December 20, 2009

current www search: information, capitalism, and noise

if you've tried searching online for commodities recently, then you've probably experienced the inefficiencies of this process.

indeed, companies are exploiting the common search indices to push their links to the top of the search, in so called content farms. even the alleged decision engines fail.

workarounds exist, such as restricting searches to "credible" sources and filtering advertisers, but is there a real solution?

December 06, 2009

the simply fascinating aspects of the jewish diaspora

So all is well in the Jewish community here because the Hasidic rabbi is helping the Montana cop speak Hebrew to his dog. It is good news all around. The officer keeps the Capitol safe, and the Hebrew pooch is feeling more at home hearing his native tongue.

But the big winner is the rabbi, a recent arrival from Brooklyn who is working hard (against tough odds) to bring his Lubavitch movement to Montana. He has been scouring the state for anyone who can speak Hebrew, and is elated to have found a German shepherd he can talk to.
nytimes story.

November 27, 2009

reading the reading

more and more scientific journals are beginning to provide lists of "most read" articles: pnas, nejm, cancer cell.

this addition is welcome, and in some ways, preferred over the highlights offered by journal editors, such as science magazine's editor's choice, even when they mention one's own article.

most read articles give a sense of the fashionable trends, important questions that may otherwise by obscured by the ongoing explosion of scientific publishing, and presumably even the fundamental problems, insofar as the latter are shared but not necessarily explicit.

November 06, 2009

on american airlines and so much more

it turns out that american airlines has adopted a branding and marketing approach that respectfully should be called misguided and honestly can be called stupid.

take a look at AA/women, AA/rainbow, and the enigmatically named BlackAtlas, which is described as the "passport to the black experience." when an AA web designer offered an explanation, he was promptly fired.

i would love to learn on what basis AA decided that their branding and marketing approach should be effective? and if there is some unexpected rationale, how they concluded that they should adopt it in such a ridiculous form?

personally, if looking for a divide between branding and customer experience, it has never been wider than at AA, which i dislike every time i have to fly them.

October 27, 2009

an epidemic of fear

why vaccinate?
Before smallpox was eradicated with a vaccine, it killed an estimated 500 million people. And just 60 years ago, polio paralyzed 16,000 Americans every year, while rubella caused birth defects and mental retardation in as many as 20,000 newborns.
piece in wired.

September 19, 2009

a new political organism, with paranoia as its animating principle

the "sort of lunatic paranoia-- touched with populism, nativism, racism, and anti-intellectualism" has indeed been on the rise lately: hendrik hertzberg's newyorker commentary.

September 09, 2009

on evolution

ben fry visualizes the evolution of darwin's on the origin of species along its 6 published editions from 1859 to 1872.

historically notable features are not necessarily ancestral as the "survival of the fittest" for example is not introduced until the 5th edition.

many of the evolved additions are responses to critics, and one wonders how such history is best assured with current scientific publishing, where online documents can be revised with loss of history, and printed articles are not addended.

August 13, 2009

what does baby asher make me eat?

natural flavor, propylene glycol, polysorbate 80, smoke flavoring, sodium phosphate, modified cornstarch, salt, sugar, erythorbic acid, sodium benzoate, garlic powder, ground celery, hydrolyzed soy protein, onion powder, paprika, chili pepper, molasses, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, tocopherols, caramel color, tartaric acid, extractives of tamarind, prune juice, cocoa powder processed with alkali, high fructose corn syryp, tomato, cooked pork spareribs. lloyd's bbq "in 10 minutes or less."

July 15, 2009

talks with asher

while asher and i have been talking for the past 15 minutes-- with the uu, aa, and ee, punctuated by strategically timed smiles and tactful shrieks-- i've been thinking about what exactly we are discussing.

like most of our conversations, and i mean that with other people also, the fundamental subject is neither explicit nor self evident. in this case, we started with uu, and have been returning to it frequently.

some parts have been particularly exciting, associated with bouncing. these may have been exclamatory.

others have been interrogative. usually, i respond promptly, even before asher finishes his exposition, to maintain the excitement.

on occasion, i've paused to contemplate a proper response. often, a smile signals approval, but sometimes there is quiet.

then we wait, and usually the conversation resumes exactly where it left off.

July 05, 2009

my love is bigger than a honda

nina blogs her love of our new jetta and the boss. i am a fan because of
  • blue dashboard lights
  • tiptronic
  • vents that don't blow in your face
  • gorilla gear
  • heated leather seats
  • esp
  • sat radio and ipod dock

June 18, 2009

wedding food

when nini and i got married at the brooklyn botanical gardens, we had some nice food, of which i remember eating some pate and a tiger shrimp.

here, nytimes readers sent in their wedding foods, some standard (deviled eggs), some banal (sparkling wine in cans), some exciting (whole roast pig), and some simply overthought: corn husk consumme with jalapeno spheres?

murder stats + database + internet = nytimes nyc homicide map

murder: new york city, accompanying nytimes story.

June 14, 2009

why i (don't) twitter

when twitter came to be, i had already been living away from nyc, where its dynamic updates would have been useful to keep up with friends moving about the city (much like the original dodgeball intended).

nonetheless, i liked twitter's simple interface, and most importantly, ability to access it using sms, at a time when my phone was just that, a phone.

so, i used it primarily as a notebook, keeping reminders and notes. my life and interests moved at a slower pace, and i recorded them elsewhere, in more detailed form.

now, my phone is more than a phone, and powers more sophisticated ways of keeping notes and reminders, which raises the question: why twitter?

doctors and the cost of health care

a nytimes editorial on the contribution of over testing and over treatment to the high costs of health care, similar to recent atul gawande's essay in the newyorker, which has become an unofficial ethnography on the subject, even referenced by obama.

what's omitted is that while costs scale with the number of tests and treatments performed without affecting outcomes on average, for some patients, the extra care translates into substantial benefits.

these patients comprise a small fraction of the overall population, but the benefits they reap should not be understated. likewise, in some cases, the extra tests and treatments are essential, playing important diagnostic and learning roles, particularly in academic medical centers, where patients may be referred to receive specialized care, and doctors are working in training.

one hopes that remedying the high costs associated with superfluous tests and treatments, doctors will remain free to make decisions in the best interests of individual patients, and not aggregate statistics.

June 11, 2009

the largest physician organization makes the biggest mistake of its history

the american medical association, whose self defined mission is to "to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health," has instead engaged in a long effort to do just the opposite, including its opposition of medicare in the 1960s. now it has started a lobbying campaign against a government proposal to expand health care coverage using a single payer system. story in nytimes.

health care is fundamentally about public risk sharing for the betterment of the care of the ill and those who may become ill. it is not about competition, choice, or market forces. the physicians for national health care program has been a long standing advocate of this view, and has developed a detailed proposal on how to achieve an efficient and effective (single payer) system.

May 30, 2009

May 24, 2009

paradoxes of human experience

there are many reasons why this photograph is telling, not the least of which is that the koran rests on a machine gun. the other is the iconography of the machine gun strap.

May 18, 2009

oral histories of israel

just time for a potentially momentous meeting between obama and netanyahu, fascinating oral video history projects about the founding of the state of israel, as told by the israelis and palestinians.

May 14, 2009

patenting genes

finally, the patentability of genes is about to be tested in court. this question has been controversial for several decades. yet, patents of genes continue to be granted and upheld without explicit descriptions of their use. paradoxically, these lax utility criteria do not apply to patents of proteins.

now, the aclu has filed suit arguing that patents of brca1 and brca2 genes, mutations of which are associated with breast and ovarian cancer, are unconstitutional. plaintiff statements, story in nytimes and the lede.

Picture Show: You Are What You Eat

April 27, 2009

end the university as we know it

an op-ed in nytimes to revamp the academia. the need certainly exists, and the motivation of the author is probably sincere, but the exact recommendations are largely polemic, and in part appear to be misguided. the commentary, on the other hand, is right on.

April 21, 2009


it's been several years since stephen wolfram published his new kind of science. my reaction to the work had been mixed. on one hand, it offered a clear dissemination of the computational implications of cellular automata.

on the other hand, it argued for a black box physical science, where rational understanding of the mechanisms and principles of the natural world is subsumed by heuristics. the fundamental problem is that these heuristics may or may not explain nature; they simply compute it. of course, such computability has its uses.

now, wolfram is about to release wolframalpha, a new kind of science based processing of the www (and all that it contains), accessed via a familiar one line query. this is of course very exciting and important.

the fundamental problem of new kind of science remains, and it will be fascinating to see the answers that wolframalpha will compute in terms of their relevance, accuracy, and rationality.

March 29, 2009

movie: duplicity

the great thing about duplicity is not its cast-- though seeing paul giamatti and tom wilkinson spit at each other in slow motion is a treat-- it's the effortless dance of genres, from spy thriller to comedy to romance and drama. see it!

March 22, 2009

tonight's dinner

  • wasabi goat cheese
  • beet roots with almond vinaigrette
  • eggplant, broiled with miso
  • duck, stuffed with rice, beans, chinese bacon and sage and roasted whole
  • purple potatoes roasted in duck fat
  • beet leaf and pea tendril salad
  • nina's chocolate mousse

March 01, 2009

on blogger

i do like blogger, but it could be so much more.

LIFE photo archive

LIFE archive is astounding. ny's fulton st in the 1880s. life in a ny tenement during the great depression, a couple of blocks from where i used to live. ny life not too long ago. and there are millions of others!

February 27, 2009

tonight's dinner

January 27, 2009

porky dreams

i've been obsessed. there was a week when i ate pork every day-- what a jew!-- and i've been cooking pork frequently, recently fueled by pork & sons.

now, a new discovery to make me squeal: cochon 555!

naturally, i have bought a ticket for its arrival in boston on april 5. perhaps there will even be the mysterious mangalitsa.

January 25, 2009

bizzarre hotel design 101: how would you feel if you returned to your room every night to find this?

the difference between old and new publishing media: Bill Bufford's Heat

call these as many distinctions as possible: analog and digital, produced and real, bourgeois and proletariat, central and distributed, controlled and liberated.

they all speak to the unanimously acknowledged transformation that is taking place in the ways that the world and its people receive, interact, and create information.

on the way from the yucatan, i read bill bullford's autographical book, initially excerpted in the new yorker, "heat: an amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta-maker, and apprentice to a dante-quoting butcher in tuscany." a simple pleasure in reading as are its numerous descriptions of monumental experiences and extraordinary recipes.

the new digital version of the newyorker contains all of its classic formats, but now with an advanced sensibility, including a new excerpt from bill buford consequent work on french cooking, specifically about "extreme chocolate: the quest for the perfect bean," available for the first time across platforms where readers may comment, question, disagree, or discover the next food movement.

though available to subscribers at no extra charge, the fee should be removed for selected pieces, if not entirely, in order to allow exactly the kind of international, intergenerational, and interaesthetic exchange that is the essence of bill bufford's heat.

January 13, 2009

the year in music

my music consumption has slowed significantly this past year, listening mostly to other people's streams at virus and kcrw.

for this reason, pitchfork's top 100 and hype machine's zeitgeist are godsends.

January 01, 2009

new year

people all around are making "new year's resolutions," and one naturally wonders why?

these days, answering such questions often begins with wikipedia, and indeed wikipedia describes a number of traditions associated with the turning of the annual calendar, including the feast of the circumcision of jesus, probably a commonly celebrated tradition no more.

in a typically american spirit, lists popular resolutions, but none of them come naturally to me, barring traveling, which is a luxury really. even if it were not, it's a kind of categorical imperative for me.

in a seemingly comprehensive but expectedly biased way, nytimes lists attention grabbing historic events of january 1, and though many of them are in fact monumental, somehow contemplating the future of the euro is not compelling today.

i know that this post is trying to be witty, and there is a limit to all good things.

i have no special resolutions, partly because i prefer daily as opposed to annual reflection, and partly because i grew up without new year's resolutions.

i am happy that nini is pregnant and that i am finally in a position to begin to work on what i want.

happy new year!