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January 2004 Archives

Pepsi-iTunes Superbowl Ad

Pepsi and Apple are giving away 100 million iTunes Music Store downloads in Pepsi bottles, and there's a (leaked?) copy of their SuperBowl ad.

I think the ad isn't great, but it does succeed at walking the thin line of presenting iTunes as a legal and better alternative while also sympathizing with the teenagers... I like how it doesn't overtly condemn the actions of the kids. (I mean, it does.. but kind of sarcastically.)

It's no Bob Dole saying, "Down, boy!" but it'll probably be the ad with the most buzz and social impact, I think.

Nominations that didn't make it

The Academy Award nominations are out. Two films that should have been nominated in categories they weren't:

Hulk had the most novel film editing of the year, by a long shot. The whole split-screening thing has been the new thing of the last few years, and Hulk did it better than anyone else.

I haven't seen Monster yet, but the That's Charlize Theron?! effect deserves a nomination. :P

Albertsons card doesn't require personal info

Here's something I found interesting: I was bemoaning the fact that Albertsons has a club card now, when they've prided themselves on not having one for a few years. Now that I have to shop there, I went to apply for one. I was grumbling silently while filling the form out. Only after I filled it out did I notice the box at the bottom:

Our Privacy Policy: You have our word. Albertsons will never disclose your personal information to any other party for their ues. Ever.* You can provide as much information as you like. Fact is, if you'd rather not provide any personal information, you can still receive a card.

[ ] I don't wish to fill out this form. But please issue me an Albertsons Preferred Savings Card.

*Except when compelled by law.

So I got a new form and just checked that box instead. It makes me feel a bit better. They can track my buying habits all they want for statistical purposes, but they can't trace them to me. Well, technically maybe they could through my credit card, but that's true even with no club card, and I'm guessing it might be illegal.

But of course, this is all because the supermarket doesn't really care who I am, anyway. Take a look at this page, and scroll down to the "Segmentation of Consumers" section. Apparently, one major use of the data is to cater to the needs of the top shoppers. They maximize product selection and incentives for the categories of people who bring in the most money.

I guess it all ends up being about differential pricing... and that's something I haven't built an opinion about yet.

I need some ribs

It took me a second to believe that this transcript of Presidential remarks was true. Had to go check the URL a couple of times. And I know I'm blaspheming here, but I actually think he was... kinda funny... intentionally, even! *ducks*

Howard Dean, on the other hand, recently managed to be rather unintentionally funny recently, with a wacky celebratory scream after coming in third at the Iowa caucases... and people started remixing it. This is one example [350K MP3]. MTV.com has a story with streaming audio links. (I heard the full-length "Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train (Dean's Aboard) mix" on Live 105.) Gotta love modern technology. :) [Update Jan-24: Oops. That wasn't Ozzy I heard on the radio. I don't know which remix it was. Oh well. Here's a bunch.]

P.S.: This game is far more addictive than it has any right to be.

P.P.S.: To continue on the political humor path, but completely diverging from penguins and yetis, here is The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation.

Update: Dean's on damage control. He appeared on Letterman with a self-deprecating Top Ten list. Here's a Washington Post article about it, and here's the Top Ten list he delivered:

10. "Switch to decaf"

9. "Unveil new slogan: 'Vote for Dean and get one dollar off you next purchase at Blimpie'"

8. "Marry Rachel on final episode of 'Friends'"

7. "Don't change a thing -- it's going great"

6. "Show a little more skin"

5. "Go on 'American Idol' and give 'em a taste of these pipes"

4. "Start working out and speaking with Austrian accent"

3. "I can't give specifics yet, but it involves Ted Danson"

2. "Fire the staffer who suggested we do this lousy Top Ten list instead of actually campaigning"

1. "Oh, I don't know -- maybe fewer crazy, redfaced rants"

I have to say, the eagerness of our politicians to mock themselves is one of the things I love about this country. :)

Oh, and about number 6, here's something passed my way that the ladies in the audience might be interested in.

K-K Battery Company Ltd.

[K-K Batterie Company Ltd.] So I'm looking for posters to decorate with, and I've always been a fan of the 1930s Pre-Revolution Shanghai aesthetics.. Think Al Capone type stuff. Raging 20s and fedoras and film noir.... except Chinese. :)

Unfortunately, all I could find online were pin-ups from cigarette ads and calendars of the time. (This stuff, in case you don't know what I'm talking about.) They seem to be all the rage. Blah. I especially love how every site that sells them has nearly the exact same ones, but they're priced so differently: from $10 to $50 to $300. The page with the really expensive ones claim that theirs are "real", and it tells you how not to be fooled by imitations... Yet, they have the same selection as all the other sites. Hmmm.... :P

Anyway, I find that stuff really boring on the whole. The most interesting one I found online is to your right. The caption said that it's for the "K-K Battery Company Limited". I can only guess that the thingies in the beam are the product for sale. I like how it's such a mixture of fine art, pin-up, and crass commercialism. :) I'd buy it if it weren't so... pink.

Meanwhile, it seems I'll have to actually wait till I go back to China this year to find what I want.. But I figure it's better to get something that's hard to find, anyway. That way, it'll be more personal! and unique! and stuff.

Will somebody PLEASE think of the fuckin' children!

Apparently, Bono said the f-word on NBC prime time, during the Golden Globe awards. The FCC originally decided not to fine the network, but FCC Chairman Michael Powell asked for the case to be reopened:

"I personally believe that the sort of growing coarseness in use of such profanity at a time where we are very likely to know that children are watching is abhorrent and irresponsible,'' Powell said in an appearance at the National Press Club. "It's irresponsible of our programmers to continue to try to push the envelope of a reasonable set of policies that tries to legitimately balance the interests of the First Amendment with the need to protect our kids. I think that line is beginning to be crossed.''

"Bad words" have always fascinated me. How can three words that mean exactly the same thing--dookie, feces, and shit--have such incredibly different connotations? I came to the conclusion that they're different because we need them to be different. We have different words in different situations for the same reason we have different dress codes in different situations: It's a way of communicating your intent and your relationship with the people around you.

People in polite society shun certain words pretty much to show that they're willing to, as a way of distancing themselves from the not-so-polite, and people in not-so-polite society want to use such words precisely to distance themselves from the polite folks. And that's perfectly fine, I think, and even rather efficient! I mean, a simple swear word can thus be useful to both sides!

Now, where it can get a bit silly, I think, is when people place moral judgments on swear words, instance of just seeing it as a sign of social bonding and respect. Then again, to return to my earlier analogy, I guess people put moral judgments on clothing, too. I suppose moralizing is just the extreme version of social rule enforcement. Oh well.

Mars Panorama QuickTime VR

Here's a large QuickTime VR version of Spirit's Mars panorama.

Cup Stacking

One of the most bizarre sports I've ever seen: cup stacking (300kbps WMV stream).

Here's a closer look (503K WMV), apparently from an earlier attempt. It so looks like a doctored video, but it's not.

Here's their homepage.

CeBIT 1987

Here's a report from the 1987 CeBIT Conference (MPEG, 14 MB). It's in German, but you don't have to understand what they're saying to find it amusing.

Housewarming Lessons

  • Food is good. Too much food is definitely better than not enough food. Food makes people happy.

  • Good is food. Food manages to add atmosphere (even when there are no balloons of any sort because the stupid Albertsons cashiers were like, "Sorry, we don't have anyone to make you balloons right now," something they'd never say at a specialized balloon store :P ) Another lesson: Start playing games when people aren't mingling enough, to make things less awkward. I should've started the games sooner. But even so, because of the goodness of food, I think people had a good time anyway.

  • Is food good? Yes, but not on the carpet. Have club soda on hand in case of wine spillage. (Don't worry; it came out anyway.)

  • Good food is! People don't like salad much. Especially when you forget to get dressing. Don't make too much salad. Costco dumplings are surprisingly edible, though. Baked goods make for fun and activity. Everybody loves garlic bread. Vietnamnese spring rolls are also a good sell.

  • Finally, I should've set the official start to 6 instead of 7, so people would actually get there by 7. It would've also meant that fewer people would have eaten before arriving, and that I could've had more of a two-tiered food release schedule: starting with snacks and appetizers for longer before bringing out the main course.

  • Post-finally, I almost forgot to bring out the fruit, and I so totally forgot to bust out with the cheesecake.

  • Post-post-finally, I definitely need to prepare some of the food beforehand next time, so things are less chaotic.

Mars ho! ... hopefully

As you may have already heard, word has leaked that Bush plans to unveil a new human space exploration plan, focusing first on returning to the Moon next decade, and then eventually going to Mars. The plan would also involve scrapping the shuttle fleet and ditching the ISS once we head toward the moon. I say to hell with the ISS. Its whole point was to foster international cooperation, and that didn't pan out anyway. Without any way to give it a full crew complement, it's worse than useless.

There's also this bit about how the plan will be to merge the human and robotic programs at NASA, which also sounds like a good idea to me.

Of course, Bush's dad once had a grand plan to send us to Mars by 2020, and that got killed in the budget process, so we'll see how this goes. My hope is that the recent Chinese launch has something to do with this. But of course, this is an election year.

(P.S.: Just a note that the articles are from UPI, a formerly respectable news organization which is now owned by the Moonies, a cultish group. (No relation or vested interest in the Moon, though. :) ) So take its news with a grain of salt, but I've seen this story in other news sources now, so I think it's legit.)

Update: Here's an AP article on the story.

Top 10 List of Proof Techniques that Should NOT Be Used in 6.042

So I'm unpacking and sorting papers.. and I find a handout I saved from my discrete math class back in college. Prof. Leighton was probably the coolest prof I had there. Too bad he quit to work full time at Akamai (which he co-founded). Here it is for your enjoyment.

Handout 8
September 11, 1997

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
6.042J/18.062J: Mathematics for Computer Science
Professors Tom Leighton and Santosh Vempala

Top 10 List of Proof Techniques that Should NOT Be Used in 6.042

10. Proof by throwing in the kitchen sink:

The author writes down every theorem or result known to mankind and then adds a few more just for good measure. When questioned later, the author correctly observes that the proof contains all the key facts needed to actually prove the result. Very popular strategy on 6.042 exams. Known to result in extra credit with sufficient whining.

9. Proof by example:

The author gives only the case n = 2 and suggests that it contains most of the ideas of the general proof.

8. Proof by vigorous handwaving:

A faculty favorite. Works well in any classroom or seminar setting.

7. Proof by cumbersome notation:

Best done with access to at least four alphabets and special symbols. Helps to speak several foreign languages.

6. Proof by exhaustion:

An issue or two of a journal devoted to your proof is useful. Works well in combination with proof by throwing in the kitchen sink and proof by cumbersome notation.

5. Proof by omission:

"The reader may easily supply the details."
"The other 253 cases are analogous."
or: "..."

4. Proof by picture:

A more convincing form of proof by example. Combines well with proof by omission.

3. Proof by vehement assertion:

It is useful to have some kind of authority in relation to the audience.

2. Proof by appeal to intuition:

Cloud-shaped drawings frequently help here. Can be seen on 6.042 exams when there was not enough time to include a complete proof by throwing in the kitchen sink.

1. Proof by reference to eminent authority:

"I saw Fermat in the elevator and he had a proof..."

And there's more on the back!

Here are some other common proof techniques that can be very useful, but which are not recommended for this class.

  • Proof by intimidation: Can involve phrases such as: "Any moron knows that..." or "You know the Zorac Theorem of Hyperbolic Manifold Theory, right?" Sometimes seen in 6.042 tutorials.

  • Proof by intimidation (alternate form): Consists of a single word: "Trivial." Often used by faculty who don't know the proof.

  • Proof by reference to inaccessible literature: The author cites a simple corollary of a theorem to be found in a privately circulated memoir of the Slovenian Philosophical Society, 1883. It helps if the issue has not been translated.

  • Proof by semantic shift: Some standard but inconvenient definitions are changed for the statement of the result.

  • Proof by cosmology: The negation of the proposition is unimaginable or meaningless. Popular for proofs of the existence of God.

  • Proof by obfuscation: A long plotless sequence of true and/or meaningless syntactically related statements.

  • Proof by wishful citation The author cites the negation, converse, or generalization of a theorem from the literature to support his claims.

  • Proof by funding: How could three different government agencies be wrong?

  • Proof by personal communication: "xn + yn ≠ zn for n > 2" [Fermat, personal communication].

  • Proof by importance: A large body of useful consequences all follow from the proposition in question.

  • Proof by accumulated evidence: Long and diligent search has not revealed a counterexample.

  • Proof by mutual reference: In reference A, Theorem 5 is said to follow from Theorem 3 in reference B, which is shown from Corollary 6.2 in reference C, which is an easy consequence of Theorem 5 in reference A.

  • Proof by ghost reference: Nothing even remotely resembling the cited theorem appears in teh reference given.

  • Proof by forward reference: Reference is usually to a forthcoming paper of the author, which is often not as forthcoming as the first.

  • Proof by metaproof: A method is given to construct the desired proof. The correctness of the method is proved by any of the above techniques.

Live movies

Motion-capture technology is getting pretty mature now, as is character animation, ala Gollum. I imagine they still needed to do a lot of tedious tweaking right now, but I think that one day they won't. One day, they'll be able to capture expressions and body language and translate them into an animated character with great precision without any human intervention. So where am I going with this?

Well, the main problem with stage plays is that you can't have very elaborate sets, you can't have costume changes easily, and, most of all, you can't capture the pacing of editing techniques like cuts and dissolves and montage.

I think that one day, we'll be able to put actors in motion-capture suits and render them live into computer-generated versions.. Then they can be in a flaming helicopter one second and in a hospital room the next.. The actor would just quickly change to a differnet posture and expression. (Perhaps the posture could be temporarily pre-programmed to give the actor time to move around.)

We could have live-action movies, complete with editing and stunts and all that! Granted, there will still be some things that will be difficult or impossible, like maybe a slow fade from the same actor doing one thing to them doing something else, such that they have to be on the screen doing different things at the same time.... But that would really be no different from, say, a live music performance not being able to have the singer sing over their own voice...

I think plays will always have their place, since seeing someone with the naked eye will certainly still feel different from seeing them on a screen, even knowing it's live.. But I think live but animated versions of the actors will have their place. It's certainly something I expect to see in my lifetime, and I look forward to it.

Bouncing!

So I was looking at the status logs for the Spirit lander, and this part amused me:

0436 GMT (11:36 p.m. EST)
SPIRIT IS BOUNCING ON MARS!

Ah, science. :)

*Boing!* *Boing!* *Boing!*

Update: Here's the full animated video of the mission. It's even there in DVD-quality! The only catch is that the site itself is pretty dead, and you have to use BitTorrent to get it, really.. (BitTorrent is a system that automatically serves up your partially downloaded files to other people as you download them.) But that worked great for me once I set up port forwarding on my NAT. :P (And be sure to grab the app from some place other than that site.)

Panoramic Times Square 2004

Here's a really cool panoramic QuickTime VR of Times Square, New Year's Eve 2004. Click and drag to pan. And here's an equally cool one of the Tribute in Light. Be sure to pan up. Wow.

I also like how when it's loading, you can see that you're actually in a cube with a grid pattern.. just like the holodeck! :)

A bonus link: The Hummer H2 only looks tough.

(Okay, so admittedly the crumpling is actually a good thing, and possibly federally mandated, even, since it makes things safer for the other car... but it's still a cute image. :P)

Istanbul gentleman

[Street near Istanbul Bazaar]

I haven't been taking many new pictures lately, so I figured I'd start spotlighting some of the more interesting ones I took before I started this photoblog.

This photo is from Istanbul. Take a look at the older gentleman on the left. Doesn't he totally look like someone from an old spy movie? Like he could lead you to some secret passageway or something. :)

Update Jan-06-2008: I replaced the image link to a better-processed one on flickr. Also should point out that since I'm the backpack-wearing fellow in the center, I clearly didn't actually take this picture; Tania did.

About January 2004

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in January 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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