2-27-05 - 1


So, I've missed some more great obvious investments. In games, EA and Midway were both reasonably obvious investments, and they've gone up fantastically in the last 2 years (EA by 150%, Midway by 250%). I always have trouble buying on the way up, because I convince myself that the market has already put the valuation in for the things that I'm thinking of, but they haven't, and the stock continues to rise. I'm in the same quandry now - games is clearly a growing business, and EA and Midway continue to be two of the companies best suited to capitalize on that, but will the stock keep going up, or is it peaked? The other big general ones have been REIT's and energy. Looking back now, I obviously should have bought a lot of things when Bush got into office - energy, defense, Halliburton, anything in Saudi business, but clearly Oil is the big one, everything Bush has done has been very pro-oil business. Fortunately, I have succeeded in my mild bet against the dollar. I put a chunk of money in emerging markets, which have done ok in their own currency, but are doing very well against the dollar. As long as Mr. Bush continues to intentionally drive down the dollar, my foreign holdings keep going up. It's hard to buy into Oil and REIT's now. I think the price of oil is near the peak sustainable price, around $50/barrel. Presumably as Iraq gets opened up, production will resume there and some of the pressure will be reduced from the global market. Of course, if we invade Iran that will create a new crisis to drive the price up, and Saudi Arabia might collapse any day now, which would create a massive global oil crisis, which of course is very good for Exxon/Mobil. BTW, Exxon/Mobil is now the largest company in the world by market value, passing up General Electric, which I wrote about in the past. REIT's are hard to buy into because I believe we're due for a massive real estate crash any day now. Home prices have gone up ridiculously and many home-owners are heavily leveraged to buy into their properties; when the market resettles, there's going to be a massive amount of people defaulting on their mortgages. I've been trying to figure out how to bank on this - who will make out when this happens? Is it the lenders, the banks, the mortgage companies? They will suffer because they'll be selling fewer homes and not getting the mortgage income, but on the plus side they'll take over lots of property. Maybe my best move is to wait for the crash and then pounce and buy up real-estate and REIT's and such after the crash happens. There's something very depraved about looking at the horrible abuses of the world markets and thinking about how to capitalize on them.


2-24-05 - 3


Everything is funnier when you're drunk. Almost nothing is funny to me when I'm sober; it's just all very stupid and old-hat. Lately, I've been trying to watch "Mr. Show" because I always heard it was very innovative and great. I think on the comedy scale, it's pretty bad, like, in order for "Mr. Show" to be funny, I have to be so drunk that I'm right on the edge of blacking out.

2-24-05 - 2


There's a common test that's given to students in US schools. It goes something like this -
Step 1. Read all the instructions before proceeding.
Step 2. Take a piece of paper and fold in half, then in half again
Step 3. Cut off the four corners of the paper, at 45 degree angles, half an inch from the corner
etc. etc.
Step 10. Don't do any of the above steps
Step 11. Write the word "done" on your piece of paper.
Of course, I rushed straight through the steps, got to step 10, and went "oh fuck". The clever bastards make you do things like cut your paper so that you can't hide the fact that you rushed ahead. Looking back now, I realize this is a sort of fascist oppression of free thinkers - follow the rules! do the steps exactly as you're told! don't look ahead, just do each step as your told at each instant.

2-24-05 - 1


It's impossible to find a French-style "cafe creme" in America. I think a cafe creme is the peak of the delicious coffee experience.


2-22-05 - 2


"28 Days Later" sucks really bad. Do not watch it! There's nothing at all redeeming about it - the visuals suck (the digital video is just crappy), the acting is bad, the story is insultingly stupid, it's not at all thought provoking.

"Nine Queens" is ok. You riff-raff would probably love it, go watch it. The acting and direction is quite good. The story is rather frustrating. The twist is obvious pretty much from the beginning, and then it just becomes the story of how we get to the conclusion. That would be all well and good, but it's one of those stories where the actual task is very simple, but you keep getting problem after problem thrown in the way - you're so close to the end, then whoah another problem, over and over. It has no solid story arc that progresses. The dialog is good, the sets are good.

"Life is Sweet" is a solid movie. It's rather hard to watch, it doesn't really go anywhere, and the characters are quite annoying. On the plus side, the acting is strong, it's very realistic, it's not insulting, it doesn't have any big mood moments or silly twists, etc.

"We don't live here any more" is a great movie, I adore Mark Ruffalo, he's a fantastic actor, though that's almost spoiled for me now because when I see him I see Mark Ruffalo instead of the character. Laura Dern is just horrible.

"The Five Senses" is a great, great movie. I think I first saw it long ago, perhaps in Seattle, perhaps with Tiffiny? Or maybe it was alone. I remember the guy getting the late night massage; I thought he had AIDs, but now I see that's not in the movie? It's simple, there are some rather poor/cheesy characters, but overall it's beautiful. The Marie-Louise Parker character in particular is annoying, she seems to be trying to say sexy/shocking female things, but they don't come out that way, they're just awkward.

2-22-05 - 1


Consider a simple game. A value moves up and down, generally near zero, with a slow random walk. The player has two buttons - raise & lower - which push the value up and down. Your goal is to restore it to zero. If you hit the right button (to move it towards zero) you get a point, if you hit the wrong one, you lose a point. With one player, this game is quite trivial. Played networked, you have many players, all of them are playing on the same value. Now the game is quite complex. When the value moves, many people try to move it, and they generally severely over-compensate, so then the value swings the other way, and they try to push it back, etc. The movement of the value is now wild and chaotic. Also, by having everyone playing and not making a deal, they can only severely decrease their total score. In fact, the best possible score is acheived if everyone agrees to just let one best player play for them and split the points.


2-21-05 - 3


Quick, easy cassoulet : don't deal with the beans yourself, it's not even close to worth the time or effort. Buy canned ready to eat beans - canellini or whatever type you like; the best brands are Trader Joes or Progresso. Cook in 1 pan.

Preheat oven to 350. In a big stew pan, sear your meat to brown. Lots of types of meat are good here - chicken, duck, lamb, pork shoulder, etc. Generally choose the same cuts of meats you would use in a pot roast, something that will tenderize nicely with braising; rustic country cuts & flavors are good here, and using very lean cuts is okay. Generally you want to use at least 2 different types of meat, and some type of sausage. For example - duck sausage and pork shoulder - chicken thighs and lamb shank and pork sausage - etc. Work in batches, brown meat and remove to the side; be careful not to burn the brown bits on the bottom of the pan; salt and pepper of course; if the meat is at all fatty, no oil is needed at all. Add 1 diced yellow onion and cook slowly to brown slightly; add butter or oil if the pan is too dry. Deglaze the pan with liquid of your choice - white wine, beer, or stock are all fine. Now add the meat back in, add 1 quart of stock, and any root vegetables or aromatics - chopped carrot is nice, celery, turnip, garlic, pearl onions, etc - not too much though, this is about the meat and beans, not the veggies. Add bay leaves, thyme, and 1 dried red chili. If you want you can do a bouquet garni, but I usually don't bother - let people pick the herbs and stems out on the plate, it's fun. Put in the oven to simmer with the lid on for about an hour. After the hour, add the bits that don't need so much cooking. Now's when you add the beans, I also like to add some canned whole tomatos (diced) (again, Trader Joe's or Progresso). Cook for about another half hour. Take the lid off if you have a lot of liquid, leave it on if you don't. If you have too much liquid, pour some off and reduce it on the stove and then add it back. Serve with a sprinkle of parsely and toasted baguette. Note - bacon or similar fatty pork is delicious in this, but I try to avoid such poison; use it if you wish.

2-21-05 - 2


I hate that movies are all 2 hours now. It's too long for most movies; 1:30 is about right for a typical movie.

I feel like I'm repeating myself; I'm a record caught in a rut; I keep having the same ideas because I keep having the same stimulus. I need to be kicked.

2-21-05 - 1


Various web sites are accumulating rich databases about me. Those databases are non-transferrable and very valuable - both to them and to me. I like to shop for CD's at Insound and Epitonic, but I always buy at Amazon. I'd like to support those other sites - they're much better - but I need Amazon because it keeps the database of my purchases and reviews, and it gives me valuable recommendations from that. Free the data! Only I have the rights to the database of my own tastes!


2-20-05 - 2


Fondant is NOT edible.

2-20-05 - 1


Arroyo Hondo bridge. Andrew Murray. Opolo. Linne Calado. Zin Alley.


2-19-05 - 1


I'm sick of people who over-react to minor things. Everyone needs to chill.


2-15-05 - 1


A useful piece of software to have would be an engine that measures the difference between two images using an approximation of the Human Visual System (HVS). This would provide a better error metric for image compression and approximation than the typical PSNR - even PSNR in something like gamma-corrected Lab space is pretty worthless. You need to put in factors like edge detection, gradient and smooth area detection, etc. For example, let's say you have an image with values like - [ 1, 1, 1, 17, 1, 1, 1 ] ; it's far better to make that into [ 1, 1, 1, 27, 1, 1, 1 ] than to change it to [ 1, 3, 2, 17, 1, 3, 1 ] , even though the former has a lot more noise in the strict sense, the latter looks more wrong because it breaks up the "flat" feature that the eye is good at detecting.


2-13-05 - 4


The bastards at Wells Fargo have charged me their last ridiculous fee; my money shall be theirs no longer! Now I just have to find a decent bank to switch to. I already have an account I like at ING, but they don't offer ATM's and such. Looks like the American Express banking is pretty good. Here's a pretty good survey of online banks from PIRG - link

2-13-05 - 3


The new articles about the U.S. Government torturing people at Guantanamo are just an insult. Hey, it's another guy's story of abuse. Hey, we've been doing it for years and no one has done anything about it. We tortured people in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo. We've extradited immigrants to countries like Syria, Egypt and Pakistan, where they are then tortured. The New York Times makes me sick.

2-13-05 - 2


There's this ridiculous ideal of "carpe diem" - following your passion or whatever; in the trite dream fiction, the only thing holding you back is fear. In the real world, to chase that dream you usually have to give up something major that you can probably never get back. In the real world, lives are very short and opportunities are very few; if you walk away from something great, you'll probably never get it again.

2-13-05 - 1


I hate it when you ask a question and someone who doesn't really know much about it responds with some big trivial and semi-wrong tirade. It completely diverts attention from the original question and people start talking about this response, and you lose the opportunity to get any real valuable information.


2-10-05 - 3


I hate watching movies where the director is trying to make me feel a certain way, but I feel something else. I'm in the middle of despising some character, when the music swells with tear-jerking melodies trying to create sympathy for this jerk. The emotional disonnance is like a bad chord, nails on a chalkboard, but it's inside my own mind and it makes me want to stab an ice pick into my brain. I far prefer movies that just present a situation and characters and let you make your own judgement, that don't use cheap tricks to force the emotions in a certain direction.

2-10-05 - 2


The Qup� Syrah has started showing up in stores for $15/bottle - that's a fantastic deal and you should buy it up if you see it. I'm talking about the 2001 Qup� Syrah "Bien Nacido Vineyard" ; be a bit careful, the "Central Coast" Syrah is not very good, it's actually a blend; all of the single-vineyard syrahs from Qup� that I've had are excellent.

2-10-05 - 1


It occurs to me that most problems in programming happen when the coders act without asking questions. So many guys on my team get to bits of code that they don't really understand, and they don't ask any questions, they just try to fix it. While I applaud their initiative, this causes major problems that a few seconds of talking could have averted. Of course, this is not limitted to programming. Most of the world's problems come when determined people plug away at a problem they don't really understand and don't ask questions of the people who know more about the problem. Sometimes this also leads to breakthroughs, sometimes it takes a less informed eye to see what all the experts have been blind to. Why can't I make any rash statements without seeing the other side?


2-8-05 - 4


You can fill in the text for the following rants. Any more than the outline is a waste of bits.

Cheaters on the Social Contract.

Morality is what you do when noone's watching.

How you think you made up a song, then realize you heard it without knowing.

I have total disdain for rich people that shop in thrift stores and dress emo or punk, yet I am one of them.

2-8-05 - 3


Google is a spell checker. Try two spellings and Google will tell you which is more common on the internet. The interesting thing about this is that it's not a static dictionary, it's a living document that changes as spellings change. Unfortunately it has a bad positive feedback loop - if a misspelling gets into the system, it propagates.

2-8-05 - 2


I keep thinking there's a big opportunity for simple PC MMO Tamagotchi games where you can play with your little guy and feed him, he talks to you and plays and learns. There sort of are a lot of these games, though, and none of them really seem compelling to me. I would want my pet to be like a real pet or baby - it learns and responds to me; in the MMO setting it can also meet other peoples' pets and learn from them; you'd want some kind of nice AI model for the pet that can pick up interesting behavior. The key is that the user should be surprised and amused by the pet.

2-8-05 - 1


"Love me if you dare" is a great movie, but a horrible English title for the French movie "Jeux d'enfants". It's directed by Yann Samuell with a magical-realism style similar to Jean Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, Cite' des Enfants Perdues). The story in the end doesn't really go anywhere, and it jerks and lurches forward at an uneven pace, but the chawrm of the actors and the wit of the visuals and directing make up for it.


2-6-05 - 1


How to improve MetaCritic : (this is pretty trivial/standard statistical analysis stuff, so it's silly they don't do any of it). 1) discard outliers. The right way to do this is with a simple gaussian fit; any ratings outside twice the standard deviation are discarded, or whatever. The simple way is just to drop the top and bottom scores. 2) weight scores by quality. Different information sources have different qualities/confidences in [0,1]. So, a good source like GameSpot or IGN or whatever would have a confidence near 1.0 ; random fan sites and crap reviewers like Maxim with low quality would have almost no affect on the weighted average score. 3) renormalize scores to a standard scale. The meaning of "90%" varies a huge amount from source to source. They should be renormalized so that they're all roughly on the same scale. You can do this by scaling them all so that their average is around 50% and their standard deviation is roughly the same.


2-2-05 - 2


I don't think there's ever been a good female comedian, ever, not one. And don't say Janeane Garafolo, or Rita Rudner, you will just embarass yourself. If you search "female comedian" on Google, you don't find anything about "this person is so funny", all you find is "book these girls to balance your line up" or "females are really making strides in the industry". Why is this? Do balls you make you funny? Certainly, having floppy junk between your legs is funny, but it doesn't seem a necessary component. Maybe girls are just too happy; being fucked up and unhappy is certainly a requirement for being a good comedian. Also, there are girls like Ellen DeGeneres who were kind of funny (back before she got money; actually Roseanne was pretty funny before her sitcom), but they're funny compared to the terrible other girls, not actually funny compared to great stand-up (Richard Pryor, Stephen Wright, etc.).

2-2-05 - 1


Cool Hand Luke is a great old movie about an admirable man who's got some flaws and winds up in jail. When it was made, this was reasonably rare. Now, it's shockingly common, about 1 in 150 people are currently in jail. The incarceration conditions then look horrible, but they're far far worse now. And yet, there are no movies about it now, no articles, nothing. We turn our backs on the unfortunate, we don't want to be like them, we have no sympathy for them, we're better than them; we want to be one of the robber-barons, not one of the robbed.

old rants