A lovely bit of satire on Evolution vs. Creationism… what will they come up with next?

Watched Christian Groups: Biblical Armageddon Must Be Taught Alongside Global Warming from The Onion
Constitutional debate continues over whether public schools should include biblical Armageddon alongside global warming in end-of-world curriculum. http://v.theonion.com/onionstudios/video/1368/640.mp4

In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That

Bookmarked In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That (New York Times)
In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have made their grading systems more lenient to give their students a better chance in a soft job market.

Is GPA tampering and grade inflation going too far with changes like this?

Baum’s Point Set Topology

Commenting only after reading to page 11, but having skimmed some other parts/sections, it’s a nice and condensed volume with most of the standard material on point set topology. It reads somewhat breezily, is well laid out, and isn’t bogged down with all the technicalities which those who haven’t seen any of this material before might have interest in. It seems better for those with some experience in axiomatic mathematics (I’ve always enjoyed Robert Ash’s A Primer of Abstract Mathematics for much of this material), but in my mind isn’t as clear or as thorough as James Munkres’ Topology, which I find in general to be a much better book, particularly for the self-learning crowd. The early problems and exercises are quite easy.

Given it’s 1964 publication date, most of the notation is fairly standard from a modern perspective and it was probably a bit ahead of it’s time from a pedagogical viewpoint.

Information Flow in Hollywood is Changing Rapidly as Alyssa Milano’s Representation Drops the Ball

There are many in the industry who have Twitter and Facebook accounts, but generally they shy away from using them, particularly when it relates to their daily workflow.  Naturally there are instances when representatives and business affairs executives will post the occasional congratulatory emails, but typically nothing relevant or revealing is ever said.

But tonight Twitter began to change the landscape of how Hollywood, and in particular the representation segment, does its day-to-day business.

It began with the news that Alyssa Milano’s ABC series ROMANTICALLY CHALLENGED, which premiered on April 19th earlier this year, had been cancelled. Michael Ausiello of the Ausiello Files for Entertainment Weekly broke the story online at 7:44 pm (Pacific) and tweeted out the news. Alyssa Milano saw the news on Twitter about an hour later, and at 8:45 pm, she tweeted out her disappointment to the world.

Her agent/manager is going to have a fire to put out tomorrow, if it doesn’t burn itself into oblivion tonight!  If anything, her agent typically could have or should have been amongst one of the first to know, generally being informed by the studio executive in charge of the project or potentially by the producer of the show who would also have been in that first round to know about the cancellation. And following the news from the network, Alyssa should have been notified immediately.

Typically this type of news is treated like pure commodity within the representation world. If a competing agent, particularly one who wanted a client like Alyssa, to move to their agency, they would dig up the early news, call her at home, break the bad news early and fault the current representative for dropping the ball and not doing their job.  Further, the agent would likely put together a group of several new scripts (which the servicing agent either wouldn’t have access to or wouldn’t have sent her) and have them sent over to her for her immediate consideration.  Suddenly there’s an unhappy client who is seriously considering taking their business across the street.

The major difference here is that it isn’t a competing agent breaking the bad news, but the broader internet! Despite the brevity of the less than 140 characters Ms. Milano had, it’s quite obvious that she’s both shocked and a bit upset at the news.  We cannot imagine that she’s happy with the source of the news; it’s very likely that her representation got an upset call this evening which they’re currently scurrying to verify and then put out the subsequent fire.

Beyond this frayed relationship, there is also the subsequent strain on the relationships between representation and the overseeing studio executive(s), studio/network chief, and potentially further between the Agency and the Network over what is certain to be one of the more expensive television talent deals in the business right now.

We’re sure there will be a few more agents, managers, and attorneys who sign up for Twitter accounts tomorrow and begin monitoring their clients’ brands more closely on the real-time web.

[As a small caveat to all of this, keep in mind that the show was picked up in early August last year and only aired four episodes premiering in April of this year, so from a technical point of view, the show’s cancellation isn’t a major surprise simply given the timing of the pick-up and the premiere, the promotional push behind the show, or the show’s ratings. Nevertheless, this is sure to have an effect on the flow of business.]

Stem cell treatment goes from lab to operating room | CNN.com

Bookmarked Stem cell treatment goes from lab to operating room by Miriam Falco, CNN Medical News Managing Editor (cnn.com)
Imagine having your back cut open, part of your spine removed, a stabilizing device that resembles a mini oil rig mounted on your back, the outer membrane of your spinal cord sliced open and experimental stem cells injected into it -- all for the advancement of science because it's not expected to benefit you.
Another article announcing the first stem cells being transplanted into a human patient in the United States. I worked with the researchers and surgeon in this experiment and built the microinjectors that were used in the lead up experiments as well as for this first patient.

First U.S. stem cells transplanted into spinal cord | CNN.com

Bookmarked First U.S. stem cells transplanted into spinal cord by Miriam Falco, CNN Medical News Managing Editor (cnn.com)
For the first time in the United States, stem cells have been directly injected into the spinal cord of a patient, researchers announced Thursday.
A recent article announcing the first stem cells being transplanted into a human patient in the United States. I worked with the researchers and surgeon in this experiment and built the microinjectors that were used in the lead up experiments as well as for this first patient.

Twitter Changes Rules on Users. No Auto-Follow. | Kyle Lacy

Replied to Twitter Changes Rules on Users. No Auto-Follow. by Kyle Lacy (kylelacy.com)
(hat tip to ZDNEt and Chris McEvoy for the lead) From ZDNet: “With no notice, Twitter yesterday “pulled the rug out from under its developers” one developer says, by discouraging auto-following and imposing 1,000 person-per-day following limits.” Now… this is not news to me because of the “pulling the rug out from under its developers” thing or the 1,000 person-per-day following limit… The news to me as a Twitter user… I don’t really remember getting a message or alert that the new limits were going to be enacted. I use Twitter on a daily basis. It seems fairly odd that I would not know about the change.
I’m personally glad they’d be implementing something like this and wish they had done it about a month ago. Eventually without any controls the site would have become a waste land. In the spirit of using it as the tool it has become, they needed to implement changes like this as the site scaled up to more and more people. It’s very similar to the changes they instituted in the fall of 2008 when they created a cap of being able to follow more than 2000 people when your own number of followers wasn’t commensurate with that number. As a game theorist, I’m sure that people will somehow find some other way to artificially game the system.

As a separate note, who really wants to waste the time building thousands and thousands of followers when none of them are really going to ever pay attention to you? Yes, it’s great to have a high number, but really what is your ultimate reach? How many people are you engaging?

Vintage Tanker Desk Hobby

I had always wanted a nice McDowell & Craig vintage executive dual pedestal tanker desk, but the $2,000-$3,000 price tags for the ones in excellent condition or that had been refinished was way too steep for me. Some of the others I’ve seen for sale at lower prices were in mediocre shape and were in such ugly institutional colors, I couldn’t imagine having one at home.

Unfinished Desk

Unfinished Desk - Rusted Top

Late last year, I found a couple from the 1950’s and 60’s that were in horrible physical shape that were going to be scrapped for their steel. I got both of them for $10 bucks and did some research on how to refurbish them myself.

I stripped off the corroded, stained, and torn linoleum off the tops, took them to a local place that does sandblasting to have them stripped and then sanded down the heavily rusting portions. (These desks are usually made of heavy 20 gauge solid steel, so they’re literally the “tanks” of office furniture.) Both were in relatively good condition structurally and didn’t have any significant body damage aside from some significant rust, so I decided not to bondo the couple of dings they had, which in the end I think just adds to their vintage beauty.

Jr. Tanker Desk - Unfinished with rusted bottom

For the blue/gray one I found an industrial paint shop to do an old style enamel process. For the smaller red one, I sandblasted and painted/sealed the undercarriage and inside drawers and then used a special brushing process to obtain a nice brushed steel effect followed by a 5 layer clear coat seal to give it a high shine while still having the brushed steel visible through the clear coat.
Partially refinished tanker desk chair with blue upholstry

Finally, I tried to find a place to recreate the original linoleum desktops, but there really isnt’ a supplier who does this and some of the alternatives were prohibitively expensive as was the process of redoing the metal trim to hold it on after the fact. I contemplated doing some various laminates and even formica, but ultimately decided that the bare metal top was too pretty to cover up. I finally gave a local glass shop a template for the top of the desk and had them cut out custom 1/4″ glass tops with rounded corners to match the desk shape and then bevel the edges slightly.

Finished Executive Tanker Desk in gunmetal grey with blue highlighted drawers

At long last they’re now both finished!  They are truly beautiful and it’s nice having a desk about the size of a compact car and certainly as heavy! When I originally got the desks, Sonia refused to let me keep them they were in such terrible shape, and I spent a while convincing her to let me keep them. Once the first one was done she forbid me to “hide” it in our office and insisted that I put it in our living room because it was so pretty. I finally got the second one finished and gave it to her for her birthday in September.

Jr. Executive Tanker desk with clear coated metal and red highlighted drawers

It’s been an interesting enough process with such a beautiful end result, that I’m in the midst of acquiring a few additional desks including one that may be from the 30’s/40’s with some nice art deco design touches.

So I suppose I’m calling it my “hobby” at the moment.

I’ve posted a gallery of additional photos of the desks on Flickr.

Bookmarked The structure of degradable quantum channels by Toby S. Cubitt, Mary Beth Ruskai, Graeme Smith (Journal of Mathematical Physics 49, 102104 (2008))
Degradable quantum channels are among the only channels whose quantum and private classical capacities are known. As such, determining the structure of these channels is a pressing open question in quantum information theory. We give a comprehensive review of what is currently known about the structure of degradable quantum channels, including a number of new results as well as alternate proofs of some known results. In the case of qubits, we provide a complete characterization of all degradable channels with two dimensional output, give a new proof that a qubit channel with two Kraus operators is either degradable or anti-degradable, and present a complete description of anti-degradable unital qubit channels with a new proof. For higher output dimensions we explore the relationship between the output and environment dimensions (dB and dE, respectively) of degradable channels. For several broad classes of channels we show that they can be modeled with an environment that is “small” in the sense of ΦC. Such channels include all those with qubit or qutrit output, those that map some pure state to an output with full rank, and all those which can be represented using simultaneously diagonal Kraus operators, even in a non-orthogonal basis. Perhaps surprisingly, we also present examples of degradable channels with “large” environments, in the sense that the minimal dimension dE>dB. Indeed, one can have dE>14d2B. These examples can also be used to give a negative answer to the question of whether additivity of the coherent information is helpful for establishing additivity for the Holevo capacity of a pair of channels. In the case of channels with diagonal Kraus operators, we describe the subclasses that are complements of entanglement breaking channels. We also obtain a number of results for channels in the convex hull of conjugations with generalized Pauli matrices. However, a number of open questions remain about these channels and the more general case of random unitary channels.
Alternate version on arXiv: https://arxiv.org/abs/0802.1360 

📅 DrupalCampLA | September 13-14, 2008

RSVPed Attending BarCamp / DrupalCampLA
Dates: September 13-14, 2008; 10am - 6pm, both days Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 South Figueroa Street Los Angeles, California 90015 Still FREE Registration is Open until September 10th, 2008. Please visit our official site for more details and to sign up!

PESOS post from Lanyrd prior to its shutdown.

Bookmarked Automated on-chip rapid microscopy, phenotyping and sorting of C. elegans. by Kwanghun Chung, Matthew M. Crane, Hang Lu (Nature Methods [22 Jun 2008, 5(7):637-643])
Microscopy, phenotyping and visual screens are frequently applied to model organisms in combination with genetics. Although widely used, these techniques for multicellular organisms have mostly remained manual and low-throughput. Here we report the complete automation of sample handling, high-resolution microscopy, phenotyping and sorting of Caenorhabditis elegans. The engineered microfluidic system, coupled with customized software, has enabled high-throughput, high-resolution microscopy and sorting with no human intervention and may be combined with any microscopy setup. The microchip is capable of robust local temperature control, self-regulated sample-loading and automatic sample-positioning, while the integrated software performs imaging and classification of worms based on morphological and intensity features. We demonstrate the ability to perform sensitive and quantitative screens based on cellular and subcellular phenotypes with over 95% accuracy per round and a rate of several hundred worms per hour. Screening time can be reduced by orders of magnitude; moreover, screening is completely automated.

Related: https://www.news.gatech.edu/2008/06/23/automated-microfluidic-device-reduces-time-screen-small-organisms