Monthly Archives: October 2005



Speaking of learning, why wouldn’t you have already installed Scrapbook, if you indeed haven’t already? Excellent tool for browsing, which in turn makes it an excellent tool for learning.



I’m thankful for… learning. I mean, I don’t know about you, but the thing that gets me going more than practically anything else is acquiring new knowledge, skills, insights… And this world is just freakin’ full of opportunities. Significant forces in the world are aligned to not only allow me to learn, but to encourage, beg, force, and reward me to learn. That’s a nice thing, that I practically can’t escape doing what I like to do most :-). I better keep this a secret, though…


Is that Big Brother in your pocket…?

I’ve started a new ‘Paranoia’ category. Don’t take any of this _too_ seriously.

I had just been thinking about the potential to turn our love of cell phones into a nice vector for the infiltration of monitoring technology into our homes when this story showed up:
Cell phone signals may track traffic.

There’s lots more data to be collected than geographic location, too. How do you know your cell phone isn’t streaming audio somewhere as it sits there ‘idle’ in your pocket right now?


It’s not quite fair

Of all the things my blog is number 1 for in search engines (and there’s a shocking number of such things), I suppose I’m most proud of “lurgid”. However, that’s not really fair, so I’m going to redirect all you future lurgid searchers to something more appropriate: Douglas Adams’ official site. Go buy all the stuff, even if Douglas isn’t with us any more…


In slight praise of mediocrity

Seth’s Blog: On Mediocrity

While I agree with the spirit of this post, and specifically with:

Part of the curse of Wall Street is that enough is never enough. So short-term thinking sets in.

I also have to put in a word for mediocrity (maybe just to be contrary :-). It comes down to this:

It has to do with our willingness to settle for work product that just isn’t that good–at the same time we vote with our dollars to buy things and experiences that are exceptional.

I, for one, have a finite number of dollars to vote with, and I’d rather have more to use for exceptional video cards, say, than exceptional check holders, so I’ll choose the mediocre holder.

I don’t think capitalism could work without having a mix of exceptional and mediocre products, so that different people can express their different values through that dollar-voting process.

And, yada yada, you could say, “well, there’s no reason why everyone can’t just put it 110% and make everything they create of the highest caliber, and labor doesn’t cost anything, and throwing out a bruised tomato to save the appearance of the salad isn’t going to hurt anyone, and…” well, now that I think of it, I’m sure you wouldn’t say that.


Statistical pricing

It occurred to me today, in a meeting where we were talking about a pricing model for a complex of services, that that’s another application for statistics.

If you have a complex thing that you want to give to your customers as a simple thing, you don’t want to have a complex price associated with it. Your cost to produce the thing is a function of many variables you know, many variables you have a vague idea about, and many variables you don’t even know about yet. You can’t hand that massive cost function (times 1.15) to your customer, you need to simplify it to 0-3 or so variables for them, while making sure you can still make money.

There are statistical methods around that can let you model a complex space with a simple one, while putting (probabilistic) bounds on the error. Good thing to think about; it gives a way to make a factored, principled argument about pricing that doesn’t suffer from overestimation (like interval-based methods tend to) or unbounded error (like ad-hoc methods tend to).


Change per volume

FYI, according to a rather unscientific estimate, there’s about $3.33/fl oz of US coins (1, 5, 10, 25, no 50 or higher).

Which means I still have $900+ sitting around. Geesh.


An ounce of social engineering…

Things make me laugh. Like, for instance: Grins banned from passport pics, wherein it is declared that there are rules for passport pictures that say you can’t smile because it confuses face recognition systems.

What’s really going on is that the face recognition systems don’t work at all, and they just want to get people who don’t want to be found to run around airports smiling all the time.

It’s also interesting that in my three-and-a-half seconds of research for this post, the second hit in a web search reveals this paper: Smiling Faces are Better for Face Recognition. Har, and I mean har. Of course, we can’t trust that paper, right, cuz the first author is named Yaser.

And speaking of things that are amusing in various ways and simultaneously related to face recognition, I love the term ‘eigenfaces’ (Eigenfaces for recognition).


I/O Brush: The World as the Palette

Sweet little bit of HCI/image processing:
I/O Brush: The World as the Palette


Three threads

Although I like the locution, I’m not always quite sure what might be meant by “become what you are” (BTW, I get the phrase from Watts, not Hatfield). To some ears, including some of mine, such phrases smack of circularity, or worse. Then I think of phrases like “the limit, as t approaches 0, of sin(t)/t equals 1”, which makes the same amount of sense as “become what you are”. Somehow (sometimes) the former seems more concrete than the latter. If I believe a man-made bridge will hold my weight as I walk over it, I’m implicitly agreeing with some statements about limits and differentials, right? So somehow I need to bridge that understanding of the ‘limit’ concept over into the ‘becoming’ concept.

There seems to be an irreconcilable divide between how I see myself and how others see me. I care mostly about who I am and what I can become, and little about what I’ve done or what I can do. Most others take the opposite weighting. This is, I think, as it should be. But it’s good to recognize the fact and make use of it in order to choose my priorities or align my directions with others’. For example, learning about geometry is a better way of becoming who I am than learning about marketing, and that gives a certain lean to my priorities. However, learning a little bit of marketing will let me better put geometry into action in the world, and will help hook me up with people, projects, and tools to learn about the next bit of geometry.

Helping others become what they are is the next most joyous thing in my life after becoming what I am. A friend mentioned today that attending a funeral made him think about the importance of telling people in his life the things he needs to tell them. Along those lines, I think I ought to make sure that I’m doing what I can to help people close to me become what they are. I’d like each of my loved ones to pass from this plane with their last thought of me being that I had helped them achieve their self. More than that, I’d like that to always be their last thought of me.