Saturday, April 26, 2008

Random stuff

I've been too busy for coherent thoughts, so here's a few disjointed things:

Music. While talking on the phone to a friend who was shopping at Lowe's I overhead the Backstreet Boys "I want it that way" in the background (followed by a Human League song, ugh). So I was thinking, I should lip synch my own YouTube Backstreet Boys video (not really), but you should watch this guitar player, even does the harmonics, and for those of you more classically inclined, Pachelbel's canon in an usual style. He also does a G&R song, using a loop. I think the first time I was aware of an acoustic guitar player using a pedal-activated loop was seeing Phil Keaggy do it (or a more recent version). But for pure slap harmonics, watch this.

Trivia: What is the connection between Phil Keaggy and Jimi Hendrix? Probably nothing.

Then there is always Andy Mckee.

Student evaluations. Interesting article about the notorious site correlating with IDEA, one of the more famous system for student ratings of instruction.

Costco. ABC News did an nice story on Costco. The maximum mark-up on any item is Costco is 14 percent, and they are one of the largest buyers of cashews in the world. The biggest selling item is toilet paper.

Seed pans. I really like these seed pans from the UK. I first read about them in Sunset.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Of earthquakes and money

The LA Times has a story about the next 30 years of California earthquakes, but what you need to know is summed up in this picture -- Rancho Cucamonga is in the middle of it :) The story has a link to a similar northern California picture. When it does happen, you can track it here.

There's been quite a bit about salaries lately. The CRA posted information about 2006 starting salaries for graduates in SEH (science, engineering, and health):
CS tied for second with health majors for the highest median salary at the bachelor’s level ($45,000) and tied for first with engineering at the master’s level ($65,000). This compared to median salaries among all science, engineering and health fields of $39,000 at the bachelor’s level and $56,000 at the master’s level.
Compare this to the recent AAUP report about faculty salaries (summarized here, full report here). You can look up salary information by college in the appendices of the full report. If you're interested in UC and CSU salaries, you can find out down to the person by going here.

The AAUP report discusses salaries of college coaches as compared to faculty:
Table B presents two years of average salaries for head football coaches, average salaries of full professors, and the ratio of the two for the eleven Division I-A football conferences. In 2007-08, the average salary of the coaches is $1,040,863, a 12.4 percent increase over the $925m683 average paid in 2006-07. By contrast, the average salary of full professors at these universities in 2007-08 is $104,523, 3.5 percent more than the $100,998 paid in 2006-07. In 2006-07, the average head football coach earned 9.2 times the average full professor's salary; that ratio increased to 10 this year.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Remove the receiver gently so as not to jiggle the switch hook

This "four foot" phone dial reminded me of the 1927 film teaching Fresno County residents how to use a dial phone. While you are there at you can watch the 1949 short film "Life in the Central Valley", or the Kirk Douglas feature The Big Trees where he and some Quakers have different ideas about sequoia trees.

When push buttons replaced the telephone dial, I wonder if a film was made explaining why the numbers on a calculator are arranged differently than numbers on a telephone? :)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Solid smoke

Joe Kittinger (the guy who jumped out of a balloon at 102,800 feet) was honored at the National Air and Space Museum. ABC did a nice interview. Also honored was the NASA Stardust team who flew aerogel through the tail of a comet. Aerogel is weird stuff, I bought tiny pieces on ebay. These pictures from JPL are amazing: a real brick looking like it is floating on smoke, and crayons insulated from a flame, demonstrating aerogel's thermal properties.

Changing the subject, Dr. Dobb's Journal published an article about Byzantine faults. We spent a lot of time in graduate school thinking about Byzantine agreement while formally specifying systems. The topic comes up when you have distributed critical systems that need to agree.

Speaking of agreement, an idea behind mutation testing is that programs written from the same specification should produce the same answers. In high school I was the operator for a payroll system that was replacing manual procedures. Unfortunately, the payroll software was being written while we were using it every week to cut $100,000 in payroll checks. Because of round-off, the software was not getting the same answer the parallel paper-and-pencil process. As this post in Risks says, there was "huge panic, much headless chicken behaviour" (the follow-up Risks post is also good). Our accountants did not like being a few cents off each week :)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

In most men there lurks a lesser man, and his presence smells in the sun

Yes that title is from the same book as the previous two blog titles :)

Anyway, summer is about here, so I recommend that you have a pool party and tie dye something. We had great success with pillowcases and sheets (but never did a couch). But now fashion designers are muscling in on my creative space.

I noticed that Stanford is hosting a talk by Randy Breen from Emotiv Systems (the abstract for the talk is interesting). They've devloped a non-invasive EEG neuroheadset (a lot different than where things were back in the day).

But the big story of today was getting a Pegge Hopper signed poster at the sale, and listening to the Radio Lab show about how songs get stuck in your head (featuring Oliver Sacks).

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

There is a degree of mercy beyond which any man is rude to inquire

OK, the title doesn't have anything to do with this blog post, but I decided another quote from Ernest Gann's Fate is the hunter was in order (you can get a lot cheaper copies :)

The real reason for this post is that I finally had time to watch a video on Tim O'Reilly's blog. Eben Moglen really goes after O'Reilly about how he wasted the last 10 years promoting open source. It gets hot at the end, but worth watching.

Moglen gave a keynote at the December 2006 Sakai conference, then had a lunchtime "discussion" with a Blackboard attorney about the infamous patent. More recently, he spoke at a MySQL conference.