An Exotic Weekend of Interest to No One

•July 9, 2010 • 2 Comments

Earlier this week I found myself pondering a mysterious possibility:

Would it be possible to ride a camel, a llama and an elephant, all during the same weekend?

I mean a ride, not being led around a tiny ring with small children laughing and parents clutching them tighter while giving you odd stares. And let’s make it “local” to San Diego.

The answer turns out to be yes, but barely, and the most difficult animal to locate surprised me.

The plan.

Start midnight Friday with a 9 hour drive straight to Carson City, NV.

Arrive Carson City, NV. Breakfast, ride camel for two hours at the Nevada Camel Company. Turn around, and drive for 8 hours to Perris, CA.

Arrive Perris, CA. Dinner, now 9 pm. Sleep until 7 am. Breakfast. Ride elephant for two hours at Have Trunk Will Travel. Drive for 1.5 hours to Julian, CA.

Arrive Julian, CA. Lunch, now 2 pm. Ride llama for two hours at LeeLin Llama Treks. Drive for 1 hour back to San Diego. Celebratory dinner.

The hardest animal to locate for riding? Yes, it was the camel. Elephants are harder, and llamas are surprisingly easy


Manticorean Theory of Evolution

•January 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

One of my old crazy theories was that virus-like entities are an essential component of the evolution of species.  My reasoning behind this was in the style of the ancient Greeks, i.e. by sitting, thinking, but doing no actual empirical testing.

Using computers as an analogy, if a vector existed for the propagation of genetic material between species, the entire evolutionary process becomes massively paralleled.  This would allow for a much faster rate of evolution, as well as the possibility for the same genetic changes to occur among many members of the same species nearly simultaneously.  This would greatly increase the likelihood of permanent change.  So, from an entirely mathematical prospective, this would make the entire process far more robust.

I decided to call this the “Manticorean theory of evolution” for the obvious reason.

This would imply that our DNA should primarily consist of bits and pieces of ancient viruses, with a smaller amount reflecting persistent species-specific mutations.

I haven’t been following this area, but here’s a recent quote from “Viruses: The unsung heroes of evolution”:

It’s not just bacteria that are full of virus genes. Geneticists have discovered that the genomes of every living organism appear to be laden with the remains of ancient viral infections. In eukaryotes, the most complex domain of cellular life including humans, the main source of this DNA is retroviruses – RNA viruses that, after infecting a cell, convert their genome into DNA and integrate it into the host. Sometimes they become a permanent addition, called an endogenous retrovirus, or ERV.

ERVs have been known of since the 1970s, but the full extent of their infiltration did not become apparent until 2003, when genome sequencing revealed that our DNA is absolutely dripping with them. At least 8 per cent of the human genome consists of clearly-identifiable ERVs. Another 40 to 50 per cent looks suspiciously ERV-like, and much of the rest consists of DNA elements that multiply and spread in virus-like ways.  Taken together, virus-like genes represent a staggering 90 per cent of the human genome. ERVs have also been found in rodents, apes, monkeys, koalas – essentially everywhere geneticists look. “There is this continuous raining of viral genes into cellular genomes,” says Forterre.

Maybe not so crazy!

Piano Repertoire

•November 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I  believe this is the (rough) order of difficulty:

  1. PetzoldMinuet in G Major
  2. BeachGavotte
  3. StarerSilver and Gold (a 12-tone piece); Grey is also 12-tone, but I like this one better.
  4. BachTwo-part Invention, No. 1 (C Major)
  5. ChopinPrelude In A Major, Op. 28, No. 7

This will keep me busy for a while!

Genius and Stupidity

•October 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Lewis Terman’s (1907) dissertation is now available to freely read via Google Books.  His blunt use of the word “stupid” is quite shocking; some of it is unintentionally hilarious, and some of it is just terrible.

Consider this description of A (one of the “smart” boys):

A. Age, 10 years 2 months.  Weight, 63 lbs.  Healthy and without marked physical defects.  Of American parentage, son of a carpenter.  Has attended school 5 1/2 years and is in 6th grade.  His teacher describes him as poor in drawing, but good in all his other work, being specially apt in arithmetic, and delighting in the solution of complicated problems.  At school, also, he shows unusual inquisitiveness and desire for explanations.  In the tests he takes rather low rank in invention, very high in mathematics, and extremely low in physical dexterity.  His many automatisms are noted elsewhere.  His awkwardness is  well nigh indescribable.  Several times he fell off his chair while going through his numerous contortions.  Never acquired any dexterity with the cup and ball.  In the latter exercise he was not only unable to get the cup in proper position for catching the ball, but never even learned to control the force of the swing.  For two or three trials the ball was swung over his shoulder at full length of the string.  Then would follow two or three attempts about as much too weak, the ball not rising enough to permit the cup to be placed under it.  This same lack of motor control is seen in his inability to shoot marbles, to sing a simple tune, to learn to swim (though he tried almost every day during one summer), to learn complex movements with Indian clubs, or even to perform so apparently simple a feat as walking with a book balanced on the head.  He is of lively and sunny disposition, but a little mischievous and even headstrong at times. His expression is lively, his eyes have a happy twinkle, and he often talks jocosely to himself as he works.

Don’t feel too sorry for A, however, he rocked on the mathematics!

I don’t know if this has been noticed before, but it appears that one of the “stupid” boys, N, might be dyslexic.

N‘s reading:

For two weeks I tutored N daily one hour in reading.  His reading is by small units.  Phrases are apparently not thrown together into one mental content.  I made special effort to correct this fault, thinking it possibly only a matter of habit, but with little success.  In making the effort to read by larger wholes he miscalls and transposes very many words.  I had also little success in trying to get him to tone his voice down to conversational pitch and to modulate it more naturally.  Punctuation was little heeded.  He has a very marked habit of reversing the position of words in a phrase and of separate sounds in a word.  Very often he hits correctly on part of the sound of a word and fills in the rest incorrectly.  For example, as instead of so, saw instead of was, with instead of what, wistful instead of wise, icicles instead of ice crystals. Such errors are made in almost every line.  Careful re-examination showed no defect of vision.

N‘s description (note that G is one of the “smart” boys):

N. Age, 13 years 9 months.  Weight, 81 lbs.  Hearing only 1/2 normal.  Brother of G. In sixth grade, though he has attended school since the age of 4 years.  His teacher finds him the most stupid pupil she ever had.  Uniformly poor in all his studies.  Never read a book.  Says he can’t get the meaning.  Enjoys very much having his younger brother, G, read to him. G has read several books to him and N takes great interest in them.  Normal, if not super-normal, memory for stories heard.  His mother says he remembers better than G. In more than one respect N’s ability is puzzling.  He is almost totally unable to read or spell and yet he has a fairly fluent command of spoken language.  He also ranks outside his group in the ability to interpret fables.  Greater age may contribute to this result but will not account for it in full.  H, of nearly equal age, ranks 14 in the fable test.  According to his teacher, N is stubborn, high tempered, easily offended, and childish in his play.  My own observations confirm this.  He realizes that he is duller than other children.  The father, when trying to teach him, gets impatient and calls him a blockhead.  At this the boy goes to another room and cries.  Interests extensive enough, but shallow and lacking permanence.  He stands in interesting contrast with H or M. The latter belong to Kraepelin’s dull type of sub-normal mentality, while N is a good example of the lively type.  He has good facial expression and is handsome.  In movements he is rather awkward.  He is a confirmed bed-wetter.

Needless to say, ethical standards have improved since Terman was awarded his doctorate from Stanford in 1907.

INFORMS Talk (October 13, 2009)

•October 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This was the first time I’ve ever prepared a presentation pdf using the Beamer class for LaTeX.  Came out nice, and was very easy to do, too!

I covered:

  1. Some crazy ideas that I’d do if I were GM
  2. The distribution of runs in baseball – Steven Miller (Williams) and I are both working on “best” models
  3. Modeling head-to-head results in baseball – very much related to the previous topic
  4. I discussed some interesting amateur prospects, highlighting some of the difficulties faced in evaluations


INFORMS Talk (October 13, 2009)

Sudoku Lessons

•October 17, 2009 • 1 Comment

Are you constantly been harassed and beaten due to inadequate Sudoku skills?  Do you dread attending social functions because of the inevitable Sudoku competitions?   Embarrassed by being bested at Sudoku by small children?  Denied admission to Prestigious University because of a low score on the Sudoku portion of the SAT?  Suffering from Sudoku night terrors and Rubik’s Cube flashbacks?

Suffer no more!  Stop by and in less than two minutes I’ll show you a simple single-block strategy that’ll solve 90% of Sudoku puzzles directly, and the rest with a small amount of trial and error.  Beaten no more, the pursuing crowds will step back in awe when you boldly assert that Sudoku is too simple for your Vast Intellect.  Proudly register your brain at the local police station as a Deadly Sudoku Weapon.  After learning from the unofficial Sudoku advisor to Barack Obama, you’ll enjoy your new life as a lean, mean, number-filling machine!

Note: No fee, but there is a tip jar.

Babawande Onaolapo Olabisi is my Friend

•June 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

He’d like to be your friend, too!

Babawande Olabisi

Babawande Olabisi

We drafted Wande in the 30th round, and he’s already reported to our Arizona League (rookie) affiliate, the AZL Padres.

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