Monthly Archives: March 2005

Morning Has Broken, Deal Hasn’t?

Ya know how I said that the lack of categories in Blogger was a deal breaker? Well, apparently, it hasn’t prevented me from going wild, now, has it?
Thing is, I rather like the lack of categories at this point! Weird, ain’t it?
Well, I like structured stuff. Outlines and such. Apart from, OmniOutliner is the main app I use for writing (good thing both work with Cocoa Services). In this case, I’d like to classify things I write. Especially since I think they’re pretty diverse and “disparate” (hence the blog title). But, as it turns out, the lack of categories makes it even more disparate and crazy. I’ll probably hate it soon (after all, I have only blog for a limited number of hours) but at this
point, Life’s Still Good.
[Remember, “That Which Is Said In Title Case Sounds Profound” although, as Vuarra says on the Mead Lover Digest, it’s “Quid quid latine dictum sit altum videtur.” (“That which is said in Latin sounds profound.”)]
At any rate, I might as well stay with Blogger for a while. Convenient.
No need for outside hosting.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to migrate to some other system once I get my very own server space.
Still, I wish Blogger had obvious support for keywords, at the very least. From Google, one would expect…
And this isn’t about getting hits, attracting readers, viewers, eyeballs… I genuinely don’t care. It’s a release thing.
Not that I don’t care about “you” (so far, pretty much my own self) but it’s not my reason to blog, I’m sure…
Already at this point, it’s more of an exercise for my “writing muscles,” so to speak. If you will. In a way. 😉
Speaking of carpal tunnel, shouldn’t blogs be spoken?
[Yeah, yeah, it can be done… Everything can be done. But, remember: convenience!]
[[This thing, blogging, really encourages soliloquy! And weird writing habits…]]
Things to think about, add to this beulogue: some keywordish metadata/tagging, WikiEdit-like syntax, smilies, outline to blog, keyboard shortcuts outside browser…
Now, let’s go and teach!

Post-Busters of the World, Unite!

Generations Around “Generation X”
I really do see myself as a Post-Buster and don’t feel much of a connection with “Baby Busters” who are, apparently, the real “Generation X” according to this demographic model.
Of course, there’s overlap and all sorts of things. But it appeals to me for reasons not so unknown. I identify real GenXer as those who were told there would be jobs and end up in a very difficult job market dominated by Boomers. We (Post-Busters) were told there wouldn’t be jobs anyway so we should really focus our education on something that would give us an edge.
Not a bad advice. An improvement over that is to say that flexibility and the capacity to reinvent oneself are key.
Nowadays, not only can’t we expect to work at the same job for our whole lives but we can in fact expect that we’ll go from one thing to the next. Job stability is a thing of the past? Well, the thing that replaces it isn’t too shabby. It’s a bunch of people who practice multi-/inter-/polydisciplinarity either sequentially or in parallel. What’s “wrong” with that? Probably a lot. But if we decide to surf the wave instead of fighting it (other fights are more likely to give the expected outcome), we might do what pleases us because we are pleased by what we do.

Yeah, well, it all makes sense when the little voice in my head says it… 😉

Ken Burns Spoof: Blackstronaut Cover-Up

The Old Negro Space Program
Very explicit (be warned: some foul language) but well-done. Good use of different speech styles.
Pretty funny. Good anti-racism work.
Plays on many aspects of US culture, including European-American Afrocentrists, moralistic pseudo-tolerance, and emotional manipulation. If you will. 😉
Of course, its main effect is to talk about prejudice and make people think about the impact of discrimination. Johnny Brown, who plays “Suitcase Jefferson,” has done a wonderful job of playing the stereotypical Old African-American storyteller. Many people might still perceive African-Americans in such a stereotypical light.
Some funny comments in the guestbook.

iPod/iTunes Shuffle Mode Really Totally Random?

MSNBC – Does Your iPod Play Favorites?: it’s entirely possible that nothing at all is amiss with the shuffle function. . . .
Life may indeed be random, and the iPod probably is, too. But we humans will always provide our own narratives and patterns to bring chaos under control. The fault, if there is any, lies not in shuffle but in ourselves.

This reminds me of a recent igNobel prize: “when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook anything else — even a woman in a gorilla suit.”

In the case of iPod/iTunes randomness, many people fail to see a pattern. Those people all use the same examples (the Birthday “Paradox” is one) to convince themselves that because human beings often misunderstand probabilities, iTunes (and the iPod) must be random. Kind of a reverse argument, ain’t it?
This has been discussed on blogs, on Slashdot, and on two MacSlash threads [1], [2]. Some people even want this thread to “die” (talk about anthropomorphism) yet add nothing of scientific value to the discussion. Many comments are derisive and condescending, coming from self-appointed experts in human cognition (apparently, as they seem to know so much about why we see patterns; they must have all attended the same PSY101 class or, maybe, had the same instructor for statistics in high school).
Thing is, it’s hard to find anyone doing an actual experiment (with null hypotheses) to in fact determine “how random” the algorithm in iTunes and/or the iPod really is.
As we know that no computer algorithm can generate true randomness (but maybeLava Lites can) and as it’s quite likely that the algorithm used in those devices isn’t the most advanced/complex one, it’s safe to assume that the degree of randomness we’re talking about isn’t as high as those deriders assume it is. I’m saying this without knowing whether or not there is such a measure for randomness but, surely, there must be some measure for entropy. That’d work!

What’s infuriating about this series of personal comments (“you see patterns because you don’t know stats!”) is that, assuming those condescending nay-sayers have any scientific background whatever, they should know better than that, just assuming that the algorithm really produces random series of numbers. Pffish! I’d like to be on their dissertation committees…
Why don’t they apply the scientific method? Ya know: observation, hypothesis, test… Kind of thing. It’s taught in some high schools too…
In this case, people observe patterns in a supposedly random series. One hypothesis is that these patterns are artefacts of the human tendency to see patterns everywhere. Fair enough. These people (or people with an experimental bend) could test this hypothesis and show us the results. If you want to do it, don’t test with 100 songs by a few artists. People who see these patterns have thousands of tracks by hundreds of artists in their collections*. Do it with a real world collection. In fact, do it with a collection to which tracks have been added at different times. Here’s why it matters:

The patterns that people see have to do with tracks from the same artist or, more broadly, with tracks that are similar in a more atypical way. Fine. One thing that might be common with these tracks is that they could have been added at the same time. If they have in fact been added at the same time, it’s probable that they reside on the same part of the hard drive, especially on an iPod to which things have been added in a very limited number of “sessions.” When one adds tracks to iTunes, the import process seems not to follow any obvious order so it’s likely that there are specific locations for tracks added in iTunes (on a computer or on the iPod). In this case, because of the way both iTunes and the iPod work, it’s quite possible that it means that they’re in the same folder. Yes, those “Fnn” folders that are supposed to be invisible but from which we can extract files if we want to. Isn’t it possible that tracks in the same folder have a higher probability of being played within a given sequence because of the way the randomization algorithm has been applied to them?

Now, a disclaimer of sorts. I do observe patterns in the way iTunes and my iPod select some tracks. We’re talking about tracks from two albums (out of several hundreds) playing alternatively (a track from album one, a track from album two, another track from album one…) for fifteen tracks. That’s pretty patterned to me. Not “intelligent.” Just patterned, clustered, not-so-random.
In fact, the other day, I noticed that my iPod played one song from one artist, then a song from another artist, then a song from the first artist. I “made myself a bet” (so to speak) that the track after the next would be a track by the first artist. Turns out that it was a song with the same artist involved but listed under another artist (so the “artist” tag wasn’t the same). I believe that I added all those tracks at the same time. Coincidence? Possibly. But it should be proven. “Real scientists don’t believe in coincidence.” Or some such.

It does feel awkward. In a nice way. Another time, I was listening to a song and, for no apparent reason (at least, not apparent to me), I started thinking about a song by a completely different artist. Turns out, that song was the very next song that played after the one to which I was listening. Very strange effect. Now, it’s possible that I always think about many different songs and that I noticed this occurrence because it appeared to “fulfill my prophecy” (the same way people see a conscious hand at play when one connection occurs between different events that have been associated in many different ways). Or it might be that I had heard these two songs in succession before and that hearing one made me think of the other. I tend to lean toward the second hypothesis because, the way my brain works (when it does work), I usually think about “the next song” based on sequences to which I’m used. For instance, if I made myself a specific playlist and I played it (in linear sequence) enough times, chances are that if I hear one of the tracks, I’ll think of the next track in that playlist even if the context is completely different. I’m probably not the only one who does this type of “stream of thought” association. But, you never know.

Anyhoo… I’m not saying the iTunes/iPod “shuffle” algorithm is smart/intelligent/sentient. But I do think that it generates some kind of cluster effect, the result of which sometimes feels spooky…

*My iPod (2G, 20GB) statistics:
101 Genres
644 Artists
703 Albums
3737 Tracks
Tracks by/with the artist of whom I recently had a cluster of songs: 55

Digital Hub

Business 2.0 – Magazine Article – Printable Version – What’s Next for Apple?: ‘The ideal product would be an appliance that Apple positions as a digital hub,’ Enderle says.
So he really didn’t notice that it’s exactly what Apple has called its strategy for several years? Wow! 😉

“Don’t Quit Your Day Job” (Brewing as Hobby)

[Oh, my! I do hope I won't get too hooked to blogging! I'm scared!!! ;->]

Thinking about brewing, as I often do. Responding to a message about a post I sent to the HomeBrew Digest about beer and beliefs.
In relation to my previous post on work and debt. And compartmentalization.

"Don't quit your day job"
I have no intention of doing such a thing. I love my "day job" (insofar as I have one). I see no reason to quit it.

[Yup, blogging in my case encourages the use of first person singular pronouns, a habit I try to kill in many contexts. But if it's supposed to be self-indulgent, let's do it the self-serving way…]

Some homebrewers I've met hate their day job and see brewing as an escape. [It might be something of the same for me (doing a bit of
self-analysis here) as I may use it to procrastinate. Although, brewing needs planning. Procrastination I mostly do with thinking about brewing. Anyhoo…]
Those homebrewers who brew to "get away from it all" are oftentimes the same guys (yeah, mostly guys in homebrewing circles, nowadays) who want to "Go Pro" and open a brewpub. Now, that's not silly and it's kind of easy to expect, but it might be ill-advised.
Going Pro means a huge investment on money. Of course, we all dream of having enough money to invest in brewing. Hey, if I win the lottery, I might go nuts with brewing gear and if I win enough, I might even give the brewpub idea more of a thought. But…
Going Pro also means transforming a cool, relaxing hobby into an obligation to perform. Sure, many small brewpub and microbrewery owners do it their own way and the lottery win should imply that you don't need to turn a profit. But still, professional brewing is bound to be more of a pressure. And many aspects of brewing aren't necessarily so much fun. And these are the ones that become very important in the Pro world. Not to mention the whole business side. Some people enjoy it but
these are few and far between.

A well-known homebrew celebrity (!) who became a brewpub owner is quoted as saying that if he were to start again, he might not go pro. Nowadays, he doesn't brew anymore. And even though his pub is often packed, he still struggles to make ends meet. Not a pleasant feeling.

Then, the ideal solution should be collaboration. One "business-type" to handle the business and one crazy brewer. Well, the crazy brewer won't be so crazy when the business guy talks about minimizing risk.
A big important notion, risk. A hobby is fun because the stakes are low. You scrap a 5-gallon batch, so be it. You lost a bit of time, a bit of money. So be it. That's life. And you learned something. You scrap a batch as a commercial brewer, uh-oh!
So that's one reason even the most adventurous brewers end up making a lot of fairly uncompromising beer. Another reason is that what pleases the brewer might attract a few beer geeks but the beer geek market is incredibly small as compared to the swill drinkers. Lots of talk about that. But brewing capacity (volume) is correlated against risk.

The Seattle Times: Business & Technology: Despite the hype, Sony PSP no sellout in debut

The Seattle Times: Business & Technology: Despite the hype, Sony PSP no sellout in debut
So… Is Sony gambling on the PSP? Maybe Sony should become exclusively a content company… 😉