Monday, October 31, 2005

If the canis latrans catches you...

2004 shot I took of surviving Pompeiian design. Possibly a cartoon forebear of the Road Runner watched by pre-Vesuvian audiences on Saturday mornings. Meep. Meep.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Benford's Law

If you take an ordinary list of numbers, such a list of the populations of cities, what is the probability that the first digit of each number is 1? The intuitive response is 1/9 working from the knowledge there are 9 possibilities (nothing starts with a 0) and the assumption that each digit should be equally like likely.

Oddly enough, it doesn't work that way. The chances of a 1 are around 30%, almost three times what one might expect. This phenomenon, known as Benford's Law, applies in all sorts of disparate cases (areas of rivers, constants, figures used in newspapers, debits in an accounting report, etc.). The distribution of starting digits is shown in the following chart.

Finding an even distribution of starting digits can be a really good indicator of someone fudging the numbers.

Mathworld offers an in-depth explanation.


Visual Studio 2005

In Microsoft Developer News, Robert Scoble reports the shipping of Visual Studio 2005. Meanwhile, in this talk given to the NYC .NET Developer's Group, Charles Petzold asks "Does Visual Studio Rot the Mind?"

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I/O Brush

"I/O Brush is a new drawing tool to explore colors, textures, and movements found in everyday materials by "picking up" and drawing with them. I/O Brush looks like a regular physical paintbrush but has a small video camera with lights and touch sensors embedded inside. Outside of the drawing canvas, the brush can pick up color, texture, and movement of a brushed surface. On the canvas, artists can draw with the special "ink" they just picked up from their immediate environment."


(ht:Drawn!, return of the reluctant)

Friday, October 28, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

River City Gazette: "We've Got Trouble With a Capital B!"

A recent joke about the bloggers blogging about blogging left me laughing in agreement; still, I feel compelled to say something about the blogging thing. The blogosphere is all abuzz regarding a recent Forbes attack on bloggers. As the case goes with bloggers, so it goes with mainstream media: consider the source.

The publishing industry is becoming progressively more electronic. What if everyone had a printing press? With blogging and the Net, more than ever, not only is it looking like everyone does indeed have a printing press, but also a printing press capable of producing millions of copies nearly for free. Due to the nature of electronic media, the quality of an online publication is largely limited only by the boundaries of human talent; clearly legions of talented individuals are connected to the Net, and many of them are new rising stars collectively capturing the attention of millions of readers.

Undoubtedly, the publishing environment existing on the Net amounts to a more competitive playing field for publishers than ever was the case in print. It really comes as no surprise to me when old school publishers trash bloggers and point out the worst examples of blogging they can find. Oh, we've got trouble in River City. Maybe, just maybe, there are some vested interests at stake here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sony's Bouncing Balls

An old post referenced some pictures posted on Evhead that showed thousands of bouncy balls rolling down the streets of San Francisco. Apparently Fallon's London office shot it for Sony's Bravia TV. It's a very cool spot that can be seen on



Computer Graphics: Derivative of Fame?

Until now I've never found a way to work it all into a meaningful calculus, but I'm finally geting an idea of the value of computer graphics in terms of super models. CG appears to be related to the derivative of the degree of their fame.

Very Famous Model = Not Famous Model + Computer Graphics


Computer Graphics = Very Famous Model - Not Famous Model

The story:

"LONDON – Relatively unknown Italian model Mariacarla Boscono and a set of computer graphics will replace Kate Moss as the face of H&M, the Swedish retailer has confirmed..."


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Taxidermy Cat

Oh, the things you'll find for sale on eBay...

"This was a very loved cat & is for sale because the kids are scared by it."


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mr. Angry & Mrs. Calm

Interesting illusion: Mr. Angry & Mrs. Calm



Monday, October 24, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Manhattan Short Film Festival Ad

I still miss the days when was free. A recent BoingBoing post pointed to an ad site named I have to admit this funny 3-part Manhattan Short Film Festival ad by Publicis New York cracked me up.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Authors, Two

The number of chilren's books I've read to my sons grows slowly but steadily. Of all so far, I have to say that those written by Kate DiCamillo are some of my absolute favorites. Her stories are wonderful. Her prose is most excellent in its timing and rhythm. It flows so gracefully and effortlessly. And that isn't always the case with children's books. I've often been surprised by the rambling, syncopated tongue-twisters penned by some authors of children's books, even classics.

Over the weekend, I picked up my wife's copy of Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer's book on Mormonism. It took only a few pages to suck me in, and it has been hard to put it down. Great writing, fascinating, riveting! Did you know that Joseph Smith once commanded an army half the size of the U.S. Army at the time?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Red Glow in Legoland

Red Glow in Legoland
Originally uploaded by metamerist.


Drawn! links to the inside jokes of Looney Tunes (link). I have to again give Joel Spolsky credit for being on a roll this week; this time with his Architecture Astronauts, amen. In this week's New Yorker, a piece on evo devo. An interesting design trends link via Mr. Kottke. Paul Graham's chronicling of his summer ventures includes links to some of the startups he funded; e.g., Kiko, an Ajax calendar startup. Not too long ago, pixelsurgeon quite favorably reviewed Echo & the Bunnymen's Siberia. I am frustrated by the fact that it seems to be feast or famine when it comes to my movie wish list; currently, the list is overlowing with Capote (a Metacritic 90), Good Night & Good Luck, Corpse Bride, Wallace & Gromit, MirrorMask, Proof and that's not really even delving into the indie list. Fark and then Boing Boing linked a great top 100 toys of the 70s and 80s list; Stretch Armstrong, Slime, Battling Tops, Merlin... "that's what it is, that's what it is..."

Cirque du Soleil

Last night, we took our children to Cirque du Soleil's Corteo. There are little moments in life, moments difficult to duplicate or predict, when you see the faces of your children overjoyed and enthralled in magical wonder. So it was. Bravo!

Friday, October 21, 2005


Positano Day
Originally uploaded by metamerist.
I've ridden quite a number of roller coasters in my life, but, as far as thrill rides go, few can compare with the bus ride from Sorrento to Positano. Sit on the right side of the bus. When the bus tilts as you round a corner, you'll have an unobstructed view of the rocky shore five hundred feet straight beneath you. The roads are narrow. The driver will honk most of the way to broadcast his position to blind oncoming vehicles hidden behind each hairpin turn. Kamekazes on Vespas pass and dart between lanes just for the sake of raising the mayhem to video game proportions. It was literally a white knuckle ride for the Aussie behind me. His hands clenched my seatback. His knuckles were white. I think bravado is inevitable on your third ride through the route. You just have to coolly turn to a fear-frozen fellow tourist, smile and say "Quite a ride, isn't it?"

The RSS feed is worthy of subscription. Over the past few years, I have often found the deals have too good to pass up, especially some of the Dell coupon combos that show up periodically.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Computational Photography @ East Anglia

Computational Photography research group.


The Real Thing

The Real Thing
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Collective Worry Stack

In Blogger, you can "Save as Draft" or "Publish Post." If you choose the former, it gets filed, but no one can see it. I've accumulated quite a collection of things I've saved as drafts--or ultimately retracted for further rumination. The following snippet from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels is something resurrected from a saved draft. I have a theory that collectively we have a stack of things to worry about, be it terrorism, Yellowstone exploding, global warming, global thermonuclear war, etc. Every now and then we start to worry about killer comets and we're treated to a Michael Bay production or something similar. I'm beginning to think that when that happens it's a good sign, that it's the point where we've nearly popped the top off our collective worry stack. After all, people have been worrying about killer comets for an awful long time. At least since 1726...

"These people are under continual disquietudes, never enjoying a minutes peace of mind; and their disturbances proceed from causes which very little affect the rest of mortals. Their apprehensions arise from several changes they dread in the celestial bodies: for instance, that the earth, by the continual approaches of the sun towards it, must, in course of time, be absorbed, or swallowed up; that the face of the sun, will, by degrees, be encrusted with its own effluvia, and give no more light to the world; that the earth very narrowly escaped a brush from the tail of the last comet, which would have infallibly reduced it to ashes; and that the next, which they have calculated for one-and-thirty years hence, will probably destroy us. For if, in its perihelion, it should approach within a certain degree of the sun (as by their calculations they have reason to dread) it will receive a degree of heat ten thousand times more intense than that of red hot glowing iron, and in its absence from the sun, carry a blazing tail ten hundred thousand and fourteen miles long, through which, if the earth should pass at the distance of one hundred thousand miles from the nucleus, or main body of the comet, it must in its passage be set on fire, and reduced to ashes: that the sun, daily spending its rays without any nutriment to supply them, will at last be wholly consumed and annihilated; which must be attended with the destruction of this earth, and of all the planets that receive their light from it.They are so perpetually alarmed with the apprehensions of these, and the like impending dangers, that they can neither sleep quietly in their beds, nor have any relish for the common pleasures and amusements of life. When they meet an acquaintance in the morning, the first question is about the sun’s health, how he looked at his setting and rising, and what hopes they have to avoid the stroke of the approaching comet. This conversation they are apt to run into with the same temper that boys discover in delighting to hear terrible stories of spirits and hobgoblins, which they greedily listen to, and dare not go to bed for fear." -- Gulliver's Travels, Chapter 2


Apple's new RAW imaging app.


The Speechalist

If you haven't seen Andy Dick as a presidential speech coach yet, it's funny.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Find X

How not to solve a geometry problem...


(ht: 0xDE)

Sampling from the Simplex

Geomblog offers an interesting post on uniform sampling from the unit simplex. It takes me nostalgic about previous life's work with the generation of D-optimal mixture designs.


The Sum of All Nags

Lately it's become fashionable to pop up all sorts of helpful little messages on my desktop. "The Nth service pack is now available, because we just couldn't get it right the (N-1)th time." Click. "Your local wireless network is available." Click. "You really should have new virus protection software." Click. If the objective is an exercise regimen for my click finger, kudos for a job well done.

Connecting my camera is like running a gauntlet. Everybody wants to help me so much. I'm beginning to feel like the little old lady who was helped across the street by the zealous boy scout; helped, even though she didn't want to go.

My new car is in on the game now too. It's a stick, and when I put it in reverse, it emits a shrill, relentless beep until I get my act together, do the sensible thing and chuck it back into a gear labelled with a number. The least they could have done is chosen a soothing a British female voice. "Sir, I just want you to know your auto is in reverse." Backing up without my seatbelt buckled unleashes a cacophanous chorus. Oh, there's a shrill beep for that too. If the passenger's not buckled, I imagine it's a trio rivaled only by the howling hounds of hell.

In each particular instance, it probably makes sense to an individual developer. "Oh, my little nag won't be annoying. It's just one little nag!" But I'm having a problem with the sum of all nags. They add up to a collective irritation akin to a virtual nagging spouse.

I think Paul Ford may have the right idea, returning to WordPerfect for DOS. I think I'm ready to return to my 1985 Honda Civic too. :-)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Bayesian Filtering & the if statement

Joel Spolsky again:

"A very senior Microsoft developer who moved to Google told me that Google works and thinks at a higher level of abstraction than Microsoft. "Google uses Bayesian filtering the way Microsoft uses the if statement," he said. That's true. Google also uses full-text-search-of-the-entire-Internet the way Microsoft uses little tables that list what error IDs correspond to which help text. Look at how Google does spell checking: it's not based on dictionaries; it's based on word usage statistics of the entire Internet, which is why Google knows how to correct my name, misspelled, and Microsoft Word doesn't."



Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

In a much more laid back environment...

Joel Spolsky cracked me up:

"One bright young Harvard grad I met at the party has a job as the full-time, personal system administrator maintaining the PC of a famous hedge fund manager ... (Dude, come work for Fog Creek... we can waste your talent in a much more laid back environment.)"



Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Paul Ford: "I'm getting so much spam. Hundreds of messages a day trying to seduce me by appealing to my darkest lusts and my greed. So I've gone back to basics. I stopped using my fancy word processor and installed WordPerfect for DOS, which was last updated about a decade ago, and which lets me type in gray letters on a blue screen without using any windows and without the need of a mouse..."


Bayesian Inference & Occam's Razor

In chapter 28 of his book Information Theory, Inference and Learning Algorithms, David MackKay uses an example of a box behind a tree as a demonstration of the embodiment of Occam's razor in Bayesian inference.

What's behind the tree? One box or two? What is the basis for the belief?

I really enjoyed the discussion and his example. The book is available online as a PDF, and the example begins on page 343.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"... The Way They Go Moo..."

"... The Way They Go Moo..."
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Scrabble with Transatlantic Arms

Evenings, if one of us has work to do, my wife and I often sit on the couch with our laptops and simultaneously juggle the work with a game of Internet Scrabble. The game is hosted on a server in the U.K. on a site called The Pixie Pit.

Sitting side-by-side and, via wi-fi laptops, manipulating a Scrabble board existing somewhere across the Atlantic on a British computer. Something inside me says, "Now, that's just plain wrong." Sigh. But, still, enjoyable.

Convolution of Gaussians

Gaussians have an interesting property with respect to convolution. The convolution of a Gaussian (μ1, σ1) and another Gaussian (μ2, σ2) is a new Gaussian (μ3, σ3) with the means and variances being additive; i.e., μ312 and σ3^2= σ1^2 + σ2^2. (Jaynes, Mathworld).

Consequently, in an image processing application, a Gaussian Blur of radius 3 followed by a Gaussian Blur of radius 4 should produce the same result as a single Gaussian Blur of radius 5 (give or take some rounding error).

Looking at the BrightSide

I've been reading about the HDR monitors manufactured by BrightSide, a Canadian company. The contrast range provided is extremely impressive, a range of 200,000:1, and that doesn't merely amount to finer resolution, these displays get much brighter than existing displays (10X, they claim). And before you get your hopes up, needless to say, at nearly $50K they're expensive and targeted at specialized applications.

Articles: bit-tech, hardware secrets, Tom's Hardware, Engadget

Old Main

Old Main
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

DARPA Grand Challenge 2005

Interesting news related to the DARPA Grand Challenge, a big contest for autonomous robot vehicle driving. According to the Machine Learning (Theory) blog, although all the teams did badly last year, this year was different with teams from Stanford and CMU both completing the course. Cool!

More info and links at Machine Learning (Theory)...


Saturday, October 08, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Sometimes Things Are Not What They Seem

An interesting story I hadn't heard before...

Many years ago, we had a rash of airplane hijackings in this country, particularly out of Miami airport. One such plane was hijacked on its way to New York. “Turn the plane around and head for Havana,” ordered the hijacker gruffly. The pilot could tell that the man was desperate, so he did what the hijacker said. When the gunman tried to intimidate the passengers, however, they started roaring with laughter. No matter what the hijacker did, the passengers laughed. They laughed all the way to Havana. They laughed while the plane was on the ground and tense negotiations were going on between Cuban and American authorities. They laughed when the plane was allowed to resume its flight to New York. They turned the whole experience into a big party. Only one man was not laughing, besides the hijacker and the pilot. He didn’t get the joke. In fact he was worried that the hijacker would react violently to the laughter of the other passengers. The whole experience was miserable for this one passenger. His name? Allen Funt, host of the popular CANDID CAMERA. When the other passengers saw that Allen Funt was on board, they assumed this was all a prank. They were waiting for someone to say, “Surprise! You’re on Candid Camera.”

From: "Lessons From The Pequot War Presented to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington May 29, 2005 Rev. Paul Ratzlaff"


Friday, October 07, 2005

Photography and Photo-related Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union

"This exhibition of nearly 300 photographs explores Soviet artists unusually inventive and resourceful uses of photography. BEYOND MEMORY: Photography and Photo-related Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union, presents a wide variety of photography and photo-dependent art that was produced unofficially in the Soviet Union between the mid-1950s and late-1980s. The exhibition delves into a highly developed Soviet dissident culture. Its title refers to photography's powerful ability to bear witness, aid remembrance, shape and even alter recollection."


(ht: languor management, wood s lot)


Sometimes real life gets Onionesque.

"Then he hit the streets. The idea was simple: pay beggars a few dollars to let him attach a glossy, green PokerFaceBook ad to their own signs, and drivers scanning the beggars' rumpled, hand-lettered pleas would inevitably notice his."

To such objections, the resolutely sunny entrepreneur merely shrugs.
"Possibly insensitive," he said. "Definitely accurate."


(ht: kottke)

3 Execs leaving Adobe, 5 from Macromedia join

Photoshop News...


3D Recursions

3D Recursions: "A place devoted to Strange Attractors, LSystems, Fractals and Math, LightWave, Digital Fusion and Vlam, Chaoscope."



Poetry & Aeroplanes

Listening to Poetry & Aeroplanes by Teitur (2004). Apropos rhythms after a long, hard day-- mellow acoustic guitar and soft vocals from the Danish musician. Nice disc.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Glass & Light

Glass & Light
Originally uploaded by metamerist.
I have a new D70. Learning to use it well will keep me busy.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sony Ericsson K750i

I like to call it fruit
Originally uploaded by John Randgaard.
This isn't my photo. I stumbled onto it while paging through a Flickr photo stream. The thing that struck me was the quality of the image given its source. Not bad for a cameraphone. Here's an Engadget review ( Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any more news on US availability.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Lineman the Size of a Bug

"Due to a bug in a roster update for Electronic Arts' popular Madden 2006, New York Jets lineman Michael King can appear as a mere 7 inches tall"



Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Polyphonic Spree

I keep running into The Polyphonic Spree--on soundtracks, that is. Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind marked the first time I heard their song Light & Day, which I believe was also in an iPod commercial before it showed up again in the film Murderball. Yesterday, we saw Thumbsucker and half the songs were Spree songs. I'm not sure what to call this white-robed 25-person group (a band or a choir?) but they're certainly unique and talented enough to be worthy of a blog plug. Check 'em out.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Fractals of Change

Lately, I've been enjoying the podcasts on Tom Evslin's blog, Fractals of Change. If you're interested in topics from a "retired serial CEO" such as "10 Ways to Know if You're an Entrepreneur," I highly recommend it. Great writing, information and insight.