Sunday, March 31, 2013

Play Ball!!!!!!!

Today is opening day (well, for one game) of the 2013 Major League Baseball season. Hooray!

The first Dodgers game is tomorrow!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What Happens in Vancouver Stays in Vancouver

I am in Vancouver to visit friends that I haven't seen in almost a couple of years. That is all.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tim McCarver Stepping Down After 2013!

Tim McCarver announced today that he is stepping down from the Fox broadcast booth after this season. Yay! Though I wish he had stepped down multiple decades ago...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

You Know You're Travelling Way Too Much When...

... The Supershuttle people at the airport curbside now recognize you.

Supershuttle person at the SFO airport curb: "Didn't I book you like a week ago over there?"

Me: "Yes, you did. I am travelling way too much."

Urinal Gaming System

Well, it looks like a urinal gaming system is about to be installed in a minor league baseball stadium. Yes, you read that right. Alright, let's have a contest: The article's lead ("Triple-A park to feature interactive urinal game") is the straight line. You provide the joke.

(There are actually plenty of jokes in the article, but I am sure that many of you can do much better. Additionally, I wonder if Wiimotes will be allowed?)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Don't Steal Meatballs!

Word to the wise: Don't steal meatballs!

(Also, don't steal toilet paper.)

What Happens in La Jolla Stays in La Jolla

Today I fly to San Diego --- yes, I know, I just got back on Friday night --- to give a talk in UCSD's networks seminar.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Power of Fun-Noodles

So I was just walking past Walgreen's on Middlefield Road, and I noticed several large open boxes of fun-noodles (i.e., funnoodles --- or, apparently, "pool noodles" if one wants to use the official name) outside of the store. They appear like they might be on bulk sale (fingers crossed!), and the Techer in my soul screams "Opportunity!"

And there is a university nearby to whom we could demonstrate some Techer ingenuity...

So, who's with me?

(Honestly, I suspect that even in bulk, this is probably a several-hundred-dollar purchase. Where is the prank fund when I need it? And I'm doing work right now instead of actually trying to get this to work. But I have to admit that my heart and soul are both calling me...)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Adam Ant is Adamant About Adamantium.

The following is possibly one of the best sentences ever: "Adam Ant is adamant about adamantium."

I'm just saying...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I Can't Hide My Feelings

I am unable to hide my true feelings. As one of my collaborators just wrote in an e-mail: "I know your reservations about his stuff, i.e. I can still remember your facial expressions during one of his talks ... ;)" This talk occurred several years ago.

A Beer Called "Mason's Porter"

Well, at least the beer known as "Mason's Porter" is brewed with coffee. Really, could it have been any other way?

I'm not sure about the whole goat thing, though...

Principal Component Analysis of Sponge Cakes

Yes, really. (Hint: most of the variance is along the fresh-stale axis.)

(Tip of the cap to Annals of Improbable Research.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Casual" Relationship Between Time Series

One of the speakers today had a slide that indicated that there was a "casual" relationship between two time series. (Technically, the term on the slide was "casual influence", but it's much more amusing if we think of it as a "casual relationship".) Of course, he meant that the relationship was causal, which is far more serious.

Motion Sickness from an Optical Illusion in a Seminar

The talk that is just finishing in the neural rhythms and oscillations workshop concerns optical illusions. The speaker walked us through and demonstrated the "flickering pinwheel illusion" in his slide. It's a very interesting phenomenon, but unfortunately that slide has also very seriously kicked in my motion sickness. Sigh... I feel sick.

And then later on in the talk, the speaker was connecting this stuff to illusions in things like stroboscopic lights, drugs, and migraines. As some of you know, the latter of these is extremely familiar to me from my own experiences --- and stroboscopic lights have triggered them on occasion (and I specifically try to avoid stroboscopic lights). Sigh. Well, at least I have provided another data point.

I guess some neuroscience talks ought to include motion-sickness alerts along with them? I really hope this doesn't mess me up for the rest of the day.

This also reminds me of Kramer's epilectic reaction to Mary Hart on Seinfeld. Just imagine that seen from Seinfeld, except with people at a conference watching a talk on optical illusions and me in the background playing the part of Kramer.

Update: It turns out that another audience member (who also has a history of migraines) who knew better purposely covered her eyes during that slide. I didn't know that such illusions could cause such things, so if I had possessed the scientific knowledge beforehand, I could have done something about it. Burned by my lack of knowledge!

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Robust Detection of Dynamic Community Structure in Networks"

One of my papers was published in final form earlier today. It concerns the construction of null models for time-dependent networks as well as other phenomena in the investigation of community structure in time-dependent networks. Here are the title, authors, and abstract. This is an "archival" paper rather than the type that one would put in a sexy journal, but I really like this paper a lot, because we went to town on a few things.

Title: Robust Detection of Dynamic Community Structure in Networks

Authors: Danielle S. Bassett, Mason A. Porter, Nicholas F. Wymbs, Scott T. Grafton, Jean M. Carlson, and Peter J. Mucha

Abstract: We describe techniques for the robust detection of community structure in some classes of time-dependent networks. Specifically, we consider the use of statistical null models for facilitating the principled identification of structural modules in semi-decomposable systems. Null models play an important role both in the optimization of quality functions such as modularity and in the subsequent assessment of the statistical validity of identified community structure. We examine the sensitivity of such methods to model parameters and show how comparisons to null models can help identify system scales. By considering a large number of optimizations, we quantify the variance of network diagnostics over optimizations ("optimization variance") and over randomizations of network structure ("randomization variance"). Because the modularity quality function typically has a large number of nearly degenerate local optima for networks constructed using real data, we develop a method to construct representative partitions that uses a null model to correct for statistical noise in sets of partitions. To illustrate our results, we employ ensembles of time-dependent networks extracted from both nonlinear oscillators and empirical neuroscience data.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Happens in Columbus (Ohio) Stays in Columbus (Ohio)

I am flying out this morning to the Mathematical Biosciences Institute (MBI) at The Ohio State University to be participate in (aka, absorb) a workshop on "Rhythyms and Oscillations" in neuroscience. This is part of the 2012-2013 thematic year on Mathematical Neuroscience. I'm going to this conference just to learn stuff and absorb things, and it's nice to be able to do that. I was offered financial support by MBI to attend previous workshops in this theme year, but this is the first time I have actually been able to attend. I've had some sort of conflict during the other times.

I have gone to Ohio several times in my leave, and each time it has been to go to OSU for some sort of conference, workshop (including a previous MBI workshop), or job interview. I've never visited any other city in Ohio.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Clip of My Fake Unified Field Theory

As I discussed a few years ago, I was a consultant for the movie Meet Dave. I was thinking about it just now because someone who e-mailed me mentioned that he finally saw the film, so I decided to try to find a clip of the classroom scene that has my handiwork. I was able to find this clip on the IMDB site for the film. See if you can find the letters "DEI" in there.

De-Apostrophication of Great Britain

The Annals of Improbable Research blog has a new entry about some de-apostrophication that is occurring in the county of Devon to "avoid potential confusion". Confusion? Nah.....

Naturally, this hasn't yet arrived in Oxford. And when it does, not only will the " St Giles' " vs " St Giles " vs " St. Giles' " vs " St. Giles " battles be grossly simplified, but I will finally be able to put my correct street name (which is " St Giles' " ... I think) on all web forms*.

* Well, except for the fact that the Mathematical Institute will no longer be on St Giles' soon and will be on Woodstock instead.

Those crazy Brits...

(Courtesy of Annals of Improbable Research.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Number of States in Credit-Card Swiping

When I am shopping and I slide my credit card incorrectly, it is common for a store employee to tell me to swipe the card "the other way". I am very confused by this statement (and, especially, the sense of obviousness that I am apparently supposed to feel but which I fundamentally don't), as there are clearly four different ways of swiping a card based on orientation alone because one can flip the card via either the vertical or horizontal axis. And to get only four different ways, one is already assuming that swiping forwards and swiping backwards is the same and that issues like adiabaticity versus non-adiabaticity of the swiping also don't matter. (The number of states is arguably uncountably infinite if one takes the latter into account.) I am willing to make those assumptions in the count of the number of ways to swipe, but this still yields four possible orientations for the card---so I just don't understand the comment of "the" other way that I have now received from numerous people. My usual response goes something along the lines of "Which other way? There are four in total. I have no way which of the other three ways you mean." tends to be met with a look that I can only describe as a mixture of confusion and pity. I am not doing this to be a pain in the ass---I really can't tell which of the three they mean!

The Professor, The Bikini Model, and the Suitcase Full of Trouble

Here is an interesting article about the University of North Carolina physics professor who was convicted of smuggling cocaine and is currently under house arrest in Argentina.

I love this quote from the article: "He’s a typical person trained at Oxford. He knows he’s part of an elite and can’t imagine such things would happen to him." Indeed, Frampton sees academia’s denizens as creative misfits who deserve special protection. "People who are socially inept can nevertheless be the most creative people," he told me one afternoon on the telephone. "It’s very important that they can’t be fired. This is the genius of tenure."

Meanwhile, let's see what Jane Goodall has to say about the chimps she studies...

The Truth About Physics Fantasies

Today's SMBC is spot on. This is exactly what physics fantasies are like.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Acronym Fail

"SDI" was really not the best choice of acronyms for the new fielding metric that will be used to help determine which Major League Baseball players win gold gloves. Just saying...

(And the Derek Jeter bit in the ESPN article to which I link is pretty damn funny.)

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Without Loss of Generality...

New Rule: If you say or write "without loss of generality" when you do lose generality, then I have the right to smack you.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Don't Box Them In

The current issue of Beverly Hills Weekly includes the following quote about fences and gates being added to my high school: "We’re doing some perimeter gates, perimeter fencing, motorizing some gates, putting some alarms on the inside of doors so kids don’t exit unless we allow them to," said Superintendent Gary Woods. "They can exit for an emergency but then the alarm goes off."

And this scary little thing is said in a matter-of-fact fashion as if it's perfectly normal and ok to do something like this. Pathetic.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Is My Hair a Security Risk?

The security officer at San Francisco Airport needed to pat my hair to make sure that I wasn't hiding something in there.

(I am not making this up.)

I should also add that this is because the really invasive 'x-ray' (microwave?) machine apparently wasn't able to penetrate what might be in there.

Friday, March 01, 2013

MATLAB Does Super Mario

Do you want to listen to (a portion of) the theme song from Super Mario Brothers in MATLAB? Of course you do!

(Tip of the cap to whoever posts Facebook stuff for MATLAB.)