Thursday, April 27, 2017

Readings and Stuff

I read a couple of interesting articles - one about a concept known as Deep Learning, which is the current Big Thing in artificial intelligence research (not that I am current in the least, but this, I do know); specifically, that people are a little concerned because while on the one hand it seems to have some unsuspected abilities -- such as accurately (though not completely) predicting predilection towards schizophrenia - they don't know how it does it (one of the delights of neural nets is that they teach themselves, and sometimes their pathways are convoluted, if not downright spooky).  This is not a problem per se - hey if it works, it works -- but when you get to the point where Deep Learning is driving, say, an autonomous car, you really want to be sure that the decisions it's making are ones that a reasonable person would have made.  People have written science fiction novels about what happens when that assumption turned out to be wrong, with dire consequences.

The other article was about how a number of online sites are removing their comments sections, because they are finding that using  comments as a way of getting feedback from readers isn't working -- they are being taken over by bots, by ideologues, or by conspiracy theorists.  Then the owner of the site has to spend time weeding out the bogus comments from the valuable ones, and what they're finding is that it just isn't worth the effort.  (Ironically, reading that, I wanted to send the author a comment!)

I baked cookies the other day, and I've been thinking for a week or so that I'd like to make some crêpes.  I had a running joke with one conversation partner who told me that she had gone to a crêperie; it took me three tries before I realized that what she was pronouncing as krep ree is what I pronounce as krep er ee.  You would think that a French person would be able to speak the language better!

The hedgehog seems to be doing okay.  After two enucleations, it's now in permanent night - but since it's a nocturnal animal, that may not be a bad thing.  My daughter is almost giddy with delight.  I am being guarded in my optimism, but I try not to let that be obvious.

Friday, April 14, 2017


I don't dislike people, but I don't like that many, either.  When I do like someone, I feel as if they are clearly smart and capable. I always think that they have the ability to succeed at whatever is important to them, and if they don't, it won't be for lack of effort.   There aren't that many people about whom I think this, but there are a few.  I try to tell them. And they're always surprised. I'm not that smart, they say. You don't really know me.  No, I think.  But I believe in you.


Yeah, about that.

We had/have plans to visit Italy this June.  The primary reason is that my wife's family (part of it) comes from there, a small town about two hours north of Rome.  The rough idea was that we would go to Rome, spend about a week or so there, head north to that small town, go west to the city where my Italian language partner lives, then back to Rome and home.

I, of course, was trying to figure out if I could sneak a side trip into France along the way.  Turns out, as they say, Yeah..... no.  Although France does abut Italy, the 'top of the boot' flares way out.  If you're in northern Italy, you'd have to go fairly far up and over to get to France.  And that's just to Nice, which is, pretty much, as far east as you can get. To get to where my friends live, its a minimum of another three hours (going north to Burgundy) or four hours (going west to Toulouse), or even ten or twelve hours (going north and west to Paris, La Rochelle, Lille, all of that).  In other words - Bill, if you want to go to France, go to France.  Not Italy. (Though even that idea is shaky, as I remember the rolling strikes that France had last summer. Ugh. I was personally never impacted, but there was always the chance...)

So, Rome.

The thing is, my wife is not all that thrilled about going to Rome. (Me, neither, but I'm just not a city person.  Didn't care for Paris, either.  Or San Francisco.  Or even Seattle, mostly.)  She thinks Rome's very congested, with lots of opportunities to have your money stolen. (She told me, for example, that she had read If you're taking a cab from the airport to a hotel, determine the cost before you go, and hold the money in your hand - but don't give it to the driver until all of your stuff is out of the cab. Ouch.  The fact that this might be an exaggeration, or that it could happen in any major city, didn't matter.  Just the idea of having to fight to get your bag back, in a city where you don't even speak the language....)

So right now, probably, that trip is off.  We still want to do something, though.  We're thinking Pittsburgh. And then Toronto. And then New York's wine country.  And then home. We hear they speak English in all of those places.  Still need foreign currency, but....


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Meaty observation

I enjoy reading articles about how to succeed when cooking a steak at home, because I have never successfully done so. 

I've cooked steak, but it always, always comes out drier and less tasty than when I get a good one at a steak place.  I know, part of that is because I prefer well-done steaks (I am aghast when I see people ordering or even advertisng a dark-red slab of meat), but even given that, well-done steaks in restaurants are frequently good.  Well-done steaks in my home, nope.  Never.

But I am disgusted whenever those articles go into its this muscle that runs from this joint to.... Ugh.  I know it's meat.  I know where meat comes from.  I just don't like thinking about it.