24 September 2011

Lies, brain surgery, sports, chess and the infinitely complex human mind

According to the New York Times, cyclists beat their personal best times when they thought they were racing against themselves ... competing on a little map with a dot for them and a dot showing their prior best time, they outran themselves even though they were deceived! The "personal best" dot was actually 1% faster than they had ever gone before and they still beat it!

So, ignorance is blissfully better times on the race track.

According to RadioLab, an amazing ultra-runner (100 mile+ races!) is one of the best in the world after she had a portion of her temporal lobe removed. She's bad at tracking time or understand at maps now (which is crazy for someone running incredibly long races ... she still wins even after getting lost for 2 hours in one race) but now she doesn't have epileptic seizures anymore. (My older brother had a similar surgery which unfortunately was less successful though he jokes that he still has the removed section "in case he really needs to give someone a piece of his mind!"). 

We humans are darn impressive machines capable of unknown and possibly unbounded feats both restrained by our brains but only so capable because of our brains. What a paradoxically beautiful thing that what sometimes limits us also makes us infinitely complex and boundless.

Another RadioLab on chess notes that there are more potential chess moves in a 40 move game than there are atoms in the universe (checkers is a different story).
Atoms estimated in the known universe = 1×10^80 atoms (that's eighty zeros after a "1")
Number of games possible in a 'typical' chess game (40 moves, thirty choices/move) is about 10E120
And a 40 move chess game is impossibly small compared with the iterations and possibilities of our minds re: choices over a lifetime more or less the specific (yet changing) makeup of neurons. So as nearly infinite as the universe is (which itself is nearly incomprehensible) our capacity for wonder and thought are as much more complex than so many games of chess. Therefore:

Atoms in the universe < different games of chess in 40 move game < ... < human imagination and capacity.

PS - this is what happens when I drink coffee on the weekend. Next action for the day: Former Ca. Sen. (and California Superintendent candidate) Gloria Romero at a talk Megan's part of organizing for improving education in Richmond ... we got those huge muffins from Costco, so you know it's a classy event!

11 September 2011

Sunday at Frog's Leap Winery (sketched)


Co-worker recommended Frog's Leap - beautiful spot. Went to Brix next for a drink on the patio looking into the Mayacamas (e.g., toward my mom's place).

09 September 2011

Themeless links and pics of the day

There's no rhyme or reason here, but have at you:

Traveling and need to work out without equipment? Crossfit people came up with a good plan.

Random hacker / phreaker gives an insider perspective of the practicalities of prison life.

Redditor make an incredible list of top websites by category.

Ask Metafilter's impression of what it's like to be in your 30's.

For someone so cynical, Krugman really gives me faith in humanity.



21 May 2011

Weight lifting - my 1st try since high school, thoughts on programs

I haven't lifted free weights at the gym since high school (and I wasn't great at it then). I have been going to the gym to lose weight (in addition to tracking my calories on Livestrong.com/myplate) but I've been sticking to cardio that doesn't bother my knee injury (essentially Elliptical machines). After reading more about weight loss and weight lifting at Reddit.com/r/fitness, livestrong.com, and StartingStrength.com I've seen a few common recommendations for starting with weight training.
  1. Form is super important - it doesn't matter if you're lifting a lot if you're doing it wrong. Focus on form over pounds. More repetitions with correct form but less weight is better for beginners. Have an experienced lifter show you how if you can. If none is available, watch several videos showing proper form, start with super low or no weight and try to get the form right. Film yourself and analyze it after if you don't have a live critic.
  2. Don't go back for the same lifts the next day - you need a day of rest, sometimes more.
  3. Warm up - usually this is lower weight and lower reps to practice form and get your body ready for the full weight.
  4. Rest 1-5 minutes between sets. 1 minute rest is better than 5 minutes.
  5. Stretch after. Dynamic stretches or "mobility" training may be better than static stretches.t
  6. There are a few commonly recommended starting weight lifting exercises with the barbell from Starting Strength (or StrongLifts5x5): squats, bench press, barbell row, overhead press, and deadlift. Obviously there are hundreds more and yet more variations, but you've got to start somewhere and this seems to be a consensus group of lifts to begin with. The form for these is hard to get right, so here are some videos:
Squat -


Bench Press -


Deadlift -


Barbell Row


Overhead Press -

23 March 2011

Smart Cover for iPad 1 (The Russians Used a Pencil)

Just ordered the magnets (and a load of other magnets because magnets are way too much fun for me. Also, TIL magnet strength measurement system (nXX, i.e., n35 <>
  • Pushpins with the pin cut off, replaced with a round magnet.
  • Marbles with magnets.
  • Faux flowers with 1" stems with round magnets at the base of the stem
  • Dry erase marker eraser with magnets
  • Your brilliant ideas? I've got an extra 30 magnets so ...

  • russianpencil

    11 January 2011

    Cursing, cats & dogs, godless comedian,

    (A) Students can say fuck in Arizona ... legally!
    [State law does make it illegal to "abuse" a teacher. And he said that, in some circumstances, pure words may rise to that level.

    But Bales said that, in this case, the student's words "were not inherently likely to provoke a violent reaction by the teacher." Absent that, the justice said, there is no crime.


    (B) Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an Atheist - a deeply Nietzscheian (made up word alert) conclusion:
    You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.

    (C) No one can ever know about this, the love that dare not speak its name.

    (D) The longest bridge ... in case you were wondering: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8248197/China-builds-worlds-longest-bridge.html

    (E) Public Employees work for less than private employees (considering pay AND benefits) ... but only by a little.

    (F) "Don't for get to brush your teeth ... or you'll die."
    Actually what my mom said while cleaning my teeth (she's a dental hygienist, not a creepy mom who brushes my teeth for me more than a decade after I moved out).

    23 December 2010

    Ugly, hairy, injured knee o' mine

    Last of the Synvisc Hylan G F 20 injections today. Unnngh!

    My knee is quite hideous up close, allow me to share:

    01 October 2010

    Weight loss competition rules for the office?


    A co-worker suggested we run a weight loss competition at work. A friend and family member just finished their own competition (good work NC!) where I had suggested some of the rules. Here are the rules we're considering for our office competition:
    • Winner: whoever loses the highest percentage of weight over 12 weeks.
    • $50 buy-in
    • We weigh-in every week – if don’t weigh-in without a good excuse then you owe a coffee to the winner of the week.
    • ~10% of the prize money is for weekly winner prizes (like gift cards, coffee, etc).
    • Weigh-ins are in front of everyone in the competition (or at least 2 others ASAP if you can't make the weekly weigh-in for a good reason)
    • EVERYONE has to be there for the FINAL weigh in
    • Everyone should weigh-in using the same clothes (no shoes) each time.
    • We’ll use the same scale each time.
    • Don’t do anything a doctor would call stupid (i.e., no pills, purging, or starving; drink plenty of water, not more than 2-2.5 lbs/week, etc). We'll have a short handout on this.
    • Skinny people can play too: if someone has just a few pounds to lose they can participate, and if they make their healthy weight then they get half their money back. (Because reaching those last 5-10 pounds is worth $25 easy, right?)
    • No one gets any prizes/money if they lose so much they go below a healthy BMI.
    • Everyone in the office has to know about the competition (so they don’t feed us donuts … and maybe even help us).
    • We can post the weigh in rankings for the whole office so there’s extra pressure! (not the actual pounds, but who lost the highest and lowest percentages)
    • If people want, we can arrange things so only the percentage lost is shown, rather than how much we each weigh.
    Any suggestions?

    10 September 2010

    26 July 2010

    iPhone photo apps Camera+ and Pro HDR = fun

    Summary: Camera+ allows you to pick the focus with one finger and the exposure area with another. Pro HDR uses a dark and a bright exposure (with the same focus thanks to Camera+) to create photos which are closer to what you actually see. $4 total for two fun and useful apps.

    Details:
    HDR photos are great but usually take expensive equipment, programs, a tripod, and time. The iPhone camera is okay to good but with two apps it can be used to make reasonably good HDR images which are much more like what you see in real life than a camera usually can give you.

    Camera+ reached high into the best selling apps for the iPhone recently due to a great update. In addition to quite a few good filters and adjustments, a clever part of that update (v1.2) uses the iPhone's multi-touch capacity to allow you to pick the focal point with the first finger you put on the screen (shows up as a square) then pick the exposure level with your second finger (shows as a circle). It’s fun to move each point around to see different exposures and foci.

    Pro HDR (high dynamic range) is the better of two HDR apps available (TrueHDR is the runner up: fewer features, rarely the same quality results, no post-processing adjustments). It has two modes:
    Camera HDR mode: Take two photos, 1st touch where dark, 2nd touch where bright.
    Library HDR mode: Pick two photos of the same thing (one dark, one bright) from your “camera roll” (the normal place for photos on the iPhone).

    Camera+ has a filter to make photos look like they were processed using HDR. It’s silly.
    Pro HDR allows you to take photos in the app asking you where it's dark, where light, but it just uses the camera's generic multipoint focus ... normally you'd "tap to focus" but instead you're "tapping to select a dark/bright" area.

    Combining Camera+ and Pro HDR gives all the focal and exposure options you could reasonably want with adjustable HDR processing:

    1. Take two photos with Camera+
    • Photo one: touch the focal point with your first finger. Keeping that finger pressed on the screen at the focal point, use another finger to pick a dark area on the screen. When the photo looks WAY over exposed (dark areas are clearly visible), remove your fingers and snap your photo.
    • Photo two: touch the same focal point with your first finger. Keeping that finger pressed on the focal point, use another finger to pick a VERY bright area on the screen. This should result in underexposure of dark areas (they look even darker, maybe black) and bright areas should be clear (i.e., you can make out the blinds and the light between them in a bright window … whereas in the above image it would have just been all bright white). Snap your photo.
    • Export the dark and bright photos to the camera roll from the “Light Room” (not automatically done in Camera+ because they give you a first change to apply one of their filters, but easy).
    2. Load Pro HDR, select “Library HDR", select images as instructed (dark then bright), [processing/merging], adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, or warmth to taste (HDR can screw with images so these adjustments are very helpful). Save to camera roll.

    3. …

    4. Profit(?)

    HDR is hard to do, usually it takes a tripod, a fairly expensive camera, a fairly expensive program, and some time. On the iPhone with Camera+ and Pro HDR it takes a couple minutes and gives incredible results … not on par with the professional jobs, but with each of these programs clocking in at $1.99 each, the price and results are excellent.

    Examples:

    Under exposed (dark):

    Over exposed (bright):


    Finished:

    Just for fun, the finished image (Camera+ photos processed by Pro HDR) with the Camera+ HDR filter (which is silly as explained above):

    30 May 2010

    It's my "welcome home!" snake

    When I told my friend, "hey, I have this snake you should check out!" he thought I was going a different direction with it.

    Cherry picking

    We all cherry pick, sometimes some folks realize it's happening ...
    But not many and not often. Good ol' cognitive bias ;-)