Walnuts and engagement

3 October 2009

One of the things I really like about Corvallis is that so many different trees flourish here; there are at least two different kinds of walnut within a block of our house. We’ve harvested some already for eating, but there is a slightly menacing corollary of that bounty manifesting itself about this time of year. As if the hazards of being hit by a falling walnut or having your feet roll out from underneath you on a carpet of them wasn’t bad enough, when shedding fruit in great quantities, these trees draw crows in flocks large enough to qualify as Hitchcockian.

In attempting to devour the crop, crows can be seen trying to crack walnuts by attempting to pin them between their feet to peck at, or drop them from lamp posts, or wedge them in the manhole cover, or (my personal favorite) hurl them at human interlopers. Displaying an amazing variety of tactics, and using elements of the natural environment to their advantage, as well as (superficially, at least) learning from past mistakes presents something very close to empiricism.

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A striking contrast is presented between the new MacPro that just arrived at work and the definition presented for the first learning tic-tac-toe playing computer laid out in a 1963 paper and reiterated in the O’Reilly Statistics Hacks book I’m reading now. On the one hand, an eight-core CPU, new fast RAM, and an embarrassment of riches in graphics cards; on the other, to quote Bruce Frey quoting Donald Michie, 287 matchboxes and large numbers of nine different colors of beads. That’s right. The arch-nemesis from 1983’s WarGames can be constructed from the contents of your kitchen junk drawer.

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At least two meals today will consist of the dwindling store of Thanksgiving leftovers: Elle’s mascarpone-whiskey pumpkin pie to break my fast and the ubiquitous turkey sandwiches for lunch. Outstanding all around.

In doing some research over the last couple of days, I’ve been surprised at how unsophisticated the majority of nonprofit and government agencies seem to be about their data presentation. For starters, any of you who are not assiduous fans of the West Wing may be unaware that there are a shocking number of inaccuracies and political problems with the most common map projection in the world. But that’s just the beginning. Read the rest of this entry »

Not just semantics

15 May 2007

It seems to me that we’re not being totally consistent. The strongest single aggregation of knowledge going defines science as

any system of knowledge attained by verifiable means. In a more restricted sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on empiricism, experimentation, and methodological naturalism, as well as to the organized body of knowledge humans have gained by such research.

At the same time, Thales of Miletus is referred to as the “Father of Science.

Okay so far, except that I can’t figure out a way to define the ability to succesfully survive via agriculture, which started at least 2500 and maybe more like 8500 years before Thales, that is excluded from the above.

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As much as I tend to run with the same circle of acquaintances most of the time, there are some interests that don’t seem to overlap very often. So I was glad to see that the Rhetoric Society of America at UH Hilo is helping to publicize the documentary Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes by Byron Hurt. The schedule for the show in Hawai`i is below, but I don’t know how this relates to different cable providers, beyond what is given.

For those of you who may be wondering what connection I have with this, other than my clear and total adoption of the hip-hop lifestyle, I was fortunate enough to meet Byron when he spoke on campus last October. Elle and I then had a great time giving him the whirlwind tour of the National Park, and we got a chance to speak of food, fathers, and careers before delivering him to the airport for a flight almost directly to his wedding rehearsal (no kidding). Byron is an inspiring guy, and his thought-provoking film really taught me some stuff. Even if you have a vaguer notion that I about how hip-hop ideas pervade culture, I highly recommend this film as opening outstanding conversations about control of media and message.

[updates] Somehow I missed linking to the promo on Feministing, which in turn mentions reviews and interviews at Vibe and New American Media

Check it out.

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V-Day Hilo 2007 (updates)

6 February 2007

It was incredibly remiss of me not to post beforehand on the V-Day 2007 events. Fortunately, the show was a great success, with a nearly full house at the UHH Performing Arts Center, an outstanding Vagina Art show, and a general raising of awareness all around. And, of course, some extremely deserving Vagina Warriors received awards.

vagina-warriors.JPG

[Update] And Feministing has good coverage of a very important reason for presenting and supporting this show every year, in as many places as possible. Elle had already heard of this, natch, but thanks to Roberto for commenting here.

The ‘drinking from the firehouse,’ tag is for many of these essays collectively and for Arts and Letters Daily individually. That’s a great page, and every article cited below came from the 2 February 2007 version.

First of all, a review of Lee Smolin’s new book about string theory [amaz] by Michael Riordan, a physicist at UC Santa Cruz. Riordan heartily agrees with Smolin’s niggling that epistimologically, string theory and intelligent design are the same. Both can suitably explain historical events and observations very well but neither can be used to make testable predictions about future discoveries. Back to the ever-persistent Popper–neither is falsifiable.

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