Didn’t I mention that we saw Adam West in yesterday’s parade?

Klingon biker, etc.


I adventured against type today, and attended the Dragon*Con 2008 parade downtown. What a terrific amount of joy and ingenuity we saw from our perch on a decorative architectural ledge! I loved these box costumes! I often find more-with-less is inspiring.

One costume element I found icky-gross: a woman’s mask made from a cow pelvis (I think; it was certainly real bone).

Celebrity sightings: we saw Adam West in a Batmobile talking on a red batphone (or faking same) and waving to the crowd. James, while attending his comics vending table, saw Kevin Sorbo.

Morphological similarities?


Yes, I know this is dill….

On more than one occasion, I have thought that Mark Bittman has made an astute observation about food and flavors and cooking.

I don’t get this, though. He says “at a quick glance” lavender and rosemary “resemble each other”.

NOT! (says The Botanist’s daughter…)



This is as close as I could get to a picture of a glass ceiling….

McCain charged so very many times that Obama doesn’t have the experience to be Pres, and then he chooses someone who he is essentially saying IS qualified to be Pres who has EVEN LESS experience. I just DO NOT understand the logic.

Does your petabyte?


Under the hands of exquisite craftsmen, our shower is returning….

New vocab: petabyte. Abbrevation is PB (no J). I thought a terabyte was immense, but a petabyte is 1K terabytes. This tacks onto a scale that starts with a bit, and 8 bits make a byte. Etc. Here’s a great explanation from Wikipedia, and you can see that there are named orders of magnitude MUCH larger than the petabyte.

Access to petabytes of data means analysis must take a different form to accomodate the sheer quantities of information. Writes Chris Anderson in Wired earlier this summer:

At the petabyte scale, information is not a matter of simple three- and four-dimensional taxonomy and order but of dimensionally agnostic statistics. It calls for an entirely different approach, one that requires us to lose the tether of data as something that can be visualized in its totality. It forces us to view data mathematically first and establish a context for it later.

So, here’s how this ramifies into science and the realm of academia:

The scientific method is built around testable hypotheses. These models, for the most part, are systems visualized in the minds of scientists. The models are then tested, and experiments confirm or falsify theoretical models of how the world works. This is the way science has worked for hundreds of years.

Scientists are trained to recognize that correlation is not causation, that no conclusions should be drawn simply on the basis of correlation between X and Y (it could just be a coincidence). Instead, you must understand the underlying mechanisms that connect the two. Once you have a model, you can connect the data sets with confidence. Data without a model is just noise.

But faced with massive data, this approach to science—hypothesize, model, test—is becoming obsolete.

So, this is the paradigm shift Anderson envisions:

There is now a better way. Petabytes allow us to say: “Correlation is enough.” We can stop looking for models. We can analyze the data without hypotheses about what it might show. We can throw the numbers into the biggest computing clusters the world has ever seen and let statistical algorithms find patterns where science cannot.

In other words, we used to employ models because data were lacking or we only had samples. Now, Anderson, says, we actually have closer to the universe of data, hence there no longer is a need for a model to guestimate the gaps.

I confess, I’m still trying to figure out how I might operationalize this (or archaeologists who are smarter than me might)…. Ideas?

Equipment anomaly


You may think the most ubiquitous ancillary equipment used by Hispanic workmen in this area is the boombox (shown here).

You’d be wrong.

It’s a microwave. For lunch. No kidding.

For shame!


You idiots*!

Buying stuff from spam**!


* …in the sense that Ben Stiller would use the word in a script….

** “…a study out this month indicates that nearly 30 percent of Internet users confessed to purchasing something from spam e-mail.” Says the Wash Post today.

Versailles investigation


You don’t suppose there’s one of these tucked in the garden somewhere, do you?

You’d think that a famous hunk of built environment like the Château de Versailles would have a well-documented architectural history. But, no.

Apparently the existing buildings supplanted an earlier Louis XIII structure described as a hunting lodge, of which we have limited knowledge.

Luckily, archaeologists recently got a peek under the paving of the Royal Courtyard next to the main building before construction of an underground service area.

They were only able to open a narrow trench, yet still found a sunken roadway, an arc of a foundation of a modest circular tower, linear wall foundations, and a later basin (to water horses? for a fountain? I couldn’t tell from this report). Maps and pictures here.

Once again, archaeology tells us more than history!

Wise or paranoid?


Archive photo from several summers back, in northern Michigan, and, no, I don’t know what kind it is….

So, which is it?

When opening a can of, say, beans, I always wipe the top of the can off before engaging the can opener.



I don’t know what this plant is—maybe an extremely tall coleus?

Over-hyped: the Biden VP announcement. Sorry, he’s a solid choice, but the 24-hr news cycle is overfocused on topics that are easy to cover. And rehash. And talk about some more. As usual. Consider the many wars underway. Human atrocities. Economic nightmares. Carbon footprints. Those are worth constructive discussion and planning 24/7. And don’t get it, of course, sadly….

Not over-hyped: Bryan Clay, winner of the 2008 Olympic decathalon. That means ten events over two (or is it three?) days, folks, ranging from foot races to jumps to throws of long and round objects.*

In my book, that means he’s a real Olympian. And deserving of more hype than I predict he’ll get.

* Sorry. I wanted to report Clay’s total points, but the NBC page links are so lame that I can’t find it.