Saturday, July 31, 2004

Something Promising!

Damn. I just spent the day implementing an idea for speeding up some code I use for my research, and it seems to have worked spectacularly. I still have a ways to go, and there are many more potential pitfalls, but this is the first concrete sign I've had in months that my ideas on this project might actually turn into something useful. And it feels really good. It is heartening to know that even after not getting good results from a project for a long time, there is sometimes still hope. But I don't know if I have the stamina to work on these sorts of projects long-term. After finishing up this work, I think I need to switch to a project in a less well-studied area, where I won't need to struggle for so long to find interesting results. That might seem lazy (shouldn't I be working on the problems I feel are most important?), but I think it's necessary if I want to have some drive left in me when I finish my PhD.

Woody Allen's Bleak Outlook

Check out this insightful essay on a philosophy of life espoused in Woody Allen's films (via GreenCine Daily). It made me want to see some Allen films that I've missed (Hannah and Her Sisters, September, Play It Again, Sam). I need to get back on GreenCine when I return to Berkeley.

Thursday, July 29, 2004


If you haven't heard of Obama, you're missing out (check out his convention speech). And if you have, perhaps you missed this New Yorker article on him from a while back.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Best of the Bay 2004

It's up.

More E-Voting Scariness / Fox News

Looks like a couple of computer crashes erased all the votes cast on touch-screen voting machines in Miami-Dade county in a 2002 election. Also see Krugman on the topic (via Abstract Factory). Let's hope that as many election officials as possible get a clue before November and we don't have some incredible scandal because of these machines.

So AJ and I were finishing up our workouts last night, and we caught Ron Reagan speaking at the Democratic National Convention about stem cell research. The channel was Fox News, and after the speech they switched to some analysis hosted by Brit Hume. He immediately mentions an email that he (along with other journalists) had just received from the Bush campaign, declaring that Bush had more than doubled funding for stem cell research. I don't have the time to deconstruct all the misleading crap on that page, for example the suggestion that $25 million is somehow a large amount of money to dedicate to a promising research area. But it's nice to know that the Bush campaign has a direct channel to have their responses to convention speeches repeated verbatim by "neutral" reporters on national TV. I wonder how many Kerry campaign press releases Fox News will be reading during the Republican National Convention.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Lake Serene and Birthday Wishes

First, some more hiking pictures, these from Lake Serene. The hike had a pretty steep climb, but it was worth it. How could I not have been doing these hikes before?

Happy Birthday Vish!! Yup, my bro has reached the ripe old age of 22. He's currently becoming fluent in Spanish so he can guide me around all the Spanish-speaking countries I want to visit.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Three Ways to Flip a Coin

Just realized that I never linked to my brother's prize-winning undergraduate thesis. It's a tough read because of possibly unfamiliar terminology, but doable. Of course, you might not be as motivated as me to get through it :). It's really nice to have an example of someone who thinks really carefully about life and his actions as a sibling.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Guitar Face

Looks like there's a contest to see who can make the best "guitar face." This article made me think about my "piano face," my "percussion face," and my "singing face," which are all quite different. When singing, the face you make is very functional, as it greatly affects the sound that you make. It's perhaps part of why a chorus rehearsal usually manages to cheer me up after a rough day; you have to keep a smiling, bright look on your face to maintain a good sound (this is an oversimplification, but for most choral music I think it applies). When playing the piano, it was easy to get very absorbed in the music, and I had a (probably bad) habit of rocking my upper body at more emotional parts of a piece. I think my face basically registered the emotions I was feeling, but I can't remember doing any facial expression consciously. Orchestral percussion requires a type of concentration different from the piano, since you're trying to stay together with many different musicians and your entrances need to be very precise. In all the pictures I've seen of me playing percussion, I've always had a dead serious expression on my face, probably reflecting my efforts to focus and play as precisely as possible. I wonder if there are other classes of instrument faces fundamentally different from the ones I've described.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Saul Bass

Cool article on Saul Bass and how he transformed the role of opening credits in movies (via GreenCine Daily). The combination of Bass's images and Bernard Herrmann's overtures in Vertigo and Psycho is just breathtaking, perfectly setting the mood for those films. I'd add Fight Club to the list of "After Bass Credit Classics."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Depressing Six Feet Under

Damn, last Sunday's episode of Six Feet Under really dragged me down (don't read more if you want to watch without spoilers). In a 30 minute sequence, one of the sympathetic main characters gets beat up and robbed, has the body he was driving back to the funeral home get dumped in the street, gets forced to smoke crack, gets gasoline poured all over him, and finally gets his funeral van stolen (which is better than getting burned I guess). While the sequence was effective (and somehow reminiscent of the 20-minute dream sequence from The Sopranos), I felt like it was too much of a manipulative stunt and a desperate plot device. I really liked Six Feet Under for its unrelenting darkness in past seasons, but I think they need to find something new to say to keep the show fresh. Hopefully they'll treat this traumatic incident in a new way and make the show interesting again.

Sunday, July 18, 2004


I hiked the Paradise Trail at Mount Rainier yesterday, a fantastic introduction to hiking. Check out the pics. I also went on a cruise of Lake Washington with the Microsoft Research interns on Friday. Here's the Berkeley PL crew. Wassup now bish? We up at Microsoft but we still ICY HOT.

Friday, July 16, 2004


Surfergirl is a pretty good blog on TV. I definitely agree with her opinion that the penultimate episode of The Sopranos last season was unbelievably good. Oh, and I too am hooked on KenJen (scroll down).

Ali G

Cool interview with Ali G. This show looks hilarious, and I've heard great things about it. Hopefully it'll be downloadable.

Pointless cliche

I love music. It's been a rough few days for me, and it's going to be rough for a while, but without the empathizing lyrics and melodies from my music collection I think I'd basically be done for. That's all.