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Archive: August 29, 2009

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dot dot dash + week of August 24, redux

Saturday,  08/29/09  11:33 AM

Morse code from Mars :) dot dot dash ...And so another busy week flew by... sorry for my intermittency.  I am settling into my blogatorium, quietly catching up.  It is what it is, for the time being, although I have not drowned and am slowly making my way past the breakers*.

*Something I call the "beach effect"; you are taking on something new, the learning curve is steep, and you keep getting thrown.  Like when you're at the beach swimming; you wade in, the waves break over you, throwing you back, and progress is slow and sometimes negative.  Then suddenly after fighting your way through wave after [unexpected] wave, you find yourself in calm water, beyond the breakers, able to swim.

I sometimes joke about "Morse code from Mars", as a way of characterizing low bandwidth in a business relationship (you call, you leave voicemail, you get a call back in a week, they leave voicemail, etc.).  My blogging is like that right now, I know it; and the latency is bad, too (who wants to read about my comments to something that happened WAY in the past, like, last Monday :)  Still it is what it is, please hang in there with me, because yeah, it's all happening...

Lake Baikal in SiberiaIan Frazier Travels in Siberia, and writes about it.  Wonderful stuff, a slice of the world you never think about, vast, weird, and largely empty.  To a large extent Russia today is still recovering from the massive distortions of Soviet Russia fifty years ago, and it seems much more time will be required...

Maserati GranCabrio - a four-seat convertible which melts the eyeballsAwesome!  A new Maserati...  having come out with the amazing Quattroporte sedan, and then the lust-inducing Gran Tourissmo, now we have the four-seater convertible GranCabrio.  Wow.

Megan McArdle is Thinking Thin.  In which a reader comment ignites a blogstorm.  "I suspect the only way people will change their behavior is a sudden desire to move up the social ladder.  Being thin and attractive gives you a competitive edge, especially if you live in a city with lots of talented people."  This is so clearly true, and yet a large number of people are arguing it isn't, presumably because they wish it weren't.  Perhaps a side effect of Obamaness is that if only you wish hard enough for something to be true, it might happen.  If wish that were true :)

the line diet - goal-based weight lossThe line diet.  A perfect implementation of the Metric Magic.  You set your goal weight and timeframe, and graph your progress against the resulting line.  And use the difference between actual and plan as a motivator.  I think this really works.  The biggest problem is that there's no gimmick - you have to actually eat less to lose weight :)

Avatar bannerThe other day I noted the trailer for Avatar, James Cameron's new 3D film; apparently it is already the most watched trailer of all time.  Wow.  Word of mouth in action.  I bet this translates into big time box office sales.  I know I want to see it!

I love this: Twelve words you can never say in the office.  Not because they're bad, but because they label you as being out of touch.  One of them is "Weblog"; you would never say that, right?  Nah...

PS a related thing I've found: people who confuse "blog" with "post".  As in, he wrote an interesting blog about that.  You would never say that, right?

the iconic typewriterRick Poyner: Appreciation for a forgotten typewriter.  "I'm struck by how powerfully its form and image embody and express the idea of writing, as does almost any typewriter.  Like the telephone at an earlier phase in its development when it still had a distinct earpiece and mouthpiece at either end of a handle, the fully evolved typewriter is a 20th-century industrial archetype."  True, isn't it?  So many of our icons have evolved from things which aren't in actual use anymore.  Like a desk calendar :)  [ via Boing Boing ]

wave of the week: awesome!Wave of the week, from The Horse's Mouth's wave of the day.  Awesome.  Why do we humans like looking at waves?  Who knows, but it is given that we do...  I bet this one is even more awesome live!

Want to really bend your mind?  Then try this: Quiddity has a Qualia all its own.  In which Eric Raymond does logical battle with Daniel Dennett about whether everyone sees the same thing when they see Red.  The argument insofar as I can grok it is that the specific color Red triggers a specific biological reflex in your brain, based on its inherent properties (wavelength).  I find the argument more interesting for its form than its substance.

Catatumbo lightning stormsWow, this is cool:  Venezuela's continuous lightning storms.  "It's still unknown exactly why this area--and this area alone--should produce such regular lighting. One theory holds that ionized methane gas rising from the Catatumbo bogs is meeting with storm clouds coming down from the Andes, helping to create the perfect conditions for a lighting storm."  Must be hard to sleep, at least until you get used to it.  Who knew?

Alexander Vinokourov is back!Yay,  Alexander Vinokourov is back in the professional peloton, competing in the Vuelta de Espana, which he won in 2006, riding for Astana, the team he founded and led until his doping suspension during the 2007 Tour de france.  We can't look for him to be competitive after all this time off, but we can root for him to attack!

Another blogger tries blogging tweets, and finds it exposes the inanity: Tim Bray: OK, you win.  I am really starting to wonder when the Twitter emperor's lack of clothes will be detected.  It has already lasted longer than I would have thought...

Star Trek lunchboxGreat question: Where have all the geeky lunch boxes gone?  "I’m sure I’m showing my age, but when I walked to school (uphill, both ways), my books were carried loosely in one hand and my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, carrot sticks and potato chips were packed safely away in a tightly clasped, rectangular metal lunch box."  Yep, me too!  I miss 'em...

News you can use: Hack your Palm Pre.  I keep thinking I want to do this, so I can access all the hundreds of unofficial Palm Pre apps, but then I have to admit it would just be for fun, I don't really need anything.  Well maybe a nice RSS reader :)

SpaceX engine and rocket scientistPopular Mechanics: Behind the scenes with SpaceX.  For once, a nice article about the company which isn't about its charismatic founder Elon Musk.  SpaceX is amazing, the first private spaceflight company which really has a chance to make a business out of launching people into space.  How cool is that?

Something of interest (perhaps) to SpaceX engineers: A guide to N dimensions.  "The most intuitive description of a dimension is the oldest one: the number of dimensions a system possesses is the number of independent directions you or anything else can move in.  Up and down count as only one dimension because up-ness and down-ness are two sides of the same coin: the further up you go, the less down you are.  The same connection exists between left and right, and forwards and backwards, but not between up and right, down and backwards, and so on."  Riight.

The funniest joke of 2009: Hedgehogs; why can't they just share the hedge?  Tap tap, crash.

ZooBorn: baby PuduZooBorn of the week: a baby Pudu.  Yes of course as you know, a Pudu is the world's smallest species of deer; even adults look cute, but the babies are adorable.

Whew, all caught up.  Now onward (to more blogging :)


Chickenfoot and the Beauty of Music

Saturday,  08/29/09  11:52 AM

Chickenfoot! ("the peace sign is the footprint of the American chicken")Regular readers know I am a massive fan of Joe Satriani, and an even huger fan of Van Halen, so you could predict I would love Chickenfoot, the new combination band featuring Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, and Chad Smith (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers)...  and your prediction would be correct!

Yes, of course I have the album (it is GREAT), and yes, of course I have tickets to see them; Sept 27 at the Universal Amphitheater if you must know.  And yes, I am oh so happy that there are still bands out there making this kind of music, even if the musicians are now a bit old for raging on stage (Sammy, you are 60+ man, act at least half your age :)

The music itself reminds me a little of - yes - Led Zeppelin, or perhaps Montrose or Deep Purple or Rainbow.  Some of Satriani's incendiary guitar blazes through, although not enough for my taste, and Sammy is perhaps a little too Sammy, if you know what I mean, but Michael's bass riffs are as strong as ever, and the whole thing just works.  Some great new music from a great new band.

the Tin Alley string quartet entertain us with the beauty of musicWhich leads me to contemplate the beauty of music.  Okay, I grant you the first adjective you would use for describing hard rock like Chickenfoot is not "beautiful", but there is this weird thing that goes on where people find music attractive.  We like hearing it, listening to it, being a part of when it is made, and it is motivating and emotional to us.  There is a connection at a deep level.  Where does this come from?

I have suggested that our sense of Beauty evolved via Natural Selection, an argument I find convincing today.  It was a general argument, separate from any sense, although I guess I was motivated by visual beauty when I wrote it.  Auditory beauty is a little less accessible to me, but on reflection thinking that music is to hearing as abstract art is to vision seems appropriate.  General aesthetic principles like simplicity, elegance, and symmetry are often components of art we think to be beautiful, applying equally to music, paintings, sculpture, etc.  Music has a beat, rhythm, harmony, and melody, each relating to each other, and perhaps symbolizing those aesthetic principles.  Which would imply that patterns in sound are attractive by accident; our brains have evolved to appreciate these elements in any sensory input, and recognize and respond to them whether they occur naturally or synthetically.

Interesting.  I'll have to think about this a bit more.  As I reach for the volume to CRANK Chickenfoot :)


unnatural reproduction

Saturday,  08/29/09  12:56 PM

Unnatural Selection in actionI haven't blogged about Unnatural Selection much lately, but it has been on my mind.  I just came across an old email exchange I had with blog-reader-Dave regarding differential reproduction, and it seems particularly relevant as I've been thinking about family, and children, and grandchildren.  Nicole (my oldest daughter) is 27 now, seriously thinking about getting married, and thinking about having kids, and so we're thinking about having grandkids...  So.

Here's the exchange, as relevant today as when it took place in May 2003:


An observation on your thesis for Unnatural Selection.  I agree in general the factors selecting for intelligence have been on the wane in recent history.  However, there may be some countervailing influences going on as well. 

One of them, I suspect, is the increased tendency (at least in western societies) for intelligent males hooking up and procreating with equally intelligent females.  In the past the primary criteria that intelligent, successful males used in selecting their mates did not include innate intelligence.  In fact this attribute was often seen as a liability in potential mates.  Fortunately, this "barefoot and pregnant" philosophy has lost much of its legitimacy (again in western society).  Of course popular culture (as reflected and amplified by the media) still sends women anti-intelligence messages - in effect saying it's much more important to have high biologic and societal quality than it is intellectual quality.


You're dead right about smart guys meeting smart girls.  It really works against regression to the mean.  In fact, you could argue the right end of the bell curve is drifting to the right even as the mean drifts to the left.

Unfortunately it doesn't work against Unnatural Selection, in fact quite the opposite.

When smart guys meet smart girls, they generally wait until they're 30+ to have kids, and then when they do they have 2 or so...  Meanwhile "not so smart" girls don't get married, they just start having kids in their late teens and dump them on society to take care of, and they might have 5+ to boot.  And "not so smart" guys love 'em and leave 'em their chromosomes along the way.  So who's really smart?  From a genetic standpoint, the "not so smart" girl and guy are much smarter, because their genes will be much better represented in the next generation.

The crux of this problem is that "success" is no longer required for successful reproduction.  You could be a prize-winning scientist or a burnt-out junkie, and it doesn't affect your genes' chances of making it to the next generation in any way.  In essence the junkie's kids are paid for by the scientist's taxes.

As I look around the world today I think this is happening much faster than I feared when I first began thinking about it at the turn of the century.  Not only is there differential reproduction within countries - especially outside the U.S. - but there is differential reproduction between countries.  Most of the world's population growth is now taking place in third world countries, supported by first world countries.  Scary.

(sorry Dave that it took me so long to blog this, I hope it is still okay :)

© 2003-2017 Ole Eichhorn


defunct statements (New Yorker, 8/3/09)

Saturday,  08/29/09  01:37 PM

defunct statements

I have files full of them myself


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About Me

Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
Emergent Properties
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji The Nest Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
Adding Value
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
Toy Story
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
visiting Titan
unintelligent design
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
second gear
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
universal healthcare
triple double
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Holiday Inn
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
vote smart
exact nonsense
introducing eyesFinder
to space
where are the desktop apps?