Thursday, June 30, 2005


Song for a Blue Guitar - Red House Painters
Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key - Billy Bragg
When the Stars go Blue - Ryan Adams
Across the Universe - Rufus Wainwright
Swing, Swing - The All American Rejects
Rise Above It - Afro Celt Sound System
The Bachelor and the Bride - The Decemberists
If I Ever Feel Better - Phoenix
Spitting Games - Snow Patrol
Breathe - Telepopmusik
Mid November - Johnathan Rice
It's Over - Sondre Lerche
Breathe In - Frou Frou
Don't Give Up On Me - Graham Colton
Us - Regina Spektor
Maybe It's Just Me - Butch Walker


UNC Chapel Hill. GPU Quicksort with 7800 GTX against usual suspects.


Walking on the Beach

Walking on the Beach
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Google Earth

French Fusion

"AFTER two years of acrimonious arguments, the debate about where to build the world's largest nuclear fusion reactor has been settled. France is the winner."

India Faces U.S. Style Labor Pains

"Relative to their counterparts in the United States and other developed nations, workers at Indian companies are both plentiful and inexpensive to employ. This cheap labor, however, has led to explosive growth and, in turn, to unprecedented competition for qualified employees. Double-digit raises are the norm."


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Simple Story in Pictures

Professionals at Work. A simple story coming in the form of a series of pictures. Great stuff.

(HT: Raymond Chen)

I echo his apologies for the dumb ads in between the pictures.

Benjamin Franklin on Judicial Selection

I love Ben Franklin. From Madison's Notes, Franklin chimes in during the hammering out of judicial selection in the U.S. Constitution:

"Docr. FRANKLIN observed that two modes of chusing the Judges had been mentioned, to wit, by the Legislature and by the Executive. He wished such other modes to be suggested as might occur to other gentlemen; it being a point of great moment. He would mention one which he had understood was practiced in Scotland. He then in a brief and entertaining manner related a Scotch mode, in which the nomination proceeded from the Lawyers, who always selected the ablest of the profession in order to get rid of him, and share his practice among themselves. It was here he said the interest of the electors to make the best choice, which should always be made the case if possible."

The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 reported by James Madison : June 5


Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Partly Cloudy Patriot

Thanks to KWC, et al. for pointers to nerdette essayist extraordinaire Sarah Vowell. I read Partly Cloudy Patriot on the plane, and I really enjoyed it. It's a fun read.

Mmm Mmm Mercury

Smithsonian Magazine (6/2004) on "Doctor" Lewis' Thunderclappers

"...Since the men were plagued with gastrointestinal problems from their nearly all-meat diet and from drinking muddy river water, the pills—which were nearly 60 percent mercury—were freely dispensed. While they may not have cured any illnesses, the thunderclappers have served archaeologists well: traces of mercury remain in the soil along the Corps of Discovery's route, and some expedition campsites have been identified by excavating corps latrines..."

The history of medicine is fascinating and horrifying. Kids, do not try this at home.


Intel-Based Macs May Run Windows

"...Apple will not do anything to prevent it," says Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director with Jupiter Research in New York. (Today, Macs can run Windows only on a sluggish x86 emulator called Virtual PC.)..."


Joel on Recruiting

Still catching up on notable links born in my absence. Joel Spolsky draws connections between bad business practices and recruiting:

"To Gretchen: recruiting successfully isn't only up to recruiters. The best recruiting department in the world can't make people want to work at a company that's moribund, that can't figure out how to ship a compelling upgrade to their flagship OS, or update their flagship database server more than once every five years, that has added tens of thousands of technical workers who aren't adding any dollars to the bottom line, and that constantly annoys twenty year veterans by playing Furniture Police games over what office furniture they are and aren't allowed to have."


Friday, June 24, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

GeForce 7800 GTX

"The latest graphics architecture from Nvidia focuses on speed, and delivers it in spades. Find out how what makes the GeForce 7800 GTX outpace all other graphics cards in our extensive preview." ExtremeTech

The Forest for the Quarks

I enjoyed this NYT review of Robert B. Laughlin's "A DIFFERENT UNIVERSE: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Up." In it, Keay Davidson discusses some of the pitfalls of reductionism. I'd like to make the case that some (or more) philosophy should be part of computer science undergraduate programs, but for now I think I'm going to stick to collecting footnotes.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


I am back after spending a week out of town. I managed to get a little extracurricular reading in here and there. Few writers make me laugh as hard as David Sedaris does, which is well demonstrated with this recent New Yorker piece titled "Turbulence."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Pigeon Attack

pigeon attack
Originally uploaded by Velvet Marauder.
Oh no!

Are You Going With Me?

I second the musical motion of Lileks on the virtue Pat Metheny's tune Are You Going with Me? I got into Offramp in the late 1980s after falling in love with the Falcon and the Snowman soundtrack.

My musical meanderings continue. More Nick Drake. Before recently, I'd never had more than a mere acquaintance or two with Drake's work. The Garden State soundtrack brought Drake back to the surface for me. Having now listened to each of Drake's three albums a few times, I feel more confident in offering high praise.

It's been a discovery of hidden treasure for me. For a sampling, Way to Blue is a compilation from all three albums. The most recognizable tracks will probably be One of these Things First, Northern Sky and Pink Moon. Highly recommended. (Poor Boy playing at this moment.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Sea Lions

Sea Lions
Originally uploaded by metamerist.
Thanks for all the fish!

Chinese Peasant Rebellion

Ogged of Unfogged notes a Washington Post story about a successful peasant rebellion against Microsoft. Woops! I mean the PRC police.

"Most of the violent grass-roots eruptions have been put down, hard and fast. This report examines the origin and unfolding of one revolt that went the other way. "We won a big victory," declared a farmer who described the protest on condition that his name be withheld, lest police arrest him as a ringleader. "We protected our land. And anyway, the government should not have sent so many people to suppress us."

WTG, Peasants!

Washington Post story link

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Lawrence Kohlberg

Reconstructing Larry: Assessing the Legacy of Lawrence Kohlberg
From Ed. magazine, 10/1/2000:

"A year after police pulled Lawrence Kohlberg's body from Boston Harbor, 600 people gathered at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on April 15, 1988, to commemorate 'Lawrence Kohlberg Day.'

The event's speakers sought to understand the sudden loss of a man who had made a profound impact on the fields of moral psychology and moral education."


Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

One Quintillion Pennies

I once created a similar set of images using graphics of dollar bills to help my children visualize big numbers. Here's a link to a page I found, The MegaPenny Project, volumetric visualizations of small to very large quantities of pennies.

HDTV Ready Newscasters

"When he asked her why she wanted surgery, she explained that her show was about to begin broadcasting in ''high-definition,'' the hot new digital technology that makes TV images look as crisp and sharp as IMAX films. On normal TV, she said, you can't see her few tiny wrinkles; in high-def, they stand out like folds of origami."

NYT article

Say What?

A while ago, my brother related an experience he had while flying Aer Lingus. In the seat ahead of him were two Scots. He listened to the Scots speak, and he was fascinated as he realized that even though they were speaking English he couldn't make out a word of it; the brogues were too thick for him. (For a similar experience, try watching the film Sweet Sixteen without subtitles).

Next, the problem repeated itself when the Aer Lingus flight attendent asked my brother a question. He also found it nearly impossible to decipher her Irish brogue. He found situation comedic when the Irish flight attendent and the two Scottish passengers couldn't communicate effectively with each other either. All English speakers, but communication was nigh impossible.

A friend of mine sent me a link to this Slashdot review of Scott Meyers' new third edition of effective C++. The following except left me recalling the Aer Lingus story:

"This is where the book's background starts to shine. Item 1 is "View C++ as a federation of languages." Meyers does a clear and cogent job of decoding broad swathes of C++, explaining C++ as a multi-paradigm tool, and placing language features in different paradigms. Change paradigms and the guideline for what makes for effective C++ changes..."

Maybe it's a bad sign when Item 1 in an authoritative reference suggests viewing a programming language as a "federation of languages." This a complaint I have with C++. It seems to be horribly conducive to the software equivalent of the Aer Lingus affair. That is, different speakers all speaking the same language yet unable to communicate, a potentially serious problem on large projects with a large number of software engineers. The flexibility of C++ is often praised as a power, but just as often I think it can be a weakness.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Reflections in Computer Science, Part I

Over the past year, I've seen a number of posts related to computer science programs. Is there enough funding? Are there enough students in computer science? Are they taking the right classes? Etc. I've seen a lot of good advice. Recently Joel Spolsky's Programmer's Bookshelf came to light again, and I especially enjoyed Paul Graham's What You'll Wish You'd Known.

I often find myself wanting to chime in with my own thoughts on such matters, but every time I start, it only leads to a desire for more personal reflection and introspection; knee jerk reactions come too easily. Sigh. I think I'm going to simply ramble on the subject. If anything good comes of it, perhaps I can repackage it later in a more cohesive form. So here goes, reflections on computer science past, what went right, what I wish went differently.

Statistics. My computer science program had some pretty substantial undergraduate requirements in statistics. The courses seemed like bothersome hurdles when I took them; the ideas came easily enough, but I found little of it more than marginally interesting.

In retrospect, however, all the statistics courses have been well worth their salt. Sometimes I joke about statisics being the devil I know. I've applied my knowledge of statistics at three jobs so far, in biotechnology, in the design of statistics software [duh] and finally in computer graphics.

Today, statistics is more important than ever. In some areas, statistical methods appear to be slowly but gradually overtaking many of the more classical approaches. Newer areas such as bioinformatics are driving all sorts of new research in statistics.

Borrowing an expression from Paul Graham, a good education in statistics is one means of staying "upwind," because the knowledge is applicable in so many contexts. (In fact, Graham famously used Bayesian statistics to attack the problem of Spam.)

What should you learn? I recall Probability and Statistics by DeGroot and Schervish being a good introduction to the subject. A quick Google search reveals its use at Princeton, Berkeley, Columbia, MIT, etc.

Some authors have been putting entire books online in the form of PDF files. (My thanks to the authors.) The ability to peruse these books in their entirety has resulted in two of my purchases so far this year. One is David Mackay's Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms, which I consider an outstanding textbook. (The previous link is to the online version of the book.) It does such a wonderful job of pulling the subjects together that it really deserves a post all by itself.

Another statistical tool I highly recommend adding to your toolbox is a solid understanding linear regression analysis. This should entail a course or two in linear algebra. (Check out Gilbert Strang's excellent lectures on video.) I also recommend Empirical Model-Building and Response Surfaces by Box and Draper. Knowing how to build good empirical models is a valuable skill that doesn't seem to be taught sufficiently in many engineering fields where such skills can translate into great improvements in processes and products. If you dig deeply enough in this area, I also highly recommend Weisberg's Applied Linear Regression.

Disappearing Purple Dots

I'd never seen this optical illusion before. Wow!


Monday, June 06, 2005

Green Bicycle

Green Bicycle
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Changing Planet Revealed in Atlas

"Satellite images reveal how the environment has changed dramatically in recent decades. An atlas of environmental change compiled by the United Nations reveals some of the dramatic transformations that are occurring to our planet."

Continued at BBC News

The Second Coming of Jackson Pollock

"...Last month, 32 previously unknown works attributed to the late Jackson Pollock were revealed to the world by Alex Matter, the 63-year-old son of Herbert and Mercedes Matter. According to the New York Times, these early "drip" paintings, "wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, were included with other artworks and letters that the elder Mr. Matter had left with other personal effects after his death in 1984."

Complete story here at Design Observer

Universal Constructor?

A second post on a Kurzweilian theme, the latest self-replication news...

"LONDON, England (CNN) -- A revolutionary machine that can copy itself and manufacture everyday objects quickly and cheaply could transform industry in the developing world, according to its creator." more

(HT: BoingBoing)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Age of Spiritual Machines

"An effort to create the first computer simulation of the entire human brain, right down to the molecular level, was launched on Monday.

The 'Blue Brain' project, a collaboration between IBM and a Swiss university team, will involve building a custom-made supercomputer based on IBM’s Blue Gene design..."


(and re-enacted by bunnies)

I saw It's a Wonderful Life in 30 Seconds quite some time ago. A return to AngryAlien revealed 30 second versions of The Exorcist, The Shining, Titanic, Alien, Jaws and Pulp Fiction. Funny stuff!


Saturday, June 04, 2005

Reuben Steiger's Weblog

I've decided to some time spelunking the blogosphere in search of humor, wit, wisdom, insight, prosaic primal screams &c. Blogs are innumerable and, frankly, they seem to stretching the limits of Sturgeon's Law. Finding something undiscovered, interesting and noteworthy can be a challenge, but I must say that I enjoyed stumbling onto Reuben Steiger's Weblog today, a good writer with some common interests. Prost!

an "ongoing series of experimental data graphics"

by 13pt design.

SIGGRAPH 2005 Papers Available on the Web

Many collected here thanks to Ke-Sen Huang and Tim Rowley.


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

José Julián Aguilera Vicente

I may as well make it a trio of artist links. This time, Cuban artist José Julián Aguilera Vicente. Most intruiging to me is La Lluvia en Padre Pico.

Giacomo Costa

Insomnia-induced art appreciation. This time a link to the site of Italian artist Giacomo Costa. The Flash interface is a bit circuitous. Follow Enter the Site -> Home -> opERe works and you'll be well on your way to admiring some of the stacked and layered cityscapes he creates.

Pierre Fortin

Stumbled onto some interesting art at the site of Pierre Fortin. Love the work, especially 1940, Awaiting and La Polonaise.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Unsolvable Math Problem

This one has been cited a lot in the past few days. Interesting story.

Claim: Student mistakes examples of unsolvable math problems for homework assignment and solves them.

Status: True.



Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Microsoft Raw

Not breaking news, but duly noted:

Information Week


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Washed up, but can he lead a band of misfits to victory?

Whilst braving a seemingly endless gauntlet of movie trailers, I noticed Will Ferrell's newest movie, Kicking & Screaming, looks like a soccer version of The Bad News Bears. (Or, um, The Mighty Ducks, which was the hockey version of TBNB, if you don't remember TBNB.)

Shortly after the trailer for Ferrell's film was the trailer for the next Martin Lawrence film, Rebound, which in all appearances seems to be a basketball version of The Bad News Bears--washed up coach demoted to coaching a gang of motley kids...

And, today I realized Richard Linklater has directed a new version of--say it isn't so--The Bad News Bears that's scheduled for release July 22.

It's times like this I really miss David's Spade's SNL movie reviews.

The Final Word?

Interesting riposte...

Parting shots in the NYT by Daniel Okrent lead to an exchange on the Editor's blog between Okrent and Paul Krugman.

via Dan Gillmor