Friday, July 29, 2005

eChalk Illusion

Every now and then I stumble onto a great illusion I haven't seen. Illusion #3 on this eChalk site is just such an illusion. I had so much trouble believing my eyes, I had to do a couple of screen caps and an image diff just to make sure.


Bill Murray in Love on David Letterman

Murray's still got it! Check out his hilarious Tom Cruise lampoon.

I couldn't easily manage a direct link due to Java Script. Look for "Bill Murray + ?" (7/28/05).


Microsoft nixes Google hire

"Microsoft has succeeded in preventing the head of its search research team jumping ship to Google. .…"


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Black & White

Black & White
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Inside Adobe offers a photo tour inside Adobe's San Jose headquarters.


The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy

"Stick Boy liked Match Girl,
He liked her a lot.
He liked her cute figure,
He thought she was hot..."

Ah, but as one might predict, it was a love that was not meant to be in Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories. Burton can be so weird, but sometimes he really cracks me up.

Counterfeited Brands

"Microsoft and Adobe have secured the dubious honour of becoming the only IT companies to figure in a list of the world's 10 most counterfeited brands... Adobe makes it to number seven on the list behind designer goods brands Louis Vuitton (third place in the chart)..."


What!?!? People counterfeit Louis Vuitton?!?! I thought those foreign guys sidewalk selling on dusty blankets by the Colosseum were company men! :-)

The New Used Book Market

"But Mr. Bezos is not foolish. Used books, the economists found, are not strong substitutes for new books. An increase of 10 percent in new book prices would raise used sales by less than 1 percent. In economics jargon, the cross-price elasticity of demand is small..."


Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Mutant killer mice three times their normal size are devouring albatross chicks on Gough Island (New Scientist). New species of insect appears in "evolutionary eye-blink." (New Scientist). Bizarre and dangerous things involving plasma and magma that you can do with an old microwave (link). Design Observer's William Drentell on new British documentary investigating religion in the American South (link). Russian spammer bludgeoned to death (link). Bouncy balls overtake San Francisco (1,2).

Monday, July 25, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Some Favorite Toons

This a plug for Larry Gonick's excellent cartoon guides to various subjects. I own The Cartoon Guide to Genetics. It's hilarious, it's a joy to read, and there's actually quite a bit of information packed into 224 pages of cartoons. Very well done.

I just purchased The Cartoon Guide to Statistics. In this case, given my training, I don't expect to learn anything new, but it's an equally fun read that I think I'll wind up loaning out to friends and offering to my kids as a reference.

Hitting the High Notes

"Does it even make sense to talk about having the "best programmers?" Is there so much variation between programmers that this even matters? Maybe it's obvious to us, but to many, the assertion still needs to be proven."

IMHO, Joel is right on the mark with his latest essay Hitting the High Notes.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Don't Touch My Bone

This dog might be happily chewing on his bone if his hind leg stopped trying to steal it from him. Funny.


Note: You may have to download the video to view it properly.

The Operating System Formerly Known As Longhorn

"It's not Longhorn anymore. Microsoft today announced that Windows Vista will be the official name of the next version of its flagship operating system, and that beta 1 of the OS will arrive by August 3."


Seattle Startup Looks Promising

I had a lot of admiration for MetaCreations and the fine team of talent the company assembled. A while back, I stumbled onto a page for, a Seattle startup whose founding members appear to include a couple of former MetaCreations graphics whizzes. Looks like they've started with another fine pool of talent. Their page includes video demos of their rendering technologies.

I didn't check this site out in great detail, but I did stumble onto some nice little articles that should be useful to someone learning the concepts.

"Welcome to Generation5! Generation5 aims to be the most comprehensive Artificial Intelligence site on the Internet. Community-orientated, Generation5 deals with all AI topics including robotics, neural networks, genetic algorithms, AI programming, home automation and much more." link

Friday, July 22, 2005

Managing for Creativity

Creative Class author Richard Florida and SAS CEO Jim Goodnight have coauthored a piece titled "Managing for Creativity" that's published in the July-August Harvard Business Review. It's being pretty widely cited in the blogosphere.

" A company’s most important asset isn’t raw materials, transportation systems, or political influence. It’s creative capital—simply put, an arsenal of creative thinkers whose ideas can be turned into valuable products and services..."


Alan Kay leaves HP

Dan Gillmor: "The Merc reports that Hewlett Packard's pink slip avalanche includes about a tenth of its researchers at the well-regarded HP Labs, and that three of four discontinued projects are here in Silicon Valley at the Palo Alto lab. Then we learn that Alan Kay, a true legend in technology, is is leaving because he was heading one of those projects."

Horse Balls

Apparently, horses just love to play with balls. When I first saw the video a few years ago at a local fleet store, I concluded I was watching a horse specially trained to sell a gimmick, but now the videos include several happy customers; one of my coworkers even offered me a testimonial.

Still, I find it amusing. It reminds me of an SNL commercial, except it's real. The videos are here. The main site is here.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Coast of Oregon

The Coast of Oregon
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


I like tiny applications. One tiny application I use is TinyWeb from RitLabs.

"TinyWeb is extremely small (executable file size is 53K), simple (no configuration other than through the command line) and fast (consumes minimum of system resources) Win32 daemon for regular (TCP/http) and secure (SSL/TLS/https) web servers."

It's a great little application that's free for commercial and non-commercial use. I use it at work to serve up technical memos I've written for my colleagues. It's great if you want to run a little server on your internal network. It's also great if you want to, say, learn CGI and you don't want to deal with IIS or Apache yet.

It's insanely easy to set up.



This Wired article "Unorthodox Chess From an Odd Mind" is about two dozen programmers gathering to play a Chess960, a variation of chess invented by Bobby Fisher. The idea is that the pieces behind the pawns can be placed anywhere provided the bishops are on opposite colors, the king falls between rooks and black positions mirror white. There are 960 possible start configurations. Hence, the name.

Apparently Chess960 is gaining popularity even among grandmasters. The problem it addresses is what ultimately drove me out of serious chess play. The more deeply I got into the game, the more it became a matter of scholarship and rote memorization. It became less and less like a game of skill and more and more like a homework assignment. Maybe it's time to give 960 a try.

(HT: Kottke)

The Measure of Encapsulation

I believe encapsulation is one of the most important principles in system design, and I don't feel it is given enough emphasis in the area of software engineering. These days it seems encapsulation is presented merely as an ancillary benefit of object-oriented programming, as opposed to object-oriented programming being a means of building well-encapsulated systems.

In discussing encapsulation with fellow software engineers, I often use an analog alarm clock as an example. It has three inputs and three outputs: knobs used to set times, a lever to turn the alarm on and off, hands to indicate the time and the alarm time, a bell to sound the alarm.

The vast majority of moving parts are inside the clock; they are inaccessible and hidden inside the black box as they should be, because exposing them can only lead to unnecessary complexity, confusion and trouble. So it is with a clock, so it should be with software components.

The other day I started wondering if there have been any attempts to quantify the degree of encapsulation in a system. I have never heard of anything like this. When considering a system, one might compare the number of external degrees of freedom (inputs and outputs) to some measure of internal complexity. The latter part might be most difficult to quantify. In the case of the clock, it might be the number of individual moving parts. I dunno.

I wonder if any disciplines attempt such quantifications. If you stumble onto this post and you can know of any instances, please make a comment.


In the past couple of days, I've noticed a few posts on various blogs with "Optimus Keyboard" in the titles, but I skipped the content doubting I'd find anything interesting about a new wireless keyboard. (How different from any other keyboard could it be?) But, now I have to admit I was too hasty. There are little displays in the keys (e.g., the IE icon to the left). Engadget covers it. link

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Monday, July 18, 2005


I'm still a little suprised that Details by Frou Frou has become one of my favorite discs of the past year. I guess I wasn't expecting it to be so good. What an amazing voice! Pixelsurgeon reviews Imogen Heap's latest disc, Speak For Yourself.


I'm Afraid I'm Developing an Itchy 1-Click Finger

The deals to be found in the Used section at Amazon are just too good to pass up sometimes. Recently, at Design Observer, Michael Bierut recommended his favorite book, Act One: An Autobiography by playright Moss Hart:

"Act One by Moss Hart is not the best book I’ve ever read. But it is my favorite. Most people to whom I recommend it have never heard of it, or of its author. But on about my fifth rereading I realized why I like it so much: it’s the best, funniest, and most inspiring description of the creative process ever put down on paper."


The used copies started at $1.58 plus shipping. There was no way my curiosity-driven 1-Click Shopping finger could escape a situation like that. (Of course if Jeff Bezos doesn't cease his hippoproctic behavior, I am pretty sure I will be able resist in the future.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Pavement Failure

This evening an electric freeway sign warned us of "Pavement Failure" ahead. Fortunately our exit came shortly before the impending hazard, but now I'm left musing on the nature of the narrowly averted fate. As far as definitions go, I'm a little fuzzy on the meaning of "Pavement Failure." Is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster of 1940 an instance of pavement failure?

Or perhaps the sign was meant to warn us that somewhere down the line, the freeway had melted into a large pool of bubbling tar. Such a sign might have spared the lives of countless mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers in Pleistocene L.A.

A gigantic sinkhole? A crack? Have the white lines worn off the road?

"Pavement Failure" is a little too vague for my taste, only slightly better than "Something dangerous ahead."

T is for TAAA

"Our extensive preview of the new Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX covered a lot of ground, but we didn't delve into the details on Transparency Adaptive Anti-Aliasing (TAAA). As one of the few genuinely new features of the architecture, it deserves a closer look, but when your GPU preview is 12 pages long and over 5,000 words, you have to trim the fat somewhere..."

ExtremeTech continues with a description of how TAAA works.


Saturday, July 16, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Friday, July 15, 2005


Feeling derelict in duties with respect to my graphics blogging aspirations, but lately I haven't found many graphical things post-worthy. Consequently, music, science, movies, whatever. This time, two more films.

The March of the Penguins runs an hour and twenty-four minutes. If you don't know anything about the mating rituals of the Emperor Penguin, you will feel infinitely more knowledgeable after watching this documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman. How these strange birds manage to survive with such inexplicable and ostensibly unfeasable reproductive strategies really is a wonder. The idea of a penguin couple successfully hatching a single egg and raising a chick to viability seems improbable, and, of course, they have to be successful enough to do it twice to keep the population stable (and that's leaving out early deaths). Some great cinematographic shots are also included.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I may be the wrong one to ask about this film. Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 Gene Wilder film, was one of my earliest DVD purchases, and I'm finding it hard to separate the two and evaluate Tim Burton's new film on its own merits. I've heard the latest film is truer to the book and held in higher esteem by Roald Dahl's descendants, but I'm feeling I much prefer the Wilder film. Credit where due, as usual Burton is stylist extraordinaire with stunning sets and art direction and cinematography, the new Charlie is much better than the old, and Depp deserves credit for creating a fresh and original incarnation of Dahl's eccentric candy maker. Still, while watching it, I couldn't help but long for the satire and social commentary of the first film, Julie Dawn Cole's stupendous Veruca Salt and Gene Wilder's darkly comedic Willie, with an oddly unthreatening eeriness, yet so blithe and whimsical, merrily offering David Seltzer's aphorisms. "If the Good Lord had intended us to walk, he wouldn't have invented rollerskates."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Weird World of Hymenopteran Genetics

I may have learned about the genetics of ants, bees, et al. before Dawkins, but for some reason I recall his Selfish Gene explanations so distinctly that I can't remember any coverage before them.

Due to the haplodiploidy system of hymenopteran sex determination (explained nicely here by PZ Meyers), sisters share 75% of their DNA. Dawkins theorized a link between this overlap and their highly socialized behavior--that is, it makes sense for them to be more highly socialized because they share more DNA and therefore there is a higher evolutionary payoff in cooperation.

Another strange story in ant genetics was published this week. The bizarro genetics of fire ants is in The skinny:

"The sperm of the male ant appears to be able to destroy the female DNA within a fertilized egg, giving birth to a male that is a clone of its father. Meanwhile the female queens make clones of themselves to carry on the royal female line."


Study Finds Third of Studies Wrong

"CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- New research highlights a frustrating fact about science: What was good for you yesterday frequently will turn out to be not so great tomorrow." CNN

I'm only posting this link because I couldn't resist making a post with such an Onionesque title. :-)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Web Site Change Notifications via RSS

I started looking for a decent way to track web site changes today as there are many sites I'd like to track that don't offer RSS feeds. There are so many applications and web services that track site changes, but I'd really like something simple. What I'm thinking at this point is just a simple Win32 app that periodically checks pages with links saved in a subfolder of Favorites (say "Favorites\Tracked"), detects changes and posts notifications in the form of local RSS feeds that I can plug into my RSS reader. I like things that are simple and unobtrusive. If I can find a little time, I think I'll just do it myself.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Jewel Fish

Jewel Fish
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Processing 1.0

"Processing is an open source programming language and environment for people who want to program images, animation, and sound. It is used by students, artists, designers, architects, researchers, and hobbyists for learning, prototyping, and production. It is created to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context and to serve as a software sketchbook and professional production tool. Processing is developed by artists and designers as an alternative to commercial software tools in the same domain."

Cool site and nice a little application for generating graphical java applets.

Very well done!


Spin's Top 100 Albums

Kottke, et al. have been talking about Spin Magazine's Top 100 Albums of the last 20 years. It's hard to resist this game. Off the top of my head, here are some of my favorite discs of the last 20 years (that I don't recall being on Spin's list).

Everything but the Girl - Love Not Money, The Blue Nile - Hats, Pete Yorn - Musicforthemorningafter, Coldplay - Parachutes, Beth Orton - Central Reservation, The Church - Starfish, The Waterboys - This is the Sea, The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues, Tears for Fears - Songs from the Big Chair, Sade - Diamond Life, Robyn Hitchcock - Queen Elvis, Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour of Bewilderbeast, John Mayer - Room for Squares, Five for Fighting - The Battle for Everything, The Sundays - Reading, Writing & Arithmetic, Sting - Nothing Like the Sun, Sting - Ten Summoner's Tales, Garbage - Version 2.0, Lisa Stansfield - Affection, R.E.M. - Document, U2 -The Joshua Tree, Dave Matthews Band - Under the Table and Dreaming, Elliott Smith - XO

Monday, July 11, 2005

Microsoft's Personnel Puzzle

A CNet article on controversy surrounding Microsoft's interviewing practices has been generating some notable blog discussion.

"Arthur Sorkin has been courted by Microsoft on several occasions, but the computer scientist keeps saying no to the software giant's overtures, at times finding the company's attitude arrogant." CNet article continued

I'd like to say something about this, but I don't have the time, so I'm simply posting the links for the time being.

A Dangerous Epidemic

Recently on public radio, a local official was interviewed on the problems methamphetamine is creating in our community. Some of the statistics and facts she offered were shocking and horrifying to me. She considered the drug much more dangerous than cocaine, highly addictive and extremely destructive.

A sad and horrifying outcome of this epidemic is the production of orphans, children of the addicted who must be placed in foster care because the parents are too messed up to care for their own children. The more you read about it, the more tales you'll hear of heart-wrenching neglect.

Many libertarians argue for the legalization of virtually every drug. This is an example of why I think that's a really bad idea. If the problem is this bad when the stuff is illegal, how bad will it be with it legal? A history of China's drug problems during the opium wars should be a sufficient example to demonstrate that.

There's a serious problem here that needs as much public awareness around it as as possible. Things need to get better before they get worse. There's a new article on the subject in today's NYT: A Drug Scourge Creates Its Own Form of Orphan.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Kauai Fern

Kauai Fern
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Tell Them Who You Are

The movie viewing streak continues...

This time it was Tell Them Who You Are. One one level, the film is both a biography of famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler and an autobiography of his son Mark. On this level it functions well as the story of a cantankerous, aging Hollywood legend and the son who lived in his shadow. On another level, I found a very palpable and moving father quest. Given the critical reaction, it seems you either bought it or you didn't. I certainly did, and that makes it one of my favorite films so far this year.

Why Education is Important

Toyota passes up Southeastern states for Ontario.

"He said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use 'pictorials' to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment."

"'The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario,' Fedchun said."

CBC News

(ht: Pharyngula, Mike the Mad Biologist)

Saturday Morning I/O Burst

It's Saturday morning. Coffee. Couch. Laptop. And, I seem to be in the mood to post things to this blog.

Children keep me rather busy in the summer, but I've managed to catch up on movies a bit in the past couple weeks. We watched The Magdalene Sisters the other night. It's a film about four women relegated to a Magalene Asylum in 1960s Ireland. It's very good, but don't expect a film with "Walking on Sunshine" on the soundtrack. An apropos post-colonic title would be ": One Flew Over the Catholics' Nest."

Last night, it was Mad Hot Ballroom, a documentary about New York City school kids in a ballroom dance competition. It was good, worth seeing. There are plenty of scenes that would please fans of Kids Say the Darndest Things. Underdog Factor: check. Competition: check. Well done enough to make you clap during the finale: check. That said, if you find yourself at a video store some day trying to choose, I suggest watching Spellbound first.

In other documentary news, I'm looking forward to March of the Penguins.

Batman Begins Must Be Good

I've long shared work space with two other cubemates. It didn't take long for us to come to the conclusion that, due to our differing tastes, the number of movies considered good or better by all three of us can be counted on one hand, maybe two. I've started calling such unanimous approval "The Triple Crown." It's been a long while since we've had a winner, but there's a new winner: Batman Begins. If it can garner praise from all three of us, it must be pretty good.

Workin' for the Mao

When Chinese companies owned by the communist government of China start taking over multi-billion dollar U.S. corporations, it can translate into a lot of Americans employed by the PRC. Maybe that's not such a hot idea. (And, maybe, this is an issue that deserves more attention than Tom, Katie, Brad and Angelina.)

USA Today

A Mathematician's Apology

I read G.H. Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology over the 4th of July break. The first third of the book consists of an interesting foreward by C.P. Snow. Whenever I read about the collaborations between Hardy and Ramanujan, I find myself wishing for a Merchant Ivory film on the subject. (Sadly, Ismail Merchant passed away in May).

Reading the thoughts of great men is always fascinating to me. I find far too little time for leisurely reading and the obligatory cliche holds, the one about too many books.

It's a sad finale for Hardy, a collection of a great mathematician's reflections:

"It is a melancholy experience for a professional mathematician to find himself writing about mathematics. The function of a mathematician is to do something, to prove new theorems, to add to mathematics, and to not talk about what he or other mathematicians have done. Statesmen despise publicists, painters despise art-critics, and physiologists, physicists, or mathematicians usually have similar feelings; there is no scorn more profound or on the whole more justifiable, than that of the men who make for the men who explain. Exposition, criticism, appreciation is work for second rate minds..."

So it goes.

Most inspiring to me are the lines Hardy draws between mathematics and art. So few people seem to see the beauty. For too many people it seems math is little more than a necessary evil. Not to be missed are Hardy's classic discussions of the proofs of an infinity of primes and the irrationality of the square root of two.

Declining Interest in CS

Lance Fortnow: "A recent AP article says that computer science courses in high schools are getting less interest from students as well as from the states setting curriculum. This decline in interest at high school leads to the decline in CS majors we see throughout the American universities. A similar phenomenon is going on in many other countries as well."

Top 10 Unsolved Information Visualization Problems

IEEE Graphics: "The author presents a revised and extended version of the top unsolved problems of information visualization that he outlined in an IEEE Visualization 2004 panel. These problems are not necessarily imposed by technical barriers; rather, they are problems that might hinder the growth of information visualization as a field. The first three problems highlight issues from a user-centered perspective. The fifth, sixth, and seventh problems are technical challenges in nature. The last three are the ones that need tackling at the disciplinary level."

Chaomei Chen

Household Dust Is Main Source Of Flame Retardants In Humans

"Household dust is the main route of exposure to flame retardants for people — from toddlers to adults — followed by eating animal and dairy products, according to a report in the July 15 issue of the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science & Technology."


Thursday, July 07, 2005


Hail Britannia
Originally uploaded by Shaylor.
Thoughts, support and prayers for the victims.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Call From Jobs

"As Errol Rose made preparations on Monday to bury his 15-year-old son, Christopher, who was killed last week in Brooklyn during a fight over an iPod, he received a telephone call from a stranger. The man spoke in tones that the grieving father said had momentarily quieted his anguish.

The stranger, Mr. Rose soon learned, was Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple Computer, the company that makes the iPod."

NYT article

(ht: unfogged)

A Survey of General-Purpose Computation on Graphics Hardware

"This new report by Owens et al. is a comprehensive survey of the history and state of the art in GPGPU. It describes, summarizes and analyzes the latest research in mapping general-purpose computation to graphics hardware."

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Can I Feel the Bumps on Your Head?

If I see another list of software engineer interviewing strategies enumerated online, I am not sure what I am going to do. Some of the beliefs and theories people embrace strike me as phrenology for interviewers.

When I'm in a position of looking for people, I try to find for people who are intelligent, creative, responsible, effective, experienced... the usual suspects...

Although they appear to be tell-tale indicators to some employers, I do not see "has a blog" or "has a web page" or "contributes to open source" as great indicators of talent.

Recalling the most talented people with whom I've worked leads quickly to the realization that most of them would strike out with these three questions.

In my opinion, these alleged indicators are better demonstrations of confirmation bias and self-selection than anything else.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Regina Spektor

When it comes to pop culture, I have no qualms with being labeled "clueless," and I have little idea what's going on for the most part. When I was younger, things were easier to keep track of because it was a pleistocene era when Tiffanys and Debbie Gibsons were produced one-at-a-time. The entertainment companies didn't have the mass production capacities they appear to have now.

That said, I love music--music in almost every shape and form. From time to time I go on a music sampling rampage, a relentless quest for something I haven't heard, something new that I like. This week has been like that. In the past few days, I've sampled scores of artists that I've never heard before.

The new find for clueless me this week is Regina Spektor. I think she's great. Compositionally, lyrically, vocally, stylistically... very nice work. Check out the song Us off her latest disc Soviet Kitsch.

Friday, July 01, 2005


Sparking Imaginations

How can we get kids more interested in science, math, computing? I see the question frequently asked in math and science blogs. This post is dedicated to a recent success on this front.

I picked up Electronic Snap Circuits for my son's 9th birthday.

It's an electronics kit with the simplicity of Legos. I got the 300-in-1 kit. It includes a speaker, a microphone, several capacitors, resistors, three ICs, a motor, photoresistor, some LEDs, etc. It's well made, and the kids are really having fun doing all of the projects.

I must say bravo to Elenco for a job well done! My only regret is not going for a more advanced version (fortunately I found some upgrade options on their site).

Science: 125 Questions

"In a special collection of articles published beginning 1 July 2005, Science Magazine and its online companion sites celebrate the journal's 125th anniversary with a look forward -- at the most compelling puzzles and questions facing scientists today. A special, free news feature in Science explores 125 big questions that face scientific inquiry over the next quarter-century."


(ht: Geomblog)