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Link: At Chipotle, How Many Calories Do People Really Eat?

February 20, 2015 Leave a comment

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/02/17/upshot/what-do-people-actually-order-at-chipotle.html?abt=0002&abg=0&_r=0

This article makes good use of histograms to display distributions rather than just standard descriptive statistics like “average”. For those who haven’t taken much math or haven’t been exposed to these sorts of distributions, the author also picks out certain points along the cumulative frequency distribution chart to explain what they mean; for instance only 10 percent of meals have less than 625 calories.

For many data sets (especially non-normal ones that arise in social networks, arithmetic mean (sum and divide by the number of elements) is a gross approximation of the real central tendency. See Ed Chi’s great article about this subject.  (Full disclosure: I have worked with Ed at Google)

Categories: Uncategorized

Link: “A female computer science major at Stanford: “Floored” by the sexism”

February 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Fortune.com article

Choice quote:

When a boy – let’s call him Rush (like Rush Limbaugh) — heard my friend had interned at Facebook, his mouth dropped. “Wow! Facebook! You must be really smart!” He then turned to me and asked the exact same question: What did you do this summer?

Except when I responded the same — “Facebook” — I got a completely different response. “Oh… well then I should have applied for that internship.”

Terrible. Also terrible is the treatment she received during her internships:

My high-pitched voice also became an unexpected source of frustration as team meetings became small battlegrounds for respect. At another company (which I prefer not to name), I noticed that management listened more to what my male counterparts had to say even though I was offering insightful feedback. Managers asked my male coworkers about the status of projects, although I was touching all the same files. The guys were praised more on their progress although I was pushing the same amount of code.

We as an industry have to stop this nonsense.

Categories: Uncategorized

Link: why one Wikipedia editor obsessively corrects the phrase “comprised of”

February 6, 2015 Leave a comment

One Man’s Quest to Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake

I had no idea “comprised of” is not grammatical.

Categories: Uncategorized

Building a Case for Lego Art

January 11, 2015 Leave a comment

i82much:

A long but interesting read about LEGO as art. I see parallels with the arguments about whether or not video games are/can be art (see e.g. http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/video-games-can-never-be-art)

Originally posted on Building Debates: discussing the big issues in the LEGO community.:

In-Pieces-NYC-Nathan-Sawaya-and-Dean-West-Avant-Gallery-LEGO-yatzer-12 Natan Sawaya, IN PIECES Installation view at the Openhouse Gallery, photo © Dean West



Jonathan Jones writing in the Guardian[i] on Nathan Sawaya’s recent touring exhibition The Art of the Brick[ii]says that ‘Sawaya’s Lego statues are interesting, but the people calling them art are missing the point. Lego doesn’t need to be art.’ It’s a valid position, but one that begs the response, is Jones missing the point? Jones confuses the argument as to who chooses what is culturally validated as art, with the argument as to what constitutes something as art. In one sense he is right, Lego creations don’t need to emulate the works found in galleries, but in another wrong, in that just because Lego doesn’t often look like so-called gallery art, or even if it does by way of a disguise (Jones’ position on Sawaya), this doesn’t mean it isn’t art.

His concluding…

View original 3,136 more words

Categories: Uncategorized

Book review: Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark

January 7, 2015 2 comments

Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark
by Mike Doyle
published by No Starch Press

http://www.nostarch.com/beautifullego2
Book cover
 

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy from No Starch Press.

 

Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark is the sequel to Mike Doyle’s Beautiful LEGO. I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume and the second is just as high quality.

When I read the first volume, I was in the presence of young children who were entranced by the pictures and made me turn through all the pages multiple times. There were images that they considered too scary. In that first book, such images were few and far between. As you can imagine from the subtitle “Dark”, there’s a lot more disturbing stuff in this volume. I wouldn’t recommend letting young children see many of the creations featured in this book.

The editor explores various meanings of the word “dark”, from the literal (models of the ocean and places that get no sunlight, or models of silhouettes), to creepy (bugs, insects), to violent/horrific (zombies, a crawling baby devil). Some of the models I would not have thought as belonging to the Dark theme (such as the trains or the buildings), but the chapter titles (i.e. “The Robber Barons” for the trains, “Greed Co., Unlimited” for the buildings) frame the models and give them a gritty and dark connotation.

I was disgusted, creeped out, and generally unnerved from many of the creations on display. I let out an audible ‘ugh’ of disgust upon seeing Hatchery (p. 3), and got shivers down my spine upon seeing Jason Ruff’s Big Hairy Spider (p. 25). The aforementioned devil baby (Junior, by Ekow Nimako, p. 194) also gave me the creeps. If the first volume asked the question, “Can LEGO be art”,  then the emotions that these photos of plastic toys elicited in me is a strong argument in the affirmative.

That’s not to say that this book is unenjoyable. I was consistently impressed by the quality of the models. Some of my favorites were the Tyranosaurus rex by Ken Ito (p. 114), the wonderful depth of field and leading lines of Tim Goddard’s “Tunnel Vision” (p. 79), the incredible scaly underbelly of the sea monster in Lauchlan Toal’s “Guardian of the Emerald” (p. 92), the “Micro Bone Dragon” by Sean and Steph Mayo (p. 111). Finally, I have to recognize “The King in Yellow“, by Brian Kescenovitz (p. 318). This is a brilliant minimalist scene featuring a king on his throne; the king himself consists of maybe 4 pieces. It’s absolutely wonderful, and a far cry from some of the models that are made of thousands of pieces. The restraint required in such a model is wonderful to see.

Just as in the last book, the backgrounds of the images have been digitally replaced to have beautiful gradient backgrounds. While all of the models are terrific, there are the same problems that plagued the last book, which is that some of the photographs are of low resolution (for instance, you can see jagged pixelated edges in “Jones’s Addiction” by Cole Blaq on page 72). If the rest of the photographs and production quality weren’t of such high quality, I probably would not have noticed these issues.

Finally, some LEGO purists might be upset at the inclusion of digital renderings of some creations. I did not have any problem with it, and in fact I mistook some photographs for renderings (the hairy spider for one). There are only a handful of renderings within the 300+ pages of the book if it matters to you.

This book is a must have for LEGO fans. It does have some disturbing content in it, so I would not recommend buying it for young children.

Categories: LEGO Tags: ,

Book Review: “Steampunk LEGO”

December 20, 2014 Leave a comment

Steampunk LEGO

by Guy Himber

Published by No Starch Press

http://www.nostarch.com/steampunk

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from its publisher, No Starch Press.

The central conceit of the book is that it is the journal of the Queen’s Chronicler of Technology, who “…ventures around the world and reports on exciting developments in the Sciences and their potential for civilian and military applications” (p. viii). This provides an excuse for the book to jump between many different themes of models.

I am not an enormous steampunk fan, but I do like the art style and admire the craft and artistry that goes into these LEGO creations. I was afraid that the models would all be drab brown and grey, with some copper tubes and gears shoved on almost as an afterthought, but I was pleasantly surprised. There is a huge variety in the models, both in the subject matter (the book ranges from trains and tanks, to bicycles, to robots, to mechanical animals, and even to space ships) and building technique.

While many of the models do stick to the standard color palette of grey, brown and copper, there are some great splashes of color throughout. For instance, Machine No. 1 by Vincent Gachod on p.44 is a beautiful green and grey steam powered automobile; Kaptain Kazoodle and the Travelling Circus of Doom by Nathan Proudlove (p. 61) is a strange insect like train with brown and teal and stark white. A robotic butler (p. 72) has a nice splash of purple.

The section on the Seven Seas, featuring many ships and submarines, illustrates how different builders approach their subject matter. The contrast between Ruben Ras’ studs-out submarine (“Dr. Schweitzer’s SW – Physeter I”) built using the Lowell Sphere technique on p. 123 and the completely hidden stud technique using tiles and barrels (“O’Neill’s Mini Submarine” by Rod Gillies) on p. 124 is striking.

Dr. Schweitzer’s SW – Physeter I

O’Neill’s Mini Submarine by Rod Gillies

Many of the models in this book are references to something else, or recreations of something famous in the steampunk style. For instance, the submarine I just mentioned, “Dr. Schweitzer’s SW – Physeter I” is actually an allusion to a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), as I discovered when trying to search for a picture of the model. Other examples are much more obvious, such as J. Abba’s Luxury Air Barge, by Amado C. Pinlac (p. 142), which is a clear recreation of Jabba the Hutt’s ship in Return of the Jedi, or Baron Von Batten’s Train by Lazlo Kissimon (p. 7), which is a take on the Batmobile from the Batman universe.

preferred when these little references and nods were sprinkled throughout the book; when we get to the section on space, virtually every model is a recreation of a Star Wars vehicle (i.e. the Letter-Wing Fighter by Larry Lars, p. 180 is a recreation of the Y-Wing) or some other popular sci-fi show (Steam Viper, p. 183 looks to me like a take on the Vipers from Battlestar Galactica). That section felt a little weak to me as a result.

The other low point for me is the section entitled “Cabinet of Curiosities”. The fictional journalist details finding an ark containing “a wonderful collection of photographs depicting a great many items both mysterious and fabulous, but no description or mention of how the strange cabinet had functioned or what arcane magicks had powered it and its thirst for artifacts.” (p. 103). That whole section is full of various artifacts throughout history, such as a joystick, a child’s wagon, a microscope, and a micro-scale Hogwart’s castle. I felt that there was little rhyme or reason to this section, and that it did not fit at all with the theme of the rest of the book.

Other than these minor complaints, there is a lot to like. The section on robots and automatons is wonderful. Many of these models break far out of the staid grey/brown/copper color scheme. For instance, Sir Biggles by Théo Bonner (p. 72) is a model of a robot butler which uses inverted tires wrapped around parts of the model to form striking contrast with the metal colors underneath. The Queen’s Hammer by Hammerstein NWC (p. 73) is a great mech with brilliant red and gold pieces and a bright green face plate. Steam rises from the boiler on its back, as it does in many of the models. A cannon forms the weapon on one arm, where a laser rifle would normally be expected from such a model.

In addition to the great models, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the author’s prose. I’ve complained about lackluster story and writing in such other LEGO books as LEGO Space: Building the Future, so I was happy to see the quality in this one.

I heartily recommend this book to LEGO fans, even those without a passion for steampunk.

Categories: LEGO Tags: , ,

Pet peeve – useless error messages

November 3, 2014 Leave a comment

Here’s one from Github:

Screenshot 2014-11-02 14.28.51

Clearly I have entered a URL in the text field. I assume what Github is trying to say is that this doesn’t adhere to whatever client side validation logic they’re using. Since I’m relatively tech savvy I can assume that maybe they want the http:// prefix. Sure enough that fixes the problem, but why could the error message not tell me that? Or even better, why not assume that if I don’t specify the scheme, it should use http or https?

In the words of Steve Krug, “Don’t make me think.”