A note on similarity search

Monday 19 July 2010, 19:26

Hi! I'm a scientific researcher. I have a PhD in computer science. My doctoral dissertation is mostly about the mathematical background of "similarity search." That means looking at things to find other things they are similar to. I've travelled the world to present my work on similarity search at scientific conferences - and some very smart people with very limited funds chose to use those funds to pay for me to do that.

Argument from authority has its limitations, but I would like to make very clear: I am an expert in the specific area of how computers can answer questions of the form "Which thing does this thing most resemble?" Gee, why would I mention this right now?

Judging covers by the book

Friday 9 July 2010, 09:32

Here are the covers of two different editions of the book Silver Phoenix, by Cindy Pon. One of them is horribly offensive - "like the ugly, stupid, festering toad that you just can't squash no matter how many times you hit it with a shovel" - and the Web logger on whose site I found the pictures and quote thinks it's obvious which one that is.

On the marshmallow test

Wednesday 30 June 2010, 09:46

Show a four-year-old child some marshmallows and a bell. Tell them that you're going to leave the room for a while (fifteen or twenty minutes). Say that if they ring the bell, you'll come back and give them a marshmallow. However, say that if they don't ring the bell, but wait until you come back without ringing it, then you will give them two marshmallows. Record what happens.

Ten years later, assess the child's personality and general success in life by means of a questionnaire sent to their parents. What you discover is that the ones who rang the bell, or who rang it earlier, score relatively poorly on questions that measure social adjustment, "emotional intelligence," and so on. The ones who didn't ring the bell, or rang it later, score much better on those measures, and also score better on the SAT. Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., Peake, P. K. (1990). Predicting adolescent cognitive and self-regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification: Identifying diagnostic conditions. Developmental Psychology, 26(6) [PDF]

The part I think is really interesting is what the authors of that paper don't say about the experimental protocol.

An index for all reasons

Sunday 27 June 2010, 16:52

There are probably as many reasons to save money as there are savers. One of mine is as follows: I don't want to be forced to change my lifestyle. In particular, after I'm retired and living on the savings I create today, I don't want to find myself in a situation where, because of changes in the world beyond my control that affect prices, the money I put aside to buy goods for myself during retirement is no longer enough to cover the kind of lifestyle I intended for myself, and so I'm forced to cut back. I want someone else, not me, to be accountable for cutting back to make sure I don't have to, and I'm willing to pay money up front in order to remove belt-tightening from the list of things I have to take responsibility for.

Gerard Kennedy on copyright, other issues

Thursday 24 June 2010, 10:42

Last night I attended a meeting called the "Community Council on Federal Issues," hosted by Gerard Kennedy, Liberal Member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park and my Federal elected representative. I didn't vote for him; never mind whether I would have, I was living in a different city at the time of the last election. Apparently he holds these meetings periodically as a way of keeping in touch with constituents; this one in particular was advertised as having a focus issue of "Locked out? New Federal copyright laws and you," which was what drew my interest. I didn't take notes and don't plan to report on the entire meeting, but will cover a few points of interest to me.

Another wacky theory

Sunday 20 June 2010, 16:39

I just noticed that the way Téodor gets out of his horrific night of high school fun with Nice Pete, is exactly the same way that Kyon gets out of his horrific time loop of high school fun with Haruhi. You realize what this means, don't you?

Miyaku

Thursday 17 June 2010, 22:54

I spoke but you were all you'd hear:
You think I've won but you don't know the game
Now I must go where you can't lead
The blame for this is not on you to bear.
What can I say so you will know
What all my words to now could not make clear
How far to ride for one more chance
How much not to give up the pride I claim?
You say that I don't have to leave
You'll hide me from the flame and keep me safe
As if I had not heard that one
As if you had not seen the burns I wear.
To get out of the fire was not my goal
You can't hold on to me that way.

You can't hold on to me that way:
I spoke but you were all you'd hear
Now I must go where you can't lead.
What can I say so you will know
How far to ride for one more chance?
You say that I don't have to leave
As if I had not heard that one
You can't hold on to me that way.

What all my words to now could not make clear:
The blame for this is not on you to bear.
How much not to give up the pride I claim?
You'll hide me from the flame and keep me safe
As if you had not seen the burns I wear.
To get out of the fire was not my goal.
You think I've won but you don't know the game.
You can't hold on to me that way;
I spoke, but you were all you'd hear.

Trail

Friday 30 November 2001, 22:51

I was in the computer lab, just finishing off the last of the coding for my assignment. There'd still be doc to do, and the way my luck was running they'd change the requirements again at the last minute anyway - Oh, didn't we mention that it had to be portable to the ZX-81? Gee, we thought that was obvious! - but I could deal with all that stuff in the morning. I heard a noise, and I looked up to see a man walking through the door. That was a little unusual. It was almost midnight and I was the only person in the place and he didn't look like a student anyway, nor a prof that I recognized. He was in his fifties, maybe. Medium height, thin, the most noticeable thing was his odd hairstyle - bald on top but long light brown hair in the back, drawn into a pony tail. He was wearing a black suit that looked heavily worn and a little too small for him, and several silvery metal rings high on the cartilege of each ear.

The blessed ones

Thursday 29 November 2001, 22:14

The blessed ones, damn them, I wish they'd leave me alone. They start in just when the moon is slipping into that eclipse position, just at the corners, the fringes. My peripheral vision is pretty good, I can detect movement in practically any direction, but I can only see clearly through my glasses. So when they start sneaking into my field of view I only see their vague forms, green and pink, right on the edge there, I can't see their faces at all.

Back

Wednesday 28 November 2001, 22:07

It's not the same when you go back but you do too have to go back, that is the law, the closure of the set. Wherever you draw the line of your path, there'll be those places in the margin. You see the surfaces as you pass, you infer what's behind them, and some day before you leave you must stop and take a look, fix the images in your mind because it won't be the same and even the first time it isn't how you imagined, always a surprise as that is information, I told you before: it's not what you imagined even the first time, and the second time you don't see what you thought you remembered the first time.