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)

Inspiration from cool graphics

My walk to work from the new apartment takes me past the Broad Institute. A few days ago, something caught my eye and so I stopped to take a look. The ground floor of the Broad is a large lobby only separated from the street by a wall of glass. I realized that the lobby is now filled with large, flat-screen computer displays that I didn’t recall having seen before. Sure enough, these display are part of what the Institute is calling The Broad Institute Museum. Admittedly, I stood on the sidewalk for a while and stared at the displays facing the street because I think they are pretty cool. One in particular stood out to me: In one corner of the display is a depiction of a DNA microarray. Taking up most of the middle of the display is a depiction of the human karyotype. Nucleotide sequences fly off of the microarray into the part of the karyotype that corresponds to the appropriate location in the genome.

During the past year, I’ve spent some time working with DNA microarray data. While the concept of being able to measure some quantity, such as gene expression, at tens of thousands of genomic locations simultaneously is pretty awesome. My actual work consisted of manipulating poorly annotated, awkwardly large files full of numbers and cryptic symbols. In other words, it wasn’t very glamorous work. But, while watching the display at the Broad Institute, I was reminded of how cool I think computational genomics is and my resolve to finish the research project that I have been working on was boosted. Its amazing what a difference some fancy computer graphics can make.

The really awesome thing about the Broad display is that it is supposedly depicting actual real-time analysis of SNP array experiments that are part of a cancer research project. While doing a bit of reading for this article, I came across this page about the Broad’s Outreach Program. Imagine doing a semester long research project at the Broad as a high school student!

Surfing Socially

I just spent some time using Browzmi this morning. I learned about it randomly last night from an ad in facebook. Its not often that an advertisement points me to something cool. If you haven’t heard about it, it is sort of a browser within your browser. Which in itself is not all that amazing. But, they are starting to add some interesting features. You can tag, like, dislike, and comment about sites. You can also establish a network of friends and chat with them within Browzmi. So, it seems to be aspiring to be a replacement for Digg,, facebook, googletalk, etc. all rolled into one site. The user interface is pretty good. My most immediate wishes were for the ability to have more than one website open at once (something like tabbed browsing) and the ability to move the chat windows around or at least minimize them. Travis Parsons from the Browzmi team chatted with me which was cool. But the chat itself was obscuring my ability to scroll in the website that I was viewing! I might just be used to google talk, but it would be cool if browzmi chats could be saved. I think integration with other web services like would encourage people to start using browzmi. At least the ability to import/export tags. I’m looking forward to seeing how this thing scales up. Currently accounts are by invitation only. Let me know if you want an invitation.