention to the references to eunuchs in the Bible and how the Bible (that otherwise says NOTHING about sexuality) actually embraces eunuchs as a normal part of life. In fact, modern day Biblical scholars consider eunuchs to include homosexuals. This implies that there were plenty of homosexuals during Biblical times.

So after all of this, Roughgarden says that science says homosexuality (and related) is unnatural, and she believes this is wrong. She also says that modern day religion says that it is SINFUL, but Biblical references do not back that claim up, so religion is also wrong. These two forces are doing great damage and both need to be fixed.

Now onto the second lecture. As I said, it started much like the first. However, she demonstrated the use of cooperative game theory to model some of these social interactions.

Now, cooperative game theory isn't publically understood much. You see, most economists use competitive game theory because acts of cooperation are usually made illegal by government. Most of biologists' use of game theory has been influenced by economics. However, theoretical biologists like Roughgarden have just recently (in the last two years) learned about "coooperative game theory" (guess who they learned it from) and have started to apply it to try to understand social behaviors in animals.

Let's say you have a two player two strategy (i.e., a 2-player bimatrix) game. It may have a pure strict Nash equilibrium at ([0,1]', [1,0]'). However, due to bargaining on the side, there may be a mixed equilibrium at ([0.25,0.75]', [0.75,0.25]'). In other words, compromises can be made where one party gets what they want SOME of the time just as long as they give the other party what they want SOME of the time. Cooperative dynamics change things.

Now, there are ODEs that model these dynamics, and the models that Roughgarden and her collaborators (guess who they are) have used have successfully described the behavior of the three-male fish mentioned above as well as a number of other examples. She believes that these cooperative models can go beyond needing "sexual selection" to describe strange behaviors and traits. These cooperative models can show sexuality to be just another social lever that groups of animals use together. This could help explain why wolves, for example, sleep in packs together. This could help explain why bonobos have SO MUCH SEX (for example, females will go from female to female engaging in 15-minute missionary-style vulva-vulva sex that brings them both to orgasm and then separation as they look for their next partner -- these are some of the many reasons why they don't let you see groups of bonobos in a lot of zoos).

And so this leads us to her collaborators. I sat next to my adviser. He recognized her main collaborator's name immediately. She is an Aero. Engineer at Stanford doing work in Controls Engineering with UAV's.

[ I'd like to highlight CONTROLS there. You see, John Maynard Smith ORIGINALLY was a CONTROLS engineer, even though everyone calls him an Aero. Engineer. When you say "Aero Engineer" you picture PDE's describing fluid dynamics. However, these engineers are more interested in the ODE's describing system dynamics. Yes, these engineers may have spent a lot of their work in the aero realm, but they do controls work. I'm an Electrical Engineer, so I probably know a little bit more about E&M, OpAmps, and the quantum mechanics behind silicon IC's, but I'm a CONTROLS engineer. Most of my experiments may be electrical, but many of them are not, and at the conferences I go to there are just as many AE's as there are ECE's, and we're all interested in each other's work. ]

You see, my adviser and I do work in controls engineering with UAV's. We specifically work with robotic behavior modeled after solitary and social foragers. We use game theory to find optimum strategies among groups of UAV's and robots and even very general engineering manufacturers participating in a market environment together.

So it was fun hearing Roughgarden talk about not being very familiar with COOPERATIVE game theory. It was sorta fun when my adviser asked her a question about "playing the field" (a term originating with Maynard Smith's work) and her not really understanding the very common expression. Engineers have been using game theory for a long time -- many of the things we build play a "game" with the environment around them, and so game theory has been very helpful in engineering applications. However, engineering applications aren't bound by laws like the economic applications are, so we've done a lot of work with both competitive and cooperative game theory.

So just as Professor Waite has worked with us to try to explain dynamic behavior in animals, apparently Stanford controls engineers are working with Roughgarden to do some of the same things!

So it was neat to know that what we're doing (which is very novel and strange and a new direction in engineering) is also going on at Stanford, and we engineers have a lot to contribute. (note that we also get a lot out of the exposure to the existing work in bio -- it's a two-way street)

So that's basically what I got out of it. Neither presentation had a lot of meat. I saw a payoff matrix and a slide of four ODE's. Otherwise it was all animal examples.

My reflection? I think she has a lot of good points. I do think she's biased, but I don't think that's necessarily so wrong. Yes, her critics say that it's the scientist who is supposed to keep from being biased. It is science specifically that resists all bias. However, that's not practical, and if she's right then there's a lot of merit to what she's doing. On top of that, as she points out, there's not a whole lot of productivity that you can get out of sexual selection research. However, the ground is really fertile for further work to be done with her approach. Her approach gives a lot of direction and promise. It's worth a shot.

Now, during this lecture, I realized that the evolutionary geneticist that I mentioned a LONG time ago in a post about my last day in EEOB740 (the lecture with the snotty anthropologists in it) was sitting two rows in front of me. Apparently she saw me walk in and smiled and all that jazz, but I didn't notice until she turned her head back toward the front of the room. I should have said something to her after the lecture, especially because her (kinda cute) friend left in the middle of the lecture so she'd probably be walking off alone anyway. However, I still don't know her name, and I figured she'd be hanging around to talk to Roughgarden anyway...

So that's that. :) It was fun. Yay. And this was a long post.

Let's not hurt the Baptists' feelings...

Judge blocks Maryland sex-ed program
GREENBELT, Maryland (AP) -- A federal judge on Thursday blocked a county school system from instituting a health curriculum that includes discussions of homosexuality.

U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams agreed with two groups that sued contending such discussions gave preference of religions that are tolerant of homosexuality over those that reject it.

Williams said the curriculum juxtaposes faiths such as Quakers that support full rights for gays and lesbians with groups such as Baptists, who are painted as "intolerant and Biblically misguided."

So we're erring on the side of the INTOLERANT now. So rather than educating kids to have healthy sexual practices that prevent the spread of disease, it's more important to keep the Baptists happy. Fascinating stuff.

Earth Day only happens once a year...

New rule could open roadless forest areas
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The last 58.5 million acres of untouched national forests, which President Clinton had set aside for protection, were opened to possible logging, mining and other commercial uses by the Bush administration Thursday.

Republicans are calling this a states' rights issue.

So when it comes to banning gay marriage, that's something that is so important that we need to talk about a federal constitutional ammendment making sure it can't happen. However, when it comes to handling environment that spreads across lots and lots of states and animals that have no clue where state lines are (though they may soon learn the difference between a green state and a Bush state), we should let the states bicker amongst themselves... That makes a lot of sense.
 

I guess I can't go on the pill...

Chemicals in Food Containers Linked to Prostate Problems in Developing Mice
Fetal exposure to man-made chemicals found in oral contraceptives and some food containers can cause male mice to develop deformities in their prostate and bladder, a new study has found. The results indicate that the cellular changes could predispose the prostate to disease in adulthood.

Mrs. Brown, You Have a Lovely Legion on your Neck

O.C. Ocean Pollution Costs Millions in Health Care
Thanks to pollution, a day at the beach can be an expensive affair. A study of two California beaches indicates that illnesses associated with swimming in contaminated waters cost the public more than $3 million annually.

According to the report, the two main sources of pollution for the California beaches are urban runoff and sewage treatment. During the study period, both beaches had water quality levels that were within the standards set by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of California. Indeed, the researchers calculate that the total public health costs would exceed $7 million annually if the coastal water quality had the maximum pollution levels allowed under EPA standards for the entire year. “The ultimate value of this research is for policymakers, who are well aware of the substantial costs involved with cleaning up water pollution, but need to know the other side of the equation--the costs associated with not cleaning up the water,” Dwight says.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Digital Magazines at Zinio

One of the things that came with my new machine is the Zinio Reader.

It turns out that Zinio.com sells digital magazines that you can read with their Zinio reader. The magazines are delivered to your machine digitally as they are released. You read them through the reader, and it even has a neat effect that makes it feel like you're actually flipping the pages.

So I looked into it. US News & World Report, for example, was $20 for 53 issues from Zinio.com. The trouble is that it's $20 for 53 issues from US News and World report (and you get like 40 more issues for $8 more) in print.

So with Zinio you get digital copies (better for the environment? It still depends on how much energy it takes to get the digital copy to you...) for the same price as you could get print copies. So I guess Zinio.com is really for people who just want to be pinned to their computers even more than they have to... Or perhaps don't want magazines delivered to the home address (porn?)...

So... there ya' go... incase you're interested...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Family Entertainment and Copyright Act

New law cracks down on P2P pirates
File-swappers who distribute a single copy of a prerelease movie on the Internet can be imprisoned for up to three years, according to a bill that President Bush signed into law on Wednesday.

The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, approved by the House of Representatives last Tuesday, represents the entertainment industry's latest attempt to thwart rampant piracy on file-swapping networks. Movies such as "Star Wars: Episode II," "Tomb Raider" and "The Hulk," have been spotted online before their theatrical releases.

The law had drawn some controversy because it broadly says that anyone who has even one copy of an unreleased film, software program or music file in a shared folder could be subjected to prison terms and fines of up to three years. Penalties would apply regardless of whether that file was downloaded or not.

I really think it's great that "FAMILY entertainment" is in the title. It reflects that this law is REALLY about FAMILY VALUES and not about CUTBACKS TO THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY. We're protecting our families and their values, see? If you download a movie and realize it's against the law, eventually you'll realize that you can break ANY law and not get caught, so you'll go out and kill your local drug dealer to take over his corner. You'll start people on weed because it's a "gateway drug" that will cause them to come back to you for "meth," which, as we all know, comes from Sudafed, which we have to pack behind the counter at Walmart because we need "over the counter" to actually mean OVER the counter...

We live in a bizarro world; you know that, right?

New Dinosaur: On its Way to Vegetarianism

New Dinosaur Documents Shift from Meat to Veggie Diet

For some reason this article made me think of all of those people convinced that it's not possible for MODERN DAY human beings to survive on vegetables alone (it's funny that the same people who say this are fine with a population growing so quickly that it will never be able to be sustained without diets dominated by WHEAT)

I have a headache, but at least my keyboard's backlit...

Today Jenn posted Fans of Phase Portrait, which addresses my blog's lack of new content lately.

You see, I just got my 17" PowerBook this week. This is my first Apple machine (basically since high school computer labs...), and so it's been a little bit of an adjustment. If it was a PC, I'd be up and running a little more quickly, but because it's completely new, everything's new, and so it takes me longer to get settled.

On top of that, there has been 858 homework and the two Roughgarden lectures to catch (which I will be posting about a little later) and research pressure from the ol' adviser. Thus, I have some things to post about, but I just haven't been in the mood.

So that's the story. There's more to come. I just need a little time and a little space right now; you understand, right?
 

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Matlab 7.0 and MultiThreading with Intel's MKL

So just the other day I was complaining that Matlab did not have multithreading support built into it. In my office I have a Dell Precision 650 system, a dual Xeon hyperthreaded system that shows 4 little CPU boxes in my task manager, and during a hefty Matlab sim, only one of those boxes shows any activity. Thus, despite all my computing power, a Matlab sim can only take advantage of 25% of my resources at BEST.

So I went searching, and I found out that Matlab 7 (R14) finally supports multithreading.

Multithreading Disabled in Intel Math Kernel Library (MKL) BLAS

All you need to do is set the OMP_NUM_THREADS environment variable to the number of processors on the system (in my case, I'd try 2 and 4 and compare performance).

I'm so excited! I can't wait to give it a shot.

However, I'm a little upset that I can't do my own multithreading within the script. If I'm willing to deal with the locking/semaphore issues, then I think I should be given the ability to parallelize my process a bit more. I guess I could always try starting another MATLAB instance on another processor (i.e., starting a second MATLAB at JUST the right instant that it gets scheduled onto another processor) but that's so GHETTO!

Anyway, I'm telling everyone, so I figured I'd post something here. Hopefully that can help some readers out (though I know most of the people who read this blog AND run simulations have unfortunately decided to use some other backwards package, like R or Maple or Mathematica, that clearly is inferior... but oh well...).

Needies Need You!

[ Stolen from angela ]

Needies: Like Rain on a Sunshiny Day
Needies are interactive plush dolls inspired by codependent, high-maintenance relationships.

Totally attention-starved, they compete with each other for human affection -- or, getting touch, as they like to say.

When you give Needies touch (by hugging and squeezing them), they will return your kindness with songs and shameless flattery.

But remember that Needies always know when other Needies are getting touch! If one Needie is getting touch while others are neglected, the unloved Needies will conspire to take its place.

There are pictures on the site.

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Oops... That was vulgar...

I didn't realize how vulgar the title of the last entry was. I really didn't mean for it to be that vulgar... I really had a completely different picture in mind. Hm. Oh, well.