Monthly Archives: September 2007

Freedom to criticize and quantify

How do people respond when a U.S. general presents testimony to congress that contains slides that are difficult to interpret? Well, some people respond constructively and make a project out of it. Others respond in ways that will probably be much less useful when it comes to interpreting future testimonies, such as controversial full page ads in newspapers. As far as I can tell, congress has yet to acknowledge the useful responses to General Patraeus’ presentation. They could use a bit of quantification I think. Unfortunately, they have acknowledged quite vehemently the ad taken out by in the New York Times on September 10th. Now, I don’t know that much about the situation and I am not an active supporter of MoveOn. But, what the hell is the house doing wasting time passing a resolution in response to a newspaper advertisement? In my vision of how the U.S. government should work, congress would make laws not official declarations of their opinion of certain organizations. So what if an organization wants to spend its money expressing its opinions through advertisements? As long as such advertisements do not contain any false statements, I don’t see any problem with it. Shouldn’t freedom of speech include freedom from intimidation by the government to not express oneself in a particular way?


Football and all that jazz

I needed to take a break from writing up my Theory of Computation problem set, so I thought I would write about my awesome upcoming weekend plans. I’m flying out to Berkeley to visit AP. Its going to be great to see her and we have some super plans lined up. Since she is technically Berkeley staff now, she was able to get in on the free football tickets that the university gives out to staff members for one game each season. The number 6 ranked Golden Bears are going to destroy Arizona and I’m going to be there to watch it. Its funny how my interest in football is so highly correlated with how well Cal is doing.

That evening after the game, we are heading out to the city to see Medeski, Scofield, Martin, and Wood play at the Fillmore. My friend S got tickets for this show in June, so I have been anticipating this show for a while now. I’m really stoked about the show. I’ve seen MMW and Scofield, but never together. I’ve also never been to the Fillmore. So, should be awesome.

Sunday we might grab some thai brunch and/or go hiking or something. I’m looking forward to hitting all my old food joints in Berkeley and just spending time with AP. Between this weekend and last weekend with my Mom I’ve been busy but having a lot of fun.

The definition of cool (I mean deck)

A couple of friends and I having a running joke about hipsters. Earlier this evening my roommate decided to look up the definition of hipster on Urban Dictionary. The third definition is hilarious and well worth reading. I bet that from now on every time I walk by the Middle East in Central Square I will think of this definition.

An industrial and industrious hero

Just read this post about the movie Iron Man. Check out the trailer. I would probably side with the awesome camp, even though it looks pretty cheesy. I guess I’m not nerdy enough to have known who Iron Man is, but I am nerdy enough to look it up on Wikipedia. I think its hilarious that the article is tagged as possibly being too long. Skimming through the article, Iron Man’s story reminded me a bit of Atlas Shrugged (not the most pleasant memories). The main character is supposed to be an American Industrialist who creates armor for himself. Anyway, should be cool. May 2008 seems like a long time from now.

The dangers of posting pictures from a camping trip


I really enjoy taking pictures. I also enjoy sharing my photography. I’ve been busy the last few weeks and my internet access has been somewhat tenuous, but I have finally posted photos from the trip that ACP and I took to Tahoe in August. I like the interface of Google’s photo sharing application Picasa. The integration with Google maps appeals to my compulsion to tag and categorize. When I have more time, I want to post about tagging information on the web and why I think its important. But, after reading a couple scary articles yesterday, I am feeling more reluctant to share anything on the web, let alone tag and categorize what I share.

Scoble sent out a link on his twitter feed to an article by Judi Sohn who was criticizing one of his posts. Reading these articles made me aware of a controversial situation involving a company named Rapleaf (the company posted a somewhat apologetic letter about the situation). As I read more, I felt somewhat sick to the stomach (the situation is even more awkward for me because I know at least one person who works for Rapleaf from undergrad). I started to feel my excitement about the possibilities for using social networking applications to understand human behavior and for other scientific endeavors fade away. I have been meaning to read and write more about the way that social media improves our ability to utilize the vast amounts of data that exist on the web. But now, companies like Rapleaf are already acting on this and abusing the opportunities presented to us by social media. I guess it was inevitable, and I’m sure companies like Google, Yahoo, etc. have been storing up information about individuals on the web for a long time now. Its just disconcerting when you receive an email stating that you have been searched and find out that some random website is displaying all sorts of information about you. Its true that this information is freely available on the web, but it seems wrong to me for a company to compile and display information about a person if that person has not requested or even agreed for that to be done. For example, I want people to read my blog, thats why I write it. But I don’t want what I write in my blog to be scraped and displayed elsewhere. Nor do I want the content of my blog to be analyzed so that I can be categorized by marketing firms. I’m not an expert on this subject, so I’m hesitant to throw around the following terms. But, this seems like a critical moment in the transition from a “social web” to a “semantic web”.

Two legends of the same name

My friend JRK is a bit of a scotch connoisseur. Several months ago, we were discussing this beverage and JRK mentioned that he had read several articles by a scotch critic named Michael Jackson. Of course, I remarked on what a funny name that was. But, JRK said, he happens to be a widely respected scotch critic.

Now, I myself happen to be more of a fan of beer. Not of the Anheuser-Busch variety, but more of the imperial IPA screaming hops variety. I noticed in a recent BeerAdvocate post that a beer critic named Michael Jackson had recently passed away. There couldn’t possibly be a scotch critic and a beer critic both named Michael Jackson, I thought. Sure enough, they are the same person. Furthermore, he turns out to have been pretty important in the revival of brewing culture in the US. I’m sorry I didn’t learn about him earlier, but I look forward to going back and reading his work. The BeerAdvocate post contains several good links to articles about Michael Jackson. Cheers!

Generalized Blog Propagation

I recently discovered Jonathan Yedidia’s blog through this post by T. As with T, his is a particularly meaningful name for me. Especially after working for a while on my most recent project. Its pretty cool when you realize that there is a real person behind a name. I laughed heartily at the videos that he posted, especially HappySlip’s ballad. If you scroll down to his “Personal Technical Web-sites” sidebar section, you will find an impressively thorough list of who’s who in machine learning/computer science/… (probably theoretical physics too, I wouldn’t really know)