Archive for February, 2008

dc

This is just a brief note to any command line users such as myself to remember the handiness of the little utility dc.

I was wandering the web and came across an estimate of basal metabolism. Now I know such thinks are affected by fitness level and whatnot, therapy pills but I wanted to know quickly what the result was and I wanted to see all the numbers at once so I could know if I was copying them correctly. On the command line, this is just:

echo 195 2.2 / 11.6 * 879 + p | dc

Where 195 is my weight, 2.2 is the pounds in a kilogram and 11.6 and 879 are the line parameters.

As I look at this I start to recognize that most people would find calculator more intuitive. ☺ This is for the geekier among you.

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Settling

I’m on a list that is discussing Lori Gottlieb’s Marry Him! where she presents herself as a single mother through artificial insemination advising young girls to give settling serious consideration.

“[A]sk any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won’t tell you it’s a better career or a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment. Most likely, she’ll say that what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child)…

“[E]very woman I know — no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure — feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried…

“[O]ne of the most complicated, painful, and pervasive dilemmas many single women are forced to grapple with nowadays: Is it better to be alone, or to settle?

“My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. … [S]ettling will probably make you happier in the long run.”

The article definitely has its strong points. I like the focus on just being aware of how your decisions today are going to play out in the long term. I see too many of my friends letting opportunities pass them by because there’s always tomorrow. The thing is that, eventually, there isn’t a tomorrow. If some young person reads this article and it makes her see where she might end up in fifteen years, great.

Gottlieb builds a fivefold argument:

  • There’s a really good chance a husband and kids are going to be better company in your old age than your cats as you sit alone eating Cheerios for Christmas.
  • You’re probably going to get less hot as you get older.
  • Guy’s tend to date under their age range more than women.
  • Marriage isn’t so much like traipsing daily through a rose garden as much as it is like managing a small boring corporation.
  • Hotness isn’t going to get the dog walked and trash taken out.

The audience is young women, telling them to get out of the rat race while the getting’s good. My issue is so many people never really got in the race in the first place. Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and I know quite a few young folks who spent it all by their lonesome. Every one of them knows some interesting person they could have had dinner with. I refuse to believe that anyone is just so amazingly hot and cool that in this city of half a million people they can’t find someone who’s at least intriguing.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve been out there on the market before. What I think people should take away from Gottlieb’s article is the idea things are only going to get worse. She uses this as a reason to settle, but I think the average person could just do with a long hard look at how much they’re exploring their possibilities rather than marrying Hugo the hunchbacked garbage man. There’s this awesome interweb thing now that lets you find people looking for dates in the very city you live in.

Her point about priorities is an important one as well. One of the big reasons I’m a proponent of dating is you start off your life with these ideas of the kind of person you want to be with and every so often you find that when you actually try to actually live with that sort of person it’s annoying. You don’t generally get anything for free. I person that’s really intelligent is more likely to be arrogant. A driven person could well be less fun. A party person might be irresponsible. I’d say one of the important lessons graduate school has taught me is that doing complicated and meaningful professional work takes a lot of time and energy. You don’t get to be as fun, and that’s just a part of the deal.

So if you can’t find the awesome guy you’ve been seeking, consider the distinct possibility that he’s a figment of your imagination.

I didn’t like the paired Rachel/Barry and Carrie/Aidan examples. Rachel dumped Barry because their life together was materialistic and she realized the person she was agreeing to become by marrying him. To anyone, if you feel pressured to be a type of person you don’t like to be in a relationship, get the hell out of there. Carrie out looking for a thrill was just a dumb move. Not the same class of decision at all.

As to settling though? Horrible horrible suggestion. More than half of marriages end in divorce currently. It’s obviously a high pressure situation. How likely is it that even going into it with lowered expectations that you are going to make it last?

It’s mostly just a bad idea from the perspective of love. Falling in love is a hormonal roller coaster borne of a complicated psychological and hormonal dance. Maybe you’ll get to do that and maybe you won’t. It’s great fun, but it isn’t the solid sort of thing you base a marriage off of. Love is a more complicated and subtle beast. It’s comes from a freedom to be yourself and a commitment to something essential in another person. I will say unequivocally that a lack of respect for your partner is going to limit your ability to love them.

I think it’s wonderful to reevaluate where you’re at in your life and what your priorities and options are. To not do so is to waste your time in a fantasy land. If settling is simply adjusting your expectations, great. If settling means thinking, “I could do better” or “I warrant better” you’re not only poisoning the waters and sabotaging your relationship; you’re doing a fundamental disservice to this person you’re wanting to build a life with you.

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Why I Like MusicBrainz

Recent years have seen an increasing amount of interest in music recommendations. Music is being created and published at a rate that far outstrips the ability of any listener to keep up with. How then, if I’m an artist, can I get my awesome new song to the ears of listeners? Or, if I’m a music connoisseur, how can I sort through the thousands of songs to find the few I’ll love?

The oldest recommendation system is still going strong: word of mouth. “Dude, you’ve got to hear this…” will always be a vector for music to spread. Another old-school system is one where I pick a bunch of songs I like and send them out over the airways to anyone who would like to hear. The internet is changing the ballgame, however. The advent of computers, in addition to fundamentally altering how people create and distribute music, also promises to change how they discover it.

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Voting

I went with the_archange1 to see Uncounted a couple nights ago. The thesis of the movie is that modern electronic voting machines are not only open to hacking, but there is extremely strong evidence that voter fraud has been committed in several elections including the 2004 Bush/Kerry presidential election.

Honestly, when are conspiracy theories ever true? Their case looked pretty solid though.

One of the more interesting statistics were anomalies in undervoting. An undervote is when a voter comes to the poll, votes in some races, but expresses no preference in others. This makes sense at times. Yesterday I could easily not have had an opinion on who the Democrat candidate for city council should be.

In presidential elections there tends to be an undervote of 1-3%. In New Mexico in 2004 in certain Native American and Hispanic precincts there were undervotes of up to 80%. 4 out of 5 people went to the poll and just didn’t have an opinion on who the President should be. It’s particularly interesting that it happened in Democratic strongholds.

There was also an analysis of a comparison between the exit polls and the actual results. I’m actually in a stats class right now and I have a newfound respect for the degree to which studies and statistical analysis have a serious mathematical basis. The issue wasn’t simply that the polling data disagreed with the result. There could have been some unseen factor to push error beyond any previous amount of error they’ve seen. It was that over and over the errors favored Bush.

There’s quite a bit more about things like the suspicious proportioning of voting machines that had primarily low-income minorities standing in line to vote in Ohio for up to 12 hours. I’d highly recommend watching the movie if you have a chance.

If you happen to live in Tennessee, you can support SB1363/HB1256 which would remove Tennessee from the 12 states that allow voting machines with no paper trail whatsoever. (With no paper trail the vote count is whatever the machine tells you it is and there is no method for verification. If nothing else, anyone who has dealt with a computer should know better than to do this. Absolutely no programmer writes bug-free code all the time.)

Even if you don’t think there’s been a conspiracy, there’s no reason not to prevent one in the future.

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