October 31, 2009
Last year I was in New York City for Halloween. But, this year, I was at home, which meant it was time to carve another pumpkin. This time, I made a starry night:
(This was my first time using power tools to carve a pumpkin, and I have to say, they make it a lot easier and a lot more fun!)
October 24, 2009
Irony, tinged with truth
During the G-20 protests in Pittsburgh held September 22-25, CMU machine learning students took to the streets to support their causes. "Support vector machines!" and "Ban genetic algorithms!", they demanded. "Bayesians against discrimination!", they cried. And my favorite of all:
Luckily, the news media, in the form of the indomitable John Oliver, were there to cover and support the efforts. (And thus these savvy protesters made it on the Oct. 1 Daily Show for about 3 seconds at the 9m11s mark; blink and you'll miss them.)
This is the life I've chosen
An oldie, but goodie: John Oliver reporting on how academia really works.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Human's Closest Relative|
If that's not enough hilarity about chimps vs. orangs, or, if you were really intrigued by the arguments in favor of orangs, read this.
Tip to Jake Hofman.
October 22, 2009
National Computer Science Education Week, or: It's About Time
Is it cliche to say "it's about time"?
The ACM, with Microsoft, Google, Intel and some other organizations, managed to persuade the US Congress that Computer Science is a Good Thing(tm) and that it deserves some recognition for driving economic growth (you know, making things like medicine, movies, music, and cars) . To recognize the goodness, Congress passed a resolution (H. RES. 558) to designate the week of December 7 as “National Computer Science Education Week.” 
The resolution, H. RES. 558, sponsored by Congressmen Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Jared Polis (D-CO) , designates the week of December 7 as “National Computer Science Education Week.” Citing the influence of computing technology as a significant contributor to U.S. economic output, the House resolution calls on educators and policymakers to improve computer science learning at all educational levels, and to motivate increased participation in computer science.
“Increasing energy efficiency, advancing healthcare, and improving communication in the digital age are just a few of the national priorities that depend on computer science, which Congress has recognized. Computer science teaches students design, logical reasoning, and problem-solving – all skills that have value well beyond the classroom,” said Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Research for Microsoft.
“Despite serious economic challenges confronting the nation, computer science-related jobs are among the fastest-growing and highest paying over the next decade,” said Alfred Spector, vice president of Research and Special Initiatives at Google, Inc. “These times require an increasing supply of diverse students exposed to rigorous and engaging computing courses at the K-12 level, and National Computer Science Education Week can help to reinforce this effort.”
Good fanfare, and good effort for sure. It's a small gesture really, but I guess it does give organizations like the ACM a hook to hang their public campaigns on. And for sure, education about computers, computer science, and their use (and abuse) in society is something the public could do with some educating on.
Tip to Tanya Berger-Wolf.
 Thankfully, they didn't mention that computer science and computers have also produced massive amounts of wasted time, the estimation of which never ceases to amuse me. (If you'd like to estimate it for yourself, try this.)
 In a fit of gender-neutrality (something Computer Science is not known for), the date was chosen to honor Grace Hopper, who wrote the first compiler and helped invent the indispensable COBOL, in addition to being a Rear Admiral in the Navy, and having a Naval destroyer named after her.
 Incidentally, I was very happy to discover that Mr. Polis represents the 2nd District of Colorado, and he'll be my representative once I move to Boulder next summer.
October 21, 2009
Machinima meets science geekery
We are all connected (ft. Sagan, Feynman, deGrasse Tyson & Bill Nye)
Tip to Cris Moore.