What I Read on Spring Break (Since I'm Too Lazy to Update the Media Sidebar Every Time I Finish Yet Another Book)

I read (or finished): The Complete Robot, by Isaac Asimov, State of Fear, by Michael Crichton, and The World's Religions, by Huston Smith. I also read Seinlanguage, by Jerry Seinfeld, and Ringworld, by Larry Niven. Currently I'm reading: Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America, by Robert Reich, and Team of Rivals: The Political Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (the plagiarist whose names I'm most likely to invert).

UPDATE: I remembered that I also read another collection of Asimov's short stories: Robot Dreams

This Movie is Stupid

Crash, the three-time Acadamey Award winning film, is stupid. An incredibly lame film. The makers of this film are clearly the stupidest people now living. The people who voted for Crash to receive the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year are the stupidest people to ever cast votes in this messed up contest. They should all be put to sleep.

For the love of god please end this ridiculous mockery of a film. I am, however, stuck watching it.


All Your Bamboo Are Belong To Us

JordanBaker offers an amusing commentary about the wacky theory that the Chinese are out to brainwash the world using panda cuteness.


Fun for days! Well, really just a few minutes. http://www.desktopblues.lichtlabor.ch/ Sorry, I'm still link illiterate. Deal.


There are Too Many Ones in the Lead

Tax cheats beware: if you make up information on tax forms, be certain that you use the right number of leading ones. What, you may ask, is a leading one? Well, the leading digit of a number (say the number of dollars you paid to FICA last year) is the first digit in the number. Duh. A leading one is therefore a one at the... lead... of a number.

Anyhow, it turns out that in the real world, for a set of related numbers--for example, the information on your tax return--the leading digits aren't uniformly distributed. That is, rather than any digit, one through nine, being equally probable to occur in the first position of a number, there is some other distribution!

We can see below what I mean.

Here is a graph showing in blue a unform probability distribution, like you'd expect to get from throwing a nine-sided die, and might think for things like leading digits. In red, we see a graph of "Benford's Law", which, it turns out, is how leading digits are distributed! The way to read the graph is to locate the leading digit on the x axis, draw a line (in your mind--don't foul the monitor) from the x axis, straight up, until it intersects the red curve. Then, draw a horizontal line from that intersection over to the y axis. Where that horizontal line meets the y axis, that is the chance of finding your particular digit in the leading position.

You can see that the most probable leading digit is one! It is nearly three times more probable than in the uniform distribution! Goes to show that probability and statistics sometimes do things you wouldn't expect.


Dr. McNoModulation or: You Need to Learn Not to Love the Monotone

Now, I'm just a simple unfrozen-speech-geek, but your consistent monotone strikes me as perhaps not the best way to convey your deeply-held and well-reasoned beliefs to a wider audience. While your various utterances may seem completely obvious to you, and indeed be part of a coherent speech --complete with punctuation!-- you must realize that your choices of media must influence the way in which information is conveyed.

I understand that your primary mode of communication is written, but your unmodulated, uninflected, stream of words slips easily from the mental grasp of even the most hardened NPR listener.

Here is a piece of advice to you, O Valued Academic: by varying pitch and speed, you can alleviate the unbearable ignorance of these huddled masses!

Thanum an Dhul!

According to this article from Slate, Ireland is now a big exporter of "crack." Eh, that is, "craic," or "communal fun" in Gaelic.

IPCo's designers claim to have "developed ways of re-creating Irish pubs which would be successful, culturally and commercially, anywhere in the world." To wit, they offer five basic styles: The "Country Cottage," with its timber beams and stone floors, is supposed to resemble a rural house that gradually became a commercial establishment. The "Gaelic" design features rough-hewn doors and murals based on Irish folklore. You might, instead, choose the "Traditional Pub Shop," which includes a fake store (like an apothecary), or the "Brewery" style, which includes empty casks and other brewery detritus, or "Victorian Dublin," an upscale stained-glass joint. IPCo will assemble your chosen pub in Ireland. Then they'll bring the whole thing to your space and set it up. All you have to do is some basic prep, and voilĂ ! Ireland arrives in Dubai. (IPCo has built several pubs and a mock village there.)


This week in National Geographic News...

Yeti crabs and the "real" story of Nessie. I am exceedingly amused by both.

New toy

Pretty cool.


I'll take... U.S. History for... $1000, Alex

There's a quiz up at The American Prospect's blog (TAPPED). Supposedly this is stuff any well-educated person should know. Give it a look.


Best Most Well-Liked Editor

Among the problems I have with the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, Golden Globes, etc, is that I don't understand how one can adequately distinguish the qualities of performances of disparate roles. There isn't a metric that really establishes "best."

This is particularly galling (for some strange reason unknown to me) in the category of editing: How do they know? The voters don't get to see the footage that contestants began with, and we don't know what other editors would have done with same!

It would be awesome to see a well-set up editing contest. Give N would-be editors the same stock of footage, the same screenplay (or not, or whatever), and the same equipment. Now, judge the results. That would be a legitimate editing contest. In fact, if anyone's heard of such a thing, would you let me know? I'd be really intrigued to see it.



So, what's the deal with me not writing much, or calling people, or participating in the human race? I'm not sure about the first two, but the last is patently false: we've been hanging out with peoples and doing fun stuff (when not working our little keisters off).

For instance, last Friday, Susan, Max, Raviv (nice fellow in my research group) and I went to the Icehouse and saw Tom Papa and Tammy Pescatelli, among others. I nearly vomited during Papa's set, I laughed so hard. That guy rocks.

Who doesn't rock? That one dude sitting nearby who "learned how to whisper in a helicopter" (to quote Tammy Pescatelli). He got picked on by basically all the comics; rough gig, as he was on a date. I felt bad for the guy, but he didn't look like he was having much fun to begin. Perhaps he was too cool to laugh.

Also last weekend we prepared a magnificient meal at Max's: a Lilliput inspired repast. (Nearly) Everything was small: game hens, baby vegetables, etc. Everything was freaking delicious, and a good time was had by all.

Work is going okay. Our group submitted five presentations for an conference (CLEO) in May. All five were accepted, so the Painter group will be busy while Susan and I wed.

On that front, if you read this and have not RSVP, please do so. We are coming up on April, and we'd like to get the attendance list settled.

I've been reading a lot, and I'll direct you to the Media sidebar to discover some of that.

What else? I don't know. Comment, people. Tell me what you're up to. Respond to SOMETHING paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence. Hell, correct my grammar. Lord knows I don't write anything for human consumption anymore. It's all for damned scientists.