Sunday, April 26, 2009

Face recognition, weed whacking, Sunday comics

Three things:
    Interesting demonstration of "face mining" from video. I watched a Star Trek episode ("Where no man has gone before") last night on television and today found that it is one used for the face mining demo. They get Scotty wrong, but pretty impressive anyway.
  • Also a Sunday cartoon caught my eye. The cartoonist must not like Charlie Sheen's sitcom much :)
  • Finally, is there actual evidence that increasing vegetation clearance around mountain structures from 30 to 100 feet is cost effective? This is a real pain (I was mowing today) since area goes up by the length of the side squared: from 900 ft^2 to 10000 ft^2, eleven times as much to clear! Grrr. Where is evidence-based fire fighting when you need it :) I guess we should be grateful, some insurance companies were requiring more than 100 feet. The law now addresses that in section 51182 item 3 :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I dont' watch Jay Leno much, but occasionally I see the funny headlines that people send to him.

I was reminded of those this morning while I was Googling for something else. I saw this on page 5 of the August 2008 The Territorial Review Monthly (you can read the whole issue here). Anyway, I like this headline: "Healthy Communities Free Movies In the Park Proves Popular" -- from the looks of the picture there must be at least a half dozen people there. I guess it's all relative.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Civic duty

Today was Day Three of jury duty. Big excitement on Wednesday was the lunch cart outside the courthouse was robbed (but the perp was caught).

Note to self: Don't rob lunch carts with zillions of cops around.

While you're at the courthouse, you might as well walk half a block to the mall and find the Renoir. Or, buy the penthouse apartment at the old Security Bank building.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Making vacation plans for the summer?

Can't afford Europe? Take a trip to Georgia and see a henge, well, guidestones. While you're driving around the southeast, don't miss the giant peanut in Plains. That's only one of the many giant peanuts -- and pecans -- to see on your trip.

You could also go to the Coral Castle in Florida. You can prepare yourself by touring the local underground gardens.

Bonus: Lots of strange stuff to think about while you're road tripping: unsolved ciphers, and even some solved ones like the San Jose semaphores that were on top of the Adobe building.

Finally, a big vacation requires big things. This might be the place. They have the perfect hat in case you stop in Iowa on the way back.

Acronyms versus Initialisms

The 10 April Grammar Girl podcast is useful information for tech people since we live with many abbreviations. I am a GG fan from way back, but Strunk & White? Not so much.

Geoffrey Pullum "celebrates" S&W in "50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice", published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. I liked it -- good advice for tech writers about what is or isn't passive language. Pullum was also featured on today's Talk of the Nation.

Bonus: Bertrand Meyer (father of Eiffel, and one of my profs at UCSB) and his co-authors make a good case that computer science and software engineering research is not published in the same way that research in other fields are. In fact, some of the most prestigious and influential venues for CS results are conferences, not archival journals:
In the computer science publication culture, prestigious conferences are a favorite tool for presenting original research—unlike disciplines where the prestige goes to journals and conferences are for raw initial results. Acceptance rates at selective CS conferences hover between 10% and 20%; in 2007–2008:

* ICSE (software engineering): 13%
* OOPSLA (object technology): 19%
* POPL (programming languages): 18%

Journals have their role, often to publish deeper versions of papers already presented at conferences. While many researchers use this opportunity, others have a successful career based largely on conference papers. It is important not to use journals as the only yardsticks for computer scientists.
They also point out idiosyncracies of the academic world that ignore some of the most important venues in our field, and that authorship order in CS publication is generally not significant.

Anyway, I still think that Bertrand's "design by contract" emphasis is one of the best practical software development ideas ever.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Men in (silver and) black

Raiders fans out there -- or folks from So Cal -- probably remember Todd Marinovich. His former NFL dad raised (engineered?) him to be the perfect athlete. He played briefly for the Raiders, but his tale is really one of drugs ruining his life. He might be the only pro quarterback who's thrown ten touchdown passes in a game while going through heroine withdrawal :) Since the article was published this month, he's been arrested yet again. It's a sad but surprisingly interesting story:
For the nine months prior to Todd's birth on July 4, 1969, Trudi used no salt, sugar, alcohol, or tobacco. As a baby, Todd was fed only fresh vegetables, fruits, and raw milk; when he was teething, he was given frozen kidneys to gnaw. As a child, he was allowed no junk food; Trudi sent Todd off to birthday parties with carrot sticks and carob muffins. By age three, Marv had the boy throwing with both hands, kicking with both feet, doing sit-ups and pull-ups, and lifting light hand weights. On his fourth birthday, Todd ran four miles along the ocean's edge in thirty-two minutes, an eight-minute-mile pace. Marv was with him every step of the way.
Well, from Silver & Black to black ops: I was googling for something else tonight and was reminded of a crash in the mountains east of Bakersfield about in 1986. Amazing that after a secret airforce clean-up (it was a F-117 stealth aircraft before they officially existed), adventurous hikers were still finding pieces (scroll down toward the bottom, and try not to let the red text on black background get to you).

There are people whose avocation is finding crash sites of experimental planes. It's amazing the X-15 debris they found years later -- (including a big piece of a horizontal stabilizer, and an information plate) -- after a crash where the X-15 was descending at 166,000 feet per minute!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A man does not wither at the thought of dancing. But it is generally to be avoided.

NPR interviewed a mariner about what it is like for the pirates and kidnapped captain in the lifeboat. It sounds grim. The guy being interviewed is from Morro Bay and has an interesting blog "that brings the tools of Web 2.0 to the Professional Mariner".

Another public radio thing to listen to is a UC Davis professor's proposal to create a cabinet-level agency to foster innovation. It is techier than I thought it would be, and mentions how critical DARPA funding was to establishing Computer Science departments, and Xerox PARC, among other things. Lessig was also a recent guest, talking about an "innovation commons".

From the urban legends department, is this true? This afternoon I was trying to find the differences between the CRJ (used by United Express) and the ERJ (used by American Eagle) and ran across this. A couple of years ago a baby was run through the x-ray machine at LAX, but I can't find anything more about the Vanuatu security screeners.

Speaking of airlines, last week I was on one of the last 767s American from the west coast to Hawaii, booooo. The flight attendants aren't happy either, and it makes American not competitive with United, who is still flying 767s and 777s from LAX to the islands.

The title of this post is from "What is a Man?" Bonus: "31 Things Every Man Should Own".

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Proof that airfares make no sense

What's wrong (or right :) with this airfare sale?

Fresno, CA to Kona, HI $191 4/17/09-05/22/09
Fresno, CA to Lihue/Kauai, HI $191 4/17/09-05/22/09
Fresno, CA to Maui Kahului, HI $185 4/17/09-05/22/09
Los Angeles, CA to Kona, HI $207 4/17/09-05/22/09
Los Angeles, CA to Lihue/Kauai, HI $207 4/17/09-05/22/09
Los Angeles, CA to Maui Kahului, HI $202 4/17/09-05/22/09
San Francisco, CA to Kona, HI $246 4/17/09-05/22/09
San Francisco, CA to Lihue/Kauai, HI $246 4/17/09-05/22/09
San Francisco, CA to Maui Kahului, HI $244 4/17/09-05/22/09

This happens occasionally, it is cheaper to go to Hawaii from Fresno than from LAX or SFO, even though you have to change planes in either of those two places.

Trivia: back in the day ... must have been before 1987-ish when Delta bought Western Airlines, there was briefly weekly nonstop service from Fresno to Honolulu, I think.

The magic of YouTube

Some creative stuff on YouTube from talented people with too much time on their hands:
  • The Star Wars opening in the style of the Dallas TV show.
  • The Star Trek opening as Love Boat and as Hawaii Five-O.
  • 100 names in 100 seconds
Shatner on Richardo Montalban here, and probably the best imitation of Kirk: Kevin Pollak, who played Joe Shay in From the Earth to the Moon.