Saturday, May 31, 2008


Hilarious misunderstanding at this year's National Spelling Bee...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Moment of Zen

Song: Kaserntorgets Charkdisco
Artist: Hemstad
Disc: Hemstad
Year: 2006

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


You Can't Hurry Love

Song: You Can't Hurry Love (Amazon mp3)
Artist: The Concretes
Disc: The Concretes
Year: 2004

Clothe Yourself Well...

This song seems to fall somewhere on an impossible scale from Daniel Johnston to Julee Cruise...

Song: Clothe Yourself Well For the Wind
Artist: Stina Nordenstam
Disc: This is Stina Nordenstam
Year: 2002


Over the years, she's engineered a few gaffes so sublime they're best described "Pythonesque."

Mom: "And you must be his son!"
Son: "I'm a girl!"
Mom: "Oh, so you're his daughter!"
Daughter: "No, I'm his date!"

Monday, May 26, 2008

Beating coal with solar...

Finding clean and sustainable means of generating energy is extremely important. Here's a link to another article describing a venture to leverage solar thermal energy.

"May 23 (Bloomberg) -- Along a dusty two-lane highway in California's Mojave Desert, 550,000 mirrors point skyward to make steam for electricity. Google Inc., Chevron Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are betting this energy will become cheaper than coal.

The 1,000-acre plant uses concentrated sunlight to generate power for as many as 112,500 homes in Southern California. Rising natural gas prices and emissions limits may make solar thermal the fastest-growing energy source in the next decade, say backers including Vinod Khosla, the founder of computer maker Sun Microsystems Inc."


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Young Folks

Continuing with a Scandinavian theme...

Song: Young Folks (Amazon mp3)
Artist: Peter, Bjorn & John (with Victoria Bergsman)
Disc: Writer's Block
Year: 2007


A video tribute to the Euclidean Distance Transform?

Erlend Øye sings Burning...

Song: Burning (Amazon mp3)
Artist: The Whitest Boy Alive
Disc: Dreams
Year: 2005

When all you have is a hammer...

When all you have is a hammer... and a hammer... and a hammer...

Normally, I wouldn't post a juggling video, but this is intriguing enough to make the cut--the amazingly difficult yet stupid things humans learn to do. If intelligent life from space ever really does visit us, I doubt it will understand us. :-)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Old and Wiser?

For some time, I've had a pet theory regarding human learning and memory. It's not revolutionary, but the basic idea is we best remember things that are anomalous. The notion is consonant both with modern day machine learning algorithms and reflections on personal experience. After sufficient training, new data points fitting well inside the model don't alter the model significantly, especially in contrast to the initial data points laying the model's foundation. When you're young, the world is new and therefore much more influential in constructing your internal neural networks, but when you're older, it's harder to remember typical details because the model's already well established. If you see a romantic comedy for the first time, it's much easier to remember details than it is when you see the 100th romantic comedy--at that point surprises become few and far between, it's just yet another instance of a recognized form, and so there's less to remember.

Maybe it's just a convenient excuse for forgetfulness, but some similar findings have been making the news...

NYT: "When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong. Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit. The studies are analyzed in a new edition of a neurology book, “Progress in Brain Research.” Some brains do deteriorate with age. Alzheimer's disease, for example, strikes 13 percent of Americans 65 and older. But for most aging adults, the authors say, much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful."

link: Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain

via 3QD

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rebate Haiku

Marathon runner
Pops one more amphetamine
Stimulus package

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Song: Twice (
Artist: Little Dragon
Disc: Little Dragon
Year: 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Static vs Dynamic, vol. 923

The recurring static vs. dynamic language hullabaloo rises once again...

Steve Yegge: Dynamic Languages Strike Back.

And, of course, countless comments and blog posts in every direction ensue.

My opinion?

C and C++ are the languages with which we construct not only applications, not only operating systems but also what are generally referred to as "dynamic languages."

Ergo, if a fast static language isn't cutting it for you, it's not against the law to roll your own dynamic extensions. They may be slower, true, but it seems that's the piper's price.

That said, it's a bit more difficult to begin with a dynamic language and augment it with static extensions that run faster than that with which you started.

World Spins Madly On

Song: World Spins Madly On (Amazon mp3)
Artist: The Weepies
Disc: Say I Am You
Year: 2006

Cheater's Armoury

Song: Cheater's Armoury (Amazon mp3)
Artist: Hanne Hukkelberg
Disc: Rykestraße 68
Year: 2008

Note: This is a repost. Yesterday, some of my traffic came from Nettwerk Music Group. Wondering what that was all about, I realized some of my recent video posts were vids from Nettwerk artists, but as far as I can tell they were just checking up on things. As far as music posts go, my only interest is supporting talented artists and pointing people to great music, but if anyone from Nettwerk has objections, I encourage them to make a comment or send email to metamerist at

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Visualizing DNA

Excellent visualization of the genetic machinery of DNA and RNA.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Occam's Razor

Following is a photograph above George Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

My questions are: Do you believe this is a coincidence or an intentional re-enactment of the painting? Why do you believe this? How confident are you? What sort of bet would you be willing to make at what odds?
Even if I didn't know better, I'd go with intentional re-enactment. The reasoning behind this belief is nicely explained in Chapter 28 of David MacKay's Information Theory, Inference and Learning Algorithms, which is available in its entirety online here.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but it's an interesting epistemological question, and it's not easy to formally explain a rational basis for having a high degree confidence one way or another.
Recently, I was reading a statistician expressing his doubts regarding Occam's Razor, so I guess my point here is to provide an example that I believe clearly shows when Occam's Razor works well. Perhaps I misunderstood his point in the context in which it was made.


Song: Wayfaring Stranger
Artist: 16 Horsepower
Disc: Secret South
Year: 2000

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Retina vs CCD

An interesting image...

It shows the distribution of cones in a primate retina. Compare, for example, with the Bayer pattern found in digital camera CCDs. Why is the retina organized as it is? Are there digital signal processing secrets to be learned from it?

via Nuit Blanche

Monday, May 05, 2008

Miles from Monterey

Song: Miles from Monterey (mp3)
Artist: West Indian Girl
Disc: West Indian Girl
Year: 2004

The Great Panderama

200 economists smack down nonsensical pandering.

Robert Reich: "Even though the summer gas tax holiday is pure hokum, it polls well, which is why HRC and John McCain are pushing it. That Barack Obama is not in favor of it despite its positive polling numbers speaks volumes about the kind of president he’ll be – and the kind of president we’d otherwise get from McCain and HRC."


Sunday, May 04, 2008

One Summer's Day

Joe Hisaishi's score for Spirited Away contains some of the most beautiful modern piano compositions I've heard. The soundtrack is well worth the price (and, of course, so is the film).

Song: One Summer's Day
Artist: Joe Hisaishi
Disc: Spirited Away Soundtrack
Year: 2001


Unfortunately, convincing people is an order of magnitude easier than finding the truth.

Wasted noodles or sour grapes?

Software blogger Joel Spolsky has plenty of unfailing fans and a few devoted critics as well. Sometimes I find myself disagreeing with him strongly, while at other times I'm nodding emphatically in agreement. I think I enjoy him most when he takes a Maverick tack, defends it well and I also happen to believe he's right.

His most recent piece, Architecture astronauts, leaves me mulling. He's skeptical of Microsoft's latest Live Mesh Project. He grouses on about Google and Microsoft sucking up and squandering too much programming talent, driving up starting salaries in the process.

"It was seven years ago today when everybody was getting excited about Microsoft's bombastic announcement of Hailstorm, promising that "Hailstorm makes the technology in your life work together on your behalf and under your control."

What was it, really? The idea that the future operating system was on the net, on Microsoft's cloud, and you would log onto everything with Windows Passport and all your stuff would be up there. It turns out: nobody needed this place for all their stuff. And nobody trusted Microsoft with all their stuff. And Hailstorm went away."


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Simple Gifts

Friday, May 02, 2008

How to Break Your Ankle

You know when you're just cruising along, you lose control, your car goes off the road and you break your ankle? I hate when that happens!

Racer Stephane Ortelli's recent mishap...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Concerning Helen

Apparently one of the few real journalists left in America, 87-year-old Helen Thomas poses with flowers sent by Internet fans as a thank you in response to her recent exchange with Dana Perino.

Ever seen Lorraine...

comin' down from Sunny D?