Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pity Party

I'm acutely unhappy right now, and it's really getting me down.

I'm trapped in my apartment at the moment. You see, my car is in the shop. After a trip this weekend, it started acting funny (but drivable funny). I took it into the Tuffy right by my apartment Monday. A small problem (check engine light randomly flashing at high speeds and staying on at low speeds) turned into a big problem (DPFE sensor caught on fire and took most of the wiring, tubing, and hosing around it). Parts were ordered. The tab comes to $488.79. Hopefully I'll get it back tomorrow.

My friends are all leaving soon. Most within a year. The others work too much to be available. I don't really connect with many of the other grad students in my group, though we get along fine. I'm really worried about suddenly being completely and utterly alone working on my PhD in my home state. I wonder why I didn't consider going elsewhere for this degree. At least then I'd be alone in somewhere "exotic."

I wish I had spent more quality time with my friends doing things that I probably scoffed at then. Lately it's been more important to be out having fun at the moment rather than being excited about whatever it is we do when we're out. I guess that's the big point I should have realized every time I didn't want to do something but did it anyway and ended up having a good time. There was no one around willing to do whatever I thought would be snooty enough to be worthwhile, so I should have still done what was available... In the end, I took for granted the value of just having a good time, regardless of what was going on.

In theory, I really like the research I'm doing. It bridges engineering and biology in a way that I could only dream about. I don't think I'd rather be in a lab nor do I think I'd rather be doing simulations of aerodynamic flow control. In some ways it feels right. But in other ways this atmosphere (common to any graduate program anywhere?) just hasn't been the pick me up that I want it to be. Some of that is me feeling disconnected from it now because I just feel like I'm not productive like I imagined I would be. Maybe it'll get better when I have more to show for it.

I love my parents, I do, but lately I've just felt this disconnect. I don't like them asking questions because I don't have answers. When I go up there to their place, I just want quiet. Really, I'd just like to have peace and quiet outside, on the patio, watching the geese. Yet when I do that I feel like I'm wasting time. So again, there's something here related to the work. I know that they can see this in my face. Mom will ask me if I'm okay and every time I say nothing and simultaneously feel even worse because she's asking me. My suit jacket alterations for the outfit I'm wearing to Mark's wedding were done today, so she stopped by to drop it off since I have no car. And... I felt so awful for not being more receptive.. But... I just didn't know what to be. Before she came over I wanted to tell her about new things that have been happening that I've been quiet about... But while she was here... Nothing came out. Now she's driving all the way back to her place. I know they worry... I just wish they knew that I knew that and I was glad for that. I'm sure they do...

Efforts to salvage any of this currently have a grim outlook.

A friend of mine who doesn't really know I feel this way asked me recently if I would take a quarter off after he graduated (between school and work) so that we could try to win a Roadtrip Grant for Roadtrip Nation. I really think it's a good idea. For some reason, it just seems like something that would help, but I have no idea how I'd make it work. Taking a quarter off? Can I just do that? I suppose so... I just wonder how the funding would work... Maybe it's something worth looking into.

I always tried to be very principled to live a life that was uniquely mine that I could be proud of. Looking back on that pride has suddenly left me thinking that 25 is going to be the end of the world. What am I doing here? How could I have put myself into this place where I'm not happy being successful and I'm utterly destroyed by being unsuccessful? How could this possibly end well? It's not that I don't know what I want to do. Nor is it that I want to do everything and am having a hard time choosing. I just feel so upset that I have to do something.

So yeah... I'm acutely unhappy. This summer doesn't feel like a BREAK. It feels like a big slot of time that gives me no excuse not to be really really productive. When I'm not, this summer feels really disappointing.

Alright, this is a mess. I need some lunch and to do some reading before the 9am meeting tomorrow morning. I won't have a car tomorrow morning, so a friend of mine who has no reason to wake up that early has agreed to give me a ride to it. That's the meeting where I'll see my adviser, and he'll probably want some status updates... All sorts of fun there.
 

Monday, June 27, 2005

Gross oversight

Someone I know is a big fan of "meat pies." These things are apparently a delicacy in places like the state of "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations". They're basically a breaded pie that contains meat. They're pretty simple. They're seasoned and tastey. It's a good treat. I understand that they're often eaten with ketchup, which ends up turning them into pure texture and little taste, but that's fine too.

Well, this person very sneakily found out that I was eating a stuffed pepper for lunch today. She then thought it was necessary to tell me that stuffed peppers were "gross."

How are stuffed peppers gross if meat pies are okay? Stuffed peppers are almost identical, but you add some sauce and some rice and replace the breaded shell with a VEGETABLE. HEAVEN FORBID that we add some vegetables to our meat in a form other than Ketchup.

So I don't understand how she can call my stuffed pepper gross and be okay with her meat pie and still get to sleep at night.

Of course, she has no trouble proudly calling her whole state an island (even though she has explained that her state is not an island but some plantations AND an island), so I guess you can't expect anything reasonable and rational from her.

Wikitravel!

I just happened to find this today. Another fun WikiReference!!

Wikitravel: www.wikitravel.org

For more good Wikimedia sites, like WikiBooks, WikiQuote, and WikiSpecies, take a look at:

www.wikimedia.org
 

Posting from Mobile Device

That's right, Riley, you can post directly from a mobile device just by using email!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"Cute" means different things to different people...

So today AnotherEngineer was talking to me about a project that we've been working on up in his lab. We were going over some new products that we might be using in the next few months. Some of them were pretty cool:

Tiny XScale Single-board Computer (SBC) (stick-of-gum-sized computer running Linux with lots of on-board hardware for easy integration with other hardware (sensors, actuators, etc.))

ADIS16201 - Low Power Fully Self-Contained Accelerometer/Inclinometer

However, what I really thought was noteworthy was this exchange about a new H-Bridge that one of the research scientists just got in...
AnotherEngineer: Keith has a neat little Motorola H-Bridge board now. He got it in yesterday.
Me: Is it tiny?
AnotherEngineer: Apparently it's new.
AnotherEngineer: And it's cute
AnotherEngineer: Yeah

Clearly, cute is a complex term.

Note, this particular H-Bridge comes in a surface mount package, is capable of up to 4 Amps of current, and is even capable for 10 Amps for some limited period of time. Isn't that useful and fun?
 

Lions free kidnapped girl

Police: Lions free kidnapped girl
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -- Police say three lions rescued a 12-year-old girl kidnapped by men who wanted to force her into marriage, chasing off her abductors and guarding her until police and relatives tracked her down in a remote corner of Ethiopia.

The men had held the girl for seven days, repeatedly beating her, before the lions chased them away and guarded her for half a day before her family and police found her, Sgt. Wondimu Wedajo said Tuesday by telephone from the provincial capital of Bita Genet, some 560 kilometers (348 miles) west of the capital, Addis Ababa.

"They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest," Wondimu said, adding he did not know whether the lions were male or female.

As a friend of mine said, "It's like Jungle Book."
 

Monday, June 20, 2005

P.S.

A friend of mine who lives in Chicago tagged this onto the end of an e-mail today:
ps. I jumped onto the el tracks Friday and saved a robot.

This comment was completely unrelated to anything else in the e-mail.

This is funny to me because I've received comments of similar sentiment from lots of other people.

In the past few years, I've done a little bit of robotics work either on a design and build team or advising other teams. Additionally, because the impact of the research I do is a little abstract, sometimes it's easier for me to explain it in terms of robotic applications, though it really is focussed on a broader set of applications.

The consequence of this is that people seem to associate me with all robots. It's just like someone's Rhode Island mother saying to her Ohio daughter, "You know, I met someone from Ohio today. His name was Joe Smith; have you met him?"

So I'm compelled to respond to this comment with something like, "Oh, thanks for that! I couldn't stand to lose another one... You work so hard to train them, but they always end up in danger. I worry so much about them..."

Instead I think I'll make some comment about the robot being hungry and running to the third rail...

Crazy Eutrophication

Heavy Fertilizer Use May Transform Lakes for Centuries, Study Suggests
The widespread use of phosphorous-rich fertilizers by industrial agriculture could permanently alter the chemistry of nearby lakes, a new study suggests. Even if environmental inputs of the element are curbed considerably, the results indicate that the effects could be felt for decades to come.

Intensive fertlization began around the middle of last century making widespread eutrophication a relatively new environmental problem, Carpenter writes. In addition, he notes that "There's a huge amount of phosphorus in the watershed that hasn't washed into the lake yet" and steps--such as changes in soil management and reducing rates of erosion--should be taken now to improve water quality.

Those Crazy Drug Addicts

Research Reveals Faulty Biological Clock Genes Could Influence Addiction
Drug addiction exacts a variety of ill effects on a user's health. Among other things, addicts often experience disrupted sleep. The mechanism behind how the substances may change a user's circadian rhythms remains unknown but new research on mice is providing some insight. According to a report published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, circadian rhythm genes help to regulate the brain's reward system and could influence the addictive properties of drugs such as cocaine.

Those Crazy Asteroids

Magma Oceans Covered Early Asteroids
During their formation, many planetary bodies in our solar system melted significantly, allowing denser materials to sink to their centers in a process known as differentiation. But how widespread this process was when it came to another class of early solar system body, asteroids, remains unclear. New findings published in the latest issue of the journal Nature suggest that for at least two of our solar system's major asteroids, melting was dramatic.

In the magma oceans, other elements in the asteroids would have separated out according to mass, the researchers report. The resulting layered composition of such an asteroid could have contributed to the uneven distribution of elements among the planets, they say, if developing protoplanets crashed into the asteroid once it had cooled. In this scenario, the elements abundant in the crust would be transferred to one planet and those present in its core would end up on another. According to the report, Earth's high magnesium to silicon ratio is one anomalous feature that could be explained under these circumstances.

Those Crazy Nepalese Porters

Nepalese Porters Operate at Pinnacle of Efficiency
Nepalese porters carry seemingly crushing loads with what appears to be little difficulty. Their approach, which uses a head strap known as a namlo to support a basket, contributes to their being the most energy efficient human transporters in the world, a new report indicates.

The researchers weighed randomly selected porters and their loads as they approached the village. On average, male porters carried around 90 percent of their body mass and females lugged loads weighing around 66 percent of their body mass. One ambitious male porter was transporting goods that weighed nearly twice as much as he did.

The researchers then asked eight of the male porters to carry various loads around a track at different speeds while their oxygen consumption was measured. The team reports that the Nepalese men exhibited more economical energy use for all loads than control subjects did. (For comparison, the team collected data from a group of Europeans using standard backpacks.)

S.Dogg Speaks: Bat-licious.

S.Dogg Speaks: Bat-licious.

I was thinking the exact same thing through the movie! Go Blue! Oh crap, I mean... Go Buckeyes!

Accused of posting on Slashdot

So apparently I've been accused of posting on Slashdot. How could I possibly deserve this? I'm upset that Google even allows people to put Slashdot headlines on their personalized pages... and now I've been accused of POSTING to Slashdot?!

Apparently a stupid little run-in with some North Carolina Ted has connected thousands of people of the Internet in a weird sectarian battle of witlessness. I've been contacted by all sorts of people saying, "I don't think you were being snarky at all," and by all sorts of lesser people saying, "You were being super snarky! Ha! Snark has an s in it! Ha!" And thus we're in this awful battle of the Ted's. Both he and I dropped it, yet some people with major penis envy seem to want to keep it going...

Take this recent example (linked above). After mentioning that this guy finds out I'm an OSU student, he wonders if I know a guy named Joe, who also goes to OSU. Apparently Joe does know me.
9:27:54 AM gyllstromk: yo, do you know a guy named [guy’s full name omitted to prevent him googling this page]

You LINKED to my blog! You didn't think I was going to notice once someone clicked on that link and I got a strange referrer in the logs?
9:55:25 AM imtallgermanjoe: yeah i do
9:55:27 AM imtallgermanjoe: why do you ask?
9:55:30 AM gyllstromk: ha
9:55:30 AM imtallgermanjoe: thats crazy how do you know [guy’s name]?
9:55:37 AM imtallgermanjoe: i used to ta with him

Correction: I used to TA imtallgermanjoe. He was a student first. Eventually he too became a TA. We once TA'ed a class together, but the majority of the time we weren't in the same classes at all.

I also got him a job at IBM. I said nice things about him. I recommended him to all sorts of people who wanted to know who the smart up-and-comers were. In fact, one of the reasons he was not only a TA but a TA of the advanced programming class in FEH was because of my strong recommendation for the job. I thought Joe deserved it. I also hoped that by the time he started TA'ing, he'd grow out of needing to impress me.
9:55:41 AM gyllstromk: what’s his dealie
9:55:50 AM imtallgermanjoe: he’s the smartest person i have ever met
9:55:58 AM imtallgermanjoe: he’s also super arrogant and he used to drive me crazy
9:56:08 AM imtallgermanjoe: we used to argue about stupid shit
9:56:10 AM imtallgermanjoe: all of the [censored] time

When I was Joe's TA, sometimes he'd do something incorrect on an assignment, and I would mark it wrong. Joe would, of course, defend his wrong answer. If he didn't bring it up, I wouldn't have even remembered he made the wrong answer, but he ended up highlighting his folly. It still didn't really matter to me, but it seemed to matter to him.

Joe was one of those students who keeps you from helping students who really need the help. I enjoyed sitting down next to students who really wanted to learn and walk them through things. They had good questions, and it was nice to see that answers I gave could help them. However, Joe might have a question that he's already answered. He just wants to argue with me to show that I'm wrong (and often these were philosophical questions -- weakly versus strongly typed languages, for example -- that were not meant to have a "right" answer). This got worse when Joe was a TA. It's really hard to get away from an argument when the other TA can follow you around the room (injecting his own opinion over your shoulder, without considering the lesson you were trying to give or the question you were trying to answer).
9:56:18 AM imtallgermanjoe: hey remember that [censored] girl?
9:56:21 AM imtallgermanjoe: he used to date her too hahahaha

And this is just petty. What does that even MEAN?!

You see, Joe obsessed over a girl that I dated. This was during a time when no one knew we were dating. We didn't advertise it then, and we were working some things out ourselves, but we both admitted that we were passed the point of no return. Meanwhile, she was nice to Joe. She was a friend to Joe. Remember that IBM job? Well, Joe was apparently unhappy at it. She felt bad for Joe and wanted to help. It was a nice thing to do. Evidently, Joe thought this meant that she wanted to date him. Eventually she explained to him that she and I were dating, and Joe went completely cold to her. He said awful things to her. He made her really feel awful, and she didn't understand what she was feeling awful about. Joe was a big fat jerk.

If I did any crime by being short to Joe in class, Joe did a much bigger crime by being a complete ass to her. (though, I did warn her ahead of time that Joe was going to get attached; she had more faith in Joe... Now she knows better)

And now, because being an ass to her didn't convince her to come running to him, he insults her. In fact, he mixes her up in an ad hominem attack!!

Great... Now I've done it. Joe and his friend aren't going to know what that means. It's just another example of my arrogance.
 

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Recurring Dre-jection

For the past couple of days, I've been having dreams that were not identical but all went about the same way and had the same theme. In all of these dreams, I end up asking women out and being rejected every time. In some of these dreams, it's over the phone. I'll leave a voice message expecting a response and never receive one. In some of these dreams, it's in person. I'll walk up to someone and they'll turn away or give me a "stop" hand or something similar. In some of these dreams there are multiple rejections (there have never been multiple rejections from one woman, but there have been single rejections from multiple women). In these dreams I not only experience my own disappointment, but I also know how the other people in the dream feel, which is even more disappointing because in every case, the rejection is not because the women end up not being single or not looking to date. In many cases, these are women who are looking for a date. It's me, personally, that's their key reason for the rejection.

Keep in mind that I'm no playa'. I don't devote a great deal of resources to this sort of pursuit. These dreams have really no relationship with real life for me. It's like having a dream about doing cartwheels on Mars...

Needless to say, I wake up feeling utterly rejected. In the last week, I've been rejected by at least fifteen different women. That's a lot to take! However, what's really interesting is that it hasn't been that bad. I still wake up every morning, and quickly after the morning the feeling wears off. It's not the end of the world, and in the dreams I shake it off and go along my way... Like the lounge lizard I am, I guess.

So in the end, I think it's been a positive experience.

I just hope I don't get hooked on these dreams. I'd rather they be on the nightmare half of the dream spectrum rather than the fantasy half, ya' know?

Anyway... It's been quite a week.

Will the carpet match the curtains?

On Monday my apartment complex is (at my request) installing new carpet at my apartment. It really needs it. The stuff I have now is thin and dirty. I've steam cleaned it; it doesn't help. It really needs to go. I'm excited about getting the new stuff.

However, it's not a simple task to recarpet an apartment. Saturday I recruited my parents to come down to my apartment and help me prepare. You see, I had to move nearly all of my furniture (except for couches, tables, and dressers, basically) onto non-carpetted areas, like the bathroom (including bathtub, which I hope doesn't house a leaky faucet/showerhead) and kitchen. The desk I own is a pre-fab desk which I built in my bedroom, so it was a lot like building a boat in a basement. So we had to come up with a [unnatural] way to break the desk into two pieces just incase the carpet guys would need to move it out of the room. That wasn't necessarily an easy task, but it was easier than expected. Anyway, it ended up only taking a few hours... But now I have no place to sleep until I get the new carpet. Thus, this weekend I'm staying at my parents' place. Next week I'm going to have to waste a few hours (probably more than I did Saturday) putting everything back. Then I'll have a place to sleep again.

Last night I was out late with a friend, and so I drove back to my parents' place . . .

[ I'd like to stress that this is somewhat new territory for me. While on an internship in Austin, my parents moved from Dublin to their new location near Westerville. I had lived in Dublin since I was 4. I came back from my internship to find that the house I grew up in was now owned by the General Manager of the Hyatt downtown, and his wife had placed gargoyles in our front yard... It was quite a shock. Anyway, I now know my way around Westerville, but in no way is it "my town" like Dublin was. ]

. . . On my drive back, I drove through Otterbein's campus. Otterbein is a small private university in central Ohio. It was really fascinating. It was 2:45AM, and campus was barren. No one was around. Everything was dark. Even the houses with Greek letters were dead. It was a Saturday night... Even in the summer, Saturday nights at OSU were not at all like this. It was fascinating.

After that, my drive took me through a residential area. There were signs that said things like, "Congratulations, Julie, of the Class of 2005!" These were the large banners that go in people's front yards. Why do these banners always look IDENTICAL? They all use the same scripty construction-paper-cut-out font on the same cheapy felt backdrop between two sticks. If you look at one of them alone, it looks like it MUST have been done by a crafty parent. However, there are so many that look identical that they must buy them from some supplier... And that supplier must be making a KILLER profit on these cheap things. Why do people buy these things?

There was one house with some high schoolers playing a PS2 (or similar) golfing game on a projector on the side of their house. The virtual golfers were probably 25 feet tall. It was a little bit of a distraction as you drove by. I'm only assuming that their parents were out of town and the kids thought it'd be cool to... do something idiotic and expensive.

So I got home, went to bed, and had another one of these dreams which I will outline in another post. I then woke up feeling very reflective. I opened my closet and looked up to find relics of my past tech-savvy teenage life. There were lots of old routers and networking hardware... There were boxes that held old gameboy games. There was an old gameboy (the big heavy kind that doesn't fold in half). And way over on the left there was my old telescope. It's a Schmidt-Cassegrain, so it fits easy on a top shelf. It's tripod sits below it. It was a good telescope. I saw the rings of Saturn with it. I saw craters of the moon with it (note: it is unwise to look at the moon through a telescope during a full moon unless you are wearing sunglasses. It is, however, fun to use the eyepeace to project a reasonably large image of the moon onto some background). I never had the patience though to really make good use of it. I should have taken the time to drive out to somewhere very dark... find the precise coordinates so I could key them into the telescope so it could autolocate things for me... and got comfortable (somehow) and just looked. I've always regretted not having the patience to do such things . . .

[ In writing this, I wonder where my old microscope went. This was a fun microscope kit that allowed me to prepare slides of lots of different things and even project them onto walls for group viewing. It wasn't like today's plastic kiddy scopes. It was back in the day where if you wanted to use a microscope in elementary school, you had to actually buy a real microscope... I looked at some fun stuff under it too... But that's a different story. ]

. . . Then I looked down at the bottom of the closet. Lots of boxes of things. Again, the tripod for the telescope. And a silver CD-R with the word "Unreal" written across it. I've never been much of a gamer, though I remember playing Wolf3D before anyone knew about it. I think I was the first person I knew to find an illegal copy of it. However, after Wolf3D and a little Doom, it just seemed like an ill use of time. I flirted with Unreal because I had coworkers who did. The network game play was neat... but I really felt like I had moved away from that. Now I feel so distant from it that I'm almost embarassed to find that CD in my closet.

Then I looked at my recent purchases. You see, after moving stuff out of my place, I went shopping. I wanted to get a good outfit for F.Shizzle's (I'm still working on a good fake naming convention) wedding next month. While out, I also got three new pairs of shoes. Some shoes for the wedding, some new tennis shoes, and some sandals. I've never been much of a sandals person. However, for some reason lately I've wanted ot be. Maybe it's a desire to "fit in" more. Maybe it's a desire to try to be more like my friends. Maybe it's a desire to find a date. But it feels like something inside me is changing... and making me buy... sandals (which is hard to do when you have a foot as wide as mine). I felt this same "changing spirit" when I was buying pants for the wedding outfit. You see, for some reason, I've always liked pants that were pleated. I just thought flat front pants looked... silly and unsophisticated. There's a part of me that sometimes holds my hand behind my back when I pace thinking about things... I think that same part of me is what doesn't like flat front pants (and shorts, for that matter). However, I just recently realized that the reason why I'm always so unhappy with how my pants look in their seat is because they're pleated. Pleasted pants use too much material. I really LIKE the way flat front pants look in the seat. And despite my feelings about the front of the pants, I figured that other people must like the front of the pants, and I wanted other people to like me... So... I'd buy the pants of the people. And on casual occasions, maybe I'd wear them with the sandals.

I'm not disappointed by this change... And I'm a little disappointed that I'm not disappointed. However, I think it's just part of growing up. Fitting in? I dunno...

Anyway, I was just feeling reflective. That's the major point. This is a "bull session" among one man and maybe a couple of blog readers. It has no point. It's just thinking out loud to hear (read) the thought said (written)...

I should get back to sitting on my parents' patio and watching the geese. It's relaxing. I feel like an old man...

[ On that note, G.Tizzle.Sizzle turned 23 on Saturday. I thought she was turning 22, but instead she's turning 23. Now THAT makes me feel old. She'll be 30 in no time! If she's 30, then what'll that make me?! Regardless of the number, it'll be old! ]

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

So today Zweebo asked me to help her prepare her get her new laptop up to snuff. During the preparation, I needed a link that I recently posted on this blog. I couldn't find it on google, so I said something like, "Oh, well, you read my blog all the time anyway, so I guess I can just go there." Her face went white. I explained how I knew. It was an awkward moment. She felt like we had been living two lying lives for the past few months. Then she, Zweebo, gave me an earful about how I really shouldn't use real names.

(oh, and roughly around this time Zingo-Zango (who ran against me in middle school for student council and later tried to get me involved in high school politics so I could really DO something good) bumped into me; she apparently works (and lives) in Orlando for some Christian Crusaders. I know this because she asked me what I was doing, and thus I asked her what she was doing. She said she lived in Orlando. I asked if she was up for father's day, and for some reason her response to that was something like, "No, I work at the headequarters of the CC down in Orlando." OHHHHH... How is that possibly the right answer to my question? How does that possibly explain why you are in front of me in Ohio? And how could I have possibly lost to you, Zingo-Zango, you conservative tight-ass WASPy bitch?!)

Anyway, it didn't go as poorly as I expected it would go. It wasn't so bad. It actually cleared some things up. I think it put more stuff behind us.

After that, she left the laptop with me while she got her haircut. This was a big deal because she was originally planning on not talking to me until Jippie's wedding. However, she assured me that she would have FRICK and FRACK look at it after me to make sure I didn't leave anything snarky on her machine monitoring her or something. I was insulted that she thought that if I did leave something on there that FRICK and FRACK could possibly do anything about it. I was really hurt. She also suggested that if she needed more help, she could always ask them (especially the nearby FRACK) for help. This also was pretty painful.

Now, when Zweebo came to pick up her laptop from me after her haircut, she brought with her a burrito for me. I wasn't convinced it wasn't poisoned, and I wanted to get her back for her FRICK and FRACK comments, so I didn't eat it and (after we parted) got Chinese instead. (it really had nothing to do with spite, but it's funnier that way) Actually, the burrito is in the fridge right now. This is also partly for spite because she insists that Mexican food (especially with guac) doesn't keep. I think she just doesn't know how to reheat things. Someday maybe I'll teach her how to cook.

She also was hoping that ToothlessBobbyMcGee would give her a call, like he said he would, to see a movie with her tonight. Apparently during senior crawl, she was pretty drunk, ran into this random guy (who she had run into before briefly) and gave away her number to him. She and her friends just happened to bump into him later sober (gee, that's subtle) and discuss the crawl night. To make a long story short, she expected a call from him this evening. She had heard from someone who knew them both that he used to have a girlfriend and that might prevent him from calling her. She used this as well as lots of other reasons to explain why he wasn't calling her this evening. (she clearly doesn't understand men, but it was not my place to explain anything to her after those FRICK and FRACK comments; nor did I feel like explaining my feelings about post-Sorkin West Wing, which she hates, but I think she's being too hard on)

So, partly feeling a little jealous and mostly because I have no friends in town this week, I offerred to take her out tonight if ToothlessBobbyMcGee didn't call her. She said that was okay; she had plans with Sarah. (ramping up the jealousy) Then ToothlessBobbyMcGee did call her; they decided on seeing The Longest Yard. Lots more jealousy. Gee, this was fun.

Anyway, that's the summary. I'm hoping this means we've finally resolved our differences. I'm hoping she sees that I like the fact that she's an absolute wreck. It's not a bad thing. It's a funny personality.

Hopefully I'll have something else to blog about soon to move this out of the top posting...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Thank God for Christopher Nolan

I was having a long day today, so in the middle of it I threw up my hands and decided to go and see Batman Begins at the campus movie theatre.

I was excited about seeing this movie because it looked like it was going to be true to the original Batman, directed by Tim Burton. Additionally, it's directed by Christopher Nolan (of Memento fame). Nolan also writes some of the screenplay. I was sure that it was going to be better than the trash that followed the original Batman and possibly even as good as the original Batman.

So I went in with moderately high expectations. Usually when I do that I get disappointed. However, either I'm trying really hard to like this movie in order to be right or I actually really really liked the movie.

So I came out of the movie pleased. However, I had issues with continuity. There were some things that just didn't make sense if this movie was supposed to be followed by the original Batman. Christian Bale (of American Psycho fame) seemed to play a character that could easily grow into the Michael Keaton (of Beatlejuice and Batman fame) character of the first movie; however, there were a lot of other aspects of the storyline that just didn't fit. Some of them were major!

So I did a little research (not much) and I found out that this is NOT supposed to be a prequel to the original Batman. This is supposed to start a whole NEW Batman saga! Supposedly there are sequels currently in the works! The sequels will include The Joker (was his name really Jack Napier? I don't remember from the comics) and Two-Face (Harvey Dent)!

So I'm excited.

Now I just need to convince someone to go to the iMax showing of it up at Crosswoods!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Illegals in Ohio vs. Illegals in Texas

I've lived in Texas (Austin) for two summers and frequently dined at local restaurants with friends. As you can imagine, many of them were either Tex-Mex or Mexican. I noticed something interesting in both of these cases. At nearly all of these restaurants, nearly all of the hosts and servers were white 20 somethings. Additionally, while the Tex-Mex places had a different flavor that I wasn't used to, the Mexican places all tasted like big chains in other parts of the country. It felt like I was at Don Pablos wherever I went. To add to this, the menus were often mostly in English. Rather than ordering a "38," I would order a "Chewy Special." Oh, and on top of all of this, most of the places had English names.

This was odd to me because I frequent Mexican places back in Ohio (Columbus) as well. There, the hosts and servers were Mexican. Few of them spoke more than a few words of English. The food was very good and seemed to be authentic. The menus had HUNDREDS of items on them, all in Spanish (so you usually ordered with a number). Oh, and the names of the places were actually in Spanish. In other words, I felt like I could get more authentic Mexican in Ohio.

Now, I also noticed something else in Ohio. It's common to see Mexicans who speak little to no English mowing lawns, laying tile, and doing landscaping. A friend of mine did landscaping in high school. Of the seven or eight people who worked there, five of them were Mexican, and they all got there in the same truck. If the boss fired one of them, he'd have to be careful because he might lose all of them because they have no other way of getting there without that person's truck. And yes, all of them make enough money to support themselves and send the rest home to family, all the way back in Mexico. I don't have much experience with this aspect of living in Austin, so I can't really compare.

However, I know in Austin many of my office mates were from South America, educated in South American universities, and working in Texas completely legally. Some of the cleaning staff were Mexican, but just as many were other things (I think most of the ones I knew were black, but there were a number who were white too).

Now, if I said any of this to my Texas friends, they would have stopped me by now. They would have explained that there are far more low wage Mexican workers in Texas than there are in Ohio. They would claim that Mexican food was MUCH more authentic in Texas. They would also claim that if it appears like there are a lot of white 20 something's, that's just because I was in Austin, home of the University of Texas, the second largest university in the United States.

However, I live in Columbus, home of The Ohio State University, first largest university in the United States with over 50,000 students. If white 20 somethings should be infiltrating restaurants anywhere, it should be where I live. (you could argue that there is a higher density of restaurants in Ohio too, I guess)

So anyway, I end up reading the June 20, 2005, U.S. News & World Report and there's this article, "Under the Sun: A New Wave of Immigrants is Transforming Communities Nowhere Near the Border," with this figure, "Where the Illegals Are." It's color coded. There are four categories:
Estimated Growth Rates of Illegal Immigrants (2000-2003/04):
Red: 62% and above
Orange: 37%-54%
Yellow: 24%-32%
White: Less than 24%

There are 7 states that are red, including OHIO.

There are 5 states that are orange.

There are 5 states that are yellow.

All the rest are white, including TEXAS.

So isn't that fascinating? I'm thinking I was right about Ohio.

Note that I don't have a problem with this. I think it's great. I think it works well with everything else going on here. No one is complaining that there's an employment problem. Everyone's happy about the situation, I think. Yeah, there are some of the Ohio-tucky residents who belong in West Virginia who say things like, "Ya' kno all those social programs? They not for no one but da' foreigners, does aliens." However, even they don't complain about illegals taking their jobs.

Pissing myself off...

As you can see in the comments of one of my recent posts, I've managed to piss off another guy named "ted." He doesn't have a profile available. If he did, you would probably eventually be able to find the home page of Theodore Kim (Ted).

Ted is a computer science graduate student. He got his undergrad at Cornell, and he now is doing his graduate work at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in their computer science department. He is an instructor for COMP 121-400: Unix Programming. He has worked a number of places, including Evans and Sutherland.

How did Ted and I meet? I was doing a google search for some Spiderman 2 lines. His webpage was one of the many that came up. It was very random.

Why is this significant? Well, at first I thought it was interesting that he follows his name with "(Ted)". To prevent confusion, at least early in the quarter, I usually use "Theodore (Ted) Pavlic" as my name, and I've gotten harassment from friends for my use of "(Ted)," but not everyone realizes that Ted is short for Theodore. What else is interesting? He is a computer science graduate student going to UNC. When I started undergrad, I was sure that compuers were going to be a part of my career. In fact, I interned in RTP, NC at IBM with a number of UNC grads and interns. Meanwhile, back at school, I taught a number of CS classes, including a UNIX PROGRAMMING class. However, a short time after IBM, despite having a strong CS background, I was convinced that my real future was in ECE. Around this time, EVANS AND SUTHERLAND wanted me to intern with them doing software work. I turned them down and went to National Instruments instead. The rest is basically history.

I'm not saying that Ted Kim is a bizarro version of Ted Pavlic, but I'm saying that it's really funny that I just happen to e-bump into someone with whom I think I share a similar past and an even similar present. This is fascinating to me.

Though I still contend that eigenvalues are unitless, and to say otherwise is to show a fundamental misunderstanding of the connection between linear math and the physical world.

Regardless though, I feel bad for pissing bizarro-Ted off. I never intended to do that. Though, if he's anything like me, he probably deserved it.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

My Favorite Obesity Study

Remember that CDC study not too long ago that the media interpretted as saying overweight people actually live longer? "Some Extra Heft May Be Helpful," the headlines said.

Well, on Popular Science's Soapbox, Rebecca Skloot targets the media's coverage of this study in her "Flabby Coverage." I learned a few things from her article, and so I want to quote a little bit of it here.

(emphasis added)
The deal is that the media didn't push to analyze the CDC report--they just jumped on good headlines. The study is titled "Excess Deaths Associated with Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity." How anyone could read that and reduce it to "Studies Show: Being Fat Is Not So Bad" is beyond me. These results corroborated an overwhelming body of research: Obesity is linked to deadly diseases. The CDC did find fewer people died in 2000 from obesity-related causes (111,909) than had been previously estimated (365,000). But estimating obesity deaths, as the sutdy points out, "raises complex methodologic issues," and its own methodology "has important limitations."

One of these is controlling for underlying disease. "Many diseases and medications cause people to gain or lose weight," notes Tobias Kurth, a Harvard University obesity researcher. "If you don't control for these and just look at who's dying and how big they are, you can get a skewed view of the world. Using this study to say being overweight is protective is simply overstating the scientific data." There's also the well-known "obesity paradox," that being slightly overweight can offer protection for the elderly, though the truly obese are less likely to grow old enough to see any such benefit.

The study's most obvious limitation is its use of the unreliable "body mass index" (BMI) . . . With a BMI of 27.1, [President George W. Bush is] "overweight." But President Bush is in great cardiovascular health . . .

Major-media coverage didn't raise these questions. Instead it tended to compound the problem with fuzzy math, often reporting that 25,814 Americans died from obesity, though the actual number was 111,909. Because the CDC study documented fewer deaths in the "overweight" category than in the "normal category, the media subtracted the number of overweight people who didn't die from the number of obese people who did--as if deaths that don't happen somehow cancel out deaths that do.

A companion study did find that overweight and obese people have lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure than they did in the past. It didn't show that obesity is inherently less dangerous; it showed that medicine has gotten better at treating some of its effects. Obese people may be living longer, but those extra years are full of heavy medication, diabetes, sleep apnea, stroke, asthma, blood clots, heart disease and cancer. And obesity is still one of the top causes of preventable death, which is why the CDC cautioned that people shouldn't use this study as an excuse to be overweight.

It's good news that people can live longer with obesity, but that's no excuse to blow off exercise and order more pie--precisely what the coverage has encouraged. And don't get me started on those huge fast-food-industry-funded ads declaring that obesity is offically "hype." They make me want to scream. There is no science saying that obesity is OK. That's not hype. It's scientific fact.

Science Friction

In the latest Popular Science's "Soapbox" section, Gregory Mone writes, "It's the Nanomeds, Stupid." It's an article discussing how modern movies insist on tossing in "novel, or at least complex-sounding, science." None of the science is real, of course. However, it's fancier. He explains:
The reason for all this science-speak? These days, biotech breakthrough make headlines, theory-of-everything books lead best-seller lists, and robots clean our rugs. We may not know more science, but we expect fancier terminology.

The Fantastic Four filmmakers' motto: If you're going to butcher the science, do it with flair. In one early scene in the screenplay I read, the group's leader, Reed Richards, wonders if he'll be able to use his immersive visualization technology in combination with submolecular string theory to more precisely fix the time and place of the big bang. (Why didn't you think of that, Hawking?)

He also uses Spider-Man 2 as his favorite example:
. . . my favorite part is when Dr. Otto Octavius, a nuclear physicist who turns evil after one of his experiments goes awry, explains that he needs giant, artificially intelligent mechanical arms fused to his spine with nanowires and held in check by an inhibitor chip to control the elements of his homebuilt fusion reactor.

In another section of the article, he brings up the point:
This doesn't make the story more plausible--it makes it funnier. Maybe I need to get out more, but I get bigger laughs from the psuedoscientific gibberish spouted in these films than I do from the tired one-liners of standard summer comedies. It's a new genre, a kind of geek comedy.

"A kind of geek comedy." This is funny to me because it exists on lots of levels. Sure, there are the "Wil Wheaton" style geeks who are cute and funny but also utterly useless, but then there are the real geeks, the original geeks, who laugh at things that even the "geeks" let slip by.

My favorite example of this is also from also from Spider-Man 2. I went to see this in the theatre with a few friends of mine. Only three or four of us were engineers, and only two or three of us were ECEs. There were two of us in particular, who now go to grad school together, who had a particular problem when Dr. Curt Conners turned to his class and asked, "What are the eigenvalues?" Peter Parker, who had recently stopped being Spider-Man in order to catch up on studies, work, and relationships, eagerly shot up his hand, was called on, and excitedly responded something like ".213 electron volts."

Now, I don't have a problem with Dr. Conners asking for eigenvalues and Parker only giving a singular response. After all, the linear operator in question could have had repeated eigenvalues. What I do have a problem is that his response had UNITS. Eigenvalues don't have units. Eigenvalues are scalars. They tell you how much a linear operator scales a vector along a particular eigenvector (which could be a number of different things, including a function).

Now, when I heard him give this quantity, I thought I was probably being too harsh. However, my friend, who is noticeably cooler than I am, looked at me during the movie and had the SAME COMPLAINT!

[ I also have a problem with Peter Parker being portrayed like a smart undergrad who could anticipate major problems with Dr. Octavius' work; undergrads are miles away from knowing enough to do that, regardless of what subject they study and where they go to school. However, this really is a different sort of complaint. ]

I've also heard astronomers complain about skies in movies not looking at all like the sky from earth. They really get upset about stars not being in the right place. Would anyone else notice?

So, you see, I think there are different levels of geek humor and geek complaints about these things, and I think it's great that screenwriters can manage to touch all levels of them. Right or wrong, novel or cliche, they do their best to do their worst, and I think that's pretty nifty.

I think this relates to that new book, Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. Even if it gets my blood boiling in the theatre, in the end, I'm happier it's there. In the end, it gets more people sending me e-mails or coming to my office to ask, "So what is an eigenvalue, anyway?" In the LONG run, how could that be a bad thing?
 

Cigarettes and "Harm Reduction"

This is an interesting NYTimes article:

(you can go to www.bugmenot.com to get an NYTimes login without having to fill out anything)

NYTimes: Incendiary Device

It talks about all the work being done on new filters that tremendously reduce the number of toxins that a smoker takes in while smoking. The technology is still new, but there have been some major advances. Soon they'll have cigarettes that feel exactly like modern ciagrettes but are far less of a health risk. This would be EXTREMELY popular. However, as the article says:
A popular reduced-exposure cigarette is the kind of earthquake that many in the public health field have anticipated, like a team of worried geologists, for several years. According to a number of scientists and tobacco policy makers, PREP's are the single most ethically agonizing and professionally confusing issue they have ever encountered.

You see, many of these early PREPs have a history of increasing the intake of other chemicals. Plus, it's not clear that taking all of the toxins out will make a truly safer cigarette. PLUS, and this is the interesting part, if you really CAN reduce the risks, there is a chance that many more people will start smoking... and the increase in smokers may offset the decrease in risk, and you can still have the same number of people being treated for smoking-related illness each year! OR EVEN MORE!

So it's a really fascinating issue...

Anyway, the first page is really the most important page of the article. The second page has some other details about the bad aspects of such good cigarettes... After that... well... I didn't read anything after that. :)
 

New book about Clinton

The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House is a new book about Clinton by John F. Harris, a White House correspondent who covered Clinton.

The NYTimes has a book review, "'The Survivor': Measuring His Success", that is interesting to read. Apparently this book paints a picture of Clinton as a complex man who had trouble making hard decisions because he appreciated the different sides of each issue simultaneously. It also talks about the people around him, comparing and contrasting themselves with Clinton. It also addresses how people feel about Clinton (many people really hate him for reasons that are hard to describe) and suggests why they felt that way.
Harris tells all the important stories of the Clinton years in detached, workmanlike prose that not only tracks the events and decisions but offers perceptive judgments of the figures who were close to the president as they unfolded. The national security adviser, Sandy Berger, was ''a shrewdly political man'' who, when Clinton barked at him, ''was comfortable barking right back.'' The chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, was a natural organizer who, as Harris saw him, protested a little too often about his preference for business over politics. The treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, had ''an appreciation for shades of gray and a disdain for absolutes that were very much like Clinton's.''

The debate about Bill Clinton, about his character and achievements and moral worth, will go on long after the subject himself has departed from the scene. Clinton ''was too vital and too vexing a character to be easily forgotten or dismissed,'' Harris writes. This is a complex, interesting and subtle book about a complex, interesting and subtle man.

Who is Mr. Sapo?

In making my previous post, I also learned about MrSapo. This search engine is sorta fun because you can put one search in at the top, click one of the search types (like "Web", "Reference", "Images", etc.), and then click one of the search engines and it will perform that search in a frame below all this. Thus, if you're not happy with the results, you can click a different search engine and new results will be displayed. Or you can click a new category (go from "Web" to "Reference") and click one of those engines.

It sounds like it's not that big of a deal, but if you try it, it's kinda nice to be able to switch so easily from search engine to search engine. Plus, it lists SO many search engines -- many of which I didn't know existed -- so that's helpful in itself.

Answers.com: A Reference Search Engine

While reading the NYTimes article, "Enough Keyword Searches. Just Answer My Question.", I was introduced to Answers.com.

Answers.com prompts you with "Tell me about:", after which you type a term like "Neoliberalism" and you get something that looks like this:

neoliberalism: Definition and Much More From Answers.com

It basically goes and does a search at many popular reference sites on the Internet (like WikiPedia) and combines their outputs into one LONG page. I had already learned a lot about "neoliberalism" from WikiPedia, but Answers.com informs me that neoliberalism is "A political movement beginning in the 1960s that blends traditional liberal concerns for social justice with an emphasis on economic growth." Thus, I can start to see why "liberal" is used, though I think that the ways at achieving "social justice" by neoliberalism are not very "liberal" by today's standards (in America).

Anyway, the point is that Answers.com does a pretty good job presenting its search results. It's a good one to use if you'd like a pretty complete summary of a term, I think.

A better example might be:

quantum mechanics: Definition and Much Much More From Answers.com

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Neo-liberalism? I'm so confused...

I'm not too proud to admit that in making my previous post I was introduced to the term "neo-liberalism" (which I think should be "neoliberalism") for the first time. I was surprised becuase I usually pay attention to these sorts of things. I was also surprised because "neoliberalism" was used as a synonym to "right wing politics" in the subject of that post! But it has "liberal" in the name!

So I took a look at Wikipedia:Neoliberalism. It turns out that "Neoliberalism" is actually a conservative political-economic philosophy.

I guess the conservatives of the 1970's thought, "The conservatives aren't doing enough, so what we want to do shouldn't be called 'conservativism.' Since it's not 'conservative,' it must be liberal. However, we're not liberals at all. Thus, we'll be 'neoliberals.'"

What's even more confusing is that neoconservativism, which is the big word in the news today describing some members of the Bush administration, overlaps greatly with neoliberalism!

On top of all of this, in CANADA they have "neoconservatism" and "neoliberalism," but both of those things refer to "new" movements in conservativism and liberalism RESPECTIVELY. Thus, Bill Clinton's "new liberalism" DOES match up with Canada's "neoliberalism" but *NOT* with "neoliberalism" in the United States!

It turns out most of this confusion comes with the term "liberal" being too overloaded. You can't interpret what "liberal" means without knowing where you are, what time it is, and who said it. It makes you wonder how the Republicans can criticize people for being "liberals." Do they actually know what they mean? After all, aren't they "neoliberals?"

So in the end, I threw up my hands and had some pudding. Mmm... Pudding.

Political Comp-Ass

So I went to www.politicalcompass.org and scored:

Economic Left/Right: -4.63
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.23

So on a political compass with:
North=Authoritarian (Fascism)
East=Right (Neo-liberalism)
South=Social Libertarian (Anarchism)
West=Left (Communism)

I'm apparently about (almost directly) southwest (i.e., "quadrant III"). The axes, by the way, go from -10 to 10.

Now, first of all, I've never been a fan of categorizing people in this way, and I think that "I am a fan of categorizing people this way" should be one of the questions on the quiz (in which you specify how much you agree/disagree). :)

Second of all, I expected this result from the quiz. In fact, you should say I was shooting for it. Does that really mean I'm -4.63/-7.23? Or does that mean I like people to think I'm -4.63/-7.23, but I might live my life in a completely different way. And does it matter? Is it okay to say you are the rhetoric that you speak, just because you speak it?

I think it's an important question, because it's interesting to me that I might vote Democrat just as an extension of this rhetoric, and the Democrat that I elect may make major changes to my local, state, or national government, and I'll be forced to agree with those changes in order to be consistent in my rhetoric. However, is my rhetoric consistent with the life I lead?

I just think it's sorta funny to think that there might be this dichotomy and I might not even be conscious of it... (great, now I'm starting to sound like Jenn's boyfriend...)
 

U.S. checking for mad cow

CNN.com: U.S. checking for possible case of mad cow disease

Now, I eat meat. Lately I've probably been eating chicken, turkey, and tuna more than beef, but of the meat I eat, beef is certainly an appreciable proportion.

However, it really seems like a decent idea to become a vegetarian. I'm not saying this to protest the slaughter of animals or anything like that. It just seems like it's an environmentally sound idea (especially if the vegetables are locally grown) that really doesn't seem like too much of a sacrifice, right?

And a real bonus is that you can't get BSE from vegetables, right? (though I guess you can get high doses of whatever is sprayed on them or carried in the ground water to them)

The big downside though is that it seems like such an inconvenience. It seems like most off-the-shelf eats are not vege-friendly, which means you have to make your own food. If you're around lots of people who eat meat regularly, you might be left without anything to eat.

I guess the compromise is to choose to eat vegetables whenever possible and only eat meat if necessary... Is that good enough?

I recently bought an Apple, so I guess anything's possible.

Monkeys Trade Money for Sex

This article is by the Freakonomics authors. It's fascinating.

They've basically taught monkeys to use money. The monkeys respond as humans do. They obey classical microeconomics theory.

Now, during one event, a monkey spontaneously traded money for sex from another monkey, and after the sex that other monkey immediated traded the money for a grape. After this, the researchers were careful that this couldn't happen again. Apparently there are moral problems with letting a monkey bordello continue within the lab.

NYTimes: Monkey Business

What color is Satan's wrist band?

So I hate colored wrist bands. I think this was an awful idea that in some part uses stigma to convince other people to adopt a "cause" and pay $2 to a questionably legitimate source that they know nothing about. Even if it raises money, I don't think the ends justify the means. Anyway, I'd like to rant on and on, but the real purpose of this is to quote a section of "Good rocking," and article in this week's The Economist:

(emphasis added)
The study also spots a problem with celebrity backing: too many of them are associated with other causes--if only by sporting the curent craze, a colored wristband. "For example, Sienna Miller, [an actress] shouldn't be seen in a blue band one day and a white band the next, as this will negatively impact [...] over the whole campaign.

Synovate notes that the public is already confused about which cause is attached to which band. That's understandable. Nelson Mandela handed out white bands for Make Poverity History in central London, but the same colour is also used by anti-abortion campaigners. Blue stands for anti-bullying, anti-Bush and research into prostate cancer. Nor is it clear that wristbands contribute much to fundraising. Some are sold on market stalls with no connections to the original causes. And, embarassingly for the anti-poverty campaigners, some may be made in the same "sweatshops" that they (mistakingly, free-traders would say) so deplore.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Democracy: An Exercise in Rationality, or Is It?

From SciAm: Lose the Election? Looks May Be to Blame
Split second judgments about a politician's competence can predict an election's outcome better than chance alone, a new study reveals. The results indicate that superficial inferences can contribute to voting choices, a process hoped to be rational and deliberative.

Heuristics are your istics too.

Why do campaigns lack substance? Because substance has no bearing on who gets the votes, that's why.

The study does mention that this research could lead to election reform that reduces the effect of these "System 1" processes to make elections more based on rationality and longer term "System 2" processes... I wonder what sort of reform could possibly do that?

"Understanding the nature and origins of appearance biases has real world value, not the least of which may be identifying electoral reforms that could increase the likelihood of electing the most qualified leaders rather than those who simply look the part."

 

Senator Thune of South Dakota

South Dakota has a new Senator, of course. John Thune convinced voters to get rid of Democrat minority leader Tom Daschle partly because he felt Daschle wasn't doing enough to prevent the closing of Ellsworth Airforce Base. Thune told voters that he would work hard to expand operations at Ellsworth. The voters bought it, and a powerful Democrat was removed from the Senate...

Thune goes own way, not Bush's

Ooops. Turns out Ellsworth is on the base closures list! This looks really bad for Thune, right?

Coincidentally, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) is the ONLY REPUBLICAN SENATOR to make public that he will vote NO on appointing John Bolton as the ambassador to the U.N.!

Does this seem like political payback to the Bush administration? Thune says that's not the case...

...On a related note, I bought Harry Frankfurt's On Bullshit today (because I'm cute and trendy, I guess).

Conservatives Shut Down NPR for "Ideological Reasons"

House Panel Cuts CPB Funding By 25%, Eyes Zero-Fund Future
The subcommittee in charge of finding money to help fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) decided to cut that agency’s 2006 budget by 25%—$100 million—from $400 million to $300 million. President Bush had only recommended a slight, $10 million cut in the CPB budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

[ You should note that CPB only provides less than 2% of NPR's total budget. However, CPB provides 15% of the budget of individual local NPR stations (with a far greater share of the budget of stations in rural and minority areas). ]

Newt Gingrich has complained that NPR does not provide enough ideological balance. Many current House members echo those concerns now.

First gulags, now this... Where are we? China?!

What right does our government have to criticize PUTIN? He's following OUR LEAD!
 

Steve McQueen, You Are Not

Microsoft warns on security fixes
As the alert was released, Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer voiced fears that consumers are getting complacent about net security.

Huh. That's funny, Steve, because I was thinking the same thing about large monopolistic software developers, and this article was one of the chief reasons I was thinking that. Isn't that funny, Steve?

Bloomberg Cares about NY Women's Potty Plight

New York's mayor signs 'potty parity' law for women's toilets
NEW YORK - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to cut down long lines at women's restrooms.

He has signed a law which requires most public places to have two women's toilets for every one toilet for men.

The law has been nicknamed the "potty parity" legislation.

Another reason why it's useful to study obesity...

This is another part in my ongoing struggle (primarily waged on Jenn's blog) to justify funding research in obesity. It's not about enabling people to do wrong; it's about enabling people and food vendors to do right.

If there's no research, there's no justification for criticism.

'No-Fad Diet' offers hope for the weak (Heart Association book dismisses trendy diets, offers options)
DALLAS, Texas (AP) -- In a no-nonsense approach to weight loss, the American Heart Association's new diet book offers options for the weak. Can't give up pizza? Try eating two slices instead of your regular three. Craving ice cream? Try a sorbet.

MacGyver's Dana Elcar Dies

It was a sad day Monday...

MacGyver actor dies at 77

Aw... Poor Pete.

Interesting trivia -- in the 1985 MacGyver pilot, Elcar's character was not named "Pete Thorton," it was "Andy Colson." Isn't that interesting?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Two Helpful OS X Pages

Mac OS X Tips from the Maker of uControl (the second of the three tips is best)

Mac OS X for Oceanographers and Atmospheric Scientists (or anybody else who's used to Unix)

Overweight Offspring from Underfed Moms

Leptin Surge Produces Overweight Offspring from Underfed Moms-to-Be
The fat-regulating protein leptin was first linked to obesity more than a decade ago. New research on mice indicates that the offspring of undernourished mothers experience a leptin surge that raises their risk of becoming overweight.

Fascinating article. The offspring of malnourished mothers have high leptin levels. This completely changes the development of their metabolism. These mice will be severely obese on the diet of a mouse from a mother that was not malnourished. Additionally, dosing young mice with leptin is sufficient to produce this effect.

This relates to Jenn and my continuing argument about whether to crucify all obese people for practicing bad behavior or not. Jenn says studying obesity just enables people to become obese. I say it's more complicated than that. And, of course, my summary of the argument between us is biased toward my viewpoint. :)
 

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Being Bobby Brown

There's a new reality show coming out on Bravo. It's called "Being Bobby Brown." They follow Bobby Brown around so we can all see what it's really like to be Bobby Brown...

How is this a good idea? How is this possibly a good idea?

This explains a lot...

NYTimes: Most Will Be Mentally Ill at Some Point, Study Says
More than half of Americans will develop a mental illness at some point in their lives, often beginning in childhood or adolescence, researchers have found in a survey that experts say will have wide-ranging implications for the practice of psychiatry.

US leads in mental illness
WASHINGTON, June 7 (Xinhuanet) -- The United States leads in mental illness globally with 46 percent of Americans suffering mental disorders ranging from anxiety, depression to substance abuse in their lifetime, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

 

Dolphins found using tools

On a brighter note...

Researchers: Dolphins use sponges as tools
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A group of dolphins living off the coast of Australia apparently teach their offspring to protect their snouts with sponges while foraging for food in the sea floor.

Bush administration seeks to halt scholarly publication

Feds: Science paper a terrorist's road map
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The federal government has asked the National Academy of Sciences not to publish a research paper that feds describe as a "road map for terrorists" on how to contaminate the nation's milk supply.


Shouldn't we actually be fixing the problem? The entire article is about burning the article. Wouldn't it be nice to hear what the administration says it's going to do keep our milk safe?

They obviously think the paper points out a valid threat or else they wouldn't be censoring it.

Pretty scary.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Last Dance with Mary Jane

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that no doctor anywhere can legally prescribe marijuana for medical use because of a federal law that prohibits its medical use.

CNN.com - Supreme Court allows prosecution of medical marijuana

ABC News: Marijuana Plaintiffs to Defy Court Ruling

This is a sad day. Talk about morality gone amuck. There are people in a lot of pain. There are synthesized substitutes for marijuana (e.g. paxil), but those are nowhere near as effective and dump millions of dollars into the pockets of greedy drug companies.

So you see, the drug companies buy the Republican Party, the Republican Party uses religion as a wedge to assert their own immorality onto the nation, and the nation supports federal legislation to ban the medicinal use of marijuana. The states continue to allow doctors to do what's right and prescribe the drug, the Bush administration sues the states, and the federal court has no choice but to rule with the federal legislation... and here we are today. In the end, the country being driven by drug companies.

Howard Dean, you go ahead and say that you hate these people. It's okay with me. Hate them. Hate them as much as humanly possible.

What a really fun night!

So today my adviser had his yearly summer party at his place in Clintonville, just north of campus. It was a nice day. It was really warm out, and there were isolated T-storms elsewhere in the city, so later in the evening we got a nice cool breeze and some neat lightning flashes around us.

Anyway, I wasn't sure what to expect. I didn't want to talk about research. I knew people who were there were grad students who I don't talk to socially a whole lot. I didn't know how many people would be there.

I got there and found my adviser (Passino), my bio psuedo-adviser (Waite), another controls prof (Serrani), and a couple of my adviser's other grad students. Eventually the other two trickled in. The oldest had his wife and kids. Two of the others brought their girlfriends. So in the end, it was a pretty small group.

And it was a lot of fun. A few of us (including me, go figure!) worked on making the food in a group (the onions did a real number on my eyes!). We played with the kids. We sat and talked. Serrani (age ~38) is apparently married to a PhD student (age ~28) whose biological clock is ticking. She wants four kids. He says his biological clock has stopped. He wants no kids. :) They're going to compromise on 1 sometime in the next year and a half, but he doesn't know where he'll sleep when they have the kid. Not real fatherly right now, poor guy. :)

I got to talk to Professor Waite a whole lot, which was nice. I finally learned the geneticist's name, so that's good. I also found out that she's just done something MAJOR in her research. She apparently is working on the global reduction in numbers of amphibians. Apparently she's found some phylogenetic clumping that appears to be the smoking gun. I don't want to give too many details because she hasn't published anything yet, but it's pretty fascinating. Anyway, after that we made fun of anthropologists a *LOT*, and that was fun. Then he told me an interesting story...

You see, last summer I took one of the undergrad EEOB courses on Evolution taught by Professor Jerry Downhower. The material itself wasn't very new; I had covered a great deal of it in my own readings before I ever took the class. However, it was really helpful to hear Downhower teach the material. There's just something about actually hearing it from an expert's mouth in person that goes much further than just reading it in a book. Anyway, I had mentioned this to Professor Waite once (apparently) and one day when he was talking to Downhower, he relayed this onto him. Apparently Downhower was feeling pretty down that week (or longer?) and the story struck a nerve. It apparently drove Downhower to tears and Waite had to escort him back to his office! I wasn't sure what to say! (I'd like to say more about what I know about Downhower, but I'm not going to put it in this post)

So I ended up being at my adviser's place for eight hours. I got to know the grad students a little better. I had a good time. I was in a GREAT mood afterwards. I'm really happy I came. I'm looking forward to going next year.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Warsaw is Pretty

Natural Beauty (outdoor Warsaw)

Art is pretty and fun. (Warsaw National Art Museum)

Chris Crum is an Idiot

I always thought the guy looked like a doofus . . .
Doofus

. . . but his choice of headline for this recent article convinces me that he's absolutely a worthless idiot:

Tyrannosaurus Rex Was A Chick

You see, he justifies using the term 'chick' because a recent find suggests that the TRex was manufacturing eggs at the time of its death due to a special calcium layer found in her bones that forms in modern day BIRD species (but not many other egg-laying species) only when building eggs. Thus, the TRex is a female since she produces large gametes, but she's a "chick" because she's a bird ancestor.

However, when referring to bird "chicks" you're talking about a young bird, specifically a young CHICKEN. There was nothing to suggest that this TRex was young (it was laying eggs, for one thing!) and this TRex is closely related to OSTRICHES and not CHICKENS, so "chick" is WAY off. It's WORSE than calling a chimp a monkey. On top of this, in his article he even says that it's inappropriate to compare the TRex to a chicken or quail, so comparisons to ostriches and emu were used. Still though, the reference to TRex being a "chick..."

So basically Chris Crum (see "doofus" picture above) was looking for an excuse to degrade women. "Hey guys, look at me, I said 'chick.' I'm cool. I'm cute. Millions of high school boys look up to me every day. Man, it doesn't get any better than this."

And THEN after that the ENTIRE ARTICLE is a BIG QUOTE!!! The extent of his editorial strength was being able to call TRex a **CHICK**!!! (and not just one TRex, but he seems to imply that they ALL are "chicks")

That's pretty Crum-mie. (now THAT's cute and witty)

Yes, Carrie, you shouldn't have said anything...

Yes, Sex-and-the-City Carrie, you shouldn't have said anything, but you should have also just let it go after you said what you said and not made a bigger deal about it by talking about how you shouldn't have said anything...

Deja Vu...

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Not just dry, but dri

A friend of mine's girlfriend and her friend have been using a very strange anti-perspirant that's apparently very effective. It's so effective that they have gotten my friend to start using it despite the teasing that he was sure to receive from the rest of us. (especially when he couldn't remember the name and called it "Dry and Sassy"; that was a mistake on his part)

It's called "Certain Dri," and his girlfriend's friend (who didn't make it into pharm school but still likes to convince everyone that she's as smart as she thinks she is) explained to him that it actually closes up the armpit pours and prevents them from sweating entirely. She says it's safe because it's such a small area relative to the surface area of the rest of the skin...

I found a site that sells it: Certain Dri - Prescription Strength Anti-Perspirant
To Use: Because of its therapeutic ingredient, Certain Dri Anti-perspirant is used differently from all other anti-perspirants.

Apply only at bedtime. It will not wash off the next day, even after bathing.

Apply sparingly: Like other therapeutic products, Certain Dri Anti-perspirant should be applied sparingly.

That sounds pretty scary to me. I sent him an e-mail reminding him not to put it on every day...

However, this normally very sweaty guy is now very very dry. It's quite impressive. It's still scary though.

New Atlas Reveals Extent of Man's Impact

Be sure to take a look at the gallery. There are some really depressing photos there.

New atlas reveals extent of man's impact | Gallery

Random Good Stuff

Link Dump

Including:
  • Swim Bags (wearable)
  • Oral Trainer (explicit)
  • World's First Undersea Restaurant (Hilton)
  • Mini Mate (for Mac Mini)
  • Nebaztag (wireless rabbit)

Some Bio News from SciAm

Cave Bear DNA Sequencing Could Be Boon for Human Evolution Studies
Rather than first replicating the DNA with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as is typical, the investigators cut to the chase and sequenced the ancient DNA directly, using computing technology developed for modern genome projects. Much of what they sequenced turned out to be microbial contaminants, as expected, but 6 percent was cave bear DNA, including bits of 21 genes.

Having demonstrated the validity of their technique on cave bear DNA, the team is hoping to apply it to other remains. "Next we would like to access and evaluate genomic information about other hominid species, Neandertals in particular, as they represent probably our closest prehistoric relative," Rubin comments.


Hormone Elicits Trust in Humans
According to the researchers, oxytocin increased investor trust markedly, with 45 percent of the oxytocin group exhibiting the highest trust level, compared to just 21 percent of the placebo group. The team rejected the possibility that oxytocin might be promoting risk-taking in general, rather than social risk-taking specifically, because when investors were paired with a computer trustee instead of a human one they did not take such risks.

Describing the work today in the journal Nature,Kosfeld and his collaborators acknowledge that their findings could be misused. They add, however, that the work could ultimately help patients with mental disorders associated with social dysfunction, such as those afflicted with autism or social phobia.


Ubiquitous Chemical Associated with Abnormal Human Reproductive Development
Researchers have identified a link between exposure in the womb to widely used chemicals known as phthalates and adverse effects on genital development in male babies, according to a new report. Previous toxilogical studies had suggested that fetal exposure to the chemicals can affect reproductive development in rodents, but the new results indicate that developing humans could be vulnerable as well.

Phthalates are common components of items ranging from plastics to paints to personal care products such as nail polish and shampoo.

Just a PostSecret reminder...

I know I've posted about this before, but I thought I'd post a reminder since many new cards have been posted...

PostSecret

Some that caught my attention included:

"I cried for Anakin in Star Wars Episode III...but not for the tsunami victims"

"I hate my boyfriend for killing people in Iraq."

"Klingon chicks turn me on."

Not Quite Loverboy

A friend of mine sent me this video. A guy who used to be in his brother's band put it together. It's pretty awesome.

I always wanted to be in a music video, so I thought I would make my own. Enjoy...

A Worm in the Apple

So it looks more and more like the rumor of the past few weeks is becomign reality... I guess we'll know Monday.

Apple to ditch IBM, switch to Intel chips

This may mean that an x86 Mac OS X will someday soon be available (as soon as next year!!). That would be a thorn in Microsoft's side, but I think it would also make it more difficult for Apple to keep it's good name. One of the major reasons Steve Jobs has prevented Apple from letting other people build Macintoshes is because Apple will not be able to maintain quality control. Putting an x86 Mac OS X out there almost turns Apple into a software company...

Or could it be that Intel has put together a top secret new architecture just for Apple? Nah... Now I'm just dreaming... Or maybe fantasizing...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dan Finnerty vs. Jack Black

Dan Finnerty of The Dan Band (recently featured in "I Am Woman" on Bravo) is everything that Jack Black should have been but never was.

Jack Black always pushed it too far. He went from being funny to being stupid.

Dan Finnerty has practiced restraint, and it has helped his humor. In fact, it has helped him become one of the great comedic geniuses of our time.

Bewitched!

A friend of mine sent me an e-mail today. Apparently she has had a few run-ins with a guy from high school who has proclaimed his love for her and then told her he has been seeing a psychiatrist. He also made some comments about singing NiN at karaoke bars to give "those bullsh*t yuppie kids" a taste of something "real and anti-establishment." How about that? Nine Inch Nails... Something real...

Then there was this:
These encounters I'm describing are the only times we have talked since high school. Anyhow, today he came up to me on my break and told me that he realized that I have the potential to be a very powerful witch, and that if and when I learn how to use my powers, the world will rue that day.

Now, I've been telling her this for years; I don't know what the big deal is.

Control and National Instruments: Oil and Water?

National Instruments has put a lot of effort lately into producing serious control and automation solutions to help them move from analysis and acquisition to actual design and control. They acquired MatrixX to try to speed up the algebraic support in LabVIEW. They've put together elaborate control demonstrations with Quanser plants. They've been very visible. And perhaps most importantly, they've sued the pants off of Mathworks for recent work in Simulink that would make MATLAB+Simulink a stronger competitor with LabVIEW. NI likes patents, why? Because they stiffle the innovation that they don't want to do internally.

I used to work for National Instruments. When people called them the K-Mart of data acquisition, I defeneded them, and I think I still would. NI does DAQ pretty well. There are some very specific applications where NI products are top notch.

However, recent struggles helping a friend build a 6DOF quadrotor helicopter controller have made me come to despise that little company in Austin.

Has anyone used the Fuzzy Logic Control Toolset in LabVIEW? I'm pretty sure an intern (and a really dumb one) built it. Setting up your antecedence and consequence is okay, and building the fuzzy ruleset is ugly but reasonable, but there's a LOT of room for improvement there. However, there are deeper fundamental problems.

For one, it only supports four inputs and one output. In our case, we have twelve inputs and four outputs. You might think that would mean we could cascade fuzzy controllers; in fact, that's what NI's documentation says. However, if you put more than one of these things in a VI, they share memory and lock all of their output together. They do not act independently. That's really the most frustrating part.

However, even if that major problem was fixed, there still would be plenty more problems.

First, after you build your fuzzy rulesets, you have to store them as a ".fc" file. There's no information about the structure of this file, but further inspection of the "Load" VI that pulls it up makes it look like LabVIEW just dumps the structure directly to the file, so it's a big binary mess (heaven forbid it get corrupted). It would be nice if it wrote out a nice CSV file. You see, then I would be able to avoid the GUI completely and just use a text editor (or even Excel) to build my rules.

Now, you would imagine that this ruleset could be passed in as a "file path" constant or control. However, instead they've used a "file prompt" (or something like that -- something I've never used in LabVIEW before) which forces the user to get prompted for the file every time. This means that if you want your VI to run without prompting, you have to run your VI *ONCE*, get prompted, and load the data in, then STOP the VI, then make all its current values the default, then SAVE the modified LOAD with a SEPARATE NAME!! This is in the NI DOCUMENTATION!! This is **REQUIRED** for use on a real-time system. This inflates the size of your VIs a great deal because it has to save all of that data within the VI, and it makes it VERY DIFFICULT to make nontrivial updates to your fuzzy ruleset later on. On top of that, they don't tell you you could just change that to a file path control/constant and upload your ".fc" files onto the realtime machine via FTP, which is a much more attractive solution.

So to me and to many of my peers, the "Fuzzy Logic Control Toolset" is worthless. Four inputs and one output really is a killer. The rest of the stuff just adds insult to injury.

On top of all of this, the realtime system is always losing connection forcing us to shut down LabVIEW, start it back up, change the execution target, and re-load the VI every four or five runs. The realtime system is ***SO SLOW*** (33 Hz top loop rate doing a reasonable nonlinear (or even linear, really!) control) even after we build many of our components on the FPGA module!!

After all of that, it's clear to me why they've made the CompactRIO systems so robust. After working with them for a few months, you can't help but want to throw them out a window.

Google and Open Source

I think this is really great. Good for Google. (note: deadline for submission is JUNE 14th)

Google Code: Summer of Code
The Summer of Code is Google's program designed to introduce students to the world of Open Source Software Development.

This Summer, don't let your programming skills lie fallow...Use them for the greater good of Open Source Software and computer science! Google will provide a $4500 award to each student who successfully completes an open source project by the end of the Summer. (payment details can be found in FAQ)

By pairing applicants up with the proven wisdom and experience of established prominent open source organizations (listed below), we hope to make great software happen. If you can't come up with a great idea to submit, a number of our organizations have made idea lists available.

Google Found Carmen Sandiego!!

Apparently, Google knows where Carmen Sandiego is...