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Movin On Jul. 23rd, 2008 @ 06:55 pm
Since I last posted, Melanie and I got engaged (the wedding is on May 24th, 2009 on a boat in Ft. Lauderdale), I decided to go to Columbia Law School (J.D. Class of 2011), and quit my job (yesterday was my last day).

I got the keys to my student housing at Columbia today and my apartment is about half the size of my current apartment in CT. Ouch. At least we're paying a lot less for it.

Working at Bridgewater (the hedgefund) was an awesome experience but I am very excited about starting law school. I know it's going to be really really tough (especially the first year!) but I've mentally prepared myself by reading a bunch of books about law school, how to succeed in law school, how much law school sucks, and how to do well on law school exams. Also, my fiancee made it very very clear how much law school can suck. Knowing all this, I think I'm ready for the challenge.

I move this Friday and I have class at 7:45 AM on Monday (not at Columbia, I signed up for a "Law Preview" course). My life is about to change enormously.

I should change my icon because I don't have a beard anymore.

Here I am with Melanie at Yellowstone National Park about a month ago:



And here is a bison right outside our car window:

Current Location: Norwalk, CT
Other entries
» Just checking in
Man it's been a while since I've been at livejournal (*edit* I meant livejournal -- I orignally wrote facebook). I'm looking at my friends page and I can't even remember who half the people are.

I'm living in CT now with my girlfriend of two years, Melanie:



We both work at Bridgewater Associates, a hedgefund in Westport CT. She's an attorney who works on contracts with our clients and I'm a "Technology Associate". Overall, I'm very glad I came to work at Bridgewater. I learned a lot about business (both finance and not finance related) -- especially how much I don't know about business. Melanie seems pretty happy with her work too.

I've been accepted to a some law schools (Columbia and NYU) and am still waiting to hear from a few more. I'm pretty excited about going -- I miss the academic life.

OK, I have to go organize my expenses so I can get my taxes done.
» An Update.
I'm done with my Master's degree in Computer Science. Woohoo!

I start working full time at Bridgewater on June 18th. I'm in Florida now chilling and I leave for Thailand with my girlfriend in two weeks.

Here are some things I would like to learn this summer:
  • Rails: a popular web framework that is powered by my favorite programming language, ruby
  • Scala: a strongly typed,  functional, object-oriented language with imperitive features and type inference that compiles down to the JVM
  • Lift: Scala's answer to rails
  • Boo: Like scala except for the .NET runtime and it looks more like ruby than scala. Also, it has some cool Macro capabiltiies that deal with ASTs
  • Basic Micro and Macro Economics

And I have a few coding projects that I want to get around to. Also, I have to apply to law school this summer. Fun stuff :)
» (No Subject)
A super hero's "blog" -- this is pretty amusing:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/194/Marshall-Jamrozik
» a new blog?
I'm thinking about starting a new blog devoted to logical fallacies in articles in the media. The purpose won't be to argue for or against points of view but just to point out bad lines of reasoning.

What do you think this blog should be called?

Here are a couple names I've thought of:

WigsMakeYouBald.com
(the logical fallacy of correlation vs. causation. Wearing wigs is correlated with being bald so therefore wigs make you bald)

BurnTheDuck.com
After the Monty Python skit where a woman is a witch because " If... she... weighs... the same as a duck,... she's made of wood...
And therefore?

A witch!"

And she does indeed weight the same as a duck

What are your suggestions?
» Logical Errors, Answer for Issue 1
(The question was here.)

The graph shows that "Our clients outperform the market 4 to 1". Under the graph the caption is "Helping make companies more valuable". The argument is that decisions and advice that Bain makes to a client improves that companies performance relative to the S&P 500.

The problem, as Elliott figured out, is one of causality. It might be the case that companies that outperform the S&P 500 are much more likely to employ Bain because of Bain's outrageous prices. That is, instead of Bain causing the increased performance, the increased performance causes the hiring of Bain.

The problem with this possibility is that knowing that companies who have been successful hire Bain doesn't tell you anything about how successful Bain is or what it is like to work there (except, perhaps, that they will be able to pay you a cushy salary to tell a successful company to "keep on keeping on").

If it still seems that this argument is effective, then it is purely on an emotional level. To convince yourself of this, imagine the following ad for Grinberg consultancy services:

"Grinberg consultancy services. We help underdogs; Our clients improve their performance 10 times."

Sounds cool, right? But this is exactly the opposite claim that Bain is making. Two opposite and incompatible claims are convincing. Ding ding ding! It's an emotional argument!

To recap, the problems are (A) cause vs. effect and (B) emotion vs. logic/facts
» Logical Errors, Answer for Issue 2
(Original question asked about errors in reasoning in this article in the WSJ).

Thanks to those of you who responded! Sorry for spamming you all but I get such a kick out of logical errors in mainstream media and advertising.

Please note that I'm not arguing for or against the author's main point. I'm merely pointing out places where certain implications are unsound.

Ok. The first argument that is fallacious is that higher salaries for teachers in urban areas and poor educational outcomes in those areas means that higher salaries don't cause better outcomes.

Here is this argument restructured in way that makes it obviously laughable:
Teachers in Singapore are payed astronomically less than teachers in the US and yet Singapore's students perform much better on Math tests than American students do. Clearly, increasing teacher salaries is not the way to improve our schools.

Here are several reasons why it's wrong:
(A) There are other differences between urban areas and non-urban areas besides teacher salaries that may account for the different educational outcomes. For example, I don't have the data in front of me, but you'll grant that it's extremely likely that the socio-economic status of children is lower in urban areas, which may reduce their academic performance for a variety of reasons. As Elliott puts it, " The fact that performance in the inner city schools is not as high as those in suburban schools has little to do with teachers' pay and much more to do with home environment, crime, drugs, violence, lack of resources, etc."

(B) Just like other professions, working conditions for teachers may be different in urban areas than in the 'burbs. Look at movies like Freedom Writers to know that it may be the case that working in urban schools is more dangerous and more demotivating than working in the 'burbs. For these reasons, the same salary in an urban school may not be able to attract the same quality teacher as it could in non-urban areas. In fact there are many reasons why it may be difficult to compare the power salaries have to attract quality teachers between urban and non-urban areas.

(C) Because there are many differences between urban and non-urban areas, it's not clear what the academic outcomes would be if the salaries payed in urban areas had been lower over the time surveyed. It's quite possible that had the salaries in the urban areas been lower then academic outcomes would have been even worse. This means that using the argument I described above to support the conclusion that we shouldn't pay teachers more to get better academic results in schools is (pardon my Yiddish) bupkis.

(D) Be wary of the word "average" in any argument. In metro NY (what does that mean? NYC?), "public school teachers make $45.79 per hour, 20% more than the average professional worker in that area." What if the reality is that elementary and middle school teachers make 90% less than professional workers whereas high school teachers make much more? Then the poor academic outcomes of students have little correlation to the high average pay of teachers. What if teachers in public magnet schools such as the Bronx High School of Science made so much more money than their peers in non-magnet schools that on average teachers made more money than other professionals? Then again, average teacher salary would have little to do with average student academic outcome (however that was defined) if the number of students in non-magnet schools is astronomically larger than those in magnet schools.

Note that a response to my comments here could be, "Yes, but all of these simply mean that money is distributed poorly. This isn't an argument for increasing teacher salaries!" That's absolutely true. But remember that I'm not trying to argue for or against the conclusion of the opinion article -- I'm just showing the fallacious reasoning employed.

Ok. The second argument that sucks is this: Although teachers work fewer hours than other professionals, they can work or spend time with their families in their time off. This time off is worth money. Therefore, "The appropriate way to compare earnings in this circumstance is to focus on hourly rates."

A few of you pointed out that this ignores the fact that many teachers work beyond their prescribed hours. Because of this, it may be the case that the calculated hourly rates for teachers are misleading.

The authors acknowledge this argument, although not in an entirely satisfying way:
"Educators sometimes object that hourly earnings calculations do not capture the additional hours they work outside of school, but this objection is not very compelling. First, the National Compensation Survey is designed to capture all hours actually worked. And teachers are hardly the only wage earners who take work home with them."

Leaving this point alone, the authors acknowledge that the economic value of teachers' time off "cannot simply be ignored" but then they simply go and do that! In essence they assume that teachers can make the same amount of money in their time off as they do in their work time. How many teachers work in their off months and how many are able to make the same amount of money as they are payed in the school system?

Furthermore, it's true that having time off is value that can't be ignored. It may be the case, however, that this time off is worth a lot less than the amount of money teachers could have been making if they had the same hourly salary rate working as other professionals. In other words, it may be the case that the same hourly rate is worth more to people in a job that provides steady year-round income than in a job that provides employment only for 10 months out of the year.


All that being said, I do agree with the authors that
"Evidence suggests that the way we pay teachers is more important than simply what they take home. Currently salaries are determined almost entirely by seniority--the number of years in the classroom--and the number of advanced degrees accumulated. Neither has much to do with student improvement."

This doesn't mean, however, that the amount we pay teachers is unimportant.
» Logical Errors, Issue 1
You get 10 points in my book if you can figure out what is wrong with this page:
http://www.bain.com/bainweb/home.asp

Just to clarify, the problem is with a certain message that the page is trying to convey.

It's not a technical problem with the graph or the layout of the text or the page or anything like that.
» Logical Errors, Issue 2
Last time I pointed out an interesting logical error, one of the responses I got was, "I know when a salesman is lying. When his lips are moving (or his web page is displayed)." However, errors in reasoning aren't limited to people trying to sell their services. They can be readily found in such places as the opinion pages of (gasp!) the Wall Street Journal.

$34.06 an Hour is an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal that argues

" The fact is that teachers are better paid than most other professionals. What matters is the way that we pay public school teachers, not the amount. The next time politicians call for tax increases to address the problem of terribly underpaid public school teachers, they might be reminded of these facts."

To support their conclusion they use the argument that "higher teacher pay seems to have no effect on raising student achievement. Metropolitan areas with higher teacher pay do not graduate a higher percentage of their students than areas with lower teacher pay."

And they give some specific examples:
"the urban areas with the highest teacher pay are famous for their abysmal outcomes. Metro Detroit leads the nation, paying its public school teachers, on average, $47.28 per hour. That's 61% more than the average white-collar worker in the Detroit area and 36% more than the average professional worker. In metro New York, public school teachers make $45.79 per hour, 20% more than the average professional worker in that area. And in Los Angeles teachers earn $44.03 per hour, 23% higher than other professionals in the area."

You get 10 points if you can point out the error in reasoning here.

Next, the article argues that looking at hourly rates for teachers is correct because

"teachers tend to work fewer hours per year, with breaks during the summer, winter and spring. But comparing earnings on an annual basis would be inappropriate when teachers work significantly fewer hours than do other workers. Teachers can use that time to be with family, to engage in activities that they enjoy, or to earn additional money from other employment. That time off is worth money and cannot simply be ignored when comparing earnings."

You get another 10 points by pointing out why this line of reasoning may not be correct.
» David Duke and the neo-nazis, skinheads, anti-semites, etc...
Check out this YouTube clip, which is a part of Wolf Blitzer's interview with David Duke, a white-supremacist and former KKK Imperial Wizard who attended Iran's Halocaust Conference (aka What Halocaust? Conference):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v2f-WC4cjo

Here's the scary part: check out the comments. All the neo-nazis come out to play...
» henry

henry
Originally uploaded by Rooby Dooby.
This is my dad. Gangsta Grinberg.

» Tony Vs. Paul
This stop motion video, called Tony vs. Paul is awesome! The music is great too. Check it out.
» SOS
Some of you know that my mom, Natasha Grinberg, is an author.

One of her short stories, S.O.S., just published in the Amarillo Bay literary journal.

Check it out here:
http://www.amarillobay.org/contents/grinberg-natasha/sos.htm

It's a super-interesting story about online bride shopping (e.g. http://bride.ru/ )

Check it out and let me know what you think!
» Promiscuity
Check out this interesting article in the BBC about a global sexual survey study.

This is the most striking thing:
"...factors such as poverty and mobility had more of a role in sexually transmitted infections than promiscuity had."

Also, surprisingly, people in developed nations are more sexually promiscuous than people in developing nations.

I'll venture a big guess that the difference has to do with knowledge about condoms, access to condoms, and base rates of STDs such as AIDS.
» America's Death as a Champion of Freedom and Rights
Habeas Corpus is for those god-damned terrorists! Why do you hate America so much!?

For example, that damn American journalist indefinitely detained in Iraq since April is probably a terrorist too.

If you had your way journalists would be blowing up America right now.

Give me security!
» Genetic Predisposition vs the Power of Suggestion.
Did you guys know that Livejournal readers are much better at reading arguments than those who read Blogspots?

I remember reading about research that showed that if you tell Black students, before they take a test, that they are genetically predisposed to being not as intelligent as white students, then they do worse on a test immediately afterwards than students not told anything.

Similarly, a new research study finds that telling girls that there is a genetic difference in math ability between men and woman had lower math scores than those told that men and woman are equal in math ability.

Furthermore:

"And women who heard there were differences caused by environment -- such as math teachers giving more attention to boys -- outperformed those who were simply reminded they were females.

The women who did better in the tests got nearly twice as many right answers as those in the other groups, explained Steven J. Heine, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Expectations, it turns out, really do make a difference.

'The findings suggest that people tend to accept genetic explanations as if they're more powerful or irrevocable, which can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies,' said Heine."

My take home message? Don't introduce your daughter to research that says that men are genetically predisposed to do better than women in x before your daughter is accepted to Yale and knows she's hot, smart shit -- even if the research may be correct.


>Did you guys know that Livejournal readers are much better at reading arguments than those who read Blogspots?
Haha - just kidding.
» Weird Al v Eminem
Haha - This is hilarious. It's Weird Al "interviewing" Eminem. Check it out.
» Ugly Americans
Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite? Is Iran a Sunni or Shia government? What is Al Qaeda?

Something about religious differences and the Virgin Mary being the mother of god. Wait that's not it...

Well, it turns out that we're not the only ones who have no clue. Many of the people in charge of our security, our "war on terror" (aka Mission 1984), and war in Iraq have no idea either.

We've lost so many wars and battles because we haven't understood our enemy (Vietnam, anyone?).


We're still the Ugly Americans.
» (No Subject)
"Genius is 3% inspiration and 97% not wasting time on the internet."
--My housemate, Joe
(or something to that effect).
» Sapitty Sap
This is the sappiest and cutest video ever. I definitely teared up at the end.

Thanks, Lauren.
» Netflix for books exists!
It turns out that I'm not the only one with the "netflix for books idea".

Booksfree.com is the closest thing to Netflix. You pay a montly membership, can get some number of books in the mail at one time, can mail them back for free, and set up a queue of books that you are interested in.

Here are some other interesting sites:
PaperBackSwap.com and http://americasbookshelf.com

Both of these are book swap clubs. You list books that you wouldn't mind getting rid of and you get credits for them when someone wants them. americasbookshelf is $12 per month plus shipping for books and paperbackswap is free plus shipping for books.

EDIT: Here's another one:
http://www.bookins.com/
» (No Subject)
Someone make a netflix for books, please.
» MousePrint
Check out this website:
http://www.mouseprint.org/

It talks about the small print that advertisers don't really want you to see. "No commissions!"*


* For accounts with 30 billion dollars or more
» Nigerian Scammer
I lay awake all night thinking about what exciting scamming tactics await me today. I watched "A History of Violence" yesterday, so I also dreamed of random Nigerian people showing up beside my bed and shooting me.

Anyway, I was relieved when the scam finally hit. It came in the form of a fake "payed" email from paypal. Note that the links are all legit and they actually go to paypal. However, when I go to paypal, there is no payment. Second, the email came from online_accountnotifier@consultant.com.

Here is the Fake HTML email that came:

PayPal
Protect Your Account Info
Make sure you never provide your password to fraudulent websites.

To safely and securely access the PayPal website or your account, open a new web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer or Netscape) and type in the PayPal URL (https://www.paypal.com/row/) to be sure you are on the real PayPal site.

PayPal will never ask you to enter your password in an email.

For more information on protecting yourself from fraud, please review our Security Tips at https://www.paypal.com/row/security tips
Protect Your Password
You should never give your PayPal password to anyone, including PayPal employees.
You've got new funds!

Dear Reuben Grinberg,

Kathrine Brown just sent you money with PayPal.

Kathrine Brown is a Verified buyer.

Payment Details
Amount:$1,525.00USD
Transaction ID:5Y758872CS5622206
Subject:

Pls get the item shipped

 

Note:

 

You have been paid for (one)
Powerbook G4 12" 867Mhz, 640Mb, DVD/CD-R (260030402150)


Shipping Information
Address:
AKINTAYO LAWRENCE
SW9/379,ALATISE ,ODO-ONA,
IBADAN
OYO-STATE
NIGERIA
23402
 
Address Status:Confirmed

This PayPal payment has been deducted from the buyer's account and has
been "APPROVED"but will not be credited to your account until the shipment reference/tracking
number is sent to us for shipment verification so as to secure both the buyer and the
seller. Below are the necessary information requested before your account will be credited. Send tracking number to us or email us through this mail online_accountnotifier@consultant.com and our customer service care will attend to you. As soon as you send us the shipment's tracking number to us for security purposes and the safety of the buyer and the seller,the money will be credited to your account.
                                                 **PLEASE NOTE**
Once shipment has been verified and the tracking number sent to us,
You will receive a "CONFIRMATION Email" from PayPal=AE informing you that the Money has been credited
Thank you for using PayPal!
The PayPal Team

PayPal Email ID PP274.

» 419 Scammers
Nigerian scammers are trying to take my Powerbook.

This woman bid like twice as much as the thing is worth.

So I sent her this message:
I will only ship to the US. Since you are from Nigeria, I will only accept money through paypal for this item. If you do not plan to follow through let me know as soon as possible.

Here is the first email she sent me:

Hello there,
I'm so happy to be the winning bidder of this great item as per sake i won it for my Grandson who is sales manager to Ez Limited in Nigeria ,So pls and pls let it be in good condition and pack it as well safe and i will be paying you via paypal,so just to know the address of my husband and his name.i will prefer Global Express Mail USPS to ship it and here is his address below,

Name:Akintayo Lawrence
Address:sw9/379 Alatise Street Odo Ona
City:Ibadan
State:Oyo-State
Zip:23402
Country:Nigeria.

So that is his address overthere,promised you a nice feed back will leave for you and as well you will do for me.
Have a nice day and happy transaction.
Hope to read from you soon.
Best Regard,
Kathrine Brown.


I responded:
As stated in the auction, I will not ship outside the US. Feel free to organize something with friends in the US who will forward it to you.

Please give me a US address and pay me via paypal by Monday (tomorrow) 6:00pm USA Central Time (about 24 hours from now). If these things are not done, unfortunately, I must cancel your bid and the give the computer to the next highest bidder.

If you will not be able to arrange paypal payment and a US address for me to ship to, please let me know as soon as possible.


She wrote back:
But i'm buyin this to my stored in african as it was needed over there and i will pay for the shipping and insurance. Thanks.

I wrote:
As I stated before, I will only ship to the US. You must understand that I'm doing this to protect myself.

In the auction I stated that I will only ship to the US. If you will not be able to give me a US address to ship to in addition to payment via paypal, please let me know as soon as possible so I can sell this to someone who read the conditions of the auction more closely.


Her:
Ok i will send you the address later,i mean the US address.
Thanks.


I know to look out for the standard things like fake emails from Paypal and fake, defunct escrow services.

Wikipedia says I should also be worried about this: "PayPal's Seller Protection policies do not cover intangible goods or goods that are "not as described". Many scammers have used this lack of policy to their advantage. They will buy a product and pay for it via PayPal. When the product is received, they will dispute the charge as "not as described." This freezes the seller's account until the dispute is finalized. After the freeze, PayPal is unlikely to gain back the funds, thus leaving a negative balance to the seller"

Also, I know I shouldn't send anything until the payment actually clears (which can take several days AFTER the person sends the money to paypal).

Is there anything else I should be aware of?
» (No Subject)
One way of asserting your rights when you are pulled over (although this certainly won't ingratiate you with the officer!)
» NeoOffice for OS X
If you use a Mac and you have a newer system, you should check out NeoOffice, which is a cocoa port of OpenOffice 2 to OS X. It includes a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation program, and other apps, all of which can open their Microsoft Office counterparts.

On my machine it looks great, runs fast, and has opened Office documents perfectly.

I used this thing about a year ago and wasn't impressed. But the newest version is much improved. The one drawback is that it definitely takes longer to open than Microsoft Office apps. It takes about 9 seconds for NeoOffice to open on my machine vs. about 3-4 seconds for Microsoft Word. After start up, though, there is no noticeable speed difference.

For example, once the office suite is open, making a new text document or opening a word document takes about the same amount on Neo Office as it does on Microsoft Word.

Of course, the speed might be because of my 2 Gz Intel Core Duo laptop...

Did I mention that this is free?


» law, codified, as a wiki
A while back I blogged about an idea of literally codified law -- laws written up as computer programs or sets of rules.

I wrote:
"There are a number of benefits of recording law this way. First, it becomes an unambiguous teaching tool. Second, it makes the outcome of law cases much more certain (and certainty in intellectual property cases is a very good thing for everyone). In addition, it allows lay persons to quickly understand certain parts of the law."

Well, it turns out that I'm not the only person with this idea! Check out this website, lawunderground.org. It lets lawyers and law students enter rules or laws that are used to help laypeople understand certain parts of the law.

The website has some of the characteristics of the system that I described -- it is meant to be a resource for laypeople and it is wiki like because rules can be entered by basically anyone. It still has some distance to go to be a teaching tool. In addition, it would be great if this website allowed people to codify test cases.

I think I might get in contact with the people behind this project to see if I can help in some way.

BTW, I found the website through BoingBoing here.
» Mac toys, Devotchka Illuminated by Sunshine
I got my Macbook Pro 15" and 23" monitor a couple days ago. Yay toys! The monitor is absolutely ridonculous -- it dwarfs the TV I bought last year.

My old Powerbook is now up on Ebay.

Some roomates, my girlfriend, and I watched Everything is Illuminated, a beautifully shot film (of course, the movie isn't as good as the book) on the monitor -- amazing!

I was somewhat disappointed because in the trailers for Everything is Illuminated there was this haunting song with the lyrics "You already know how this ends" -- and I didn't hear it in the movie!

Strangely enough, I did hear the music (but not the lyrics) when I saw Little Miss Sunshine. It turns out that the song is "How It Ends" by Devotchka and that the soundtrack to Little Miss Sunshine is almost all by Devotchka. Go listen to the song by searching for "how it ends" at Blog Musick, an awesome website that lets you listen to music for free.

Little Miss Sunshine, by the way, is the funniest movie I've seen in more than a year. I was laughing so hard that some people in the theater started laughing at my laugh, I think. Go see it if you haven't yet!
» Summer at Bridgewater
Sorry to all you LJ buddies who I've been neglecting for the past three months. Basically, I took a hiatus and haven't read or posted anything at all. I'll try to be more in the loop now.

This is going to be a me me me post, so feel free to skip.

My job this summer at Bridgewater, the hedgefund, went really really well. My first important project was a distributed computing project; the second was constraint satisfaction/optimization. On my second project, I ported a program from VB to C#, refactored, and fixed the code a lot and now it runs about 10x faster (one account used to take about two minutes and now it takes 15 seconds).

In addition to the projects being interesting, the atmosphere is awesome. It's very meritocratic. For example, I had a code review and the reviewer, who is the official guru for our group, told me that I should do this, this, and this. And then we argued about it for 2 hours and I ended up convincing him that my way was right. Here's a long explanation of the culture aspect.

Several weeks ago, they offered me a job (after taking me sailing and out for an amazing dinner). My original plan was to apply to google and several other places with the mindset that I'd probably end up working for Bridgewater anyway. Well, the guys at Bridgewater in charge of wooing me had some very convincing arguments. Altogether, the package was impossible to refuse. So I accepted the job.

So I've got one more year of grad school at UT (which I'm super excited about, btw) and then Bridgewater for at least a year.

I was originally planning on applying to law school now and then deferring for a year. The problem is that I don't want to be in a position where I get into a great law school and then that school doesn't let me defer and then I either have to turn down an amazing law school or I have to break my contract with Bridgewater somehow. So, instead, I'm going to apply next year.

In the mean time, I'm going to try to get as many smart CS people to come to Bridgewater as I can.
» Just as coherent, too!
The BBC recently had a segment where they wanted to interview an expert on internet piracy or some such thing. Unfortunately, instead of grabbing Guy Kewney, they grabbed Guy Goma, who was applying for a high level IT job with the BBC. He thinks he is about to be interviewed for a job when he realizes that he has been mistaken for someone else. Watch the video.

It's amazing.
» Finished with finals!
I'm all done with my work and my finals. The past month was intense. I'm actually more stressed now, though. I have a deposit from someone who will be subletting my apartment, and I put down a deposit for a 5 person house with 4 friends from the CS department. It's much bigger than my current apartment, and there's lots of space, so I'm very excited about that.

Grey's Anatomy yesterday? Fucking crazy! I can't wait until tonight's episode.

I'm gonna be up in New Haven probably Saturday night. I was talking to a woman from Bridgewater, the firm I'll be working at this summer, and we were discussing some of the details. She told me that they usually start at 9:00 so I asked her, "so is it 9 to 5 or 9 to 6". She was like, "uh, well, your boss will discuss that with you." Translation: 9 to 9. I guess that won't be so different from last summer. :/
» (No Subject)
This bill, jointly proposed by Lieberman (D-CT) and Coryn (R-TX), would require all scientists to publish their papers for free on the internet a certain amount of time after they are published in journals.

This is a very important bill and I hope it gets passed.
» E-fire-macs and one more down
I just found a page that showed me how to get emacs keybindings in Firefox, resulting in something I like to call E-Fire-macs. Unfortunately, it seems that it's not working for text areas like here on LJ but does work for forms (like the google search input thing). Hmm. Sucky Sucky.

EDIT: Just got it working. Turns out I forgot to change bindings from the apple key to the control key.

In other news, I just finished and handed in my third and last problem set for distributed computing, which means I have only a project paper and an exam left between me and the summer.

Here is a breakdown of the work I've had to do for my different classes:
Intellectual Property:
One 8 hour take home exam

Intelligent Robotics
two 45 minute presentations
one final project

Distributed Computing:
three projects
three problem sets
one paper review
weekly paper responses
final exam.

Notice any differences among the workload for my classes?
» Law exam -> done
I took an 8 hour Law exam today on Intellectual Property. Awesome. I've never been more productive in my life. 16 pages in 8 hours.

I feel good about it. The second question that I answered was about discussing three differences between copyrights and patents and whether the two should be harmonized in those areas. I had fun answering that question. After an hour, I realized that I had used all my space to discuss only one of the differences. Oh crap! It only took me five minutes to cut it down though, removing all the bullshit and leaving the important parts. Sweet.


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Melanie and I saw Inside Man just now. Very cool movie. Spike Lee directed it and today I cited a case involving him: Aalmuhammed v. Lee, where the definition of an "author" for purposes copyright was nailed down.

I love Melanie so much. Awesome.

Now all I have left is: a problem set and exam in distributed computing, and a project in robotics. I already have all my results for the robotics project, so I just have to write those up. Hopefully that won't take me more than a day.

I'm leaving for New Haven on the 17th or 18th - woohooo!
» Yes, you are.
Sorry, neveryou, you'll have to do more to convince me.
» The Slow Fox Quickened
I've been getting really frustrated with Firefox recently because every time I click on a link to download a file, Firefox would lock up for like 20 seconds. So annoying.

I did some googling and some webpage suggested I clear the download history.

This worked like a charm. The downloaded file opens up immediately. Awesome!

My Intellectual Property exam is in 2 days, so I'm studying like crazy.

Ideas for the future:
RubyLaw / PythonLaw / or CodeLaw
The way most law is described is super confusing and unclear. Why? Because we are using a natural language, English, which are all notoriously ambiguous. If they weren't ambiguous, then they'd be easy to parse; parsing natural language is, however, a very difficult problem. In most areas of law, we are trying to explain something precise (logic) with something ambiguous, Natural Language. Why not use something that is precise to describe it instead?

if (copyright infringement):
return 'No Liability' if Fair Use.

Obviously, law isn't always precise and often court cases change the law significantly. All this means is that we leave certain terms up to the user of the code. For example, a program with simple logic like this isn't going to be able to tell you if a piece of allegedly infringing work is criticizing a copyrighted work for the purposes of classifying it as a parody (which is exempt from Copyright Infringement because it is Fair Use). So you ask the user that question. The input determines the program execution.

There are a number of benefits of recording law this way. First, it becomes an unambiguous teaching tool. Second, it makes the outcome of law cases much more certain (and certainty in intellectual property cases is a very good thing for everyone). In addition, it allows lay persons to quickly understand certain parts of the law.

Of course, the 'code' will be up on a wiki and the test cases for the code already exist: existing intellectual property cases. Any changes to the code will have to make sure that running the code on all IP Case law that have precedence leads to the same conclusions. Obviously, it may be difficult in practice to get 100% test passage. However, it may show very easily which cases were poorly decided.

Are you wondering whether you should appeal your IP case? Feed the facts into the program and see what it finds. I'll think more about this after I'm all done with my work...

Automatic / Implied Constructors:
If I write the following, what does it mean?
(Grokster, 2005, Supreme Court)

Obviously, it's a reference to a case decided in the Supreme Court. So why does a programming langauge force me to write:
CourtCase.new("Grokster", 2005, Supreme Court)

Anyway, somebody probably already explored this idea (and probably in LISP) like 20 years ago. I'll think about it more after the LSAT.
» Programming
I've been using Ruby for the past month and a half or so and I love it!

Back when I was only drinking the Java kool-aid, I measured my progress and success in SLOC (source lines of code). Now in Ruby, I measure my sucess by how long I can go without increasing the number of lines of code. I do this by reducing some function to one line of code at the same time of adding some code.

Here is an example of achieved Ruby zen:
class Array    
    # removes runs of the same element
    def squeeze

        inject([]) { |arr, v| arr << v if v!=arr.last || arr.empty?; arr }
    end

end


What does this do? The same thing as the Unix uniq command - it reduces runs of an element in an array to one element. So [1,1,1,1].squeeze becomes [1]. [1,1,1,1,2,2,2,2,1,1,1].squeeze becomes [1,2,1]. I wrote this because the Array.uniq command in Ruby actually makes sure that all elements in the array are unique, so [1,1,1,2,2,2,1,1,1].uniq returns [1,2].

What the hell is Inject?

Look at this piece of Ruby code:
a = [1,2,3,4]

sum = 0
for v in a
    sum += v
end
return sum


Simple, right? It takes the sum of the elements in a (which happens to be 10) and then returns it.

Here's the inject way:
a.inject(0) { |sum, v| sum+v }


Woah. Basically, inject calls the block for each element in a and assigns it to the variable v. Whatever the block returned the first time around is put into sum.
Let's unroll it:
The first time the block is called, it looks like this:
{ |0, 1| 0+1 } (the first zero comes from the argument passed to inject)

Now the result of the block (0+1) is passed as the first argument the next time the block is called. 0+1 = 1, so the first argument is 1. The second argument is the second element in Array, which happens to be 2.

{ |1, 2| 1+2 }
{ |3, 3| 3+3 }
{ |6, 4| 6+4 }
Now, 6+4 is the value returned from the whole statement. Make sense?

Here's another example:
a = ["My", "name", "is", "bob"]
a.inject { |string, e| string + " " + e }


What do you think the result of that is? If you guessed "My name is bob", then you're correct!

(Note that this example shows that you can omit the parameter to inject and it will use the first element in the array as the first summing element. So, above, I could have called a.inject { |sum, v| sum+v } and it would have worked too.)

Let's see that same code in Java:
class MyArray extends Vector {
    /**** Iterative Version *****/

    public MyArray squeeze() {
        MyArray v = new MyArray();        
        
        for (int i = 0; i < size(); i++)
            if (v.size() < 1 || v.lastElement != get(i))
                v.add(get(i));        
        return v;
    }
    
    
    /**** Recursive Version **********/
    public MyArray squeeze2() { squeezeInject(new MyArray(), 0); }
    
    public MyArray squeezeInject(v, i) {
        if (i >= size())
            return v;
            
        if (v.size() < 1 || v.lastElement != get(i))
            v.add(i);
            
        return squeezeInject(v, i+1);
    }

}


Java adherents, come from the dark side and see the light, my friends!

Notice also that in Ruby I can add features to the built in Array type just by saying "class Array". In Java, I can't modify classes dynamically like that, so I have to create a subclass and remember to use MyArray everywhere instead of Vector. Ugh.


This summer I'm going to have to use C#. Bummer. Maybe I can convince my boss to let me use IronPython (Python for .NET) or Boo (a dynamic ruby/python/groovy clone for .Net). Unfortunately, it seems that there is no mature Ruby implementation for .NET yet.
» Cato vs. DMCA
The Cato Institute, a libertarian, non-partisan think tank has published a report criticizing the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act).

The DMCA essentially makes it illegal to circumvent technological restrictions on accessing intellectual property (e.g. preventing copying by using Digital Rights Management (DRM) such as Apple's FairPlay).

Here is part of the Executive Summary:
The result has been a legal regime that reduces options and competition in how consumers enjoy media and entertainment. Today, the copyright industry is exerting increasing control over playback devices, cable media offerings, and even Internet streaming. Some firms have used the DMCA to thwart competition by preventing research and reverse engineering. Others have brought the weight of criminal sanctions to bear against critics, competitors, and researchers.

The DMCA is anti-competitive. It gives copyright holders—and the technology companies that distribute their content—the legal power to create closed technology platforms and exclude competitors from interoperating with them. Worst of all, DRM technologies are clumsy and ineffective; they inconvenience legitimate users but do little to stop pirates.

» Black Men, in trouble.
The NY Times has a story with a sobering look at the racial divide in the United States. Thought that things were getting better for all minorities? Think again.


"In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000."


"In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school."


Clearly, lots needs to be done about this on a number of fronts.
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