14 September 2012

Things I've been meaning to post for three weeks...

The Economist: Graphic Detail | K.N.C. | Charting the wind: Blown away
Pretty. Prettier yet when it's in motion.
Meanwhile, Ms Viégas distinguishes herself in particular by her ability to take information that people may have never thought of as data, and finding clever ways to render it into visual form.
Wait. There are people who don't think everything is data?

John Cartan | Starmaze

This is an impressive, multidecade piece of work. Aesthetic, computational, mathematical. I love it. (The above is only part of a diagram.) I can't begin to summarize, but Cartan picked up a parlor puzzle, analyzed it with non-Euclidean geometry, turned that into a maze, then mashed it up with both 2D & 3D graphic design and hand-drawn and digital graphics over a period of years.

To top it all off, he's put together a very nice set of webpages explaining his process and results. That explanatory writing is something I struggle to motivate myself to do, which results in me only posting about 20% of the projects I work on to the web.

(Like the last item, this reminded me that visualizing state spaces as high-d hypercubes isn't normal.)

The Money Illusion | Scott Sumner | Is China a Hayekian Success Story?
But Wang and Coase focus elsewhere, on what they called the “marginal revolutions.” These were the changes that occurred at the margins of society, in the backward areas where the Chinese leadership was not focused [in the late 70s]. The leadership had a sort of laissez-faire attitude toward these marginal areas, letting those groups experiment as long as they didn’t adopt capitalist practices. [...]

In these four areas the Chinese government was willing to tolerate some experimentation, but no capitalism. But capitalism is what they got. These marginal groups continually overstepped the boundaries of what the Chinese government was willing to allow. Sometimes they went to jail. Sometimes the Chinese government later allowed the experiment to continue. This gave the central government a sort of “deniability” if things went wrong. They could say the innovations had been illegal, and shut them down.

People often praise the Chinese government for their “wise reforms.” Sorry, but these reforms were not implemented by the Chinese government, they were implemented by the Chinese people, at great personal risk. The government grudgingly OKed them much later.
I doesn't seem to me like much has changed. The big reason I am bearish on China is that all of their most vibrant enterprises operate in the grey market. It's too easy for the wrong guy to decide to respond to some new crisis by stomping out all that gray activity.

(The other reason is statistics. I don't trust our own bureaucracy to accurately gauge the health of the American economy. I trust the Greeks and Agentinians even less. And I still trust them to report accurate figures more than their Chinese counterparts.)

The Atlantic | Alexis Madrigal | On Obama's Reddit Appearance

I think this is spot on: this was standard politician pablum, just delivered via teh interwebz rather than in a VFW hall or middle school gym. Then again, I can not even conceive of a world in which Madrigal's analysis would not be correct, so maybe I'm not the best person to ask.

F*** Yeah, Internet Fridge

Yes. I have been promised this forever, but no one ever explained why I am supposed to want one.

In related matters: remember how people spent decades advertising home computers as a way for housewives to organize recipes? (I'm not the only one who remembers this, right? That was supposed to be a thing, I swear.) I still don't have a good digital recipe organization system. I've tried Evernote and a bunch of other stuff. None were satisfying. Any tips?

[Edited: for the record, I'm talking about software solutions here. I definitely don't want some dedicated kitchen device. I've tried Evernote, Springpad, and several other services, and none fit the bill.]

Rhymes with Cars and Girls | Sonic Charmer | ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policies Exist To Protect Bureaucrats, And Ridicule Is The Best Weapon Against Them

Zero tolerance ---> zero discretion ---> zero responsibility for "decision makers."

The Last Psychiatrist | Paul Ryan vs. Rage Against The Machine
I'm sure Rage is earnest in their core belief system, I do not dispute this, I do not claim they are sell outs at all, but you can't argue that you're part of the counterculture if you've been #8 on TRL in between Destiny's Child and Lou Vega's Mambo No. 5. You aren't the counterculture, you are the culture. [...]

Instead of condemning Paul Ryan for not being cool enough to get it, Tom Morello might want to ask how it is possible that "the embodiment of the machine we are raging against" ended up liking him. What was the precise mechanism that caused that to happen?

TED | Hans Rosling | The Magic Washing Machine

"Thank you, industrialization! Thank you, steel mill! Thank you, power station! Thank you, chemical processing industry that gave us time to read books!"
Hear, hear! I want to project this onto a blimp flying over the next WTO protest.

Political Calcualtions | Ironman | Beer as an Economic Indicator
What we've done here is charted the price of beer in Greece (blue), Italy (orange), Spain (red), Ireland (green), and Germany (black). Now this is an index chart; essentially the beer component of the CPI. We've set the index to start at 100 in 1996.
European Crisis explained in beer prices. It's the tastiest indicator.

E. Burger & M. Starburg | The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
Calculus may hold a world’s record for how far an idea can be pushed. Leibniz published the first article on calculus in 1684, an essay that was a mere 6 pages long. Newton and Leibniz would surely be astounded to learn that today’s introductory calculus textbook contains over 1,300 pages. A calculus textbook introduces two fundamental ideas, and the remaining 1,294 pages consists of examples, variations, and applications — all arising from following the consequences of just two fundamental idea.
That, in a nutshell, is why I think all serious students should take calculus. You don't get to flit from topic to topic. You've got to get neck deep in only two ideas for the entire course. If you get them, everything falls into place; if you don't, it doesn't. There's no faking your way through it, or bluffing, or waiting until the next unit. Calculus: grok or fail. Via John D Cook


  1. I still don't have a good digital recipe organization system.


    No, I am not kidding. I park my laptop on a convenient perch in the kitchen, refer to it as I cook.

    You also have music, twitter and facebook available, which the promised recipe computer would never deliver.

    I don't know how, but in a few years I fully expect the 'internet fridge' to show up as a website.

  2. Thanks for the tip. I'm registering now. This looks like just what I wanted.

  3. I just have a folder called "FOOD", and a subfolder called
    "Frequently used". All recipes are pdf files, and the names are long enough to understand/remember what they are. As Brian said, you also have music, radio, and research info available, if you need to know how many grams are in 1/2 cup of butter. I don't use a laptop for this - baking can be messy, but the computer is only 5 steps away.

  4. Allrecipes turned out to make it more difficult to add recipes I found on other sites than I want, unless I'm seriously missing something.

    I may have to try this PDF solution. I like having full ownership of my files, which this would give me.

  5. I go back and forth on saving my recipes. Currently I peruse foodgawker when looking for something new. I also book mark some of the food bloggers that have indexes of their recipes. Homesick Texan is a particular favorite. Her recipes are great.