Mike Beversluis

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pigouvian Taxes (and Death)

"Do We Tax Energy Enough?"

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Good Mechanics

Good mechanics, like good dentists, are hard to find. Here's a handy podcast on how to not get screwed by your mechanic.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rarely Seen Shuttle Photos

Dark Roasted has a nice post of rarely seen shuttle photos. The one above is of the external fuel tank arriving via a special barge from Missouri.

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The Predator's Watch



LED geometric patterns to tell the time. No word yet if it has a thermonuclear self-destruct option.

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Ferrambo




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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More food

Previously, the greatest burger list, now, the greatest grilled cheese sandwich contest. Also, the metafilter grilled cheese debate. Also Rachel Ray's Reaction shots (I could only watch about 30 seconds). (all via growabrain).

How to Make Pesto Like An Italian Grandmother (ie, very time-intensively). Where to find good Italian food in Bangkok.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

*Fancy*TV-Dinners


Urban, urbane, hipster that I am, I decided to try a new dinner option - I usually get home around 7 or 8 or 9, and having often dined out for lunch, settle for a one-step dinner. For shame, I know, and while I'm not sure this is too much further along the full integrity kick, I signed up for a Let's Dish membership and just went down and prepared myself what amounts to eight fancy frozen dinners for $150.

The basic setup is a set of work stations with prepped ingredients and one or two-page assembly instructions. You measure out the ingredients into one or two freezer bags, wrap everything up, and set it aside in a fridge. It took me an hour to work through my selections, which I then trundled out the door. Each meal is reasonably six servings - I split them into two sets for a more reasonable weekly rotation. I figure I can get 4-5 meals out of each, which works out to $4 to $5 a serving. I'll let you know what I think.

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DC Slogans

From DCist's slogan contest: "Washington, D.C.: Technically Not Built on Top of a Swamp"

I'd take some of Lilek's material:

Actually, the point of a zoo is not to provide a running track. The point is to imprison animals for the amusement of sweating Iowans who have come 1500 miles to learn that the pandas are not available for viewing. You want to jog, go to Rock Creek Park, where the aroma of steaming primate offal is replaced by fresh car exhaust. Be sure to gesture obscenely at the cabs, in case they contain tourists. If all works as planned, tourism will drop to zero, and we can all play squash unhindered in the National Archives rotunda.
James Lileks

DC couture is notoriously ordinary, as though they have a wedding at five, a funeral at six, and have dressed for the mean. It's because women do serious work here. New York women dress in case they will be photographed. DC women dress in case they have to testify
James Lileks

So the District is nicer compared to New York. Eva Braun was probably nicer than Messalina. So? No one lives in either city because it's nice. You live in this part of the country to make money, crush your inferiors, flatter your betters, and because the dry cleaners around here are good at getting out blood and adrenalin.
James Lileks
Not a bad haul -

DC: We gesture obscenely at cabs, in case they contain tourists.
DC: Dress like you might have to testify.
DC: Crushing the inferior, flattering the superior.
DC: The dry-cleaners are good at getting blood and adrenalin out.

Of course, you could just go with JFK's, DC: A city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.

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Peyton Manning

Is a dick.

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System Mechanic

Re cleaning windows, which despite what my resume says is something that I do, System Mechanic is useful if you don't mind dropping a little cash on the cherriest of all window cleaners.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Burgers


I was reading through this Slashfood entry on the Best Burger in America and it seems a little ambitious and subjective a declaration to be so definitive, no? I haven't been to the any of the places on the GQ list, including the one mentioned in Seattle, but when I lived there, the places to go were Suni's, Kidd Valley, and Dick's. Rochester, NY, is more about wings than burgers (Jeramiah's and MacGregor's - 70 beers on tap & Paulaner goes well with wings, but watch out for old ones, had both good wings and burgers). Now in DC, Five Guys is in the rotation, Brickskeller for fun now and then, and the Dogfish Head brewpub is okay too.

It seems antithetical to the nature of the burger to list the top twenty and set a crown of glory on one particular best. Part of my objection is just my reverse snobbery, and Hollywood stars name-dropping In-N-Out is annoying (and probably not In-N-Out's fault), but what's best depends on what you want. Sometimes it's the fancy burger - there used to be a very nice four star restaurant tucked away in the Olympic peninsula where I had a very good $15 burger. It's too bad that more people didn't join me, because they closed (they also had many other good dishes).

But sometimes, or rather most times, it's the basic, simple burger that you want. It actually should be small and thin. Dressing it up and fretting about it too much is like a pair of designer jeans versus a pair of Levi's. Worrying about the best instead of what's good is to fetishize something good into something grotesque. It's just a hamburger. Because you're grinding up the connective tissue, you can easily take the most flavorful cuts without having to worry about tenderness - which is way overated, and because you put in enough fat, it will stay moist. Add a decent bun, and it's basically idiot-proof. That's the point.

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CCleaner

I like my laptop a lot, but it's Mobile Pentium III was starting to wheeze under four years of built up detritus. And this was with Norton AntiVirus and the very handy NoScript plugin. So despite my best efforts there was a 3 second pause anytime I opened up a folder in desktop explorer.

My IT guy at work, a gentleman and a scholar, recommended I run CCleaner, which is a freeware system cleaner and optimizer. It helped a lot.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

New M3 Engine


Here are some sound files for the new V-8 that will go into next year's M3. You know, BMW's are for (cough) yuppies, but I kinda want one.

(Moment of self-realization...)

I still want one, but it will be a lot cheaper just to get a T-shirt that says "I'm a yuppie."

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Noise is the Medium and the Message


I was in Lenox, MA for a few days to give a talk at a MURI workshop. Aside from the lovely New England countryside, which on Tuesday and Wednesday looked just like the photo above, I got to see a talk about single pixel cameras using compressive imaging with L1 norm reconstruction. This is all based on the work of Terry Tau and Emmanuel Candes. Tau is the the youngest guy ever to win a Fields Medal. Apparently he's quite smrt.

So Whitaker-Shannon says that you can perfectly reconstruct a Nyquist sampled-bandwidth limited signal. Okay, everyone knows that, but it turns out Shannon was way too pessimistic - almost nothing is band-limited; Almost everything is sparse, which is to say that the entropy of the universe is low. Anyone who reads blogs knows that. And if it doesn't seem so now, everything is sparse in the right set of basis functions, and for nearly everything the right set of basis-functions turns out to be noise. Weird.

To apply this to imaging, take some binary noise and line it up into a grid; it would look like an empty cross-word puzzle. Take a same-sized image, like the one above, and multiply them together, pixel by pixel, so that you get an image where half the pixels have been set to zero. Then add up all their values into a single number. Write that down. Then start over with a new noise pattern, which is your second basis function, and turn the image into a second number by projecting it onto the basis function. For an image with N pixels, do this about K=(0.05 to 0.20)*N times. Send your friend the K values, and he can asymmptotically reconstruct the image with 99% fidelity using The Magic of the L1 Norm (you can get MATLAB code there if you want to play yourself). At this point, all I can say is that it's magic, but the fundamental insight is that things are sparse, and so there going to be room to maneuver here. The signal is almost never pathological.

The great thing is that you can turn brute force O(n^3) problems into ~O(n log n) problems; A savings of nearly n^2. In an age of cheap CCD cameras, the imaging application turns out to be useful for imaging in non-visible wavelengths, like IR, Gamma Ray, and THz, where silicon doesn't do you a lot of good. Or perhaps you want to take gigapixel+ images using megapixel camera.

This turns out to be similar to one-time pad code-breaking. The low entropy of secret messages induces statistical similarities into the encrypted message.

Anyway, very cool.

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NYCotD

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Digital Sundials


I wanted to invent one of these, but someone already has and you can buy it for around $100 from Digital Sundials International.

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My constant self-referencing is giving me Vertigo


How to Dissuade Yourself from Becoming a Blogger.

Related: Who Comments on Blogs, and Why? w/ comments, of course.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

It's really lonely over here

Conan talks quantum physics with Jim Carrey.

Far as I can tell, they're quoting from a real paper. I will give SPIN a search later and let you know if I find the abstract. How cool would it be the guys who wrote that paper? (Answer: Huge to them, slightly to everyone else).

From Physical Review Letters:

Stochastic Phase Switching of a Parametrically Driven Electron in a Penning Trap
L. J. Lapidus, D. Enzer, and G. Gabrielse
Department of Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
Received 7 January 1999

Fluctuation-induced switching of driven bistable systems, far from equilibrium, has been the focus of theoretical analysis and analog circuit computations. A parametrically driven electron in a Penning trap is shown to be a nearly ideal experimental realization. Noise applied to this dynamic double well system produces random switching between two steady-state oscillations which differ in the oscillation phase by 180. ©1999 The American Physical Society



Also, there's a guy in my office who has magic flute voice.

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Men vs Women, part infinity

"Dear Abby, I think my wife is cheating on me..."

Also, I saw 300 tonight: Eh. Visually well executed, although I wish the fashion for over saturated photography would die out. It's main problem is that the story has Frank Miller's room temperature IQ (F). Also, as a friend pointed out, it's funny that the three hundred Spartans are commemorated with Arabic numerals.

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NYCotD

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Nice Photos


Pictures from the sky.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Park Avenue


The old "I'll see you one asshole and raise you another"
asshole parking maneuver.

youparklikeanasshole.com is pretty funny.

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MegaPrint


I made 3.5 by 6 foot poster recently, and I was very happy with MegaPrint. It's cool that, for not too much more than the cost of a high quality art poster or print, you could make a lifesize (plus) picture of yourself and put it on your door. You know, just so your neighbors know who you are, and who to bow down to at sunrise and sunset.

They also sell unusually large checks, just in case you want to buy some milk.

Also, with typical understatement, I've called an numerical aperture of 1.65 "ultra-high" compared to 1.3. Which suggests that I'm ultra-tall too.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Quotes

"It is one thing to praise discipline, and another to submit to it."
Miguel de Cervantes

"Everybody lies, but it doesn't matter because nobody listens."
Nick Diamos

"The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'."
Larry Hardimann

"Whenever I dwell for any length of time on my own shortcomings, they gradually begin to seem mild, harmless, rather engaging little things, not at all like the staring defects in other people's characters."
Margaret Halsey

"I know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!"
Tom Lehrer

"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee."
Abraham Lincoln

"The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately defeat him."
Russell Baker

"Those who flee temptation generally leave a forwarding address."
Lane Olinghouse

"A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to."
Granville Hicks

"I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their jobs."
Samuel Goldwyn

"A conservative is a man who sits and thinks, mostly sits."
Woodrow Wilson

"There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them."
Emily Chartier

"No matter how rich you become, how famous or powerful, when you die the size of your funeral will still pretty much depend on the weather."
Michael Pritchard

"No human thing is of serious importance."
Plato

"Technology adds nothing to art. Two thousand years ago, I could tell you a story, and at any point during the story I could stop, and ask, Now do you want the hero to be kidnapped, or not? But that would, of course, have ruined the story. Part of the experience of being entertained is sitting back and plugging into someone else's vision."
Penn Jillette

"You can learn from anyone even your enemy."
Ovid
[-ed, especially your enemies]

"It is bad luck to be superstitious."
Andrew W. Mathis

"He talked with more claret than clarity."
Susan Ertz

"A waist is a terrible thing to mind."
Jane Caminos

"Our national flower is the concrete cloverleaf."
Lewis Mumford

"About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment."
Josh Billings

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Filet'O'Life

Via BookofJoe: No Fish Story: Sandwich Saved His McDonalds, by Paul Clark, Cincinnati Enquirer

CINCINNATI — In 1962, Lou Groen was desperate to save his floundering hamburger restaurant, the first McDonald's in the Cincinnati area.

His problem: His clientele was heavily Roman Catholic. In those days, most Catholics abstained from meat every Friday, as well as during Lent, the 40-day period of repentance that begins this week with Ash Wednesday.

His solution: He created the Filet-O-Fish — a sandwich that saved his restaurant and eventually would be consumed at a rate of 300 million a year.

"Frisch's (the local Big Boy chain) dominated the market, and they had a very good fish sandwich," recalled Groen, now 89.

"I was struggling. The crew was my wife, myself and a man named George. I did repairs, swept floors, you name it.

"But that area (where his restaurant was located) was 87% Catholic. On Fridays we only took in about $75 a day," said Groen, a Catholic himself. "All our customers were going to Frisch's.

"So I invented my fish sandwich, developed a special batter, made the tartar sauce and took it to headquarters."

That led to a wager between Groen and McDonald's chief Ray Kroc, who had his own meatless idea.

"He called his sandwich the Hula Burger," Groen said. "It was a cold bun and a slice of pineapple and that was it.

"Ray said to me, 'Well, Lou, I'm going to put your fish sandwich on (a menu) for a Friday. But I'm going to put my special sandwich on, too. Whichever sells the most, that's the one we'll go with.'


I wonder what happened? Now, excuse me while I go for a walk to buy a sandwich.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Newt Gingrich Amazon Reviews

Via Freakonomics, Newt Gingrich is a prolific Amazon reviewer and just gave Chuck Schumer's book a positive recommendation. Weird.

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Kitchen Myths

Kitchen MythBusters: Sushi does not refer to raw fish, baking soda in the fridge doesn't really help with odors, and searing meat does not seal in juices.

Old Scientific Americans

Cornell University has put up scanned images of all of the issues of Scientific American from 1846 to 1864. This is part of a larger archive called Making of America which includes all sorts of old journals and magazines.

The pdf file format, and digital publishing and republishing of journals, is an under appreciated technology. Music and mp3's get all of the attention since they affect popular culture, but over the last ten years, nearly everything scientific can be searched and accessed online. The recollection of ideas that were ahead of their time will affect technology as much as the advent of faster computers.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Heh heh heh heh

Ken Jenning's presents: Destinations of Beavis and Butthead Airlines.

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1 cm to the right


Sorry if you've already seen this, but the guy who was driving this Audi RS6 walked away from that crash with a boo-boo on his finger. Which, oddly enough, made it a good day in his book.

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I think like a billionaire

Via Jalopnik via Forbes, I find my someday-to-be-consummated love of old-school Volvos is also shared by billionaire IKEA founder Ingvar Krampad:


1.) Warren Buffett
Rank on Forbes Billionaires List: 2
Net Worth: $52 billion
Vehicle: 2006 Cadillac DTS

2.) Ingvar Kamprad
Rank on Forbes Billionaires List: 4
Net Worth: $33 billion
Vehicle: 1993 Volvo 240 GL

I'm sure that the billion plus net worth will soon occur as a natural consequence of this shared affection. And by affection, I mean affectation.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Things to do in Denver

Posting-will-be-light posts are ridiculous, but fyi, posting will be light because I am at the APS conference in Denver and have to fight a million nerds off for a wifi slot. It's a hard-knock life.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

You're Not The Boss of Me!

I was wondering how much social conformity is good. On a scale of 0=anarchy in Haiti to 100=North Korea, the extremes are bad. Maybe a nice, comfortable 65 is just about right; but those guys down the road who like 70 are fascists!

BTW, I use the metric system at work all the time, but I still like Fahrenheit for weather because 0-100 brackets the typical outdoor temperatures, and units should be scaled so that the normal dynamic range runs from 0-100. Which is why miles per hour is fine too. Using metric units for food disturbs me because it sounds like you are cooking amphetamines.

Anyway, part of this deep, deep meditation was fostered by Brit's post on mispronuncing your own name (Specifically me of mine. Mike is just so tricky). Of course, you can call your self Little Lord Fauntleroy if you want to, or say that your name is sheshefsky and just happen to spell it Krzyzewski. But if someone tells you that you are mispronouncing your own name, the issue of exactly where they get off comes to mind. Which reminded me of these Swiss hygiene inspectors who will come microscopically inspect your home for cleanliness. And then just today I read about the Japanese's government's consideration of a certification program for Japanese restaurants abroad to make sure their food is "authentic."

Personally, this seems unlikely to fly due to sovereignty, and even if they set something up, the vast hoard out for a little nigiri on lunch hour would never notice. Or if they did, the label authentic would just be a synonym for exclusive. For example, did you know that you can only call a pizza an "authentic Neapolitan pizza" if these guys certify it? I must have missed their superbowl ad, because I did not know that. And even if you were aware of it, would the label "authentic" mean anything when you were walking into a place to eat? These guys obviously care a lot about their food, but would they like to put up with the Swiss guy telling them how to clean their kitchen? Working from very broad stereotypes, I suspectthat they would kill each other.

Part of these standards also has to do with living in densely populated, often culturally homogeneous, countries like Japan. I live in more or less is in the opposite situation, so I will admit bothers me, particularly if that standard should then be imposed here as some extension of the word Japanese when applied to food made in America. Which would be amusing because Japanese and American culture have long imported, mangled, and riffed of each other in other areas. Are we going to send English language inspectors all over the world to make sure that no incorrect English signs or t-shirts with bizarro slogans get made?

Anyway, that's just a specific instance; The question is, should you tell someone else they are wrong (according to Hoyle) and how big of a gun are you willing to use to make them agree and change? Here are my thoughts:

1. It has to be about something important, where not important means that at most, you shoot me in the arm with a BB gun using only one pump, and very important means that You Have Become Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds.

2. You should be willing to consider the possibility that you are wrong, with a specific, testable, statement of what it means for you to be wrong.

3. If you are going to ever enforce any standards, you have to be willing to accept responsibility for making wrong judgments. The world is imperfect, therefore make imperfect judgments and move along. If they are wrong, accept the consequences. Take the leap of faith, no?

Coming back to my name: 1) as you might guess, it's pronunciation rates little more than a BB to me, as most likely it did (if that much) to my ancestors - who were all smart-asses and who probably made the name up just to mess with the French. 2) I am wrong, but I live in another country than the Netherlands. 3) Whatever.

So, anyway, reading back over this it is clear I'm not meant to be an essayist, but then again, I didn't ask to be born!

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Missle Alert

Fun with Google Maps: Cruise Missile Flying over Utah.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Department of Redundancy Department

Link of the day: The Budget Wino.

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