Arts, Science, and Culture.

Every day I find myself more and more caught up by the web, blogging, podcasting environment. I love how every thing ties into everything else.

Yesterday, while working out I listened to the three most recent Royal Society Podcasts. One Fleas, Lice and an Elephant on the Moon quoted from Pepys’s Diary; Samuel Pepys was a member of the Royal Society. Since I have been following the diary as a blog I looked up the quoted entry for day, summarizing an experiment demonstrating the possibility of blood transfusion.

I skimmed, but didn’t read closely, an article In Praise of Dead White Men from Prospect Magazine. It reminded of Harold Bloom’s defense of the “Dead White Male” canon of literature; apparently George Eliot, Emily Dickenson, and Jane Austen, were very prominent Dead White Men for Bloom. The article did mention C. L. R. James, an author who I see cited so often that I want to read him; I suspect he shows up in my infoshpere due to his writing about Melville, Class Struggle and perhaps even cricket. Sadly, he is not readily available to people (i.e. me) who rely on the readily available titles in the catalog of a small town library.

I found a nicely paced class to serve as an introduction to R, at UC Berkeley: Public Health 251D, 001 – Applied Epidemiology Using R, though I accidently listened to the audio of the first lecture instead of watching the video. No matter, it takes watching/listening two or three times for me to really follow a good lecture – this was two of my problems in college: I only got to hear them once and only a few of my professors ever gave a good lecture. It is impossible to get anything out of a bad lecture. And today I saw this post on the Mandelbrot Set at Revolutions. I’m a week or two away from doing stuff like that in R.

One other oddity today, two blog posts on Buffet Optimization. The Korean, at Ask A Korean talks about culture but showed a picture from another blog showing ofSalad Tower Construction Techniques. and then I saw Marginal Revolution continuing their discussion of Indian Style Buffet Optimization with links on How To Strategize and the previously discussed, Indian Buffet Strategy. I do not like buffets; I tend to overeat at them.

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Every so often summary of this of that

Every morning I (try to) go through all my emails and read (at least the titles or summaries) of a very large number of blogs (about 450) that I follow in Google Reader. Yesterday was filled with distractions, so I didn’t post to my blog at all. I make up to-do lists and never get everything done. Yesterday, I put three things on my daily to-do list: Chaneru, Ubuntu, and VMware.

I took advantage of a cheap offer to try VMware Fusion on my Mac, though I haven’t installed yet. I spent most of the day, distracted with trying to get Ubuntu to run on a five year old G4 Mac Mini (after staying up to 3am the night before replacing the damaged internal hard disk). I was about to give up and stick OSX on it, when I finally managed to realize I could login with the gnome failsafe login. It’s interesting, but I just put it aside for now. I will either put the OSX, Ubuntu Server, or OSX Server on the box later. At least I know it’s working. The rest of my time was spent trying to figure out Chaneru so I could watch my iTunesU video on a TV through a Roku box instead of a computer screen. Interesting, but not worth the trouble – I need become a full blown Roku developer to do what I want. (or just wait for someone else to do it.)

I also realized that I had been downloading audio version of some iTunesU podcasts from Berkeley simply because I failed to notice I had subscribed to the wrong feed. I still have to set up my semester – I wound up listening to John Searle’s first lecture on The Philosophy of Language. I took a course of the same name with Steven Davis, long ago at Suny Albany – I was very much ill prepared for it then, as I am currently for Searle’s presentation. At least I can be comforted by knowing that Searle won’t have to deal with me. Oddly, though Searle’s own views are beyond my comprehension; or, maybe I should say the Chinese Room is beyond my comprehension. I need to see if I can find the works of J.L. Austin on line, (or perhaps I still have some in my collection – wait while I see if my assumption that the public library tosses all interesting books after a few years is true …. yes it is – preferably as an audio book so I can just listen instead of having to find a place to sit down and read.

Anyhow today I am going to start a new daily program on this blog: summarizing of what I found interesting in the blogs I read. Tony Curtis’s death in on the front page of The New York Times today. The blurb under the slide show, talks about The Defiant Ones and Some Like It Hot but as a commie ( I should write about what I mean by this sometime … or not) I noticed that my favorite Tony Curtis film Sweet Smell Of Success was also the favorite of two left bloggers, Socialist Unity and HappyMarx. Sad news, but nice to see a great film remembered.

The only other news in my blogs that stood out was the announcement on The Official Google Blog than Google Translate now handles Latin. It is about time. I once heard Peter Norvig, a person whose work I greatly admire, interviewed about how Google harvests language to do computer translation using dumb ai. Fascinating stuff.

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No one in horse-racing knows what they're doing!

The Horseplayers Association of North America blog post, “Further Evidence We Need Gambling People in Power,” criticized this comment from CHRB chairman David Israel:

“People often say we are competing with the casinos. I think that’s shortsighted and wrong. We’re not competing with casinos. We’re in the entertainment business. We’re competing with the Dodgers and the Giants and the Angels and the Lakers and we’re putting on a show.”

Both views are more false than true. At the moment tracks aren’t competing with anything. Money from betting is a losing proposition. On line poker has shown it can be successful with a 0.5% take-out vs horse racing with a demonstrated ability to lose money given a greater 15.0% take-out. Money from attendance hasn’t really been tried. Pretty much race-tracks do what they can to discourage the attendance of two potential groups of patrons: people who like to bet and people who like horses. It is pleasanter and easier to bet at home. People who love horses have great suspicions about the quality of treatment at tracks – also they hate to see them break down.

Are there solutions? Tons, and David Israel is right, that for racing to survive they need to encourage people to come to the race track – and the tracks need to make most of their money by selling seats.

I would start with the following:

  • Charge much higher admission to the track
  • Split the admission with the state in lieu of take out
  • Do not charge take-out on bets made at the track
  • The track should have nothing to do with the betting. Let the state handle the betting – the state should hire and manage whatever tellers and money changes hands as part of the betting

Small players wouldn’t notice anything. Large players would have all their bets added to the pool. No Pick-six player in their right mind would think of betting anywhere else but the track.

There are many other ways to make a day at the races enticing. The industry unfortunately thinks entertainment is watching a fat drunk guy in shorts and a t-shirt, smoking a cigar and yelling obscenities at a tv monitor.

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Property is theft!

Or, so Proudhon wrote in “What is Property?” The distinctions, between property and common goods and theft and rights, are clear only when you don’t think about them. James Boyle discusses “intellectual property” in a recent post in his excellent blog, The Public Domain. His book is available there, both for purchase and as a free download.

In Damon Runyon’s rather convoluted short story, “Princess O’hara”, there is a discussion of the nature of theft. If I was ever to teach ethics – I would start with this story. ( As far as I can tell, most schools that require an ethics course for their students are really trying to teach a course that should be called “copying, collaborating, and stuff like that is bad – because we’d have to update our 19th century models of instruction and actually deal with your educational needs if you do stuff like that.” But I digress. Anyhow, I couldn’t find my print copy of the story, though you can listen to an odd old radio version from Damon Runyon Theater at the internet archive. At about 10:31 into the show they discuss borrowing a horse. The good version requires reading the text, a somewhat less deep version – though still accurate enough for my point can be had by listening. My inaccurate summary:
A: Let us borrow a horse.
B: I don’t think anyone will lend us a horse.
A. I mean let us borrow a horse without asking.
B. But that is like stealing.
A. What of it?
B. As I didn’t know, “What of it?” I shut up.

I couldn’t embed the audio into the post but here is the mp3:Princess O\'hara

Sadly, given the nature of intellectual property no one has a clue as to the vast amounts of wealth that are being transferred from the have-nots to the haves. Currently, the right of first sale, is under threat. And the rights of people to their common heritage and culture and constantly being threatened by the current structure and governance of libraries – though in a world where notions of property, theft, and rights, are poorly understood, it is best to learn how to use bit-torrent securely and just do what you want. At least until you find someone who can reply intelligently if you ask them, “What of it?”

Posted in Governance, Libraries

On the suicide of libraries through misunderstanding their role

Subscribing to journals is one way how libraries spend money based on an outdated concept of their functions and services, while providing no benefit of any kind.

A recent post, “Library Literature Again” from Lorcan Dempsey’s Weblog On libraries, services and networks, talks about the role of journals and journals which aggregate and comment on the literature in journals etc, etc, ad infinitum. He is commenting on articles about how traditionally (academic) libraries are the depository of scientific and technical literature, and how journals are loosing their library market. He was summarizing reflections on what’s happening with professional literature; unlike me he doesn’t advocate speeding up the change to the internet as the exclusive mechanism of publishing and delivery of all such literature. It is time to remove libraries from this picture all together.

Duh!? Dead tree scientific and technical publishing should stop now! While there are large segments of society who still depend on libraries for access to information, the technical elite – the ones who scan journals – ceased being a part of it years ago. Dump the paper! Dump the microfilm! Make it all available online now for free and the interests of everyone desiring access will be served. Paper publishing of journals no longer serves the needs of anyone.

Posted in Libraries

Starting in earnest.

I have decided to remedy my ridiculously bad education and systematically study computer science, as well as things of interest to me. Part of the impetus is The Trackmaster Mobile Application Development Challenge which is as good a goal as any for me to work on. I am keeping a separate non-public, at the moment open only to me, space to blog about that. In the meantime I am going to take advantage of the time I spend at the gym to view lectures from iTunesU and pursue what interests me. (Oddly it turns out that philosophy, history, economics and political science is more interesting to me than library science, information science, or computer science – so I’ll being throwing some of that into the mix.)

So I will be using the internet to replace schools and libraries throughout this project as much as possible. And for this “semester” I will be pursuing:

  • iPhone programming from Stanford
  • Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs from all over
  • MySQL – using iTunesU and a server side programming course
  • Perl – when I find a course that looks good I’ll follow it
  • And John Searle’s lectures on Philosophy of Mind, though I doubt I’ll understand the Chinese Room argument.

I’ll also be pursuing R and Statistics and math in general, though I am currently only up to 4th grade arithmetic using Khan academy.

Posted in Horse Race Betting

My chair arrived – a brief update

I haven’t been posting to my blog as I waited for the arrival of a chair. For the past few months I was unable to sit comfortably at my desk while typing on R (I limit all names to a single letter om this blog.) my laptop. I did manage to join facebook. I had been sitting on a step stool with a pillow on the top step. This hurt my back.

The problem would have been resolved a month ago, had I not foolishly ordered the chair from Sit4Less. They are an enthusiastic sponsor of NPR, but a terrible company. I will wait for inquiries if anyone wants to know what horrors I had to put up with.

My goal for three posts a week, one each on computer assisted horse race wagering, the failures of public libraries as they pursue irrelevance, and my attempts at self-education using the internet haven’t really got off the ground.

Yesterday T and I went for a drive and she saw a barge was going through a Lock on the Champlain canal. I took some pictures with my iPhone. And I’ve decided to make clear that I don’t know how to edit them to appear nicely in my WordPress Blog. And I constantly make two mistakes with my iPhone camera, accidently obstructing the lens and pressing the home button instead of the shutter on the touch screen. For my readers (currently all fictional beings) the pictures either are or aren’t in the post.

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