Tuesday, February 28, 2006

PMA 2006 Software

The folks at Imaging Resource continue with more PMA coverage. Today's report covers software.

"At the other end of the process, the recent collaboration between Nik Software ( and Nikon ( has produced an image editing program unlike any we've seen. Capture NX, based on what Nik calls UPoint technology, edits an image by adjusting the properties of as many color control points you set in the image."


Carnegie Mellon Scientists Show How Brain Processes Sound

This work at CMU looks interesting and potentially significant.

First, there's biomimicry angle. The most amazing machines on this planet are biological machines, and I am fascinated with each discovery on this front. Additionally, there are issues of interest in the areas such as digital signal processing and machine learning.

"Until now, scientists and engineers have relied on Fourier transformations—initially discovered 200 years ago—to separate and reconstitute parameters like frequency and intensity as part of traditional sound signal processing.

'Our new signal processing framework appears far more efficient, effective and concise in conveying a rich variety of natural sounds than anything else,' Lewicki said."

CMU press release (Publications)

(via Science Daily)


Legendary advertising man David Ogilvy was one of the founders of the World Wildlife Fund. Over the years his agency, Ogilvy & Mather, has created a number of WWF ads including the classic "The Giant Panda needs your help to survive."

Ad Blather recently posted a couple of new Ogilvy & Mather WWF ads that are very well done.

Although I never came close to meeting David Ogilvy, he nearly talked my younger self into a career in advertising. This is a fact that left many of my computer science classmates scratching their heads, but somehow it made sense to me. My best subjects always were art and mathematics, so what appealed to me most was a vocation in which I could find an appealing convergence of things artistic and analytic. Achitecture was also under consideration.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Saturday, February 25, 2006


Watched MirrorMask tonight. Hmmm... I'm not sure where to begin. Dave McKean's art is inspired and fascinating, and there are some very memorable scenes in the film, especially one involving an old Carpenters hit.

That said, it's quite a bit more stylish than substantial, and I think it's fair to say the film's a little trippy. Okay, maybe more than a little trippy. At this point the movie version of The Wall seems pretty lucid.

The main character, Helena, spends most of the film in a surreal fantasy world accompanied by newfound acquaintance, Valentine. Although a connection wasn't revealed in the film, I strongly suspect there's genetic link between Valentine and Frylock. Cousins, perhaps.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Silver in Pocket

In a nutshell, my digital camera history goes something like this. I got into things pretty early, writing software to interface with the early Kodak cameras in 1998 (DC120, DC210, etc.). The first camera I bought was a Kodak DC280. After that, my wife gifted me an Olympus 5060-WZ, a great point and shoot. Next, I moved up to a digital SLR, the Nikon D70. I love it, but because it's quite a bit to lug around, I decided to get another far less bulky digital camera, a relatively inexpensive ultra-compact that I can keep in a pocket so the next time I pass a barbershop with a sign reading "free mullet removal" I'll be ready to point and shoot.

So I picked up a Nikon S1. First impressions? It's compact, small enough for a coat pocket or even a pant pocket. Considering its size, I am happy with the picture quality. I am also happy with the U/I. A really nice feature is the blur detection. If the S1 thinks your picture is blurry, it will warn you and ask if you want to keep it. The LCD is spacious considering the size of the camera. It'll capture QuickTime with sound.

I've found no manual control for aperture, shutter, etc. other than the shooting modes, but that's not a problem, because when I'm concerned with such things, I'll be working with my D70 anyhow. My biggest beef is a lack of direct USB connect to the camera. If you're going to transfer with USB, it seems you have to put the cam in the docking station. This seems more of a desktop solution than a laptop solution. Given that I've relegated my desktop to server status and use my laptop exclusively, that doesn't mesh too well with my workflow. I'd prefer a straight USB connect into the camera. I'll probably wind up using a USB or PCMCIA reader with the SD card, since the right place for the docking station and the place I download my pics are different places.

Overall, I'm very happy this little cam.

Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?

A couple of links I've seen before, but credit for reminding me goes to antipixel: (1) has quite a collection of interesting visualizations of networks, graphs and other complicated data, some of which are really fascinating. (2) the contains a gallery of before and after retouching shots of celebs, is it real or is it retouched?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

That was the river... This is the sea...

This is the Sea

K@W: What's Next for Adobe?

"In 1985, Adobe Systems had one major product -- a printer controller built around Adobe's PostScript imaging language marketed to printer manufacturers. Now, having completed its acquisition of Macromedia on December 3, 2005, Adobe is the fifth largest software company in the world."

Knowledge@Wharton interviews Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen


Balzac & the Little Chinese Seamstress

Xiao cai feng. On the upside were beautiful shots of China, interesting elements of the Cultural Revolution and great acting by Xun Zhou, Kun Chen and Ye Liu. On the downside, even though the screenplay was written by Sijie Dai, the film lacked cohesion it should have had and deviations from the book (especially ones later in the story) compromised the original message.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cartoonist Incites Atheist Riots

15,000 atheists in London rioted after a blank sheet of paper was found on a cartoonist's desk.

-- Father Dan

(via Pharyngula)

If I had a photograph of you or something to remind me...

PMA 2006 is just around the corner. The two three biggest items on my digital camera wish list remain the same.

1. GPS. I am still waiting to see built-in GPS become a standard feature in digital cameras. I believe someday in-camera GPS will be ubiquitous. Why? With the advent of digital cameras people are taking a lot more pictures than they used to (because they're free) and this translates into organizational challenges. Space and time are two of the variables most useful in organization. When was the picture taken? Where was the picture taken? Digital photographs are currently getting tagged with the time taken, but (in most cameras) they're not being tagged with the place taken. The EXIF tags are there, waiting to be used. We can do it, we should do it, and we will do it.

2. HDR/HDRI. Someday, I believe we're going to see cameras with more dynamic range in the mainstream. The megapixel war seems to be slowing down. Rather than wider and higher, more effort needs to be directed at making images deeper. This won't improve the quality of your prints or how they are displayed on a monitor (unless you have an HDR display), but it will make for a better digital negative and provide more control for those of us how retouch our own images. A long time ago, I posted a link to Jon Meyer's comments on HDR photography. A few days ago, Adobe's John Nack posted a link to it, and I realized that it was updated quite nicely last April. It's a good read on the subject.

3. Bluetooth or some technology that makes cables obsolete. There's no need or excuse for them in the year 2006. We were supposed to have personal spaceships by now. The least we can do is get rid of all these cables.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Recursion for Kids

My younger son is 7 years old, and lately he's been warming the cockles of my heart by coming up with questions of a recursive nature. A month ago, "Daddy, did you know that you can take a half of a half of a half and you can go on forever or you can stop?"

Memory led me back to Jeff Erickson's post regarding The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.

After spending a little time perusing it over the weekend at B&N, I picked up a copy, and I'm looking forward to reading it to him. Cat C in Cat B in Cat A. Excellent!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Caché (Hidden)

Saw one film over the weekend, Michael Haneke's Caché starring Juliet Binoche and Daniel Auteuil. A French thriller of sorts, this film about a couple receiving threatening videotapes from a stranger has garnered a Metacritic rating of 83, universal acclaim.

According to Ebert when it played at Cannes some critics deplored its lack of resolution. I do find these sentiments worthy of commiseration--if you don't like films with loose ends, this one might not be for you. Still, what it lacks in resolution it seems to make up for in being conducive to reflection. It should be hard to walk away from it without thinking about it afterwards.

A minor technical problem with the film is the use of white subtitles. There are a few scenes where it's really difficult to visually extricate them from background glare. Yellow would have been a better choice. Also, the last scene of the film is worthy of your full attention as there are details that can be easily missed.

Worth seeing, but Trois coleurs: Bleu certainly remains my favorite Binoche film, and of the few French films I've seen in the past couple years, Amelie and L'Homme du Train are still on the top of my list.

Old MacDonald Had a Farm in the Complex Plane

I've made a momentous discovery that should have a profound effect on mathematics departments and nursery schools everywhere: the location of Old MacDonald's farm. If Google's calculator is correct, it lies in the complex plane:

This may amount to the silliest and geekiest post I've ever made.

"And now for something completely different..."

Self-portraiture, folk art for the digital age

NYT article on self-portraiture, a new "kind of folk art for the digital age"

"To a certain extent new technology is driving the new self-portraiture. Cellphone cameras and other digital cameras are sold with wide-angle lenses that allow a picture taken at arm's length to remain in focus. Computers are essentially $1,000 darkrooms that permit sophisticated manipulation of images"


(via Ramesh Jain)

Chazelle: Why CS Theory Matters

Are blogs here to stay? They certainly are for me, and the list of RSS feeds to which I subscribe continues to grow. I read blogs written by economists, statisticians, theoretical computer scientists, software engineers, philosophers, computer graphics researchers, machine learning experts, and I fear it's becoming an addiction.

In the past week, the news of the week in computer science theory blogs I read is an essay and talk by Princeton's Bernard Chazelle on why computer science theory matters and the bright future he sees ahead. It's an inspiring and interesting read.

"No tears please. Perched atop their towering achievements, computer scientists (the cooks, remember?) will bask in the soothing certainty that their glorious science died at its peak. With a tinge of sadness but not a little pride, they'll chime in unison 'There is nothing new to be discovered in computer science now.'

If you think you've seen this movie before, you have. A few short years before Einstein turned our world upside down, the great Lord Kelvin bloviated this gem for the ages: 'There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now.' Not his lordship's finest hour."


Imaging Resource

There are a number of good digital camera sites on the Net. Steve's Digicams, dpreview, etc. One site I feel hasn't been mentioned enough, though, is the truly excellent digicam site Imaging Resource. Check out, for example, their Comparometer that offers side-by-side comparisons of shots from different digital cameras.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Amazon has over 200 books on consumerism. Buy them! Buy them now! They make great gifts. Buy them for your family. Buy them for your friends. Collect all 210!

Log-Normal Galton Board

Here's a good article in PDF, Log-normal Distributions Across the Sciences, from BioScience (May 2001) . A while ago, I made a post about a pachinko-style Galton board from the Minnesota Science Museum. In the article, the authors explain how they created a Galton board (below) as physical demonstration of the log-normal distribution.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Google Desktop 3

I love Google Desktop 2, but Technology Review offers words of caution regarding version 3.

"A new search technology from Google makes it possible for law enforcement officials to examine personal documents from your hard drive, without your knowing it, according to the digital-rights advocacy organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Released last week, Google Desktop 3, the latest version of the company's desktop search utility, adds a "Search Across Computers" feature that automatically uploads files from a user's computer onto Google's servers. Then, when a search is performed on any computer owned by the user, Google Desktop will pull search results from both the Web and information stored on all the user's computers."


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Trendspotting: Social Networking

If you haven't seen new addition Demetri Martin's Trendspotting pieces on The Daily Show, check out yesterday's bit on social networking. Hilarious!


Like Totally Deviated

"He was tall."

"How tall was he?"

"A little taller than average, taller than average pretty tall, tall tall, really tall, extremely tall, super tall, a giant."

Like many things, height is normally distributed (or close to it); e.g., for women 18 to 24, the mean is 65.5 inches and the s.d. is 2.5 inches.

The question of the day ponders the relationship between language and the Normal Distribution. In the language I speak, for example, we frequently use adjectives to indicate positions significantly to the left or right of the mean--e.g., short and tall.

From there, adverbs and adverbial phrases do the tweaking--pretty tall, really tall, extremely tall. The adverbs are general purpose. Really shot, really thin, really fat, really tall.

How much consistency is there in the amount of tweaking these modifiers do? Do they tend to map consistently to specific normal deviates or constistently modify an initial deviate in some way?

Things that make you go hmmm...

The Changing of the Disc

For some time West Indian Girl has held the current favorite disc spot on my sidebar. It's a great disc worthy of more attention, but it's time for a new disc. I thought Beth Orton's new release, Comfort of Strangers, would be it; the jury's still out here, but if you're making a first Orton purchase, I strongly recommend Central Reservation.

Another contender is Imogen Heap's Speak for Yourself. If not for Yahoo! Unlimited I may not have heard it, because it unfortunately comes bundled with Sony's complimentary Rootkit software. It's a great disc, though, Ms. Heap is extremely talented and her vocals are out of this world. For samplers, fave tracks include: Headlock, Goodnight and Go and The Walk.

That said, the new disc I'm digging the most is Death Cab for Cutie's newest, Plans. It's been getting dinged quite a bit in reference to Transatlanticism, but I'm really enjoying it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

3D Painted Rooms

I've seen the link on a few sites over the past few days. Interesting optical illusions are the result of clever painting.


Going from float to int in less than 3.5 seconds...

One of the nastiest performance problems in writing software for the PC is the speed of floating point to integer conversion. The issue has been discussed and addressed by a number of people on the Net over the years. Today, while checking up on Mike Herf's Stereopsis site, I found a great updated article, FPU Fixing, by Sree Kotay.

Google's Censorship in China

Seems Google's officials and former senior Chinese Communist party officials have different opinions on evil and censorship.

"Many, if not most, of you here know that one of Google's corporate mantras is 'Don't be evil.' " Mr. Schrage of Google said in his statement. "Some of our critics — and even a few of our friends — think that phrase arrogant, or naïve or both. It's not. It's an admonition that reminds us to consider the moral and ethical implications of every single business decision we make," the statement continued. "We believe that our current approach to China is consistent with this mantra."


"A group of former senior Communist party officials in China have launched a scathing attack on the country's handling of the media and information. In an open letter, the group denounced the recent closure of investigative newspaper Bingdian (Freezing Point). They said strict censorship may "sow the seeds of disaster" for China's political transition."


Nik on Nikon

Nikon sure seems interested in being in the software business

"Press Release: SAN DIEGO, CA – February 14, 2006 – Nik Software, Inc. (formerly Nik Multimedia, Inc.) announces that it has reached a worldwide agreement with Nikon Corporation (Tokyo, Japan) that enables technological collaboration between the two companies to develop and distribute digital photographic software and imaging technologies."


Portable Tabletop Fusion?

"Troy, N.Y. — Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a tabletop accelerator that produces nuclear fusion at room temperature, providing confirmation of an earlier experiment conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), while offering substantial improvements over the original design."





Software Distribution Myths & Lies

If you're going to succeed in the software business, coming up with a good product is only part of the battle. There are many other problems that need to be solved, and one of them is distribution.

There are many ways of getting your product in the hands of customers. The more you succeed, the more distribution channels will open up for you, but the road from shareware to the shelves of major retailers can be a disillusioning experience for the uninitiated.

Whilst going through old links and papers, I stumbled onto an old article written by Bungie Software founder Alexander Seropian. He speaks truth.

"When I started Bungie Software, all I wanted to do was write a computer game and sell it, just like I sold popsicles during the summer when I was in fifth grade or my chemistry notes in college. My naive vision had an elegant simplicity, a kind of commercial innocence.

It wasn't long before that innocence was betrayed by the long list of vendors, distributors, retailers, and mail order companies who were more than eager to insert their grubby hands into my pie. Now, don't get me wrong: we couldn't have made it to where we are, or get where we're going without these channel partners. But there's a lot that goes on behind the shelves that consumers seldom realize."


Did the Great Masters Cheat Using Optics?

Andrew Gelman posted some very interesting information regarding a talk on a given by David Stork:

"In 2001 artist David Hockney and scientist Charles Falco stunned the art world with a controversial theory that, if correct, would profoundly alter our view of the development of image making. They claimed that as early as 1420, Renaissance artists employed optical devices such as concave mirrors to project images onto their canvases, which they then traced or painted over. In this way, the theory attempts to explain the newfound heightened naturalism of painters such as Jan van Eyck, Robert Campin, Hans Holbein the Younger, and others."

The rest is of the post worth reading and there are a couple of interesting links to related sites.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006


If I stumble onto a convergence of image processing and machine learning, you're going to see it here. Interesting idea. Peekaboom. Researchers at CMU create a game for people to play for the sake of acquiring training data for image segmentation algorithms. Found this one via, but I also just noticed that Machine Learning (Theory) covered it last August.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Instant replay may help mold memories

"Idlers, loafers and layabouts, listen up. A new study suggests that the times when we sit around twiddling our thumbs could in fact be vital for learning.

The idea stems from experiments in which neuroscientists eavesdropped on the brains of rats as they explored their environments. They found that the rats' brains 'replay' their experiences in reverse when the animals pause briefly to rest."

continued at

Discovering the Discovered

An interesting article in the New York Times (2/5) titled Pity the Scientist Who Discovers the Discovered:

"IN 1996, Rakesh Vohra, a professor at Northwestern University, and his colleague Dean Foster published 'A Randomized Rule for Selecting Forecasts,' a paper in the journal Operations Research. It illustrated how a random investor could outperform a group of professional stock pickers simply by following a "buy and hold" investment strategy.

It was important research, the authors believed, until they learned that the same discovery had been made at least 16 times since the 1950's. And no one, Dr. Vohra said, ever realized they were not doing original work."


Nuking the Economy

This piece, Nuking the Economy, written by Paul Craig Roberts contains a lot of sobering statistics:

"Over the past five years the US economy experienced a net job loss in goods producing activities. The entire job growth was in service-providing activities--primarily credit intermediation, health care and social assistance, waiters, waitresses and bartenders, and state and local government. "

"The declines in some manufacturing sectors have more in common with a country undergoing saturation bombing during war than with a super-economy that is the 'envy of the world.' Communications equipment lost 43% of its workforce. Semiconductors and electronic components lost 37% of its workforce. The workforce in computers and electronic products declined 30%. Electrical equipment and appliances lost 25% of its employees. The workforce in motor vehicles and parts declined 12%. Furniture and related products lost 17% of its jobs. Apparel manufacturers lost almost half of the work force. Employment in textile mills declined 43%. Paper and paper products lost one-fifth of its jobs. The work force in plastics and rubber products declined by 15%. Even manufacturers of beverages and tobacco products experienced a 7% shrinkage in jobs."


(via The Leiter Reports)

Sunday, February 12, 2006



Beth Orton - The Comfort of Strangers

If I ever get around to creating a list of my ten favorite discs from the first half of the Naughties (still not sure what we call the 2000s), Beth Orton's Central Reservation is a shoe-in (even though it was released in 1999). If you've never heard it and you're interested in a sample, try Stolen Car or the title track first.

Last week, Ms. Orton released her new disc, Comfort of Strangers. So far, three passive listenings have qualified it as a keeper, but that's saying very little given her status as one of my favorite current artists. I wish I could say more at this point, but adeptly sorting musical first impressions isn't my strongest suit.

Google's Complicity

NYT on Google's business in China:

"Several of the biggest media and technology companies have come under attack for helping the Chinese government police the Web. Yahoo provided information about its users' e-mail accounts that helped the authorities convict dissidents in 2003 and 2005, Chinese lawyers say. Microsoft closed a popular blog it hosted that offended Chinese censors. Cisco has sold equipment that helps Beijing restrict access to Web sites it considers subversive.

But few have cooperated as openly as Google. Google's local staff works closely with Chinese officials to ensure that search results from do not include information, images or links to Web sites that the government does not want its people to see."


The Problems of Philosophy

Bertrand Russell's words recently filled a post on the importance of philosophy. The other day I decided to pick up of the source text, his The Problems of Philosophy. It's a very accessible tour of the questions that have puzzled philosophers through the ages. It should be easy enough for high school students, and it's going on a list of books I'll recommend to my children when they're older. Russell well demonstrates the place of philosophy and its importance as an intellectual pursuit.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Blind Obedience

The Texas blind salamander is a sightless, cave-dwelling salamander that reaches a mature length of about 13 centimeters (5 inches). It is a slender, frail-legged amphibian, white or pinkish in color with a fringe of blood-red, external gills. The head and snout are flattened. Two small black eyespots mark the location of vestigial eyes.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Lost World in New Guinea

If you haven't read anything about the recent zoological discoveries in New Guinea, it's recommended. This story is a few days old, so by the standards of Internet time perhaps this story is ancient, but I find it noteworthy enough that I feel obliged to mention it here. Following is a NYT link.


(Note: In order to post, Blogger has been requiring Captcha solutions for a while. I've gotten some of the more cryptic deformations wrong first time around. I just got one wrong in attempting to post this. I hope this doesn't mean I'm a machine--unless, of course, that means I'm immortal as well.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Pass the Deutsch on the Right Hand Side

"George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word 'theory' at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said."


(Have to admit I posted this one partly for the title....)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Michael Herf on the latest in wireless technology: wireless cable! (What'll they think of next?)

Carl Zimmer continues his tales of fascinating parasites with the wasp that turns cockroaches in to zombie transportation and another great piece on leeches linked to his NYT article on the same.

VideoBomb is an interesting Net pop video site. (I have to admit that I find the BK spoof hilarious. Fikkie is pretty good too.)

Finally, I succumbed to temptation and purchased a set of neodymium magnets at ThinkGeek. Let's see how strong these little grade 40 magnets are!

If you missed the BoingBoing post on the ancient Greek merchant ship, here's a related link at Discovery Channel.

One of my current projects is organizing a lot of links on my

This Nikon S3 is tempting me. Now that I have a big camera for the serious stuff, I'd like an ultra-compact that's easy to take everywhere.

Monday, February 06, 2006



The Edge: Mirror Neurons

Last April, I linked to a story on mirror neurons and recently I noted the New York Times article on the subject. While we're all treated to a steady stream of scientific discoveries, I believe the scientific and philosophical implications of this are potentially quite profound. Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran writes at The Edge:

"The discovery of mirror neurons in the frontal lobes of monkeys, and their potential relevance to human brain evolution — which I speculate on in this essay — is the single most important "unreported" (or at least, unpublicized) story of the decade. I predict that mirror neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for biology: they will provide a unifying framework and help explain a host of mental abilities that have hitherto remained mysterious and inaccessible to experiments. "


Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Importance of Philosophy

"Why do people get degrees in philosophy? So they can teach philosophy!"

Philosophy often winds up ridiculed, the butt of jokes. This is true not only in society at large; I have often seen it tragically true in the sciences. When I was younger, I'm sure I questioned the value of philosophy as well, but I feel quite strongly that philosophy is very important, and for a long time, I've looked unsuccessfully for the perfect words to offer in defense of that belief. Fortunately, today, I found them said much better by Bertrand Russell than I could ever say them. The entire page is worth reading, but here is an especially germane except from the Chapter XV: The Value of Philosophy of Russell's Problems of Philosophy:

"...The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason. To such a man the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected. As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find, as we saw in our opening chapters, that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given. Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect..."

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Rambling on Technocookery

I am surprised by the number of scientists and engineers I've encounted online and in real life who like to cook. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised; after all, rather than cooking, we might call it food engineering.

I've seen the great site Cooking for Engineers mentioned on at least couple of blogs (Raymond Chen and Brainwagon). Also noteworthy in the Cooking for Engineers category are cooks Alton Brown and Peter Barham (The Science of Cooking) whose books provide the sort of technical perspectives we engineers love.

In the back of my mind I have a few ideas about better recipe books. If I had infinite time, I think I'd try to make an interactive recipe book. I wonder if such a thing exists.

When I add a half a cup of flour to my chocolate chip cookie recipe, my cookies go from thin and crunchy to thick and chewy. An interactive recipe book might be able to show options such as that and make them selectable; this could clarify the variations possible with each recipe.

Another obvious capability of an interactive recipe would be to dynamically adjust the quantity. Tell it how much you want in the end and the software adjusts the quantities of ingredients accordingly. I'm sure someone has done this somewhere.

An interactive recipe book could also suggest substitutions. For example, I've gotten pretty good at converting butter and cream laden recipes from the Old Country over to new healthier ones that don't beg for a tablespoon of ground Lipitor. Click the "light and healthy" button and the interactive recipe book will replace the nasty ingredients with fat-free sour cream, skim milk and the like.

Going farther down Geeky Road, I'd like to see something like Sparkline probability density functions for ingredients. Often, when I feel like inventing or experimenting, I'll review several recipes to try and get a sense of the boundaries of sanity for each ingredient. E.g, you usually include 0.5 - 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder and/or baking soda as opposed to a cup, which would be pure insanity. The more one cooks, the more one develops such mental models; it would be nice to translate that knowledge into some form of visualization.

What does the average chocolate chip cookie recipe look like? I've actually tried charting multiple recipes to get a sense of this. The sum of all sugar seems to be pretty constant, but the split between white and brown varies. It's clear that if you run out of brown, you can make up the difference with white. The interactive recipe book would tell you this.

I've toyed with the idea of writing software that creates and manages "meta recipes" where multiple recipes for the same thing could be aggregated into a master recipe and each distinct recipe could be seen in reference to the mean recipe. Perhaps new recipes could be synthesized from such a "meta recipes."

Given the plethora of food recipes on the Internet and my imaginary life with infinite free time, I'd like to spend some time doing cluster analysis and data mining. With that much training data, I might be able to come up with an interactive recipe book that could make decent suggestions for additions to a recipe, or my interactive recipe book might even be able to synthesize whole new recipes.

But then again, maybe it's all ultimately unworkable. John, I'm Only Rambling.

I've started bookmarking the recipes I find online via my account. Delicious, how apropos. :) My primary motivation for this is being able to pull the recipes before I leave work, so I can make sure I have requisite ingredients before I get home or generate a grocery list if I don't.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Free Advice for Streaming Video Engineers

When you watch a streamed video, software video players need to do two operations: 1. they need to transfer the video from the Internet to your computer and 2. they need to play the video on your computer.

The software engineers who write these streaming video players try to time things so both operations complete at the same time--that is, the last frame is played immediately after it is transferred and the process is complete. They do this so you don't have to wait for the whole thing to download before you watch it.

The problem is, even though streaming video has been around for many years, nobody seems to be able to get it right. The result is choppy video with repeated "buffering" pauses. It's hard to think of anything more annoying (at the moment all I can come up with is Carrot Top).

I can understand getting it wrong the first time. Internet traffic might be hard to predict, but getting it wrong two, three, four and ten times? What?!?!?

Clearly this is a case where a skilled application of statistics could improve things markedly. If nothing else, when you get it wrong the first time, maybe you could double your download time estimate the second time around.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Shampoo for Rothko

Shampoo for Rothko

NYT: Pixel Counting Joins Film in Obsolete Bin

Digital camera trends in today's NYT: decline of film, megapixel race over (?), image stabilizers, wi-fi, GPS trends, better batteries, better screens...

"First, there's the astonishing collapse of the film camera market. By some tallies, 92 percent of all cameras sold are now digital. Big-name camera companies are either exiting the film business ( Kodak, Nikon) or exiting the camera business altogether (Konica Minolta). Film photography is rapidly becoming a special-interest niche."


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Understanding Digital Raw Capture

Bruce Fraser wrote this Adobe whitepaper on raw digital capture that's been cited a lot on Digg lately:

"By now, you’ve probably heard some talk about digital raw capture, but finding a coherentexplanation of just what a digital raw capture actually is can be a bit more challenging. Part of the challenge is that raw isn’t one single thing. Rather, it’s a general term for a variety of proprietary file formats—such as Canon’s .CRW and .CR2, Minolta’s .MRW, Olympus’ .ORF, and the various flavors of Nikon’s .NEF, for example—that share important common features. To understand the nature of digital raw captures, you first need to know a bit about how those cameras that shoot raw actually capture images."

PDF link

Microsoft Group Shot

I forgot to post a link to this. I'd credit someone, but I've seen it mentioned a few times on blogs, and I can't remember where I saw it first. From Microsoft Research:

"We are happy to introduce Microsoft Research Group Shot. MSR Group Shot helps you create a perfect group photo out of a series of group photos. With Group Shot you can select your favorite parts in each shot of the series and Group Shot will automatically build a composite image. ..."