On Surveys

Mar. 23rd, 2017 12:26 am
dr_tectonic: (Default)
So the Chapman University Survey of American Fears. It's a thing. Someone on an email list I'm on ranted that the facts that 10% of respondents reported being afraid of zombies and that 32% agreed with a question about the government suppressing information about a fictitious event meant that people are stupid and ignant. My reply turned long, so here ya go.

Dude, come on. That's not even remotely what the poll results mean.

The only thing that you can say with certainty that the first result means is that, if you ask a bunch of random strangers who have no particular reason to give you deep and honest insights into their soul to spend half an hour filling out an incredibly long and detailed online poll (88 different topics, many with followups!) about an intimately personal subject (what makes you afraid), and, after asking about a whole bunch of other potentially scary things, you ask "are zombies scary?", about 10% will click "yeah, sure, zombies are scary."

Does that mean that some people genuinely worry about the dead coming back to life? I suppose there are probably a few such folks out there. But it could mean "I know it's just fiction, but the idea of zombies totally wigs me out." Or "Yeah, zombie movies are my go-to when I want to feel scared!"

It could also mean "Jesus, how long is this damn survey?" Or "Lol, they're asking if people are afraid of zombies. I'm totally gonna say yes to that." Or even "I just click randomly on these polls because the faster I click the faster I get to the incentive."

Similarly, if you ask a question that is predicated on a false premise but has answers that reflect a particular stance or affiliation, sometimes people will pick the answer that reaffirms their identity rather than the one that accurately represents, in a strict sense, their beliefs about the real world.

Sometimes (often, even) people will be confused by the mismatch between the question and their knowledge of current and historical events, and will pick an answer based on misremembered details. Sometimes people will be unsure of their knowledge, and will pick an answer using the question itself as a source of information. Sometimes people will answer the hypothetical presumed by the question.

And sometimes people will get annoyed that the poll is asking stupid questions that are wrong, turn contrary, and say "Yes! Yes I do think the government is hiding fictional things from me! Stupid poll!"

I find none of these things to be cause for shock, alarm, concern, or dismay, let alone weeping.

I mean, think about answering that poll yourself. The first thing I ask is "well, what do they mean by 'afraid'"? Is finding something troublesome or worrying the same as being afraid of it? If I think something is really super-duper-scary, but I think the odds of it actually affecting me are very low, does that make me slightly, somewhat, or very afraid of it? What if I'm only scared of the thing under certain circumstances? I wouldn't even know how to interpret my own answers to this survey, let alone a whole group of people's!

In my opinion, the only way to get useful insights from survey results like these is to look at them relative to one another. People are a lot more afraid of credit card fraud than they are of being mugged. That's possibly informative when it comes to criminal policy. People fear losing their jobs or losing all their data about as much as they fear heights and spiders. That sort of calibrates different kinds of fear against one another, which seems sociologically interesting.

But the absolute numbers are close to meaningless, and basing a supercilious "lookit all these stoopid muggles" rant on them is not a flattering look. Be better than that.
dr_tectonic: (Default)
I forgot to mention last time that we went to the art museum with Douglas and saw the Costumes of Star Wars exhibit, which was pretty cool. It made me appreciate the tremendous amount of detail that went into all of it. You don't always notice it on the screen, but I bet you'd notice the difference if it wasn't there. It also made me realize that many of the actors are, in real life, much smaller people than I'd always picture them as based on their screen presence.

My (half-) sister Mollie was in town this weekend with her hubby Jake and their daughter Logan, so last night we went to dinner with them and my ex-stepmother Glenda (her mom), and my ex-stepsister Ginger (Glenda's daughter) and Ginger's (adopted) daughter. (My family tree is complicated.) Anyway, we decided to try out Vital Root, which we'd heard good things about and which our friend Jeff is the chef of, and were very pleased with it. It's set up as fast-casual fine dining (which sounds weird, but works well) and the food is mostly local and all vegetarian. I especially liked the korean-wing-style veggies. Jeff was working that night and came over to say hi to us, too, so that was neat. And the 18-month-old mostly didn't melt down, despite not having had a nap!

We had D&D today and Star Wars last Saturday, and those both pretty much eat the day. On Sunday last weekend we went to a gaming pub for Neal's birthday. We played a game of Tokaido, which was fun, and then I spilled a glass of water all over it as we were putting it away. D'oh! I guess that's why they charge a cover. Then we played a few rounds of Codenames, which is a very clever party game.

Not a lot else to talk about; I'm still spending lots of time at work trying to get my bias correction done by mid-March, which is coming up very quickly. Especially given that I'm hoping to spend most of this coming week in a workshop learning more statistics. I stayed late at work on Friday crunching 5/6 of the dataset through the machinery, but there were errors so I'll have to do it all again tomorrow. I logged in remotely for a couple hours this morning and did some debugging and hopefully I have the problems all sorted out. Fingers crossed!

I guess the other big thing is that the starter motor on the Jetta died while I was at work and I had to have it towed to the dealer (since they're the best option for VW mechanics in Boulder). They got it all fixed, but there were various communications and logistical failures along the way, so it took a lot longer than I expected. I got pretty cranky about it after the first couple days, so we got to drive a loaner car around for a week or so. It was a nice car, but you don't actually insert the key into it to make it go! If you've got the key on your person, you just press the "start" button. Which I'm sure I would get used to, but it felt very weird.
dr_tectonic: (Default)
Now it's *three* weeks to catch up on, bad me. But really it's only been the weekends, so we'll pretend it's just a week.

So back on Saturday the 4th we went to lunch at Domo with Stu, which was tasty as always, even low-carbing it. I paid a visit to Grandma that afternoon, and then afterwards Jerry and I went to an open house at a mosque over in Northglenn. I had heard about it from the Inclusivity Board, and we figured it would be good to show up and be supportive. Which it was; they were very appreciative, and we learned some stuff (mosque architecture!) and we helped people feel safer and more welcome just by showing up and saying hi, and that was nice. Plus they were very appreciative of Monkey's beard. :)

Then on Sunday, we drove to Kansas and back! My Mom had called me up and said "do you want another cat?" Because they have three, and a fourth had shown up and adopted them, and four is Too Many (especially for traveling around, as they're now doing now that Larry's hip replacement is all done). We weren't particularly in the market, but we had a friend who'd expressed potential interest, and we figured we could be the backup in case it didn't work out with the friend, and even if it didn't work out with us, it would be much easier for us to find him a new home here in the Denver area than it would be for them to in Middle of Nowhere, Nebraska.

So we headed out early and drove to St. Francis, Kansas, which is about halfway, and met them there for lunch, which gave us a nice chance to visit and catch up. Then we transferred the kitty from their carrier to ours, turned around, and drove back home.

That Tuesday evening, the friend came over to meet the kitty, and after a good visit, concluded (reluctantly) that although he's a very nice cat, he wasn't quite the right cat, and that more importantly, now was not the right time. Which was a bit disappointing for our friend, but okay by us because it meant that we then were able to stop trying not to bond with him, and now we have a new kitty!

He's a soft and floofy gray kitty with a white chest patch. Fairly burly, and still fairly rambunctious because he's only a year and a half old. Although attitude-wise, he's super mellow. Basically nothing upsets or alarms him. He's also very talkative -- he chirps and squeaks at us all the time. Two weeks on, he's starting to get along with the other kitties. He's perfectly content with them and keen to be friends, although they get tired of him from time to time and we put him back in the library when it seems like the playfulness is starting to look more like harassment. His name is Panthro, and he is a very sweet boy (when he's not being a pill).

Let's see, then I had an Inclusivity Board meeting on Wednesday the 8th, and we both went to Games Night at Chris's on Thursday. We played a couple rounds of Nefarious (the mad scientist game) and then a nifty and unusual game called Kodama, which involves placing cards to grow a tree and scoring points based on whether the configuration matches the requirements of different nature spirits.

(Okay, so there was a lot of weekday stuff, too.)

We had Bear D&D on Sunday the 12th, in which we did lots and lots of planning and then fought a 20th-level spellcaster Great Wyrm red dragon. High-level D&D play is weird; we had a bajillion buffs up and crazy things going on like polymorphing everyone in the party to change our types so that she couldn't use anti-humanoid magic on us. But it paid off -- we beat her! Apparently we are getting close to the end of the campaign; hopefully we'll ding 20th level before we get there.

Things more back to normal this last week; just lots of work, mostly, getting things to run fast on the supercomputers. Saturday we went and saw Rogue One finally, which we both enjoyed. The theater was nowhere near as empty as we expected -- there are still plenty of people going to see it! Last night we watched Ant-Man on DVD, which we also liked quite a bit. The two things I really like about the Marvel superhero movies are that, first, they aren't afraid to have fun with them, and second, that they're comfortable mixing in other genres, so that it's not all superhero action all the time. Ant-Man is about 50% a heist movie, and a funny one at that. It's a shame we'll never get to see what Edgar Wright would have directed, but at least we got the script that he and Joe Cornish wrote.

And then today Van ([personal profile] pink_halen) came over for a visit. We went to a coffeeshop nearby and hung out, chatting, for several hours, then had dinner at Wishbone. It had been too long since we'd seen him, so it was nice to catch up.
dr_tectonic: (Default)
My boss got back from AMS early the week before last, and decided that yes, she did want me to go all-out to try to get the new dataset fully bias-corrected by mid-March, in time for it to be included in a big assessment report.

This is both a simple and complicated goal. On the one hand, I don't need to do any further method development: I have code that does the bias correction and I've tested it thoroughly on a good set of test cases and I know it works. On the other hand, it takes about 18 seconds to do one location. When you multiply that out by the full spatial domain and all the different variables and simulations, it adds up to about 2500 CPU-hours to do the whole thing. That's about 104 days, which puts us considerably past mid-March.

The good news is that the problem is embarrassingly parallel. (I might say it's even a step beyond "embarrassingly" parallel and into the realm of the ludicrously or stupidly parallel.) So all I have to do is get it set up to run in parallel on our supercomputer or maybe on the cloud and it'll be done in no time. (In principle, if I could get half a million processors, I could do the whole thing in under a minute. In practice, I gather that it always takes at least 5 minutes to get things spun up.)

But there are a lot of unknowns in getting it to run in parallel. I theoretically know how to get R to run in parallel using MPI -- I'm a coauthor on a tech note about it -- but I've never actually done it myself. So the first week was pretty stressful, because I was constantly aware of the clock ticking as I tried, with rather limited success, to Make It Go.

Happily, early this last week I got some help from one of our computing consultants, and although we didn't get the MPI approach to really work, he pointed me at another approach that was both simpler and better suited to the task at hand. I've replicated my test case and it works beautifully, so now it's just about restructuring the data to scale it up. Which means I no longer have to have all the time horizons and contingency plans and feasibility evaluation checkpoints floating around in my head, I can just focus on implementing the solution. Which is a huge relief.

(Hmm, that turned longer than I planned. I'll save the non-work stuff for another post.)

Just stuff

Jan. 29th, 2017 09:44 pm
dr_tectonic: (Default)
Lots of people were out of the office attending AMS, so I had a nice productive week because there were no meetings and I was all alone and could just code code code. I think I would start to feel lonely if it were that way all the time, but it's nice when it happens.

Although current events are awful, I feel heartened to see so many people coming together to protest and oppose them. Of course I have lots of thoughts and feelings about the state of the world, but that's all the oomph I've got for talking about it.

Friday before last was Jerry's last day of work, because the company he was working for let all their contractors go. Which is somewhat disappointing, but he's got other things in the works and is not unhappy about taking some time off to focus on wedding prep. And it sounds like there's further turmoil happening there that he doesn't mind missing. We went out to dinner at Dae Gee with Bob & Jeff & Douglas that night, and it was nice to see them, since it had been a while.

We played Descent last Saturday and I made the crockpot chicken tikka masala again for everyone. Again I was happy with the flavor profile, but it was still basically soup. I have some fixes I'll try next time, like pureeing the onion, but if they don't pan out, I may have to abandon the recipe.

Thursday I went to the circus! The Phantom Circus at the Oriental Theater, down in Arvada, which I didn't even know was there. My friend Ronco (MIT, obvs) has taken up acrobatics the last few years, moved to Denver at some point, and posted on FB that he was performing, so I thought what the heck and went to see it. I really enjoyed it. It was mostly aerial acrobatics (silks, straps, hoops, trapeze, etc.), with a handful of other things like tumbling, fire-eating, belly-dancing, and sword dancing. The performances were all set to music and had cool video projected on the screen behind them. The show ran a bit long, partly because they had to change the rigging for each act. It could've stood to be tightened up, but I was definitely happy I went. And Ronco's act (partner acrobatics with straps) was amazing - one of the best!

We had a lovely bear dinner at Matt & Jason's last night, a belated birthday celebration for Jason. Tasty food, lots of good friends. Today was D&D (fought a dragon/displacer beast hybrid underwater), grocery shopping, putting off bills until tomorrow, that kind of thing.
dr_tectonic: (Default)
Well, I'm over the flu and over the post-flu laryngitis (I used up my voice at the Inclusivity Board meeting last week, and was unable to make a sound for like two days afterwards), and now I'm dealing with Ye Olde Lingering Cough.

Nothing much interesting since last I posted; just recovery. Well, and the minivan needed transmission work. Whee! It's at that point where when a big repair comes up, we ask whether we should pay for that or just go get a new vehicle. Decided that it's not quite time to do that yet, since we have the wedding coming up and would rather have the money on hand for that, but probably next year it'll be time to go car shopping. (Yuck. I hate the whole large-expense decision-making process.)

So after commuting with Jerry on Friday & Tuesday, since I had no meetings today and everybody else in my group was out of the office, I worked from home. I got a minor bug in my code sorted out this morning (the right code in the slightly wrong place) and got a bunch of test locations bias-corrected for this last-minute comparison project that has come up. I was figuring it would take all of this week to deal with, so now I'm ahead of things, hooray! The weather was nice today, so after getting that done I walked to Chipotle for a late lunch and picked up some stuff at the grocery store.

I've been spending a lot of time lately playing an old-style isometric CRPG called Bastard Bonds and enjoying it quite a bit. I definitely recommend it to anybody who enjoys those kinds of games, although note that it features a lot of pixelated gay fanservice, so if that's not a selling point, you should at least not mind it.


Jan. 8th, 2017 10:29 pm
dr_tectonic: (bluh)
So we didn't do anything at all for New Year's; just stayed at home and had a nice long weekend of downtime.  I went and visited Grandma on New Year's Day, and then on Monday we got together with some of Jerry's siblings and his mom (who is in town) at his brother Bill's place.  Which was all perfectly nice, except that that's where we picked up the flu, because his brother and his mom came down with it a couple days later, too.

We had lots of snow forecast for Wednesday, and since nobody else was going to be in the office, I decided to work from home and avoid whatever traffic problems it caused.  That's when Jerry started feeling lousy, so he stayed home, too.  I made chicken tikka masala in the crockpot.  (Tasty, but quite soupy.)  Going into Thursday, of course, there was enough snow that work was closed for both of us, so I worked from home then, too.  By this point it was pretty clear that he had the flu, so we tried to minimize my exposure by moving me into the guest bedroom for sleeping and most of my hanging out.  It didn't work, though, and by Friday afternoon I could feel it coming on, too.  I managed to do a grocery run that morning, and I managed the conference call we had scheduled in the afternoon, but that was about it for my productivity.

I'm past the fever and the achiness (which was really bad with this strain), and now I'm into the sore throat and cough, where my primary source of sustenance is menthol cough drops.  Ugh.  I'm not feeling horribly tired, but that's probably because I'm mostly just sitting around playing games on my laptop.  I think I'm mostly okay, then I get up and do something and I have a horrible coughing fit (sticky brown mucus, yuck) and get out of breath from going down the stairs, so although I'm On The Mend, it's clear that I'm not yet Better.  I'll probably stay home tomorrow, too.

We also had Cris & Steve come over on Tuesday night (before we were contagious, thank goodness) and spent the evening playing Mah Jongg.  We started from simplified rules (e.g.. no kongs and no scoring, at least not at first) and I think that's a good way to learn.  We had a good time.  So at least there was that.
dr_tectonic: (bluebeard)
We spent the latter half of last week visiting my parents in Nebraska for early Christmas. Drove out Wednesday, spent Thursday & Friday there, drove back Saturday (Christmas Eve). Larry got his right hip replaced the week previously, so we didn't get up to a whole lot; just hung out with them and had downtime.

Larry had a couple post-op complications (a case of thrush and some episodes of atrial fibrillation, which is apparently no uncommon after major surgery) that kept him in the hospital a few extra days. He was still feeling pretty lousy when we got there, but improved considerably over the next couple days and was walking around by the time we left. Partly I think being at home instead of the hospital helped, and another big factor was when he stopped taking the pain meds (hydrocodone, I think), because that was upsetting his already finicky stomach so he couldn't really keep food down. But he is definitely on the mend now.

We helped out by cooking dinner (cabbage & sausages) on Friday and doing dishes and putting a tarp over the little trailer to keep the roof from leaking. And according to my mom, just by being there and not contributing to the worry feedback loop that the two of them sometimes develop.

We got to meet Bobbie, the long-legged bob-tailed kitten they recently rescued from a ditch at the side of the road, and visit with big boycats Toodle & Squeaker. Toodle is very lovey; Squeaker is skittish and almost started warming up to us by the time we left. Squirt (their little mostly-chihuahua) was of course delighted to see us, although she spent most of her time snuggled up next to Larry on the couch so that she could nurse him.

We did Christmas With Bears at Matt & Jason's. It was our D&D group plus Channan and (eventually) Cris & Steve. Very enjoyable; it's a good crew. I declared it a cheat day and actually partook of everything on offer, like the astonishing cake (coffee, hazelnut, and chocolate) that Brandon made.

It was a gift-light Christmas. Monkey's gift to me is getting the radio fixed on the Jetta. Yay! But all the car radio places are crazy busy after Christmas, so I told him to wait a little while until it calms down. I got him a couple DVDs to replace ones that have gone missing and a backup HD for the PS4, but one of the packages got lost in the mail, so I had to reorder them and they got here late. We mostly skipped gifts with my parents; we brought them some nice cheese and salami and my copy of The Martian, and they gave us cat toys and some money for the wedding. In the round-robin on my Dad's side, Sherilyn sent me a copy of On Food and Cooking, which makes for good here-and-there reading, especially with breakfast. I started reading about brassicas have already learned a bunch of new things!

Monday we had Star Wars, so I spent my day off work prepping for that. Now I'm trying to get my momentum back up while there's nobody in the office to distract me...
dr_tectonic: (bluebeard)
Friday! The last day of the conference! When everybody is worn out and starts wandering off early! And the day of my poster. In the afternoon slot.

Actually, things were a lot busier than I expected. It was a busy day for both posters and talks, and all but one of the single-sheet printouts got taken before I got there to man my poster. The only major disappointment was that there was this one talk that I was really interested in because it had all of the keywords relating to my research, and it didn't happen because the presenter was a no-show. Boo! I met up with Sequoia for dinner at a Turkish place (A La Turca), which was tasty, and a good long chat & walk before and after.

Saturday morning I slept in (hallelujah!) and then packed up my stuff, checked out, and BARTed myself over to Berkeley. Got ensconced in Colin & Jess's place around lunchtime, and then at 2 I walked to the Victory Point Cafe to meet up with Wes for a bit. As you might guess from the name, it's all about board games, so I introduced him to Sentinels of the Multiverse, and then we played several hands of Lost Cities. Wandered back to his place and chatted for a bit, then Jess came and picked me up and brought me (and dinner -- poke bowls) home. Their cat, Tesla, was pleased to see a new human and snuggled in my lap while I was there that afternoon.

Sunday morning we picked up a few things at the farmer's market, and then went to U-Boat & Christy's for brunch. Hooray! Got to see a bunch of people: Perlick, Jason & Felicia, Ariel, Chuck & Tef, Rawhide again, and a couple of the neighbors, plus a passel of assorted childrens, of course.

Perlick very kindly drove me to the airport on his way back to Palo Alto, and I had an uneventful flight home. Hooray! Except that I almost froze my face off waiting for the traffic to let Jerry through to pick me up at DIA, because the temperature had no digits back here in Colorado! Happily, it warmed back up today, and now the weather is back to merely cold, instead of arctic.

It's very nice to be home with my hubby & my kitties and to sleep in my own bed with my own pillows again. Yay! :D
dr_tectonic: (bluebeard)
Wednesday and Thursday were my significantly-less-jam-packed days, but I am still wiped out. Fewer Informatics talks on Wednesday, more Global Change sessions. Saw a couple talks that detailed interesting and sophisticated ways to do things that I don't think are particularly worth doing. Today was back to Informatics and talks about complicated provenance things that would totally be great to have, except that they would involve insane amounts of added work and are never gonna happen unless there's a whole lotta automation going on.

I ended up going through the poster hall late in the day yesterday and early in the day today, which means I walked by a bunch of interesting posters that weren't there because the authors either hadn't put them up first thing or had already taken them down before the end of the day. Why would you do that? The entire reason that posters hang all day is so that people can look at them whenever they have the time to get over there!

Yesterday I hiked over to the Dropbox offices to have lunch with Rawhide and Wumpf (who has an office nearby). I got to see the infamous chrome panda and have tasty lunch and good conversation, yay! And then at dinner, Schmooz and Quincy and I went to Hog & Rocks. We ended up just having a bunch of appetizer plates for dinner, including a number of raw oysters, which I mostly liked, except for the one variety that was less briny and more, like, organ-meat-y. We also got a ham flight. I hesitated over whether it was too egregiously foodie to bear, but it was really good. Four varieties of ham, all very different and all really yummy. Definitely glad I did it.

And then tonight I had dinner with Xris Onufryk downtown. Just burgers, but tasty. We showed each other lots of cat photos. And then she showed me her powerpoint presentations about shower curtains! Which was genuinely delightful to me. In return I showed her how is prangent formed and we laughed until we cried. YAT!
dr_tectonic: (bluebeard)
It's only been two days of conference, but I feel like I've been here for a week. Being away from home and routine makes everything seem to take up a much longer span of time.

I started Monday with a talk that made me think that I had to rework the core of my bias correction method, but once I left the room I realized, wait, no I can't replace the transform with that approach, because it depends on already knowing the thing that I use the transform for. *Whew!*

After wandering the posters a bit, I sat in an overcrowded and really interesting session about cloud computing. And then another one about it that afternoon. And another one today. And it's got me convinced that we need to take a new tack on some of the projects back home, to the point that I'm gonna try to get some experiments going on my own. So that alone was probably worth attending for.

Since I got out of the pre-lunch session a bit before the lunchtime rush, I zipped over to the Metreon and got lunch from Sorabol (Korean) and took it back to my room.

We had a (productive) side meeting from 5-6:30 that night for one of our collaborations. I bowed out of dinner afterwards to go to the MIT alumni reception, but it was at a new venue this year and turned out to be a total bust. Quincy was wiped and had to cancel, and it was in a tiny room with dismal refreshments. There was one table of food, with a pedestrian cheese platter, vegetable crudites and hummus, and three types of sliders. Oh, and a dessert table you couldn't get within five feet of. I bailed after maybe 10 minutes, and got dinner instead at a place called Lemonade, which is a sort of salad + hot dish fast-casual setup, emphasizing fresh and local. I was pretty pleased with what I had, honestly.

I've slept poorly the last two nights, due to foreign bed and overly-squishy pillows. I called down for a couple firm pillows and I'm hoping I'll do better tonight. But 8 am came really early this morning. Along with all the cloud computing talks, there was a good session on data formats. And I was able to say hello to Kristy (one of my grad school cohort) at the posters afterwards.

I had a very good lunch today meeting up with Jason Funt for lunch at the Whole Foods a few blocks south of here. Hooray for meeting internet friends in person! We got along well, and I wish we'd had more time.

I had a big gap in my schedule after lunch, so I rested up and actually used the hotel jacuzzi for a bit to loosen up the soreness of bad sleep and lots of walking. Dinner tonight from Loving Hut in the food court at Westfield. It's miscellaneous Asian cuisine and vegan, but more importantly, the food court was nearby and it was the one that was most appealing when I went wandering by it.

AGU Day 0

Dec. 11th, 2016 09:29 pm
dr_tectonic: (bluebeard)
Uneventful travel getting here. It pays to check how long the different security lines are at the airport: the maze at the west end of the main concourse at DIA was completely full, the one at the east end was half full, and if you walked over the bridge to Terminal A, the lines were about six people long.

I jumped on hotel reservations this year, so I'm staying at the Intercontinental, which abuts Moscone West. Woot! Having the option to go back to my room if I need to (or just want to lie down and relax for half an hour during slow periods) makes for a much less stressful conference.

Got my exercise in walking a mile uphill to meet Jofish en famille at Hopwater Distribution for dinner. Lovely! Had him drop me off at the Metreon Target afterwards so I could stock up on supplies.

I have come to realize that I am much happier when I don't have to make myself presentable to the world before I can eat breakfast, so (especially on long trips) I now fill up the tiny bit of unused space in the hotel room mini-fridge with foodstuffs. This is going to be doubly important this trip, since sticking to low-carb/high-fat is hard when eating out all the time. Now available for breakfast in my hotel room: brie, salami, mini sausages, heavy cream, 88% dark chocolate, and (thanks to the Korean place in the Metreon) kimchi.
dr_tectonic: (bluebeard)
I'm off to AGU today! The last week and a half has been mostly just getting ready, which is to say, putting together my poster.

I had our annual (-ish) mentoring & appreciation dinner with my boss on Tuesday. We went to Brasserie 1010, because it actually had one of the more low-carb friendly menus in town. I had bouillabaisse, which I remember studying as a spelling bee word when I was in 6th grade, but which I had never eaten before.

A snowstorm (about 3" here in Westminster) had started that evening, and on the way to the restaurant, I hit an icy patch turning from Broadway onto Canyon and slid into the curb. It dented the right front rim on the minivan pretty severely. On Wednesday I had been planning to work from home anyway, because a) I was just putting together my poster, which I do on my laptop, which I can work on just as comfortably from the couch at home as my desk at work, b) that way I could avoid a commute in gross traffic conditions, and c) I had a meeting at City Hall that morning to talk to provide Inclusivity Board input to a feasibility study for a new civic / cultural facility where the mall used to be. But that worked out well with needing to find a place that could sell me a new wheel, too. Also, I got a haircut.

Last Saturday we had Van & Ron's holiday party, and then Star Wars at Jeff & Alice's. Alas, Monkey caught the headache-and-fatigue cold, and had to stay home in a healing coma. Things went well otherwise, though. (Although Jeff and Neal did realize that I had based the NPC family of dysfunctional Aqualish royalty in exile on the Bluth family from Arrested Development. Noooo! Don't look behind the curtain! *shakefist* But they had fun nevertheless, so it's all good.)

What else? Um... Douglas is back in town and came over for a visit Friday night. I've been reading a lot of books lately. It was really cold after the snowstorm, but has warmed back up.

Yeah, stuff.
dr_tectonic: (bluebeard)
We had double Thanksgiving this year: first we hung out with bears for the afternoon, then we went over to the Nevilles' for dinner. I roasted a bunch of veggies and Jerry made an excellent pumpkin mochi cake. Hooray for chosen family!

I had a good time visiting with people despite a weird and very persistent headache. It had started on Wednesday and was still going on Friday morning, so I didn't get as much done as I had hoped, and instead went to the doctor that afternoon. There was nothing out of the ordinary, and I had some muscle aches to go along with the headache, so the doctor concluded I was probably just fighting off a virus. (Maybe even a very weak version of the flu, since I got my flu shot a while back.) It finally cleared up Sunday evening, and the aches went with it, so I think that's what it was.

On Saturday, Mel and Kate and Nick came over for Descent. I enjoyed playing the first half, but then got tuckered out and took a nap for most of the rest of the afternoon.

Sunday morning we met Bats & Sarah for dim sum at Star Kitchen, which was tasty as always. And then more napping. It was my second cheat day on the diet over the course of the long weekend (because Thanksgiving, duh), and I was debating whether I could afford two, but I looked around and frankly, if you're doing low-carb, there are not a lot of options when it comes to brunch. So I just had dim sum anyway.

I had been planning to go visit Grandma over the weekend, but had no gumption due to the headache (and it would've been a bad idea to possibly expose her to a virus anyway), so since I was ahead on my hours, I took Monday morning off and went to visit her after we got done taking the cat to the vet. I took her flowers, as usual, and we had a nice chat. I got warned to beware of Texans. :) (She grew up farming in Oklahoma shortly before the Great Depression, so...)

I have been coding like mad this week while everyone else is out of the office at a meeting in DC, and today I finally got the normalization routines all working satisfactorily. I even figured out a tweak that make the log-scaling work better, but I don't understand why it works, which is mildly unsettling. But it works well enough without it that I can put off figuring that out until later.
dr_tectonic: (skeptical cat)
We took Miss Mimsabel in to get her stitches taken out this morning, so hopefully she will be done going to the vet for a while!

A few weeks ago, Jerry noticed that she had a bit of a lump under the skin on her belly, so we thought "yup, better get that checked out." (Spoiler: everything turns out okay.)

We took her in two weeks ago on Saturday, and the vet took a couple x-rays, and said "yeah, that should come out." It turns out that it's not uncommon for female cats to get breast cancer. And it increases the risk if they don't get spayed before their first heat. We're not sure exactly how old Mimsy is, but probably that's the case for her.

The x-rays showed a lump, but no signs of it having spread, so two weeks ago today she went in and got a regional mastectomy. She is now down to 5 out of 8 boobs. (It was kinda surprising to me how quickly they scheduled the surgery, but it makes sense if you think about it. Cats don't need to evaluate a bunch of treatment options, or rearrange their plans to accommodate recover time, and the point at which something is noticeable as a potential problem is much further along for cats than for humans. So there's no reason not to proceed as immediately as possible.)

She had a big ugly incision along her belly, but it's just the skin, not into the body cavity, so recovery was fairly quick. Twice a day we had to catch her and burrito her up in a towel so that we could squirt a little syringe of painkiller and a bigger syringe of antibiotic into her mouth. Fortunately for us, she is a pretty cooperative patient. If you can get a hand on her she mostly stays still, and once you start draping the towel over her to wrap her up she kinda gives in. And it seems like she didn't find the antibiotic particularly unpalatable.

They sent a little onesie and an e-collar home with us to keep her from licking her stitches. We got the onesie on her twice. It is apparently the Heaviest Thing In The World, and is made of lead and hatred. Both times, she dragged herself under the couch and then managed to escape from it in less than five minutes. And we didn't want to traumatize her with a Cone of Shame if we didn't have to, so we just kept an eye on her, and happily she left the incision alone. (Fingers crossed that she continues to do so now that the sutures have been removed.)

We finally heard back from the lab this last Friday that the lump was non-malignant. Yay! It was apparent not actually cancer, but a "milk duct ectasia". Which is benign, but progressive, and will often turn cancerous if left untreated. So we're definitely glad we caught it early.

She has been healing well, and seems to be feeling pretty much back to normal now. Hooray! Hopefully it also won't take her long to get over being skittish because she thinks we're going to bundle her up when we reach out to pet her...
dr_tectonic: (ever so slightly mad)
On this MIT alumni mailing-list I'm on, somebody asked:
"How many holes does a pair of pants have?"

Much discussion ensued. Here is my response.

If we mean "hole" in the topological sense, the answer is clearly TWO. If you have an excess of fabric and no fashion sense, you can make a gigantic pair of uncomfortable harem pants by cutting two holes in a very large circle of fabric and then sewing an enormous drawstring along the circumference. You'll probably also want to gather up the fabric between your legs with some kind of loincloth arrangement or maybe a bunch of creative ruching, and let's be honest, you're going to end up with a kind of diaper-like effect that is both awkward and fugly, but the point is, you only have to make two cuts in the fabric to do it.

If we're talking about holes in the sense of an opening into a separated space, then there are plainly THREE: the waist hole and two ankle holes. If you were to put stretchable rubber pants on someone and inflate them with air to comical effect, or if you wanted to engage in the time-hallowed sport of ferret-legging, those are the three places where air/ferrets may be introduced to the inter-trouseral space, and also the places that you must ensure are snugly fitted so as to prevent their escape.

If we take the word hole to mean a void that tunnels all the way through an object, then the answer is obviously ONE POINT SEVEN EIGHT. Suppose you wanted to make a pair of pants out of a giant block of foam rubber. Why? I don't know; perhaps after your misadventures with the harem pants and the ferrets you decided to learn something about fashion and have become a haute couture designer. Who am I to criticize? You're the one who cares about pants. For whatever reason, you've decided on foam rubber pants. So be it! You start by boring a hole from the top of the block down through to the bottom. Make it slant a little. Now widen out the top into a general Pelvic Containment Zone. That's one hole. Now you bore another hole up from the bottom, but only partway through, just to the point where it connects up with the first hole at the edge of the PCZ. So that's part of a second hole. How much of a hole is it? Well, the typical supermodel's inseam is about 36", and most trousers have a regular rise of about 10", and 10 / (10+36) = 0.22, so that's about 78% of a hole. Now your fashion creation is almost finished, you just have to make a cut partway up the middle, and Bob's your uncle: you've made PANTS! Let's hope your uncle, despite being a supermodel, is also a bit uncool, because then you can put the pants on him and now you have SquareBob SpongePants. How delightful for your children.

Finally, if by hole we mean a place where there is something missing, where properly there ought to be something but instead there is nothing, then the answer is undoubtedly ZERO. We're talking about idealized pants here. They consist only and exactly of what they ought, no more and no less, perfect and flawless in their abstraction. By this definition, they CAN'T have holes.

So, how many holes does a pair of pants have? (2 + 3 + 1.78 + 0) / 4 = 1.695, which we can round up to the much funnier value of ONE POINT SEVEN.

Of course, that's for idealized pants. For *actual* pants, the number is more variable.

First, most pants have a buttonhole at the fly. Some slacks have a little tab thing instead, and of course there are elastic- and drawstring-waist pants that have no buttons, but there are also button-fly jeans. For simplicity, I'm going to assume that they cancel out, leaving us with a net +1 hole by definitions 1 and 3.

Then there's beltloops. Those are holes only in the topological sense, but there are a lot of them. For pants that have them, I think the average number is between 5 and 6. Most pants have beltloops, but there's a fair fraction that don't, so that probably brings the expected value back down to, oh, around 4?

And then, of course, actual pants get holes as they wear out. This is a much harder number to estimate. I'd say most pairs of pants only get a couple-few holes in them before they get thrown out. I have no idea what the respective dwell times are for new, worn, and discarded clothing, other than that pants don't stop being pants just because no-one is wearing them, and textiles take a very long time to decay in a landfill. And then of course there are pants that start out with holes in them, sometimes quite a lot of holes, because fashion is ridiculous. Let's just be arbitrary and call it 2.2.

So that's an additional 2/4 + ~4/4 + 2.2 = THREE POINT SEVEN extra holes for actual pants as opposed to notional pants.

(This isn't even getting into the issue of what happens to the question if you ask it in British English instead of American English and end up asking about underwear.)

Point being: I think people tend to invest a lot of unnecessary effort into arguing about questions like this because they falsely assume that there is a single correct answer. Words usually mean more than one thing. They're not point-like and precise, they're fuzzy little clouds of meaning. It's not just denotation; context and connotation exist and matter. So if you actually want to get anywhere in your discussions, it pays to keep the question "so what do you mean by that?" at the ready, and to seek clarification when you perceive a disagreement, rather than operating under the assumption that disagreement necessarily indicates that somebody is wrong.
dr_tectonic: (bluebeard)
I had a two-day work meeting in Amherst two weeks ago. From Denver, it's easier to fly into Boston (direct flights at better times) and drive there than it is to fly to anyplace closer like Hartford, so three of us from work flew in on Monday (Halloween) and carpooled together.

We stayed at a hotel right on campus, which made for an easy walk to the meeting. It was also attached to the student center, which had a big food court with a lot of variety, so that was nice for lunches. Not much to report on the meeting itself; just a lot of discussion and presentations to sort out who's doing what for the project.

My big takeaway from the meeting is that eduroam is great. It made the wifi just magically work for both my laptop and my phone without having to fuss with anything.

On Thursday, we drove back to Boston. Linda & Rachel flew home, while Melissa & I had both opted to stay over the weekend, so I dropped her at her AirBnB then met Jerry at the airport.

We stayed at the Marriott right behind the Boston Public Library, which is a good location, just a block from Copley Square. It turned out to be a nice hotel in a neat old building built in the late 1800s. Thursday evening We did a little looking at architecture in Copley Square and along Newbury Street, then got dinner at B.Good.

Friday we wandered around the BPL & looked at the amazing art (including the gallery with all the John Singer Sargent paintings on the 3rd floor). Then we met up with Kevbot & hung out for a while, which was lovely & delightful. He had to run off mid-afternoon, so then we went to the Mapparium. For dinner we went over to Cambridge & met Pete ([livejournal.com profile] quirkstreet) & his hubby Alan for dinner at Mary Chung's. Peking Ravs & excellent company, yay!

On Saturday I showed Jerry all my old haunts. We visited Tep & I gave him a haus tour. It was before noon on a weekend, so there was a lot of unconsciousness going on and we didn't get to see everything (e.g., 32, 33, or 42), but we saw most of the haus. Many things are different, and many things are just the same as they ever were.

After that, we walked over the Harvard Bridge saw some of the 'Tvte. Killian Court, Lobby 7, the MIT chapel, etc. Then we walked up Mass Ave & met Charles ([livejournal.com profile] tirinian) for ice cream at Tosci's.

Amusingly, we ran into one of my co-workers (Nate H.) there. He was in town for a salsa dancing event of some kind, and we'd already run into him at the baggage claim on Thursday because he was on the same flight as Jerry. And then of course we ran into him again on Monday because he was on the same flight home as us.

We stopped by the MIT Museum on the way back, because it's free for alumni. Saw some neat art. Then we made our way back across campus to Kendall Square, looking at weird MIT architecture along the way, and took the T back home.

It was a lovely day for walking around; it was sunny and clear, though fairly cold. (I always forget how penetrating the thick damp air is in coastal places. But layers and a good hoodie were sufficient to be comfortable.) The funny thing about wandering MIT campus is that I was reminding of lots of things, but it didn't really take me back to those days. I didn't have any problem sets due or any exams to study for, and I think without that, nothing is going to take me back to feeling like I did as an undergrad.

Had dinner at Luke's Lobster, which was right across from the hotel and a good way to get the requisite seafood consumption in. I was pleased with it; it's a chain, but they did good lobster rolls & the like, and I think I was more pleased than I would have been with expensive fish at Legal Seafood.

Sunday morning after a nice long sleep (hooray for the end of daylight savings!) we went to Bats & Sarah's, as they were kind enough to host a Coffee Hour for us. Many folks showed up: Omri & Emily, Morton & Sarah, and Big Bird & Jen, all with their kids; plus T-Stop and Amie (both solo). We hung out and had a good time and around 4 we said "well, if we're meeting people at Brezhnev's like we said we would, we should probably go do that." It's at a new location (a proper storefront in Chinatown) rather than the old converted gas station, and has a new name, but still serves the same food. Morton & Sarah met us there, as did Stinkee & his wife & kid. We had scallion pancakes, and shanghai chow mein with szechuan pickles ("worms"), and ling gao ("slugs"), and a bunch of other things and it was all as good as I remembered it.We had made plans to go visit T-Stop & Jessie & Violet afterwards, but found ourselves too pooped to do any more socializing, so we headed back to the hotel and spent the evening packing and getting downtime.

We flew home Monday. It was a smooth trip, and we got home by about 3:30 to kitties who were aloof for all of five minutes before cuddling up in our laps. We were tired, but since 6:30 was too early to go to bed, we went and saw Dr. Strange. In 3-D, and I have to say it's one of the very few movies I've seen where that was a significant plus. I enjoyed it quite a bit. There are a lot of amazing visuals, and it's really worth seeing with maximum spectacle.

It was a great trip, but it's nice to be home.
dr_tectonic: (Portrait-y)
I don't really have anything to say about the election that hasn't been said by everyone else. It's horrible and depressing and it makes me worry and I hate that. I took a mental health day on Wednesday and persuaded Jerry to stay home and keep me company; I was coping alright, but I just didn't have it in me to cope with other people's emotions.

I have a whole post about the trip to Boston that just needs editing, and maybe another one brewing, but tonight we are disengaging and watching happy escapist fluff, so that's all I got right now.

Zoom zoom

Oct. 30th, 2016 11:18 pm
dr_tectonic: (bluebeard)
I'm off to Boston* tomorrow, so here's some stuffy that's happened recently before I forget it. Because life has been busy.

*Well, flying to Boston, then driving to Amherst for a 2-day meeting, but then back to Boston, where I will be through the weekend. With the Monkey. Yay!

We voted! I dropped our ballots in the box last Tuesday, which means I have given myself permission to completely disengage form the election until it's done. I feel much better now.

We went and saw Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children with Douglas. I went in knowing nothing and quite enjoyed it. I've heard a number of people who've read the book say there were changes they disliked, but it works well on its own. Eva Green is a wonderful actress and needs to be in more things. I paid Grandma a visit afterwards.

We went to birthday dinner for Rose, and afterwards the group of us were wandering in search of a coffee shop or the like. Jerry and Rose were talking about perfume (scented beard oil vs her perfume) when a mildly drunk fellow from the bar we were passing latched onto our group and said "can I smell too?" Like, kinda sorta hitting on Rose a little bit, but mostly just being friendly drunk. So Jerry offered him up his beard to sniff. Which was not really what he was hoping for, but we egged him on a little, so he did. His reaction? "Oh my god, that smells really good!" So yay for scented beard oil :)

The other big event was on Friday night, when we met up downtown with Chris N. ([livejournal.com profile] shirtlifterbear), who is in town for a conference. He still needed dinner, so (after an aborted attempt to find good Mexican late, sabotaged by a deceptive Yelp listing for a place that doesn't exist yet) we hung out for quite a while at one of those restaurants with eighty bajillion beers on tap. And then we went back to the hotel and hung out more, and ended up staying up much later than we should have. He is a charming fellow and an excellent storyteller, full of verve and elan, and we had a lovely and delightful time meeting him. Yay for meeting long-time internet friends in person!
dr_tectonic: (bluebeard)
Three thoughts:

1) I didn't realize it until just recently, but as of 2013, Colorado mails ballots to every registered voter for every election. Which is a fantastic idea; you can fill your ballot out at home, at your leisure, doing however much research you want, and then either mail it in or drop it off at a ballot box. It makes all the issues about lines at polling places and how late they're open and poll watching and so on largely moot. It's maximally convenient and empowers voters at the same time. And apparently, it even saves a whole lot of money, because it cuts down on provisional ballots, which are expensive. It's pretty keen, so if you live elsewhere and see any efforts to implement something similar, you should definitely support them.

2) We have a bunch of initiatives on the ballot this year. There was some lunchtime conversation about one of them, and somebody asked "can I vote for it to fail but by a very slim margin?" Because there's the problem of supporting the general idea behind an initiative, but not in that specific form, and wanting to encourage another try at it while not wanting it to pass as-is So I think we need to add a couple more options for ballot issues. In addition to "yes" and "no", it would be nice to have "almost", for the aforementioned case, and "whatever", for "I don't care about this issue one way or the other, so just leave me out when you're trying to figure out how much support there is for and against it."

3) So everybody knows that the system we currently use when voting for candidates for office (vote for one, whoever gets the most votes wins, aka first-past-the-post) is like, one of the worst possible ways of doing it, right? Among its many problems, it's a major factor in the lock-in of the two-party system everyone's so unhappy about lately. Innyhoo, while there are a lot of alternatives for how to tally up the ballots and pick a winner, there are only a few ways to actually fill them out: an approval ballot is like a regular ballot -- you vote for candidates you want -- but you can vote for as many as you like, picking all the candidates you find acceptable. On a scored ballot, you have to give each candidate a score, say, 1-5. And on a ranked ballot, you have to order all the candidates by preference. I figure a major hurdle to voting reform is getting the electorate to feel comfortable with doing things differently, so I'm curious in people's opinions: regardless of what fancy method is used to pick the winner, how do you feel about those different ways of voting? Do any of them feel more or less like proper voting?