It’s about time…

…that somebody, Trout Unlimited in this case, called an auto manufacturer on those ceaseless TV ads of off-road vehicles crashing through forest, field, and stream, tearing up everything in sight.  After a week or so of seeing that crap on the tube, I’m surprised there’s an intact meadow, stream, or game trail left anywhere in North America.  Off-roading is a hobby that is incomprehensible to me.  Besides being an enormous money pit, it looks a lot like high-tech vandalism of nature.

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Need a 3-Way?

One of my techno-nerdy students got me hip to the Logitech Anywhere2 wireless mouse.  It can be linked with a dedicated USB device AND paired with Bluetooth-capable devices.

MXAnywhere2
It’s button #7 – switch devices!

So now my old Windows desktop computer, my Surface laptop, AND my old Surface tablet can be clicked with a single mouse.

mx-anywhere-2s-3-computers
Just like my desk, only less cluttered

How cool (and handy) is that?

KWIC, make me some hash!

IEEE Spectrum has a fascinating bio sketch of Hans Peter Luhn, inventor of the hashing and KWIC indexing algorithms.

HansPeterLuhn

This is Luhn’s legacy: He helped show that computers and computation weren’t just the province of mathematics, statistics, and logic but also of language, linguistics, and literature. In his day, this was a revolutionary way to think about machines.

Tip from the Geek Press.

Maybe NOT every job will be automated

Turns out there may be an upper limit to automating retail businesses.  When confronted with self-serve checkouts, many folks turn into thieves:

“There is NO MORAL ISSUE with stealing from a store that forces you to use self checkout, period. THEY ARE CHARGING YOU TO WORK AT THEIR STORE.”

It’s so pervasive that it’s not even called shoplifting any more; it’s “external shrinkage.”

TheBananaTrick

This is going to continue until retailers wise up to the idea that it’s cheaper to have a flesh-and-blood cashier ringing up–and collecting payment for–purchases, than it is to have the stuff just walk out the door.

Tip from the Geek Press.

The Fourier Transform, explained beautifully

At the Better Explained blog, Kalid Azad hits another home run with An Interactive Guide to the Fourier Transform.

Here’s a plain-English metaphor:

  • What does the Fourier Transform do? Given a smoothie, it finds the recipe.
  • How? Run the smoothie through filters to extract each ingredient.
  • Why? Recipes are easier to analyze, compare, and modify than the smoothie itself.
  • How do we get the smoothie back? Blend the ingredients.

Here’s the “math English” version of the above:

  • The Fourier Transform takes a time-based pattern, measures every possible cycle, and returns the overall “cycle recipe” (the amplitude, offset, & rotation speed for every cycle that was found).

smoothie-to-recipe

Tip from Kotke, who has a cool Fourier Transform video.

His Last Bow

The late Michael Crichton was a colossus among popular novelists, and spun off movies as quick as I make wisecracks:  The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Jurassic Park, etc.  He was also an insightful social commentator, with observations like his Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect.

Turns out he left a literary lagniappe in his papers, the historical western novel Dragon Teeth.  (Read the review for a skeptical take on posthumous novels.)

DragonTeeth

The Introduction:

As he appears in an early photograph, William Johnson is a handsome young man with a crooked smile and a naive grin.  A study in slouching indifference, he lounges against a Gothic building.  He is a tall fellow, but his height appears irrelevant to his presentation of himself.  The photograph is dated “New Haven, 1875,” and was apparently taken after he had left home to begin studies as an undergraduate at Yale College.

A later photograph, marked “Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1876,” shows Johnson quite differently.  His mouth is framed by a full mustache; his body is harder and enlarged by use; his jaw is set; he stands confidently with shoulders squared and feet wide–and ankle-deep in mud.  Clearly visible is a peculiar scar on his upper lip, which in later years he claimed was the result of an Indian attack.

It only gets better, as our hero gets embroiled in the famous Cope-Marsh dinosaur rivalry in a truly Wild West.   I found this one on the Barnes and Noble discount table, hardback cheaper than paperback.  Read it!