Tuesday, February 22, 2011

tagger

Today as I was vegetating in yet another long, drawn-out meeting, I thought it would be good to have a "tagger" font - one that looked like graffiti. Actually, I figured a lot of folks must have had the same idea and that there must be fonts like this that were available. Even better if they looked like they were done with spray paint.

When I got home, I googled it and sure enough, there are quite a few graffiti fonts out there. It didn't seem like any of them were in a locked case or you had to be a certain age to download them, however.

Now I can just imagine downloading and installing them.. the next morning when you wake up and boot up your computer, there's stuff plastered all over your monitor that doesn't come off.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

ruckus

Today's Los Angeles Times featured an article about recently-elected Montebello city councilperson Christina Cortez and how she has been a driving force in pressing for explanations about questionable financial dealings in that city.

The Times said since elected, Ms. Cortez has been raising a "ruckus" about the finances and will not leave the matter alone.

I love it! And I love the way the Times described it. I think we are all sick and tired of the financial scandals we are all hearing about and the thing is, we are a lot closer than you may think to a real-life Egypt in this country.

I googled Ms. Cortez to find contact information for her so I could write to thank her for her efforts and encourage her to continue but.. I couldn't find anything. The official web site for the City of Montebello shows her picture but does not give contact information. Did they do that on purpose????

The major portion of the article dealt with a couple of "off the books" bank accounts that were recently discovered. At this time it is not clear if this is illegal, and the former City Manager, when reached for comment, said that there is probably a "simple" explanation for this.

I ask you.. how can there be off the books bank accounts? Accounting is a system of checks and balances; that is why there are debits and credits. Everything must balance so that there is accountability (which is probably why they call it accounting). To have something that is "off the books" is to me definitely not on the up-and-up. Something smells.

Anyway, since I am unable to send her an e-mail, I would just like to give my regards and thanks to Ms. Cortez and encourage her to continue raising a ruckus.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

back in the water

Well how about if I just say don't expect too many posts? The urge struck me tonight to write so here goes..

I watched the first episode of the Jeopardy match between two of the all-time greats, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, and IBM's Watson computer. The first round ended with Brad and Watson in a tie for first, and Ken a few thousand dollars behind.

At first it seemed like Watson was going to run away with the match. I sat feeling unsettled about the whole thing - it was like the best that humans could do were mere feeble attempts at combating this supercomputer. But then Ken and Brad got back into the game and Watson exposed its quirks in programming logic.

While I'm sure the computer has an unbelievably extensive and comprehensive database from which to decipher an answer, the trick is to be able to interpret the question properly. I noticed some of the question categories were more suited to being understood by a computer than others because the questions were more straightforward. For example, one of the categories asked you to identify the person referred to in various Beatles song lyrics. It would seem to me that if you had all of the lyrics programmed in your database then it would be a pretty easy thing to do a google-like search on the lyrics, which would find you the song, and then you could get the name from there.

On the other hand, that would also require that Watson had been programmed that way, to be able to identify a name versus a regular word. Our minds can do it because we can distinguish a name (like Lady Madonna or Hey Jude) from experience, but how would a computer do that? I was wondering if the programmers had a database of names, which Watson would have to then find a match between those names and a word (name) appearing in the lyrics. Or were names and other proper nouns identified when entered in the database?

It then becomes a matter of not only the way the question was worded, but how the computer was programmed to interpret the question.

Even if Watson doesn't win, I envision it (I deliberately say "it" instead of "him") becoming better and better at the task.

Then I thought about the day when there will be a basketball or baseball matchup between a robot and human team. The humans will probably womp the robots at first, but as the robots are fine-tuned, eventually they will emerge victorious, to the point where no human team can compete.

You'll then have robot leagues and human teams will be relegated to informal matches where the participants recall the good old days when real people used to play the sport and make money off of it.

Me, I'd be interested in watching robot roller derby, or robot wrestling from the Olympic Auditorium - especially the tag teams, and the locker room interviews. That would be fun watching the robot Freddie Blassie.